It was my intention to write about a Psalm, to bring comfort and encouragement. That is what we want and need in times of crises; to know that God is near and that He is protecting and keeping us. Fallen humanity also wants to know that everything will turn out alright in the end, but theirs is a false hope that will lead to great disappointment. However, I decided to address other matters first, and God willing, we will look at Psalm 91 next week. Viewed from a worldly perspective, we are going into a very uncertain future, and we are going to learn and understand what Timothy’s “perilous times” means. This present trouble is going to lead into bigger trouble. The world has entered a chosen path which is wide, and trajectory of deception that will lead to hell on earth. There will be no going back.
Many will no doubt be both pleased and relieved at the government’s decision to lock-down Britain. Society is out of control, so [martial] law must be imposed to control the situation. We have lost the liberty to think our own thoughts and to speak our own minds. Now we have lost the freedom of movement. The concept and practice of open borders has gone as national borders are closed, and as we lock ourselves in, while locking others out. Oh, but its temporary! we say. That is not necessarily so. The freedoms we have lost already are not temporary. Our individual liberties have eroded and are continuing to do so. Now, if I want to go out of my house, I have to think first – do I have a legitimate reason for doing so? Will I be arrested by the police and fined? Instead of churches being opened, and filled with people crying out to God for mercy, in a time that is seen by the authorities to be one of great danger to human life, the churches are closed. Groups of no more than two can meet together, unless it’s your own family. It’s all okay, we can come up with innovative ways to survive and to live our lives as normally as possible. That is what the slaves did, and still do; it is what people in repressive regimes do. The decision to lock-down the nation spiritually can never be achieved. Places like China prove that. When I write I speak about “Godless” China, China actually has many millions of Christians worshipping and living out their faith. They are innovative in living with open hearts towards God in a closed society. We are temporarily stripped of the trappings of religion. Perhaps the Lord is being innovative, and is using this situation to reveal the true heart of the nations that are in lock-down. He knows that the heart of man is deceitful above all things (Jeremiah 17:9). Jesus did not entrust Himself to the people because of what was in each person (John 2:25). In our self-righteousness, we think it is God’s heart that is deceitfully wicked – Why did God let this happen? If He is a God of love, why did He let my son die? Perhaps our journey is one of being given over to our hardened hearts. Perhaps we are being given over to our own understanding. Perhaps life in the lock-down nations will never be the same again. Will we defeat the enemy virus, or will it be used to defeat us and to rob us of our souls? The thief comes only in order to steal, and kill and destroy (John 10:10).
We have surrendered our freedoms en-masse, without hardly a word of protest. One voice of protest was raised in a letter to The Times. A top vet by the name of Dick Sibley, challenged the findings of the Imperial College of Scientists. He said that his heart sank when he learned they were advising the Government, and called them a ‘team of doom-mongers.’ He said that their advice on the 2001 foot-and-mouth outbreak ‘led to what I believe to be the unnecessary slaughter of millions of healthy cattle and sheep’ until they were overruled by the then Chief Scientific Adviser, Sir David King. A knowledgeable doctor writing for Private Eye under the pseudonym ‘MD’ said at the beginning of this panic, that: ‘In the winter of 2017-18, more than 50,000 excess deaths occurred in England and Wales, largely unnoticed.’ About 1,600 people die every day in the UK for one reason or another. Bird flu didn’t kill the predicted millions in 1997. In 1999 it was Mad Cow Disease and its human variant, vCJD, which was predicted to kill half a million. In fact, in the UK, fewer than 200 died from it. The first Sars outbreak of 2003 was reported as having ‘a 25 per cent chance of killing tens of millions’ and being ‘worse than Aids’. In 2006, another bout of bird flu was declared ‘the first pandemic of the 21st Century’. There were similar warnings in 2009, that swine flu could kill 65,000, but it didn’t. The Council of Europe described the hyping of the 2009 pandemic as ‘one of the great medical scandals of the century’. Questions are being asked in Israel where the debate is intensive. There is opposition to the kind of draconian measures that have been taken here; so, fear is the focus by Israel’s Prime Minister as he announces “One million will be infected, and 10,000 will be killed by the virus by the end of April”. Magefa is the Hebrew word for epidemic, and is often translated as plague in English bibles. The word is found in Numbers, and in 2 Samuel amongst other places. Magefa is also linked to ‘virus’, and ‘stumbling block’ (Romans 9:32; 1 Corinthians 1:23; 1 Peter 2:7). The truth about COVID-19 will eventually come out. Will the world face an economic crash that will lead to our lives being greatly impoverished, as well as the spiritual and moral impoverishment the world is slipping into? Freedoms will certainly be lost forever, and changes to life and society in general. The approaching panic might be much greater than the pandemic, and anything the virus situation has caused.
