The COVID-19 pandemic is happening now. As the number of global cases of COVID-19 rises daily and countries and cities find themselves on lockdown with shortages of supplies, many are turning to the Bible for answers.
Some look toward the plagues written in Revelation. Is COVID-19 one of those? Is it a judgment of God? It’s hard to speculate when we know little about the details of these plagues.
What Is COVID-19?
COVID-19 known as “the coronavirus,” is one of many viruses in the coronavirus family. Its actual scientific name is SARS-CoV-2, but COVID-19 is used as shorthand for “coronavirus disease 2019.”
This strain originated in China, but it has quickly spread throughout the world with more than confirmed 900,000 cases and more than 46,000 deaths as of this writing. In the United States there are more than 200,000 confirmed cases and more than 4,700 deaths. COVID-19 is an extremely infectious disease and spreads rapidly. As of this writing there is no known effective treatment or cure and no vaccine. The UN secretary-general says the pandemic is the "greatest test" the world has faced since the end of World War II.
The panic, then, is not due to the current situation, but due to forecasts of exponential growth in cases and the potential to overwhelm medical staffs , supplies, and facilities. As COVID-19 continues to spread, experts have no solid predictions on when it will end.
Is COVID-19 Today’s Version of the 10 Plagues Of Egypt?
There are several key differences between COVID-19 and the 10 Plagues.
First, God specifically announced the plagues before they occurred and allowed Pharaoh a chance to repent. Today, COVID-19 seems to be taking the typical course of a pandemic — out of nowhere and unpredictable.
Second, the 10 Plagues only hit the Egyptians. Even the Israelites, their close neighbors, were kept safe. COVID-19, on the other hand, has so far hit almost every country around the globe.
Third, the 10 Plagues came in a series of progressively worsening plagues. COVID-19 is a singular event, which, though occurring in tandem with other natural disasters, as is usually the case, has not yet been accompanied by any other diseases of more than the usual magnitude.
Comparing COVID-19 to the 10 Plagues probably does not lie so much in the outward similarities but in the spiritual and emotional connotations.
When we ask whether COVID-19 is like the 10 Plagues, what we are asking, in essence, is this: Has God sent COVID-19 to punish us and turn us to repentance?
God gave Pharaoh a warning of what He was going to do if he did not "let his people go".
The 10 Plagues of Egypt had an obvious goal: Get Pharaoh to let God’s people go. The plagues were announced, they occurred, and they only affected the guilty party, the Egyptians. COVID-19, on the other hand, came unannounced, at least not in the way Moses publicly came to Pharaoh. Furthermore, the disease has hit believers and nonbelievers.
As earth shattering as COVID-19 is, such pandemics are nothing new in history. The Spanish Flu of 1918-1919 infected about a third of the world’s population and claimed over 50 million lives. Other diseases, like AIDS, smallpox and cholera, have taken millions of lives. Even now, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that the seasonal flu regularly claims about 290,000 to 650,000 lives per year, about 15 to 30 times as many lives as COVID-19 has claimed this far, although estimates are that COVID-19 could exceed these numbers.
The worst pandemic in recent history, the bubonic plague or the Black Death of the 15 century, wiped out about 25-50 million people, taking out more than half the population of Europe. Population levels took around 200 years to return to their previous numbers. Medieval writing and art of the time indicates that many speculated about the plague signaling the end times.
The point is, this pandemic is not a new occurrence, and doesn’t point to a specific judgment on us. Other pandemics ran their tragic course and the world eventually recovered. Assuming that God is punishing us through COVID-19 is not the most logical conclusion.
We don’t really know, but instead of saying it's God’s punishment, we should use this as a time to think and pray.
What is most important?
Is there anyone in our lives with who we should reconcile?
Is there anyone to whom we can show God’s love in these trying times?
Is there anything in our own relationship with God that we’ve been putting off?
Times like these remind us how fragile life truly is, and how little control we have. They remind us of where eternal life is found, and Who is in control. We must put our trust in God and follow Him. God’s people have stood strong through many storms; let this be a time that we shine His light to the rest of the world, offering hope in a time of panic.
God is far more concerned with our individual hearts than our national and world politics. God wants His people to be humble and dependent on Him. He is the Gentle Healer and the Great Physician. He can heal individually, as well as heal nations physically, economically, spiritually.
He desires we call out to Him for help.
God knows what is happening and what is going to happen, and He loves us enough to die for us. Let’s rest in that.