This blog must, of course, be about the Corona virus. All the media are constantly talking about it. Worldwide there are now more than 120,000 people registered as ‘infected’. In China, if we can believe what the Chinese are telling us, it seems to be heading in the right direction, but in Italy things continue to get worse. In the Netherlands (on Thursday 12 March) the number of Corona patients stands at over 600, but the authorities say that the exact number is unknown and probably much higher. Worldwide, the official number of deaths as a result of Corona is now over 4,000.
The Corona virus, or COVID-19, as the virus is officially called, has now evolved from an epidemic into a pandemic. Medical institutions around the world are making preparations for all kinds of doomsday scenarios. While doctors and other scientists are advising politicians how to curb a further spread, and at the same time are eagerly looking for a vaccine, Donald Trump and other world leaders are mainly worried about stock market prices and the chance of a recession. Life on a large part of our planet is pretty messed up. As of tomorrow, flights between Europe and the USA will be seriously restricted. Many companies have problems because no parts “made in China” are being delivered; planes with a handful of passengers are making ghost flights, conferences are being cancelled, and the tourist industry foresees a catastrophic year.
Personally, so far I have not had any major Corona problems. I know there is someone infected in our town, after having returned from Northern Italy, but name and address of the person are (of course) not made public. But things may now also begin to affect us. My wife and I were planning to go to a concert in the Concertgebouw next Sunday, together with friends, but I have just been notified that the concert has been cancelled. In about ten days I have a speaking assignment in Frankfurt am Main. I hope that meeting will take place as scheduled, but this is beginning to look very doubtful.
If Italian situations should arise in the Netherlands, they could upset my program in the coming weeks and months. But, of course, that’s an insignificant aspect of the big picture!
All kinds of big events are at risk. For example, the European Song Festival in Rotterdam. I won’t lose any sleep over it, if that doesn’t go ahead. Maybe the Olympics in Japan will have to be postponed. That thought must be a nightmare for the Japanese organizers. The leadership of the worldwide Adventist Church has announced that it hopes the World Congress in July, in the American city of Indianapolis, can go ahead. But other scenarios are presently being considered. Could that mean that the congress will have to be postponed for a year? And does that mean that the hopes of many, that the congress may at long last bring change, will in any case not be realized for another year?
Many will remember the words of Jesus that before He returns all kinds of disasters will take place. These are the so-called ‘signs of the times’. Is the Corona pandemic a ‘sign of the times’? Yes, we may see it that way, but we have to place it in the broader biblical perspective. According to the New Testament, the time of the end is the period between the first and second coming of Christ. During this period there are constant signs that this world is coming to an end, and is waiting for the new future that is ushered in by Christ’s second coming. In any case, the current Corona situation shows very clearly how everything in our world is interconnected, and that very suddenly something can happen that has global repercussions with incalculable consequences.
Looking to the immediate future: I was scheduled to preach this Saturday in one of the Adventist churches in Amsterdam, but I’ve just heard that the service will not take place. A few other appointments for the next weeks have been cancelled as well. It looks like there will be extra time in the coming weeks to work on a new book. This proves once again that every disadvantage may also have its advantage!