Monday, 30 March 2020

MAKING SENSE OF THE CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC






Dark clouds portend an approaching storm. What does this current viral outbreak warn us about? Is the world coming to an end? How do we make sense of this viral pandemic?

Relentlessly sweeping across the globe, this viral outbreak is leaving many in fear and desperation, causing panic and tremendous stress. Fearful that their lives may be in danger; desperate that they may lose their jobs; in panic as they see empty supermarket shelves; stressed that they can no longer go out freely as before and have to get used to a new normal. 

As a doomsday scenario is being played out before us just like in the movies (such as Contagion), we are left bewildered. Is the world coming to an end? How do we make sense of this viral pandemic?

Jesus asked the people why they were unable to interpret the times and seasons though they were experts in making weather forecasts:
“When you see a cloud rising in the west, you say at once, ‘A shower is coming.’ And so it happens. And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, ‘There will be scorching heat,’ and it happens. You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but why do you not know how to interpret the present time?”  (Luke 12:54-56).

As a Christian, these recent events do shake me as well but they do not leave me confused. For the Bible is as current and relevant as our daily newspaper concerning end-time events.

The viral pandemic is part of the end-time cluster of earth-shaking calamities and trends * which include pestilences, famines, earthquakes, wars, persecution, false prophets, deception, moral decadence, apostasy and man’s love of self, pleasure and money. All this SHAKING is meant to wake us up spiritually. 

Jesus instructed us to observe the fig tree and take heed. As soon as its branch becomes tender and puts out leaves, we know that summer is near. So when we witness all these end- time earth-shaking events, we know that His coming is near (Matthew 24: 32-33).

Covid-19 is a warning … A WAKE-UP CALL. It is as if God is shaking the heavens and earth and saying, “Wake up, sinful world! Jesus is coming again, repent, be vigilant get ready, otherwise you will face judgment.”

                                                                  
Before Christ returns and ushers in God’s judgment and a new kingdom, there are end-time “birth pangs” which will increase in severity and frequency as the Day of The Lord draws nearer. These birth pangs (including wars, earthquakes, famines, pestilences and lawlessness) are akin to severe labour pains of a mother about to give birth to a baby where the frequency and severity of uterine contractions progressively increases until the baby is pushed out from the birth canal.  

Many are living in sin as in the days of Noah without any regard for God. Life on earth is business as usual right to the day when Christ returns. Many are unprepared and will be caught flat-footed by the coming judgment just as in the days of Noah. “For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man” (Matthew 24:37-39).

Only God knows all about us—the good the bad and the ugly. The basic unresolved problem of man is SIN. And the only solution is REPENTANCE. To escape the coming judgment, each individual has to repent.

God loves every man but He hates sin. His attribute of justice requires that sin be punished. We can choose to pay the penalty of sin ourselves or trust in Christ who took the punishment in our place when He died on the cross. 
 
When we acknowledge our sins, believe in Christ to save us, and confess our sins, we become children of God. 

It takes three steps:     A. Acknowledge our sins

                                    B. Believe in Christ

                                    C. Confess our sins

But the above ABC is just the beginning. One would need to seek help from a believer to move on into another phase where one begins to know Jesus not only as Savior but Lord. It is a package—one cannot accept Jesus as Savior but refuse to accept Him as Lord. 

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

“But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12).

“If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9).

“Jesus said, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me’” (Luke 9:23).

“Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him” (John 3:36).

                                                                        
To reiterate, Covid-19 is a warning … A WAKE-UP CALL. It is as if God is shaking the heavens and earth and saying, “Wake up, sinful world! Jesus is coming again, repent, be vigilant get ready, otherwise you will face judgment.”

                                                              




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CORONAVIRUS: JUDGMENT FROM GOD?
Is the Covid-19 pandemic a sign of God’s judgment?

WATCHFUL AND READY
An end-time reflection on being prepared for Christ’s return
What will earth be like when Christ returns? Why did Jesus mention Noah and Lot when referring to the end times? Notice that not many were saved in the days of Noah and Lot. Only eight persons got saved in Noah’s ark and only three escaped the destruction of Sodom. The majority perished because they lived as if God did not exist or willfully lived in sin.


