Should we have seen COVID-19 coming? Did God prophesy it in the Bible? It’s hard to believe at times what we’re currently experiencing. Countries are closed. Events have been cancelled. Church services are suspended. Supermarkets are overcrowded and lack basic commodities. Attractions are empty. And, above everything else, thousands of people have died, hundreds of thousands are sick, and millions are frightened. Almost every country in the world is affected by COVID-19. Our generation has never experienced a pandemic like this one. Thus Christians around the world are looking for what we can learn and how we might act in the midst of this situation. But this raises a question: did the Bible prophesy COVID-19? Is COVID-19 one of the biblical plagues?
We must be careful not to force a biblical text to specifically say something about our current situation. For in so doing we would be claiming to be God’s prophets
The Bible has a lot to say about plagues and diseases
Yes, the Bible did prophesy diseases and plagues. Let us remember that the Bible speaks of significant plagues before the second coming of Christ. Our Lord Jesus warns his disciples in Luke 21:11, “There will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and pestilences. And there will be terrors and great signs from heaven.” This passage shows a restless and troubled land. It specifically mentions plagues and famine as a prelude to the end (Luke 21:9). These prophecies have protected the church from those who claim to be the Messiah for over 2000 years (Luke 21:8).
We find yet another relevant verse for this time in Revelation. “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). Here, the opening of the fourth seal sets the stage for a yellowish (or very pale, that is, sick) horse to bring pain and death through wars, diseases, and natural disasters. These seals are unleashed as God’s judgment upon a land that has been deaf to the call of his gospel.
One last truth to consider is found in Romans. “For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now” (Romans 8:22). The groan of creation is evident even when we see trees fall to the ground and animals suffer. But it is particularly evident when a microscopic virus causes thousands of deaths and paralyses all human systems. As God declares: we live in a broken world. But the Bible does not seem to prophesy this disease or plague.
World history has been plagued by diseases
Yes, the Bible warns us and shows us the reality of plagues, diseases, and a groaning land. But can we really say with a clear conscience that these prophecies are specific to COVID-19? Is it not possible, or likely, that these prophecies better describe previous diseases and plagues? We need only think of the Spanish flu, which killed more than 20 million people. Therefore we must admit that many of the biblical prophecies regarding apocalyptic times have a more general feeling than a specific one.
We must admit that many of the biblical prophecies regarding apocalyptic times have a more general feeling than a specific one
Along these same lines, we must be very careful not to force a biblical text to specifically say something about our current situation. For in doing so we would be claiming to be God’s prophets. What if it doesn’t happen? If God decides to show grace and this pandemic is controlled, and a quarter of the earth doesn’t die – as prophesied in Revelation 6 – nor does the second coming of Christ happen in our generation – as Luke 21 appears to teach – who would end up a liar? In no way does our Lord lie. But we can end up as liars or even as false prophets (Deuteronomy 18:21-22).
Jesus teaches us about living in the ‘end times’
Furthermore, let us not ignore Jesus’ warning: “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only” (Matthew 24:36). Christ makes it clear that no one knows the time of his second coming. If we think that the prophecies about plagues and diseases refer specifically to COVID-19, we are stepping in dangerous territory by claiming we know more than what the Father wanted us to know regarding Jesus’ return.
These are not times for anxiety but prayer
There is no doubt that we live in dire times, never before seen by our generation. Experts on the subject say that it is possible hundreds of thousands more will be infected. This will mean many more deaths. And, in all likelihood, it will take a long time for economic markets to recover. I want to believe that these are signs before the end. I join the church that for 2000 years has cried, ‘Maranatha!’ And, I firmly believe that these are not times for anxiety but prayer (Philippians 4:6-7). It is also a special time to do God’s will by loving those in need, particularly the widows and orphans (James 1:27), along with the elderly who are more vulnerable to this disease.
It is a special time to do God’s will by loving those in need, particularly the widows and orphans
We cannot say with certainty that COVID-19 is the fulfilment of a specific prophecy in the Bible. But we can have absolute confidence that God has not moved an inch from His throne. He continues in heaven, doing what He pleases (Psalm 115:3), for His glory and our good. “Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads because your redemption is drawing near” (Luke 21:28).
Editor’s note: this article first appeared in Spanish at Coalición por el Evangelio. An English translation is being used here with permission from the author. It appears with slight editorial changes and new headings.