Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)
COVID-19 is changing the world. Starting in China, the virus is continuing its spread across the world, with more than 4.7 million confirmed cases in 188 countries. More than 300,000 people have lost their lives (dd May, 18th, 2020, click here). The arising and spread of COVID-19 happens in a world where the commandments of the Lord are ignored by so many people. And where the Lord’s day is trampled and the name of the Lord is taken in vain, in corrupted form or plainly. Who is able to count the number of ‘oh my ...’s that are pronounced daily worldwide? Ignored is also the Lord as Creator and Giver of life. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), every year in the world there are an estimated 40-50 million abortions. This corresponds to approximately 125,000 abortions per day (click here ). But the deepest of all the ‘ignorances’ is ignoring God’s existence.
All of this can be easily explained from the third chapter of Genesis. The Lord gave a commandment, but man decided whether obeying this commandment would be useful or not. When the serpent told that eating the fruit will cause you to become like God, and when Adam and Eve saw that the fruit looked tasty, they decided that this commandment is not useful, so they ate. Today by ignoring God’s will or even God’s existence, we proof to be children of Adam and Eve that have sinned with them. All of us are continuously repeating (and therefore approving) the sin of Adam and Eve in one form or another.
Ignoring our Creator throws man in a plumbless depth of aimlessness. The writer of Ecclesiastes extensively describes the consequences of ignoring our Creator. Somebody like William Craig understood this and spoke in the same line. You can listen to his speech, click here, or read it, click here. Craig cites modern philosophers that agree that life without a Creator is useless. He also points out that it is impossible to be a pure atheist. Sooner of later the atheist cannot avoid to ‘borrow’ from the ‘upper department’, i.e. from religion, in the western world usually christianity.
But most important is how the Lord Himself is grieved by all those people that were designed and created by Him, but that ignore Him daily, in part or whole. We have to realize that man is the only creature that was created after God’s image, also the only creature that is able to recognize and acknowledge his or her Creator. Even after sending His only begotten and beloved Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, as a Savior, people continue to ignore Him. Especially those countries that were blessed by receiving the gospel, have massively exchanged christianity for atheism.
God is present
The Lord will not just let this go. In the Old Testament he punished his people in different ways: by pestilence, by the sword and by hunger. In broader terms: by disease, by war, by famine. In the New Testament this line is continued, although other plagues like e.g. earthquakes are added. We read about this in Revelation: the seven seals broken by the Lamb, the seven trumpets and the seven bowls.
Now some christians hasten to say that COVID-19 is not a plague in the sense as predicted in Revelation. It is true that COVID-19 is not literally mentioned in Revelation. It is also true that not any plague, war or whatever is mentioned literally there. But Jesus gave us the task to understand the signs of the time when He said: “Hypocrites! You can discern the face of the sky and of the earth, but how is it you do not discern this time?” (Matthew 16:3 and Luke 12:56).
When the fourth seal is broken, we read about a pale horse. “And the name of him who sat on it was Death, and Hades followed with him. And power was given to them over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword, with hunger, with death, and by the beasts of the earth” (Revelation 6:8). I believe that:
- the black plague in the 14th century that killed 30-60% of the population in Europe;
- the Spanish flu also known as the 1918 flu pandemic that killed 17-100 million people worldwide;
- many other pandemics (clic here for an overview)
are all stronger or weaker manifestations of the the fourth seal.
In this context, let’s listen to the late pastor W.G. de Vries (passed away in 2006). In a sermon about Amos 3:3-8 he said:
Certainly, we cannot simply conclude from disasters that they are a special punishment from God. Christ clearly taught us that. When 18 people were buried under a tower in Israel, He rejected the idea of a special punishment against them, but He did warn all who disbelieved with an even worse judgment (Luke 13: 4). From a catastrophe in a certain part of the world, we cannot conclude to a special punishment against these people. But it is a warning sign for those who know the God of the Bible. And we also realize that there are children of God who suffer God's punishment in our wicked world. And not as estranged from Him, but as His dear children and heirs. He can also chastise children whom He loves for their benefit (Hebrews 12: 6). But that is quite different from the punishments that descend in many ways on people who mock God and religion: educators and entertainers who show and justify everything that God has forbidden. If God is against you, hide yourself. Revelation speaks of all kinds of punishments from God that plague the world, now and then there. But the nasty chorus is again and again: and they did not repent.
(Translated from Dutch, the original text can be found, click here.)
Do not trivialize COVID-19
In the light of this, it seems to me that trivializing COVID-19 as just a flu is ignoring this pandemic as a ‘warning sign’. Consider again Jesus’ question: “how is it you do not discern this time? With regard to this, consider the differences between COVID-19 and a regular flu. Some properties of covid 19:
Symptoms of infection include fever, chills, cough, coryza, sore throat, breathing difficulty, myalgia, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and older people with medical comorbidities is demonstrated having a poorer prognosis.
COVID-19 can lead to cardiac injury, respiratory failure, acute respiratory distress syndrome, and death; infections by this virus continue to rise as do the number of deaths as confirmed by World Health Organization (WHO) ...
The virus is spreading very quickly and efficiently. Not only is COVID-19 twice as contagious as a flu, but the time it takes you to realize you are contagious is much longer.
Once a patient with a serious case of the coronavirus is hospitalized, the average stay is 11 days, according to a study based on January data from Wuhan — about twice as long as the five- to six-day average stay for flu.
There is no vaccine against COVID-19, or even any treatment shown to be consistently effective.
