Thoughts on Covid-19
It has been a long time (2016) since we last added a blog to this website. Much has happened in the last 4 years, but our position has only been refined and strengthened. We hope this blog will both encourage you and be insightful and give strength in the unfolding drama of history.
In this document we write down an understanding of what underlies the Covid-19 outbreak. In this, we have sought God, His word and history. This understanding is not fixed, but changing as new knowledge is gained. We feel the geopolitical situation could evolve in many different ways, some very unexpected. These are exciting times. For those interested, much of the theological background to this document is in my two books “The Time is Near volumes I and II” published by Balboa Press in 2014 and 2016 respectively.
Who is the Enemy?
In what follows below we often refer to the “enemy” to avoid longer phrases. We define the “enemy” to be the spiritual forces of evil. We don’t include human authorities and human beings in this as they, like us, are part of this world that God loves. We long and pray for them to honor God and listen to Him. Each human being makes their choices and that determines their spiritual allegiance which can change many times during their life. As Paul wrote in Ephesians 6:12 ESV “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places”. In a sense, all human beings are targets of spiritual forces and our spiritual war is not against them, but for them. God’s desire for all human beings is their salvation; the enemies desire is their allegiance and to fulfill their purpose.
In a very real sense, mankind are victims of the “enemy” although what they become spiritually depends on their choices. All human authorities are comprised of human beings each on their own life’s pathway. They each have free will, make their own choices and become like the spiritual forces they worship. They can become increasingly evil or increasingly good depending on who they follow. The “enemy” works through earthly authorities that reject the living God of the Bible and he has therefore a large kingdom under his authority. God has been building His kingdom too. These two kingdoms are engaged in spiritual war which can reveal itself on earth as a form of conflict or even physical war.
The book of Revelation refers to the “kings of the earth” who are human authorities. They are depicted as spiritually blind, drunk with the wine of the wealth, knowledge, power and glory of this modern world (the Bible refers to it as love for this world) and rejecting the love of the living God and His good news offer of salvation. Because of spiritual blindness they lack God’s wisdom and are vulnerable to deception. Australia is blessed at this time to be led by a man who loves God and is subject to His direction.
The Intention behind Covid-19
God is intentional in everything He does or allows so there must always be purpose in all that happens. The enemy is too. We assume this as biblical, but do not debate it here.
From our studies in science, the physical processes that produced the virus appear to be random , although related to connections between human beings and other living things. Other possibilities are being investigated. We see that the enemy must have sent it since its outcome is strongly opposite to God’s character evidenced by His sending Jesus into the world to die for us. This means God must have allowed it, but that does not mean He is happy with it, approves it, desires it or is to blame for it. This then raises questions about His love, justice and sovereignty. We address those later.
We suggest the enemy initiates his attacks at strategic times for strategic purposes. For him it is timely to release the virus now and we examine the reasons why below.
The Geopolitical Impact of Disease.
Books have been written about the geopolitical impact of disease. See for example “Plagues and People” by William McNeill, Anchor Press, 1998.
Of great interest is the comment by William McNeill about the impact on the rise and consolidation of Christianity during and after the Roman Empire and how it altered older world views fundamentally. He writes, “One advantage Christians had over their pagan contemporaries was that care of the sick, even in time of pestilence, was for them a recognized religious duty.” This outcome of the love of God through His people greatly reduced mortality and also strengthened Christian churches. Normally, in those times, pagans fled from the sick and heartlessly abandoned them.
Of further interest is the impact of the bubonic plague which was spread by fleas living on rats, and which ravaged the Eastern Mediterranean region intermittently from 542 CE to 750 CE and which historians estimate killed around one-third of the population . This was followed by the Sassanid Persian Empires invasion of Syria, Egypt and the capture of Jerusalem from the Byzantines in 614 CE and their defeat by the Byzantine emperor Heraclius (610-641 CE) who recaptured Jerusalem in 630 CE.
As Karabell then writes , “But the war had taken a toll on both regimes, on their treasuries and their soldiers, and neither had recovered its full strength four years later.” When the Muslim caliph Umar attacked, the “Persian Empire had descended into a brief but ruinous civil war, and Heraclius had withdrawn in exhaustion from an active role in leading the Byzantine armies” so the opposing forces were at their weakest. “Three battles essentially decided the fate of both empires. In 634, at Ajnadin, south of Jerusalem, and in 636 at Yarmuk, in Syria, the main Byzantine divisions in the region were wiped out by smaller, more mobile Arab forces. In 637, at the battle of Qadisiya, near the Euphrates, the Persian army led by General Rustam was annihilated.”
