COVID-19 Shocks the World
As I write this, the whole world has its eyes on the rapidly rising numbers of people infected by COVID-19. Billions of people around the world are either recommended or compelled to stay within their homes, and it is recommended that those venturing out (e.g. for groceries) should adhere to stringent “social” isolation protocols.
For most of us, the journey here began in late January, when we all watched as Wuhan and other cities in the Chinese Hubei province—housing tens of millions of people—were put on lockdown in an effort to contain this novel coronavirus.
This overlapped with the ongoing the 2019 Hong Kong protests and increasing persecution of the Church in China—and it was during this time through early February I first started hearing the question, “Is this the judgement of God”?
Now, the coronavirus has spread to virtually every nation in the world, bringing to mind colloquially “apocalyptic” scenarios, and the question rises again, and again. So lets have a look.
We have all been justly judged—and condemned
Judgement is, according to Merriam-Webster, “the process of forming an opinion or evaluation by discerning and comparing” (cf. Judgment).
We have all already been judged by God, and found wanting. In fact, we have been judged and condemned. The Gospel of John lays this out plainly for us:
Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.John 3:18-19, emphasis mine.
We have all been judged, because we are all people who “loved the darkness rather than the light.” And those who do not believe the Gospel are condemned already, because they do not believe in Jesus. There is no one exempt of this condemnation. Paul says of all,
“None is righteous, no, not one;Romans 3:10b-12
no one understands;
no one seeks for God.
All have turned aside;
together they have become worthless;
no one does good,
not even one.”
No one escapes judgement.
We all die, and we all die of sin
There are two causes of death when someone dies from COVID-19: physically, they may die from the coronavirus and it’s complications, but ultimately the cause of death is sin.
Romans 6:23 tells us, “the wages of sin is death”. Sin is what kills us.
What sin ultimately means is to put ourselves in the place of God, making ourselves gods. Death came into the world when Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3), because Adam and Eve sinned by disobeying God and eating from the tree. The consequence of that sin was death. They weren’t executed the very minute they disobeyed God, but death did surely come, as God had said it would (Gen. 2:17; compare Gen. 5:5).
Death may come by COVID-19, it may come by car accident, it may come by cancer, and it may come in peaceful sleep at old age. But we all die, and we all die of sin.
COVID-19 is a Sign: Repent or Perish
The question really being asked is, “Is this the punishment (or wrath) of God”? Is God punishing China—or Italy, or Spain, or the United states, or any of us—for something?
Jesus gives us some very relevant insight into these tragedies in Luke 13:
There were some present at that very time who told [Jesus] about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”Luke 13:1-5 ESV
Jesus continues on and tells a parable about a fig tree that is not producing figs (Luke 13:6-9). The parable reinforces the illustration he has just made—even if the fig tree is not cut down now, if it does not bear fruit, it will eventually be cut down. God here is both the owner of the vineyard and the gardener—willing to strike down the fig tree, but also willing to delay his punishment, perhaps the tree will bear fruit.
Jesus reveals to us the reality of our current situation. Are those who die of COVID-19 worse sinners than those who did not, because they died of the illness? No—but those who do not die of this novel coronavirus will die, and this coronavirus should serve as a sign that they are to repent. You may not die now and face God’s holy wrath, but you will die and face His wrath if you do not repent. I will close this section with Jesus’ own warning:
“I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him!Luke 12:4-5
There is a death that comes after physical death, and that is the wrath of God.
The Good news of Jesus Christ
But death is not the final word, though “all have sinned” (Romans 3:23) and “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23).
Jesus the Son of God, having lived a perfect and sinless life, took the sin of all who believe upon Himself, bearing in Himself the full penalty of our sins. The white-hot justice of God which should have been poured out on us was poured out on Jesus—who drank the cup of God’s wrath down to the last dregs. Jesus died on the cross, crucified for our sins, and was buried in the grave. In Jesus’ sacrifice, God’s wrath was satisfied, our penalty paid in full.
Jesus was then raised to life after three days, and He “will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him” (Romans 6:9). Christ mercifully paid our ransom, and in his resurrection from the dead, we also are resurrected from the dead—though our bodies may die, He will resurrect us again at the last day.
For the true believer, then, there is “therefore now no condemnation… the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:1-2). The Christian does not fear judgement or condemnation, because our righteousness is that of Jesus Christ, therefore we are not condemned. We do not fear death, because Christ has conquered death, therefore we are raised to life in Him.
If you would be freed of your fear of COVID-19, free of your fear in death, free of your fear of the wrath of God, put your faith wholly in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Repent—turn away from your greed, sexual impropriety and lust, love of money, hatred of God, jealousy, selfishness, pride, anything that you go to for comfort instead of to God.
Turn to Jesus. Love Him, and Him only, before all others. Put all your hope and trust in Him, who has the power to raise you up to life.