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What does the Bible have to say about pandemics?

At the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, a student at my alma mater, Cedarville University, faced a challenge. Gabe Woodruff, who was enrolled in Cedarville’s nursing program, was called up by his US Army Reserves medical unit and was sent to Detroit to serve COVID patients in that city.

Despite the danger and disruption of the deployment, he and his wife, Kayla, found direction in the power of Scripture. Gabe said, “One of the things my wife and I would tell each other is if we trust God with our eternal security, why wouldn’t we trust him with our present circumstance?”

That sentence perfectly sums up what many of us learned during the worst days of the pandemic.

If you’re a follower of Christ, you don’t have to live at the mercy of present problems and future fears. Instead, you can evaluate global events in terms of scriptural prophecy, world history, and the biblical agenda leading to the return of Christ.

So what exactly does the Bible say about pandemics?

Throughout the Bible, we see repeated examples of God using diseases to accomplish His divine and sovereign purposes. In the Old Testament, God warned His people that disobedience would bring “wasting disease and fever which shall consume the eyes and cause sorrow of heart” (Lev. 26:16).

This isn’t to say all illnesses are God-initiated or that He sent COVID- 19 to the earth. We live in a world corrupted by sin, and diseases of all kinds are one of the consequences of that corruption. Still, the Lord is not ignorant of what’s happening in our world.

Let’s face it, the pandemic feels like something we’ve read about in the Bible. After all, it’s the most apocalyptic thing that has ever happened to most of us. Does COVID-19 mean anything set against the larger scale of history? And if so, what?

In the Gospels, the Lord Jesus Christ warned His disciples that “pestilences” will be one of the signs of the last days of human history. 

During the last week of His life, the Lord Jesus said this, “For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of sorrows.”(Matt. 24:7–8)

So, while we may not know if the coronavirus is the eminent sign, of the Second Coming, it is nonetheless a sign. It’s hard to see the world so convulsed by an event without looking at it through the lens of Scripture and learning its lessons. Even if COVID-19 is not a sign of the future, it is a sign for today. It is a reminder of things we too easily forget.

Four lessons have been foremost in my mind. 

First, we’re all more vulnerable than we like to think. According to most reports, the elderly and those with an underlying health condition were the most vulnerable to the virus. But as time progressed, we discovered that everyone was vulnerable.

Second, the Bible has undeniable credibility. For more than fifty years I have been seriously studying the Bible. I’ve never failed to be astounded by the events of the tribulation as they unfold in the book of Revelation and elsewhere in Scripture. I’ve believed them not because I understood how they could happen, but because they were in the Bible. Now, these apocalyptic events seem to be knocking on the door.

Third, contagions remind us of the uncertainty of life. How uncertain and precious are our days! I hope you’ve used some of this mandated quiet time to reflect on life and give thanks to God for the days and months and years He has given to you.

Last, the virus points us to Jesus’ sufficiency. As He was preparing to finish His earthly work and return to Heaven, He told His disciples: “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

Yes, the reality of an apocalyptic virus is troubling. Even alarming. But we can avoid the distress of such events when we place our peace not in this world, but in the promise of Jesus Christ.

The above is an adaptation of Dr. Jeremiah’s upcoming book, “Where Do We Go From Here?”

Dr. David Jeremiah is among the best known Christian leaders in the world. He serves as senior pastor of Shadow Mountain Community Church in El Cajon, California and is the founder and host of Turning Point. Turning Point‘s 30-minute radio program is heard on more than 2,200 radio stations daily. A New York Times bestselling author and Gold Medallion winner, he has written more than fifty books.

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