As we can see here, the combination of the devastating bubonic plague and multiple exhausting military conflicts, paved the way so that Islam could arise as the major world power in its day. The timing was such that Islamic forces attacked during a short period of time when their opposition was at its weakest. The timing was strategic and chosen when it would achieve its purpose.
The bubonic plague described above made an important change to the geopolitical climate in the Eastern Mediterranean of those days with a significant impact on the resultant outcomes. Today we can see that Covid-19 is having an incredible impact on every nation, especially economic. We have yet to see the resultant geopolitical outcomes, but we can be confident that its timing is strategic.
The biblical perspective is that the enemy knows that his time is very short , and he is very angry. He fears God and knows that he will lose, but he is too proud to let go. However, his goal is to bring down the whole world with him so that God fails in His goal. So, he seeks global authority because from that position he can do the most damage. Since we now have a global civilization, he can do far more damage than when empires were regional. The more powerful our technology, the greater influence his power can have through a single authority. In fact, the greater the world unity, the stronger the influence he can have through centralized evil leadership.
Why is this Happening Now?
My growing sense is that we are seeing something now like the geopolitical impact of the bubonic plague described above. The impact of Covid-19 that we can see even now, is a big leap towards setting up the world for the end time picture the bible gives us – which includes a centralized government and the rise of an Islamic world ruler . The 542 AD plague and subsequent battles set up the world for the rise of Islam. What is happening now parallels it. To have the desired impact 20 years ago would have been more difficult because globalization was less, the economy was growing strongly, not so many traveled, China and India’s economy was smaller and nations would not be able to lock-down so effectively which is creating the huge economic issues we are facing today. I suspect 20 years later would have been too late since other global factors would have come into play nullifying its impact. This virus being extremely contagious but not very virulent, will create economic chaos (its primary purpose) and rule out the possibility of a managed economic decline.
I am also starting to ask the question why it is western nations that are apparently being hit the hardest. This could be because many other nations which are poorer, cannot afford the testing and hospital care so that the statistics for these countries do not tell the full story. Another possible reason is that in hotter countries, the contagiousness is less because the virus’ life decreases as the temperature increases. A further reason may be because richer nations have a much greater number of people travelling and therefore being infected. Whatever the answer, I do think we need to consider that the reason for the now is also because it will hit the rich nations economies much harder than the poorer ones and so escalate the world-wide economic collapse.
Luke 21:28 ESV “Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”
The Approach to the End Times
In the book of Revelation, the bible gives us an interesting picture of developments in God’s plan as the end time approaches and what will happen in the end times. I will briefly describe the picture I believe the book of Revelation gives us which is scary accurate. See my two books for a much more detailed explanation.
The end of the 1260 days is marked by Israel becoming a nation which occurred in 1948 so that the Jews are no longer in mourning and being nurtured in the wilderness . Both Jesus in Luke 21:24 and John in Revelation 11:2 and 13:5 mark a key event prophetically fulfilled after 42 months in 1967; that is when Israel regained full control over Jerusalem. At the same time, the two witnesses, who are God’s kingdom and Israel, are prophesying with power. This is the situation today as we see the continuing restoration of Israel and their blessing to the world and the ongoing rapid growth of God’s kingdom. This will continue until the beast is released from the abyss which marks the beginning of the end times .
Concurrently with what God is doing with His people, Revelation 13 informs us that the enemy has created two kingdoms. The first, the one out of the sea with ten horns and seven heads, is the Islamic kingdom which is gaining strength today. The second, the one out of the land with two horns like a lamb who spoke like a dragon, is the materialistic kingdom which dominates the world and is very wealthy and powerful. Satan cannot deceive the nations neither can he work directly against his enemies, but he can work through the kingdoms he has created. Unfortunately for the enemy, the materialistic kingdom has also set up the environment which gives the opportunity to spread the gospel, so God’s kingdom grows and the prophecy of the two witnesses is effective.
However, the materialistic kingdom is heavily reliant on the Islamic kingdom which contains so much of the resources (especially oil) that the materialistic kingdom needs to continue to grow. However, by exploiting this wealth, the Islamic kingdom has been resurrected from near destruction when the caliphate was terminated in 1924, but since then the wounded head is being healed . Revelation 17 describes this relationship in a vivid picture of the “woman riding the beast”. Both kingdoms need each other but exist together in tension.
