COVID-19, civil unrest, crippled economies, raging Australian wildfires; heck, there’s a plague of locusts consuming everything in their path in Africa, causing massive famine. The question ringing in many Christians’ ears is, understandably: Are these catastrophes signs that the Second Coming of Jesus Christ is near?
People have been asking this kind of question for generations. In fact, the New Testament apostles actually asked Christ himself a similar question in Matthew 24:
And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the of thy coming, and of the end of the ?
Christ’s response (Matthew 24:4-14, emphasis mine):
And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no manyou. For many shall come in my , saying, I am ; and shall many.
And ye shall hear of these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be , and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places.and rumours of wars: see that ye be not : for all
All these are the beginning of .
…And then shall many be, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. And many shall rise, and shall deceive many. And because shall abound, the love of many shall wax .
But he that shallunto the end, the same shall be saved. And this of the shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the come.
The chapter goes on to list a few other “signs of the times,” and then Christ gives us a helpful (or maybe not so helpful) reminder about when exactly the end is to come:
But of that man, no, not the of heaven, but my Father only.and knoweth no
Related: What God’s Pattern of Creating a “Chosen” People and COVID-19 Have in Common
So where does that leave us?
Is COVID-19 (among all of the other previously listed catastrophes) a sign of the impending Second Coming of Christ?
The scriptures are admittedly quite vague. Essentially, they say, “really bad things are going to happen.” In my book, COVID-19 is a really bad thing.
That said, dubbing something “a sign” or “not a sign” isn’t especially helpful when trying to determine how far out the apocalypse is. As mentioned earlier, even when signs abound, “that day and hour [of the end] knoweth no man.” The earlier verses from Matthew 24 even mention that many of these events are only “the beginning of sorrows,” not the end. Another verse reveals that “the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night” (2 Peter 3:10). “ therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come” (Matthew 24:42).
Moral of the story
People have been seeing “end times” signs for generations upon generations. But we’re still here. So, sure, COVID-19 could be a sign. But it doesn’t come with a timestamp for the impending Second Coming. It could be a year from now. It could be 1,000 years from now.
We’re going to work through it, and more “signs” will follow, as they have for a very long time. But although calamities will continue, that should not be interpreted as permission to sit back and watch the suffering continue. The commandments to “love thy neighbor” and to “mourn with those who mourn” have never been more important. In his last general conference address, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland remarked that the world would conquer COVID-19, but that we must not stop there:
When we have conquered this—and we will—may we be equally committed to freeing the world from the virus of hunger, freeing neighborhoods and nations from the virus of poverty. May we hope for schools where students are taught—not terrified they will be shot—and for the gift of personal dignity for every child of God, unmarred by any form of racial, ethnic, or religious prejudice.
These signs are not only meant to indicate the impending end—they are designed to give each of us further opportunities to prepare for that end by responding to crises in Christlike ways. God wants us to live in a constant state of spiritual preparation. Maybe that’s why these signs don’t come with an end date. God wants repentance and reconciliation with our fellow man to become a lifestyle, not a last-ditch effort to sweep our mistakes under the rug at the threat of imminent eternal judgment.
In the words of Alma (emphasis mine):
Yea, I would that ye would come forth andnot your hearts any longer; for behold, now is the time and the of your ; and therefore, if ye will repent and not your hearts, immediately shall the great plan of redemption be brought about unto you.
For behold, thisis the time for men to to meet God; yea, behold the day of life is the day for men to perform their .
And now, as I said unto you before, as ye have had so many, therefore, I beseech of you that ye do not the day of your until the end; for after this day of life, which is given us to prepare for eternity, behold, if we do not improve our time while in this life, then cometh the of wherein there can be no labor performed.
“Therefore be ye also: for in such an the Son of man cometh” (Matthew 24:44).