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COVID19: Not Afraid - Part 1

Eric Walsh
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The world has come to a standstill over the COVID19 virus how should the Christian respond. 

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Eric Walsh

Pastor and Physician

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  • March 14, 2020
    7:00 PM
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Happy Sabbath, everyone. This is Dr. Eric Walsh. I’m at the Three Angels Church in Newington, Connecticut, and we are filming in an empty church because of the fear of the COVID-19, once known as the Wuhan virus and then the Coronavirus that is affecting America and the world today. I’ve been asked by a few churches to kind of give a bit of an update and some thoughts on this, a Christian perspective, Adventist perspective, on what is happening in the world. So, I’m going to say a word of prayer, and then just for a few minutes we’re going to talk a bit about the virus and what it means to us from a physical health perspective, public health perspective, spiritual perspective and where it lands us in the stream of prophecy.

 

Let’s bow our heads and pray. Father God, we thank You for this opportunity to study Your Word and to place into perspective what is now become a global phenomenon, a pandemic. Lord God, there are many who are afraid. Lord, now let us turn to You. This is our prayer in Jesus’ precious and holy name. Amen.

 

So, I want to start in the book of Matthew, the twenty-fourth chapter, Matthew, chapter 24, Matthew, chapter 24. Most of you know, normally when I preach there are a lot of slides and I give infographics. On this subject, things are changing so fast that I don’t want to put up an infographic. I’ll stick with the one thing that does not change, and that is God’s Word.

 

Matthew, chapter 24, if you begin to read at verse 4, and I’m reading from the New King James Version of the Bible, it says, “Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name…and will deceive many. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of sorrows.”

 

The Bible tells us, as Jesus is exiting the temple, He’s talking to His disciples who have just seen Him run [roughshod] through the temple, seeing Him bring low the Pharisees and the Sadducees. And they were wondering how was it that Christ could do this and not recognize the temple. So, they say, “Hey, do You see the wonder and the splendor of the temple?” And Jesus says, “Listen, eventually I assure you that not one stone of this temple will stand one upon the other.”

 

The disciples began to realize that Christ is being prophetic, and they ask Him, “What does this mean?” “What does this mean?” “And when,” they say, “and what are the signs of Your coming?” and of the end of the age or the end of the world.

 

This is when Jesus gives us this passage of Scripture. And He begins by saying, “Make sure that no one deceives you.” The Greek word for “deceives” there is “planao.” It means, like, “to lead away a sheep,” as in the parable of the 99 sheep. And Jesus says, “For many will come in My name, saying ‘I am Christ,’ and will deceive many.” And we know much of this has happened. I normally would go more into all of this, but I want to jump into one thing where it says, “And there will be wars and rumors of wars,” then Christ says to His disciples, “See that ye be not troubled.” In other words, when war begins to happen, when the world begins to turn on itself, that is not the time to be troubled or in fear.

 

The Scripture clearly said, Jesus says, “Listen, don’t be troubled for this must come to pass, but it is not the end yet.” Then to describe this time period just before the end starts, He gives some more details. He says, “For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.” He says, “And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. All these things are the beginning of sorrows.”

 

I could talk about famines, the fact that one out of seven people in the world are in hunger, and hunger and malnutrition are still the leading causes of death in many parts of the world. Not just hunger and lack of food, but in America in the West, we have malnutrition and famine in an abundance of calories. Not for tonight, tonight I want to hit pestilences.

 

We know, and normally I could put up slides and show you that we have seen diseases come out of nowhere like Ebola. We’ve seen diseases like SARS, MERS. We have seen diseases like HIV, Zika all of a sudden pop up. And if you look at the iteration of the times when they come, some argue these things seem to happen often in an election year, but I want to say that pestilences are one of the things that Jesus says would happen. And the connotation, the way that I read this is, that there will be diseases in the last days that will come out of nowhere, that will shock the world, and pestilences will happen, and they will cause people to be afraid.

 

What we’re looking at right now is pestilence. I’ll finish the verse, and then we’ll get to the Coronavirus component of this. And the rest of that verse says, “and earthquakes in various places,” and we’ve seen this. We’ve seen earthquakes in Puerto Rico, somewhere where you wouldn’t think you’d get an earthquake. Several years ago, there was one in Haiti. We also recently had one between the islands of Jamaica and Cuba. If you look at the national Geological Society’s maps, there are earthquakes happening all the time. Jesus’ prophecy is fulfilled. The earthquakes often are happening in diverse places.

