Not surprisingly many contend that the COVID19 (Coronavirus) outbreak is God’s judgment against various sins usually in the declarer’s country. I must respectfully, but to the strongest possible degree, disagree.
In almost 5 decades of preaching it’s not the first time I’ve heard this response to a disaster, emergency, or crisis. There are always those who view God through the lens of judgment but in doing so reveal a basic but vital misunderstanding of how God’s judgment and wrath work. The misunderstanding and misapplication fall along two broad fault lines.
First, believing judgment on a national level applies to those under the New Covenant of grace as it did in the Old Covenant. Generally, under the Old Covenant both judgment and salvation were experienced almost exclusively on a national level; i.e., God judged Egypt as a whole in freeing Israel, and the Old Testament prophets, generally, pronounced blessing or judgment and curse for or against Israel and other individual nations or groups as a whole. There were exceptions – such as when the prophet Nathan pronounced judgment on King David regarding the Bathsheba and Uriah incident (1 Sam. 11-12) and when David ordered a census (1 Chr. 21) – but generally judgment fell against the entire nation or group and the sin of one could impact all. Under New Covenant grace, however, in particular since Jesus’ resurrection, that order is at the very least reversed if not nullified in that judgment is pronounced on the individual not group. Just as one cannot receive Jesus for another, if under the grace of New Covenant anyone is judged for or pays for the sin of another then Jesus’ substitutionary sacrifice, His atonement on the cross, and His shed blood are called into question. This is a point to which examples of exceptions can be found and will likely be discussed, if not argued, until Jesus returns. The second misunderstanding, however, is less open to interpretation.
Under the Old Covenant when God judged the world His wrath was not poured out on His people and when He judged His people He did not strike the world. Again, when He judged Egypt scripture pointedly states four of the plagues (livestock dying, darkness, flies, and hail) did not occur in the land of Goshen where the Israelites lived. Further, when He sent the angel of death (a fifth plague) He gave specific instruction to His people of how to avoid that death in their homes. Many postulate that this implies, therefore, none of the plagues occurred in Goshen. Additionally, when He poured out His wrath destroying Sodom and Gomorrah the total number of “cities of the plain” was five with Admah, Zeboiim, and Zoar being the other three. Four of the five were destroyed by Father for their sin with Zoar being spared. If Father was that specific and pointed in His judgment and wrath under Old Covenant, then how under New Covenant grace do we dare believe He has become so carelessly indiscriminate... so reckless... with His judgment or wrath?
There are two covenants at work in the world (Old law and New grace) and every person is under one or the other but that does not mean He now either judges or saves in some “scatter gun fashion” nor does He cast His wrath to the four winds and let it fall where it may. Rather, He is even more surgically precise. In fact, the idea that He is judging against the sin of any one nation or specific group of nations by pouring out His wrath on all nations flies in the face of His justice and mercy found even under Old Testament law.
At this point many quote Matt. 5:45, ‘He sends rain and sun on the just and unjust’ as proof of Father’s judgment falling on all. In doing so they reveal their ignorance of the meaning and context of Jesus’ statement. Note: 43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, 45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” This has not one thing to do with judgment. Jesus' statement is that God is so loving, merciful, and full of grace that He blesses with rain for growing crops and sun for harvest not only the good and just but the evil unjust; and that we are to exhibit the same by loving, blessing, doing good, and praying for all. It is a statement of His goodness and blessing not judgment and wrath…Period!
How then can we know if something is Father’s judgment and wrath or something else? By knowing it by its fruit or works (Matt. 7:20, John 10:25).
If COVID19 was infecting only those who profess no faith in Jesus/God or those who actively work against Him, or if it was confined to one nation or group of nations, or if it was infecting only believers, then there would be a Biblically justifiable argument that the judgment and wrath of God were being poured out. That is not the case. This virus has attacked believer and unbeliever… faithful and faithless… good and evil… just and unjust alike. Therefore, this cannot be God’s surgical, precise judgment and wrath. It must be concluded this is either a result of the corruption of life in a fallen world, a direct assault of satan, or a combination of the two because of the impact of The Fall in Eden and because satan hates everyone. Jesus said it clearly in John 10:10, “The thief (satan) does not come except (for this purpose) to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they (the saved) might have life and that they may have it more abundantly.”
If a pandemic or anything else is indiscriminately stealing, killing, and destroying… it is not God… It is from satan and birthed of hell! Do not blame God for an act of His enemy and yours.
Mercy Strong/Grace Enough,
Pastor Michael Mann