[This is a much updated version of the article published originally in April, so I am republishing it.]
Surely the Lord God does nothing, unless he reveals his secret to his servants the prophets (Amos 3:7).
For who has stood in the counsel of the LORD, and has perceived and heard his word? (Jeremiah 23:18).
For if the trumpet makes an uncertain sound, who will prepare for battle? (1 Corinthians 14:8)
In an earlier article, I likened our present situation to the crisis of Jerusalem in the time of Jeremiah, and signalled my intention to approach Covid-19 primarily using Jeremiah’s methodology.
Jeremiah’s was not, however, the only voice claiming to speak the word of the Lord. Some, like Huldah (2 Chronicles 34:19-28) and Urijah (Jeremiah 26:20-23), had a similar message. Others, like Hananiah (Jeremiah 28:1-17), the ‘prophets of Jerusalem’ (Jeremiah 23:7-40), and the Babylonian prophets, Ahab, Zedekiah and Shemaiah (Jeremiah 29:21-32) took a radically opposite line.
Today, also, there are many voices speaking into present crisis. While some are simply offering information, advice, insights and perspectives, others are claiming to be speaking the ‘word of the Lord’. Yet, like the prophets of Jeremiah’s time, they do not speak with one voice.
Below, is a very small, but I believe representative, sample of what some of today’s ‘prophets’ are saying. My aim in this article is simply to report as objectively as I can. I am neither endorsing nor opposing the views described below; I offer minimal analysis or commentary. It is up to you to make up your own mind!
Many see Covid-19 as God’s judgement on a world in the depths of sin and rebellion, and predict far greater troubles ahead.
David Noakes, writing in Prophecy Today, described Covid-19 as a “curse, a global scourge” released by God “in the hope that in their despair, men will turn to” Him “for deliverance and salvation”, and as a “warning” of the “great and terrible day of the Lord” that “is not far off”.
For Clifford Hill, writing in the same issue of Prophecy Today, “the Covid-19 pandemic .. is just the first stage of a period of judgement that is inevitably dawning across the world”. The second stage”, he writes, “will come when the world economy collapses in the not-too-distant future”. This will be a comprehensive judgement on injustice and greed, “a day of reckoning for the whole our civilisation”, which Hill likens to the fall of Babylon in Revelation 18. “This is only the beginning”, he says; the “great shaking of the nations will continue for a long time”.
In a more recent article, Hill drives his point home: “the plague (and its follow-up) will not be lifted until the purposes of God are fulfilled. The next stage of the pandemic is the shaking of the world economy that will bring all nations to their knees and pose fundamental questions about the gross inequalities and greed that cause two-thirds of the world’s population to go to bed hungry at night, and other people to spend their time and money on combatting obesity! God hates the injustice and oppression that are built into our world financial system and have become part of our self-centred, individualised civilisation.”
Well-known, US ‘new-Calvinist’ writer and speaker, John Piper, takes a ‘softer’ and more nuanced line on judgement. In a hastily written book, he asks, ‘what is God doing through the coronavirus?’. Having laid the foundation of God’s total sovereignty, he makes the following assertions:
- “God is giving the world in the coronavirus outbreak, as in all other calamities, a physical picture of the moral horror and spiritual ugliness of God-belittling sin” and a preview of God’s final judgement of sin. “The coronavirus is God’s thunderclap call for all of us to repent and realign our lives with the infinite worth of Christ”.
- “Some people will be affected with the coronavirus as a specific judgement from God because of their sinful attitudes and actions.” Not every adversity is the result of individual sin, Piper says; but some are, as evidenced by a number of biblical examples he cites.
In a subtle variation on the judgement theme, in an address to an empty St Peter’s Square on 27 March, Pope Francis inveighed against greed, self-interest, and social injustice, and described the current pandemic as “not the time of the [Lord’s] judgement, but of our judgement: a time to choose what matters and what passes away, a time to separate what is necessary from what is not”.
