Various outbreaks of pandemic diseases, such as this current strain of the coronavirus known as Covid 19, have prompted many to ask why God allows, or even causes, pandemic diseases and whether such illnesses are a sign of the end times. The Bible, particularly the Old Testament, describes numerous occasions when God brought plagues and diseases on His people and on His enemies “to make you see my power” (Exodus 9:14, 16). He used plagues on Egypt to force Pharaoh to free the Israelites from bondage, while sparing His own chosen people from being affected by them (Exodus12:13; 15:26), thus revealing His almighty power and control over diseases and other afflictions.
God also warned His people of the consequences of disobedience, including plagues (Leviticus 26:21, 25). On two occasions, God destroyed 14,700 people and 24,000 people for various acts of disobedience (Numbers 16:49 and 25:9). After giving the Mosaic Law, God commanded the people to obey it or suffer many evils, “The Lord will strike you with wasting disease, with fever and inflammation . . . which will plague you until you perish” (Deuteronomy 28:22). These are just a few examples of many plagues and diseases God caused or allowed to happen.
It’s sometimes hard to imagine our loving and merciful God displaying such wrath and anger. But God’s wrath always has the goal of repentance and restoration. In 2 Chronicles 7:13–14, God said to Solomon, “When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” Here we see God using a disaster to draw His people to Himself, to bring about repentance and the desire to come to Him as children to their heavenly Father.
In the New Testament, Jesus healed “every disease and every sickness,” as well as plagues in the areas He visited (Matthew 9:35; Mark 3:10). Just as God chose to use plagues and disease to show His power to the Israelites, Jesus healed diseases and sicknesses to demonstrate His power and to verify that He was truly the Son of God. He gave the same healing power to those first Apostles to verify their ministry (Luke 9:1, Matthew 10:1). God still allows sickness for His own good and righteous purposes, but sometimes disease, even worldwide pandemics, are simply the result of living in a sinful fallen world. There is no way to determine whether or not a pandemic has a specific spiritual cause, but we do know that God has power and control over all things (Romans11:36) and will work all things together for the good of those whom He has called to be His very own, to those who love Him (Romans 8:28).
The spread of sicknesses, such as this strain of the coronavirus, is a foretaste of pandemics that are a be part of the end times. Jesus referred to plagues that are associated with the last days (Luke 21:11). Revelation reveals that in these ends times the two witnesses will “...strike the earth with every kind of plague as often as they want” (Revelation 11:6). Seven angels will wield seven plagues in a series of severe judgments described in Revelation 16. This pandemic, like so many other plagues and troubles that we witness on this sinful and fallen world, should remind us of the sure and certain promise of the coming Judgment Day and keep us focused on promises of God as we stay ready for our Savior's return!
The appearance of pandemic diseases may or may not be tied to God’s specific judgment of sin. It could also simply be the result of living in a fallen world. Since no one knows the time of Jesus’ return, we must be careful about saying too much concerning any specific pandemic or disaster as proof that Judgment Day is imminent. For those who do not know Jesus Christ as Savior, this disease should be a reminder that life on this earth is uncertain and can be lost at any moment. As bad as pandemics are, hell will be worse. The Christian, however, has the assurance of salvation and the hope of eternity because of the blood of Christ shed on the cross for us (Isaiah 53:5; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 9:28).
How should Christians respond to pandemic diseases?
- First, do not panic. God is in control and has demonstrated His love for all sinners (Romans 5:8) on the cross as He sacrificed His only Son Jesus to pay for our sins (1 John 4:10). Our forgiveness and salvation are secure! When Jesus died on the cross, He said: "it is finished." With those words, He was declaring that the work of paying for our sins and the sins of the whole world was complete! So there is nothing in this world that can threaten our forgiveness (Romans 8:31-39). Our Savior Jesus paid for our sin and thus provided full and complete forgiveness on the cross and His resurrection from the dead proves that fact. These are the promises that God makes to us and God is always faithful and He has kept and will keep every promise.
- Second, be wise. Take reasonable steps to avoid exposure to the disease and to protect and provide for your family. As Christians, we have the love of Christ in our hearts (Ephesians 3:14-21). We love others because God first loved us (1 John 4:19). We take steps to prevent contracting the virus out of love for God because He gave us life and this life is a precious gift that we should protect. We also take steps to prevent this virus out of love for our neighbor because we don't want to unknowingly infect someone else and cause sickness or even death to another individual. This is also true in all areas of our lives. We should always take care of the bodies and life that God gave to us and we should always conduct ourselves in ways that will keep those around us safe and healthy. We do all of this because the love of God is in us through faith in Jesus Christ.
- Third, rejoice in the opportunity as an ambassador for Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20) to share the message of reconciliation between God and sinful mankind through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17-21). In the midst of all of this suffering and uncertainty, we have the privilege of sharing promises of God's love, protection, provision, compassion, forgiveness, and salvation that are all made sure and certain in our Savior Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20). Often when people are fearful for their lives, they are more willing to have conversations about eternity. Be bold and compassionate in your sharing of the Gospel, as you speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15).