A Wake-Up Call
The coronavirus is a God-given wake-up call to be ready for the second coming of Christ.
Even though the history of the Christian church is littered with failed predictions of the end of the world, it remains true that Jesus Christ is coming back. “Men of Galilee,” the angel said at Jesus’s departure, “why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11).
At his coming, he will judge the world:
When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. (Matt. 25:31–32)
For those who are not ready to meet Christ, that day will come suddenly like a trap:
Watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap. (Luke 21:34)
Jesus said there would be pointers to his coming—like wars, famines, and earthquakes (Matt. 24:7). He called these signs “birth pains” (Matt. 24:8). The image is of the earth as a woman in labor, trying to give birth to the new world, which Jesus would bring into being at his coming.
Paul picked up this imagery in Romans 8:22 and referred the birth pains to all the groanings of this age—all the miseries of disaster and disease (like the coronavirus). He pictured us in our diseases as part of the labor pains of the world. We groan as we wait for the redemption of our bodies at the coming of Jesus, when he will raise the dead and gives us new, glorious bodies (Phil. 3:21):
The creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. (Rom. 8:21–23)
My point is this: Jesus wants us to see the birth pains (including the coronavirus) as reminders and alerts that he is coming and that we need to be ready. “You . . . must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect” (Matt. 24:44).
You don’t have to be a date setter in order take seriously what Jesus says. And what he says is unmistakable: “Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come. . . . Stay awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come. . . . And what I say to you, I say to all: Stay awake” (Mark 13:33–37).
The message is clear. Stay awake. Stay awake. Stay awake. And the birth pains of the natural world are meant for this message. But, oh, how many people are not awake! For all their frenzied activity, they are sound asleep in regard to the coming of Jesus Christ. The peril is great. And the coronavirus is a merciful wake-up call to be ready.
The way to be ready is to come to Jesus Christ, receive forgiveness for sins, and walk in his light. Then you will be among those
who are not in darkness for that day to surprise you like a thief. For you are all children of light. . . . So then . . . let us keep awake. . . . For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him. (1 Thess. 5:4–10)