The world has been hit by an event unprecedented in our lifetime. An unseen microscopic enemy has altered normal activities throughout the nations. As a believer in the providence of God and the progressive historical advancement of the kingdom of God, I have been asking myself, why is this happening? What is God’s purpose in this pestilential event?
While it is often difficult to discern God’s purposes, especially in the midst of the occurrence of a catastrophic event, there are numerous things we can see and learn from the coronavirus pandemic. Here are a few of them:
We are not in control.
In the age of science and man’s wisdom, where men think they are the masters of their own fate, we have come to see that we are not in control. Where science has become the infallible religion and scientists the priests of that religion, they have been humbled by a microscopic unseen enemy that has rapidly and stealthily advanced around the world.
Nevertheless, they have launched out in their own wisdom to save themselves. Secular scientists, leaning heavily upon models they created, have greatly miscalculated the potential destruction of the coronavirus. Civil officials, acting upon the limited wisdom of man, have shut down huge segments of the economy and of every-day life, which has and will bring great loss to many. The actions of the police state reveal the danger of man as the ultimate governor.
We are not in control, but God is. He is either authoring or allowing this COVID-19 event for His purposes. He will use this for the advancement of His kingdom, regardless of what man or Satan does. God is the governor of His creation and of history. Ultimately, His will, will be done.
Thanks to the advancement of biblical truth in the earth over the centuries, mankind has discovered many liberating principles of God. This includes many medical principles (see below and the appendix). Because of this, man will find a way to combat this virus and bring it under control, if not eradicate it completely. (In addition, God created man with an immune system that fights against such things.) But events like this coronavirus are a reminder to man that he is not in control.
Satan is seeking to use this to inflict a heavy blow against mankind.
From the time he was cast out of heaven to earth, Satan has sought to destroy man – God’s highest creation – as a means of attacking God and His plan for man and the earth. He wants to keep man from reclaiming the earth for God and re-establishing all things in the way they ought to be.
Satan is attacking in many ways. He is bringing death – tens of thousands have already died and hundreds of thousands may ultimately die. He is bringing fear, which paralyzes many and causes them to do many selfish and irrational things, from hoarding toilet paper on a personal level to enacting punitive decrees against necessary actions of citizens on the civil level. Much of the media is fueling the flames by exaggerated, fear-based reporting.
Satan also hopes to bring financial ruin to many. Work is kingdom activity. It is how we provide for ourselves and our family and is the primary way we extend the kingdom of God in the earth. Through our work, we provide needed goods and services for mankind. If Satan can keep us from working, He can slow the advancement of the kingdom.
When we consider how to deal with the coronavirus event, we should reason from numerous biblical principles. Some relevant medical principles are quarantine, cleanliness, and sanitation (see Appendix). It is good that modern scientists are seeking to apply these principles in combating the virus. However, they have failed to understand that the Bible teaches that contagious persons (not the healthy) should be quarantined. The draconian measures instituted by many nations have forced many that are healthy to remove themselves from being able to obey many of God’s commands for how we are to live.
Another important principle of life we must consider when discerning how to deal with situations like the coronavirus is that of work. As I said, work is a central aspect of our life on earth. It is how we provide for ourselves and our families, it is how we elevate and ameliorate man, and it is the primary means of fulfilling God’s commission to take dominion over the earth. We show our God-likeness through biblical work.
Satan can certainly bring destruction through disease, but he can wreak much more havoc by keeping mankind from fulfilling this original and central mission. We must get back to work. Many more lives will be lost, and much more destruction done, by failure to do this than by any disease germ or virus.
Satan will also seek to diminish our God-given liberty, most especially through growing man-centered government. Statism is the belief that man is the ultimate authority in the earth, and this authority is most destructive in the civil sphere. Historically, the greatest destruction and bondage has come to man through statist governments. The current action of many civil leaders will only lead to greater government power and citizens’ dependence upon the state. The 2.2 trillion dollar emergency provision enacted in America, while possibly assisting some people in the near future, will end up harming the nation at large and will result in bigger, more centralized government and, in turn, less liberty and economic prosperity for most Americans.
As I said above, we will win the fight against this virus in the near future, but it will take a long time to undo the long-term unintended consequences of the present statist actions, which will likely result in more deaths and hardships by disrupting (and destroying) economies throughout the world. Especially concerning, it will grow government and take away our liberty.
