As year 2020 began, the whole world was racked by news that a new virus, originating from Wuhan City in the Hubei Province of the Republic of China, had broken out in late 2019 and shortly causing the death of the first victims. The virus was recently identified and named COVID-19 [for Corona Virus 2019] by the World Health Organization (WHO). People traveling to and from Wuhan [then called the “epicenter” of the epidemic] transmitted the virus through person-to-person contact, and COVID-19 has now spread to over 180 countries, and has thus become a “pandemic,” meaning an epidemic that has spread all over the world.
As of today (16042020), 1.2 million people worldwide have been infected with the virus. Now the U.S.A. has topped the list of countries with the highest number of COVID-19 cases, at 667,000, with deaths now at 2,073! [ See:
https://edition.cnn.com/world/live-news/coronavirus-pandemic-intl-04-16-20/index.html?4tm.] Some 22 million Americans have filed for unemployment due to many business companies and trades closing shop in order to stem the spread of the dreaded disease by the now watchword “social distancing” – a euphemism for quarantining or isolation.
Never has the entire world experienced such dread and terror because of a pandemic as today, since the dreaded “black plague.” [See: https://www.history.com/topics/middle-ages/pandemics-timeline, article titled “Pandemics That Changed History.”]
In the midst of such pandemonium, meaning “demons all over,” brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Roman Catholic pontiff Pope Francis declared recently on worldwide television that this pandemic is not “God’s judgment” on mankind!
But what does the Bible say?
To a people who claim to be “called” by God’s name [Christians of whatever persuasion], here is what God says by way of promise: “‘If you diligently heed the voice of the LORD your God and do what is right in His sight, give ear to His commandments and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you which I have brought upon the Egyptians. For I am the LORD who heals you’” (Exodus 15:26, NKJV, throughout).
Based on this Scripture promise, it is clear that it is God’s judgment that if the people of God do not do what is right in His sight, do not keep or obey His commandments and statutes, the diseases such as He placed upon the Egyptians will come on the people!
As anyone who knows about the Bible history of the children of Israel in the land of Egypt will recall, God sent ten plagues upon Egypt because Egypt’s king, the pharaoh, would not obey God’s command through Moses that the pharaoh let God’s people, the Israelites, go out of Egypt to worship the LORD in a place He would lead them to. The final plague, the mysterious death of Egypt’s firstborn of man and beast eventually pushed the pharaoh to let the people go. This plague caused such panic [pandemonium!] and dread on the Egyptians that they urged their pharaoh to let the children of Israel go, or else “We shall all be dead” (Exodus 12:33)! And that’s how the famous “exodus” from Egypt to the “land of promise” eventually took place.
God uses plagues to punish and cause others to fear
The Old Testament chronicles God’s judgment on the people of Israel for their disobedience to His commands. The following are some such instances.
Numbers 11:1-3 – A plague of fire destroyed a number of Israelites when they complained to God and thus displeased Him. The rest cried out to Moses; he prayed for them, and the plague stopped.
Numbers 11:4-6, 10, 15-3, 31-34 – The people of Israel complained about the “bread from heaven” (manna) which God had miraculously provided for their sustenance. They now wanted meat besides, and dared God if He could indeed provide them with it. But the Almighty could, and did, rain down quail from heaven. Because God was displeased with their complaint and lack of faith, He became angry and struck them with a “very great plague” that killed all who complained.
Numbers 13:1-3; 14:1-37 – Because of false reports brought to the people by some of the men sent out to scout the land God promised to Israel as their inheritance, God’s anger was aroused against their unbelief. The scouts died through a plague from God.
Numbers 16:1-49 – Some chief men from the tribes of Levi and Reuben complained that Moses and Aaron had been exalting themselves, as God’s priests, above the assembly of Israel. They wanted to have the same power (and prestige) for themselves as priests of God. This rebellion displeased God, and He destroyed those complaining leaders and their household by a kind of “sink hole” that swallowed them up with their household and belongings. The rest of the Israelites that survived, some 250, offered incense – a task God had reserved only for Aaron and his descendants – and a plague of fire destroyed them. At this, the rest of Israel complained about God’s retribution on these men. As a result, God sent a plague that killed 14,700 more of them.
Numbers 21:4-9 – The Israelites were in the outskirts of Edom when they complained about lack of food and water, and became angry with Moses and Aaron. Because of their unbelief in God’s ability to provide for them, God sent a plague of venomous snakes that bit the people, and many died.
Numbers 25:1-9 – The men of Israel committed harlotry with the women of Moab and thus worshipped their gods. God’s anger was aroused and had Moses kill these men. Verse 9 calls this “a plague,” because of which 24,000 died.
