Signs of the Times
We must understand that the Bible does not designate calamities and disasters such as plagues, earthquakes, wars or rumors of wars as THE sign of the end of the world or return of Christ. No, they are not.
What does the Bible tell us then about these catastrophes and unfortunate events? Well, Jesus Himself tells us that these "are merely the beginning of birth pangs."
"And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, BUT THE END IS NOT YET. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are but the beginning of the birth pains" (Matt. 24:6-8, emphasis mine).
Many of us are tired of hearing "prophets" and preachers of doom who associate the return of Christ or the end of the world with this pandemic or that war scaring and manipulating people to turn to Christ with this fire exit method of evangelism.
People may falsely turn to Christ because of fear of these things hoping they could escape death or judgment. But that is not the biblical way of turning people from their pitiable sinful condition to Christ. The preaching of the good news is the means.
The preaching of the gospel that truly saves is the proclamation of Christ Himself, His person as the Son of God, who became man by the power of the Spirit and born of the virgin Mary.
The same Christ who is the God-man suffered and died and was buried. He did suffer and die for the sake of and in place of His people on account of their sin, according to the Bible (cf. Matt. 1:21; 1 Cor. 15:3).
Christ Jesus, however, did not remain in the grave. In three days He rose again from the dead according to Scriptures (1 Cor. 15:4). He ascended to heaven and is now seated at God's right hand reigning all over the universe and the nations of the earth.
He shall come again, according to His promise, to judge the wicked and unrepentant and to bring His people with Him into His glorious presence, our eternal home (John 14:1-3; Rev. 21-22).
This is the good news that everyone must believe from his heart and confess with his mouth in order to be saved (cf. Rom. 10:8-10). In the person and work of Christ lie our comfort and hope in this life and the next.
So what about pandemic, plagues, wars, rumors of wars, earthquakes, and tsunami? What are these things then?
In the words of our Lord Jesus, these are but "the beginning of birth pangs" (Matt. 24:8). The apostle Paul has an equivalent notion of these things when he said, "the whole creation... groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to present moment" (Rom. 8:22).
"Earthquakes frequently occur in the Old Testament as a signal of God's direct working in history (Judg. 5:4-5; Psa. 18:7; 68:8; Isa. 24:19; 29:6; 64:1)."
Additionally, "These signs of plagues and famines are also evident in the preceding history of the Lord's dealings with the nations in general and Israel in particular (Exod. 7-11; Deut. 28:15ff; Jer. 15:2; Ezek. 5:16-17; 14:13). None of these signs, therefore, is new. They continue what might almost be termed a pattern of the Lord's dealings with the nations.
"This pattern indicates the presence of the Lord in history judging the sinful rebellion of the nations and his own people. These judgments do not imply that all who suffer them are personally guilty and the special objects of God's wrath (Luke 13:43)."
Furthermore, "They illustrate that the world still lies under the curse of God's wrath (Gen. 3:17) and remind us that the wrath of God continues to be revealed from heaven against all the ungodliness and wickedness of men" (Rom. 1:18).
"As signs of God's just displeasure with the sinfulness of the nations, they prefigure and anticipate the great day of judgment to come, when the justice of God will be manifested in the judgment exercised by Christ (Acts 17:31). As such they are a continual reminder that the judge is at the door (James 5:9)" (Cornelis P. Venema, "Christ and the Future: The Bible's Teaching About the Last Things," 86-87).
We should know, however, that there is now no condemnation for believers, those who are in Christ by grace through faith. Christ already took the wrath of God for us and suffered in our behalf. No future judgment awaits God's children.
We may suffer death caused by earthquakes or calamities. All kinds of misfortunes may fall upon God's children in His providence. But those are not punishment for them due to their sin. In life or in death we are the Lord's. We are in His good hands. In His providence, God may send calamities or suffering in our midst not to punish us or destroy our faith. Rather, they come to us from the Lord's fatherly hand for our sanctification and perseverance in the faith.
Pandemic and plagues claim many lives, including believers' lives. Earthquakes may continue to occur. Death and damages may accompany them. The truth still remains. They are not the signs of the end. "They are, rather, one clear body of evidence for [the presence of God's kingdom and its] eventual triumph" (Cornelis P. Venema, "Christ and the Future," 88).