Unless you have been living under a rock for the past few weeks you have probably seen, heard, and read about the coronavirus that is disrupting life all over the globe. And it is quite likely that it has had a direct impact on you, even if you have not yet gotten sick from it.
Social distancing has become a new by-word in the past few days. The banning of large gatherings, including churches, and the closing of many establishments where people gather are common. Empty shelves at the grocery store are a normal sight. And there is the expectation that things will get worse before they begin to improve.
Many people automatically look to connect any large-scale disaster to Revelation and see in it a sign of the end. But should we? This article will look at this virus and its relationship to Revelation. And then at how, as Christians, we should respond to it.
What Is This Coronavirus?
There seems to be a lot of confusion about this virus, starting with its name. Coronavirus is a family of viruses that include common colds, seasonal flu, MERS, and SARS. The World Health Organization has given this particular coronavirus the acronym COVID-19 for “coronavirus disease 2019”. Its actual name is SARS-CoV-2, although that is seldom used by the press.
This coronavirus originated in China and seems related to the wildlife trade there. It is highly infectious and seems to have a mortality rate of around 3-4%, although that is still not known for sure. At the time of this writing, it has spread through most of the world. The impact though is forecast to continue to increase for the next few months with potentially millions of people dying from it.
Is COVID-19 One of the Plagues of Revelation?
So, is COVID-19 one of the seven plagues mentioned in Revelation 16-17? While it might be tempting to try and identify this virus with one of those plagues, I believe there are a couple of reasons not to. The first reason is that these seven plagues are identified as the completion of God’s wrath, and the plagues seem directed solely towards those who belong to the kingdom of the Antichrist. But this virus is not as discriminating. There seems to be no one who is immune to it. Saint and skeptic alike are affected by it.
A second reason to doubt that it is one of the plagues of Revelation is that we know the source of this virus. As many of the coronaviruses do, it jumped from an animal to a human and spread from there. COVID-19 is simply more contagious than most, as well as generally more deadly.
To all appearances, COVID-19 seems to be just a natural event rather than a supernatural action of God. It is an event that is not unique in history but is, apart from its severity, rather common. It is even something that our infectious disease experts have been anticipating, and warning us about, for many years.
Is the Cornavirus a Sign of the End Times?
But, if not one of the seven plagues of God’s wrath, could it be a sign of the end times? Again, I do not believe so. In the 14th century, the Black Plague killed 30-60% of the population of Europe. In 1918 the Spanish Flu, another coronavirus, killed 50-100 million people worldwide. Joseph Stalin is credited with killing 20 million people. Mao Zedong is estimated to be responsible for the deaths of up to 45 million people. Estimates are around 20 million deaths in World War 1 and 75 million in World War 2.
People going through these deadly periods in the past have frequently looked to it as a sign of the end. But it was not. While the death toll for COVID-19 could potentially approach that of the Spanish Flu, there is no reason to suspect that it is heralding the end either.
Ultimately, we do not know when the end will come. In Matthew 24 Jesus warns us that there will be many signs that will appear to point to the end. But they are just looking forward to the end, not the end itself.
“Jesus answered: ‘Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will deceive many. You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains” (Matthew 24:4-8).
While Jesus did not specifically mention viruses here, I believe it is safe to include them since they are just as devastating as those events he did mention. History is replete with plagues, wars, and natural disasters that kill large numbers of people. But none of these has been a sign of the end.
As Christians, How Should We Respond to COVID-19?
While COVID-19 is likely not one of the seven last plagues of Revelation, nor a sign of the end times, it is still very real. And as Christians, we need to respond appropriately to it.
The first thing that we should do is to follow the directions of our government and medical experts. Keep your hands clean. Avoid crowds. Keep your distance from other people. Take advantage of the opportunity to strengthen relationships within your family.
But, as Christians, there is more that we can do. Take the time you have while off from school or work to work on your relationship with God. Pray, read and study your Bible, and practice spiritual disciplines. Reach out to your neighbors. Even while taking all of the appropriate precautions, you can still be in contact with your neighbor and let them know you care and are available to help them. And be a quiet calming influence on those you connect with online. There is much fear-mongering and fake news circulating about this virus. Rather than fuel the anxiety that is going around, share the love of Christ.
Remember that this will be behind us someday. It is not the end. Live in such a way now that you glorify God. And, when this is over, your response to this virus and social disruption will continue to bear testimony to the goodness and love of God.
Photo credit: ©GettyImages/s-c-s
EDITOR'S NOTE: This article is a resource for many seeking to understand if the Coronavirus pandemic is an End Times plague. We hope it can direct you toward scriptural truths about plagues and a study of the Book of Revelation. In addition, the following articles may offer more encouragement for all to remember as we face the trials of COVID-19 together:
- Prayers for Peace Amidst Pandemic Fear
- What Does the Bible Say About Coronavirus: Is it a Sign of the End Times?
- Did God Send the Coronavirus as a Biblical Plague from Revelation?
- What Is the Mark of the Beast in the Bible?
- Who Are the Four Horsemen in Revelation? Their Meaning and Significance During Apocalypse
Ed Jarrett is a long-time follower of Jesus and a member of Sylvan Way Baptist Church. He has been a Bible teacher for over 40 years and regularly blogs at A Clay Jar. You can also follow him on Twitter or Facebook. Ed is married, the father of two, and grandfather of three. He is retired and currently enjoys his gardens and backpacking.