Politicians on all sides assure us that happy days wait just over the horizon — as long as we place them in power or keep them there. Talking heads on television assure us that nothing we face is new — humanity has been here before, and we did just fine. And in a sense, they’re right. In Ecclesiastes 1:9 (NASB), wise Solomon said, “There is nothing new under the sun.”
COVID was bad, but not as bad as the black plague. Crime is high, but it has been higher. Present wars don’t have nearly the scope of the world wars faced during the previous century. The economy is giving off major danger signals, but we’re not in a depression. Violence and debauchery seem to have taken over among the young. But woke educators and entertainers assure us that we are entering a new age of moral enlightenment.
For the public at large, however, such reassurances are less than comforting. Most people understand that we face a staggering set of potential catastrophes, and we face them all at once. Each is magnified by the size of earth’s population. At the time of the 1918 flu epidemic, fewer than 2 billion people inhabited the planet. Today that number exceeds 8 billion. We depend on fewer and fewer farmers to feed larger and larger populations. In an increasingly divided world, borders are turning into chasms over which supply lines must run.
While there is nothing new under the sun, the scale and scope of disasters can grow and intensify. There have always been wars, and warriors have always used weapons. But they have not always had access to nuclear weapons. So it is with disease and pestilence. Our ancestors faced biological threats, but those threats were not enhanced or weaponized in laboratories.
By the late 1940s, penicillin and flu vaccines were just coming into wide use among the civilian population. Optimism ran high. US Secretary of State George Marshall saw the conquest of infectious disease on the horizon. In 1962, Nobel Prize-winning virologist Macfarlane Burnet said, “To write about infectious diseases is almost to write of something that has passed into history.”
Not quite. A May 2017 article in Time Magazine said, “The number of new diseases per decade has increased nearly fourfold over the past 60 years.” Most of the world’s 8 billion people live in the petri dishes known as cities. Disease travels with its human hosts. That means infections move around the globe in hours, not the weeks or months of earlier generations. And the people of our time run to and fro at an unprecedented pace.
It’s not surprising that the world was unprepared for COVID. But it is stunning that the situation has not been corrected. For instance, the United States and most of the west still use China as a sort of global pharmacy. But the communists play games. They flex their muscles to prove their strength and our vulnerability. The rest of the world finds itself out on a limb with the Chinese communist party holding the saw. They can slow manufacturing or stop it entirely. They can slow supply lines or cut them off according to their whims. The West’s continued dependance on China for vital pharmaceuticals is suicidal. Yet very little is being done to correct the situation.
In Luke 21:11, Jesus warned that in the days leading up to His return, there would be an increase in what the New American Standard Bible translates as “plagues” and the King James translates “pestilences.” They mean the same thing — massive outbreaks of disease. Those diseases can be naturally occurring, or lab enhanced. So far, we have only had a taste.