Eschatology in a Time of Pandemic

During the current COVID-19 crisis many Christians are giving new or renewed attention to Bible prophecy about last-day events. References to Matthew 24 are increasingly sprinkled across the internet. Adventists, who have historically developed an elaborate scenario of the End Times, also have had a tendency to look at current events from the lens of eschatology. And the less disciplined SDAs manage to always find a way to force-fit current events into that perspective.

But this pandemic is certainly not some tangential event that would just trigger fevered apocalyptic imaginings in unhinged believers. It is so significant that people who take the Bible seriously ought to consider whether this world-wide calamity is part of the Last Days. Is the Second Coming now on the horizon? It’s a fair question, but understandable fear and uncertainty in such momentous times can make it difficult to think through all of this slowly, and hopefully with balance.

The information Jesus gives in Matthew 24 is both specific and ambiguous. Wars, famine, earthquakes – these words have clear definitions. But how they fit together into the actual last-days scenario has produced a great amount of speculation and mistaken conclusions across the centuries. And, since serious examples of such calamities have occurred throughout history, it is understandable, though problematic, to look at some significant (let alone insignificant) world event while it is happening and correctly assess whether it has anything to do with what Jesus was talking about. Things look big in the moment when you are experiencing them. And we humans long for certainty and are easily frightened when a “normal” world comes under threat.

Consequently, I think there is a certain embarrassment among Christians who are literate enough to be aware of past incautious pronouncements. Within Adventism it’s almost a cottage industry to peddle eschatological nonsense. We all know the Aesop fable of “The Boy Who Cried Wolf.” We presumably wouldn’t want to make that mistake, and expose our Christian faith to deserved ridicule. And that’s good. But the flip side is to inappropriately pre-assign this significant world event into the “wolf-cry” category. So, what to do?

To begin with, let me state the obvious. This pandemic either: 1) is or, 2) is not something that fits into God’s actual pre-Second Coming sequence. But now let me ask: what difference does it make, to each of us, whether it is or is not?

So consider option #1 – that this event is indeed part of a rapid-moving end of the world. The Second Coming is really going to be soon. How would and should such knowledge affect you and change what you do in the next week, month, year – or whatever time is left? Now, the “Official Right Answer” is that Christians would then have joyful anticipation. Presumably like the SDA pioneers had just before their great disappointment in 1844. But frankly, I think reality is more complicated. Adventists, not to mention Christians more broadly, struggle with assurance of salvation. It’s a matter of both faith and theological understanding. We don’t have a punched ticket to Heaven tangibly in our hand. So if the Second Coming was imminent, I think many – perhaps most – believers would have a measure of anxiety. Am I saved? How will I feel at His appearing? If I’m frightened would that mean I’m lost? The issue of this potential angst does not necessarily indicate some Laodicean, too-late recognition that you blew your salvation. But an impending Second Coming event also means that everything we know and do – our normal lives – will shortly become irrelevant. All the context, familiarity and competence in how we now navigate reality – gets removed in a single stroke. And while we have been told this transition is from a bad situation to a wonderful one, and a visible Jesus would obviously validate the truth of that belief, it’s hard to imagine that such a momentous, shocking event would occur without a major jolt of multiple emotions, possibly including some fear. Well so what? God isn’t going to hang us out to dry if we are momentarily overwhelmed when experiencing the most astonishing event ever to happen to Planet Earth. So I don’t doubt that whatever range of feelings a believer might have during such a transitional event – it’s covered by God’s grace, and is not something to overly worry about.

But let’s step back further. Aside from some understandable personal dissonance that might accompany your thinking about such an event, why in general wouldn’t we want this current world to end? It’s again true that the “Official Right Answer” here is – “yes, we want Jesus to come and end our current world.” But, any personal ambiguity aside, this ought to also be true on a purely human, even visceral level. The world we live in is pretty terrible. If you are slow to reach that conclusion I would suggest you are perhaps sheltered by privilege and/or not widely-read, especially in history. Misery is the norm, now and even more so in the past. A lucky birth might distance you somewhat from that reality, but it is reality. And the longer the earth continues as it is now, the longer both moral and natural evil are free to work immeasurable harm. Surely at the global level, looking at the facts of evil, we would wish for an end.