God is at work advancing His kingdom and purposes for mankind.
Since the time of Christ, there has been no end to the increase of His kingdom (His government, His Law-Word) (Luke 1:33). His truth has advanced in all spheres of life, including the medical field. Thanks to Christians, like Dr. Joseph Lister, man has put into practice biblical medical principles of cleanliness, sanitation, and quarantine, which God revealed to man in the Scriptures thousands of years ago. (See the appendix for a summary of these principles.)
The response of most of the 150-plus nations that have been directly affected by the coronavirus reveals that the world, in general, has come to embrace biblical medical principles. They have done so because they have learned in the past century and a half that they work. God said 3500 years ago that applying principles of cleanliness, sanitation, and quarantine would work. For most of history, man ignored these and suffered greatly through many diseases, pestilences, and afflictions. These have devastated mankind many times, none as bad as the bubonic plague in the mid-14th century which killed one-third to one-half of Europe (tens of millions of people).
It was not until the middle of the 19th century that Joseph Lister discovered why God presented these principles thousands of years before. He discovered that germs cause sickness and infection, and then found a way to kill these germs, and consequently, led the way for saving millions upon millions of lives.
Mankind has learned to apply some of God’s principles, but he continues to violate others. In fact, it was a violation of God’s law that apparently caused this virus to come into being in the first place (people in China ignored biblical cleanliness laws in their marketplaces, and they ate unclean animals). Moreover, the failure of the statist Chinese government to quarantine infected citizens and to notify the world of this pestilence allowed for the spread of COVID-19 all over the world.
God is at work in many ways through this current world crisis. The Bible reveals that God uses pestilence, plagues, disease, and sickness to execute His judgments and advance His kingdom (see for example Num. 14:12, 37). Many Christians have and will posit ideas of what God is specifically doing with the coronavirus. Certainly, repentance for national sins and crying out to God for His aid and mercy is an appropriate response, and this is occurring.
Pestilence, plagues, disease, and sickness also occur due to the fallen condition of the world because original sin has affected all things. Searching out God’s wisdom and using our technological knowledge is necessary to care for the infected and combat the virus in general. This is happening as well.
In addition to bringing His judgment, God is also extending His mercy. Many people are getting saved because of the crisis, like the Italian doctor who witnessed an older Christian man coming daily to the hospital to read the Bible to afflicted and dying patients, and who himself ultimately contracted the virus and died. His selfless service caused this doctor to turn to the living God. Polls have indicated they many non-Christians are thinking about God due to the virus. Pestilences can turn out as an opportunity to spread the gospel (“it will lead to an opportunity for your testimony,” see Luke 21:10-13).
God is also working among many families, restoring relationships and an awareness of the parents’ responsibilities for health, education, and welfare. He is removing entertainment distractions, helping to show us what activities are essential in life. He is also showing His people how to trust in Him. Christians have a great opportunity to demonstrate the life and power we have in Christ. In particular, we can display, in the words of Puritan Jeremiah Burroughs “the rare jewel of Christian contentment.” God promises that we can be content in any situation. The Apostle Paul learned to be content with plenty or with lack (Phil. 4:11). We can trust in Him to provide our every need, and we can have peace in the midst of any hardship.
Pestilence, famine, and calamity are often used by God to bring His judgment, but they are also an opportunity for the gospel. They fit into God’s providential plan to advance His purposes (see 1 Kings 17:1, Hag. 1:5-11, Amos 4:6, Rev. 8, Rom. 8:28). He controls the forces in the natural world in response to our obedience or disobedience. When we obey Him, He blesses the earth. When we are rebellious, He curses it (Dt. 28, Lev. 26; 2 Chron. 7:13-14).
So what can we do in response to this coronavirus calamity?
We are to use the coronavirus pandemic to give and show love, first to the brethren and then to all men (Gal. 6:7-10; Acts 11:27-30; 2 Cor. 8:1-7). Many Christians and Christian organizations are doing so.
We can pray with authority. God through Christ has given us authority over sickness and disease. We can repent of our sins, personal and corporate, and exercise the authority Jesus gave the church. President Trump’s call for prayer was a good step, as was Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s call for a National Day of Prayer and Fasting.
