Pandemics—What the Future Holds
SOME students of the 1918-19 flu pandemic have been powerfully reminded of Bible prophecies. For example, Gina Kolata notes in her book Flu—The Story of the Great Influenza Pandemic of 1918 and the Search for the Virus that Caused It: “They called the plague of 1918 influenza, but it was like no influenza ever seen before. It was more like a biblical prophecy come true.”
Does the Bible actually say anything that bears on this human calamity? In fact, it does.
Bible Prophecy and Pestilences
The disciples of Jesus Christ asked him for a sign of “the conclusion of the system of things.” (Matthew 24:3) Jesus answered by saying: “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; and there will be great earthquakes, and in one place after another pestilences.” (Luke 21:7, 10, 11) The Bible also foretells that during the time of the end, there will be “deadly plague.”—Revelation 6:8.
The Spanish flu epidemic began toward the end of the Great War (1914-18), later called World War I. That period saw the start of the fulfillment of Bible prophecies regarding “the last days.” These prophecies mention horrific food shortages, great earthquakes, increasing lawlessness, and a remarkable deterioration of human values. No doubt you are well aware of those very conditions in the world today.—Matthew 24:3-14; 2 Timothy 3:1-5.
The fulfillment of the prophecies involving “pestilences” and “deadly plague” has brought about immeasurable fear, misery, and loss of life. And according to the journal Microbes and Infection, “there is no reason to suppose that another pandemic will not occur at some future date. That this will happen, seems inevitable.”
The Threat Continues
The journal Emerging Infectious Diseases of April 2005 says: “Optimists once imagined that serious infectious disease threats would by now be conquered.” The magazine adds, however, that “infectious diseases have continued to emerge and reemerge.” Nature magazine of July 8, 2004, notes the consequences: “About 15 million . . . annual deaths worldwide are estimated to be related directly to infectious diseases.”
“The emergence of AIDS led to renewed appreciation of the inevitability and consequences of the emergence of infectious diseases,” Nature explains. “In the 45 most affected countries,” reports UNAIDS, an AIDS program sponsored by the United Nations and other groups, “it is projected that, between 2000 and 2020, 68 million people will die prematurely as a result of AIDS.”
Within the past 25 years, AIDS has proved to be a devastating plague, killing over 20 million people. But the Spanish flu wreaked its devastation in a little over a year. Now, according to repeated warnings, the world appears long overdue for the emergence of a virulent form of influenza for which it is not prepared.
On May 19, 2005, Reuters Alert Net warned of the continuing appearance of new flu viruses, adding that these “pose a continuing and potentially growing pandemic threat.” The Wall Street Journal of the day before said: “The bird-flu virus currently active in Asia is known as H5N1 and was first spotted in Hong Kong’s poultry markets in 1997. It is unusual for its virulence—it kills as many as 80% of those who catch it.” The virus can reportedly infect people who come in close contact with infected animals.
The Future—Dismal or Bright?
Our prospects for a healthy future may not seem bright. When Jesus Christ spoke of pestilences during the last days, he certainly indicated that there is reason for concern. However, the Bible also gives us hope. For example, God made a promise to Noah and his family before the global Flood. First he warned Noah of the approaching devastation, but then he instructed Noah to build an ark, where he and others would find protection. (Genesis 6:13, 14; 7:1) The apostle Peter explained that “the patience of God was waiting in Noah’s days, while the ark was being constructed,” and that when the ark was completed, the survivors “were carried safely through the water.”—1 Peter 3:20.
Jesus Christ, who foretold much regarding the world conditions we see today, revealed that our era is similar to that of Noah. Those who trust in God as Noah did have the prospect of surviving a vast destruction. (Luke 17:26, 27) John, an apostle of Jesus, wrote: “The world is passing away and so is its desire, but he that does the will of God remains forever.”—1 John 2:17.
The present world system, then, will end. What kind of life will survivors enjoy? The apostle John was given a vision of the marvelous conditions that will exist on earth under the rule of God’s Kingdom: “[God] will reside with them, and they will be his peoples. And God himself will be with them. And he will wipe out every tear from their eyes, and death will be no more, neither will mourning nor outcry nor pain be anymore. The former things have passed away.”—Revelation 21:3, 4.
Your future need not appear bleak. If you learn about God and come to trust in him fully, you have a bright future ahead of you. The sure promise of God is that in his new world, the dead will be resurrected. (John 5:28, 29; Acts 24:15) And pestilence will be gone forever. In a prophecy that will find fulfillment in that new world, the Bible promises: “No resident will say: ‘I am sick.’”—Isaiah 33:24.
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The Bible promises a new world in which “no resident will say: ‘I am sick’”