The novel coronavirus COVID-19 [also called Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (or SARS-CoV-2)] is continuing to spread around the globe from its origin in the Wuhan region in China. It is now threatening the health and the economy of all countries, as normal life shuts down to contain the infection. Thousands of people have died from this serious disease, and stock markets have crashed in response to its threat.
The coronavirus infection is the latest pandemic of modern times, but is it also another sign of the End Times?
When the Disciples of Jesus asked Him about the signs of His coming, He said that one sign would be the spreading of disease among the nations:
And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, “Tell us, when shall these things be and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?”
And Jesus answered and said unto them, “Take heed that no man deceive you.
For many shall come in my name, saying, ‘I am Christ’; and shall deceive many.
And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.
For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers [various] places.
All these are the beginning of sorrows.”
Matt. 24:3-8 (KJ21; emphasis mine)
The Apostle Luke mirrors Matthew’s account, where Jesus says,
And great earthquakes shall be in divers places, and famines, and pestilences; and fearful sights and great signs shall there be from heaven.
Luke 21:11 (KJ21; emphasis mine)
Pestilences (or pandemics) are typically viral or bacterial diseases that quickly spread by person-to-person or animal-to-person contact across multiple countries and continents. Widespread pandemics have periodically occurred for thousands of years. In times past, no one knew what caused these outbreaks. We now know they are mainly caused by microscopic, unseen viruses or bacteria of many different types (pathogens).
The bacterial infections are typically spread through unsanitary conditions or by contact with insects or domesticated animals. For instance, the Black Plague in Europe (c1347-1351) that is estimated to have killed 75-200 million people, was caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis and transmitted to people by the Oriental rat flea (the vector).
A coronavirus infection is nothing new in the scope of human illnesses. Most people have had a coronavirus illness at some point in their lives without ever being officially diagnosed. It’s a very common virus type that infects both humans and animals. It typically affects the nose, sinuses, and upper throat region. If you’ve had a coronavirus infection, it probably felt like a cold or flu, and you didn’t need to see a doctor or get tested for it.
The current COVID-19 pandemic is much more severe than a common coronavirus virus infection and somewhat similar to the 2002-2004 SARS and 2012 MERS pandemics, which were also coronavirus-mediated illnesses. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) statistics for COVID-19 at the time of this writing, there were 1,182,830 confirmed cases worldwide with 63,925 deaths and over 200 countries reporting illnesses (see the WHO website or the Worldometers website for the latest statistics). In the US, there were 301,147 confirmed cases with 8,173 deaths. The number of cases and deaths is increasing rapidly.
So given the Lord’s predictions, is the Chinese coronavirus pandemic a clear sign of the End Times? It may be, but we must also take into consideration everything that Jesus said in the prophecies quoted above. The Lord said that before the end comes there would be four terrible conditions or events which would cause distress among the nations. Each of these events is stated in the plural form, which means that there would be multiple instances of each one. Jesus also emphasized that the end would not immediately follow these events. He said, “…the end is not yet”, meaning that these events alone would not signal the nearness or the start of the End Times.
What Jesus was predicting is that wars, famines, pestilences, and earthquakes would all be characteristic events that would happen from His time until the Second Coming. He then went on to say, “All these are the beginning of sorrows”.
We know that sin has caused these bad events to occur in the world. They cause pain, suffering, and death in this present time, because of the world’s rejection of Christ and their constant living in open defiance of God’s ways.
However, there is more here than meets the eye. The word translated “sorrows” in this prophecy is the Greek word “ὠδίν” or “ὠδίνων”, which is transliterated as “ódin” and pronounced o-deen’. It refers to the pain of childbirth, which causes acute pain and travailing. Figuratively, this word can also refer to the pain necessary to “give birth to” or “open up” something new.
Jesus in this prophecy was thus referring to the pain that this current world will go through to birth the new world system when He comes again, which will then give rise to the glorious Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus was saying that these pains of suffering would occur throughout this present time, but that the existence of any one of the events would not immediately signal the End of the Age.
Therefore, the current coronavirus pandemic is the latest of many such birth pangs that the world has endured since the Lord predicted these events. A long list of known wars, pestilences, famines, and earthquakes that have occurred throughout history can be found at these links. Some of them have resulted in many millions of deaths either suddenly or over a short span of years. None of them, however, signaled the immediate Return of Christ.
Jesus is definitely coming back soon, as evidenced by all the other prophecies discussed throughout this website. It is not that His Coming won’t be associated with wars, famines, pestilences, and earthquakes—it will be. See the Book of Revelation for evidence of that. It is just that this current pandemic is not directly linked to the prophecies of the End Times. It is rather part of the birth pangs of this age as it suffers through to the birth of the new age to come!