PESTILENCE
Defined as a contagious epidemic disease that is virulent and fatal.
Examples of pestilences are the current coronavirus pandemic, Ebola, MERS, SARS.

PORTENT
A portent is a sign or warning that a momentous or calamitous event is likely to happen. Just as thunder is a portent of an approaching storm, the present viral pandemic is a portent of Christ’s imminent return to judge the world.

 END-TIME CLUSTER OF CALAMITIES & TRENDS (“BIRTH PANGS”) 
“Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and pestilences. And there will be terrors and great signs from heaven.
(Luke 21:10-11)

“Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.
(Matthew 24:9-13)

“In the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people."
(2 Timothy 3: 1-5)

Sunday, 29 March 2020

PRAYING AGAINST CORONAVIRUS


                                                                  

Can we pray—with mountain-moving faith—for the viral pandemic to stop?

Recently, some Christian leaders have been praying against the virus pandemic that it will cease and disappear. What man is trying to achieve through prayer seems impossible. But nothing is impossible with God. After all, we are merely obeying God’s command by exercising mountain–moving faith: 

“Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours” (Mark 11:23-24). 

Are there any conditions to such powerful prayers which can move mountains (impossible obstacles, like the viral pandemic)?

Sure. It is plain that whatever we ask for in prayer must be according to God’s will:
“And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him” (1 John 5: 14-15).

Now we have to ask ourselves whether this viral pandemic is mentioned in the Bible. And, sure enough, it is explicitly mentioned in the Olivet Discourse where Jesus shared with four of his disciples what must happen at the end of this age. 

Jesus said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and pestilences. And there will be terrors and great signs from heaven” (Luke 21: 10-11).

Furthermore, the apostle John wrote about a similar end-time scenario, when the fourth seal opened to reveal a pale horse associated with death: 

“And I looked, and behold, a pale horse! And its rider's name was Death, and Hades followed him. And they were given authority over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword and with famine and with pestilence and by wild beasts of the earth” (Revelation 6:8).

Now, if it is explicitly stated in scriptures that pestilences will occur in the end-times, would there be any reason at all to pray against the virus? Answer: No. If we do so, we are praying using our own wisdom for something that is not aligned to God’s will. 

We might as well pray for world peace when scriptures say nation will rise up against nations (Mark 13:7, Luke 21:10, Rev. 6:4, Rev. 6:8.).

We might as well pray against earthquakes when scriptures say that such natural catastrophes will happen (Mark 13:8, Luke 21:11, Hebrews 12:27).

We might as well pray against famines when scriptures say that food shortages and humanitarian crises will happen (Mark 13:8, Luke 21: 11, Rev. 6:6, Rev. 6:8).

Look here; it is written clearly and unequivocally:  

“For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are but the beginning of the birth pains” (Matthew 24:7-8).

Before Christ returns and ushers in God’s judgment and a new kingdom, there are end-time “birth pangs” which will increase in severity and frequency as the Day of The Lord draws nearer. These birth pangs (wars, earthquakes, famines, pestilences and lawlessness) are akin to severe labour pains of a mother about to give birth to a baby where the frequency and severity of uterine contractions progressively increases until the baby is pushed out from the birth canal. 

So how can we expect these end-time signs to get any better or even consider praying against them? All these earth-shaking end-time events will happen, whether we like it or not. 

                                  
  
In fact, writer of Hebrews told us that this end-time shaking will be so great that only what cannot be shaken will remain:
“At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, ‘Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.’ This phrase, ‘Yet once more,’ indicates the removal of things that are shaken—that is, things that have been made—in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain” (Hebrews 12:26-27).

Moral of the story: Before we pray for anything, in this instance praying for the viral pandemic to cease, we must first settle the issue, Am I praying according to God’s will? Am I praying against the will of a sovereign God who has allowed—and predetermined beforehand—these unavoidable and inescapable end-time “birth pangs” events? 

But does that mean we do not pray in times like this viral pandemic? No. We can pray for God’s protection for ourselves and others, pray for the welfare of the front line and relief workers, pray for our leaders and healthcare workers—for wisdom to contain and mitigate the outbreak.  

What is clear is that we cannot pray against something (read pestilence) which is explicitly stated in scriptures (an unavoidable end-time event) and order it to cease. 

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