Question 72. Is the COVID-19 pandemic a fulfillment of biblical prophecy?

It is no secret that a massive plague has hit the world in general and the USA in particular. At this point, however, given the fact that there are billions of people on the earth, the actual number of those who have been tested positive is relatively small, and the number of those who have died from the coronavirus is even smaller. The pandemic is tragic, nonetheless.

Newspaper exegetes have gone to town on this event, seeing it as a major biblical issue. There are conspiracy theories all over the internet that have made COVID-19 a major issue between good and evil or God and Satan. One must be very careful of such conspiracy theories since the majority of them eventually end up blaming the Jews for what is taking place.

We have received many phone calls and some letters asking our evaluation of this pandemic, and many of those who contacted us have been influenced by this type of internet information. One email I received called COVID-19 a “plandemic” and claimed that the virus was a “bioweapon” released by “globalists” who are planning a “mass destruction upon the whole world.” The email came with the accusation that “Fruchtenbaum is silent about such a catastrophic event while this intentionally manmade and premeditated virus shuts down the world.” The writer called upon me to provide “an official biblically prophetic understanding of this end time event! For once, silence is not golden!”

This I intend to do, but many, like the writer I quoted above, may not be happy with what I have to say. I see myself as a biblicist and not a sensationalist, and I do not allow myself to be influenced by speculations that are not based on proven facts and acts. I will also not be influenced by people who see all things as being connived by a cabal, a hidden body of people trying to control the world.

In Matthew 24-25, Mark 13, and Luke 21, the Messiah gave a long discourse on the last days. The details of these three passages are expounded upon in The Footsteps of the Messiah: A Study of the Sequence of Prophetic Events. Therefore, I will only summarize what is relevant to this topic.

According to the Scriptures, the event that actually triggers the beginning of the last days is when nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom (Mt. 24:7). According to Matthew, this will be coupled with famines and earthquakes. Luke adds one more element: pestilences. This term would cover plagues, diseases, viruses, and all other similar things. It certainly would include COVID-19. Therefore, the pandemic is one of the signs that we are living in the last days, but there is no need to believe in a conspiracy theory that claims that the virus will destroy the world. Biblically speaking, it will not do so.

A short while ago, I received a list of eleven questions, some of which deal with COVID-19. Two of the questions asked what a pestilence is and whether COVID-19 could be considered a pestilence. These two questions were answered above.

A third question was: Does the current pandemic fall into the category of pretribulational events? The answer is that the pandemic is not a specific event that was prophesied since the term “pestilence” is more general. COVID-19 does fulfill the general prophecy of pestilences, but it is not the only virus that falls into this category.

A fourth question was: Is the coronavirus a punishment of God? Yes, it is, but so is the common cold. When Adam fell, God judged him. God also judged what was under Adam’s authority, and this was the earth. Since the expulsion from the Garden of Eden, man has lived in a broken world, and humanity will suffer all kinds of thorns and briers, including all kinds of sicknesses. Obviously, this also includes COVID-19. Nothing ever happens outside the will of God, and nothing ever catches God by surprise. The question is this: Is what is happening a directive will of God (such as the Noahic Flood) or is it the permissive will of God (such as the fall of man into sin)? This we cannot answer because we do not know.

Our security does not lie in man or government. It lies in living a life of faith, always recognizing that God is in control. Furthermore, we must always remember Romans 8:28: And we know that to them that love God all things work together for good, even to them that are called according to his purpose. We may not always know the “Why” in this life, but we will in the afterlife, in eternity.

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Arnold Answers with founder and director of Ariel Ministries, Dr. Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum.

The Restrainer: 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12

In any study dealing with eschatology, 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12 must be brought into the discussion.[1] There has been much debate as to the exact point or points Paul wished to make, the identity of “the restrainer,” and exactly what is the relationship between the Antichrist and the restrainer. In dealing with this passage, perhaps it would be best to first summarize the main points Paul made and then proceed to an analysis of the text.

  1. Paul comforted the believers of Thessalonica by letting them know that they were not in the tribulation nor had the tribulation arrived.
  2. He conveyed that there would be two separate revelations of the Antichrist at different points in time.
  3. He pointed out that two different things would be restrained: first, the mystery of lawlessness in general, now; and second, the Antichrist specifically, in the future.

