From the May/June 2020 issue of Discern Magazine

Is Coronavirus an End-Time Plague?

The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted our world and sown fear and panic. Is it one of the end-time plagues? When will humanity finally be rid of disease?

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Within months, a tiny pathogen has brought our world to its knees. We’ve experienced overwhelmed health-care systems, grounded airlines, volatile and unpredictable financial markets, a global system on the brink.

Schools and businesses closed their doors, with students, parents, employees and employers struggling with schooling and working from home or, worse, the loss of instruction and hourly pay.

Not to mention a constantly rising death toll of the vulnerable and the elderly.

Previous epidemics and pandemics didn’t prepare us for this, though in many ways they should have. This crisis is unprecedented, leading many to wonder if this plague is mentioned in end-time Bible prophecy.

Plagues of Revelation

The Bible does describe terrible plagues in the end times leading up to Jesus Christ’s return. Where does the novel coronavirus fit into the plagues of Revelation?

Early in the book of Revelation, Jesus Christ opens the first four seals of a prophetic scroll that reveals events and trends leading to the end times. In the rich symbolism of Revelation, these four seals unveil four horses and riders, often called the four horsemen of the Apocalypse.

The rider of the fourth horse “was Death, and Hades [the grave] followed with him. And power was given to them over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword, with hunger, with death, and by the beasts of the earth” (Revelation 6:8).

The horse was pale, translated from the Greek chloros, which can mean green or yellowish and pale. This seems to imply a sickly color.

As our article “What Are the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse?” shows, the prophecies of Revelation parallel and expand on Jesus Christ’s Olivet Discourse. He gave that prophecy to answer the disciples’ question, “What will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?” (Matthew 24:3).

At the end of verse 7 Jesus gave “pestilences” as a sign, and this parallels the pale horse of Revelation. Pestilences include epidemics and pandemics such as the coronavirus. This terrible disease continues a long history of pestilences represented by the pale horse.

Pestilences and the other troubles represented by the four horsemen of the Apocalypse will intensify as the return of the Messiah to the earth nears.

But does this tell us exactly how close we are to the end of the world—of this evil age of man? No. Jesus explained in Matthew 24:8, “All these are the beginning of sorrows.”

After this must come a time of Great Tribulation, which will begin 3½ years before the return of Jesus Christ. During those final years of this age, all the other plagues of Revelation will come in rapid succession. The seven trumpet plagues and the seven last plagues are yet to come, and those events will be even worse than what we face today.

(Learn more in our articles “What Is the Great Tribulation?” “How 7 Trumpets of Revelation Will Affect Humanity” and “What Are the Seven Last Plagues?”)

What’s next in prophecy?

As bad as the coronavirus crisis has been, experts like Frank M. Snowden, author of Epidemics and Society: From the Black Death to the Present, are already predicting worse pandemics for the future.

And disease epidemics will only be part of the scenario that Jesus soberly warned about: “For in those days there will be tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the creation which God created until this time, nor ever shall be” (Mark 13:19).

What must happen before this Great Tribulation begins? The following are some specific Bible prophecies that have not happened yet:

  • Animal sacrifices will begin in Jerusalem.
  • Jerusalem will be surrounded by armies.
  • A final revival of the Roman Empire, made up of 10 nations or groups of nations, will be set up.

See our online article “Where Are We Now in Bible Prophecy?” for more details and biblical references.

Hope in the return of Christ

Jesus will save humanity from self-destruction and set up a peaceful Kingdom where healing and health will become the norm. The plagues and pestilences of this age will become a thing of the past!But in the end, there is good news! Jesus went on to say, “And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened” (Matthew 24:22). Christ will return and bring real peace, health and meaning to this troubled world.

Jesus will save humanity from self-destruction and set up a peaceful Kingdom where healing and health will become the norm. The plagues and pestilences of this age will become a thing of the past!

When will disease and disability be eradicated?

The world under the rule of the Kingdom of God will fulfill some of our deepest longings.

God promises, “Behold, I will bring it health and healing; I will heal them and reveal to them the abundance of peace and truth” (Jeremiah 33:6).

