A-1 - Encouraged by What You Read?

I have been bombarded with questions about the COVID-19 outbreak on my social media pages and at my speaking events. Before you presume that I am being reckless about the latter, I am presently doing my speaking events via Zoom. Last week, I spoke to audiences in Adelaide, Australia, and St. Louis using this technology. This past Sunday, I taught my Paradoxes class with not only me but everyone in the class participating from the comfort of their homes via their computer or smart device. (Incidentally, all are welcome to participate and ask questions live on Sundays at 11:00 AM PT at paradoxes.org.)

The two most frequent questions I have been asked about the COVID-19 virus are (1) Is this viral pandemic the plague in Revelation 6 that John prophesied would impact much of the human race during the last days? and (2) Why would an all-powerful, all-loving God create a world in which viruses exist? In this blog I will answer the first question. In next week’s blog I will answer the second question.

The Revelation 6 Plague
Revelation is a difficult book to understand and interpret. I offer that caveat as I give my explanation, which assumes that the apocalypse is a future event and the numbers are literal. The plague in Revelation 6 is part of the four horsemen of the apocalypse. These four are “given power over a fourth of the earth to kill by sword, famine, and plague, and by the wild beasts of the earth” (Revelation 6:8). Presently, a fourth of the earth’s population would add up to 1.943 billion people.1

The worst-case death toll scenario calculated by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for COVID-19 is 0.2–1.7 million in the United States, or 0.06–0.5 percent of the total US population.2 This scenario, however, presumes that the federal and state governments do nothing to restrain the spread of the virus, or that the American public as a whole does little or nothing to obey government and health organization recommendations.

Over a week has passed since the CDC published its worst-case scenario. The presumptions on which the scenario was based have proven incorrect. The US governments and the American public are both taking aggressive actions to mitigate the spread of the virus. If such actions are sustained, the death toll will be at least ten times to as much as a hundred times lower.

This probable death toll assumes that there will be no further significant mutations in the COVID-19 virus. It’s a reasonable assumption given that the nations of the world continue to take mitigation efforts seriously. However, viruses being viruses, one can never be certain.

Even the probable case scenario is tragic. We who are Christians need to be ready to show compassion and mercy and provide help whenever and wherever needed. I am persuaded that this empathy and service includes reassuring people that this virus is not one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse. The numbers in any scenario fall far short of what is predicted in Revelation 6. Furthermore, we presently are not seeing the other biblical signs indicative that the apocalypse has arrived.3

Normative Frequency of Pandemics
The last time that a viral pandemic occurred was in 1918–19. The Spanish flu, as it was called, killed an estimated 50 million people worldwide and 675,000 in the United States. These numbers translate into 3 percent of the world’s population and 0.64 percent of the US population.

Pandemics of this nature have occurred throughout human history at a rate of about one or two per century. Hence, it is not unusual that we are experiencing a pandemic now. Given that killer coronaviruses are most easily germinated by dense human populations coming into contact with dense animal populations, it is nothing short of miraculous that, in the present context of dense world populations of both, we have not had a coronavirus pandemic any earlier than now. Nevertheless, there is much we can learn from the current outbreak that can help forestall and mitigate future pandemics. Along with scientific and medical learning, we can apply what we already know as creatures made in God’s image. We can help and encourage anyone we know who is affected by the virus in any way.

Check out more from Reasons to Believe @Reasons.org

  1. Worldometer: Population (March 17, 2020), https://www.worldometers.info/world-population/.
  2. CBS Los Angeles, “Report: CDC Models Show Potentially Large Death Toll from Coronavirus, but Latest Interventions Could Slow Spread,” (March 13, 2020), https://losangeles.cbslocal.com/2020/03/13/coronavirus-worst-case-scenario/.
  3. Matthew 24:1–41, Mark 13:1–36, Luke 21:7–36, Revelation 6:1–17.


About The Author

Dr. Hugh Ross

Reasons to Believe emerged from my passion to research, develop, and proclaim the most powerful new reasons to believe in Christ as Creator, Lord, and Savior and to use those new reasons to reach people for Christ. I also am eager to equip Christians to engage, rather than withdraw from or attack, educated non-Christians. One of the approaches I’ve developed, with the help of my RTB colleagues, is a biblical creation model that is testable, falsifiable, and predictive. I enjoy constructively integrating all 66 books of the Bible with all the science disciplines as a way to discover and apply deeper truths. 1 Peter 3:15–16 sets my ministry goal, "Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience." Hugh Ross launched his career at age seven when he went to the library to find out why stars are hot. Physics and astronomy captured his curiosity and never let go. At age seventeen he became the youngest person ever to serve as director of observations for Vancouver's Royal Astronomical Society. With the help of a provincial scholarship and a National Research Council (NRC) of Canada fellowship, he completed his undergraduate degree in physics (University of British Columbia) and graduate degrees in astronomy (University of Toronto). The NRC also sent him to the United States for postdoctoral studies. At Caltech he researched quasi-stellar objects, or "quasars," some of the most distant and ancient objects in the universe. Not all of Hugh's discoveries involved astrophysics. Prompted by curiosity, he studied the world’s religions and "holy books" and found only one book that proved scientifically and historically accurate: the Bible. Hugh started at religious "ground zero" and through scientific and historical reality-testing became convinced that the Bible is truly the Word of God! When he went on to describe for others his journey to faith in Jesus Christ, he was surprised to discover how many people believed or disbelieved without checking the evidence. Hugh's unshakable confidence that God's revelations in Scripture and nature do not, will not, and cannot contradict became his unique message. Wholeheartedly encouraged by family and friends, communicating that message as broadly and clearly as possible became his mission. Thus, in 1986, he founded science-faith think tank Reasons to Believe (RTB). He and his colleagues at RTB keep tabs on the frontiers of research to share with scientists and nonscientists alike the thrilling news of what's being discovered and how it connects with biblical theology. In this realm, he has written many books, including: The Fingerprint of God, The Creator and the Cosmos, Beyond the Cosmos, A Matter of Days, Creation as Science, Why the Universe Is the Way It Is, and More Than a Theory. Between writing books and articles, recording podcasts, and taking interviews, Hugh travels the world challenging students and faculty, churches and professional groups, to consider what they believe and why. He presents a persuasive case for Christianity without applying pressure. Because he treats people's questions and comments with respect, he is in great demand as a speaker and as a talk-radio and television guest. Having grown up amid the splendor of Canada's mountains, wildlife, and waterways, Hugh loves the outdoors. Hiking, trail running, and photography are among his favorite recreational pursuits - in addition to stargazing. Hugh lives in Southern California with his wife, Kathy, and two sons.

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