Any large-scale phenomenon, such as a pandemic, activates our instinct to preserve our state of being—especially when we feel like we are losing it.
I suggest that together we should build a perspective that, on the one hand, keeps us calm, confident, and active in the face of challenge and disaster, and on the other hand, a perspective that bears in mind the transient world we live in, whose history, we must not forget, can end at any time.
Looking at what Jesus told us about the end of the world (eschaton), we notice three things:
1. Military conflicts, natural calamities, disease, and pseudo-religion will accompany the Christian era from the ascension of Jesus to His return (Luke 21:8-11). That is why it is not possible to say that a certain disease, a certain war, a certain earthquake is the final strike of the world’s clock. These things will be repeated. At the same time, this repeatability will still come as a surprise. As these things increase day by day, there will be a war, an earthquake, a virus, and many will say, “It’s just another one.” However, one day the last calamity will arrive. It will not be the last because the predictors of the apocalypse were finally right, but by coincidence. The most important piece of advice in this context would be to accept the challenge we face (such as the one we are facing in the new coronavirus pandemic), and to reflect more seriously and more often on the fact that our world is really passing.
2. This apparent game of Russian roulette brings us to the second aspect I want to emphasize, namely, the only clue that really matters in terms of the end time. Jesus says that the end will come only after the Christian gospel has reached all people (Matthew 24:14). Humanity will be tested for its faithfulness to God, and this can only be done knowingly. In pandemic contexts, Christians should be more concerned with filling the void—where the gospel has not been preached in the world—than with false, apocalyptic alarms.
3. The third thing is that Jesus tells us is that we are well into the end (Matthew 10:23; 16:27-28; 24:34; 26:64) and that it is not the business of the church or of any believer to “count the days” (Acts 1:6-7). In a sense, today’s calamities are no more of a foreshadowing than they were in Jesus’ generation. On the contrary, the postponement of the end time comes as God’s decision to prolong the possibility of transforming our lives (2 Peter 3: 9). This means that we are living on borrowed time in the history of the universe.
In conclusion, in accordance with what Christ taught us, a pandemic like the one we are now experiencing provokes us to a new process of thinking, and reflection on the fragility of our world. It also urges us to take responsibility for proclaiming the gospel and letting our own lives be changed by God. The real stake in humanity’s survival is, ultimately, spiritual.
Laurenţiu-Florentin Moţ, PhD, is associate professor and rector of Adventus University.