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COVID-19: A sign of the last days?

Image: “State Public Health Laboratory in Exton Tests for COVID-19”
 by Governor Tom Wolfe (CC BY)

The entire world is shut down in various forms. Never since Noah’s flood has the whole globe at one time endured the same catastrophe. So, publishers are seeing a spike in sales of books about the end times. And people are asking: Does COVID-19 signal the end is near?  

As it turns out, before all eyes turned to Wuhan, LifeWay Research already had questions in mind about the last days. So, they surveyed 1,000 people from two groups: evangelical pastors and historically Black denominational pastors. Between January 24 and February 11, 2020, Lifeway asked some questions about these pastors’ perceptions. And the results revealed that even before everyone’s least favorite pandemic, a lot of pastors in the USA felt that current events indicate Jesus’s return is imminent.

  • 88 percent saw at least some current events matching those Jesus said would occur shortly before He returns
  • 70 percent saw the modern rebirth of the state of Israel and the regathering of millions of Jewish people as fulfilling biblical prophecies
  •  39 percent saw the establishment of the United States embassy in Jerusalem as a sign of the End Times 

My colleague, theologian Darrell Bock, said this in response: “When we look at pestilences and plagues and how they function in Scripture, what we see is that God doesn’t always use them with a specific signature to explain why He is doing it. Rather, He uses them as a reminder to us of our need for Him, our dependence upon Him, the fact that we are mortal and don’t control what is going on around us, that we need to pursue a relationship with Him and be aware of what He asks of us as human beings made in His image.” Bock added that he thinks if Lifeway were to redo the survey today, the numbers would be even higher. And a Youtube search supports his hunch. A video of pastor David Jeremiah talking about Covid-19 and the end times has garnered 1.8 million views. 

 The Bible does not say specifically that in the last days we will have a global pandemic. It does, however, in 2 Timothy 3, list the following as being among the signs:

People will …

  • Love their own selves. 
    • Might that include fighting for the right to keep our faces unmasked vs. showing deference in love?
    • Might that include fighting for the right to gather with more than “two or more” in His name when such actions are at the very least perceived to put others at risk? 
  • Be covetous.
    • Might that include hoarding rather than sharing toilet paper, meat, and cleaning supplies? 
  • Boast and be proud, be false accusers.
    • Might that include asserting we know more than all the experts? And/or posting and forwarding conspiracy theories, thereby adding to the slander of people at the center of them when we have no way to verify their guilt or innocence—and even if doing so makes people wonder if our belief in the resurrection is equally lacking in investigative rigor?  
    • Might that include slandering “the media,” as if all journalist are liars? 
  • Be unthankful.
    • Might that include “I know I have a full pantry and a job, but…” 
  • Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof. 
    • Might that include worship of a god in our own image whom we believe is always on America’s side? 

Events in our world are prompting people to reflect on their mortality. Surveys show it. Book sales show it. Youtube shows it. The trauma of COVID-19 is making many consider their lives in light of eternity. Yet many who name the name of Christ, rather than seeing in this pandemic the need to stay laser-focused on the gospel—reaching out across the world in word and deed—are sacrificing our credibility on less-important conversations, some of which call into question our commitment to love and/or sound thinking. If our insistence on our rights is louder than our commitment to self-sacrifice for the sake of love, maybe our beliefs are more rooted in the U.S. Constitution than in scripture.

Perhaps, based on what we find in 2 Timothy, we are indeed seeing indications that the end is near. But those indications don’t actually include the virus.  

Join the discussion One Comment

  • Steven J. Ellis says:

    Thank you Sandra for this thoughtful blog on a hot topic of the day! I certainly agree that there are many less-than-informed, mostly speculative, discussions about the end times occurring in this strange new world of Covid-19. On the other hand, I’ve heard a few communications which are more reasoned and thoughtful as well.

    My comments are only designed to complement and perhaps add to your post with perhaps additional perspective – not posit anything at odds with it.

    Your final comments in the blog article gave rise to the question in my mind –

    “Is it possible for the Christian to speak about all areas of truth with discernment of the primary needs of the audience and do so in a way that doesn’t compromise the Christ-follower’s representation of Christ?”

    I think the answer is yes; however, I caveat it with the understanding that there is a perception hurdle that is very high. You mentioned the need to stay laser-focused upon the gospel and not sacrificing our credibility on less-important conversations. I agree 100% – if our audience is those who do not know Christ.

    However, when the audience is the Christian community or if one is a Christian in the public sphere, there are issues involving truth in controversial realms which the Christian must represent if he or she is to be salt and light. Today, we do need Christians in public office who understand and can represent the aspirational values aligned to truth principles and embodied in the Constitution. To take a stand on controversial issues in the interest of truth and do so in a respectful way is needed at this pivotal point in our nation’s existence.

    My concern is that if Christ-followers do not speak to and represent truth in all domains, we take ourselves out of important conversations. Jesus, Paul and others never backed away from controversial topics even when those who were engaged reacted in violent ways. Truth is divisive by nature; however, we should do all we can to give no reason for ad hominem attacks against us – nor should we ever do the same. Yet, the reality is that even Jesus’ opponents did just that. We should expect the same and not be surprised when it happens.

    Thanks again and I am glad to be able to follow your site and posts!

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