COVID-19 in the Bible
By: Deji Yesufu
January 2020 introduced a new normal to the world we live in. It was in this month, a year ago, when reports of the ravaging effect of a new disease, with roots in Wuhan, China, hit the nations of the earth. Having combatted flu-like diseases in the past, our world did not quickly wake up to the reality of the ravaging effect of the COVID-19 virus. By March 2020, flights around the globe were being cancelled, the World Health Organization (WHO) had announced that we have a pandemic at hand, and COVID-19 had come to be part and parcel of our lives. Most countries around the world will eventually embark on some six months of total lockdown. When the economic reality of a continual lockdown was accessed to be non-feasible, the lockdowns were eased and people returned to normal life. With the ease of lockdown also came the possibility of a second wave and at the moment we are combatting a second wave of the COVID-19 disease. As of the time of writing this essay, 91.6 million people have contracted COVID-19 around the world; 50.6 million of these have recovered; while 1.96 million people have died. The second wave is even said to be more deadly. There is no doubt that our world is in some difficult times and I want to suggest in this essay that the Bible has a word on COVID-19.
I would be wrong to take the Bible and force COVID-19 into it. Recently, however, I have been looking at two scriptures and I believe that they are an indicator as to what our times are all about. I invite you to observe them with me:
“And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are but the beginning of birth pains” – Matthew 24:6-8.
“When he opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature say, ‘Come!’ And I looked, and behold, a pale horse! And its rider’s name was Death, and Hades followed him. And they were given authority over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword and with famine and with pestilence and by wild beasts of the earth” – Revelation 6:7-8.
The context of Matthew 24 was Jesus telling his disciples about the signs of the end. While many of the events that our Lord mentions in this passage have always occurred in every age of human history, Jesus gives us the impression that they will be occurring with greater frequency as the time of the end of the world draws nearer. In Revelation 6, an angel is revealing the events of the end of the world to John the apostle. Practically everything that Jesus enumerates in Matthew 24 is also listed in Revelation 6: there will be wars between nations; there will be economic downfalls; and there will be famine and pestilence. It is this word “pestilence” that directs my thoughts to COVID-19. The Merriam Webster dictionary defines pestilence as “a contagious or infectious disease that is virulent and devastating; something that is destructive and pernicious.” While COVID-19 has been described as a pandemic, it will not be totally out of place to refer to it as a pestilence also.
As the pandemic worsen around the world, there have been various measures that health officials and government agencies are advising on: wear your mask, avoid crowded places, get vaccinated, and so on. While some of us are not a hundred percent certain that these measures can curb the spread of COVID-19, many people have no problem adhering to them. Unfortunately with more and more guidelines emerging on how to handle the pandemic, we have very little response from the Church on what to do in times like these. In fact it appears that the Church has relinquished the initiative on how to handle these difficult times to WHO and governments all around the world. Churches have shut down at the slightest insisting from government and there is very little hope being sold to people at a time like this. Thankfully, our Lord has not left us without a word in these difficult times.
As the time of the end of the world draws near and we begin to see things happening as were predicted in the Bible, our Lord Jesus Christ calls us first of all to responsibility. He says:
“…see that no one leads you astray. For many will come in my name, saying ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will leads many astray…” (Matthew 24:4-5).
Jesus is saying the biggest problem of the end of time will not be physical diseases and wars ravaging the nations; the biggest problem in the end time will be widespread deception in the land that is capable of overthrowing the spiritual lives of many. What many of us can confirm for certainty in these times is that when it comes to dealing with the problem of the COVID-19 pandemic, the opinion of the church has been largely secondary as far as the world is concerned. In fact there are Western nations that are saying that Church gathering are non-essentials, while abortion clinics, liquor stores and others are kept open. The world has not considered the fact that the Church is still one institution that is able to offer emotional, psychological and spiritual balance to people who are hurting either as a result of the loss of their own health, the loss of loved ones or the loss of companionship that a lockdown has imposed them.
The church that is supposed to lead in this whole business of offering succor to a world that is hurting is being muffled up and pastors are being arrested for opening up churches because they sought to offer up hope to their parishioners. The leading deception of our age is one that says that there is no God and that human beings have the resources all by themselves to sort out the challenges that the times offer up to us. With the causalities that the world is counting off the pandemic, it is clear that the world has no answer to COVID-19 and it is about time that the nations recognize that there is a God that demands men to repent of their sins, believe on Christ and place hope in the world to come and not just in the world now. This world is slipping away and the wise know that they must anchor their hope on something more than the physical.
The second thing that our Lord proffers to us in times of the end, when gloom and death will reign, is that we should not relinquish our blessed hope of the return of Jesus Christ:
“…And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come” (Matthew 24:12-14).
Incidentally, our Lord does not promise Christians deliverance from the tribulation of the end; instead he promises that he will return for us. We know that there are clearly two types of “returning” of Christ for the saints: the first is the one when our Lord will receive a saint in death and the second is the ultimate return of our Lord at the end of time itself. It means to me that Christians are not going to be immune to the ravaging effects of wars, famine and pestilence. As human beings, made of flesh, we are susceptible to the deaths that will ravage the world at the end time. Our hope, however, is that even if we die, we shall open our eyes to see our Lord in glory. The Christian’s death is eternal sleeping and it is beautiful indeed. I make no apologies when I talk about the hope of the Christian after death. It is indeed a blessed hope and it is one that every saint should long for. Like Paul, our heart desire should always be “Come Lord Jesus…” Thus, whether in death or at Christ return, the Christian hope is that Jesus will return. This hope bolsters us with strength as we go about our duty of witnessing to the world of the grace of God that saves sinners.
The picture of COVID-19 in the Bible, the reality of the pestilence coming on the earth at the end of the age, is not completely a thing of gloom and doom. It is one that renews our commitment to the truth of God’s word: the gospel; which stands in stark contrast to the different deceptions of our age. COVID-19 also reminds the Christian of his eternal home: heaven. For the Christian, COVID-19 is a win-win situation. It is the reason churches that have dared to open in these times of the pandemic are not afraid of the disease breaking out in their midst. Churches are confident that the worst case scenario, death, is the best case scenario: heaven.
If you are not a Christian, you have every reason to be afraid of this pandemic. But if you will come to Christ, your fears will be replaced with hope and you will be able to join a community of God’s people who have every reason to joy and rejoice in the worst situation that our world is undergoing. Come to Jesus and lay your hope on him. Repent, believe on Christ and he will give you true hope and eternal life. Amen.