Of course, we obviously don’t and cannot know. What is spiritually healthy, in any event, would be to first process our readiness and possible range of emotions, in the event we are close. And that processing doesn’t need to be fearful, even if your life is in disarray. It can be an opportunity for objective self-evaluation. And, if getting right with God is needed, don’t be delusional about that. The Bible tells us how. Then, if you can conclude – sinner though you are – that God has accepted your commitment, you can essentially be glad if Jesus is coming soon.

Either way, I cannot see how the choices we make in living our lives should be much different. Those who know Adventist history might recall that there were two seminal events which impressed the Millerites, pre-1844. One was the 1833 “falling of the stars” and the other was the 1780 “Dark Day” in New England. Now we have naturalistic explanations for these occurrences, although that does not preclude God from employing them for religious purposes. But there is a moderately-famous response by a Connecticut judge named Abraham Davenport, supposedly spoken during that Dark Day. The Governor’s Council was in session and his colleagues were fearful that the darkness portended the Second Coming. So they suggested adjournment. Davenport responded:

“I am against adjournment. The day of judgment is either approaching, or it is not. If it is not, there is no cause for an adjournment; if it is, I choose to be found doing my duty. I wish therefore that candles may be brought.”

I can’t think of better counsel in the midst of the current crisis. What is your duty? You should be going about it. And bring candles. Others might need your light.

Rich Hannon, a retired software engineer, is Columns Editor for

Previous Spectrum columns by Rich Hannon can be found at:

Image Credit: Spectrum Magazine

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Thanks for a balanced article, Rich. Faithfulness, not timing, is what it has always been about.



Thank you Rich Hannon for your provocative and pertinent perspective on the latest pandemic.

I am one of those Adventists who have questioned whether this pandemic is a precursor of end times.

I recall EGW’s statement in a Testimony declaration:

What is striking is the extreme rapidity with which our entire planet has catapulted into calamity in mere weeks.

If mere weeks ago, one would have predicted that
ALL churches would be closed to worship in our country,
we would have been met with scorn and derision
—-“ are you predicting that communist China will defeat us and close our Christian churches “ ??

Yet, remarkably, our houses of worship are shut up tight— no communal worship possible.

Of course EGW’s prediction stating that
“ great changes are SOON to take place “
loses all relevance more than a century after her demise.
—her word “ SOON” destroys her prediction.

On re reading Mathew 24, I am dismayed at the apparent nonchalance and flippancy of Christ when He rattles off,
as if there are to be a multiple series of these calamities.

As an Irishman ( my grandfather was Dublin born ) I am familiar with the devastating “ potato famine “ also known as the GREAT HUNGER killing millions of my countrymen and women in 1845.

Helen Dunmore’s book THE SIEGE is “ elegantly starkly beautiful “ in its depiction of the starvation in Leningrad, when the Nazis surrounded the city for 900 days, requiring people to eat rodents and the wall paper glue on their walls! And thousands freezing to death in the harsh winter, due to lack of heating fuel in the city.

Somalian famines have been legendary

Now new predictions of impending famine resulting from our global economic collapse are surfacing.

Starving children are not a pretty picture — surely Christ in His prediction of endless famines, had to have this stark reality in mind.

Rich Hannon, your most pertinent statement in the article:

“ The world we live in is pretty terrible —- MISERY IS THE NORM “.

Rich, “ MISERY IS THE NORM “ has been the recurring theme / motif / mantra since Christ declared IT IS FINISHED on Calvary.

And FAMINES, which Christ flippantly predicted,
are the ultimate MISERY.

So in the current pandemic and its potential proliferating famines,
how do Christians not ask:
why the eschatology of Christ’s Second Coming,
would not have been COMPASSIONATELY fast forwarded centuries ago ??

How can we not ask, is our God a SADIST ??— taking pleasure in endless WARS, FAMINES, EARTHQUAKES ?? When in a heartbeat He could fast forward the Second Coming, making misery outmoded / obsolete. ?

