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Saturday, April 25, 2020

Is Coronavirus signaling the end of the world?


My home lot is small. My neighbors are very close by. This time of year, people are in their yards or have their windows open. Their conversation on a recent afternoon went like this: 

“This is the end, no question. We’re at the apocalypse. They aren’t going to fix this, I don’t care what they promise,” one of them said. 

The others agreed. No one argued. No one said, ‘Oh, we’ve seen worse.’ No one said, ‘It won’t come in my lifetime.’  

Are they right? Is Coronavirus the end? Is this a punishment from God, a biblical plague, to be followed in short order by darkness, hail, locusts, and the oceans turning to blood? The short answer is, No. 

But does that mean the Coronavirus pandemic has no biblical significance? Not at all. It would be very unwise to ignore it.  

Coronavirus is absolutely not a punishment from God, as a born-again man tried to tell me a couple months ago, being visited on those heathen Chinese for destroying ‘Christian’ churches. God simply doesn’t work that way. Long ago, Abraham said to God: 
  • “It is unthinkable that you would act in this manner by putting the righteous man to death with the wicked one so that the outcome for the righteous man and the wicked is the same! It is unthinkable of you. Will the Judge of all the earth not do what is right?” (Genesis 18:25)
It was a rhetorical question; of course the Judge of all the earth will always do what is right. 

So if the Bible does not teach that the pandemic is a punishment from God, does it explain why random people are dying while others are surviving unscathed? Yes it does: 
  •  “The swift do not always win the race, nor do the mighty win the battle, nor do the wise always have the food, nor do the intelligent always have the riches, nor do those with knowledge always have success, because time and unexpected events overtake them all.” (Ecclesiastes 9:11)

“Unexpected events.” There is no fate; no one is destined to die because of Coronavirus. It is more likely to kill those with weakened immune systems. But it isn’t a death sentence. Millions of people have survived it so far, and millions more will come in contact with it and survive while others die. The ‘mighty don’t always win the battle.’ 
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There are, in fact, things you can do to improve your chances of survival.

Adam’s and Eve’s bodies were wonderfully made by their creator with multiple lines of defense against disease. But with each generation we get further and further from that perfect start. On top of that, within one century we went from virtually everyone eating farm-fresh organic food, breathing clean air, drinking clean water, and staying physically active all day; to a generation that sits in front of a computer all day and thinks mac-n-cheese and ‘Impossible burger’ is food. 

If you’re a health nut who buys organic food, filters your water, filters the air in your house and walks two miles a day, you still won’t live forever. We all inherited death from Adam. But whose chances of warding off Coronavirus rank higher: the health nut, or an overweight smoker living on diet soda and pop-tarts? 

We’ve come, in one century, from a generation that took responsibility for their own health, to a ‘herd mentality’ that thinks we’re all going to die if science doesn’t come up with a solution.

If the ‘health service’, so called, was really interested in saving as many as possible, it seems like their message should be: 'Build your immune system! Get more sunshine, keep moving, get plenty of rest, take vitamins C and D and E, eat fresh food, and don’t stress!' If everyone did some or most of these things, everyone’s immune system would improve, and far fewer people overall would be in danger from the virus.

Instead, the message is, ‘You won’t be safe until WE develop a vaccine! Stay home, don’t move, binge on Netflix, wear a mask, and use plenty of hand sanitizer. '

Is the pandemic the end of the world? No. There have been many plagues down through history. But that is not the point. Jesus said the last days would be marked by wars, “great earthquakes, and in one place after another food shortages and pestilences.” (Luke 21:10, 11)

In the war between Napoleon and Wellington – called the Peninsular War, between England and France in the early 1800s – many wondered if it was the end. All those signs were being seen: War, food shortage, pestilence, even great earthquakes. Serious Bible scholars, however, knew it wasn’t the end. How? Because Jesus added, “And this good news of the kingdom will be preached in ALL the inhabited earth, for a witness to ALL nations, and then the end will come.” (Matthew 24:14) Matthew Poole, for example, pointed out that in his day, the 1700s, the gospel had barely reached America, let alone India or Australia, and certainly couldn’t be said to have been preached in every nation. (See Matthew Poole for Mark 13:10)

Today, however, all the pieces of Jesus’ warning sign are in place. Since World War I broke out, the world has been constantly at war; has been bouncing from the Spanish flu to polio to heart disease to ebola to cancer to AIDS; the world has seen food shortages all over Africa and Asia and even in more affluent lands; has endured a barrage of earthquakes in one place after another; and, most significantly, has witnessed the Good News of the Kingdom being preached in literally every nation and language. The most widely translated website on the internet, by a huge margin, is not Google or Facebook; it is JW.org, in over 1,000 languages.


