Our news screens are presently dominated by the worldwide outbreak of coronavirus which has inevitably led to significant alarm and a degree of hysteria. The Express newspaper have (playfully!) highlighted the link that some bible commentators are making between coronavirus and end time prophecy.
One of the Bible references that are commonly cited is an interesting one:
When the Lamb opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature say, “Come!” I looked, and there before me was a pale horse! Its rider was named Death, and Hades was following close behind him. They were given power over a fourth of the earth to kill by sword, famine and plague, and by the wild beasts of the earth. (Revelation 6:7-8 NIV)
Although the reference to the ‘wild beasts of the earth’ usually causes images of the world’s biggest and most fearsome creatures to come to mind (e.g. lions and tigers!), this reference could also include microscopic creatures such as the biological agents that can only replicate and survive within the living cells of the host – something we call a virus. This certainly opens a new dimension with the interpretation of the passage above. Even if we simply stick with a more conventional image of the ‘wild beasts of the earth’, the fact that many destructive viruses are transmitted to humans through animals (and birds) should cause us to be in no doubt that there is huge potential for a 25% of the world’s population to be killed by ‘sword, famine and plague’ at some point. Therefore, the picture presented in the bible verse above is not beyond the realms of possibility by any stretch of the imagination.
So, how should we respond to the threat of coronavirus?
Well, it is a little early to say. We suspect that this latest strain of flu will indeed prove to be destructive and claim a number of casualties. It will then either fizzle out or be more contained like many other viruses in recent years (such a SARS, Ebola or Swine Flu). It is certainly far too early to link coronavirus with some direct fulfilment of Bible prophecy.
Furthermore, we lean towards a pre-tribulation view of end time prophecy which indicates that the seals of judgment outlined in Revelation 6 would occur during the great tribulation and therefore after the rapture of the church. In other words, if we are correct, we need not be concerned with the catastrophic events of Revelation 6-19 as the faithful church will be removed for this period of time which is reserved for an outpouring of God’s wrath on an unbelieving world.
As events continue to unfold, this latest outbreak of disease should remind us all of the vulnerability of our earthly lives – all of us exist in a world of continual uncertainty and danger. More seriously, we all live a life completely estranged from a living relationship with our Creator God until the moment we come to faith through Jesus Christ.
We believe we are living in the end times and that time is short. Surely, if nothing else, events like this should cause us all to seriously examine our approach to the questions of the after-life and how we should respond to the abundant evidence for the existence of God. Our Coming King will be returning soon – will you be ready when that moment arrives?
So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:18 NIV)