Coping in Times of Crisis

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I am writing this article on my wife’s birthday during the COVID-19 pandemic. The woods next to my home are beginning to come to life. Faint wisps of green are signaling the life of spring in the northern hemisphere. Watching the birds work as they gather material for their nests, you wouldn’t know the world is in the grip of its most catastrophic pandemic in more than a century.

Here we are dealing with the lingering impact of an event no one would have expected when we turned the page to 2020. As of mid-April when this goes to press, more than 2 million people have contracted the virus and more than 120,000 have died in this worldwide plague. Entire economies have been turned upside down. The social compacts between government and citizens will be permanently altered, and we may be sorting through the aftermath for years.

At the peak of this crisis our Beyond Today staff made the decision to scrap an issue that was soon to go to the printer and create a new one focusing on this pandemic. We believe putting this event in a biblical context will help you cope with what’s happening and be better prepared when, not if, something of this magnitude happens again.

What will we learn?

Jesus Christ referred to an increase of “pestilences” or disease epidemics along with other disasters in the buildup of events leading to His return (Luke 21:11 Luke 21:11And great earthquakes shall be in divers places, and famines, and pestilences; and fearful sights and great signs shall there be from heaven.
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), and many wonder if we’ve reached the final stages of this progression. Revelation 6 describes the infamous “four horsemen of the Apocalypse,” which in parallel to Jesus’ prophecy represent spiritual deception, war, famine and plagues of disease and disaster. Have we reached this point?   

While these conditions have always been a part of human history, a marked increase will occur in the end time. We have seen such increase since the world wars of the past century, but the final ramp-up is still ahead. Revelation 6:8 Revelation 6:8And 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 to 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.
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indicates these end-time catastrophes will kill a fourth of the earth’s population. With the global population now approaching 8 billion, it is clear that we have not yet approached this scale.

Bible prophecy is clear that other key prophetic events must occur before we reach that point. So while the global COVID-19 pandemic fits within Jesus’ warning of increasing epidemics leading to global fear and other troubles, this is more of a foretaste of far worse things to come. We still have further to go before the final devastating events preceding Christ’s return.

We will come out of this time of pandemic. You will eventually return to work, school and familiar routines, albeit perhaps a “new normal” as some have speculated. No doubt, treatments for this virus will help people recover. And a vaccine will likely be developed that counters this new strain of virus. But we should expect continuing difficulties. And this will by no means be the end of dangerous viruses.

What you should ask yourself now is this: What have you learned through this experience? What will you yet learn? How will you deal with the next crisis?

There will be a next crisis, and more after that. It’s vital you understand these crises in a biblical context. Now is the time to develop a biblical worldview to understand what has happened and what the Bible says will happen in the years ahead.

Once this pandemic recedes, the issues of trade, nationalism and globalism will return to the front burner. International relations will be impacted by this crisis. We may well begin to refer to the world of past years as “BC”—before COVID-19. The world that follows will be different.

Again, what are you learning from this, and how will you react to the time beyond when the next crisis hits?

Two previous crisis “dress rehearsals”

For broader perspective, let’s look back over the past two decades. America and the world have experienced two significant crisis points in that time.

First was the attack on the United States by Islamic terrorists on 9/11. New York’s World Trade Center was felled by two hijacked airliners. A third airliner was flown into the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. A fourth jetliner thought to be headed for either the U.S. Capitol building or the White House crashed into a Pennsylvania field when passengers stormed the cockpit of the hijacked and doomed jetliner. That black day changed America’s national security behavior and resulted in a game-changing war in the Middle East that continues these many years later.

America initially saw a moment of national unity and a brief respite in political division. I remember members of Congress massing on the steps of the Capitol Building singing “God Bless America.” There was a national prayer service and a moment of turning to God for answers. President George W. Bush called the nation to greater service as he mounted the counterattack on global terrorism. While there was a surge of patriotism, political unity soon vanished and we all went on with our lives.

