David Jeremiah - Is The Coronavirus In Bible Prophecy?
This week, a high profile professional athlete that I highly respect sent me this question, "Is the coronavirus in Bible prophecy"? This message is my answer to his question. Let's face it, this whole pandemic thing feels like something we've read about in the Bible. Or to say it another way, this is the most apocalyptic thing that has ever happened to us. Gary Hamrick agrees, he said, "It feels apocalyptic to go into almost every grocery store or big box retailer and find shelves empty of basic essentials. In my community", he wrote, "local police were called to our area Costco to control the masses as people scrambled to find toilet paper and water just to name a few items. Schools are closed, business are opting for telecommuting, and large gatherings are canceled. Weddings and funerals are being postponed. What in the world is going on"?
Is there a connection between COVID-19 and the end times? Are we living in the last days before the return of Jesus Christ? Is all that is happening to us at this moment a sign that the world is coming to an end? How do we know if the coronavirus is a sign? Well, first of all, let's define what a sign is. A biblical sign is an event, or a symbol, or an object, or a place, or a person whose existence indicate something important on God's plan for the future. Jesus said that in the future, there would be many signs. Luke 21:25, we read, "And there will be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars, and on the earth, distress of nations with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring".
Jesus said in the future, there are going to be signs. The question is, is this one of them? And the Lord actually scolded the Pharisees and the Sadducees because they were uninterested in the signs of the times. In Matthew 16:1 through 3, Jesus got after these religious leaders because like some today, they were saying, "Well, none of this is really important". Here's what the Bible says, "The Pharisees and Sadducees came and, testing Jesus, they ask that he would show them a sign in heaven. And he said to them, 'When it is evening, you say, "It will be fair weather, for the sky is red". And in the morning, "It will be foul weather, for the sky is red and threatening". Hypocrites, you know how to discern the face of the sky, but you cannot discern the signs of the times'".
So, once again, the question is, is the coronavirus one of the signs of the times? In the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, there is a section of Scripture usually referred to as the Olivet Discourse. In this portion of God's Word, we have the record of our Lord's discussion with four of his disciples about the signs of the times. Here from Matthew 24, verses 3 through 8 is Matthew's record of that interchange between the Lord and his disciples. I'm reading from the book of Matthew.
Now as he sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, 'Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of your coming and the end of the age?' And Jesus answered and said to them, 'Take heed that no one deceives you, for many will come in my name saying, "I am the Christ", and will deceive many. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled, for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. And all these are the beginning of sorrows'.
The message of Matthew 24 is a prophetic sermon that Jesus gave that sweeps his disciples into a time that had not yet come, a time they themselves would never personally experience. This passage is so all-inclusive that many have called it the mini apocalypse. The broad outline of the future is given by our Lord, and it's kind of like an overture to the book of Revelation. The disciples asked Jesus three questions. When will these things be? What will the sign of your coming be? And what will the sign of the end of the age be? And beginning at Matthew chapter 24 and verse 4, Jesus answers the disciples' questions. He answers questions two and three in the main body of the chapter, but he does not answer question number one till he gets to verse 36.
What was question number one? Question was, when will these things be? Matthew 24:36 answers the question, "But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but my Father only". So, if someone tells you they know when Jesus is coming back, you can tell them, absolutely, "That's not possible". The Bible says the angels don't know. And while Jesus was on this earth, he didn't know. Only the Father in heaven has control of that answer. But Jesus does answer the second and third questions in the book of Matthew. What were those questions? "What will be the sign of your coming, and what will be the sign of the end of the age"? In answering these questions, Jesus gives us six signs that help us to know if we're in that time before he comes.
The first sign is the deception by false Christs. Jesus says there's going to be a time when people will come forward and claim to be the Messiah. The second will be disputes and warfare among nations. And the third, which is the one we're going to talk about particularly today, the devastation throughout the world. And then there will be believers who are brought into the tribulation, and there'll be false believers. And the Bible says that in the end of all of this time, the gospel's going to be declared to the whole world. So, those are the six things Jesus said are going to happen before he comes back. These six signs cover the first three and one half years of the seven-year tribulation period. And let me explain to you where that fits.