- While the flu can kill nearly 60,000 Americans in a year, the flu’s fatality rate is still just 0.1 percent. COVID-19’s fatality rate by some estimates is 10 times that, especially for older people.
Note that this is a disease that human beings do not have much control over, just as in the past with the pestilence.
Obey the governments
Meanwhile we should obey our governments and follow their instructions (social distancing, washing our hands, sneezing/coughing in elbow, wearing masks). Some considerations:
Romans 13 describes the government as God's minister which we should obey. We ought to obey as long as the government does not require anything of us that contradicts the Bible, i.e. God’s will.
We need to do this for the protection of the weak. In this regard, the policy in the Netherlands is referred to as an ‘intelligent lock-down’. That means that gradually the number of people that is immune for COVID-19 (since they have already had it) will increase and will form a corridor that protects the weak, i.e. those that should by no means come in contact with this disease. Herd immunity will work if 50 to 60% of the population has had COVID-19 (click here.).
We have governments that are lawfully established.
Some conspiracy theorists are claiming that the coronavirus pandemic is an elaborate hoax. The premise for this conspiracy theory rests on the assumption that if hospital parking lots and waiting rooms are empty then the pandemic must not be real or is not as severe as reported by health authorities and the media. However, as part of pandemic planning, many hospitals have banned visitors and doctors have had to postpone or cancel elective and non-urgent procedures to free up medical staff and resources, thus following the advices of the health autorities (see: https://theconversation.com/conspiracy-theorists-are-falsely-claiming-that-the-coronavirus-pandemic-is-an-elaborate-hoax-135985). Note that there is also not any benefit for (health)authorities itself to keep up a fake-pandemic and to ruin the economy.
Some christians interpret the measures of the government as persecution, since the gathering of believers in worship services is made impossible by those measures. I do not think that we can currently speak of ‘persecution’, since the measures also affect other meetings such as concerts, and the restrictions the churches suffer from are not imposed because of the content of the gospel, because in that case broadcasting of worship services would not be allowed either.
- On Mei 22, 2020, president Trump called upon governors to allow churches and places of worship to open. Although christians may appreciate this, we fear that thus worship services will become centers from which the virus spreads. In this context, remember that when a plague epidemic hit the city of Lugdunum (Lyon) in 177, christians were quickly identified as guilty.
The governments prescribe social-distancing, which will slow down the spread of the virus in order to avoid overburdening healthcare systems. The Dutch prime-minister, Mark Rutte, even said that we should get used to the new ‘one-and-a-half meter society’. Social-distancing is not something new. Wikipedia writes:
Social distancing, also called physical distancing, is a set of non-pharmaceutical interventions or measures taken to prevent the spread of a contagious disease by maintaining a physical distance between people and reducing the number of times people come into close contact with each other.
“Social-distancing measures date back to at least the fifth century BC. The Bible contains one of the earliest known references to the practice in the Book of Leviticus 13:46: "And the leper in whom the plague is ... he shall dwell alone; [outside] the camp shall his habitation be."
“In modern times, social distancing measures have been successfully implemented in several epidemics. In St. Louis, shortly after the first cases of influenza were detected in the city during the 1918 flu pandemic, authorities implemented school closures, bans on public gatherings and other social-distancing interventions. The case fatality rates in St. Louis were much less than in Philadelphia, which despite having cases of influenza, allowed a mass parade to continue and did not introduce social distancing until more than two weeks after its first cases.”
Accoring to the head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Kristalina Georgieva, the coronavirus pandemic will turn global economic growth "sharply negative" this year. She said that the world faced the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s. Lockdowns imposed by governments have forced many companies to close and lay off staff. Especially emerging markets and developing countries would be the hardest hit, she said. See also click here.
Some people have - in my opinion rightly – pointed out that this pandemic may even have some advantages:
People become more social. They are calling each other to ask about each other’s well-being. Think also on the (many) emails you may have received ending with: ‘best regards, stay healthy’.
People become more hygienic. This does not only slow down COVID-19, but also other diseases like a regular flu and an ordinary cold.
- If the pandemic is over people will appreciate more their regained freedom and realize that this should not be taken for granted.
Being locked down we are still privileged:
when we can still hear the preaching of the Gospel each Lord’s day. And everywhere in our region brothers and sisters are singing the psalms and hymns simultaneously when the services are broadcasted. The preaching of the gospel and the praising of the Lord’s name are continued.
if we can still get the essentials and the groceries are stocked up well.
- when we can use telephone, Skype, Zoom, FaceTime, Whereby etc. As mentioned on Wikipedia, we should rather speak about ‘physical -distancing’ instead of ‘social-distancing’.
New findings have confirmed the efficacy of dietary vitamin supplements – including vitamin C and vitamin D – in helping the immune system fight off COVID-19. The researchers are urging people to take a daily multivitamin as well as doses of 200 milligrams or more of vitamin C and 2,000 international units of vitamin D, rather than the 400 to 800 recommended, depending on age. Click here.
No despair, no fear
For many people the situation is currently very difficult. It is especially difficult for elderly people that live alone. It is also not easy when this results in a long-lasting separation of husband and wife, or (grand)parents and children. Or, as somebody pointed out, that you don’t see your beloved (being in an elderly home) earlier than when s/he lies in a coffin. It is not easy if your company goes bankrupt through the lock-down, or if you are affected by the disease, or if loved ones die of this virus. We don’t know how long this situation will last. But whatever will happen, one thing is for sure, we don’t need to fear when we fear God and trust on his Son Jesus Christ:
For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:38, 39).