Across the globe today, COVID-19 continues to ravage communities. People in various spheres of responsibility are still grappling with how to make sense of it and serious effort is being directed towards eradicating the disease. Yet even now – can we really say what caused Coronavirus? More importantly, can we say with confidence if it will ever end? As Christians the answer to both these questions is a resounding yes! Although it might not be exactly what you expected to hear. The Christian Gospel unearths the theological root of the Coronavirus pandemic, while offering us hope in the knowledge of its certain end.
Reading Romans with 2020 Vision
Paul’s message to the Romans rings forth with incontrovertible relevance and authority, even though it was first heard in the 1st century. His words explain the origin of the current pandemic with the kind of clarity and hope that no other theory will ever provide.
“I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. Because the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now” (Romans 8:18-22).
Paul’s words explain the origin of the current pandemic with the kind of clarity and hope that no other theory will ever provide
Paul refers to the age in which we live as “this present time,” marked by “sufferings.” What Paul means by sufferings here is very comprehensive. They include such things as “tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword” (Romans 8:35). So, the Coronavirus and every other past or future pandemic falls squarely in line with what Paul is describing here.
The Theological Root of our Suffering
But why is the present time so tragically intertwined with suffering? Paul helps us with a deeply comforting answer. This is so, because “the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope” (Romans 8:20). For the whole created order is in “bondage to corruption” (Romans 8:21). As a result it “has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now” (Romans 8:22).
creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope
Therefore, the current pandemic that our world is wrestling with, and overwhelmed by, is part of God’s sovereign subjection of the present creation to futility. These are the groans of birth pains. Thus, we can take comfort in the fact that things are not spinning out of control.
“Cursed is The Ground Because of You”
God has it all under control. He could bring any kind of a plague on Egypt and get it back under control. God could bring a pestilence on Israel because of David’s prideful census and remove it once his purposes were accomplished (2 Samuel 24:15). He could order worms to eat up the flesh of Herod, while he was delivering a speech (Acts 12:23). All of that flows out of this: in Genesis 3:17 God said, ‘Cursed is the ground because of you.’
One result of this divine curse is that a tiny microscopic virus is able to lockdown entire nations and threaten the global economy
By this authoritative word of judgment, God subjected all of creation, from the greatest galaxy to the smallest subatomic particle, to futility, corruption and decay. One result of this divine curse is that a tiny microscopic virus, over which man was created to have dominion, is able to lockdown entire nations and threaten the global economy; imposing modes of life that were previously unthinkable.
But that word in Genesis 3:17, unpacked in Romans 8, is not the end of the story.
A Theological Certainty: It Will End
Human beings will not always be in a frantic search for vaccines. We will not always be pursuing medical technology to curb devastating diseases like COVID-19. All the futility and corruption and decay that marks the present creation has a built-in expiration date. We know this because of what Paul says in the text we started with. This is the theological root of our hope. God subjected creation to futility. Why? “In hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God”(Romans 8:20-21).
All the futility and corruption and decay that marks the present creation has a built-in expiration date
But He will not glorify them only to set them in a creation subjected to futility. Neither will he set creation free from its futility when His redeemed people are not yet glorified. He has timed the glorification of His people. It coincides perfectly with the liberation of creation from its bondage to decay. This is so that the creation might obtain the glory of the sons of God.
“They Shall Not Hurt in My Holy Mountain”
This is what Isaiah describes when he says “The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together; and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze; their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The nursing child shall play over the hole of the cobra, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder’s den. They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea (Isaiah 11:6-9).
There is coming a day when no part of creation will harm or be harmed by the other. Prey-predator relationships will be a thing of the past. Note what Isaiah says, “They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain” (Isaiah 11:9). Why? For “the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea” (Isaiah 11:9).
The knowledge of the glory of the Lord that will cover all of creation will eliminate hurt and destruction
The Theological Root of Our Hope
What does this mean? The knowledge of the glory of the Lord that will cover all of creation will eliminate hurt and destruction. This is the theological root of our hope today. It is for this reason that the voice from God’s throne declared in John’s hearing. “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:3-4) That is the end of COVID-19.