Matthew 24:7 tells us, “For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places.” As the world battles COVID-19, some are asking: Is this pandemic a curse on sinful people, or is it an end- time sign? Still others ask a more salient question: Am I ready for Jesus to come?
The world has faced many deadly pandemics. The Spanish flu, also known as the 1918 flu pandemic, lasted from January 1918 to December 1920. It infected some 500 million people, about a quarter of the world’s population at the time, and claimed a record 50,000,000 lives.
In 2009, the swine flu pandemic, an influenza pandemic, lasted from January 2009 to August 2010. Some studies say that 11 to 21 percent of the global population at the time, or around 700 million to 1.4 billion people contracted the illness. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that, globally, from 150,000 to 575,000 died in the first year.
Because of COVID-19, our world is experiencing changes that might alter our world forever. We now wear face-coverings; we are strongly encouraged to practice physical distancing; we see long queues of people on sidewalks, because only a limited number are allowed in a store at one time; and we endure shelter-in-place restrictions.
As Christians, we have a sure anchor in the Rock, Jesus Christ. Scripture comforts us. “The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; My God, my strength, in whom I will trust; My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold”—Psalm 18:2, NKJV. God holds the future and has the whole world in His hands. The Bible meticulously outlines the signs of Jesus’ second coming, so we should not fear the devil’s intrusions.
Let’s recall the Red Sea experience. Over two million Israelites faced a seemingly impossible situation. Without hope, they complained to Moses. They wanted to return to Egypt to serve their cruel masters. They wanted to relinquish the freedom offered to them by God. Moses reached out to God and then relayed to the people a word from Him. “Fear you not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will show to you to day, for the Egyptians whom you have seen to day, you shall see them again no more for ever, the Lord shall fight for you, and you shall hold your peace”—Exodus 14:13, 14, AKJV. The Israelites faced what seemed an impossible situation: the overflowing Red Sea was before them, two unscalable mountains were on either side of them, and the mighty Egyptian army quickly was approaching behind them. But guess what? Those ungrateful people were where God wanted them to be.
As we refocus on the earth’s present condition, allow me to reassure you that God is as much in control now as He was at the Red Sea. COVID-19 might be a spiritual wake up call for some, a hardening of the heart for others, and unfortunately, a life-ending journey for many.
Last year, my Pine Forge Academy graduation class started to prepare for our 50th anniversary celebration. As the honor class, the activities are in conjunction with the current graduating seniors. We held monthly phone conferences in preparation for the May 2020 celebration. Van, my academy roommate, and I were excited to be in charge of the Sabbath School program. However, in an e-mail exchanged among the class, we learned that Van might have contracted the coronavirus. A few days later, another e-mail confirmed our worst suspicions—Van had contracted COVID-19.
Our class intensified prayers for Van. We prayed individually in our homes and collectively during our phone conferences. A few days later, an e-mail informed us that Van’s breathing was getting better and he was off the ventilator. Our e-mails rang out in praises and thankfulness to God. However, two days later Van was back on the ventilator, and on April 16, we received the dreaded e-mail, Van had succumbed to the virus!
Allow me to share an e-mail from one of our classmates: “This is certainly not the news we wanted to hear. We prayed for a miracle of healing, but God saw and knew more about Van’s spiritual heart than we could begin to fathom. I am a firm believer of God taking his children when they are ready, closest to Him! Though this hurts, we must work harder than ever on ourselves, so we can all meet again when the trumpet sounds.”
I am writing this article from Bermuda, where on April 22 the most recent statistics are 98 confirmed cases and five deaths, and the Worldometer indicates the United States has 819,321 confirmed cases and 45,356 deaths. Globally, there are 2,585,197 confirmed cases and 179,839 deaths.
Nevertheless, we must place our trust in the Lord, Jesus Christ. Ellen White gives us the following counsel, “We have nothing to fear for the future, except as we shall forget the way the Lord has led us, and His teaching in our past history”—Counsels for the Church, p. 359. I’m sure that if you took a few moments and counted your blessings, they would be numerous! Do not allow coronavirus or anything to separate you from the Lord. Paul, the apostle, wrote, “For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord”—Romans 8:38, 39, KJV.
—Richard Smith, former superintendent of schools, Bermuda Conference