Almost overnight, the corona virus disease has completely changed our world and the way most of us live, work, and worship. The world we knew just a few weeks ago is gone, at least temporarily, and perhaps forever. And as frightening as this may be to consider, it’s a fact that more and more people are starting to realize. For example, here is a small sample of recent news headlines:
The COVID-19 crisis reveals at least three things about the Bible’s prophetic time clock. It is imperative that we understand the warnings contained in Scripture, and the signs pointing to Jesus Christ's second coming.
First, the Bible predicts that diseases and disasters will increase before Jesus Christ returns. In Matthew 24:6-8, Jesus said,
"And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of sorrows.”
Now it’s true that there have always been earthquakes, wars, and diseases in this world. However, in the Greek language that Jesus spoke, He actually said that these things will increase in frequency and intensity as the second coming draws nearer. That last word He used—sorrows—literally means “birth pains,” the contractions a woman experiences just before delivering a baby. Just like contractions get closer together and increase in intensity as the moment of birth draws near, all of these disasters—including out-of-control diseases—will increase and intensify as Christ’s return gets closer.
Has this been happening? Jesus talked about famines. In the world today, 9,100,000 people die from starvation every year. That’s 25,000 people a day, 1,041 people a minute, or more than 17 people every minute. Although many of us may be isolated from the gruesome and devastating effects of famine, malnutrition, and starvation, for millions of people this is a part of daily life, and death.
Pestilence was another thing that Jesus warned about. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines pestilence as “a contagious or infectious epidemic disease that is virulent and devastating.” Disease and sickness are nothing new in this world, but is there an increase in contagious and infectious diseases that are virulent, life threatening, and devastating? According to one report published in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface, since 1980 there has been a dramatic increase in the number of infectious disease outbreaks, and in the variety of diseases represented in those outbreaks (Chart 1).
Furthermore, since the year 2000 numerous infectious diseases have raced around the globe, such as SARS, the swine flu, Ebola, Zika virus, the plague, measles, H1N1, and of course COVID-19. As a final example of this world's increased burden of disease, according to the CDC, in just the United States alone, the number of reported disease cases from mosquito, flea, and tick bites more than tripled from about 27,000 in 2004, to nearly 100,000 in 2016 (Chart 2).
Jesus also predicted that earthquakes would increase in frequency as His second coming approaches. According to data from the United States Geological Survey, major earthquakes have dramatically increased around the world in the last 100 years, rising from about 40 per year in the 1920s to about 130 a year in the last decade (Chart 3). During the last 500 years, earthquakes of 8.5 or greater on the Richter scale have increased dramatically (Chart 4). For example, in the 1500s, there was one recorded earthquake with a magnitude of 8.5 or greater. That number jumped to three in the 1600s. In the next century, there were eight of these massive earthquakes. In the 1800s there were seven earthquakes greater than 8.5, and in the 1900s there were nine of them. Since the year 2000, there have already been six such earthquakes, and if this rate holds throughout the rest of the century, there will be about 30 earthquakes greater than 8.5 in the twenty-first century. Certainly, what Jesus said about earthquakes increasing in frequency and magnitude is being fulfilled!
Second, just like many cities and nations weren’t prepared to deal with the corona virus disease, many people won’t be prepared for Jesus Christ’s second coming.
Revelation 6:14-17 describes Jesus Christ’s second coming, and the sad fact that many people won’t be ready for it:
“Then the sky receded as a scroll when it is rolled up, and every mountain and island was moved out of its place. And the kings of the earth, the great men, the rich men, the commanders, the mighty men, every slave and every free man, hid themselves in the caves and in the rocks of the mountains, and said to the mountains and rocks, "Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of His wrath has come, and who is able to stand?"
In Matthew 24:37-39, Jesus compared His second coming to the time of Noah’s flood. In that flood, all but eight people on earth died. Jesus said,
“For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be."
We don’t know the exact time when Jesus will come back, but we don’t need to. Even though Jesus explained the signs that would show His coming is near, He also urged His followers to always be ready for His return. Being ready at all times for the unexpected is good advice. It’s good advice for nations, states, and cities as they prepare for unexpected emergencies, and it’s good advice for every person spiritually. But what does it mean to be prepared for Jesus Christ’s return? It simply means that you have accepted Him to be your Savior, that you have confessed your sins and your sinfulness, and that you have asked Him to be in charge of your life. If you have never prayed these prayers before, today is the perfect day to begin a new life with Jesus Christ! You’ll never be sorry you did!
