The Center for Disease Control has issued a warning that one-half of the United State’s population could be affected by this virus during the upcoming flu season. The H1N1 virus is similar to certain strains of “swine flu.” A relative term that is being associated with the potential dangers of H1N1 is “pandemic.” This then reminds us of the term “pestilence” which is defined by Webster as “a contagious or infectious…disease that is virulent and devastating…” Pestilence is a term used both in the Old Testament as well as the New Testament. While we may think that modern medicine would knock out the spread of any kind of viral disease, according to the Bible there will be a future time when pestilence will be a cause of worldwide devastation. The Bible reveals that such ancient weapons of mass destruction will make a comeback in the coming years.
The word pestilence in the Old Testament is the Hebrew dever which means plague/destruction. It is further defined as a punishment from God which results in death.
In the Old Testament pestilences were normally associated with two other messengers of death, i.e. the sword and famine. All three are means by which the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob would punish the Israelites for disobedience to His instructions. The Bible reveals that God will wait just so long for repentance from sin but then He intervenes with punishment when the sin is “without remedy.”
False prophets, who claimed to speak in God’s name, brought on such punishment.
“Then I (Jeremiah) said, ‘Ah, Lord GOD! Behold, the prophets say to them, you shall not see the sword, nor shall you have famine, but I will give you true rest in this place’”
“And the LORD said… ‘The prophets prophesy lies in My name, I have not sent them, commanded them, nor spoken to them; they prophesy to you a false vision, divination, a worthless thing, and the deceit of their heart…’”
“Then the LORD said to me (Jeremiah), ‘Do not pray for this people…I will not hear their cry…but I will consume them by the sword, by the famine, and by the pestilence.’” Jeremiah 14:11-14
Consider further that when the Israelites told God that they were going to do it “their way” they were once again told that they would be punished with the sword, famine, and pestilence.
“As for the word that you (Jeremiah) have spoken to us in the name of the LORD, we will not listen to you! But we will certainly do whatever has gone out of our own mouth, to burn incense to the queen of heaven…”
“Therefore thus says the LORD…the God of Israel: ‘Behold, I will set My face against you for catastrophe…For I will punish those…by the sword, by famine, and my pestilence…’” Jeremiah 44:11-17
And in another instance the Israelites set up idols and worshipped false gods.
“Now the word of the LORD came to me (Ezekiel) saying…‘your altars shall be desolate, your incense altars shall be broken, and I will cast down your slain men before your idols. And I will lay the corpses of the children of Israel before their idols…’”
“Thus says the LORD GOD: ‘…they shall fall by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence. Thus will I accomplish My fury upon them. Then you shall know that I am the LORD…’” Ezekiel 6:1-13
The examples cited from the Old Testament reveal that God sent pestilence for such flagrant sins as prophesying falsely in God’s name, openly defying God’s instructions, and idolatry, i.e. worshiping something other than the one true God.
The apostle Paul stated a primary purpose of the Old Testament:
“Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition (instruction), upon whom the ends of the ages have come.” I Corinthians 10:11
Therefore, we should examine the present state of this nation to see if we are involved in any of the issues that brought pestilence on the Israelites, i.e. do we pursue strategies of peace with ungodly nations and boast that it is God’s will? Do we establish laws that are contradictory to God’s laws? Do we place anything above the pursuit of following God, such as the economy?
In the New Testament the word pestilence is from the Greek loimos which means plague; any deadly infectious malady.
Jesus told His disciples about events that would precede His return to earth.
“…and there will be great earthquakes in various places, and famines and pestilences…” Luke 21:11
And the apostle John confirmed Jesus’ teaching when he penned the book of Revelation. He described the fourth horseman of the apocalypse thusly:
“When He (Christ) opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature saying, ‘Come and see.’ So I looked, and behold, a pale horse. And the name of him who sat on it was Death, and Hades followed with him. And power was given to them over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword, with hunger, with pestilence…” Revelation 6:7-8
The fact that this passage is in the Apocalypse confirms that the nations of the world will not learn their lessons and will be punished by the same means as were the Israelites several thousand years ago. Just this judgment alone will kill 1.5 billion people, or five times the present population of the United States.
In no way are we implying that the H1N1 virus is the pestilence cited above, however, we should recognize that such phenomena is a forerunner of that which is to come.
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