By nearly every measurement, nations around the world were not prepared for the Covid-19 pandemic. Those charged with public health and political management were caught napping when the sinister virus behind this disease suddenly surged out of China onto an unsuspecting world. While the death toll has proved far lower than early estimates and fears due to flawed modeling and perhaps some of the mitigation steps taken by most governments, the aftermath has revealed a list of missed opportunities that would have saved even more lives and likely lessened the devastating economic impact of this global pandemic.
The world was caught unaware. The few warnings that came fell on deaf ears of a world caught up in what the Bible describes as “carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life” (Luke 21:34). Yet with the shutdown and then cities being ransacked came a sense of foreboding. Now is the time for readers of Beyond Today to think soberly about the message we have been sounding for decades. This is a time to listen to the warning God sends to us by the hand of a watchman. God has sent a warning in our time, and we would all do well to listen to what God says in His Word.
Unprepared for the pandemic
As news reports and briefings through the weeks of shutdown have made clear, it’s obvious that most nations were not prepared for this pandemic.
In the United States, billions of dollars are spent by the nation’s three main agencies tasked with promoting a safe health environment for Americans—the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Yet it is apparent they were not focused, and had not been for some time, on measures needed to provide equipment and plans to deal with this health crisis.
Why were there not enough ventilators to meet the needs claimed by state governors and hospitals? Reports say the national stockpile of ventilators was depleted during the swine flu epidemic of 2009. Supplies and needed equipment were not replenished. Production was delayed for several years because the FDA would not approve new designs. Who is to blame? Will there be accountability? President Trump ordered ventilator production ramped up this year, and the stockpiles are becoming surpluses. Nevertheless, the lack of initial preparedness remains evident.
The CDC, America’s primary agency for fighting and controlling communicable disease, seemed to be on the sidelines in the early stages of the Covid-19 crisis. It was blamed for failing to have widespread and accurate test kits available to identify those with the virus.
The agency had earlier come under scrutiny in 2007 when U.S. Senator Tom Coburn issued a well-documented report titled “CDC Off Center: An Oversight Report on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.” The report presented “a review of how an agency tasked with fighting and preventing disease has spent hundreds of millions of tax dollars for failed prevention efforts, international junkets, and lavish facilities, but cannot demonstrate it is controlling disease.”
The CDC, which works with a $10 billion annual budget, seems to have been concentrating more on peripheral projects than its primary mission. When masks, test kits and ventilators are in short supply or do not work, there is a systemic problem. Again, where is the accountability in the aftermath of this pandemic?
We know the virus causing Covid-19 originated in China sometime in late 2019. The first alarm seems to have come from a Chinese doctor, Li Wenliang from Wuhan. Dr. Wenliang was reprimanded by his government for “spreading rumors” and later died from the virus. Other Chinese doctors who criticized the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) reaction to the event have been censored and even disappeared.
In December, Taiwan warned the World Health Organization (WHO) about the severity of the virus. But Taiwan’s concerns and warnings were ignored. The cover-up by the Chinese government and the failure of the WHO to take early and direct steps to warn and prevent disaster are serious matters for the world to consider going forward. President Trump was so angered at the WHO for its failure to act that he decided to withhold American funding to the organization, then withdrew from it altogether.
Even Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of America’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases within the NIH, did not see the severity of what was coming out of China. In a Jan. 26, 2020, interview he said the American public should not worry about the coronavirus: “It is a very, very low risk to the United States . . . It isn’t something the American public needs to worry about or be frightened about.”
These words soon proved far off the mark. President Trump banned flights coming from China a few days after on Jan. 31 and then in early March banned flights from Europe and the United Kingdom. It seemed within 24 hours nations began to shut down. Schools and offices closed. Restaurants shuttered their doors. Airlines began shedding flights and planes were grounded as passengers had nowhere to travel. Schools and educational institutions scrambled to institute online learning, and millions of employees began working from home while millions more lost their jobs.
