Theologian John Piper has offered Christians four ways they can biblically understand the coronavirus, which has infected about 87,000 so far and killed more than 3,000 people.
The family of viruses known as coronaviruses infects mostly bats, pigs and small mammals, but they mutate easily and can jump from animals to humans, and from one human to another, as The Wall Street Journal explained recently, adding that the mortality rate has ranged between 2 percent and about 3.4 percent as of now.
More than 50 countries have reported cases of coronavirus and the World Health Organization has upgraded the global risk of the outbreak to “very high.” Amid the outbreak, Piper said in his “Ask Pastor John” podcast that the coronavirus, which originated in China last year, is not stronger than Jesus.
“Jesus has all knowledge and all authority over the natural and supernatural forces of this world. He knows exactly where the virus started, and where it’s going next. He has complete power to restrain it or not,” he said.
He shared four biblical realities that could be used as building blocks in developing an understanding and making sense of it.
1. Sin subjected the world to futility
Quoting Romans 8:20–23, Piper pointed out that when sin entered the world through Adam and Eve, “God ordained that the created order, including our physical bodies, as persons created in His image, would experience corruption and futility, and that all living things would die.”
However, Christians, who trust Christ, do not experience this corruption as condemnation, as their “pain for us is purifying, not punitive.”
“We die of disease like all men, not necessarily because of any particular sin … We die of disease like all people because of the fall,” he explained.
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2. Sometimes sickness is God’s mercy
Some Christians can die of illnesses “so that we may not be condemned along with the world,” Piper said.
The pastor said his view is based on 1 Corinthians 11:29–32, which deals with misusing the Lord’s Supper. “But the principle is broader,” he underlined.
“The Lord Jesus takes the life of His loved ones through weakness and illness — the very same words, by the way, used to describe the weaknesses and illnesses that Jesus heals in His earthly life (Matthew 4:23; 8:17; 14:14) — and brings them to Heaven. He brings them to Heaven because of the trajectory of their sin that he was cutting off and saving them from — not to punish them, but to save them,” he explained.
3. Sickness could come as judgment
“God sometimes uses disease to bring particular judgments upon those who reject him and give themselves over to sin,” Piper said.
Referring to Acts 12, the pastor cited the example of King Herod who exalted himself in being called a god. “Immediately an angel of the Lord struck him down, because he did not give God the glory, and he was eaten by worms and breathed his last.”
He said God can and does use illnesses to bring judgment sometimes upon those who reject Him and His way.
4. God’s thunderclap
Quoting Luke 13:1–5, Piper said all natural disasters are a “thunderclap of divine mercy in the midst of judgment, calling all people everywhere to repent and realign their lives, by grace, with the infinite worth of the glory of God.”
He concluded that “that’s the message of Jesus to the world at this moment in history, under the coronavirus — a message to every single human being, … saying, “Repent.”