Is Coronavirus a Sign of The End Times? If not – What is? +The MOST Important Teaching of Jesus about the Last Days. + A much scarier historical plague than coronavirus that you’ve probably never heard of. #67
Hello everybody, and welcome into another episode of the Bible Reading Podcast with a slightly click-baity title. Is Coronavirus a sign of the END OF THE WORLD?? Stay tuned for the exciting answer!
Today’s Bible passages are Exodus 18 – in which Moses learns some excellent practical wisdom from his father in law Jethro. And no, I don’t mean the guy on Beverly Hillbillies. Though I will throw in a nugget of television trivia for absolutely no charge if you ORDER NOW! Jethro (that is, actor Max Baer Jr.) is still ALIVE despite the fact that the show he starred on as an adult premiered in 1962, almost 60 years ago! (What other Bible-Reading Podcast gives you nuggets of useless information like that?!) We will also be reading Job 36, 2nd Corinthians 6 and Luke 21, which will serve as our focus passage. Luke 21 is somewhat paralleled in Matthew 24 and Mark 13. and is known as the Olivet Discourse. While most fully recorded in Matthew 24, Luke still gives us a deep insight into Jesus’ teaching on the Last Days and His return, including this line that is on a lot of people’s minds this week:
10 Then he told them: “Nation will be raised up against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. 11 There will be violent earthquakes, and famines and plagues in various places, and there will be terrifying sights and great signs from heaven.Luke 24:10-11
The keyword there, in case you missed it, is PLAGUES. As I record this podcast, the whole world is in the midst of the Coronavirus panic, and probably for good reason. When I used to be on a podcast called The Gospel Friends, we would rate news of the world in a game we called BDLD, Big Deal, Little Deal, or No Deal. My take as somebody who is not a medical doctor, nor who knows anything at all about COVIDs #1-18, is that the Coronavirus will be a Big Deal. Not a mammoth deal, but a big deal. And here’s our 99 cent question: Does the coronavirus portend the end of the world and the return of Jesus? And the answer: maybe, but probably not. In the same way that the Plague of Justinian of 541-542 (25-50 million deaths), the Black Death of 1333-1353 (75-200 million), the Spanish Flu 1918-1920 (100 million), The Asian Flu of 1957-58 (2 million), Russian Flu of 1889-1890 (1 million), or the worst plague that nobody has heard of: The Cocoliztli Epidemic in Mexico of 1545-48 (5-15 million) was not portending the immediate arrival of the last days and the return of Jesus, I don’t think the Coronavirus pandemic demonstrates to us that Jesus is going to immediately return. At the same time, however, it should cause Christians to raise an eyebrow at least. Sickness/plagues/pandemics are a consistent sign that Jesus says will point to His return, but the general picture we get is not of one of these types of issues in isolation, but all of them happening together – in concert – along with ‘signs in the heavens, and many other things. The general picture is one of incredible upheaval – and even then, that is just the beginning of the preparation for the return of Jesus:
You are going to hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, because these things must take place, but the end is not yet. 7 For nation will rise up against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. 8 All these events are the beginning of labor pains.Matthew 24:6-8
The thing about predicting the exact time of the return of Jesus is that it is not possible to do from Scripture, as we’ve discussed before. The Bible does not have encoded in it the time of Jesus’ return. How do I know this? Because Jesus said that He didn’t know when His second return would be, ONLY the FATHER knew. So I don’t want to spend a lot of time talking about the WHEN of the Last Days, but rather to focus on what Jesus focused on in regards to the Last Days, and that is on BEING AWAKE and READY.
Hypochondriacs beware!! In 1918, the world was hit with a devastating epidemic – The Spanish Flu epidemic. The bad thing about this particular flu was that it hit healthy young adults the hardest. Ultimately it killed many more people than World War 1 – About 50-100 million total. Mass graves had to be built. It was unimaginably devastating. SO bad, that the US government kept many many secrets about the spread of the illness and how many people died. According to the Stuff You Missed in History Class Podcast, telegraph operators were given codebooks that they could not understand, and used to transmit disease info to Washington.
