Coronavirus and Prophecy: Are We Heading Toward “Uncharted Territory”?
The world seems more uncertain than ever. Is this just a normal cycle of life, or are we entering into “uncharted territory” in human history?
Early this month, the World Health Organization (WHO) said the world is now in “uncharted territory” due to the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19). On March 11 the coronavirus was officially designated a pandemic by the WHO. At that point, the virus had hit China (where it originated) hard and spread to over 100 nations, with major outbreaks in Italy, South Korea and Iran.
Nobody seems to know what will happen next.
Currently, the mortality rate is around 3.4 percent, and the majority of those who catch it will suffer only a mild or moderate illness. Nevertheless, the virus has sparked global panic and uncertainty, with financial markets suffering wild swings down and up. The U.S. stock markets saw $6 trillion wiped out in a week due to coronavirus fears.
The coronavirus does not appear to be as deadly as some viruses, such as the 2003 SARS outbreak, which killed 9.63 percent of its victims, or the 2012 MERS outbreak, which killed 34.45 percent. But this coronavirus is currently over 30 times more deadly than the flu and is much more dangerous for the elderly and those who suffer from other health conditions with weakened immune systems. This, and the fact that COVID-19 appears to be more contagious than the flu, has created an atmosphere of fear unprecedented in recent history.
Bible prophecy shows that the world is about to enter into what is truly “uncharted territory.”
The “beginning of sorrows” precedes “great tribulation”
Jesus warned that as we approach the end of the age, we will witness a period of “great tribulation” (Matthew 24:21). Jesus described it as unlike any other time the world has experienced—and, thankfully, it will only occur once and never again.
Prior to this great tribulation, Jesus prophesied another period of time He labeled “the beginning of sorrows”.The prophets Jeremiah and Daniel also foresaw this “time of trouble” and described it as a time like no other (Jeremiah 30:7; Daniel 12:1).
It will be a time of great upheaval, when wars and killing, famines, natural disasters, pandemics and all-around chaos will devastate populations and bring mankind to near extinction. Thankfully, Jesus promised that He would intervene to stop human annihilation (Matthew 24:22).
But prior to this great tribulation, Jesus prophesied another period of time He labeled “the beginning of sorrows” (Matthew 24:8). He gave four signs of what this time would be like.
Four signs of the “beginning of sorrows”
The first sign Jesus gave is religious deception. He warned, “Take heed that no one deceives you” (Matthew 24:4). He then elaborated on the specific type of deception that would be the most prevalent and dangerous: “For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many” (verse 5).
In the book of Revelation, this first sign is depicted by a rider on a white horse with a bow (Revelation 6:2). The real Christ is depicted with a sword (not a bow), which represents the Word of God (Revelation 19:11-15; Ephesians 6:17; Hebrews 4:12).
To learn more about the nature of end-time religious deception, read our article about the “Rise of Counterfeit Christianity.”
The next sign Jesus gave was “wars and rumors of wars” (Matthew 24:6). Jesus revealed that wars will increase in severity and in size as we get closer to the Great Tribulation.
Currently, the world is experiencing mostly localized regional conflicts and civil wars.
Here are some of the major areas of conflict we see around the world today:
- Iran has defied the world, nearly tripling its uranium stockpile as it continues its nuclear weapons program.
- North Korea continues to conduct missile tests and threatens the development of a new “strategic weapon.”
- Sunni vs. Shiite conflicts continue to rage in the Middle East, with hotspots in Yemen and Iraq.
- Israel is preparing for war with Hezbollah in Lebanon.
- Relations between India and Pakistan continue to be tense over the disputed territory of Kashmir.
- The Syria conflict is escalating, drawing in Turkey.
- China continues exerting pressure on its neighbors in the South China Sea.
As we approach the end times, Bible prophecy indicates that three major regional powers will arise and come in conflict with each other: the king of the North (in Europe), the king of the South (in the Middle East and northern Africa), and a massive army of 200-million, known as the kings from the east (in Asia). The conflicts between these powers will “kill a third of mankind” (Daniel 11:40; Revelation 9:14-16; 16:12).
In the book of Revelation, this second sign is represented by a rider on a red horse, who is given a “great sword” to “take peace from the earth” (Revelation 6:4).
The UN has described the current locust plague in the horn of Africa as a “scourge of biblical proportions”—the worst infestation to hit East Africa in 70 years. The outbreak also spans other nations, with Pakistan, Somalia and Jordan declaring national emergencies. The fear is that if this problem isn’t solved soon, by June the outbreak could expand to become 500 times larger and possibly impact 30 nations.
A swarm usually has about 80 million locusts, but one of the current swarms is estimated to contain around 200 billion locusts. In one day these swarms can eat enough food to feed 84 million people! It’s been observed in Kenya that the swarms can devour an entire field of crops in 30 seconds.
Pestilences and natural disasters.
The next signs Jesus gave were pestilences and natural disasters (Matthew 24:7). In the book of Revelation, pestilence is represented by the rider, named “Death,” of a pale, sickly horse (Revelation 6:7-8).
It is interesting that the disease outbreaks the world has recently seen (including COVID-19, MERS, SARS, bird flu, swine flu and Ebola) are all classed as zoonotic viruses, which means they were transmitted from animals to humans beings. Interestingly, the book of Revelation says that death by the “pale horse” will partially come from “the beasts of the earth” (Revelation 6:8). While this may be referring to animal attacks, it could also refer to deaths from diseases that originate in animals.
Our blog post “What’s Behind the Coronavirus Outbreak?” explains how eating biblically unclean food is connected with the current pandemic.
Jesus also mentioned that there would be natural disasters: “earthquakes in various places” (Matthew 24:7). The Greek word for earthquake is seismos (from which the English word seismic is derived). But this word can mean more than just earthquakes. Its literal meaning is “to move to and fro, to shake,” and it is translated a “tempest in the sea” in Matthew 8:24, describing a violent windstorm.
As we approach the end times, we are seeing an increase in the frequency and intensity of geological and climatic shakings (including tornadoes, hurricanes, volcanic eruptions, tsunamis and earthquakes).
The biggest problem: human character
The current coronavirus pandemic has revealed (as tragedies often do) the dark side of human nature. We have seen fear driving people to take advantage of others or to think just of themselves. Consider the following headlines:
- “Coronavirus Panic: Why Are People Stockpiling Toilet Paper?” Mass hysteria has led people to buy and hoard large amounts of toilet paper. In Australia store police had to be called to deal with three women fighting over toilet paper. Similar situations occurred in Singapore, Japan and Hong Kong, where armed robbers stole a pallet of toilet paper. This shortage is now occurring in the U.S as well.
- “Gouge Much? Purell for $149, Face Masks for $20: Coronavirus Price Hikes Are Making Everyone Mad.” Panic buying of supplies has seen some charge exorbitant prices for medical products and essentials—taking advantage of the hysteria about the pandemic.
- “Italy Coronavirus Lockdown—Medical Supplies ‘Looted’ and Panic Buyers Strip Shelves as Whole Country Is Quarantined.” To contain the spread of the virus, Italy has taken emergency action and issued a nationwide lockdown. This has sparked panic, leading to shoppers emptying shelves shops across Italy. Some have even resorted to looting medical supplies.
We are still in the early days of this pandemic, and no one is certain if it will continue to get worse. It is troubling to imagine what the panic could lead to if circumstances worsen.
But it doesn’t have to get that bad for you to change your life and turn to God. There is still time to “seek the LORD while He may be found” (Isaiah 55:6).
If you are interested in learning more about how to turn to God in sincere repentance and begin the process of changing your life, download our booklet Change Your Life.