Why is this happening? Coronavirus is grinding the world to a halt. Countries are locking down, closing borders and banning public gatherings. Sports, tourist attractions and major events are being canceled. Cities are eerily quiet. Masses of people are being forced to stay home. Hoarding is rampant. Store shelves are empty. Shoppers are panicking. Businesses are being destroyed. Stocks are plunging, and economies—national and global—are being ravaged.
Is God angry with mankind? Is this fulfilling Bible prophecy? What can we learn from this extraordinary event?
When we experience this kind of disruption and trial, we need to learn what we can from it. We don’t want to stumble through and hope everything ends as quickly as possible simply so we can return to life exactly as before.
You need to know what the Bible says. You need to know how to react, physically and spiritually—because even more-serious crises are coming.
What should your response be to the coronavirus crisis?
Prayer and Panic
As the outbreak worsened, Israel’s Chief Rabbi David Lau called on the public to set aside March 25 as a day of prayer and fasting. Lau’s statement read, “I ask that anyone who is able to, take it upon themselves to fast, even for half a day. And whoever has difficulty fasting or a health issue should take upon themselves to refrain from speaking (called a fast of silence).”
Rabbi Lau encouraged Israelis to “engage in some soul searching” and even pointed people to God’s law. “We must also try to be careful in observing the commandments between man and man, as well as those between man and God,” he wrote. “As believing Jews, we know that the Hand of Providence is behind this and it comes to tell us something.”
But what exactly is God trying to tell us through the coronavirus crisis? Lau didn’t answer that question. He said nothing about why God might be allowing this pandemic. And there was not a strong call for repentance and change.
Despite his fairly measured remarks, many Israelis were upset that the rabbinate would encourage people to come together to pray for God’s intervention in the crisis. Seth Farber, a modern Orthodox rabbi, said that organizing the fast “will unquestionably put people’s lives in danger.” Instead of encouraging people to attend synagogue, the rabbinate should have “been ahead of the curve and insisted that people choose life” over synagogue attendance. He said this even after the rabbinate said the rules for social distancing by the Health Ministry would be observed.
It is remarkable how little God has been mentioned during this crisis. Instead, Israelis have turned to doctors and scientists, and even to celebrities and media pundits. Some experts speculated that around two thirds of the world’s population could get the disease, and that tens of millions could die.
This created a lot of hysteria. Most of the shocks to stock markets have not come from problems already hitting, but from fear of problems that could hit. Shortages in groceries and general stores mostly aren’t resulting from problems with supply, manufacturing or distribution, but from fear, panic and hoarding. Plenty of food, toilet paper and other essentials still exist, but people are frantically grabbing more, looking after themselves and their own.
This crisis is exposing some ugly truths about ourselves—truths certain to prove extremely relevant in the time ahead. We are getting a preview of how people react in crisis—and Bible prophecy says far more and far worse crises are coming.
What would happen if a more lethal disease or an environmental or financial disaster actually disrupts the supply chain? What if earthquakes or other natural phenomena destroy infrastructure or wipe out food production, or long-term economic depression hits, or currency values collapse, or we suffer an energy embargo, or terrorist strikes—perhaps nuclear, biological or chemical weapon attacks—occur in several cities? Such threats are very real.
Witness how people are behaving in this comparatively minor crisis. The world has never reacted to a pandemic as it is reacting today. Even if worst-case scenarios don’t materialize, this shows how quickly an unexpected disaster can arise from nowhere and utterly alter the global landscape.
Rabbi Lau is right: There is a need for prayer. We need to be sincerely looking to God, not just for comfort, strength, protection, health and healing, but also for guidance and, yes, correction. We need to see this from God’s point of view. We must see how He is involved and what He is trying to teach us.
Yet the notion of God being involved in something like a disease pandemic is entirely foreign to many. Even suggesting that there could be a connection between our sins and disease pandemics is vigorously condemned.
In a talk to his yeshiva in early March, Sephardic Rabbi Meir Mazuz drew a connection between homosexuality and the spread of coronavirus. He reportedly stated that a gay pride parade is “a parade against nature, and when someone goes against nature, the one who created nature takes revenge on him.” Quickly lgbtq communities, the Anti-Defamation League and other rabbis disavowed there could be any connection between the virus and such an act.
It is impossible today to talk about sin and suggest that God might correct people for sin. For most people, God is a benevolent, merciful Being who gives blessings when we turn to Him—and He certainly is. But is He not also the God who lovingly corrects us?