HOW DOES THE “ UNIVERSE “ NOT TIRE OF “ MISERY IS THE NORM “ ON PLANET EARTH century after ongoing century with no end in sight ?

I have been crying all week over the loss of two dear close friends due to this virus — both men in their early fifties, with neither having any co morbidity, prior health issues. And each dying ALONE in ICUs allowing no visitors, after weeks of fighting for life on ventilators.


Sensationalism Adventists take any news and turn it into a prophetic experience, complete with new predictions. The sad truth, is that those new predictions contradict their very own past predictions. Maybe there is something wrong with various parts of our “sacred cow” interpretations of Revelation… Adventists Broken Record of the Same Old Same Old


Well, it’s that, and also this pandemic may be a turning point in the way which humanity approaches basic societal interactions… and the corporate products that may follow that few people foreseen at all.

Likewise, it will be very interesting what Adventists will do with the future tech that may very well be within the description of the MOB in Rev 13? Will they insist that it’s not that, and people shouldn’t be worried about it, or should merely be concerned about the privacy implications?

I’ll give a small example:

So, companies pushing some means by which one could standardize cryptocurrency, and Microsoft came up with this one. Your body activity data allows you to essentially monetize your behavior, or should be say “proper behavior”, wink wink.

So, imagine there’s a device sitting on top of your head that monitors your temperature and reads some brain waves, to make sure you are not sick and showing some symptoms and that you are “happy and content” or generating positive vibes in order to earn credit by interacting with others or viewing an ad, and there’s a device on your hand that tracks some other activities, and allows you to talk and us it for payments, etc.

As bizzare as it would sound, this pandemic recurring with some perpetuity would make this kind of tech quite normal, or in some instances may even be required by some workplaces.

The fact that Microsoft even conceive of this tech is beyond bizzare, but Bill Gates is becoming very health-oriented as any modern entrepreneur would probably be.

So, how will Adventists react to this, especially since they are heavily invested in the healthcare market? It will really be interesting to observe as all of this unfolds… since it’s coming and people like Gates channeling millions into all of this.

How will Christians in general react to this? I’m sure plenty of people will be “filling the prophetic blanks” with similarities of description in Rev 13 with this technology, but give it 10 years and a rather inevitable “Year Zero” kind of reset of the failed financial system, which will be 30 Trillion in debt by Fall, It will be interesting the type of the societal norms that would have to be injected rather fast to keep certain established order in tact.

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How did the 5 virgins know to be prepared? It seems to me that no one is prepared. I am not talking about an antichrist moment of preparation. There are many it seems looking for that moment. 2 Thessalonians 2 says that all have been deceived by Satan, even the elect. Can a believer be prepared and still be deceived by Satan? If one was sent to prepare the body of Christ, would any part of the body take heed and be ready? We have a form of readiness, but we have no power to convince even the body of Christ, if they keep on thinking it should take all by surprise. John the Baptist kept preaching, "prepare the way of the Lord, make straight His paths. Then one day, John pointed out, “this is He of whom, I have been telling you.” When do we get the chance to repent, and be prepared? Does any one want to be prepared?

Here is a link to the patent:

This is especially for those who are techno-geeks.

Scary stuff. Interestingly, the last 5 digits are 60606. :thinking:

Whether it’s the mark of the beast or not, this is horrifying, at least to me.

I think that we are going to be in such a tracked and managed society, that our privacy and autonomy will be a thing of the past. Maybe I’m being overly dramatic, but the CV19 “situation” is going to be the catalyst to a very different future. Our lives are going to be forever changed, and absolutely not in a good way.

Bill’s vaccinations are coming…and it won’t be optional. How many people will die, or be horribly affected by this vaccine?

I was not an anti-vax person. But, in the last few years, I’ve come to a different conclusion. What seems to be the problem are the toxic things that are in the vaccines. I watched this today…A Shot in the Dark. It’s only about 30mins. There is a lot to consider.

