“A biblical scholar said the new coronavirus outbreak is a precursor to End Times prophecies, warning that the pandemic is a ‘very serious foreshadowing’ of what’s to come.”
What’s worse? The government of “experts” who have locked down our nation because of a virus or “a biblical scholar” who is misinterpreting the Bible and misleading people on the end times?
They are both bad, but misreading the Bible is worse since it is authoritative. And what makes it so bad is that there is a nearly a two-millennia track record of similar claims that have turned out to be wrong. Here’s the argument:
In an interview with The Christian Post, Mark Hitchcock, author of over 30 books related to biblical End Times prophecies, said Scripture is clear that “there will be plagues in the End Times.” He cited Luke 21:11, Revelation 6:8, and the prophecy of the four horsemen of the Apocalypse, where the fourth rider kills one-fourth of the Earth’s population with pestilence and the “wild beasts of the earth.”
“In fact, Scripture tells us these plagues will kill 25% of the people in the world. It’s literally going to be biblical proportions,” the Dallas Theological Seminary professor said.
These types of wild predictions never seem to stop. I have a library full of books making similar claims going back centuries.
As I mentioned in a previous article, pestilences and plagues are not unusual. They can be found in the Old Testament, secular history, and the era leading up to Jerusalem’s judgment in AD 70. For example, the Roman historian Suetonius wrote that there was such a “pestilence” at Rome during the reign of Nero that “within the space of one autumn there died no less than thirty thousand persons, as appeared from the registers in the temple of Libitina.” ((C. Suetonius Tranquillus, The Lives of the Twelve Caesars: Nero, 39.)) This description fits the context of what Jesus said would happen to that generation.
If the Olivet Discourse is describing events leading up to and including the destruction of Jerusalem that took place within a generation (Matt. 24:34; Mark 13:29; Luke 21:32), then Revelation must be given a similar interpretation since it is parallel to Revelation 6. James M. Hamilton, Jr., a premillennialist, writes that “the opening of the seals in Revelation 6 corresponds to what Jesus describes in the Olivet Discourse in the Synoptic Gospels.” ((Hamilton, An Interview with Dr. James Hamilton. For further discussion of this point, see James M. Hamilton, Jr., Revelation: The Spirit Speaks to the Churches (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2012), 166–167. Also, Louis A. Vos, The Synoptic Traditions in the Apocalypse (Kampen, Netherlands: J.H. Kok N. V., 1965), 181–188.)) I agree. See my books Is Jesus Coming Soon?, Last Days Madness, and Wars and Rumors of Wars.
In Revelation 6:13–14, we read, “the stars of the sky fell to the earth, as a fig tree casts its unripe figs when shaken by a great wind. The sky was split apart like a scroll when it is rolled up, and every mountain and island were moved out of their places.”
If this is a description of physical stars, there would be an immediate end to the earth, and yet we find the earth is still intact in Revelation 8:10 where “a great star fell from heaven.” If one star hit the earth, the earth would be vaporized in an instant. In fact, if a star like our sun gets close to earth, the earth would burn up before it hit. How could the earth survive if a “third of the stars of heaven” had been thrown down to the earth (Rev. 12:4)?
Jesus is using language that was understood by the people of His day. The Hebrew Scriptures are filled with similar symbolic “sign” (Rev. 1:1) language. There is dramatic end-of-the-world language in Zephaniah that is directed at Jerusalem and Israel (Zeph. 1), a local judgment described using de-creation language.
John Lightfoot makes the point that seemingly end-of-the-world language is a common feature in the Bible and most often points to the end of the social, religious, and political status of a nation:
The opening of the sixth Seal [in Rev. 6:12–13] shows the destruction itself in those borrowed terms that the Scripture uses to express it by, namely as if it were the destruction of the whole world: as Matt. 24:29–30. The Sun darkened, the Stars falling, the Heaven departing and the Earth dissolved, and that conclusion [of] ver. 16 [in Rev. 6]. They shall say to the rocks fall on us, &c. doth not only warrant, but even enforce us to understand and construe these things in the sense that we do: for Christ applies these very words to the very same thing (Luke 23:30). And here is another, and, to me, a very satisfactory reason, why to place the showing of these visions to John, and his writing of this Book [of Revelation] before the desolation of Jerusalem. ((John Lightfoot, The Whole Works of the Rev. John Lightfoot Containing “The Harmony, Chronicle and Order of the New Testament,” ed. John Rogers Pitman, 13 vols. (London:  1823), 3:337.))
When was this judgment that included plagues to take place as Luke states (21:11)? Jesus had His present audience in view as He made His way to the cross:
Daughters of Jerusalem, stop weeping for Me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For behold, the days are coming when they will say, “Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bore, and the breasts that never nursed” [Matt. 24:19; Luke 21:23]. Then they will begin TO SAY TO THE MOUNTAINS, “FALL ON US,” AND TO THE HILLS, “COVER US” [Isa. 2:19–20; Hos. 10:8; Rev. 6:16] For if they do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry? (Luke 23:28–31).
When was the tree dry? Jesus identified Israel’s leadership as a fruitless tree (Matt. 21:18–22; 24:32) that would need to be cut down if it did not bear fruit (Luke 13:8–9). These religious representatives of that generation chose Caesar over Jesus (John 19:15). Peter described that generation as “this perverse generation” (Acts 2:40).
Does the fact that the prophecy regarding plagues and wars are irrelevant in the Christian’s life?” Not at all. They are part of the human condition. Even though this virus is not an end-of-the-world sign or event, it should get our attention that we are mortal and almost any unforeseen event could lay us low and even kill us. Eternity for us is but a heartbeat away, “inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment” (Heb. 9:27). There is no rapture rescue for us no matter what befalls our world.
Covid-19 is not a sign of some eschatological end as Mark Hitchcock claims.
So many things are happening in our world today: Israel is back in their land, the Middle East is constantly in turmoil, globalism is occurring — all of these things are signposts and point to what the Bible predicts about the soon coming of Christ. We don’t know when He’s coming; it could be today, it could be five years from now.
As a Professor at Dallas Theological Seminary and an advocate of dispensationalism, Hitchcock should know that his system teaches that there are no signs preceding the “rapture of the church” since according to dispensationalism, the “rapture” is an any-moment event. It was an any-moment event 1500, 1000, 500, 250, 100 years ago when none of today’s so-called signs existed including Israel being back in their land, something the New Testament never mentions as a sign.
Prophecy speculation of the dispensational kind has changed over the years. It’s all about “signposts.” Prophecy writers have been posting these “sign posts” for nearly 2000 years. It’s long past time to stop and to get business with kingdom work.
Hitchcock mentions “the soon coming of Christ.” The New Testament makes it clear that the judgment coming of Jesus against Jerusalem was “near” or “at hand … right at the door” (James 5:8–9) for that generation.