Can we casually dismiss the idea that a crisis like this may be a curse from God?
Think about this for a moment. Suppose God did want to correct us. Suppose He does hate sin and hates how it harms us. Suppose He wants us to see how selfish, covetous, materialistic we are, how glutted on sports and entertainment. Suppose He does want us to change, to turn from sin, to turn to Him, and to live better lives.
Suppose God wants to show us that modern conveniences and luxuries are dominating our lives and drawing us away from the spiritual. Suppose He wants to help us see how we trust ourselves too much and to realize how fragile the civilization we have built really is, how tenuous the social fabric.
Suppose God wants us to get a good look at our own selfish human nature and to help us see that we aren’t as good-hearted as we think. Most of us get along well enough as long as we are materially well off—but it’s when we experience hardship and deprivation that our true character begins to emerge. What if God wanted to show us how little hardship it takes to begin to expose our ugly tendencies like selfishness, tribalism, factionalism?
What if He wanted to warn us that bigger trials are coming, and to give us a taste of those, a dose of reality, so we could examine ourselves to begin to see who we really are? What if God wanted us to stop our sports worship, our entertainment addiction, if He wanted us to hit the pause button on all the movies—so we would slow down a moment, stay home with family, think, and consider our ways? What if God actually did want to correct His children for their sins, and to lead them to repentance?
Isn’t it possible He could use a disease pandemic to do it?
God makes the answers to all these questions and more plain in His revelation to mankind, the Bible.
God’s Word tells us why events like this are happening. It explains in detail why God allows trials like this one—at times on a mass scale—to accomplish specific purposes. It also tells us what God expects of us: what God’s standards are and how to recognize when we are astray. It explains how to see the evil in our own hearts and to combat it.
The Bible is also full of examples of God correcting people through trial. There are biblical examples and many biblical prophecies of God specifically using health trials and diseases to correct people. God took away all of Job’s physical wealth and put him through a terrible health trial to turn him around. King Uzziah was struck down with leprosy when he took upon himself the duties of the high priest (2 Chronicles 26:16). The Israelites too were struck down with a plague when they murmured against God’s decision to deal with Korah after he spoke against Moses (Numbers 16:41-50).
So the Bible is an invaluable resource to guide us through an event like this. It can tell us what to expect and how to successfully navigate these choppy waters.
First let’s see why God is allowing mankind to go through this ordeal.
God has a magnificent purpose for man. But that purpose requires that we have free choice; God will not force us to go His way. At the beginning of the book, our first parents, Adam and Eve, were given that choice. God spelled it out for them and let them choose between the tree of life and the tree of death. They chose death (Genesis 3).
The rest of that chapter shows that because of their decision, God pronounced certain curses on them. He banished them from the Garden of Eden and cut off their access to the tree of life.
Their decision cut mankind off from God, His truth, His knowledge and His guidance. Ever since, man has been building civilization apart from Him, trying to figure out how to make things work on our own. This is why the world is so rife with misery: because, with few exceptions, we are not submitting to God. We are living a way that is leading to our own destruction.
It’s a way God prophesied would actually end with our annihilating ourselves from off the planet—if the Messiah didn’t come and stop the madness. The Prophet Daniel wrote of the time just ahead: “[T]here shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time” (Daniel 12:1)—the culminating achievement of mankind cut off from God.
God wants to restore to us the awesome human potential that Adam and Eve turned their backs on. He wants to convert the heart of every person in the world, to help us see our error in going the wrong way and instill in us a love for His way. Ezekiel recorded, “As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live …” (Ezekiel 33:11).
Turning from our wickedness means comparing ourselves to God’s law of love to see where we are sinning and flawed, and then changing direction and obeying that law!
God’s law, for example, commands that you love God with all your heart, mind and strength (Deuteronomy 6:5). Repenting of not doing this means striving to change. God’s law forbids putting anything before the true God (Exodus 20:2-3). Repentance means searching your life for areas where you are prioritizing other interests, people or things before God. God’s law says you shall not commit adultery (verse 13). That means turning away from all forms of sex outside of marriage, including fornication, pornography and all lust and perversion (as God defines it, not as society does).
God’s law is perfect. It makes the simple wise. It helps our hearts rejoice, and directs our path toward happiness and fulfilment (Psalm 19:8-10).
