The Bible, particularly the Old Testament, describes numerous occasions when God brought plagues and diseases on His people and on His enemies “For I will at this time send all my plagues upon thine heart, and upon thy servants, and upon thy people; that thou mayest know that there is none like me in all the earth.” Exodus 9:14, 16.
He used plagues on Egypt to force Pharaoh to free the Israelites from bondage, while sparing His people from being affected by them (Exodus 12:13; 15:26), indicating His sovereign control over diseases and other afflictions.
God also warned His people of the consequences of disobedience, including plagues (Leviticus 26:21, 25). On two occasions, God destroyed 14,700 people and 24,000 people for various acts of disobedience (Numbers 16:49 and 25:9). After giving the Mosaic Law, God commanded the people to obey it or suffer many evils, including something that sounds like disease: “The Lord shall smite thee with a consumption, and with a fever, and with an inflammation, and with an extreme burning, and with the sword, and with blasting, and with mildew; and they shall pursue thee until thou perish.” Deuteronomy 28:22. These are just a few examples of many plagues and diseases God caused.
God’s punishments always have the goal of repentance and restoration. “If I shut up heaven that there be no rain, or if I command the locusts to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among my people; If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:13–14
Here we see God using disaster to draw His people to Himself, to bring about repentance and the desire to come to Him as children to their heavenly Father.
In the New Testament, Jesus healed “every disease and every sickness,” as well as plagues in the areas He visited (Matthew 9:35; 10:1; Mark 3:10). Just as God chose to use plagues and disease to show His power to the Israelites, Jesus healed as an exhibition of the same power to verify that He was truly the Son of God. He gave the same healing power to the disciples to validate their ministry (Luke 9:1). God still allows sickness for His own purposes, but sometimes disease, even worldwide pandemics, are simply the result of living in a fallen world. There is no way to determine whether or not a pandemic has a specific spiritual cause, but we do know that God has sovereign control over all things (Romans 11:36) and will work all things together for the good of those who know and love Him (Romans 8:28).
The spread of sicknesses such as the coronavirus is a foretaste of pandemics that will be part of the end times. Jesus referred to future plagues associated with the last days (Luke 21:11). The two witnesses of Revelation 11 will have power “to strike the earth with every kind of plague as often as they want” (Revelation 11:6). Seven angels will wield seven plagues in a series of final, severe judgments described in Revelation 16.
The appearance of pandemic diseases may or may not be tied to God’s specific judgment of sin. It could also simply be the result of living in a fallen world. Since no one knows the time of Jesus’ return, we must be careful about saying global pandemics are proof that we are living in the end times. For those who do not know Jesus Christ as Savior, disease should be a reminder that life on this earth is tenuous and can be lost at any moment. As bad as pandemics are, Hell will be worse. The Christian, however, has the assurance of salvation and the hope of eternity because of the blood of Christ (Isaiah 53:5; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 9:28).