In short order the world seemed to shudder to a stop. Within weeks the world entered a major economic crisis on top of a health crisis.
Debates have raged back and forth as to whether the cure has been worse than the illness. Certainly Covid-19 is a lethal disease with many still-unknown properties and unanswered questions, and to date no vaccine. It could be that shutting down businesses and public gatherings and sheltering in place helped “flatten the curve” and reduce the number of deaths in some places. But what is unmistakable is that the massive world shutdown wrecked a period of global economic prosperity and that it will take years to recover.
Billions of dollars of wealth were wiped out. Hundreds of thousands of businesses will not reopen. The economic toll will translate into severe social costs such as depression, suicides and diminished personal earnings over coming years affecting people’s ability to live healthy and productive lives and provide for others, with more and more dependency on government. The human toll is incalculable.
A world transformed in just one month
What the world lived through, within the space of about one month, was a massive collapse of a prosperous economy. The United States was at nearly full employment, the stock market’s Dow Jones Industrial Average had rocketed to over 28,000 points, and the economy was producing higher wages and an improving standard of living. The global economy—the train being pulled by the powerful U.S. economy—was also doing well.
In early March when fears of millions dying from the Covid-19 virus began to emerge, we saw the darkening shadow of fear begin creeping over the nations. Italy was experiencing rising deaths, and President Trump had already embargoed travel into the United States from China.
Within hours of a nationally televised speech from the Oval Office where he announced that all incoming passenger flights from Europe would be canceled, it began to dawn on us just how much was changing. In America the National Basketball Association canceled the rest of its season when a player tested positive for the virus. Other professional sports leagues followed suit. The cascading shutdowns and cancellations brought thousands of communities to a halt.
The biblical prophet Hosea, prophesying in the time of the ancient kingdom of Israel before its destruction, describes how quickly
a nation could collapse because of its sins against God. When they try to seek God during a period of national crisis, Hosea said, He is not to be found. Why? “They have dealt treacherously with the Lord, for they have begotten pagan children. Now a New Moon shall devour them and their heritage” (Hosea 5:7). What does this mention of a “new moon” mean?
The prophet Hosea foretold that within just one month—a lunar cycle averaging just under 30 days—a catastrophic collapse can occur. While recent events are not a direct fulfillment of Hosea’s prophecy, such rapid change happened in March 2020. Within a month, trillions of dollars of wealth disappeared and a prosperous world economy seized up.
The opening paragraph of an article in The Wall Street Journal said it succinctly: “The April unemployment rate surged to a record 14.7% and payrolls dropped by a historic 20.5 million workers as the coronavirus pandemic hit the economy, wiping out a decade of job gains in a single month” (Sarah Chaney and Eric Morath, “April Unemployment Rate Rose to a Record 14.7%,” May 8, 2020, emphasis added throughout). By June the unemployment rate had grown to more than 22 percent, or approximately 40 million jobless Americans.
Will we learn from this?
The wise will learn a lesson from this. The scripture quoted at the outset about worldly distractions also carries a warning. Note the fuller context of Jesus Christ’s words here:
“But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day [of calamitous events leading up to Christ’s return] come on you unexpectedly. For it will come as a snare on all those who dwell on the face of the whole earth. Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man” (Luke 21:34-36).
The cover of our January-February 2020 issue of Beyond Today magazine bore the headline, “Are You Ready for 2020?” Well, it turns out the world was not ready for what was about to happen. And to be honest, we at Beyond Today freely admit that we did not see what was coming either—at least not in the form and with the suddenness it came.
Yet we have long been urging our readers to read their Bibles and understand what its prophecies say about the fragility of our world and our uncertain times. Beyond Today takes seriously what Jesus Christ said in the passage just quoted.
We understand how we can be “weighed down with the cares of this life.” Our lives are busy and hectic and full of distracting details, many of which can divert our attention from the state of spiritual alertness we need to stay on top of what’s happening. To be blunt, a disciple of Jesus Christ must live his or her life at a spiritual “DefCon Level 3” or above. That’s not easy to do or to maintain for a prolonged time.