The Bible tells us that we're living right here right now in this little section of time called the church age. That's what we're in, we're in the church, and the church is meeting. But the church age is going to come to a conclusion very suddenly with what is called the Rapture of the church. One day, the Bible says, "The trumpets will sound. And the dead in Christ will rise, and those who are alive and remain on the earth will be caught up together and will go to heaven to be with the Lord". The church age will be over. The Rapture will have happened, and what happens next is seven years of tribulation on this earth.
If you want to know more about this, you can read Revelation chapter 4 through 19, but don't read it before you go to bed at night, it's pretty difficult reading. And what's going to happen during that time in the judgement on this earth is not a pretty story. At the end of that period of time, at the end of the seven years, Jesus will come back from heaven with his saints to set up his kingdom on this earth. So, here's the picture. Here's the church, here's the Rapture, the church goes up to heaven. The church is in heaven. Seven years goes on this earth, which is called the tribulation. At the end of that seven years, Jesus comes back, the battle of Armageddon happens. and we have the kingdom age which begins.
Now, what we have to understand about the signs of Matthew chapter 24 is this. None of these signs have anything to do with the Rapture. These six signs cover the second advent, which is at the end of the tribulation period. According to Jesus, the generation that sees these signs will see the coming of Jesus Christ. In Matthew 24, verses 32 to 34, we read these words, "Now learn this parable from the fig tree. When its branch has already become tender and puts forth its leaves, you know the summer is near. So you also, when you see all these things", what things? The six things we've talked about. "When you see these things happening, know that it is near at the front door. I say to you that the generation that sees these signs will not pass away until all this takes place".
What that means is when these six signs take place and they tell us about the coming of Jesus at the end of the tribulation, whatever generation is alive during that period of time will not die until Jesus comes back. The generation that sees the signs will see the Savior. Now, here's where we have to be very careful. These signs have nothing to do with the Rapture, nothing. They're not related to the Lord Jesus Christ coming to get us, and the reason I know that is because the Lord Jesus Christ has told us that when he comes for us in the Rapture, there will be no announcement. It will happen unannounced. It is called imminency. He will come imminently.
What that means is... Well, the English word "imminent" means hanging over your head. It means an event that is going to take place and there's nothing that has to happen to make it take place. There are no signs for the Rapture. Without any sign, without any warning, Jesus Christ will return to take us to heaven at the end of the church age. Paul understood the implication of this. Paul talked about this and he said, "We're always to be looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ". The next thing on the agenda for all of us as believers is the Lord Jesus coming back to take us to be with him in heaven.
So, here's the question, and I hope you haven't gotten lost so far. Here's the question: If all these signs are not signs about the Rapture, and after the Rapture I'm going to be in heaven, why should I be concerned about the signs at all? Why should I care whether there's any sign about an event that I'm not going to be worried about 'cause I'm going to be in heaven? Well, the broad answer to that question is this: Future events cast their shadows before them. These things that are going to be happening in the tribulation period that signal the second advent of Christ, some of them are probably going to be going on in incipient form long before the Rapture takes place. They're going to spill over back into the world in which you and I live.
So, we circle back once more to this question. Is this pandemic that we're in right now a sign of the Rapture? Of course not, there aren't any signs for the Rapture, so it can't be a sign of the Rapture. The rapture is a signless, imminent event. So, is this a sign of the Second Coming of Christ? I cannot say with any sense of certainty that it is. But neither can I say with any sense of certainty that it is not. As I mentioned earlier, some of the tribulation signs can spill over into the final years before the Rapture. Jesus refers to what will happen at the end of the age as a pestilence. He says there's going to be a pestilence. Men and women, that's what we've got right now, we've got a pestilence.
The word "pestilence" in the Merriam dictionary is defined as a contagion or infectious epidemic that is virulent and devastating. That's a pretty good description of what's going on right now. So, is the coronavirus a sign of Jesus coming? Is this the pestilence Jesus is talking about? Probably not. It does not perfectly qualify as a prophetic sign. I could not stand here and say to you and have any confidence in saying it that this is the fulfillment of number three on Jesus's sign list of Matthew 24. But it surely is a picture of it, isn't it? It surely does remind us that such signs exist and such things will happen.