Paul’s first point is made in verses 1-4. Apparently, some false teachers taught that the believers were already in the tribulation after Paul left Thessalonica. In verses 1-2, the Thessalonians were troubled that the day of the Lord—the most common title for the tribulation—had already arrived. This was especially true since, in the first Epistle, Paul taught them a pretribulation rapture. In verse 3, Paul stated that the tribulation could not have come yet because two events, both of which must precede the tribulation, had not yet occurred. The first event is the rapture of the church, and the second event is the revelation of the man of sin or the son of perdition.[2] In verse 4, it is clear that this “Antichrist” will be opposed to God and to all objects of veneration and will take over the Jewish Temple and declare himself to be god. This event will occur in the middle of the tribulation in conjunction with what is known as “the abomination of desolation.”[3]

Paul’s second main point is found in verses 5‑7. These verses are somewhat parenthetical. In verse 5, Paul reminded his readers of things he had taught them while he was still with them. According to verse 6, the key thing he had taught them was that the takeover of the Jewish Temple and Antichrist’s self-declaration of deity would be restrained; therefore, until the restrainer is removed, the events of verse 4 cannot occur. What will restrain the Antichrist from gaining full political and religious control will be three of the ten kings of the first half of the tribulation and the governments they represent. It is only when the last of these three kings has been killed, leading to complete submission by the remaining seven kings, that the Antichrist will be free to take over full global dictatorship and to carry out the events of verse 4. Consequently, the last restrainer of the Antichrist will be the last of the three kings and the government he represents. In verse 7, Paul reminded his readers that the mystery of lawlessness was already working and was even then being restrained. The Holy Spirit is never described as restraining. The task of restraining evil was given to human government under the Noahic Covenant in Genesis 9:1-17, and this basic doctrinal truth was reiterated by Paul in Romans 13:1-7. On one hand, human government is even now restraining lawlessness. On the other hand, the government of the last of the three kings will restrain the Antichrist, the lawless one, until the middle of the tribulation.

Paul’s third point is found in verses 8-12. According to verse 8a, the abomination of desolation (see v. 4) will serve as the second revelation of the Antichrist. While the first revelation will be to believers before the tribulation, the second revelation will be to Israel in the middle of the tribulation. By the very act of setting up an abomination that will cause desolation (Matt. 25:15), the Antichrist will be revealed as truly being the lawless one. Consequently, Israel will finally realize with whom they have made their seven-year covenant (see footnote 2). In Matt 24:15-22, Yeshua talked about this very fact and stated that the abomination of desolation will be a sign to Israel. In verses 8b-12, Paul proceeded to provide further information regarding the Antichrist: He will ultimately be destroyed by the second coming of the Messiah (v. 8b); he will be energized by Satan and will be able to do miracles for the purpose of worldwide deception (v. 9); and he will call all men to worship him (v. 10). According to verses 11-12, the ones who will be deceived by him and his counterfeit signs are those who have already rejected the gospel of Yeshua the Messiah.

These verses have often been taken to mean that those who heard the gospel before the rapture but who did not believe will not have the opportunity to be saved after the rapture and during the tribulation. However, the passage places the rejection of the gospel during the tribulation itself, rather than before it. It should be remembered that during the first half of the tribulation, there will be a worldwide preaching of the gospel by the 144,000 Jews (Matt. 24:14; ; Rev. 7). While myriads will accept the gospel, many more will not. Because these people will refuse to respond to the preaching of the 144,000 during the first half of the tribulation, they will be deceived by the Antichrist and will begin to worship him during the second half of the tribulation. The initial act of worshipping the Antichrist will involve accepting the mark of 666. Once this mark is taken, the individual will have reached the point of no return and will not have the opportunity to be saved from then on (Rev. 14:9‑12).

[1] This post is a modified version of Dr. Arnold Fruchtenbaum’s original Messianic Bible Study. The full version may be obtained here.

[2] The revelation of the identity of the Antichrist that precedes the tribulation. The rapture of the church may or may not have occurred by then, since the Scriptures do not state exactly how long before the tribulation the rapture will occur. From other Scriptures we deduce that the tribulation will begin with the signing of a seven-year covenant between Israel and the Antichrist (Dan 9:27), thus believers may become aware of the identity of the Antichrist. Furthermore, believers will be able to deduce who the Antichrist is by the numerical value of his name: 666.

[3] For details regarding the author’s teaching on this and other eschatological topics, see Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum, The Footsteps of the Messiah: A Study of the Sequence of Prophetic Events (San Antonio, TX: Ariel Ministries, 2020), available here.