I find myself at the age where people begin to think about slowing down with work and retiring. I have grandchildren whom I want to spend more time with and watch grow up in their teen years. I know many of our readers share the same feelings regarding family and plans for the future. We are caught up in so many details that consume our interests, passion and days.
There is nothing wrong or out of place with these desires—so long as we keep them tempered by the knowledge and understanding of Bible prophecy. Bible prophecy provides the framework for understanding the general contours of events shaping the landscape of today’s world. Using it properly, we can take appropriate steps to be prepared spiritually and even physically for what happens.
I have lived long enough and been a student of prophecy long enough to know there are times when prophetic fulfillment is, at least discernibly, on idle and times when fulfillment is speeding up. We are in a period when prophesied conditions are accelerating. It is a time to pay more attention!
Time to watch
We read above where Jesus told His disciples to “watch and pray always.” What does this mean?
The theme of watching was earlier presented in Ezekiel 33, where God told the prophet Ezekiel that He was placing him in the role of a watchman to the people of Israel:
“Again the word of the Lord came to me, saying, ‘Son of man, speak to the children of your people, and say to them: “When I bring the sword [of war and devastation] upon a land, and the people of the land take a man from their territory and make him their watchman, when he sees the sword coming upon the land, if he blows the trumpet and warns the people, then whoever hears the sound of the trumpet and does not take warning, if the sword comes and takes him away, his blood shall be on his own head.
“‘“He heard the sound of the trumpet, but did not take warning; his blood shall be upon himself. But he who takes warning will save his life.
“‘“But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, and the people are not warned, and the sword comes and takes any person from among them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at the watchman’s hand”’” (verses 1-6).
The message of warning to the people was to prepare for a time of siege and all that might mean, including famine and disease. They were to take precautions to meet the trial and stand, endure and prevail. Jesus Christ uses this term “take heed”—the same as “watch”—warning us to be aware and alert and to discern the times of our life and to understand where we are in God’s unfolding prophetic plan and purpose for the world.
A disciple will want to understand the signs Jesus foretold— spiritual deception, war, famine, disease epidemics and natural catastrophes (Matthew 24:4-7)—and live a sober, holy and godly life. When you know a time of trouble and ultimate judgment on the world is coming, you live differently. You know God is real, that His Word is a sure guide to life, and you take steps to live in alignment with God’s laws and truth. That is what a true disciple will do.
A disciple will also pray to God in cooperation with His desire to build a relationship with us, nurturing a spiritual connection of love and trust. Faith in God and His love for us allows us to manage our emotional health during times of stress such as this present pandemic and social unrest. Many of us face uncertainty in jobs, health and the large picture of what is happening to our country and the world. 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. Do not let yourself be overwhelmed. You can cope—with God’s help, trusting in His plan and purpose.
When we see cities locked down under quarantine, or more recently burning and filled with rioters, we are seeing things most of us have never experienced before. Our world has been shocked and startled. A wakeup call has been given.
Through the pages of the Bible we can gain understanding of what such crises mean. As you talk to God on your knees in prayer, He and Jesus Christ will give you comfort and understanding rooted in spiritual truth. This is the key to this moment.
Going back to “normal”?
We might prefer the world to return, at least in its various positive aspects, to the way we remember it only a few short months ago. But in many ways it will be a different world going forward. We will be a long time recovering. Life will go on, but something has changed. This world will not be the same.
How will your world be different? For a disciple of Jesus Christ, we cannot go back to “normal.” A disciple of Jesus must dig into what our Master taught. We must take to heart what He commanded. We must take heed, watch and pray, and avoid the dangerous snare that will entrap all those who live on the earth in the time of the end.
Could God be measuring your life now? This is a moment of crisis that can bring clarity and purpose. Use it wisely. Do not let yourself be caught unaware when the next crisis looms!