Let me just turn the corner here for a little bit and say while this may not be a sign of the future, it's a sign for today. Let me tell you what it teaches us. I've had more than my usual time to meditate on this because I've been at home all week, like many of you. And I thought about this a great deal. What does this mean? What is this pandemic? What is it saying to us? What can we take away from this? What do we learn from this that will help us serve our Lord better, live better lives, be better people? And I have five or six things that I want to tell you, here's the first one. It teaches us the vulnerability of everyone. According to most reports, the elderly and those with underlying health conditions are the most vulnerable to this virus. But as time has progressed, we have seen that everyone is vulnerable.
No matter who we are or what we do or how much money we have, we are all vulnerable to the super plagues. This ought to humble us all. It ought to make us all realize how dependent upon God we really are. In many ways, I believe we have come to a good place. If you'll listen to this verse, maybe you'll agree with me. Here's what God says, here's what the Bible says. This is 1 Peter 5:5. "God resists the proud, but he gives grace to the humble". Perhaps before this is over, we will be a nation on our knees. And if we are, we will be in a better place than when we entered this virus.
Number two, this not only teaches us the vulnerability of everyone, it is a wonderful picture of the credibility of the Bible. Let me explain what I mean about this. For 50 years, I've been seriously studying this book, the Bible. I have often been brought to a pause when I have read of the worldwide events that are going to happen during the tribulation. I mean, I believe them not because I understood how they could happen. I believed them because they were in the Bible, but they sounded pretty fantastic to me. The tribulation is packed full of worldwide pandemics way worse than the one we are currently experiencing.
For instance, Ezekiel the prophet prophesized the disastrous plague that will cover the world when God judges the coalition army that will try to take out Israel. When God intervenes on behalf of his people, the evil coalition armies are going to be destroyed by monumental convulsions of the earth and military confusion, multiple calamities like fire and brimstone, and finally by major contagion. In other words, pestilence. God will send a pestilence to take out the enemies who are trying to destroy his people. He says in Ezekiel 38:22, "I will bring them to judgment with pestilence and bloodshed". So, how bad was that pestilence? The epidemic breakout of disease that took place or will take place at that time, according to Ezekiel, is so bad that it will take the nation of Israel seven months to bury the bodies.
Now, when you read that in the Bible, I mean, and you just read along, somebody gives you Ezekiel, "Read this". "Come on, that sounds like science fiction or something. That could never happen". In his commentary on Matthew, John MacArthur gives us a summary paragraph of the kinds of things that will happen on this earth during the tribulation period. And here's what he wrote, "Crops and other vegetation will be devastated throughout the world. Those who depend on the sea for food will suffer famine. A third of the world's shipping will be destroyed. Countless people will be poisoned from contaminated water supplies, and calendar, seasons, and tides will be thrown out the window. The physical and emotional agony will be so excruciating that according to the Bible, men will gnaw 'their tongues because of the pain'", Revelation 16:10.
That all sounds, I mean, I read it, I preach it, I've taught it, I believe it, but I believe it up here only because I know the Bible's true. You know, you can believe something and still wonder about it. You know, and the reason you wonder about it is 'cause you've never seen anything like that. I've never seen anything like that across the whole length and breadth of the world. There's never been anything like that. There's never been anything like the coronavirus in my lifetime that I've witnessed. I mean, there are other kinds of pandemics that have happened, I have a whole list of them, 10 in the last 100 years. But not in my lifetime, I've never seen anything like it.
This coronavirus teaches us the vulnerability of everyone, it teaches us the credibility of the Bible, it also teaches us the uncertainty of life. I mean, none of us saw this coming. I don't know anyone who can honestly say they were preparing to wipe their schedules clean through the end of 2020 and stopped attending church for weeks at a time, or be told by the government to shut down their business, go home, and don't come out again till we tell you. Who could've known? But the Apostle James knew. Here's what he wrote. "Whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow, for what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away".