An emerging end-times scenario is implicit in Noakes’ and Hill’s articles, both which refer to the ‘Day of the Lord’. The former is more explicit, concluding with a warning that “the cup of iniquity of the nations of the earth is coming near to fullness” and a call to repentance “before the final judgments of irretrievable disaster, the outpouring of my pent-up anger, begin to be released, for then it will be too late”. The latter, while endorsing Noakes, warns against speculating about “where we are at this present point in time in relation to God’s ultimate timetable. It would be better”, Hill writes, “to forget all the theories that have been invented trying to plot different dispensations of time, and simply concentrate on understanding what is happening today”. Reflecting the OT prophets’ use of the term, Clifford Hill seems to be suggesting that the imminent ‘day of the Lord’ is one of many yet to come.
Piper sees Covid-19 as among the ‘birth pains’ described by Jesus as presaging His return (Matthew 24:7-8), as “a God-given wake-up call to be ready for the second coming of Christ”. But he does not attempt to set any dates. Rather, for Piper, ‘birth pains’ refers to all the groanings of this age (Romans 8:22). In every generation since Jesus’ first coming, calamities and diseases have reminded His followers to stay awake and be ready and to press on with the Great Commission, especially to the unreached peoples of the world.
For many others, however, Covid-19 is the curtain raiser for the events of the ‘last days’. For these, the inclusion of ‘pestilences’ among the signs Jesus lists in the ‘Olivet Discourse’ (Matthew 24:7; Luke 21:11) is significant, especially alongside other signs such as an increase in the frequency of earthquakes, the recent plagues of locusts devastating parts of Africa and the Middle East (Matthew 24:7), and above all, the re-establishment of the State of Israel (Luke 21:24) (see my article here). Some also see Covid-19 in the plagues of Revelation.
The critical issue, however, for most who see Covid-19 as a sign of the end times arises from the way governments have responded to the pandemic and what is likely to transpire beyond the immediate crisis. An important principle here is that Covid-19 is not introducing anything new, but rather accelerating and accentuating existing trends. Essentially, according to prophetic commentators like Tony Pearce of Light for the Last Days, Covid-19 is speeding the establishment of the conditions that will usher in a ‘New World Order’ and the reign of Antichrist.
In common with previous pandemics, Covid-19 has prompted an explosion of conspiracy theories. The speed and extent of modern real and virtual communications has enabled not only the disease, but also the conspiracy theories to go global as never before. Claims of hidden agenda and conspiracies, and hoaxes and fake news, have become more ‘viral’ than the virus.
Allegations and ‘exposés’ of conspiracies are not by any means an exclusively Christian phenomenon. But Christian commentators and ‘prophets’ are among those who have played a significant role in advancing these agenda, mostly within ‘end-times’ narratives.
As Gustav Krös and Andrew Richards, of INcontext Ministries, observe: “we have not seen a single event give birth to so many conspiracy theories, hoaxes, and fake news as we have seen with the coronavirus. Its global impact has not only led to the sheer quantity of fake news and conspiracy theories, but it has also contributed to the rate at which these stories spread and their global reach. For the Christian community, this global impact has also brought ‘End Time’ prophecies to the fore, and as a result most of these stories in Christian circles contain elements of the signs and prophecies of the ‘End Times.”
Two of the most prominent theories concern the role of 5G technology in causing or exacerbating Covid-19 and the purported plan to link a Covid-19 vaccine with an implanted digital ID. INcontext Ministries provides evaluations of the claims of two Christian promulgators (one from the US, one from the UK) of these theories here and here.
The reality of ‘hidden agenda’, the ‘unseen realm’ is, of course, intrinsic to the biblical worldview in general and to biblical eschatology in particular. Apocalyptic and prophetic scriptures make it clear that the cosmic battle in the heavenlies is worked out on earth through human agency. ‘Understanding the times’ from a biblical perspective may call for attention and giving credence to minority viewpoints. But, over the centuries, ‘end-times’ narratives have borrowed from ‘secular’ conspiracy theories, or adopted them wholesale.
These are ‘muddy waters’, and it is hard to tell the wood from the trees. My aim in this article is simply to report; my wider aim and hope is that I encourage and edify, so am reluctant to pursue this issue too much further. However, I offer some further reflections on hidden agenda and conspiracy theories here. For those interested to know more, the Internet offers a cornucopia of resources!
While some see Covid-19 as God’s judgement, others roundly reject any idea of divine judgement at all. God is just not like that, they say, and those who suggest Covid-19 is ‘God’s judgement’ are impugning His character.