The materialistic kingdom is further described in Revelation 17:1-2 ESV, “Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the judgment of the great prostitute who is seated on many waters, with whom the kings of the earth have committed sexual immorality, and with the wine of whose sexual immorality the dwellers on earth have become drunk.” Essentially, the kings of the earth have become so attracted to the wealth, resources, power and glory of our modern culture, that having taken it they cannot stop wanting more and so have become drunk with what it provides and have lost the freedom to go a different direction. And they want more and more.
In summary, Revelation pictures the world as having 4 kingdoms, (1) the materialistic kingdom (from the land, Babylon, the prostitute), (2) the Islamic kingdom (from the sea), (3) God’s kingdom and (4) Israel. That is the situation today.
The impact of the virus is to increase the rate of economic deterioration of the materialistic kingdom. It is interesting to observe that, with a few exceptions, it is the more advanced countries that seem to be most affected by Covid-19. The world was in huge debt; that debt has now been significantly enhanced by the lock-downs implemented to curtail the spread of Covid-19. It is early days, so we have yet to see the full impact, however, it feels like the enemy is trying to increase suffering and death to curtail the growth of God’s kingdom and to gain greater control and upset God’s timetable. In response, it feels like God is using this to accelerate the growth of His kingdom and bring the end times and the destruction of evil nearer. God’s plan is still on track.
God’s Response to Human Suffering
It is inadequate just to say that the enemy sent Covid-19 for two reasons. First, because that shifts any blame away from us for the consequences of our sin which, in fact, empowered the enemy and enabled him to do it. And second, because it leaves unanswered, questions about God’s love, justice and sovereignty and can be used to incorrectly imply that by allowing Covid-19 to be released, God is to blame for all the suffering and the bad things that are happening.
It is also misleading to say that the impact of Covid-19 is God’s judgment because of the wickedness of mankind. This is because the nature of our suffering is flowing from the natural consequences of disobeying the spiritual laws God has put in place, rather than His direct intervention.
Our fundamental understanding is that if God intervened to prevent the suffering, that would invalidate that we really have free will. What our free will choices do is to empower the spiritual forces to whom we give our allegiance. When we turn to God in prayer and in obedience, we give God permission to act according to His will. When we ignore God in our choices, we empower the enemy. Godless people are spiritually blind and therefore vulnerable to deception. Evil people empower the enemy by their choices.
God will not step in to correct the bad effects of our godless decisions. Free will choices must be allowed to produce their outcome otherwise, God would destroy free will and all the purpose behind the way the universe has been created. The consequences of our decisions must be allowed to reap their full outcomes, or the fabric of our created universe would be torn apart. Love would lose its meaning and justice would be compromised.
For God to create a universe and give mankind free will reflects a higher level of sovereignty, than one where He exercises full control. He has a plan that fully includes the outcome of every decision that man will make. That plan includes the spiritual permission for all spiritual forces to respond according to the allegiance we give them. This means that when I pray to God that gives Him the permission to act according to the spiritual laws He has made. Similarly, if we follow the enemy, then the enemy has permission to act according to their spiritual laws.
God cannot intervene in history to stop the suffering that is spreading as a result of Covid-19. If He did so, that would destroy the reality of free will by interfering with the natural outcomes of the exercise of free will. Does that weaken His sovereignty? No, on the contrary it strengthens it by the failure of those choices to damage God’s plan.
Overall, our feeling is that the enemy has initiated Covid-19 in order to accelerate the collapse of the world’s economy, and create fear, confusion and suffering. It has been timed precisely to when our global civilization is so sensitive to anything that threatens to damage the good life we have been having but also to when we have the technology to allow the rapid spread of the virus creating a pandemic. In the resultant chaos, and economic fragility the world will be more vulnerable to a strong leader who in deception offers hope of economic benefits. We will be more willing to come under governments that exercise more control to preserve the good life we have experienced. Especially as we are drunk with the attachment to the life which comes with wealth, power and glory.
From the perspective of God’s people however, a leaner, more committed, praying and empowered people will emerge. A desperate world will more likely turn to Jesus. A more devoted people will walk closer to God and experience greater joy. The crisis will create more physical difficulties, but we will see greater blessing flow. It is not a victorious eschatology or a doom and gloom one, rather it is a joy and gloom one; joy for God’s people and gloom for the world.