The entire world is shut down in various forms. Never since Noah’s flood has the whole globe at one time endured the same catastrophe. So, publishers are seeing a spike in sales of books about the end times. And people are asking: Does COVID-19 signal the end is near?
As it turns out, before all eyes turned to Wuhan, LifeWay Research already had questions in mind about the last days. So, they surveyed 1,000 people from two groups: evangelical pastors and historically Black denominational pastors. Between January 24 and February 11, 2020, Lifeway asked some questions about these pastors’ perceptions. And the results revealed that even before everyone’s least favorite pandemic, a lot of pastors in the USA felt that current events indicate Jesus’s return is imminent.
- 88 percent saw at least some current events matching those Jesus said would occur shortly before He returns
- 70 percent saw the modern rebirth of the state of Israel and the regathering of millions of Jewish people as fulfilling biblical prophecies
- 39 percent saw the establishment of the United States embassy in Jerusalem as a sign of the End Times
My colleague, theologian Darrell Bock, said this in response: “When we look at pestilences and plagues and how they function in Scripture, what we see is that God doesn’t always use them with a specific signature to explain why He is doing it. Rather, He uses them as a reminder to us of our need for Him, our dependence upon Him, the fact that we are mortal and don’t control what is going on around us, that we need to pursue a relationship with Him and be aware of what He asks of us as human beings made in His image.” Bock added that he thinks if Lifeway were to redo the survey today, the numbers would be even higher. And a Youtube search supports his hunch. A video of pastor David Jeremiah talking about Covid-19 and the end times has garnered 1.8 million views.
The Bible does not say specifically that in the last days we will have a global pandemic. It does, however, in 2 Timothy 3, list the following as being among the signs:
People will …
- Love their own selves.
- Might that include fighting for the right to keep our faces unmasked vs. showing deference in love?
- Might that include fighting for the right to gather with more than “two or more” in His name when such actions are at the very least perceived to put others at risk?
- Be covetous.
- Might that include hoarding rather than sharing toilet paper, meat, and cleaning supplies?
- Boast and be proud, be false accusers.
- Might that include asserting we know more than all the experts? And/or posting and forwarding conspiracy theories, thereby adding to the slander of people at the center of them when we have no way to verify their guilt or innocence—and even if doing so makes people wonder if our belief in the resurrection is equally lacking in investigative rigor?
- Might that include slandering “the media,” as if all journalist are liars?
- Be unthankful.
- Might that include “I know I have a full pantry and a job, but…”
- Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof.
- Might that include worship of a god in our own image whom we believe is always on America’s side?
Events in our world are prompting people to reflect on their mortality. Surveys show it. Book sales show it. Youtube shows it. The trauma of COVID-19 is making many consider their lives in light of eternity. Yet many who name the name of Christ, rather than seeing in this pandemic the need to stay laser-focused on the gospel—reaching out across the world in word and deed—are sacrificing our credibility on less-important conversations, some of which call into question our commitment to love and/or sound thinking. If our insistence on our rights is louder than our commitment to self-sacrifice for the sake of love, maybe our beliefs are more rooted in the U.S. Constitution than in scripture.
Perhaps, based on what we find in 2 Timothy, we are indeed seeing indications that the end is near. But those indications don’t actually include the virus.