For example, President-elect of the Baptist Union of Great Britain, Yinka Oyekan, reported on Facebook (re-posted here) a dream he had the night before 23 March 2020 (the day before lockdown was announced): “I saw a minister in a dog collar teaching people that this Covid-19 was a judgement on the nation and using Jesus Name. The Lord’s anger flared at the suggestion and he woke me up to pray.” Oyekan goes on to describe how his reading of the scriptures the next day revealed that “Jesus healed everyone who came to him” and “God loves humanity and wants to protect it”. He ends by urging his readers not to “get sucked in by words which call this Covid-19 a judgement”.
For Tear Fund’s Global Advocacy and Influencing Director, Ruth Valerio, and Gideon Heugh, “any suggestion that coronavirus is some kind of divine judgement is fundamentally at odds with God’s character”. They do, however, acknowledge the essential ‘fallenness’ of humanity and ‘brokenness’ of creation, suggesting that Covid-19 is a consequence of this. Their most important contribution, however, is their assertion that Covid-19 is not a ‘natural disaster’, but a disaster of our own making, the result of humanity’s destruction of the environment, with deforestation, mining, animal trafficking, unsustainable farming practices and people’s eating habits all having likely played a part (the evidence for this she cites is summarised in this compelling and disturbing article in the Guardian). In other words, it is a form of judgement!
A passing shadow
Some have claimed that God has revealed to them that it will be all over very soon. Chuck Pierce, who describes himself as a ‘Senior Apostle’ and is a leading figure in what is sometimes known as the ‘New Apostolic Reformation’ or ‘Independent Network Charismatic Christianity’, predicted in January that “a massive plague-like invasion would test us through Passover”.
On 14 March, UK-based ’prophetess’ Veronika West predicted via her Facebook page that an antidote would emerge in April and inaugurate a time of great blessing in the months following. In a post a few days later, she described Covid-19 as a “demonic crisis” that will become a “divine catalyst”. Then, at the end of April, she announced that God had told her in March that the promised antidote would come out of Israel and linked it to a placenta-based cell-therapy product that had successfully treated six patients in Israel all of whom were suffering acute respiratory failure and inflammatory complications and were at high risk of mortality.1)Essentially, the therapy strengthens the patient’s immune system and helps reduce the fatal symptoms of pneumonia and general inflammation of lung tissue resulting from COVID-19. It is not an ‘antidote’ in the normal sense of the word. In a re-posting of West’s post above, the prophetic website Richard’s Watch noted a further breakthrough in Israel reported in April – the development of a UV light system to destroy the Covid-19 virus in ICUs, which, unlike previous UV systems, is safe for use close to patients.
Veronika West is a member of the recently formed, British Isles Council of Prophets (BICP), which describes itself as “gathering of trusted and recognised prophetic voices in the British Isles”. As far as I know, this is a unique grouping in the UK. It brings together (so far) 31 people, most of whom already have established ministries and appreciable followings in their own rights. Membership criteria seem to be demanding and rigorous.
Another member of the BICP, Jarrod Cooper, wrote on 17 March that he sensed that the Lord was saying: “This evil will end sooner than many claim.. and will be remembered as a time where you ask, “What was all that about?!”. Cooper prefaced this with an affirmation of the Lord’s sovereignty over sickness, fear and sorrow and ended with an exhortation not to fear, but to trust and to care for the frail, anxious and grieving.
American billionaire televangelist and ‘health-and-wealth’ preacher, Kenneth Copeland, reflects some of the above, in that he sees Covid-19 as a demonic attack, which must soon pass. But he takes things to a whole new level! In early March he declared that “Covid-19 will be over much sooner than you think. Christian people all over this country praying have overwhelmed it.” At the end of March (perhaps worried that Covid-19 was not going away quite so quickly), claiming to stand “in the office of a prophet of God”, Copeland pronounced that “judgment be executed on Covid-19” and on “satan [the] destroyer and killer”, and demanded “a vaccination to come immediately”, finally declaring that “the United States of America is healed and well again”.
Veronika West and Jarrod Cooper are representative of a much wider ‘prophetic community’ (both within and beyond the BICP), the members of which are ‘singing from (roughly) the same hymn sheet’.
