May 16, 2020
Current Events

The world is crippled by a fascinating, sinister contagion. COVID-19, wherever it had been lurking and however it took humanity hostage, has changed life on this planet for the foreseeable future.  

           Many governments have adopted a wartime posture to try to deal with the novel coronavirus. Military vocabulary is being used and extraordinary measures are being implemented. I have never lived through a war, but I can understand the similarities between the pandemic and conflicts between nations. 

           There is one big difference, however. We can’t see this enemy. There are no planes in the air, no tanks rolling through the countryside, no troops marching down our streets, no tracers lighting up the night sky. There is no distant rumble of explosions, no gunfire, no screams of pain or terror. This enemy is silent and unseen.  

             How do we react to what we cannot see? I have observed two disparate responses to the pandemic. If we were to create a continuum, indifference would be at the midpoint. Not many people are indifferent to COVID-19, however. Neither authorities nor other citizens will allow it. In some ways, daily life has been pared down to its irreducible minimum.      

           On one side of the continuum is fear. I have been amazed at how furtive and suspicious some people are in public. Even in the broad spaces of suburbia, other pedestrians veer into the middle of the street just to avoid being too close to my wife and me when we take our regular brisk walks through the neighbourhood. When we go to the supermarket without gloves or masks, some shoppers look at us with incredulity and even hostility.    

           The news has become monotonous. It is either about the disease itself or about its economic and social impact. It’s as if nothing else is happening in the world. Numbers have numbed us. Daily briefings by heads of state sound like stump speeches. The race for a vaccine is not about making people well, but about making people rich. Yet, overshadowing the politics and exploitation is an almost palpable sense of fear—fear of illness, fear of isolation, fear of poverty, fear of the future—but most of all, fear of death.     

           Countless industries use the fear of death as their chief marketing strategy. It drives entire sectors of the economy. It influences many of the choices we make because we understand that the only thing certain about life is that it will end. 

           One name that has been conspicuously absent from the news since COVID-19 hit the papers is God’s name. Hurricanes and tornadoes used to be called “acts of God” for insurance purposes, as God’s chief aim were to cause natural disasters. Not now. It’s as if he disappeared and has nothing whatever to do with current events. Could the sovereign Creator God be trying to get our attention before he opens the next chapter in human history? The next chapter, by the way, will make the COVID-19 pandemic look like a birthday party. The Revelation of Jesus Christ—the last book in the Bible—describes conditions and events which are not dissimilar to what we are experiencing now: war, political chaos, widespread disease, famine, economic collapse, climatic upheaval, and unprecedented violence. They differ only by degree and effect. Conditions in the world today are ripe for the appearance of the Man of Sin—Antichrist—to emerge from the shadows and propose a brilliant solution to the global crisis brought on by the coronavirus. Whether he appears soon remains to be seen. But even capitalist democracies have quickly adjusted to socialism, totalitarianism, and global governance. 

           Satan, the prince of power of the air (Ephesians 2:2), has a strategy; human welfare is not a core value. His plan is a plan of evil rather than good, of death rather than life. In Matthew 10, Jesus is speaking about the Jewish leadership’s accusation that he was actually a servant of the devil. He tells his disciples that if he is accused of that, surely his followers will be accused of the same thing. Then he says this: “So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both body and soul in hell” (Matthew 10:26-28). Satan has developed many schemes for killing the body. Who knows?—COVID-19 may be one of them. But what people should fear is not physical death, but the second death, which is eternal separation from God in hell. Eternity is God’s purview. We need to fear him.

           The other response to our unseen adversary is faith, which falls on the other end of the continuum. Many people who know God have reacted with confidence, compassion, and even anticipation of what he will accomplish through this crisis. They appropriate the promises of Scripture and act accordingly. They seek ways to serve others and refuse to allow confinement to prohibit corporate worship and fellowship. They awake each morning wondering if they will see their Saviour before the day is out. 

           Faith is not a naïve response to the unseen. It is not ignorant. It is not blind. In fact, by faith one can see plainly what one cannot see otherwise. The author of Hebrews writes, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation. By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen is not made out of things that are visible . . . And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him” (Hebrews 11:1-3, 6). Faith in the One Who Sees All allows believers to see what he sees, as God delivers them from the domain of darkness and transfers them to the kingdom of his beloved Son (Colossians 1:13).  

             How are  you responding to the present reality—in fear or in faith?

Rob Heijermans

Rob Heijermans (rhymes with “fireman’s”) is a church planter and Bible teacher who has served with Biblical Ministries Worldwide since 1979. He is a 1977 graaduate (B.S. in Bible) of Lancaster Bible College. His travels have taken him to forty countries on four continents, including detailed research for this book in Israel. He has three married children and ten grandchildren. He and his wife, Madeleine, live in Ontario, Canada.

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