Covid Anxiety, Climate Panic, and Apocalypse Phobia: Part 2

Johannes Pflaum

People’s growing perplexity in the face of current crises was prophesied by Christ Himself. It is intensifying as His second coming approaches. An investigation.

The labor pains that our Lord speaks of in His end-time discourses will accelerate and grow stronger (cf. Matt 24—25). This also increases fear and helplessness. Events will come that humanity will be utterly helpless to face. But this isn’t about nature or Mother Earth (“Gaia”) taking revenge on people. The Old Testament prophets and the book of Revelation show us that these occurrences originate with God—as a call to conversion for mankind! It’s a wake-up call and an announcement of what’s to come.

The messianic Psalm 2 speaks of the Lord terrifying the nations (v. 5). Isaiah 2:19 and other passages also mention this. There are pending tremors that will overturn every climate model and forecast. Dangerous viruses, pandemics, and other diseases can also occur completely unexpectedly (cf. Matt 24:7). If we read the book of Revelation, things are going to wind up being completely out of hand politically, economically, and in nature. Humanity will no longer be any match for this. The last world empire of the Antichrist, the supposed problem solver, will also be shaken to its foundations.

Against this backdrop, we read in Luke 21:25-26 of the fear and perplexity of the peoples in the face of the roar of the sea and its waves. The term for waves of water (salos) is only found in this one New Testament passage (as are four other terms in these two verses). It describes being tossed back and forth by ocean waves. This could even be fulfilled literally if we just consider the events of Revelation 6—16. But it’s also meant figuratively, showing the complete helplessness of the nations in the end. They will be shaken by the events like floating objects in the sea become the waves’ plaything. Gerhard Maier called it the shaking of the whole system of coexistence between peoples. The fear relates to actual, real events.

There is one more thing to consider. Just think of the already-forgotten topic of swine or avian flu, or currently, the coronavirus. I’m not downplaying these events; each death caused by these viruses is tragic, especially the ones resulting from Covid-19. The long-term consequences that some are having to bear after surviving the coronavirus can also be dire. However, it should be noted that despite all the hardship and suffering, some of the horrible calculations, death rates, and scenarios never materialized as predicted. Likewise, in the case of swine flu and avian flu, the fear of the threat was far greater than what ultimately happened. 

And yet, unfortunately, there still were and are nonsensical speculations and conspiracy theories among some Christians. For example, some are claiming that viruses (or their associated vaccines) are a means of reducing the world’s population and better controlling it. But, I have to mention that not everything branded a “conspiracy theory” by politicians and in the mainstream media actually is one. The club of “conspiracy theories” is unfortunately being used more and more to silence legitimate professional criticism of assessments and measures, particularly during this coronavirus pandemic.

Or consider the subject of ecological collapse. In the spring of 2007, a secret climate report hit the press, according to which we only had 13 years until collapse. Those 13 years expired nearly a year and a half ago (at the end of February 2020). Even if ecological problems increase and the forces of nature falter, we know for sure from the Bible that there will be no global climate collapse. This is our consolation and our confidence, especially in view of Covid anxiety and climate panic!

Let’s also remember the fear of a global nuclear war of annihilation during the Cold War. In some global political situations of the time, we came close to initiating a nuclear war (although the public only learned this in retrospect). But it never got that far. Today, the flood of digital information reinforces the constant fear, horror, and helplessness—whether or not the thing we fear actually happens. We see both: on the one hand, there is fear and impotence in the face of actual events that are increasingly shaking the nations, and Jesus’ second coming draws closer. But on the other hand, there is also fear and shock over scenarios that never actually occur.

The cosmic terrors of which Christ speaks in Luke 21:25ff., in which everything slips away from humanity and fear and horror spread, are not the end. They’re only the preface to a mighty event: Jesus’ visible return to this earth in power and glory. Yes, even we Bible-believing Christians can get scared sometimes, but we are walking toward the “great light” at the end of the tunnel. And we are walking in the knowledge that, at no time does Christ lose control of these frightful events. All the contractions that are shaking mankind in the end, creating fear and terror, are heralding Jesus’ second coming. After all the darkness of world history, His bright day will come. That is the only hope we have for our planet and for humanity.

Theologian Adolf Schlatter wrote: “The sea serves as a herald of the coming judgment with a mighty roar. But the peoples do not know what this roaring means, what it proclaims as it resounds over the earth. They only feel the majesty and dreadfulness of what is now approaching, but they do not know who is coming.”

Jesus Christ is coming again. He will put an end to all hardship, all the misery caused by sin and darkness. But He is also coming to judge a human race that remains hostile to God—hence, the pains and fears that precede His second coming (cf. Rev 6). If we were aware of this, the tremors and the associated fear would be an incentive for us: an incentive to pray that people will be saved and come to know Christ as their Savior; a driving force to bear witness to the gospel and support the spread of the Good News. We don’t have to get carried away by fear of the end of the world, like humanity detached from God. But we also don’t need to gloss over or downplay anything. Rather, in the midst of the age of fear, we should bear testimony of the living hope we possess. We should recognize these possibilities and take advantage of them. Just as the Apostle Peter wrote to the churches, “…sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear” (1 Pet 3:15, KJV).

Let’s be a testimony in word and in deed. Let’s meet people in love and help them in very practical ways, when everyone else is just looking out for themselves. Not with our heads in the clouds, thinking that everything will get better, and we can create the visible kingdom of God. But to be a sign of hope for what will come with Jesus’ return. The fear, anxiety, and helplessness that is surrounding us, should also encourage us to direct our lives toward the goal, toward the coming of our Lord. As followers of Jesus, we are also in danger of being gripped by the climate of fear and despair, of losing ourselves in things that are temporary.

A Christian’s path through this world can be very rocky and steep, but that’s never the final word. In the end, neither despair nor an imaginary, terrestrial “happy ending” awaits us, but perfection and visible communion with Jesus. Saved people, real Christians, never have their best days behind them, but before them—even if their path goes through the dark valley of tears and the shadow of death first. Our fleeting earth hasn’t had its best days since the Fall, but they’re still to come. This best time, the millennial kingdom, will begin tangibly with Jesus’ return and the associated judgment of humanity.

I’d like to close with verses from a song:

Jesus is coming! O sing the glad word!
Coming for those He redeemed by His blood,
Coming to reign as the glorified Lord!
Jesus is coming again!

Jesus is coming! The dead shall arise,
Loved ones shall meet in a joyful surprise,
Caught up together to Him in the skies
Jesus is coming again!

Jesus is coming! His saints to release;
Coming to give to the warring earth peace:
Sinning and sighing, and sorrow shall cease.
Jesus is coming again. 

Jesus is coming! The promise is true;
Who are the chosen, the faithful, the few,
Waiting and watching, prepared for review?
Jesus is coming again! 
-D. W. Whittle

Midnight Call - 07/2021

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