Most communicate frequently and often at length via social media, and seldom provide summaries and ‘headlines’.2)Richard’s Watch very helpfully re-posts and comments on much of this material, but also casts a much wider net drawing in much other ‘prophetic’ content from around the world. Many of the prophetic words are also replete with complex imagery and symbolism, and distinctive ‘prophetic’ jargon. So, it is difficult to pin down their core messages.
However, the BICP did publish a ‘prophetic word’ on 1 February this year. This is a “summary of prophetic words brought, shared and discussed at the first gathering of the British Isles Council of Prophets” in November 2019. Although this was assembled before Covid-19 arrived in the UK, it sets out the BICP’s understanding of God’s word and intentions for Britain in 2020, and provides a clear statement of the basis of this grouping’s understanding of the current crisis.
More recently, Jarrod Cooper has hosted a series of online conversations on the Covid-19 pandemic with key figures from the BICP and beyond, entitled, ‘The Prophets Speak’. The whole series runs to about 10 hours, so I was able to do no more than sample some of the content.3)I was fascinated by Roma Waterman’s suggestion that, as the Black Death led to the Renaissance, so will Covid-19 inaugurate a new wave of godly art and culture.
The essential message I have picked up from the above, especially the BICP prophetic word, is one of good times ahead for church and nation, but these will be reached through turbulence and struggle, intercession and spiritual warfare, obedience and perseverance. Covid-19 is part of this – both a tool of transformation and a spiritual enemy to be engaged.
This year will be a year of both ‘wrestling’ and ‘revival’ (although the BICP prefers ‘awakening’ to the latter as they do not believe there is “anything left to revive”). In 2020, events will gather pace, change will be sudden and rapid, there will be ‘atmospheric shifts’, new things will be ‘birthed’, ‘ignited, ‘released’, ‘enlarged’ or taken to a ‘higher level’; 2020 will inaugurate a ‘new normal’, a ‘new season’, and a ‘new era’. Both society and church will be transformed. 4)The BICP prophetic word makes a number of quite specific predictions, including: “unusual fish hauls in the seas”; the emergence of “a new breed of female leaders” in the Middle East; a huge and sudden ‘harvest of souls’, especially in Europe; frequent miracles and angelic visitations; a new breed of wholesome TV dramas, which will “fill our screens”; many celebrities will become Christians; “the Spirit of the Lord will overshadow the UK parliament”.
The BICP word did not foresee Covid-19. But, interestingly, it predicted a “‘cures race’ as pharmaceutical scientists race to discover new medicines and solutions to the so-called incurable diseases”, and that “2020 will see new global battles in technological and medical areas, but a common enemy (eg a sickness or disease) will provide an uncommon unity”.
The destiny of Britain
A significant thread running through the prophetic output of both the ‘Prophecy Today community’ and the ‘BICP/Richards Watch community’ is a form of British ‘exceptionalism’ – the belief that the nation of Britain is in some way set apart, elect, chosen, with a God-ordained history, purpose in the world, and destiny. This is not directly related to prophesying about Covid-19, but it is an important part of the backcloth. There are many variations on the theme and not all are playing from the same score. But the general drift is as below.
The prophetic narrative is predicated, first, on nationhood itself as God-determined (Gen 10:32; Acts 17:26), and, second, and most importantly, on Britain’s distinctive Christian heritage. Britain is not mentioned in the Bible (although some claim that Britain is the biblical Tarshish or even the winged lion of Daniel 7), but there is a compelling historical case for Britain’s special status and calling: Britain has a distinct history as a ‘nation apart’ and as a ‘Christian’ nation, and even, arguably, as a nation covenanted to God through, for example, the Coronation Oath.5)For more on ‘Christian Britain’, see my article ‘Exile & Hope’.
Over many decades, however, Britain has eschewed and dismantled its Christian heritage and ‘despised its birthright’. The nation has fallen into sin and rebellion. Much of the church is distracted or deceived. Both are ‘under judgement’, and will go through troubles and testing. For many, Covid-19 is part of this. But God still has a special plan and a purpose for Britain’s future. And beyond a time of ‘chastisement’ or ‘wrestling’, there is a ‘hope and a future’. Many see the latter as dependent on our response, but the exact nature and extent of that response varies: some, especially the Prophecy Today grouping, major on repentance; others, especially the BICP grouping, major on prayer and spiritual warfare; for many in both groups, leaving the EU was a, or the, crucial issue.
