Coronavirus – is it a sign?

Whenever something major happens, earthquakes, wars, plagues, certain planetary events, etc. there is always a temptation to run to the prophecies in scripture and claim what’s happening fits and it’s a sign that Jesus is coming soon, the end is nigh, so we had better get ourselves sorted out and let as many know as possible.

I’ve lived just long enough to have heard such claims more than once. I think of the tensions in the Middle East back in the mid sixties when I was a young person as a prime example. Certain Bible teachers latched on to it, searched the scriptures and came up with elaborate reasons why Jesus was coming any moment now, after all this was the fulfillment of what was predicted! I remember one who had studied scripture and history and was adamant this was it. He just stopped short of naming a date! It was enough to put the fear of God into our young hearts.

Preachers took up the theme, conferences too, books were written like The Late Great Planet Earth, films were made like The Last Trumpet, and songs were sung like I Wish We’d All Been Ready. Evangelism was big on the agenda, and making sure you werent among those who would be left behind.

But days, weeks, months and years rolled by, and it turned out to be a false alarm, things settled down and it turned out to be wrong, and if you study history you will know it wasn’t the first time. For some there was a turning away because it caused them to doubt the reliability of the word.

So in the present situation we need to be careful how we handle the word of God. Yes, one day the end will come, but it says no one knows the day or hour. The fact is we should always be living in anticipation of that day, we should always be living in the light of his coming.

C. S. Lewis who has been referenced by some in relation to the present pandemic could not get his head round Matthew 24:34, “Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.” A verse he considered to be “the most embarrassing verse in the Bible.” (Essay on The Worlds Last Night). Embarrassing because he believed Jesus got it wrong, that he was mistaken. Jesus said it and the church has been waiting ever since.

The fact is Jesus was not talking about his second coming and the end of the world. Matthew 24 is about that generation, not ours. It was about the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple that would take place in AD70, forty years after Jesus had uttered those words, and that generation did not pass away until those words had been fulfilled.

It’s not my intention to go into the detail of Matthew 24 here but simply to use it to illustrate the point. The failure to rightly divide scripture can get us into all sorts of trouble. So with respect to the Coronavirus, it’s certainly very serious, but that doesn’t mean its a sign, no, there have been many other serious outbreaks of disease since Jesus ascended to heaven, and many where inumerable lives have been lost.

So the answer is, no I don’t believe it’s a sign. Nevertheless a day is coming, when, we don’t know, but our task in the meantime is to be worshipping, witnessing, rightly interpreting scripture, and serving in such a way that should it happen in our lifetime we won’t be caught out.

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