The war that came to America didn’t change the inner core of its people. Great national sins of abortion, pornography, drug addiction and moral decay continued. While church attendance surged for a short time, it soon returned to pre-9/11 figures.

America’s spiritual life continues to decline, having little impact on the politics and social behavior of the people. The moral rot and spiritual decay are entrenched. No reform, however well intentioned, has brought America to its knees before God in a great national repentance.

Second came the financial crisis of September 2008, wherein the entire financial center of America came within a few days of collapse. While this event began primarily in the United States as a result of a high-stakes financial game involving subprime lending, it spread into a worldwide economic downturn.

In America, major Wall Street firms such as Lehman Brothers vanished overnight. Banks and markets faltered under the weight of bad loans. Confidence in the economy was on the verge of collapsing. Stories are told of crisis meetings in Washington, frantic conversations held among officials searching for solutions to problems none of them were prepared for.

Some analysts say that America was within 48 hours of all ATM machines shutting down and refusing transactions. There was even concern over credit card readers not working at supermarkets and gas stations.

Imagine the panic that would have set in! The fabric of society would have begun to unravel. Thankfully that did not happen. But stocks collapsed. Major companies like General Motors needed government assistance to stay in business. It was a hard moment that came just a few weeks before the presidential election. The financial crisis significantly impacted the November election that put President Barack Obama in office. America and the world recovered from this financial crisis. Global stock markets came back.

Fast forward to today, 12 years later. The United States was doing well with the stock market at an all-time high and the country experiencing the lowest unemployment figures ever. Then came the COVID-19 pandemic. Overnight we were dealing with an event most had never experienced in their lifetimes.

How should we view these world-changing circumstances? I look at them as “dress rehearsals” for what the Bible says will be larger, even more impactful events at the close of this age. Each of these crises has contained elements that accompany the ride of the four horsemen of Revelation, even though what we’ve seen is relatively small in comparison to what is coming. We are at a moment in which we can learn vital lessons so we are not caught unaware when larger prophesied events occur.

Christ’s prophecy of the end of the age

Let’s look more closely at what Jesus Christ said we should learn at this pivotal moment in human history.

Jesus was the greatest of prophets. This dimension of His mission is woefully neglected and misunderstood by those who claim to speak in His name. Never has it been more important than now for you to understand what He taught about this present age of mankind.

While with His disciples on the Mount of Olives, some privately asked Him: “Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign when all these things will be fulfilled?” Jesus’ answer began with warnings about spiritual deception, wars, earthquakes and global troubles which would include famine and pestilence (Mark 13:3-8 Mark 13:3-8 [3] And as he sat on the mount of Olives over against the temple, Peter and James and John and Andrew asked him privately, [4] Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign when all these things shall be fulfilled? [5] And Jesus answering them began to say, Take heed lest any man deceive you: [6] For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. [7] And when you shall hear of wars and rumors of wars, be you not troubled: for such things must needs be; but the end shall not be yet. [8] For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be earthquakes in divers places, and there shall be famines and troubles: these are the beginnings of sorrows.
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).

As earlier stated, all these troubles have been with us for centuries. They remain with us today. Verse 8 ends with Jesus saying, “These are the beginnings of sorrows” (emphasis added throughout). For “sorrows,” your Bible may have a marginal reference or different translation noting these are “birth pangs.” And indeed they are—increasing in frequency and intensity in signaling that a new age is about to begin.

Jesus then says, “But watch out for yourselves …” (Mark 13:9 Mark 13:9But take heed to yourselves: for they shall deliver you up to councils; and in the synagogues you shall be beaten: and you shall be brought before rulers and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them.
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). He lists persecutions and betrayals His followers would experience. Through all this He encourages endurance and promises He would be with them. They would not be alone (Mark 13:9-13 Mark 13:9-13 [9] But take heed to yourselves: for they shall deliver you up to councils; and in the synagogues you shall be beaten: and you shall be brought before rulers and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them. [10] And the gospel must first be published among all nations. [11] But when they shall lead you, and deliver you up, take no thought beforehand what you shall speak, neither do you premeditate: but whatever shall be given you in that hour, that speak you: for it is not you that speak, but the Holy Ghost. [12] Now the brother shall betray the brother to death, and the father the son; and children shall rise up against their parents, and shall cause them to be put to death. [13] And you shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that shall endure to the end, the same shall be saved.
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).