A ‘prophetic word’, published recently at Richard’s Watch, encapsulates much of this prophetic discourse. Spoken in November 2019, this predicts three years of ‘humbling’ for Britain, of deep punishment and chastisement for “the sins that have covered this land”, but then ‘things will change.. and you will go from winter to spring, spring to summer, summer into harvest time”. Britain has a distinctive status and calling, the writer says: “I have plans to prosper this country… You will have grace and a favour upon you which many other nations will not be given because I have plans and purposes for this country…. I will do something wonderful with this country; I will restore law and order to this country.”
‘None of these’
And then there is N T Wright! Wright is a well-known New Testament scholar and former Bishop of Durham, who has been described as “the most influential biblical theologian in the world today—Protestant or Catholic or Orthodox”. He work and voluminous writings on the Sitz im Lieben of the New Testament and much else are highly regarded, but he seem to be increasingly sought out for his views on almost anything.
In a recent article in Time magazine, Wright announced that “Christianity offers no answers about the coronavirus. It’s not supposed to.” “It is no part of the Christian vocation”, he writes, “to be able to explain what’s happening and why. In fact, it is part of the Christian vocation not to be able to explain”.
Wright denounces most of the views above. He describes attempts to explain the Covid-19 pandemic as a “punishment, warning or sign” from God as “knee-jerk would-be Christian reactions in a culture which, generations back, embraced rationalism: everything must have an explanation”. He describes the promulgators of such ideas as “the usual silly suspects”. But (possibly referring to the optimistic, ‘good-times-round- the-corner ‘ prophets), he also criticises “Christian romantics”, who “want to be given a sigh of relief”.
Instead, Wright advocates a recovery of what he describes as “the biblical tradition of lament”, which is “what happens when people ask, ‘Why?’ and don’t get an answer”. Citing several psalms, he presents lament as not just an outlet “for our frustration, sorrow, loneliness and sheer inability to understand what is happening or why”, but a sharing in God’s own grief and lament. He concludes: “As the Spirit laments within us, so we become, even in our self-isolation, small shrines where the presence and healing love of God can dwell. And out of that there can emerge new possibilities…”
Many of the voices I have sampled above speak from the pentecostal/charismatic wing of the church and claim to speak the direct ‘word of the Lord’ (which is why I have featured them here).
However, the majority of evangelicals, those from traditional denominational backgrounds, and indeed many pentecostals and charismatics (who together constitute the majority of Christians in the UK) may be less willing either to claim to speak directly from God or to assert that He does not speak through or into specific events and states of affairs (as N T Wright seems to suggest). Nevertheless, many leading figures and commentators from among these, and many local pastors and ministers, have sought to bring biblical informed Godly wisdom to the matter. Their voices also need to be heard.
One recurrent theme is the sanctifying power of the pandemic and lockdown. Covid-19 calls and challenges us to renew our commitment to follow Jesus and to love Him above all else, entrust ourselves to Him alone, and to live as He calls us to – to love God and to love our neighbour.
John Piper sees Covid-19 as “God’s thunderclap call for all of us to repent and realign our lives with the infinite worth of Christ”. Citing Jesus’ answer to the questions about the Tower of Siloam and Pilate’s slaughter of the Galileans (Luke 13:1-5), Piper points out that all disasters are “God’s painful and merciful summons to repent”. Covid-19 is also God’s “call to His people to overcome self-pity and fear, and with courageous joy, to do the good works of love that glorify God”. Good deeds are to be done even in the midst of suffering and in spite of danger.
For Christian apologist, John Lennox, in his rapidly written book, ‘Where is God in coronavirus world?‘, Covid-19 urges us to: “maintain perspective'” and see the current crisis in the light of the (much worse) experiences of our ancestors6)The commemorations of 75 years since VE day going on as I write are a particularly poignant reminder of this.; love our neighbour with sacrificial care (as exemplified by Christians during plagues of the past), and; “remember eternity” and the way a vision of heaven and of the age to come, enabled the early believers to endure tremendous suffering and persecution.
