The End Had Come
Christians living in the mid-1300s faced a bacterial plague we refer to as the Black Death. While we cannot be certain of the death toll, estimates are that half of the population of Europe died in less than a decade. The scourge had begun in Asia and brought its darkness to the West and the Christians there.
Just as we see today among true Christians, there was fear of the disease even as there was no fear of death because of hope in Christ (1 John 4:13–21). As it ravaged their communities and news spread of its extent, those who had access to and could read their Bibles may have noted a similarity to Revelation and the plagues described there. Was this a sign that judgment was being poured out?
Wars and Rumors of Wars
For nearly 2,000 years, followers of Christ have been seeking to know when the final judgment would come.
For nearly 2,000 years, followers of Christ have been seeking to know when the final judgment would come. As Jesus walked the earth, sin and its effects had been leaving their mark for 4,000 years. Death, disease, suffering, anguish, and groaning have been part of the human experience since the day Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden tree. All of creation, Paul reminds us, groans as it awaits to be delivered from the bondage of corruption and the revealing of the sons of God—which we often liken to an Eden-like state to dwell with God (Romans 8:18–25). We feel that groaning well up inside when trials come into our lives, and even more so as we see others around us experiencing that suffering on a massive scale.
Seated on the Mount of Olives, Jesus’ disciples asked him about the end of the age (Matthew 24). Sincere brothers and sisters dispute exactly how to interpret Christ’s words there, and we must take care to be charitable toward those who hold different positions about whether those things have been fulfilled or are still to come. If the Jews at the time of the first coming of Christ misunderstood the signs, we can understand how different interpretations of what the second coming will look like are also disputed among those seeking to be faithful to Scripture today.
I Know What You Meme
Christians have found themselves with extra time on their hands (and extra time with their hands on their keyboards). Consequently, posts on social media and memes pointing to the global pandemic in concert with a 5.7 magnitude earthquake near Salt Lake City, Utah, “murder hornets,” locusts, and other events have rekindled specific claims of Christ’s return. While the trumpet careening from the hands of the angel Moroni statue atop the LDS temple seems significant, earthquakes have shaken many pagan statues around the world for millennia. And pandemics have come and gone many times. So rather than reflexively sharing that post about how these are certainly signs that Jesus will be back to create a new heavens and a new earth (e.g., Isaiah 65:17, Revelation 21:1), stop and consider if that is really true.
You may run this through your specific eschatological filters to do so, but you owe it to your friends to share carefully.
You may run this through your specific eschatological filters to do so, but you owe it to your friends to share carefully. Many people create these posts and memes with specific agendas, hoping to incite some level of fear or panic to get people to give money or buy buckets of macaroni. We should not fall prey to these tactics, but prayerfully consider if what is being said truly aligns with what God has revealed to us in Scripture. Many false prophets throughout history have sought their own benefit in leading people astray (2 Peter 2:1).
And the same caution would go for any post or meme being propagated during this time—don’t share until you verify. It may seem trivial, but sharing false information (whether you know it to be false or not) could be considered a form of lying. While we can certainly promote thoughtful discourse amid so much confusion, we should think twice before we send that catchy or intriguing meme—whether biblical, economic, or epidemiologic—on to our cyber family.
Looking to the Sky
Is COVID-19 a sign of the end times? Yes—but so is every disease, earthquake, war, and power struggle that reminds of the stain and curse of sin in the world. God knows when he will bring about the consummation and Christ will return, and we can trust him with doing what is righteous.
Wars rage. Pestilence spreads. Famines ravage. Mountains quake. Leaders seek power. But all of these things are just reminders that we still live in a world corrupted by sin as we await the return of our King. The first Adam brought that corruption, but the second Adam is coming to bring perfection back to the world. Rather than trying to guess specifics of what all these troublesome events seem to indicate, we should simply be reminded that we look forward to a day when God will walk again among his people. Rather than despairing over the brokenness we see in the world, it should spur us on to tell others of the hope we have in the coming Christ and make us long for the glorious day of his return. Let us keep doing the master’s business until he returns.