The next few verses give more details of the events surrounding His coming. A key marker is verse 14, which speaks of a particular event yet to occur: “‘So when you see the “abomination of desolation,” spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing where it ought not’ (let the reader understand), ‘then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.’”

This prophecy would have more than one fulfillment. Christ’s reference was to an event that first occurred about 200 years earlier, when a pagan idol was set up at the Jerusalem temple and swine’s flesh offered as a sacrifice on the altar. His disciples, aware of their nation’s history, knew precisely what He spoke about.

But Jesus said a similar event would happen again. And it did when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem in A.D. 70. But that was not the end time that Jesus foretold. It was a forerunner, and its primary fulfillment is yet to take place. We do not see it happening under the present political configuration in Jerusalem. Conditions must change. We conclude, then, that as Jesus said in Mark 13:7 Mark 13:7And when you shall hear of wars and rumors of wars, be you not troubled: for such things must needs be; but the end shall not be yet.
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, “the end is not yet.”

But we are to watch and understand our times (Mark 13:33-37 Mark 13:33-37 [33] Take you heed, watch and pray: for you know not when the time is. [34] For the Son of Man is as a man taking a far journey, who left his house, and gave authority to his servants, and to every man his work, and commanded the porter to watch. [35] Watch you therefore: for you know not when the master of the house comes, at even, or at midnight, or at the cock-crowing, or in the morning: [36] Lest coming suddenly he find you sleeping. [37] And what I say to you I say to all, Watch.
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). As we read Jesus’ statements about spiritual deception, war and other troubles, we see His emphasis on our need to understand these events in their historical and prophetic context.

We look back over the nearly 2,000 years since this prophecy was given and we can easily see how these events have occurred in waves through the centuries. There was a time when powerful combinations of church and state power killed people of faith who dared believe contrary to the edicts of the Roman Catholic Church. Religious wars between Protestants and Catholics, Muslims and Christians, and even Muslims against Muslims have taken the lives of millions of people.

Modern warfare, sadistic governments and other troubles have also been a scourge on the earth, claiming the lives of well over 100 million. Jesus said, “And unless the Lord had shortened those days [through intervening], no flesh would be saved” (Mark 13:20 Mark 13:20And except that the Lord had shortened those days, no flesh should be saved: but for the elect’s sake, whom he has chosen, he has shortened the days.
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). The human race wiping itself out could only happen in our day with the invention of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. Christ’s emphatic teaching to us is this: “Take heed; see, I have told you all things beforehand” (Mark 13:23 Mark 13:23But take you heed: behold, I have foretold you all things.
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).

Watch and pray

In Mark 13:33 Mark 13:33Take you heed, watch and pray: for you know not when the time is.
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Jesus again brings us to what we are to do now as we consider the large lessons from this COVID-19 pandemic. He warns us, “Take heed, watch and pray, for you do now know when the time is.” Today we do not know when Christ will return. Yet we are to “watch and pray.” What exactly does this mean?

