According to the John Hopkins University of Medicine Coronavirus Research Center, there have been more than 9 million Covid cases in the world so far, and almost half a million people have died. Over 120,000 of the dead were from the United States. This all happened in just a few months. The World Health Organization did not receive its first report on the disease until the last day of 2019.
Even as Europe comes out of its lockdown, the number of infections worldwide continues to rise. Much of the increase has come from Central and South America. Brazil has had more than 50,000 Covid deaths. The indigenous peoples there have been especially hard hit. There have been major new outbreaks in countries that thought they had everything under control, such as China, South Korea, and Australia.
The rise in new cases in many US states is tied to increased testing. Those numbers can be misleading. But it is troubling to see hospitalizations on the rise in places like Texas, California, and Arizona. Hospitalizations do not fluctuate with the number of people being tested. They reflect how many people are actually becoming severely ill.
Meanwhile, some Christian ministers are telling us that this is not a sign of the times. They point to the Black Plague and the 1918 Spanish flu as examples of worse pandemics. But there is a difference this time. In 1918 and in the mid-13th century, the primary prerequisite for end-times events had not taken place. The Jews had not yet formed a new nation of Israel.
The other difference today is that this is only one of a series of signs striking the world all at once. And the current pandemic perfectly fits the warning Jesus gave in Luke 21:11. He said the time near His return would be characterized in part by plagues. And Covid-19 is a plague.
The most devastating plagues will come during the seven-year tribulation period which will take place sometime after the rapture. The first of the bowl judgments in Revelation 16 depicts a terrible pestilence. Verse 2 says, “And the first angel went and poured out his bowl into the earth; and it became a loathsome and malignant sore upon the men who had the mark of the beast and who worshiped his image.”
Much earlier in the tribulation, the last of the four horsemen of the apocalypse will carry pestilence as one of its elements. Revelation 6:8 says, “And I looked, and behold, an ashen horse; and he who sat on it had the name Death; and Hades was following with him. And authority was given to them over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword and with famine and with pestilence and by the wild beasts of the earth.”
The second of those four horsemen will bring a global, economic depression, deeper and more horrible than any before it. Covid seems to be setting the world up for that, too. Governments all over the world have been spending wildly to keep their economies afloat during a time when their income has been greatly diminished. Tax revenues are low when businesses can’t open, and people are unemployed. That means massive new budget deficits all over the planet.
Another feature of the new era we have entered, is a striking level of lawlessness. Crime levels are exploding all over the world. Jesus said that this, too, would be a sign of His coming.
Seeing these events engulf our world is at least unsettling, if not outright terrifying. But God doesn’t want you to be afraid. Remember that Jesus told about these things from a perspective of hope. In Luke 21:28, He said, “When these things begin to take place, straighten up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”