There are complaints, and the blame-game that the lock-down is the millennial’s fault; and the millennials blame the elderly for using up resources and robbing them of a future. What does God think? What is He saying to His world? Do we even care? We are concerned for our loved ones. Do we think God isn’t concerned for His Creation and His creatures?
We have sat amazed as we watched TV News revealing the panic buying, and NHS workers crowded out from the time-slot allotted to them by supermarkets to do their shopping. People take advantage not giving nurses and doctors a chance, while they work tirelessly and unselfishly to give us a chance. Our greed is so selfish and all-consuming. It brings home to us again the condition of our hearts before God. How the rich nations have grabbed all they can and have left other nations in poverty, with little to survive on; where people struggle to live day by day, and where disease takes sons and daughter, parents and grandparents on an hour by hour basis. Can’t they be innovative like us? We want to get back to life as normal. What does God want?
Fear is a weapon of warfare. Fear and insecurity rob us of our ability to think rationally and to be rational. We will do things out of fear that we would never do if we were in our right minds. We need global co-operation and a global answer, is the mantra. The spirit of fear is of the world; it is not of God. We should move from fear to faith. “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7); therefore, we should use the sound mind that God has given, and not be controlled by the spirit of this world – fear. A world that has moved from a position of reason to one of fear. The world needs to come together to fight this common enemy – Such are the sentiments of many. There was a song by Tennessee Ernie Ford when I was young, with the lyrics, “One fist of iron, the other of steal; if the right one don’t a-get you then the left one will.”[i] We had a long battle with Brexit and finally thought we were free of the EU. Now our civil and personal liberties are being swallowed-up by a bug. In 2008, former President Obama’s Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel stated: “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste.” Today’s global crises will have repercussions that reach far beyond intensive care units and respirators. The Russian dictator Joseph Stalin once said: “Crisis alone permitted the authorities to demand – and obtain – total submission and all necessary sacrifices from its citizens.” With the health scare looming so large in news reports, we hear very little about the dire news coming from the stock markets and the money exchanges. The wealth that should pay our pensions is shrivelling as share values fade and fall. The developing financial situation is at least as dire for the planet as the health issues. The pound sterling has lost a huge part of its value. The tax-payer will pay dear when the time is right. All the measures Government has taken will come at a great cost to the citizens of this nation. The song I mentioned also addresses St Peter. The person is so deep in debt he cries out, “St Peter, don’t you call me, cos I can’t go. I owe my soul to the company store.” The battle for our souls is intense. So often in Scripture we find the words, “Fear not.” So many examples are there in history to warn us of the possible consequences of our actions in the kind of predicament we now face. In Rome, the Republic was ruled by six-hundred senators. Then there was an attack, so they created an emergency one-year position called a “dictator.” After the year of crisis was over, the Republic went back to life as usual, except – Julius Caesar took the unprecedented step of making himself dictator for life. There are examples in Scripture too. A crises or attack can be natural, or a need can be created and filled by individuals or nations, what we call “Machiavellianism.” Discernment of our situation today is important. If we simply run with the crowd from a spirit of fear, we too will run over the cliff with everyone else. Tactics can come into play, for instance, that of “gaining the moral high ground.” In this particular move, those concentrating power need the public to perceive them as having superior altruistic motives, while at the same time, they must portray anyone voicing concern over potential unconstitutional power grabs as having irresponsible, selfish motives. Healthcare crises can be particularly opportune times to demand citizens give up rights, as anyone voicing concern can be maligned as uncaring. Anyone meeting in a crowd of more than two, is a danger to society. Anyone refusing to be locked-in is dangerous and self-deluded. The photos and reports about the Underground are somewhat misleading, as they are operating a reduced service, and so commuters are having to cram into fewer trains. An appeal was made to Transport for London to change this. The argument for change is that there should be a proper service on the Underground so that key workers could get to the hospitals and other workplaces where they were needed. Mayor Sadiq Khan wasn’t actually named, but the implication was that the strategic head of the capital's transport network had made a mistake. Khan argued that the lack of service is due to staff sickness and self-isolation. The potential for change on a global scale is written into the DNA of such a crisis as this. In what way our liberties will be abused long-term remains to be seen. While most MPs have been unquestioning in their support of the measures taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19, two MPs have been courageous enough to question and challenge those measures, David Davis and Chris Bryant. One commentator has said: “All the crudest weapons of despotism, the curfew, the presumption of guilt and the power of arbitrary arrest, are taking shape in the midst of what used to be a free country. And we, who like to boast of how calm we are in a crisis, seem to despise our ancient hard-bought freedom and actually want to rush into the warm, firm arms of Big Brother.” He is referring to the State. If we think of Big Brother from a biblical perspective, we are thinking of none other than the Antichrist. He is still to be revealed (2 Thessalonians 2:1-4).