Our own thinking, reasoning and ways are fatally flawed. The unstable, unjust, unhappy world we have built is abundant proof of that. God wants each of us to see reality, “the plague of his own heart” (1 Kings 8:38). He wants us to avoid the suffering that comes from each of us relying on ourselves and comparing ourselves to others. He wants us instead to live by His law because that is what is best for each one of us and for the world we inhabit.
This is a tremendous ambition for God to have, because each human heart is terribly plagued by wickedness and evil (Jeremiah 17:9). God is not yet trying to turn people to repentance on a mass scale—but His master plan does eventually include everyone. God has an amazing future for all those who will be willing to come to repentance.
True repentance bridges the gap between an individual and God. Thus, the very first step toward real, lasting happiness is a genuine, deep, complete repentance.
Have you ever repented before God? Very, very few people have. But nobody will ever begin to walk the path toward true happiness and fulfillment before doing so. We must recognize our own helplessness and inadequacy apart from God. That is the most fundamental lesson any of us can learn.
This is more than just speaking the right words or reciting certain portions of the Bible. In fact, in Psalm 50 God says that those who talk about His commandments but refuse to change the way they live are wicked (verses 16-23). Repentance means a complete change of life, and one that comes from the knowledge of how helpless we are apart from God.
King David recognized the dire need for correction and to change his heart. “Create in me a clean heart,” he wrote in Psalm 51:12. Earlier in the psalm David noted that God desired truth in the very “inward parts.” This is no shallow repentance but a change from the inside out. He rightfully noted that God didn’t desire any physical offerings to bring him closer to God, but rather God desired “a broken and a contrite heart.” It was this repentant attitude of David that made him a man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14).
Blessings and Curses
Once you understand that God is trying to bring us to repentance, then many of the prophecies of the Bible make sense.
Consider Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28, known as the “blessings and curses” chapters. They list the blessings God will give, even on the national level, to those who obey Him—and the curses that will come to those who do not. These chapters are specifically directed at the Israelites and their descendants. But the principle applies to us all, even individually.
“But it shall come to pass, if thou wilt not hearken unto the voice of the Lord thy God, to observe to do all His commandments and His statutes which I command thee this day; that all these curses shall come upon thee, and overtake thee. Cursed shalt thou be in the city, and cursed shalt thou be in the field. … The Lord will send upon thee cursing, discomfiture, and rebuke, in all that thou puttest thy hand unto to do … because of the evil of thy doings, whereby thou hast forsaken Me. The Lord will make the pestilence cleave unto thee …” (Deuteronomy 28:15-16, 20-21). The word pestilence describes various types of destruction and death; it could even be violence we commit against each other.
God then gets more specific, even discussing disease: “The Lord shall smite thee with consumption [chronic degenerative diseases], and with fever, and with inflammation [speaking of communicable diseases like influenzas—coronavirus would be included], and with fiery heat …” (verse 22).
To have God, who has total power, cursing you is terrifying! Few take this warning seriously, but this is just one of many biblical passages showing how God corrects His children when we go astray. He is like any father who loves his children: He will step in when he sees them hurting themselves.
Throughout Deuteronomy 28, God repeatedly says how these curses are aimed at turning us back to Him! If we would turn—and as soon as we turn—the curses would stop! Only because we refuse to repent will they grow worse and worse.
Isolation and Idolatry
Amid this current crisis, how many people are seeking God? How many are examining themselves according to God’s Word? How many are concerned about the sins of our peoples that are bringing these curses upon us?
So many of the things society loves are actually idols: sports, concerts, bars, comforts and luxuries, money and materialism, our work, our investment portfolios. Not that any of those things is evil of itself—but many people put those things ahead of God, which is a form of idolatry. Now, suddenly, many of these “gods” are being forcibly stripped from us.
Perhaps you are among the many people who cannot go to work. You have extra time on your hands. Use this opportunity to direct your attention to the more important things in life that are too often neglected amid the hurly-burly of everyday responsibilities and distractions.
God wants us all to see the error of our ways and turn our hearts to Him! He wants mankind to recognize just how failed and flawed the civilization we have built apart from Him is. He can use a crisis like this to try to drive people in that direction. But if people don’t respond, what more can a loving God do?
If you look from God’s perspective at the way people are reacting, you can see why these problems are virtually certain to intensify. God wants to bring about repentance—so He can make the magnificent future He has for mankind possible. Thus, He is going to allow this world to endure even greater suffering.
The Bible includes some grim prophecies about disease pandemics in the end time. Even secular news sources have been quoting some of them.
