COVID-19| Thinking Biblically about the end times
This is probably a burning and urgent question in light of the events around the world. Are we in the last days? Is the world about to come to an end ?
A quick look at the world news will leave you with a gloomy picture of the world we live in, and some big questions about our future. In March last year Cyclone Idai, swept through a number of Southern African countries leaving over 1200 people dead and many missing. With a total damage cost estimated to be around $2,2 billion, Idai has been declared, the deadliest tropical cyclone recorded in Southern Africa. At the end of 2019, Australia was battling uncontrollable fires that ravaged over 11 million hectares of bushland, killing over 30 people and lots of animals. Every now and then there is news of terrorist attacks, claiming many innocent lives. Currently, East Africa is battling swarms of destructive desert locusts that have destroyed over 25 million hectares of farmland in Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia, leaving millions of people and animals in danger of starvation. As if that was not enough, currently COVID-19 is spreading all over the world with over 1.5 million confirmed cases and over a hundred thousand deaths. No vaccine has been found yet and the virus is spreading. Is this the end of the world? Are these signs of the second coming of Christ? Given what the bible says about the last days, it is appropriate to ask these questions in face the such events big disasters in our world. You may have asked this question, or you know someone who is asking. The bible has a lot to say about the last days and Jesus’ second coming. Let us start with Jesus’ own words when his disciples asked him about the timing of his second coming in Luke 21;
“Then he said to them: “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes, famines and pestilences in various places, and fearful events and great signs from heaven.” Luke 21:10-11 And later in the same Chapter he said ; When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”” Luke 21:17-19, 28 The topic is too big to be thoroughly addressed in such a short article as this one. However, my hope is that we can set some principles to help us think biblically about the end times. The same topic has been a source of much fear and confusion to both Christians and non- Christians. It’s therefore important that we seek to hear what God has to say about it. And we will start with the main question. Are these the last days? This is probably a burning and urgent question. Are we in the last days? Is the world about to come to an end? Well, our answer will depend on what we mean by the last days. Looking at what the Bible says, I would say yes, we are in the last days. In fact, the last days started from the time Jesus Christ ascended back to heaven after his death and resurrection and they will end when he comes back again. This is how New Testament writers viewed the times as they tell us that the coming of Christ is near. Here are just a few examples The night is far gone, the day is at hand
(Romans 13:12) You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the LORD is at hand
(James 5:8) The end of all things is at hand, therefor be self-controlled, sober- minded for the sake of your prayers
(1 Peter 4:7) ..but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son
(Heb 1:2) So we can say yes, we are in the last days. The day of the Lord is at hand. Christ can come any day, but this has been the case since his departure. Are you ready? This then leads us to consider what we hear in the media about the last days: Predictions of his coming As I prepared this, I listened to a number of preachers talking about this matter. Many were trying to suggest that COVID-19 is a sign that we have reached the end of the world. Some were talking about the coming vaccine and accompanying chip which according to them, is the mark of the beast. One in particular referred to some bible passages from the book of Revelation and predicted that Jesus will come by 2053 at the very latest. You see, such predictions have caused much fear as many people wonder if they are ready. This has also resulted in unhealthy dependency on some “men of God” who can unlock the secrets of heaven and tell us when Christ is about to come. I wonder how you have been thinking about this matter. Maybe you are afraid as well, maybe you are confused or maybe you just don’t care. I will not claim to bring another mysterious revelation to help you with this, but I would like to point us to some clear things in the bible to help us navigate this difficult topic:
1. Be warned, no one knows the day
Many are spending their time calculating the years, trying to work out when will the end come. Some are searching hard to find who is the Antichrist. For centuries false predictions have been made about both. And you know what, all predictions of his second coming have been wrong so far. As for the Antichrist, big candidates have been various American Presidents, the Pop, wealthy global business individuals and even celebrities. Do not think this is new. Right from the first century some thought Nero was the Antichrist, the same was said of Hitler, Mussolini , Barak Obama, Bill Gates and recently Donald Trump. Believers have never stopped assuming that the title “Antichrist” refers to a specific individual—usually someone living in their lifetime who will usher in the Apocalypse. No doubt that those claiming to have key to the secret knowledge will draw crowds as many are scared and want someone to foretell the future and help them not to be caught unaware. While this may be a fascinating and even a moving thing to tap into such heavenly secrets, there are some real dangers. The disciples were no different, they wanted to know when exactly Jesus would return, but more than once Jesus told them no-one knows the day or hour. In fact, he warned them to be careful of those who claim to know: “He replied: “Watch out that you are not deceived. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am he,’ and, ‘The time is near.’ Do not follow them. When you hear of wars and uprisings, do not be frightened. These things must happen first, but the end will not come right away.”” Luke 21:8-9
2. Fear not, Jesus is enough
Many people are worried about whether they are ready for the second coming. Have I done enough to be sure I will go to heaven? Is my faith strong enough for me to survive the mark of the beast? You see, the questions are many, but the answer is one. Jesus is enough. It sounds too simple to some. Jesus said he is the truth, the way and the life. He is the Shepherd who has laid down his own life for his sheep. Jesus prayed for you, “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.” (John 17:15). God will protect you. But how about the mark of the beast you may ask? Well, I don’t have a secret to decode and tell you who is the antichrist and what is the mark of the beast or when will it come. What I have is a confident and sure word that if you have put your trust in Jesus, he is enough to take you through to the new heaven and new earth. And yes, the bible talks about strong and scary evil powers that will be unleashed before the second coming of Jesus (Rev 6), but be rest assured that Jesus has absolute power over all of them. He is seated at the right hand of God, a place of power and many times Paul prayed that believers would understand the shear greatness of Jesus’ power. He prays for the church at Ephesus , that the eyes of their hearts might be opened so that they may understand; The immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might 20 that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. 22 And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church. (Ephesians 1: 19-22) How I pray that your eyes may be opened to this truth. The secret of thriving in these last days is not spending too much time digging into secret figures and numbers with which we cannot do much. Rather, this is the time to bath in the gospel of our Lord so that we become more certain of his sufficient and powerful blood that was shed for us. In doing that, we will find assurance in him that no matter what comes, our faith in Jesus will carry us through. No matter what’s next in God’s timeline in these last days, what is required of us is the timeless confident trust in the person and work of Christ. In him our future is safe.
3. Be expectant, Jesus is coming
In Luke 21, after talking about the scary events of the last days, Jesus ends the chapter by urging his disciples to be expectant of his second coming. You see, while the second coming means judgement to God’s enemies, it is good news to those who have trusted in Jesus. When Jesus comes again, he is coming to consummate his Kingdom and usher in the new heavens and the new earth. Finally, the devil and all his subjects will be thrown into the lack of fire. Believers will finally enjoy the full experience of their redemption. So, there is no need to fear, to the contrary, if we know what the second coming means, we will long for that day to come sooner. Our confidence is not in our works, but the atoning sacrifice of the lamb who was slain. Come Lord Jesus Come!