I don’t mean for this to turn into a vaccination debate. There is, and will be, a lot to think about in the very near future.


Are you looking at 2 Thess 2? I don’t see that it says that all have been deceived.

Why can’t you repent and be prepared today? What is stopping anyone from repenting and coming to faith in Christ?

Can you expand on your comments? Thanks.

Pop eschatology dominates evangelical Christianity, (the anti Christ will come, the one world government conspiracy is happening, the temple will be rebuilt in Jerusalem, etc.), and the Adventist world as well, (the papacy is engineering international Sunday laws with the cooperation of the American government and apostate Protestant churches, etc.). These are all trumpeted as signs of the times to watch for… depending upon whose version of the signs one is listening to.

Unfortunately, none of these so called scenarios and those peddling them, are listening to the NT in its context very seriously. Multiple times, Jesus spoke of his parousia as something that no one knows of ahead of time, not even him at that time, and that it will be like a thief in the night. He told parables that indicated that his coming could be sooner or later than his followers may expect. That his coming would be at a time when life would seem to be humming along like normal, and that it wasn’t for his followers to know the times or the seasons of the restoration of the kingdom.

In the face of such repeated statements, why do we keep insisting that we can know the times and seasons? Why do we buy time lines and end time signs, and those preaching such, when this has gone on for hundreds of years with no sign of Jesus’s appearing? Why do Adventists trust more in the narrative pushed by EGW in books like the GC, and personalities like DB, and simply ignore the substance of what Jesus himself continually said about such in the NT, and this is not even touching Luke 17 or reading Revelation in its 1st century context?

I think it’s because we want certainty and a measure of control over the future. And, this mitigates against the call that Jesus continually makes to his followers… and to us. It’s the call of faith, which is the opposite of such visible certainty. Faith in God, allegiance to Christ, and faithfulness to his calling upon our lives and the duties to which he has called us, wherever we are, no matter what time it is, absent visible signs. This is a lot less spectacular than searching for them. But, it is what the life of the kingdom is… the life and continued faithfulness that Jesus always pointed to over such signs.

Living in faith and faithfully is our business. The timing of Jesus’s appearing is God’s. We can leave that with him. The entire boy crying wolf syndrome could be put to rest, if we just listened to the NT in its context. So would the embarrassment before the world that pop eschatology brings, and that turns off so many people, unnecessarily, and unbiblically.




You are correct, Paul does not say that, Jesus in Matthew 24:24 says that. Both passages are talking about the same thing. Being deceived, does not seem to condemn the church. My point was if there was a way out of the deception, would it be wise to be prepared or remain in the dark. I am not a prophet or sensationalist. Nor in this case the truth may set one free. That is what I am trying to figure out. If the Parable of the 10 virgins was for the Jews and not the church it would make more sense. God says in Revelation 7, there will be 144k Jewish virgins who will testify during the Trumpets of the tribulation.

I know that only the Holy Spirit and reading the Bible can reveal this deception of Satan. Perhaps it is not for the church to understand, but just be prepared as always. If the church today is both deceived and condemned, then the church needs to repent and be prepared. It is possible that the whole church is deceived, because I have yet to meet a person who is not deceived. Nor does it seem any will accept they are deceived, until after they know the truth.

Why does SDA eschatology always strike out?

Because we ignore the very first verse of Revelation:

The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things WHICH MUST SHORTLY COME TO PASS; (Rev 1:1)

Twenty centuries isn’t very shortly!


… so much good stuff here as well, but the above quote caught my attention. I have often wondered why it is that good meaning Christians have hopped on the political caboose of the social “gospel”. We’re out to save the environment and stop climate change and all the rest that accompanies the “green new deal” as if we can really do anything about it. Sure, we help where we can, and we recycle, and maybe even buy electric cars - what for - to delay the inevitable. This seems out of kilter with our denial of an everlasting “hell”, but “for the sake of humanity” should we be working to prolong the hell that circles the earth right here, right now.

This, of course, will be taken in the worst possible way by the PC crowd even here, so let me assure you I know we have a personal responsibility to do what we are able to help the needy and to take of our world. If that means we carry placards, so be it; but let’s not get carried into the murky waters of the political foray.