Ezekiel 5 is a prophecy about the nations of America, Britain and the Jewish state and the terrible suffering that comes upon these nations before the Messiah comes. Verse 12 says, “A third part of thee [these three nations] shall die with the pestilence, and with famine shall they be consumed in the midst of thee; and a third part shall fall by the sword round about thee; and a third part I will scatter unto all the winds, and will draw out a sword after them.” The Hebrew word for pestilence means plague. The Prophet Jeremiah delivered similar warnings to the end-time descendants of Israel and Judah. Please request our free book The United States and Britain in Prophecy to prove who these descendants are.
Consider too the prophecy in Zechariah 6. The events described in this chapter unfold just prior to the coming of the Messiah. This passage describes four chariots, spirit beings with the appearance of horses, that have been “presenting themselves before the Lord” and receiving clear instructions about how they should proceed. They are “of heaven.” These spirits in Zechariah 6 originate from God’s own throne room, and their chariots are commanded to go “to and fro” across the Earth, into the four quarters (verses 5, 7).
Notice verses 2 and 3: “In the first chariot were red horses; and in the second chariot black horses; and in the third chariot white horses; and in the fourth chariot grizzled bay horses.” The black horses here are a representation of the violence, famine and pestilence that come upon the world.
Zechariah 6 is discussing a worldwide effort that will occur just prior to and during the Day of the Lord prophesied in Joel 2:31. Angelic beings are already being positioned and instructed for these catastrophic events! But God is in close control over exactly how much devastation these beings are allowed to unleash. Do not lose sight of the reason. God is not destroying indiscriminately: He is punishing the world in love and in measure—to help mankind ultimately turn from the paths of destruction to the way of truth and peace.
God will allow the diseases and other afflictions represented by these horses to affect mankind to precisely the degree needed to help them repent—no more, no less. For most people, this will come when God resurrects them again to life in a world that He governs.
But it doesn’t have to be that way for you.
In fact, God may be using the coronavirus to reach out to you to come into a closer relationship with Him right now. While God is concerned about every member of the human race, He is only now working intimately with a small group in preparation for the time after the Messiah comes.
To gain a more complete understanding of God’s plan for mankind and your part in it, it is essential that you request our free book Mystery of the Ages.
God is trumpeting His end-time warning message to this world through this work, literally fulfilling His prophecy in Isaiah 58:1: “Cry aloud, spare not, Lift up thy voice like a horn, And declare unto My people their transgression, And to the house of Jacob their sins.” But if God cannot bring us to repentance through words, then He will try to do so through trials, afflictions and disasters.
When trouble comes, some will finally cry out to God for His intervention in their lives. But physically, they may be too late. We must seek God “while He may be found” (Isaiah 55:6).
Must you suffer alongside this world? No. The same God who controls world events is perfectly capable of protecting individuals. King David wrote, “For this let every one that is godly pray unto Thee in a time when Thou mayest be found; Surely, when the great waters overflow, they will not reach unto him. Thou art my hiding-place; Thou wilt preserve me from the adversary; With songs of deliverance Thou wilt compass me about” (Psalm 32:6-7). This lesson permeates the Bible: God protects righteous, obedient people who seek His protection.
God wants us to change our behavior so we obey Him and seek His will, not ours. The Bible is filled with examples of individual repentance and individual protection. If we repent, God can protect us just as surely as He protected Daniel from the jaws of the lions. Not one hair was singed when Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were cast into the fiery furnace. Other ancient prophets survived multiple disasters and intense persecution. God can bless us and be a shield in our individual lives just as He was for Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and so many others.
Act while the warning is still going out, not only after calamity grows worse. Heed God’s words and turn to God now, and you will receive relief from His curses. He promises to forgive and then to protect each person who repents.
We need not panic during times like these. The world is panicking and fearful. People are so terrified of death, that panic is drawing them into ugly behavior and unnecessarily costly policy decisions. Those who put their trust in God are at peace. They are full of faith, hope and comfort. God promises these things.
Are you ready for crises to come? Start preparing by repenting before God. That is what God seeks above all. To those who turn to Him with supple hearts, He offers individual protection—escape—from the worst of the coming storms. That is the only sure place to invest your faith.
Take time also to request our free book Mystery of the Ages. Studying it along with your Bible will help you makes sense of this world. It also answers the deeper questions as to why we see so much suffering—questions that the religions of this world have been utterly unable to answer. If you are struggling to see God’s hand in the coronavirus crisis or how God could allow the coming Tribulation to take place, Mystery of the Ages will be a source of comfort and hope for the bright future for all mankind.