COVID-19…just another pandemic?

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When we look back through history, plagues and virus are pretty regular, and as a Christian, I’m well aware of the prophecy of the Four Horsemen given to us in Revelations 6:1-8.

There’s been plenty debate amongst historians, theologians and doomsday advocates whether the four disastrous occurrences detailed in Revelations 6:8 (also seen in Ezekiel 14:21): have already taken place, are currently underway, or are yet to come.

8I looked, and there before me was a pale horse! Its rider was named Death, and Hades was following close behind him. They were given power over a fourth of the earth to kill by sword, famine and plague, and by the wild beasts of the earth.

Revelations 6:8

Let’s stop for a second and do some simple math. How many humans make up a fourth of the world’s inhabitants? Well, this number changes multiple times a second, but as of right now (0845 PHT, 5 May 2021), I’m looking at 7,863,554,947 people.

So, if we’re in the plague of Revelations, experiencing the hand of God through the Pale Horsemen (‘pale’ is the English translation of the Greek chlōros χλωρός; the colour Jesus used to describe the grass when he was feeding the 5000 in Mark 6:39. See also: Genesis 1:30, Revelations 8:7 and 9:4), over a fourth of the world is going to die.

“Over a fourth of the world” is around two billion people; roughly the combined population of China and Iceland. In 2021, the world’s population has increased by ~27,500,000 people; the death toll from COVID-19 since January 6, 2020, is ~3,198,528; 0.0406% of Earth’s human inhabitants.

So, let’s take a breath.

This pandemic has not approached the apocalyptic impact of the 1918 influenza, which killed an estimated 100 million people between 1918 and 1919, or of HIV, which has killed 32 million people since it arrived in 1981.

Covid-19 Is Bad. But It May Not Be the ‘Big One’

Indeed, this world is not foreign to wars, famines, plagues and wild beasts.

How many people have died in war? At least 108 million people were killed in wars in the twentieth century. Estimates for the total number killed in wars throughout all of human history range from 150 million to 1 billion.

Chris Hedges, New York Times, July 6, 2003

According to the United Nations, “due to the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic”, the number of annual global deaths from hunger (9 million people) could double. Moreover, 821 million people don’t have an adequate or reliable source of food.

The highest number of malnourished people, 520 million, lives in Asia and the Pacific, in countries like Indonesia and the Philippines.

Mercy Corps, March 18, 2015 • Updated May 08, 2020
The Irish Famine, 1845-1849, (1900). Artist: Unknown

How does COVID-19 rank against the other major plagues seen during human history?

As recorded by Athenian general and historian Thucydides, The Plague of Athens tore through the Greek capital in 430 B.C. “creating so great departure from normal conditions.” When reading through Thucydides detailed catalogue of symptoms and observations, it appears that the epidemic of typhus caused the Plague of Athens.

The Antonine Plague of 165-180 A.D. may have killed over 5 million people in the Roman empire during the reign of Antoninus Pius. Under Emperor Marcus Aurelius, from from 161 to 180 A.D., the population of the Roman Empire fell to around 40 million.

The Antonine Plague may well have created the conditions for the decline of the Roman Empire and, afterwards, for its fall in the West in the fifth century AD.”

From around 250 to 270, the Cyprian Plague arose in Ethiopia, sweeping across the Roman Empire. This plague claimed in excess of 5,000 victims per day in the city of Rome alone. The highly contagious nature of the Cyprian Plague was similar to that of anthrax, the bubonic plague, cholera, coronavirus, measles, smallpox, and typhus.

From 541 A.D. until 750 A.D, the Plague of Justinian, or Justinianic Plague, killed 5000-10,000 people per day. Throughout its course, ~100,000,000 people (or 10% of the world’s population) died. This plague saw the further collapse of the Roman armies, its defense forces, economic and administrative faculties.  

Thought to have originated out of China via trade routes in 1334, the Bubonic Plague, more commonly known as the Black Death, wiped out over half of Europe’s population (~25,000,000 people). The population of Europe would not recover to pre-pandemic levels until the 16th century.

The cocoliztli epidemic of 1545-1548 killed between 5-15 million inhabitants of Mexico and Central America; 80% of the native Incan and Aztec populations.

The smallpox virus, another virulent member of the American Plagues of the 16th century, killed 80-90% of the indigenous population in the Americas. “The earliest evidence for the disease comes from the Egyptian Pharaoh Ramses V, who died in 1157 B.C. His mummified remains show telltale pockmarks on his skin.”

The Spanish Flu of 1918-1920 killed 100 million people from the South Seas to the North Pole and pushed several indigenous communities to the brink of extinction.

The AIDS/HIV pandemic and epidemic: From 1981-present day, ~75 million people have contracted HIV, and the ‘acquired immunodeficiency syndrome’ (AIDS) has claimed at least 32-35 million lives.

The “wild beasts” in Revelation 6:8 is the translation of the Greek word “Thērion“, θηρίον. This word does not necessarily mean we’ll be attacked by gigantic, ferocious animals, unseen since the Jurassic period. It can mean something as small as a microscopic organism.

Take another breath. If anyone tells you that the this pandemic is a sign of the end, simply inform or remind them of Jesus’ instructions concerning the end times:

36No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father…42Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.

Matthew 24:36, 42

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