My father-in-law died from flu some years ago, and his father died of the 1917 flu outbreak. Every year there are many deaths, especially among the old, from complications of flu leading to pneumonia averaging 17,000 deaths a year in England alone. Some years there are less deaths that are flu-related, other years there are more. There were 1,692 deaths in 2018/19, and 28,330 deaths in 2014/15. Many of those that died had other, underlying health issues, just as with COVID-19.
On 26th March, reported deaths by Coronavirus globally are said to be more than 21,000. Another figure given on the 25th was 16,563. As of 9am on 25 March 2020, a total of 97,019 people had been tested in the UK, of which 87,490 were confirmed negative and 9,529 were confirmed positive. 463 patients in the UK who tested positive for coronavirus (COVID-19) have died (25.03.2020).
John Ioannidis, Professor of Medicine, of epidemiology and population health, of biomedical data science, and of statistics at Stanford University in California, has said that the data is utterly unreliable because so many cases are going unrecorded. He warns: ‘This evidence fiasco creates tremendous uncertainty about the risk of dying from Covid-19. Reported case fatality rates, like the official 3.4 per cent rate from the World Health Organisation, cause horror and are meaningless.’ In only one place – aboard the cruise ship Diamond Princess – has an entire closed community been available for study. And the death rate there – just one per cent – is distorted because so many of those aboard were elderly. The real rate, adjusted for a wide age range, could be as low as 0.05 per cent and as high as one per cent.
Prof Ioannidis commenting, said: ‘That huge range markedly affects how severe the pandemic is and what should be done. A population-wide case fatality rate of 0.05 per cent is lower than seasonal influenza. If that is the true rate, locking down the world with potentially tremendous social and financial consequences may be totally irrational. It’s like an elephant being attacked by a house cat. Frustrated and trying to avoid the cat, the elephant accidentally jumps off a cliff and dies.’
Come Lord Jesus
Even so, come, Lord Jesus (Revelation 22:20), are words that are sung with great passion. The Spirit and the Bride say “come” (v.17). Many expect Jesus to come at any moment. Every generation should live and be ready for the Lord’s return, but that doesn’t mean we should expect Him to come at any moment. We must be faithful in trusting His word, and in His word, He has given the signs of His coming. Until those signs are fulfilled, He will not come. Jesus gave an explanation in Matthew 24, and clarifies it further in the Book of Revelation. Perilous times are coming, and we will not be whisked away to Paradise Island. Christians will be hated by all nations. Trust God, and trust His word.
Signs of His coming
The first sign in Matthew is: Wars; famines; earthquakes. Birth pains speaking of something new that is yet to come, a new world, a new creation. He warned against deception, both in the Church and in the world. False Messiah’s. These signs have been happening since the Spirit was poured out at Pentecost, when the Last Days began.
The second sign: The Church will face persecution and we will be hated in every nation. Apostacy – The love of most will grow cold, and they leave the Church. With a reduced Church under persecution, the Gospel will be preached to every ethnic group. There will be false prophets. We are beginning to see these signs.
The third sign: There will be distress in Jerusalem, where the Abomination of Desolation spoken by Daniel will take place. A man sets himself up as God in the City of God. The time of the world dictator is to come, and the Man of Lawlessness, the Antichrist will be revealed. There will be great distress unequalled from the beginning of the world until now. There will be false Christs and false prophets, all together. There will be rumours, but Christ has not come back as the rumours claim. (Notice also that the Christians have not yet gone – they have not been raptured). These signs are not evident yet.
The fourth sign of His coming will follow immediately after the distress of those days. The sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light. The stars will fall and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.
At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky.
Jesus gives reassurance and comfort: “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).
Blessings and shalom,