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;
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
It was an attitude of shallow and unwarranted
Reasons for Revival
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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
- Cholera has lately grown into widespread epidemics in both India
- Diphtheria in Russia is growing again due to poor sanitation and
shortages of vaccines.
- 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.
- 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
There seem to be three main reasons for the revival of ancient
diseases and the birth of new ones in the world today:
God Controls Plague, Pestilence, and Disease
- 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.
- The increase in travel provides
the potential for passing on diseases.
- 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.
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.
- When Pharaoh refused to let Israel go, the hand
of the LORD brought a terrible plague on the livestock of Egypt (Exo
- When God was angry with the report of the
unfaithful spies who went into the land of Canaan, then He threatened to strike
down all Israel with a plague and make a new nation from Moses alone (Num
14:12), a threat which Moses -- acting as a mediator -- turned
- And when Israel turned its back on God,
then He sent against them His "four dreadful judgments -- sword and famine and
wild beasts and plague" (Eze 14:21).
Disease and world history
Great plagues have often affected world history.
Other "plagues" of the Last Days
- Influenza was a grievous plague for the large
and growing cities at the beginning of the 20th century. A world war that had
thrown millions together in awful squalor and the increasingly rapid movement of
humans to all parts of the earth, together with an ancient malady of farm
animals, all came together at the right -- or wrong! -- time. Various sorts of
"flu" had been around for thousands of years. But it took the end of World War
I, in the spring of 1918, for the pandemic to erupt. In scarcely 18 months over
59 million perished, more than three times the toll of the Great War
- In the 18th and 19th centuries
civilizations were devastated by the dreaded silent killer consumption, or
tuberculosis. The reason: Many lived in filthy, overcrowded, damp conditions
with poor air circulation. This was a fertile breeding ground for the chronic
- Major plagues are largely
related to lifestyle issues. This was clearly the case when Columbus and his men
returned from the New World with a New World venereal disease, syphilis. There
it had been somewhat dormant and held in microbial balance, but when introduced
to a Europe emerging from the ravages of the Middle Ages, it spread insidiously.
In the beginning, syphilis infected the promiscuous from all walks of life. The
introduction of syphilis into Europe was a biological swap with the American
Indians for the smallpox virus. It is estimated that the "Great Dying" killed
over 100 million in less than 100 years. The epidemic destroyed the Aztec and
Incan cultures and created a wild, random dispersion of remaining natives.
- But all biological and viral disasters
throughout history are dwarfed by the bubonic plague. Historians speculate that
the main bacteria originated in Mongolia among rodents. Traveling Mongol traders
carried the disease to India and China. From there it spread through a Europe
primed for disaster by the stresses of population and overcrowding in squalid
living conditions. Over a 300-year period, one half of the total population died
in generational cycles. Several Biblical "plagues" bear a remarkable resemblance
to the bubonic plague.
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:
- The accessibility of nuclear materials in the
third world, among Muslim nations and others, continues to grow as the old USSR
continues to crumble.
- Radioactive nuclear wastes
are stored in fragile environments throughout the world, where leakage due to
container defects or natural phenomena (ie, earthquakes, volcanoes) could lead
to cataclysmic natural disasters.
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;
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).