“Watch” and “watching” in a biblical sense have a broad meaning that flows from the prophecies of Ezekiel, the prophet who was told he was like a watchman who stood on the walls of the city and warned the people of approaching danger (see Ezekiel 33:1-7 Ezekiel 33:1-7 [1] Again the word of the LORD came to me, saying, [2] Son of man, speak to the children of your people, and say to them, When I bring the sword on a land, if the people of the land take a man of their coasts, and set him for their watchman: [3] If when he sees the sword come on the land, he blow the trumpet, and warn the people; [4] Then whoever hears the sound of the trumpet, and takes not warning; if the sword come, and take him away, his blood shall be on his own head. [5] He heard the sound of the trumpet, and took not warning; his blood shall be on him. But he that takes warning shall deliver his soul. [6] But if the watchman see the sword come, and blow not the trumpet, and the people be not warned; if the sword come, and take any person from among them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at the watchman’s hand. [7] So you, O son of man, I have set you a watchman to the house of Israel; therefore you shall hear the word at my mouth, and warn them from me.
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). The message of warning was to the people to prepare for a time of danger and siege and all that might bring, including famine and pestilence. They were to take precautions to meet the trial so they could withstand, endure and prevail.

Christ uses the term “watch” to tell us to be aware and alert and discern the conditions of the world around us and to understand where we are in the progression of God’s prophetic plan for this world. But more than that, we are also to be watching our own spiritual condition.

A disciple will want to understand the emerging signs of the end time and let that motivate us to live sober, holy and godly lives. When you know a time of trouble and ultimate judgment is coming on the world, you live differently. You know God is real, His Word is a sure guide to life, and you take steps to live in alignment with His truth. That is what a true disciple will do.

A true disciple will also pray to God in a way that develops a relationship, a spiritual connection of love. Trusting in God’s love is the core faith that allows us to manage our emotional health during a time of stress like this present pandemic. Many of us face uncertainty in jobs, health and the larger picture of what is happening to our country and the world. When we see nations and cities locked down under quarantine, we are seeing something we have never experienced. It’s unnerving and frightening and can cause some to come unglued emotionally. I see it in some of the strongest people I know. Worry and fear are at the door.

Yet through the Bible, God the Father and Jesus Christ give us the basis to understand what this global crisis means. As you talk to God on your knees in prayer, the Father and Christ will give you comfort and understanding rooted in spiritual truth. This is the key to this moment.

God is giving the world a wakeup call, a moment of crisis that can bring clarity to life in 2020. This world will not be the same after this pandemic, as it was not the same after 9/11.

Dealing with other world problems has only been temporarily postponed while the world’s attention is turned to fighting this virus and the impact it has created. Iran and North Korea will continue to develop nuclear weapons and threaten world stability. Millions of people will continue to flee war, violence and poverty in the Middle East and Latin America, seeking asylum in Europe and North America.

China will make its next play to create a larger global footprint. The nations will return to the goal of shaping a global world order. Certain lessons from the handling of this present crisis will not be forgotten by those who desire a transnational global order.

We will soon see these and other related trends return and continue, aligning with Bible prophecy.

How sudden is suddenly?

In less than two weeks we watched the world go from a sense of normality to urgently reacting to COVID-19, changing the everyday lives of hundreds of millions of people. Its suddenness left many with no time to prepare. Schools and businesses were closed. Major sporting events from the Tokyo Olympics to NBA basketball and all major sporting events around the world were abruptly canceled.

Airline schedules were reduced by 80 percent and more, grounding most major carrier airplanes and placing airlines in financial jeopardy. The Congress of the United States passed a multi-trillion-dollar aid and stimulus package, by far the largest in history. All these are unprecedented events, and all virtually overnight. Even as I write this we are all still trying to comprehend the magnitude of what has happened.

Christ said: “Take heed, watch and pray; for you do not know when the time is. It is like a man going to a far country, who left his house and gave authority to his servants, and to each his work, and commanded the doorkeeper to watch” (Mark 13:33-34 Mark 13:33-34 [33] Take you heed, watch and pray: for you know not when the time is. [34] For the Son of Man is as a man taking a far journey, who left his house, and gave authority to his servants, and to every man his work, and commanded the porter to watch.
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). He is the Master of the house and we are the servants, each with a mandated authority and work.

“Watch therefore,” He continued, “for you do not know when the master of the house is coming—in the evening, at midnight, at the crowing of the rooster, or in the morning …” (Mark 13:35 Mark 13:35Watch you therefore: for you know not when the master of the house comes, at even, or at midnight, or at the cock-crowing, or in the morning:
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). That’s how it is for us at this moment. We do not know when Christ will return, but we know we have a command from Him to watch, pray and continue the work He’s given us to do.