You’ve probably heard of the Spanish Flu, and its scary. I don’t believe the Coronavirus will hit us that hard. However, in the midst of that epidemic a much scarier epidemic took hold for over 10 years. You’ve probably never heard of it, because it didn’t kill as many people…but it is terrifying, and not well understood, even today. Encephalitis Lethargica. The disease attacks the brain, leaving some victims in a statue-like condition, speechless and motionless. Between 1915 and 1926, an epidemic of encephalitis lethargica spread around the world; Encephalitis lethargica is characterized by high fever, sore throat, headache, lethargy, double vision, delayed physical and mental response, sleep inversion and catatonia. In severe cases, patients may enter a coma-like state The disease can last YEARS! During the outbreak, more than a million died, and many more were left frozen inside their useless bodies, in institutions. No-one knew what had caused it, or how to treat it. Even today, the cause isn’t known for sure: Probably related to strep throat, and probably treatable and prevented by antibiotics, considering there hasn’t been another outbreak for over 100 years. (It does sometimes show up, but rarely) (Info above sourced from Wikipedia and other websites.)
EVEN MORE TERRIFYING THAN THAT…Is Spiritual Encephalitis Lethargica. Much more common…much more dangerous.
9 So justice is far from us, and righteousness does not reach us. We look for light, but all is darkness; for brightness, but we walk in deep shadows. 10 Like the blind we grope along the wall, feeling our way like people without eyes. At midday we stumble as if it were twilight; among the strong, we are like the dead.Isaiah 59: 9-10
The Church at Sardis had spiritual Encephalitis Lethargica
Revelation 3 “And to the angel of the church in Sardis write: ‘The words of him who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars.“‘I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead. 2 Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God. 3 Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you.
Jesus, in love, stings the church at Sardis in a way that makes a lot of sense to them. It had been a boom city many years before, but by the time of Jesus’ letter, the city was not doing nearly so well. Sort of like Detroit. The church was like that even more – good reputation…impressive works. Probably big and successful…but dying. As Dick Lucas says, these letters are like iodine put on a cut…Not meant to harm…meant to heal…but the truth will sting a bit. There is NO indication in the letter of Jesus to the church at Sardis that it had deviated from sound biblical teaching. Based on the other churches, and Jesus’ challenge to them, I suspect Sardis had solid, Biblical theology, and WAS ASLEEP. WE CAN TOO!!
Not only that – but Sardis was known for its works and good deeds. Not a dead looking church. Good, solid teaching, and lots of works to point to. And yet, despite the fact that the teaching is solid, and that the works are happening…Jesus looks at Sardis and says – you are dead…WAKE UP!
Right now in Turkey, there is approximately 1 Bible believing Christian for every 21000 citizens. THIS WAS THE CRADLE OF CHRISTIANITY. All 7 letters were written to churches in Turkey/Anatolia. The locus of Christianity has moved dozens of times over the years. For the last couple of hundred, it has largely been in America…that is shifting. The Holy Spirit does not appear to breathe very frequently on institutionalized believers or churches..instead, the Eyes of the Lord roam throughout the earth, looking for those whose hearts are fully His, that He might strengthen them. (2 Chron 16:9) Parents – this means that we should not be concerned about introducing our children to our religion….our traditions…but to our God and to His son. Not our ways of walking out our religion, but the person of Jesus, the teachings of Jesus and the teachings of the Bible. Methods change….truth doesn’t.
The main thrust of the letter: WAKE UP!! (It is presented as a command and a threat.) Studying this through this week, I was astounded to find out how important the call of Jesus to His church to wake up and stay awake is.
- Matthew 24: 42 Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. 43 But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. 44 Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.
- Mark 13: 33 Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come. 34 It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his servants in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to stay awake. 35 Therefore stay awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning— 36 lest he come suddenly and find you asleep. 37 And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake.”
- Luke 21: 35 For it will come upon all who dwell on the face of the whole earth. 36 But stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.”
- 1 Thess. 5 5 For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness. 6 So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober.
- 1 cor 15: 34 Wake up from your drunken stupor, as is right, and do not go on sinning. For some have no knowledge of God. I say this to your shame.
- Romans 13: 11 The hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. 12 The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.
- Revelation 16: 15 (“Behold, I am coming like a thief! Blessed is the one who stays awake, keeping his garments on, that he may not go about naked and be seen exposed!”)
Brothers and sisters – in the face of a looming and scary pandemic, let us look to Jesus – the beautiful author and finisher of our salvation – fearing only God, and trusting only Jesus to save us. Let us be wise and shrewd and prudent, and most especially, considering all of the passages we’ve just read today – LET US BE AWAKE AND READY WHENEVER THE MASTER CHOOSES TO RETURN!