The apostle Paul taught that all of the afore-mentioned experiences of the Israelites in their wilderness journeys were “examples, to the intent that we [Christians] should not lust after evil as they also lusted… written for our admonition, upon whom the ends [purpose] of the ages have [has] come” (1 Corinthians 10:1-11).
These plagues were all in the way of God’s judgments upon the sinning Israelites. After the children of Israel had settled in their assigned territories in the Promised Land, God promised them blessings for obedience to His commandments, as well as curses for disobedience (Leviticus 26; Deuteronomy 28).
God consistent with His judgment and punishment
All through Israel’s history God sent prophets to remind the people of Israel about God’s promises. The message remained the same: for all of Israel’s sins God would send punishments [“plagues,” as we might call them], but in His abundant mercy and love for them and their “fathers” [Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob], as they repent and turn from their sins, God would bless them again as before.
That is the consistent message of both the “major” prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel) as well as the “minor” prophets (Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi).
Also in our day!
God says, “I do not change” (Malachi 3:6-7). Today He commands us: “Return to Me, and I will return to you.” [Compare with James 4:8, and see: What Does God Mean – “I Do not Change?”]
I have watched on TV a number of special messages which encourage this. In fact, a summary of the prayer of Israel’s great king, Solomon (2 Chronicles 6:22-40), is often flashed on the screen: “If My people, who are called by My name, shall humble themselves and pray, and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin, and heal their land.”
But just what is “sin?”
Most people have some kind of perception or awareness of sin and wicked ways as something bad or harmful to others and to oneself. Most believe that murder is a sin, as is stealing, committing adultery, or telling a lie.
What most people fail to understand, however, is the connection between sin and God’s law or commandments. 1 John 3:4 (KJV) says: “Sin is the transgression of the law [of God].”
The apostle Paul declared: “I would not have known sin except through the law. For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, ‘You shall not covet’” (Romans 7:7).
Source of COVID-19
Setting aside conspiracy theories about germ- or bio-chemical warfare, we have been told about what the plain and direct source of the COVID-19 virus is. The “corona virus” came from the meat of infected bats and civet cats which some Chinese in Wuhan consumed as a delicacy. Scientific studies show that certain animals are “vectors” or transmitters of certain diseases.
From that “epicenter” the disease has spread to most nations through people traveling “to and fro,” the virus being transmitted through contact with infected persons. Nations have thus imposed varying degrees of quarantine measures to try to contain the spread of the virus, which is often referred to as an “unseen enemy.” So many things about the virus have yet to be studied, and the uncertainty is causing mass panic or hysteria in places!
Long ago, God had commanded His people not to eat, nor even touch the carcasses of what He calls “unclean” animals. Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14 list the God-ordained categories of “clean” and “unclean” animals and meats. Bats and cats are clearly among the “unclean” animals that God forbids as food. [For more details, see: Did Christ Cleanse All Meats?]
So serious is God about this matter that Isaiah 66:16-17 prophesies about a dire judgment Christ will bring at His return to earth: “‘For behold, the LORD will come with fire, and with His chariots, like whirlwind, to render His anger with fury, and His rebukes with flames of fire. For by fire and His sword the LORD will judge all flesh [humanity]. And the slain of the LORD shall be many. Those who sanctify themselves, to go to the gardens after an idol in the midst, eating swine’s flesh, and the abomination and the mouse shall be consumed [destroyed by fire] together, says the LORD.’”
The prayers God accepts
In these times of great distress because of the COVID-19 pandemic, people are being urged to pray – and pray they do! On our TV screen I have often seen and heard the “oratio imperata” [prayer for all] to ask God to stop the pandemic and heal all the affected people.
But, will God hear these prayers?
Proverbs 28:9 declares: “One who turns away from hearing [obeying] the law, even his prayer is an abomination [a hateful thing to God].”
1 John 3:22 resonates this connection between obedience to God’s law and answered prayer: “And whatever we ask we receive from Him [God], because we keep His commandments and do those things which are pleasing in His sight.”
Unless people are taught about God’s law and obedience to it – as I do on this website – their prayers will be of no avail! James 5:18 assures: “The effective fervent prayers of a righteous man avails much.”
A righteous man is one who keeps God’s commandments and law, which Psalm 119:172 equates with righteousness. Luke 1:6 affirms that the parents of John the Baptist or the baptizer – the priest Zacharias and his wife Elizabeth – were “both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.”
Same message for our time!
