We are living in perilous times. Stories of war, terrorism, economic turmoil, political revolution, disease, earthquakes, and other natural disasters top the news headlines every minute of every day. And now, add to the list of categorical calamities the deadly pathogen known as COVID-19 or the Coronavirus.
All of it and more stokes fear and unrest in our hearts. Like every generation, ours wonders if these are the last days of planet earth and if the return of Jesus Christ is imminent. This is a good time to remember that hPeace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid” (John 14:27; ).
The Bible’s answer is yes, but not for the reasons you might think. All of the New Testament writers agree that the “last days” or the last chapter of world history began with the arrival of Jesus Christ, the Messiah, into the world.
For example, the writer of Hebrews begins, “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world” (1:1-2). The apostle Peter adds, “Christ was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you (1 Peter 1:20).
So, we are living in the last days and we have been since Jesus Christ was born in Bethlehem. Whether we are in the final days of the last days is another question altogether.
The New Testament makes at least nine specific references to the “last days,” the “later times,” and the “last hour.” “The day of the Lord” is also an important prophetic term used throughout Scripture to describe the final consummation of history. New Testament references to the last days can be grouped into the following categories.
- Rapid moral decline (2 Timothy 3:1-5)
- Supernatural and celestial wonders (Acts 2:16-21)
- Emerging apostasy (1 Timothy 4:1; 2 Thessalonians 2:3)
- Growing skepticism (2 Peter 3:3-4; Jude 1:18)
- Anti-Christian sentiment (1 John 2:18)
However, more to the point of today’s global concern:
Is the Coronavirus another sign that we are nearing the end of the age?
When asked by His disciples about the end of the age and the signs to look for when it was near, Jesus mentioned “pestilences.” Within a larger list of general signs that includes “wars and rumors of wars,” He said, “There will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and pestilences. And there will be terrors and great signs from heaven” (Luke 21:11).
For sure, the Coronavirus and much more happening in the world today points to the fact that we are living in the last days. Regarding pestilences and the larger list of general signs, Jesus said, “But all these are merely the beginning of birth pangs” (Matthew 24:8 NAS). In other words, as we grow closer to the end of the age, these signs would increase in frequency and intensity. Does anyone doubt that this is happening right before our eyes?
With brutality, deadly pandemics have visited recent generations. Estimates vary, but some believe as many as one third of the world’s population became infected with the Spanish Flu of 1918. Nearly 50 million people died, making it the deadliest pandemic in modern history. Others since the beginning of the twentieth century include Cholera (800,000 deaths), Asian Flu (2 million deaths), Hong Kong Flu (1 million deaths), and HIV/AIDS (36 million deaths). In just the last few years, we have endured, like birth pangs, many more dangerous pathogens including SARS, Swine Flu, Ebola, Avian Flu, MERS, West Nile virus, and now the Coronavirus.
On a lighter note, Robert Fulghum was an American minister who published a series of short essays. All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten became a bestseller. During the Coronavirus crisis, perhaps we should heed his kind advice and return to our preschool days by practicing personal hygiene and social distancing. In other words, wash your hands and keep your hands to yourself. Even more important and in light of the signs of the times, Jesus said, “Straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing nigh” (Luke 21:28 ESV).