The return of Christ to earth, often called the Second Coming. Some refer to it as the rapture, the secret catching away of Christians as celebrated in books like “Left Behind.” But when and how this is to happen has been a source of dispute for 2,000 years of church history. Acts 1:11 says “this same Jesus” will come as the disciplines saw him go, received into the clouds of glory. But “When?” is the question that divides so many.
In the Olivet discourse of Matthew chapter 24, Christ responded to the disciples who wanted to know when He would return and when the end of the world would occur. Christ referred to many things which would occur before the end. In verse 7, King James Version, “pestilence” is listed as the “beginning of sorrows,” “birth pangs” as several translations have it. Pestilence means “plague” which refers to a contagious disease, a fatal epidemic. Forty-six verses in the Bible refer to such diseases from Exodus 9:15 onward. But what’s unique about COVID-19 is that this virus is the first truly worldwide example of what is spoken of in Mathew 24:7. That should catch our attention.
The timing of Christ’s return is divided into perspectives on when the “Rapture,” the catching away of the Church, will take place. The “Great Tribulation” referred to in Matt 24:21 is commonly understood to be a seven-year period of suffering on the earth, intensified in the second half of that time frame. Historically Christians have differed as to the coming of Christ in relationship to the Tribulation — before it happens, in the middle of it, or at the end. Current evangelical Bible scholars generally believe in a pre-tribulation rapture, though that consensus isn’t unanimous.
COVID-19 is a pestilence for certain. It is not what we might call the “great pestilence” of the seven plagues of Rev. 15:6. What we have now is a warning, a foreshadowing, a precursor, a trial run. Birth pangs. It’s a testing of the devil to see how humanity will respond to a pestilence. It’s a scrimmage in anticipation of the real game of life at the end of time. To those who aren’t Christians, and those who are backslidden, it is a warning. The end is near, the rapture is soon, and the coming of Christ is at hand. Get ready, get saved, and get delivered to be prepared for what befalls the human race between now and His return in the clouds of glory.