The recent threats of the coronavirus have sparked quite the conversation among many believers of whether or not this could be the unknown circumstances to bring about the return of Christ. This virus has invoked believers in questioning biblical prophecy and events that are to unfold before the return of Christ.
So what’s the big deal?
Well, the entire realm of doctrine known as eschatology (the study of end events) is maximally debated because of the Bible’s ambiguity about the subject. Of course, this results in the many different viewpoints held by confessing evangelicals. So, before getting into the bulk of this post, I would like to address a couple of different points here.
First, no one really knows which millennial view is correct. While all of us who hold to a particular view of the millennium, none of us (I am convinced) can hold any view with 100% certainty. The Bible is not clear regarding these issues. So, we must understand from the onset that one specific millennial view does not “top” another. Instead, every view attempts to understand the unfolding of the end of time correctly and biblically sound.
Second, it is vitally important to never attempt to “date” the return of Christ. Jesus is overtly clear in the gospel of Matthew that no one knows the day nor the hour (24:36). Of course, we who know anything of history understand that many have attempted to nail down the date in which Christ will return. Because the Bible is clear that no one knows the date in which Jesus will return, we must halt our attempts of trying.
Eschatology and COVID-19
As most everyone has seen on social media, there are many claiming that COVID-19 is something like the mark of the beast or the introductory “worldwide pandemic” into the great tribulation. I have seen many believers post articles claiming the locust attack in Africa and the coronavirus are both indicators of the worldwide terror to introduce the great tribulation. Also, I have seen posts like this (below) claiming the COVID-19 is the mark of the beast.
In light of these instances, let me give you a few simple points of exhortation (from my millennial view) about how we should be viewing this pandemic and the return of Christ:
- The Bible is not a book to be taken 100% literally. Before you dismiss this point because it seems as if I am denigrating the infallibility of the Scriptures, hear me out. I am not claiming that the Bible is not 100% true. Instead, I am claiming that the Bible is not to be interpreted, in every case, literally. There are many genres of books contained within the Scriptures that demand a figurative literary interpretation. Some of those genres will include books like Psalms, Proverbs, Daniel, and Revelation. These books are not meant to be interpreted literally for every single verse. Even Jesus’ words in Matthew 17 cannot be taken 100% literally. When he says that as long as your faith is the size of a mustard seed, you can move mountains, he is not telling you that you can move mountains. In essence, it is a metaphor to show the power of God regardless of our own feebly amounts of faith.
- The Kingdom of God is present NOW. This may be a point of disagreement for some folks, and that is ok, but we must be understanding that Jesus came to institute the kingdom of God “on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:10). In other words, Jesus came to earth to show that he is in control right now. His rule and reign as King of Kings is not a futuristic event, but a present reality! One purpose of Jesus’ ministry was to show those in Nazareth and elsewhere that the Kingdom of God has commenced, and they must respond to the King in faith and belief.
- No one knows the day nor the hour. Matthew 17:36 – “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.” What is Jesus saying here? Jesus is merely showing his disciples that even his human limitations he took on (Phil. 2) do not allow him the opportunity to know when his return will commence. Thus, we can conclude that we should not be attempting to make educated guesses on when this will occur also.
- The world is cursed, but Christ will redeem it when he returns. Isaiah 65 gives believers great encouragement regarding the new heavens and the new earth. Isaiah comforts his readers in exile by showing them that at the end of time, Jesus Christ will return, and he will make all things new. Notice, however, that Isaiah never claims that Christ will be making all new things. Instead, what Christ will be doing is taking what has been cursed in this world and recreating it to which it was initially created. Because Christ will be doing this, we understand that our future is not founded upon the events that will unfold this event, but his redemption becoming our reality in full view.
- The Bible is clear that Christ will return, but that is all upon which it is 100% clear. We must not be willing to make definitive claims upon which the Bible does not make its definitive claims. Of course, this is where the main disagreements regarding the end events come into play. However, in my view, the 1,000-year reign, the tribulation, the “rapture,” are all things mentioned in Scripture, but are mentioned from a figurative standpoint rather than literal events. I know this is not everyone’s interpretation of Revelation 19-20 and 1 Thessalonians 4. However, it is the best way I believe those chapters are interpreted through the lens of the entire story of Scripture.
Friends, I understand these are trying times. But we must always remember these truths regarding Christ and his return. Though the Church has endured many different hardships and pandemics throughout its history, the Lord has remained faithful and has never left his Church without a firm foundation, and he never will.