 

But pestilences are relevant to us now as the world is gripped. There are a few things that this pestilence actually helps to teach us. One of them is that what we think is life, is very fragile, not just in that a virus can come out of nowhere and begin to kill hundreds, yea, thousands of people, but life is fragile in that all of the normal social construct here in America has been shut down and in much of the world. The NBA has cancelled or suspended its season. The NCAA has cancelled the March Madness Playoffs that would have happened this month. We’ve watched pretty much every other major sporting system shut down. We have watched conferences, medical conferences, government conferences, business conferences, all close and shutter and cancel. We have watched cruise ships become empty, and we have watched as even now churches are not being able to meet. We are watching what we thought was stability, and God is showing us through what’s happening that what we thought was stability is actually instability, that this world is fragile.

 

As much as we want to think we know what’s going to happen tomorrow, we now know, as the schools all begin to shut down (the state of Ohio has just shut down all of its schools), we now know that what seems like it is going to be for sure tomorrow, in these ends times, they may not be there the next day. In fact, the Spirit of Prophecy tells us that the last events will be rapid ones. I want you to look at what happened at a disease that is 80 percent of the people who get this disease, it’s a mild disease, the case fatality rate ranges anywhere from 0.4 percent up to 2.8 percent, depending on where you are in China, higher for those that are older, a disease that overall most people that get it are not going to get very sick. And yet, with all of that, the world has come to a halt. What happens?!

 

The disease whose case fatality rate is 33 percent as described in the seven last plagues, when that hits the world, what will happen when that happens? We are living in a time of great uncertainty, and there is great fear. In fact, further down in Matthew, chapter 24, one of the things that is said by Jesus in this same passage is that in the last days men’s hearts will fail them for fear.

 

You can see it. I mean, here is the funny thing: You can’t find toilet paper in most of the grocery stores now; and toilet paper has nothing to do with the virus! It doesn’t cause diarrhea. Yet, you can’t find toilet paper. It’s interesting. We went into the hood; we went down into the city, and we were able to find it in abundance! Because there’s another even greater pandemic and that is poverty, and poor people, those of us who grew up poor, you know, you buy enough to get through the week. It doesn’t matter what virus is outside. You don’t have enough money to go and buy six months’ worth of toilet paper. But the world has gone mad with people fighting in the grocery stores over toilet paper and paper towels and other stuff that they think they’re going to need, canned goods. Just like that, men’s hearts are failing them for fear, just as Christ predicted.

 

We have no vaccine for this. There’s no treatment yet. One of the things they keep telling us is, “Just hold on; we will be fine because these things will be brought into existence,” but I will tell you that will take some time. You know, we’re going to have to go through different types of trials and to human trials. All of those things are going to take some time. Even the tests, we seem in some places in America to have shortages of testing materials so we know who has the virus and who doesn’t. It is showing you that what we thought was an invincible system, this Babylonian system that we all bought into and believe in, this shows you how quickly Babylon, as Revelation, chapter 18, I believe it is, says Babylon can fall just like that. And that’s what this virus is teaching us.

 

So, Jesus wants to speak to us in the middle of this storm. Turn with me to Matthew, chapter 14; there’s a great story in there, words from Jesus that apply for any who are going through difficulty right now dealing with this virus. Matthew, chapter 14, and the story that we’re looking at is the story of when Jesus walks on the water.

 

And when we start, in verse 22 it says, “Immediately Jesus made His disciples get into the boat and go before Him to the other side, while He sent the multitudes away. And when He had sent the multitudes away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray. Now when evening came, He was alone there.” So, He was alone praying. Jesus was alone praying in the mountain. “But the boat was now in the middle of the sea,” with the disciples. The Bible says that it was “tossed by the waves, for the wind was contrary.”

 

The enemy came after them. The Spirit of Prophecy tells us that the disciples were in the boat. After Jesus has fed the 5,000, the disciples were in the boat clamoring and complaining as to why Jesus wouldn’t allow them to crown Him king. While they’re there fussing and fighting and speaking against the Most High God in the Person of Jesus Christ, while they’re doing that, the storm arises. The Bible says, “But the boat was now in the middle of the sea, tossed by the waves, for the wind was contrary.”

