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Bible Articles and Lessons: P-Q

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Plague, pestilence, and disease in the Last Days

The Bible has much to say about plagues and diseases in the Last Days. Just a few examples:

* Against Israel:
"I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt so that you would no longer be slaves to the Egyptians... But if you will not listen to me and carry out all these commands... I will bring upon you sudden terror, wasting diseases and fever that will destroy your sight and drain away your life... If you remain hostile toward me and refuse to listen to me, I will multiply your afflictions seven times over, as your sins deserve... If in spite of these things you do not accept my correction but continue to be hostile toward me... I will bring the sword upon you to avenge the breaking of the covenant. When you withdraw into your cities, I will send a plague among you, and you will be given into enemy hands" (Lev 26:13-25).
* Against the great enemy of Israel:
"I will execute judgment upon him with plague and bloodshed; I will pour down torrents of rain, hailstones and burning sulfur on him and on his troops and on the many nations with him" (Eze 38:22).
* Indeed, against all the enemies of Israel:
"This is the plague with which the LORD will strike all the nations that fought against Jerusalem: Their flesh will rot while they are still standing on their feet, their eyes will rot in their sockets, and their tongues will rot in their mouths" (Zec 14:12).
Jesus, in his Olivet prophecy, speaks of "great earthquakes, famines and pestilences in various places" (Luke 21:7-11). His words are echoed in the further prophecy of the Last Days which he gives to John (Rev 6:7,8; 16:8,9).

Diseases, Diseases Everywhere!

These days, there are rapidly appearing new strains of viruses and bacteria with previously unknown characteristics. Medical researchers had thought that most of the infectious diseases of mankind were now behind them. Most were treatable with the ever-growing arsenals of antibiotic compounds, or with vaccines which had been ingeniously contrived to prevent or cure them with great efficiency. Medical students in the 1960s were advised to avoid specializing in communicable diseases, for soon they would be a thing of the past.

It was an attitude of shallow and unwarranted arrogance.

  1. Tuberculosis, long the scourge of man, was almost a thing of the past by 1980; now, new and highly-resistant strains of the disease are ravaging certain prison and medical populations.
  2. AIDS is a disease caused by a virus that attacks the human immune system. It is transmitted by sexual contact, through almost all body fluids and blood products, and through shared hypodermic needles. It has sprung forth from nowhere during the past 15 years. Over 17 million people are infected worldwide, and no cure is anywhere in sight.
  3. Necrotizing fasciitis is brought about by a mutated streptococcus, the so-called "flesh-eating bacteria". Early and positive treatment within the first few hours may save a patient from its wildfire spread.
  4. A virus know only as X arose from the primeval rain forests of southern Sudan in 1993, killed thousands of people, and then disappeared. Nobody knows when or where it may reappear nor how to treat it if it does return. The Ebola virus of Africa is being nervously monitored by scientists concerned with its virulence and lethality.
  5. Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome was discovered and described in the US in 1993, only two years ago. It is a rodent-borne virus spread through droppings, saliva and urine. It is especially lethal; out of 99 cases, 53 have ended in death.
  6. The so-called Legionnaires' disease regularly threatens collections of people exposed to conditioned air under certain circumstances, eg, as when confined in the close quarters of a cruise ship -- or a convention.
  7. Cholera has lately grown into widespread epidemics in both India and Russia.
  8. Diphtheria in Russia is growing again due to poor sanitation and shortages of vaccines.
  9. Malaria, caused by protozoans injected into the blood stream by the bite of certain mosquitoes, was long ago wiped out in the US. But it still causes one million deaths worldwide each year.
  10. Smallpox, thought to have been defeated worldwide in the past few decades, presently exists only as a purposefully-maintained viral culture at sites such as the Center for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. Debate rages over whether to kill it off and have done with smallpox forever or keep it as a "museum piece" for future medical observation. As long as it exists anywhere in the world, it has to potential to be used in a terribly lethal form of "germ warfare".
Reasons for Revival

There seem to be three main reasons for the revival of ancient diseases and the birth of new ones in the world today:

  1. Cities are expanding to cope with the 97 million annual increase in the world population, and many city inhabitants (particularly in the "third world") live in crowded and unsanitary conditions.
  2. The increase in travel provides the potential for passing on diseases.
  3. Excessive or incorrect use of drugs has encouraged bacteria to mutate and gain resistance. By a process of natural selection the stronger micro-organisms survive an unfinished course of antibiotics, and the next generation of organisms all become stronger, and possibly able to survive a full course of antibiotics. Antibiotic resistance has become widespread, and pharmaceutical companies are under mounting pressure to produce a new generation of drugs to combat infectious organisms. Some scientists fear that a crisis could occur unless urgent steps are taken to tackle the problem now.
God Controls Plague, Pestilence, and Disease

Modern medicine and science can do something to control some plagues and diseases. But the Bible teaches that the control of disease is truly the prerogative of God.

The pages of Scripture are filled with references to God's wrath manifested in plague, pestilence, and disease.

Disease and world history

Great plagues have often affected world history.

Other "plagues" of the Last Days

Other sorts of plagues and pestilences, threaten the modern world. The Tokyo subway nerve gas incident in April was masterminded by the cult leader Shoko Asahara, intent on precipitating his own personal Armageddon. Some experts speculate that the number of terrorist groups driven by religious zealotry will rise in the next few years, as a new millennium beckons. In addition to the well-publicized Islamic fundamentalists, Christian white supremacists (a la Oklahoma City) and messianic Jews (a la Baruch Goldstein in Hebron) pose growing threats. Nerve gases are readily available and easily manufactured. The United States is an especially fertile ground for strange millennial ideas -- and mad prophets. Names like Jim Jones and Charles Manson and David Koresh come to mind. In the future, other "false prophets" may find the means, through chemical or biological agents, to fulfill their own prophecies of doom and destruction for their enemies in the Last Days.

There are other environmental threats for the Last Days:

"Fear not!"

The fears of scientists and political observers are not unfounded, and there can be little doubt that the problems being experienced today are harbingers of much worse to come, for those due to experience the wrath of God.

But the servants of God need not fear. Those who trust in God will be protected, and/or certainly delivered from the terrible threats of the Last Days prophecies:
"He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty... Surely he will save you... from the deadly pestilence... You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday. A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you. You will only observe with your eyes and see the punishment of the wicked" (Psa 91:1-8; cp Eze 9:4-6; Rev 7:2,3; 8:7-9).
When God brought a plague on Korah and the rebels in the wilderness, Aaron the high priest of God took a censer and put incense in it (symbolizing the prayers of the saints: Psa 141:2; Rev 5:8; 8:3,4), ran into the midst of the assembly, and "stood between the living and the dead, and the plague stopped" (Num 16:46-48).

So, when fears about the plagues of the Last Days come upon us, we must remember our High Priest, Jesus Christ, who stands between the living and the dead and protects us!
"When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near... Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man" (Luke 21:28,36).
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