“And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth” (Rev. 6:8).
“And there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places” (Matt. 24:7b).
SARS, MERS, H1N1, Avian flu. And now coronavirus, COVID-19. On December 31, 2019, China alerted the World Health Organization of several cases of unusual pneumonia in the port city of Wuhan. Within a week, the cause was identified as a novel virus named 2019-nCoV. Interestingly, this virus belongs to the same family of viruses, coronaviruses, which cause the common cold. Since that time, the illness has become more widespread, impacting several countries. Current statistics as of mid-April estimate just over 2,650,000 identified cases and nearly 177,000 deaths. The age of technology has contributed to the rapid spread of information and misinformation, leading to anxiety and even panic in regard to this newest epidemic. Social media posts on which mask or eye protection to buy has led to long lines at superstores, as individuals stock up on the necessities in case society grinds to a halt. Most of this is born from a fear of the unknown. How widespread is it? How contagious is it? How fatal is it? What can we do to protect ourselves and our families? Some of our understanding is limited by the lack of accurate information from China, where the disease originated. Current estimates place the contagiousness of the disease as one person with coronavirus will infect 2.2 others, and the fatality rate at 1–3%. However, these numbers are skewed by the lack of control measures initially allowing the virus to spread and the fact that the disease is likely much more widespread, meaning many more individuals are infected than we realize. In comparison, the seasonal flu contagiousness is generally 1.3 with a fatality rate of .1%, due in large part to effective widespread vaccine campaigns. The Spanish flu of 1918 had fatality rates of 2–4% and infected about 500 million people worldwide, or one-third of the total population, and resulted in 30 million deaths. COVID-19 appears to be occurring much more frequently in those 50 years old and older, and fatalities are much more common in those over 80. It is causing more serious illness in those with compromised immune systems or underlying health issues like chronic lung or heart conditions. So, what can we do? #1. Frequent handwashing is still one of the most effective measures to prevent the spread of illness. #2. Avoid ill-appearing individuals. #3. IF you are sick, especially with fevers and a cough, stay home until the illness has passed. This reduces the spread to others.
But as Christians, we know that there is much more going on than statistics and CNN updates on the latest coronavirus news. We know that all these things come to pass according to our Father’s good and perfect plan. In this knowledge, in the face of such worldwide panic, we take great comfort, the ultimate comfort, the peace that passeth all understanding. “Of old hast thou laid the foundation of the earth: and the heavens are the work of thy hands. They shall perish, but thou shalt endure: yea, all of them shall wax old like a garment; as a vesture shalt thou change them, and they shall be changed” (Ps. 102:25–26). “But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:19).
None of these things are new or less anxiety-inducing for God’s children. Imagine living in the world of 1918, when the spread of information was limited; when everyone knew someone or several people who died from the flu; when the governor of Michigan and the state health department shut down schools and churches; and all this on the heels of the end of World War I. Christians in that day and age must have seen the imminent end of all things and the day of Christ coming tomorrow. “The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun” (Eccl. 1:9).
In all these world events, including a viral epidemic, we see the rider of the pale horse running. But he runs not of his own accord. He runs only on the direction of he who is first. “And I saw, and behold a white horse: and he that sat on him had a bow; and a crown was given unto him: and he went forth conquering, and to conquer” (Rev. 6:2). Christ, our Savior, the Lamb who was slain, is the rider of the white horse. He is in control of all things. He has conquered all things, including death and the grave. As His children and by faith alone, we enjoy His victory even now, so that, even as we face the weakness of the flesh, we have the assurance that these things have no power over us and these things shall pass away in that great and glorious day.
“And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb….They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat. For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes” (Rev. 7:14, 16, 17)
Originally published August 2020, Vol 79 No 8