His Church has the authority of the Kingdom of God behind it. We at Beyond Today understand our part in proclaiming the message announcing the coming of God’s Kingdom. This comes with authority to explain what the prophecies of God’s Word say about today’s world events. It includes the authority to make known to you and all who listen the paramount truth that God is creating His own spiritual family, beginning in this age with His Church, the Body of Christ. This is the work we are called to do—a work God wants you to become part of.

Jesus concludes His directive for us to watch here in warning: “… lest, coming suddenly, he find you sleeping. And what I say to you, I say to all: Watch!” (Mark 13:36-37 Mark 13:36-37 [36] Lest coming suddenly he find you sleeping. [37] And what I say to you I say to all, Watch.
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).

Suddenly, as we have now seen, means without warning, when least expected.

The fig tree’s leaves

Shortly before this in the same teaching session with His disciples, Christ gave a short parable about the fig tree. They were familiar with fig trees, as they were found in abundance in the Holy Land at that time. Figs were very important to the economy—a staple of diets and an important source of income and trade. The destruction of fig trees and other agrarian commodities was tied to apocalyptic prophecies in the Scriptures.

Christ said: “Now learn this parable from the fig tree. When its branch has already become tender, and puts forth leaves, you know that summer is near. So you also, when you see these things happening, know that it is near—at the doors! Assuredly, I say to you, this generation [the generation alive at this time of the end] will by no means pass away till all these things [the events leading to Christ’s return] take place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away” (Mark 13:28-31 Mark 13:28-31 [28] Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When her branch is yet tender, and puts forth leaves, you know that summer is near: [29] So you in like manner, when you shall see these things come to pass, know that it is near, even at the doors. [30] Truly I say to you, that this generation shall not pass, till all these things be done. [31] Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away.
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).

As I see the appearance of the green leaves on the woodland vegetation, I think about this passage. It’s not fig trees—the leaves of which came out in the land of Israel before the early wheat harvest at about this time of year—that I see here. But the lesson of seasonal change remains graphic and powerful. Jesus tells us there will be a moment when all that He taught about the end of the age would be near and “all things” will come to pass. Those who are watching for the green leaves of the fig trees will know and act with prudence and wisdom.

We are at a moment when God is taking the measure of the nations. A pestilence has spread among all peoples. Financial worry is everywhere. But rest assured, God is fully aware of what is happening. He has allowed this just as He allows all the affairs of man to happen. God is giving the nations an opportunity to stop and consider His Word and our lives.

What will you learn from this pandemic?

Will you use this moment to seek God while He may be found, and His truth understood?

“What manner of persons ought you to be?”

Earlier I mentioned two previous crisis moments that hit the world—9/11 and the 2008 financial crisis. After both, the world went back to normal. Disney World reopened, and stock markets went back up. We went about our lives as if nothing dramatic had occurred. Yet what about now?

Do not waste this crisis moment by thinking that a return to normal in the weeks and months ahead means nothing significant has happened. Something significant has occurred. Something very significant. God has shown us the utter fragility of life and modern civilization—that no one is immune. You need to act!

During this pandemic our Beyond Today web traffic has shown a spike in activity as people come to us looking for information about what this means. We see people hungry for material on Bible prophecy. And prophecy is indeed important. It can help you understand much about God and His plan. And critically, it should motivate you to change your life based on the sure hope of God’s guiding hand on human affairs.

Hear what Peter says about prophetic events: “Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness … ?” (2 Peter 3:11 2 Peter 3:11Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in all holy conversation and godliness,
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). He is saying an understanding of prophecy should compel us to live a holy, godly life. Because we know a judgment is coming, we should prepare to meet the next moment of trial with faith and courage. Now is the time to prepare your life. Now is the time to seek God and prepare your life for the age to come!