John the baptizer and Christ both taught about the imminent coming of God’s kingdom and admonished people to “repent” and do works befitting that repentance (Matthew 3:1-8; 4:17).
Jesus’ apostles and prophets have preached the same message of repentance, which is turning from sin or disobedience to God’s law and, instead, being obedient to it (Acts 3:17-26; 11:9-24).
As the chief Prophet, Jesus told Christians in Asia Minor to repent of their sin and moral failings (Revelation 2:5, 16, 21, 22; 3:3, 19). As that “Spirit,” Christ tells us today to hear – obey! — what that Spirit says to the churches in that area and time.
Before Christ’s return to earth in glory, an angel of God will preach the “eternal gospel” to all the world. Like God’s “two witnesses” whose call to repentance [as symbolized by their attire of “sackcloth”], their message will be heard by all people worldwide (Revelation 14:6-7; 11:3-10) –no great wonder, what with our amazing electronic “social media” devices. The angel’s message: “Fear God and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgment has come; and worship Him who made heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water.”
This message is a confirmation of the ancient words of the psalmist: “O worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness, fear before Him, all the earth” (Psalm 96:9). Psalm 33:18-19 adds this promise: “Behold, the eye of the LORD is on those who fear Him, on those who hope in His mercy, to deliver their soul from death, and to keep them alive in famine.” How we need this hope today, when death through viral infection threatens in our midst and quarantine measures affect our livelihood and supply of food!
God’s word abundantly teaches that the fear of God is to “depart from evil” and do what is good (Proverbs 3:7; 8:13; 16:6. [See: Can We Fear and Love God at the Same Time?]
When we love God by keeping His commandments (John 14:15, 21, 23; 1 John 5:2-3), we will be in such a close, intimate relationship with Him, and thus abide or dwell “in the secret place of the Most High and shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty (Psalm 91:1).
God promises: “Surely He shall deliver you from the snare of the fowler [a type of Satan] and from the perilous pestilence [such as COVID-19!]. He shall cover you with His feathers and under His wings you shall take refuge [compare with Matthew 23:37]; His truth [Christ (John 14:6); His word (17:17); His law (Psalm 119:142)] shall be your shield and buckler. You shall not be afraid of the terror by night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that walks in darkness, nor of the destruction that lays waste at noonday. A thousand shall fall at your side, and ten thousand at your right hand; but it shall not come near you. Only with your eyes shall you look, and see the reward of the wicked. Because you have made the LORD , who is my refuge, even the Most High, your dwelling place, no evil shall befall you, nor shall any plague come near your dwelling” (Psalm 91:3-10).
A special word to the English-speaking nations
As I mentioned earlier, God’s warning about plagues and pestilences originally applied and today especially applies to the English-speaking nations (the U.S.A., Britain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand). An honest study of Scripture and history will prove that these and other northwestern European countries are descendants of the ancient nation of Israel, in addition to today’s “Israel” — the land of the Jews. [See: God’s Kingdom and Israel.] As mentioned earlier, America leads the world in the total number of COVID-19 cases and deaths. Britain and Australia are not far behind!
Revelation 6 through 18 details plagues that will yet come upon the whole world before Christ returns to earth.
“We ain’t seen nothin’ yet!”
Already the whole world is so distraught that, as I update this article (02052020), the total number of COVID-19 cases worldwide has now topped over three million, and still rising! But this is nothing to compare with Revelation 9:13-18, which shows that, as the”sixth angel” blows the sixth “trumpet” that brings various plagues, a third of all mankind will be killed! If the earth’s total human population is now close to eight billion, a third would easily include some 2.6 billion people! As the seventh and last trumpet is sounded, multiple millions more will perish (Revelation 11:15-19:21).
Isaiah 24:6 sums up this scenario thus: “Therefore the curse has devoured the earth, and those who dwell in it are desolate. Therefore the inhabitants of the earth are burned, and few men are left.” Isaiah 6:11-13 intimates that only about a tenth of Israel will remain alive on earth. As God judges Israel, so does He non-Israelites, or the “Gentiles” (Romans 2:8-9). Thus, out of today’s some eight billion human inhabitants of earth, only about 800 million will survive. These will serve as God’s human “seed to sow” to “replant” the earth with people all through the 1,000 years of Christ’s coming reign on earth as subjects and potential heirs of His kingdom.
The various plagues that God brings and will bring upon mankind are His judgments to lead people to repentance and salvation.
I trust that this article helps us to repent and prepare for that day, and how we can cope well with today’s pandemic. Above all, let’s make sure Christ will truly know us at His return. [See: “I Never Knew You!”]
Pedro R. Meléndez, Jr.