It is a strange time on the earth. The world’s attention is turned to the impact of COVID-19. If one watches the news channels, much of the talk is on the impact of this pandemic. Schools are closed nationwide. Churches are closed. Mass gatherings are canceled. I don’t know that anyone alive has seen anything like this. Uncertainty rules the day.
Many people have begun experiencing the economic impacts of businesses closing. That impact will continue to spread. An economic shift is taking place. Certain manufacturers may go bankrupt while others will experience booms. The social and economic landscape is aggressively shifting under us. And, we don’t know where it’s going to settle.
Fear is pervasive. For those infected, or who personally know and have had contact with someone infected by COVID-19, the fear is palpable. Human imagination can cause its own disease at this intensity of fear. Worse yet, the lack of fear is no protection against the calamities to come.
Where are we today? What is the state of the world? What is our situation? What is going to happen to us? Our hearts and minds are trying to grasp today’s realities and make sense of them. The issue is that there may be too many facets of this reality for us to grasp at once. Our health, our finances, our social lives, our immediate environments and our daily routines are all being impacted by this virus that’s too small to see and too new to fully understand. This minute destructive particle is uniting humanity in a global state of fear.
In such times, it is helpful to see both the big pictures and the small details. The big picture considers the story of life as a whole. The details focus attention on the multiple aspects of this novel disease and its impacts on us. While we live with the details, it’s helpful to try to grasp the big picture.
One big picture view of our situation suggests that God is allowing Himself to be known. When we don’t have answers, we look for them. As we run out of scientific and technical solutions we consider the supernatural. In other words, what we can’t understand, we attribute to God. In considering supernatural attributions for our condition we ask ourselves, where is God? What is He doing? Why is He causing this? How will this turn out for me? In this search for answers, many seek answers through their Bibles.
Consider how the book of Revelation may be helpful now. In it, God gave John the apostle and revelator, seven views as to what would take place on Earth. The first view was that of the conditions of the Christian church. While shared from heaven, God projected another vision of Earth’s history through seven seals. That is the second view. The third view is one of warnings as symbolized by seven trumpets. In the fourth take, God used seven visions to depict Earth’s story from a galactic, or other-world, perspective. The fifth retelling speaks to the ire of God being poured out globally. An additional view, the sixth, tells of how that anger is expressed toward worldly oppressive institutions such as governments and world religions. In the final narrative we see God’s response to Earth’s history by the establishment of the New Jerusalem and a new context for life. Each of the seven sections of Revelation is packed with sub-narratives. The seven views, visions or narratives of Revelation are not chronological. Rather, they broadly run concurrently, and overlap substantially.
One section that is of particular interest for our day is the telling of the seven trumpets. The trumpets are instruments of warning. They were used in ancient Israel, and during John’s time, as alarms and battle calls. Ten days before the Jewish Day of Atonement, God’s people were to blow trumpets and hold a holy convocation (Lev. 23:23, 29:1). This was the wakeup call for the annual ceremonial Day of Judgment.
The Revelation narrative of the seven trumpets (Rev. 8:2 – 11:19), serves a similar purpose today. These seven alarms serve to call God’s people to preparation for judgment. As the alarms of Revelation are sounded, devastation impacts: 1) vegetation, 2) seas, 3) fresh water supply, 4) atmosphere, 5) humanity (emotionally/psychologically), 6) population (physically). The seventh trumpet announces the reign of God. These trumpets can rightly be referred to as the signs of the times. They are useful for helping God’s people understand what they’re experiencing.
Note that by striking a third of the world, each sign is impacting enough people to be noticed, but not so much to destroy Earth’s population. Each trumpet impacts the lessor portion of the whole that it represents. While a third is noticeable, it is not terminal. The point of the trumpets is to warn the world, God’s people in particular, that judgment is coming.
It is important to note the world’s response to God’s warning:
But the rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands, that they should not worship demons, and idols of gold, silver, brass, stone, and wood, which can neither see nor hear nor walk. And they did not repent of their murders or their sorceries or their sexual immorality or their thefts. (Revelation 9:20-21)
So what should God’s people do in these times? In the words of Jesus, “be ready” (Mat. 24:44). Jesus elaborates on what readiness looks like. In the related parable, being ready is a matter of taking care of those individuals placed in one’s trust. By comparison, an evil person is portrayed as beating his fellow servants, and eating and drinking with the drunkards (Mat. 24:49). The priority of Christians during these times is to concern themselves with the wellbeing of others. In other words, loving one’s neighbor as oneself.
The Bible does not predict that the world will end by COVID-19. While it may serve to set up some of the hardships depicted in the Bible, coronavirus is not the end of the world. Especially during these troubling times, God wants His followers to stay on task with the mission and ministry He has given them. Let’s look out for each other while being faithful to God. This is not a time to judge each other or condemn the world. Let’s alleviate people’s suffering as much as possible and be the types of servants that God can be proud of.