Both Piper and Lennox draw several lessons from the past, especially the record of Christians’ conduct during many historical epidemics. Lucy Peppiatt, Principal of Westminster Theological Centre, also takes up this theme. Quoting Cyprian of Carthage‘s (c. 200-258 AD) Treatise 7 (§16), she comments: “some Christians like to claim that disasters are God’s judgement on the earth for the folly of humanity. In this treatise, Cyprian is saying that the judgement that falls on the human race is how the sickness and trial exposes our true motives. We are judged by how we respond”. As Cyprian wrote, “pestilence and plague which seems horrible and deadly searches out the righteousness of each one”.7)The full text of Cyprian’s Treatise 7 (§16): “And further, beloved brethren, what is it, what a great thing is it, how pertinent, how necessary, that pestilence and plague which seems horrible and deadly, searches out the righteousness of each one, and examines the minds of the human race, to see whether they who are in health tend the sick; whether relations affectionately love their kindred; whether masters pity their languishing servants; whether physicians do not forsake the beseeching patients; whether the fierce suppress their violence; whether the rapacious can quench the ever insatiable ardour of their raging avarice even by the fear of death; whether the haughty bend their neck; whether the wicked soften their boldness; whether, when their dear ones perish, the rich, even then bestow anything, and give, when they are to die without heirs.” This is not too far from Pope Francis’ line, as above.
Related to the above is a widespread recognition of the mission opportunity and challenge provided by Covid-19 and the way ‘mission’ provides a corrective and a direction above the cacophony of voices speaking into the Covid-19 crisis. ‘Mission’ here encompasses evangelism, social responsibility and care for the earth.
As many will attest, lockdown has prompted a surge of neighbourliness and a new sense of community,8)A recent survey revealed that 40% of people feel a stronger sense of community since the outbreak and 39% feel more in touch with friends and family, and has provided new opportunities for Christians to show the love of Christ in practical ways. For the writers above, this call to love our neighbour is at the heart of their understanding of the Covid-19 phenomenon.
Covid-19 has also created an openness to the Gospel by prompting people to face their own mortality and to ask fundamental questions about God, eternity and salvation. Church buildings may be closed, but many churches are used electronic communications not only to carry on ‘meeting’, but also to reach those on the fringes of church (and, to an extent, support the needy, lonely and vulnerable). In the early days of lockdown, the Archbishop of Canterbury reported that ten times as many people were watching church online as previously attended services in church buildings. One of Village Hope’s associates recently reported that about five times as many people watch his live-streamed service now than attended his village chapel on Sundays. Many others tell similar stories.
Covid-19 also urges us to consider our ways in relation to the rest of God’s creation, especially our use and abuse of animals. As Valerio & Heugh remind us, humanity’s treatment of the earth and domestic and wild animals has played a major role in bringing about the current pandemic
Mission also provides a corrective to an over-occupation with ‘judgement’ and ‘end-times’. In concluding their critique of the ‘Bill Gates coronavirus ‘end-times’ conspiracy theory’, INcontext Ministries noted: “There will be many more messages concerning the ‘End Times’, and every time we receive one it should remind us of a crucial benchmark Jesus gave us concerning the ‘End Time’ in Matthew 24:14: “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” These words of Jesus come in the midst of his explanation to the disciples regarding the signs of the ‘End Times’ and tell us that we should remain focused on our task in the midst of everything that is happening around us. Yes, there will be wars, famines, earthquakes, and false prophets, but the one thing we can be sure of is that we will not see Jesus’ return until the Great Commission is completed (Matt 28:18-20). So, let’s strive to equip ourselves to discern quickly and efficiently between these multitudes of messages we are receiving so that they don’t distract us from our task of taking the Gospel to every nation, tribe, and tongue.”
A simple reading of Jesus’ word as above, ie that the gospel must be preached to all nations (ἔθνεσιν – ‘people groups’) before He returns, means prioritising reaching the ‘unreached’ of the world’s people. According to Global Frontier Missions and Telos Fellowship, 9)Both linked videos are a few minutes each and worth the time.these make up nearly 30% of the global population.
Finally, mission provides direction for our prayers in the midst of Covid-19. As I wrote previously, in reflecting on the priority and urgency of the imperative to preach the gospel to all nations, I was reminded of the story of the prayers of Rees Howells and the Bible College of Wales. As Norman Grubb wrote in his biography of Howells, their priority was to intercede “on a national and international level concerning anything that affected world evangelisation. Every creature must hear; therefore, the doors must be kept open. Their prayers became strategic. They must face and fight the enemy wherever he was opposing freedom to evangelise.” This understanding was a foundation of their prayers during WW2. The same principle, I proposed, needs to guide our prayers during Covid-19.