So, yes, why wouldn’t we want this present world to end - end the pain and death that covers the globe every second of every day. Are we willing to give up that cruse we planned next year; or, let go of the great deal we’re about to get at the car dealership…to put an end to all that.

And then comes the plague. I think we should have expected it in some form, along with a host of other predicted calamities; but “the world’s too much with us”. as the poet told us. We excuse ourselves by quoting something about “keep working until He comes” - we can’t just sit there counting days like they did October 1844 - look what happened. What ever else we’re learning secluded in our homes, the emph-ASIS has been on the wrong syl-ABLE.


Unless the long age of eternity is considered. What if our universe is 14 bn years old?
To those of us caught in kronos it is hard to apprehend kairos.
We likely ought not try quantify it…

That is a great point, Timo…kronos vs kairos.


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Our myopic views are unsurprisingly predictable-on every level of our lives.
Religious, political, racial, ideological, theological, eschatological…
Our corporate ecclesiastical focus on fear based “coming events” (like judgment) not only undermines any claim to real faith but causes us to have the “turkey in the freezer” phenomenon dinner invitation, rather than feeding the crumbs and drops to the widows,orphans, hungry NOW

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Logic and cooler heads always prevail. But false prophets always have an out. We need, first of all, to be a church body that calls out false prophets, and stop the canonization of William Miller… Why do Adventists always seem to fall for false prophets?


Are you saying, or do you believe, that EGW is a true prophet?

I can relate to your questioning…if the purpose of the continued misery and desolation of this earth and humankind is to convince some celestial audience of angels or other beings of the truth of the Great Controversy, how dense are they? What more would be needed to provide clarity of conviction on the stark reality of evil?

Having said that, I’ve always found it a bit alarming that SDAs in North America who, for the most part, are not suffering like other parts of the world (prior to COVID-19), are in such a hurry to slam the door of mercy on any who remain yet unsaved. Are they so confident that every one of their loved ones is safe in the assurance of salvation? I lost a family member to death recently, although not the virus, and I wonder if in his last moments he accepted salvation somehow…or if he had had a little more time, he might have responded to the drawing of the Holy Spirit.

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When we studied Revelation in the SS quarterly not too long ago, I found in my research that the proper translation of the word ‘quickly’ from the Greek means that when things start to happen, they will happen fast, over a short period of time. This came from Mr. Werner Lange, an SDA book editor in Germany, who wrote a wonderful series of commentaries in the Adventist Today magazine.

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Thank you for your perspective, Linda.

Which basically agrees with my view that

So dense, that they would have to be aliens as depicted in the movie PLANET OF THE APES.

Problem for Adventists, is that our whole eschatology / theology is based on EGW’s saga THE GREAT CONTROVERSY, in which she states that all actions / events ( her book in an anthology of atrocities and egregious events ) are for the edification of “ the universe “.

If the calamity of Calvary did not convince “ the universe “, then what anticipated awful atrocity would? So why the perpetuation of wars, famines, earthquakes, ad infinitum?

I would wager that “ unfallen beings “ in sublime, idyllic existence in their own safe havens would be irritated and angry to have their peace constantly invaded with live streaming of planet earth’s atrocities.

EGW died prior to the Holocaust, Stalin’s Gulag, Hiroshima,
Armenian / Pol Pot / Bosnian / Rwandan genocides, two world wars and other horrendous happenings of the 20th century.

Her thesis does not “ hold water “ in light of these egregious events.
Would she write it differently today ?

Any “ audience of other beings “ would not have tolerated images of the Holocaust, just as I, possessing many Jewish close friends, cannot watch a movie depicting the death camps…

But our evangelists / theologians still cling to her thesis and have yet to abandon EGW’s mantra that all earthly events are for the edification of “ the universe “.

How will “ the universe “ pontificate on our perilous pandemic, when it is a mere repetitive re-run of pointless prior plagues and pestilences ??

How can 21st century Adventists continue to subscribe to such a woefully implausible scenario ??