Coronavirus and End Times Anxiety

I don’t know about you, but my Facebook feed has recently been flooded with stuff about prophecy and the beginning of the Great Tribulation as recorded in the book of Revelation. Even though there’s still much debate about how much or which prophecies have been fulfilled, the general theme right now is that we are literally in the very end times, and coronavirus is some kind of harbinger. Some “prognosticators of doom” are even plotting out the end time calendar of prophetic signs, inserting current events into prophetic imagery and asserting the sequence of signs yet to unfold as we march inexorably to the final judgement of God in the immediate future. It all sounds scary…
 
In some ways it does seem like the end is near, especially in the self-isolation and social distancing situation we find ourselves in. It is unprecedented in our era. Add in all of the talk about impending economic collapse, recommendations of going to a cashless society to avoid virus transmission on money, and ultimately moving to a global government and it does seem plausible. Plus, we’ve been hearing about these so-called “signs of the end” for decades now, ostensibly culminating in the New World Order and the rise of anti-Christ. These things are all elements of certain end time systems, many of them having been taught in our churches since the early 20th century, and which we often just accept uncritically, as being the truth.
 
Now for some of you, this subject may be especially stimulating, and provide a wonderful social distancing activity outlet to pursue. That’s awesome, but be careful not to read into the scriptures, or be deceived by spurious conspiracies and unscriptural ideas.
 
For others, it may be causing fear and anxiety, as well as confusion about the end times. What are the signs to look for and how you can know for certain? How do we make sense out of current events, all of the end times prophecies supposedly still to come and what is known as “The Great Tribulation”? Maybe you’ve tried reading Revelation, or Daniel to find out, but are perplexed by the language, imagery and confusing details, wondering how it’s supposed to make any sense. Don’t worry, there’s no need to be confused or anxious. Take a deep breath, exhale and read on.
 
There are two key things that have brought peace to me about this subject. I think they will help you too.
 
Firstly, Jesus’ words to his disciples in Matthew 24 (known as the Olivet Discourse) include a series of statements and illustrations that are highly instructive and comforting. In this section of Matthew’s gospel Jesus is explaining what the signs will be of His second coming and the end of the age. In verse 36 he says this: “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.”
 
Jesus then reinforces this statement with a series of illustrations, starting with:
 
  1. the flood of Noah and people being taken by surprise in judgement
  2. people working in the field, one taken by surprise in judgement
  3. people working at a grinding mill, also one taken by surprise in judgement
  4. a burglary, where the master didn’t know when the thief was coming
  5. and finally, a contrast of two kinds of servants, one unfaithful and the other faithful, both unaware of when the master will return.
 
The point Jesus is emphasizing is that nobody can or will know when that event will happen until it actually happens. In fact, He guarantees that it will come as a surprise to everyone. In other words, spending time trying to figure it out is actually not what Jesus wants us to do. Don’t even try to figure out what being “taken” means, it’s not the point.
 
Yes, we can watch for the signs He told us, but the main point Jesus is making is that no matter how hard you try, or how much you think you have it figured out, you will still be surprised. Jesus said so and reinforced it in six different ways. Don’t spend time trying to figure it out, or worry about it, because you will never be able to know.
 
So then, what was the point of Jesus telling His disciples all of those signs?
 
It’s actually very simple. Get ready.
 
The point is so that it will always look like the end is near. Christians are supposed to live as if the end is right now, today. When we look at past and current world history, we can see that it has always looked that way. In fact, the scriptures make this point as well.
  • The writer to the Hebrews 1:2 says, “In these last days he has spoken to us by his Son…” He’s teaching that it was already the last days then.
  • In 2 Timothy 3:1-5, Paul tells Timothy to avoid certain people, preceded by the statement that “But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty.” Paul believed it was already the last days.
  • In Acts 2:17, Peter quotes the prophet Joel, saying, “And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh.” Peter was teaching that the Day of Pentecost was a fulfillment of that prophecy, and therefore, the “last days”.
It’s clear that since the time of the Apostles, the New Testament describes Christians living in the last days, and that difficulties will be included. It’s how we’re supposed to live, in a sense of expectation. This brings me to the second, and most important part.
 
What does it look like to live with that expectation?
 
This is also simple. Believers are urged to live holy lives, to make disciples and to look with anticipation toward the coming of Christ.
 
In my mind I have changed up the words of a popular song and sing it to myself often:
 
“Don’t worry, be holy”
 

By Dale Albertson