I hope we can all use some of this required quiet time to reflect on our lives and to give God thanks for what he's already done for us and for his abundant grace evident in our lives. Because we have no certainty of tomorrow. Tomorrow does not belong to us, it does not belong to our determination. And surely what we've learned in this time is that out of nowhere, out of left field, I mean, I was planning my schedule for the whole year and had it all squared away in color. I mean, it was in color. And now it's all gone, it's all white, there's nothing there. The calendar's bare, nothing's on the schedule. So, what are we learning? There's so much that comes out of this. These are the signs for today. We're learning how vulnerable we all are. Doesn't matter who we are. We're learning the credibility of the Bible. We're learning the uncertainty of life.
And here's something else that I've discovered, and maybe you've noticed this too, I've really been amazed at the scarcity of hope. The vast majority of reporting on the coronavirus is skewed toward the negative. In this time, we know this is a serious moment. It is, but it's not going to be the end of the world. And if you listen to this every day, you can be overwhelmed with the negativity, there's a scarcity of hope. According to Robert Shmerling of Harvard Medical School, there are many reasons for hope. I'm not trying to be Pollyanna here, I just want you to know there's another side to the story. Most people with COVID-19 recover. Estimates now suggest that 99% of people infected with the virus that causes COVID-19, 99% of them will recover. Already over 100.000 people have had this and have fully recovered.
Children seem to be infected less often and have milder disease according to the CDC. The number of new cases is falling where the outbreak began. In Wuhan province, they are now reporting no new local cases for the first time since the outbreak began. So, I just want to give you the other side of the picture. Are we in trouble? Yes. We're all quarantined for the next weeks, who knows how long. But the end of the world has not come, folks, and it's not going to come, not now. I do not believe this is a sign of the coming of Christ. It is a warning and a reminder, a wakeup call if you will. And for those of us who are Christians, our hope is not in anything medical anyway. Our hope is in God Almighty.
So, just listen to these verses and write them down, they will help to offset what you are hearing every day on the news:
Jeremiah 17:7, "Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, and whose hope is in the Lord".
Hebrews 6:19, "This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast".
Psalm 71:4, "I will hope continually and I will praise you yet more and more".
Proverbs 10:28, "The hope of the righteous will be gladness".
And here's what I've been waiting to share with you. We also have learned about the sufficiency of Jesus. Jesus's sufficiency is never more seen than when he's communicating with his disciples in Matthew 24. He's preparing to leave them and return to heaven. And if you put all the gospel narratives together in all of the different places where Jesus is talking to his disciples and trying to help them get ready for his ultimate crucifixion and ascension back to heaven, Jesus cares deeply about his disciples. Remember what he said in John 14? He said, "Let not your heart be troubled. Disciples, don't let your heart be troubled. You believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house, there are many mansions. And if it were not so, I would have told you. I'm going to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you unto myself, that where I am, there you may be also".
Don't get your heart all troubled, disciples. In these challenging days, we cannot forget what Jesus has told us. He has told us in 2 Corinthians 12:9 that his grace is sufficient for us. And you will find that out during these days if you haven't found it out already. The sufficiency of Jesus Christ for those who have put their trust in him will be on display everywhere. You will be writing notes to your friends, and emails and text messages to your brothers and sisters to tell them what Jesus Christ is doing in your life during this time. Once again, my friend says it this way, "Jesus will show up and he will show off, and you will be telling everybody about what he has done". Here's number 6, the urgency of salvation. Based upon what we've talked about in the Scripture and based upon what you're experiencing in your life, are you a Christian? Have you put your trust in Jesus Christ?
Has there ever been a time in your life when you have acknowledged that you are a sinner and asked Jesus Christ to forgive your sin, come into your life, and give you the gift of eternal life? If you have never done that, you can do it today. In fact, I'd like to lead you in a prayer whereby you can make that decision right now wherever you are. In your home, in the hospital, in some far away place where nobody knows where you are or knows who you are, there's one who sees you, and that's God himself. And he will hear you if you will pray from your heart this simple prayer. Just say, "Dear God, I know I am a sinner. I know that the wages of sin is death. I do not want to die in my sin. I want to be forgiven and live in hope. So, Lord Jesus, come into my heart and forgive me. Give me the gift of eternal life which you have promised. Give me salvation, Lord. I trust you, I believe in you. I know that you love me and gave yourself for me. And I receive you as my Savior today".