Isaiah also prophesied a time of God’s intervention and miraculous healings:

“Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees. Say to those who are fearful-hearted, ‘Be strong, do not fear! …’

“Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then the lame shall leap like a deer, and the tongue of the dumb sing. For waters shall burst forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert” (Isaiah 35:3-6).

The first 1,000 years of God’s Kingdom ruling over the earth (the Millennium) will be amazing. But ultimately, God’s plan is for a wonderful time that is beyond what our human minds can comprehend!

As the apostle Paul recorded, “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him” (1 Corinthians 2:9).

Revelation 21:4 gives us a hint of that future: “And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”

In the midst of the coronavirus crisis, and the plagues and crises still to come, we can focus on that future, the sure and wonderful promises of God. And we can fervently pray, “Your kingdom come.”

Study more about the hope for the future that God offers in our free booklet Finding Hope in a Hopeless World.


Showing Love in a Time of Coronavirus

Quarantine is a biblical principle based on love of neighbor (Leviticus 13; 19:18). Those under quarantine in ancient Israel would not spread infectious diseases to others.

This concept is also behind modern efforts to halt the spread of disease.

The coronavirus experts’ advice and government regulations on limiting and slowing the spread of the disease have been very disruptive to lives and economies. But those younger people who were less at risk of the disease, but still at high risk of being a carrier, deserve high praise for their efforts to protect the vulnerable.

As U.S. coronavirus response coordinator Deborah Birx said, “The millennials are incredibly good about getting information out in a clear way, but more importantly, they are incredibly good about understanding how to protect one another, how to protect their parents, and how to protect their grandparents.”

Dr. Birx added, “Right now we need the army of millennials out there doing everything that they can to protect themselves from getting infected, because we know a lot of their cases will be mild or asymptomatic, and making sure that they’re [taking] every single precaution to protect their parents and grandparents.”

Such actions are examples of love in action.


Dealing With Quarantine

Quarantine can bring out the worst, and best, in people. A number of resources are available with tips for coping with this massive disruption of our daily lives.

For example, the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has a four-page resource of “Tips for Social Distancing, Quarantine, and Isolation During an Infectious Disease Outbreak.” Here are a few of its suggestions:

“Reaching out to people you trust is one of the best ways to reduce anxiety, depression, loneliness, and boredom during social distancing, quarantine, and isolation. You can:

  • “Use the telephone, email, text messaging, and social media to connect with friends, family, and others.
  • “Talk ‘face to face’ with friends and loved ones using Skype or FaceTime.”

It also recommends these practical ways to cope and relax:

  • “Relax your body often by doing things that work for you—take deep breaths, stretch, meditate or pray, or engage in activities you enjoy. …
  • “Talk about your experiences and feelings to loved ones and friends, if you find it helpful.
  • “Maintain a sense of hope and positive thinking; consider keeping a journal where you write down things you are grateful for or that are going well.”

The Victoria, Australia, state government also has “Quarantine at Home—Coping Tips.” Some of them include:

  • “Your doctor can tell you exactly when your quarantine can safely end. …
  • “Reassure young children using age-appropriate language.
  • “Keep up a normal daily routine as much as possible. …
  • “Don’t rely too heavily on the television and technology. Treat quarantine as an opportunity to do some of those things you never usually have time for, such as board games, craft, drawing and reading.
  • “Accept that conflict and arguments may occur. Try to resolve issues quickly. Distraction may work with young children.”

The U.K. government also has guidance for those needing to stay at home because of possible coronavirus infection.

In addition to these and other online resources, also remember to maintain your relationship with God while dealing with the stress and challenges of isolation. “How Should a Christian Deal With the Coronavirus Pandemic?” on the Life, Hope & Truth website gives resources that can help.

About the Author

Mike Bennett

Mike Bennett

Mike Bennett is editorial content manager for the Church of God, a Worldwide Association, in the Dallas, Texas, area. He coordinates the Life, Hope & Truth website, Discern magazine, the Daily Bible Verse Blog and the Life, Hope & Truth Weekly Newsletter (including World Watch Weekly). He is also part of the Personal Correspondence team of ministers who have the privilege of answering questions sent to Life, Hope & Truth.

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