Coronavirus may not be the end of the world. But the end is certainly not waiting for some other sign to be fulfilled.


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Bill K. Underwood is a columnist, consultant, photographer and author of three bible-friendly novels available in either ebook or paper at Amazon.com.






Friday, April 17, 2020

Is Food Shortage Next?



Perhaps you’ve seen some of these stories of dairy farmers dumping milk down the sewer, or vegetable farmers plowing their crops under. What’s going on? 

Storage is expensive. Cold storage is especially expensive. Over the past few decades, with the help of the almighty computer, supply chains have cut margins to a razor-thin edge. A crop goes from its source to its consumer with as short a wait as possible.  

Before the current mess began, the average American ate out at a restaurant six times a month. 6 meals out of 90 = about 7%. Just because I hate math, let’s round it 5%. So 5% of the food produced in this country is no longer being consumed. “Wait!” I can hear you saying. “People are still eating the same amount." True. But the farmers who are part of the supply chain for restaurants can't just turn around and sell their food to grocery stores.  

The food at most restaurants wasn’t coming from farmers. It was coming from large restaurant supply corporations, such as Sysco. It came in restaurant-sized packaging that simply doesn’t have a space on grocery store shelves. When restaurants closed and stopped accepting deliveries from Sysco, Sysco told their farmers, Stop, we don’t have any place to put your crops. What was the farmer supposed to do with it? They operate on tight margins as it is, because Sysco wasn’t paying them much. Redirecting their crop to grocery store suppliers would have cost them more than the crop was worth. Some of them couldn't even afford to deliver it to food banks. So they dumped it. 

Now, here’s where it gets tricky. That 5-7% number mentioned earlier; that doesn’t represent every person eating out 6 times a month. Some households were eating out nearly every meal. So those households are first going to pivot to eating pre-cooked meals – things like Swanson TV dinners. 

Couldn’t the Swansons of the world take the restaurant’s excess off the hands of the farmers? Eventually, yes. But not immediately. The Swanson-type companies already have their own supply chain, and it doesn’t include potatoes prepared to be Red Robin’s steak fries. 
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So the first thing that may happen could be the pre-made meal market seeing shortages. When masked shoppers go to Safeway to stock up on Hungry Man dinners, and that particular case is empty, what are they going to do? They’ll buy their second choice. And very likely they'll buy more than they need, just in case. Hopefully not a panic, such as happened with the toilet paper, but perhaps a pinch more.

A larger section of the population will also try to dust off their cooking skills. When was the last time you baked bread? Early on, when toilet paper was being hoarded, bread was also in short supply in some stores. So people started stocking up on flour and Googling how to bake their own bread. Now the flour is getting scarce, as is yeast, and prices are rising. There's been a hamburger shortage in the meat department of some stores; all these new experimental cookers are more confident in their ability to cook a burger than a roast.

The shortages may not get to starvation levels. Perhaps rice, with its connection to China, will fall out of favor and you’ll have to switch to potatoes. Or your favorite brand of coffee or sugar will be out of stock and you’ll have to switch to another. Or you'll learn to drink your coffee black because of a cream shortage.

Isn’t it interesting that this type of food shortage is exactly what the Bible predicted? Revelation 6:6, in describing the ‘end times’ or last days, said: 
  • “I heard a voice out of the midst of the four living creatures say, ‘A quart of wheat for a day’s wage, three quarts of barley for a day’s wage, and do not harm the olive oil or the wine.’”

In Bible times, as today, wheat was preferable to barley. A quart of wheat would not have been enough for a small family to subsist on, certainly not something you'd want to spend your whole day's wage on. So that heavenly voice was predicting, not necessarily starvation, but at the very least price gouging, and having to make do with what may not be your preference. Olive oil and wine were staples as well. Olive oil was used for everything from lamplight to lotions. The admonition to not harm them would indicate having to take special care to preserve what you have. 

Food shortages alone, or even food shortages accompanying a pandemic, are not proof that we are living in the last days. That’s why Jesus gave a multi-part sign. But they should be enough to make a reasonable person investigate further. If you haven’t done so in a while, re-read Matthew 24 & 25, Luke 21, Mark 13, 2 Timothy 3, and Revelation chapter 6.


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Bill K. Underwood is a columnist, consultant, photographer and author of three bible-friendly novels available in either ebook or paper at Amazon.com.