Judgement Has Come
As we face this COVID-19 global pandemic, I am struck by the reluctance of pastors, preachers and teachers in the Body of Christ to speak straight and categorically say that THE CORONAVIRUS IS A JUDGEMENT OF GOD. In fact, some Christian leaders are simply appeasing people as though judgement is the last thing on God’s mind. BUT, IS IT?
Just as people need to know the truth about the virus from their governments, how much more don’t they need to know what God is saying through sending this virus? The Bible doesn’t leave us guessing about these things. This is a judgement of God! ‘Then I looked and saw a pale horse. Its rider’s name was Death, and Hades followed close behind. And they were given authority over a fourth of the earth, to kill by sword, by famine, by plague, and by the beasts of the earth’ (Rev. 6:8).
The God of Mercy Is Angered
The revelation that God gives of Himself in the Bible is that He is not firstly a God of wrath and judgement, but of mercy. In Exodus God reveals this to Moses when He says, ‘“The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness’ (Ex. 34:6 ESV). However, after opportunity for repentance and mercy has been extended and exhausted, His judgement finally comes. The same revelation of God goes on to say that He ‘will by no means clear the guilty’ (see Ex. 34:7).
That is where people find themselves when pandemics like this are happening. We’re in the midst of God’s judgement.
Am I Being Judged?
If I get the virus, am I being judged? That all depends on the other J word, JESUS, and how you relate to Him. He has been given authority to judge humankind. In Revelation we read, ‘“Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed to open the scroll and its seven seals (which are judgements of God)’” (Rev. 5:5).
Ever since His ascension, Jesus has been given the task of pouring out God’s judgements. The seals that are opened are judgements, which lead to the judgements of the trumpets and the bowls. These vary in timing, type, scope and severity and the coronavirus is one of them. As far as I can tell, this virus is on the level of ‘seal’ judgement. Far worse will come on mankind who reject God.
That said, we need to realise that just as we can use the same thing for different purposes, God is using the coronavirus for different purposes in the lives of people too. Therefore, people will experience this pandemic in totally different ways, depending on God’s purpose for it in their lives.
The World Is Guilty
Essentially, THE PEOPLE OF THE WORLD HAVE REJECTED GOD. ‘For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God’ (Rom. 3:23 KJV). What’s more, many have rejected God’s attempts to reconcile them to Himself, even at His own expense. Of them, the Bible says, ‘Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for GOD’S WRATH REMAINS ON THEM’ (John 3:36 KJV).
Far worse than the coronavirus awaits those who have rejected God. The Bible says, ‘If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. HOW MUCH MORE SEVERELY DO YOU THINK SOMEONE DESERVES TO BE PUNISHED WHO HAS TRAMPLED THE SON OF GOD UNDERFOOT’ (Heb. 10:26‑29a).
But, what of those who have not heard about Jesus? Of them the Bible says, ‘For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse’ (Rom. 1:20 NIV).
The world is guilty and deserves God’s judgement, yet God extends the offer of life through His Son to all who believe. ‘For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord’ (Rom. 6:23 KJV).
But what of God’s people who are living faithfully, but who also get sick with COVID-19? Is God judging them? No, the virus is not a judgement on them. Instead, God will carry them through it with His grace and peace, whether to live or die. And, though He may deliver many from contracting this disease, nevertheless, by carrying us through it, God makes us a witness to His goodness to us in the face of such difficulty. As we pray, we are helped with His peace that passes all understanding, which helps us to overcome the natural response of fear and panic. In so doing, we witness to His comforting presence within us that is available to all who have repented and turned to God.
Remember these verses, ‘Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus’ (Php. 4:4‑7). And, ‘Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing’ (Jam. 1:2-4 ESV).
There need be no fear of God’s wrathful judgement or death for true Christians, because we have already passed from spiritual death to life when we were born-again. Jesus clearly said, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life’ (John 5:24 NKJV). And, because physical death has lost its sting. ‘“Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ’ (1 Cor. 15:55-56 NIV).
In the face of whatever may come, like Paul, each one who is in Christ can boldly say, ‘I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death’ (Php. 1:20 NIV).
What of God’s people who are living for this world and its pleasures? This pandemic is a test of faith and a lukewarm Christian may find this time to be a form of judgment on his attitude toward God. As such, it can serve to quickly bring him to repentance and to a more zealous walk with God.
Christians Living in Sin
What of God’s people who are living in sin? Those who are God’s and yet are caught up in sin, may experience the virus as a form of disciplining by the Lord. This might take the form of sickness and even death, however, this won’t be the wrath of God that leads to eternal separation. Instead, it is a sober reminder to the Church of the Father’s attitude toward sin.
To the church in Thyatira Jesus said, ‘Behold, I will throw her onto a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her I will throw into great tribulation, unless they repent of her works’ (Rev. 2:22 ESV).
Repent and Pray
‘I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases GOD OUR SAVIOR, WHO WANTS ALL PEOPLE TO BE SAVED AND TO COME TO A KNOWLEDGE OF THE TRUTH. For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all people…’ (1 Tim. 2:1‑6a NIV).
God as Judge
We are satisfied and even happy when criminals are judged fairly by court judges. In the same way, we should appreciate God’s judgements. For, above all else, He is a God of love, slow to anger and abounding in mercy and grace.
Psalm 94: 8-15 (NIV)
8Take notice, you senseless ones among the people;
you fools, when will you become wise?
9Does he who fashioned the ear not hear?
Does he who formed the eye not see?
10Does he who disciplines nations not punish?
Does he who teaches mankind lack knowledge?
11The Lord knows all human plans;
he knows that they are futile.
12Blessed is the one you discipline, Lord,
the one you teach from your law;
13you grant them relief from days of trouble,
till a pit is dug for the wicked.
14For the Lord will not reject his people;
he will never forsake his inheritance.
15Judgment will again be founded on righteousness,
and all the upright in heart will follow it.
If judgement is the main message, which it is, then let’s not make it something else. Instead, whether Christian or not, let’s respond to it in humility and repentance. For, if we, as Christians, don’t know what it is, how can we warn the world?