The third lesson about the Bible’s prophetic time clock that we should learn from the corona virus disease is this: just like this disease appeared suddenly and quickly brought the world to a standstill, the final events of Bible prophecy will happen quickly. Although it may seem like the Bible’s prophetic time clock is moving slowly, history makes it very clear that when the Bible’s prophecies reach their fulfillment, things happen very rapidly.
Galatians 4:1 says, “But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law.” The “time” mentioned in this verse was a 490 year prophecy first explained to the prophet Daniel over 500 years before Jesus was born. For centuries it must have seemed like this prophecy would never be fulfilled, and that the Messiah would never come. But then, all of a sudden, Jesus Christ showed up, and most people were not prepared for the Messiah’s arrival. Another Old Testament prophet predicted that, too. In Malachi 3:1 the prophet Malachi said,
“Behold, I send My messenger, And he will prepare the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, Will suddenly come to His temple, Even the Messenger of the covenant, In whom you delight. Behold, He is coming,” Says the LORD of hosts.
Although it may sometimes seem like the Bible’s prophecies about Christ’s second coming will never be fulfilled, rest assured that they will be. And when they are, the final events of Bible prophecy will happen quickly. Habakkuk 2:2-3 says, “Write the vision And make it plain on tablets, That he may run who reads it. For the vision is yet for an appointed time; But at the end it will speak, and it will not lie. Though it tarries, wait for it; Because it will surely come, It will not tarry.” Friends, the Bible is clear—although it has been nearly 2,000 years since Jesus promised that He would come back, when it does happen it will happen quickly.
Several weeks ago, a friend of our family had a little baby boy. This friend had asked my wife if she would be willing to go with her to the hospital if necessary. My wife agreed, and was ahppy to help. Now, our friend and her husband had known for almost nine months that the big day would come. But when it did finally arrive, it came so quickly that my wife wasn’t even able to drive the one hour to the hospital to be with her! And that’s exactly what Jesus compared the speed of His second to. Remember all those signs of the second coming that Jesus gave in Matthew 24? In Matthew 24:8 He said, “All these are the beginning of sorrows.” The original Greek word for “sorrows” in this verse means “birth pains.” The hour of delivery can come quickly and surprisingly to an expectant mother, and it will be the same way leading up to Christ’s second coming.
The Bible says in Romans 13:11-14,
“And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts."
It is time to wake up spiritually, and look closely at how, and why, we are living our lives. It’s time to wake up and either start, or perhaps renew, a relationship with Jesus Christ. Here is some great advice written in a book called Prophets and Kings:
Christians should be preparing for what is soon to break upon the world as an overwhelming surprise, and this preparation they should make by diligently studying the word of God and striving to conform their lives to its precepts. The tremendous issues of eternity demand of us something besides an imaginary religion, a religion of words and forms, where truth is kept in the outer court. God calls for a revival and a reformation. The words of the Bible and the Bible alone, should be heard from the pulpit. But the Bible has been robbed of its power, and the result is seen in a lowering of the tone of spiritual life. In many sermons of today there is not that divine manifestation which awakens the conscience and brings life to the soul. The hearers cannot say, “Did not our heart burn within us, while He talked with us by the way, and while He opened to us the Scriptures?” Luke 24:32. There are many who are crying out for the living God, longing for the divine presence. Let the word of God speak to the heart. Let those who have heard only tradition and human theories and maxims, hear the voice of Him who can renew the soul unto eternal life (Prophets and Kings, p. 626).
This is great advice. Are you studying the Bible and asking Jesus to help you live the way the Bible says we should? Are you a pastor? Make sure that the messages you share are Biblical, relevant, and free from human ideas and traditions. Are you a mother or father? Pray that the Holy Spirit will live in your home, and in your heart.
What are you doing to prepare for the return of Jesus Christ? The Bible’s prophetic time line indicates that this great event is very near. It also reveals that most people won’t be prepared for it. So what are you doing to be prepared? Now is the time to begin, or perhaps renew, a daily relationship with Jesus Christ. How do you do that? By reading the Bible, claiming its promises for yourself and those you love. You do it by praying to Jesus Christ each day, asking Him to forgive you of your sins and take control of your life. It doesn’t have to be a long prayer, just genuine and sincere. And don’t forget that an important part of being prepared is to share with others what Jesus is doing in your life. As you read the Bible, claim its promises, and pray each day, share with someone else how that is making a difference in you life. It will make a difference in their life, too!
Don’t let the chaos, confusion, and suffering in our world today prevent you from being prepared for Jesus Christ’s soon return! I’d like to invite you to join me each day in a free, 15-minute Bible study podcast called DEEPER. The time you spend in God’s Word each day will be richly rewarded, and it will make a difference in your life. You can sign up to receive our DEEPER daily Bible studies here.
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