 

Then the Bible says in verse 25, “Now in the fourth watch of the night,” in the darkest part of the night, “Jesus went to them,” and the Bible says Jesus doesn’t do a butterfly stroke out to the boat. He’s not doing a backstroke; He’s not doing a crawl stroke. Jesus doesn’t have time to get wet. He just walks on the water. The Scripture says He comes to them “walking on the sea. And when the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, ‘It is a ghost!’ And they cried out for fear.” Sounds like Scooby and Shaggy from the old cartoon. They cried out for fear; they were afraid that a ghost was coming. But the words that Jesus tells them in a boat that seems like it’s going to sink, at a time when they thought they were under attack by spiritual forces, supernatural forces, Jesus looks at them, and verse 27 of Matthew 14 says, “But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid.’”

 

Those are the words I want to give you tonight. I want to give you the words that say, “Be of good cheer.” The Christian sitting at home today because your church can’t meet, because we’re all worried about this virus, and the virus deserves concern, I want you to know that if you are a Christian, as the boat begins to rock, this boat of Earth begins to rock, as it begins to shake, as it seems like it will sink, I want you as Christians to get the word that Jesus is speaking as He was walking to His disciples on the water, He is now preparing to leave the Most Holy Place in the heavenly sanctuary, as He’s looking to do this, to put on the garb of Christ, of a King, and take off the garb of Priest, as He’s looking to make that transition and begin His walk across the Milky Way all the way back to Earth, Jesus is saying, “Listen, I know the boat is shaking, and I know how afraid you are. I know you see what’s happening, and you think it’s all over,” but I think in a time of trouble Christ is trying to tell us, “Be of good cheer.” In other words, “Christian, don’t be panicking. Don’t be afraid. Be of good cheer.”

 

Why should you be of good cheer at a time like this, when the whole world is on meltdown? Because Christ is saying, “Listen, what you’re seeing are the signs, and it is I.” All of this is simply telling us Jesus is about to return. So, He says, “It is I; do not be afraid.” Second Timothy 1:7, one of my favorite Bible verses, says, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”

 

This virus is for real. The case fatality rate is for real; it causes fibrosis and honeycombing of lungs. There are some people who get it and get super sick. Some people get it and don’t even get symptoms. This is part of the reason it’s so effective, because so many people can walk around with it, and you don’t see the effects of it. So, it can spread very well. It’s not deadly enough to be easily contained, and it’s not so easily identified that it can be easily contained. It is a stealth virus that will sneak into communities, and when a few people don’t get very bad symptoms, they’ll give it to somebody for whom it may cause a critical disease or be lethal. That is the nature of this virus.

 

And let me warn you; let me remind you that such is the nature of the real great “virus” of this world, the real pandemic of this world: Sin. We live in a society where we see so many people living in sin, celebrating sin, and nothing seems like it happens to them, and so our guard is down. We’re not covering our cough. We’re not making sure that we take respiratory precautions. We’re not making sure that we’re washing our spiritual hands. We’re not making sure that we’re not shaking the hands of those who might be infected. We’re not making sure that we’re protecting ourselves because we have come to believe that the “virus” really isn’t that dangerous.

 

But I want to warn you on this Sabbath, as the world is on shutdown, that the real “virus” that needs to be treated is the virus of sin and its stealth. And there are a lot of people who look like they are prospering in their sin, but the sin, like these viruses, is deadly. And there is only one antidote, only one way you’ll survive the disease of sin, and that is that you have the antidote. That antidote is the blood of Jesus Christ.

 

We already know the cure for the greatest pandemic in the history of the universe. The antidote is to have the blood of Jesus Christ applied to your life, to “turn your eyes upon Jesus,” to “look full in His wonderful face,” so that, “The things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.” Amen.

 

Father God, as I step down from this pulpit, Lord, let us never step away from Your presence. I am asking in a special way, Lord, tonight, as many are so afraid that they remember what You said, “Be of good cheer. It is I; be not afraid.” Lord, this virus will wreak its havoc. We are praying that You stop it; that You cut this thing short in mercy, that You save the lives that could be lost, that they might hear of the power and the wonder that is in the name of Jesus. Father God, if this thing goes far, and it does what the Spanish flu once did and the Black plague once did, if it circles the globe and just completely wreaks havoc, Lord, let us still not forget that You are in control, and, Father God, we need to draw closer to You. This is our prayer in Jesus’ precious and holy name. Amen.

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