Ask for godly wisdom for researchers and health care providers to rightly apply His biblical medical principles for this pestilence. Especially pray for wisdom for our civil leaders to act decisively, yet with great restraint for the least long-term negative effect on the economy. Ask for wisdom for them to most quickly get everyone back to work.
We must get to work. Any solution to this and future similar problems must seek to adhere to all of God’s principles for living. Yes, we are to combat germs and viruses with all the wisdom and technology we possess; and yes, we are to apply quarantine principles to those who have communicable diseases. But we also must understand that the people themselves are primarily responsible for their safety. We can give folks accurate information, and guidelines for healthy living, but they are the ones who should have the liberty to apply these in their lives, families, and businesses. An all-knowing government who exercises all power, even for what officials think is for the people’s best interest, is not how God created man to live.
Do not respond in fear or get caught up in the fear-stoked media coverage. See this in light of all the historic pestilences and diseases — the coronavirus pandemic is certainly much less dangerous than many other outbreaks. And as we get new data each day, we are learning that this is not the doomsday pestilence that many models have presented and many voices have echoed.
In everything we should respond in the confident faith we have in Christ, knowing His work and truth have overcome the negative effects of sin in the world, and have triumphed over Satan and his attempts to kill, steal, and destroy mankind.
When we consider how to deal with the coronavirus event, we should reason from biblical principles. Among other truths, this includes medical principles and principles of work, as briefly summarized below.
Three General Biblical Medical Principles
1. Cleanliness — cleansing after contact with those who have died (Num. 19:11-22; see also Num. 9:10, and scriptures given below). Aspects of these laws included:
- A person was unclean for 7 days if he touched a dead body, in a field or in a tent.
- The unclean person was to wash in running water twice during the week (Num. 19:7, 12).
- If someone died in a tent, whoever was in the tent or anyone entering the tent was unclean for 7 days, and every open vessel with no cover was unclean (Num. 19:15). (Dr. Joseph Lister did experiments showing that germs travel on dust in the air. God, of course, knew this, which is reflected in the Mosaic laws given to man thousands of years earlier.)
- Clothes were to be washed, as well as things made of wood, leather, etc. (Num. 31:19-20). If a person touched a dead animal he was also unclean (Lev. 5:2-3; 1:8).
- Thus, separation from death was required of God’s people. This was symbolic as well as for practical health reasons. Failure to adhere to God’s cleanliness principles is why 10% of pregnant women who went to hospitals to be examined in Europe in the middle 1800s died. Doctors went from doing autopsies to examining the women without washing.
2. Sanitation — cover excrement to prohibit the spread of germs (Deut. 23:9-14).
Failure to adhere to this precept led to the Black Death spreading throughout Europe and killing tens of millions in 1348 and the few years following.
3. Quarantine — (Deut. 24:8; Lev. 13-15 [leprosy in the Bible included a variety of infectious diseases])
- The laws of quarantine are an application of the sixth commandment, “you shall not murder,” with its positive corollary to preserve and further life. Some aspects of these laws include:
- Isolation of the infected person occurs as the disease was evaluated to see if it was contagious (Lev. 13:4, 5, 21, 26, 31, 33).
- If the disease was seen to not be contagious, he was to wash his clothes and be clean (Lev. 13:6, 34).
- If it was contagious, then the person was to live in isolation outside the camp (Lev. 46). If he was ever healed of the disease, he was to be examined and after confirmation of his wellness reintegrated into society.
Work Is a Holy Calling
We were created by God in His image, and an important way we express that image is in our work. God created us to work. The Bible teaches much about work, including these general ideas:
- Work is part of our calling and is a primary way we will extend God’s kingdom on the earth (Gen. 1:26-28; Ps. 8:6; Luke 19:11-27).
- God loves to work and so should we (John 5:17; Gen. 1).
- “Six days you shall work” (Ex. 20:9). Work is included in His commandments given to mankind for our benefit.
- Work is mentioned over 800 times in the Bible (e.g. Col. 3:23-24; 1 Thess. 2:9; 4:11-12).
- God reveals Himself through His work (Rom. 1:20). Likewise, our work reveals who we are.
(Editor's Note: This article first appeared on Stephen's website HERE).