The power of paradigm
As I said above, may aim here is not to evaluate the above views nor to offer my own. Nevertheless, a few comments.
First, the prophetic narratives, perspectives and communities referred to above are all part of the contemporary evangelical Christian scene and have appreciable followings, and merit much deeper consideration than possible here.
Second, there are elements of truth in most of the views expressed above, but also inconsistency and error (when read against each other, and, I would argue, facts, reason and biblical truth).
Third (and this is perhaps the most important), each reads events and states of affairs through the lens of a particular narrative or pre-suppositional framework, or the shared interpretative paradigm of their particular community or Christian sub-culture. This is just a part of being human. The world is complex and everyone needs ‘a story to make sense’. But it is equally true that, just as the Lord revealed different parts of His truth to the different authors of the Bible, each of us is only ever told part of the story.
Fourth, different prophetic stances draw on different ways of knowing, ie different epistemologies. Some emphasise the Bible, albeit interpreted through one or other hermeneutical system. Others rely on dreams, visions, revelations, or claimed direct ‘words from God’.10)There is plenty of evidence in Scripture that the Lord does indeed speak in these ways, but reliance on such sources of revelation alone is problematic: what is the ultimate source of authority of these ‘words’? who is right when ‘prophets’ disagree?.
In subsequent articles, I shall attempt to read events around the Covid-19 pandemic through a ‘Jeremian’ combination of sober realism and over-arching hope, based on an attempt to discern God’s hidden governance behind visible events, informed, as far as possible, by the facts of the matter and the whole biblical revelation. In this way, I hope to address enough of the Covid-19 phenomenon in a way that I hope will help us to understand the times and know how to pray and what do to, and equip us for the days ahead.
Notes [ + ]
|1.||↑||Essentially, the therapy strengthens the patient’s immune system and helps reduce the fatal symptoms of pneumonia and general inflammation of lung tissue resulting from COVID-19. It is not an ‘antidote’ in the normal sense of the word.|
|2.||↑||Richard’s Watch very helpfully re-posts and comments on much of this material, but also casts a much wider net drawing in much other ‘prophetic’ content from around the world.|
|3.||↑||I was fascinated by Roma Waterman’s suggestion that, as the Black Death led to the Renaissance, so will Covid-19 inaugurate a new wave of godly art and culture.|
|4.||↑||The BICP prophetic word makes a number of quite specific predictions, including: “unusual fish hauls in the seas”; the emergence of “a new breed of female leaders” in the Middle East; a huge and sudden ‘harvest of souls’, especially in Europe; frequent miracles and angelic visitations; a new breed of wholesome TV dramas, which will “fill our screens”; many celebrities will become Christians; “the Spirit of the Lord will overshadow the UK parliament”.|
|5.||↑||For more on ‘Christian Britain’, see my article ‘Exile & Hope’.|
|6.||↑||The commemorations of 75 years since VE day going on as I write are a particularly poignant reminder of this.|
|7.||↑||The full text of Cyprian’s Treatise 7 (§16): “And further, beloved brethren, what is it, what a great thing is it, how pertinent, how necessary, that pestilence and plague which seems horrible and deadly, searches out the righteousness of each one, and examines the minds of the human race, to see whether they who are in health tend the sick; whether relations affectionately love their kindred; whether masters pity their languishing servants; whether physicians do not forsake the beseeching patients; whether the fierce suppress their violence; whether the rapacious can quench the ever insatiable ardour of their raging avarice even by the fear of death; whether the haughty bend their neck; whether the wicked soften their boldness; whether, when their dear ones perish, the rich, even then bestow anything, and give, when they are to die without heirs.”|
|8.||↑||A recent survey revealed that 40% of people feel a stronger sense of community since the outbreak and 39% feel more in touch with friends and family|
|9.||↑||Both linked videos are a few minutes each and worth the time.|
|10.||↑||There is plenty of evidence in Scripture that the Lord does indeed speak in these ways, but reliance on such sources of revelation alone is problematic: what is the ultimate source of authority of these ‘words’? who is right when ‘prophets’ disagree?.|