In the midst of unprecedented world events, most notably the COVID-19 pandemic, an overwhelming number of people have become fearful and running for cover – and that unfortunately includes many in our own churches. Instead of turning to God, earnestly praying for forgiveness, and seeking an answer from on high, they are leaning upon the arm of flesh – pleading for a remedy to this frightening scourge and voraciously consuming every mainstream news media report in the hopes of finding an answer – or at least gaining some solace. It seems that in the midst of what should be a time for reflection and renewal, God has been reduced to a mere concept relegated to the backburner, while the so-called experts in the field of medicine have been elevated to the throne. It is a rather sad turn of events for a purportedly faith-based people. But what makes this phenomenon even more unsavory is the stark contrast that is becoming more apparent every day. That is, many in the mainstream – even non-believers – are ignoring the hype and the media’s foreboding depictions of the pandemic’s impact and instead calling for repentance and prayer.
I was recently lambasted by other professed Seventh-day Adventists for writing an article characterizing COVID-19 as a judgment from God. I asserted that if there was ever a time to repent and work on our own character, it is right now. Gauging the reaction from some church members, it was as though I had said something off-kilter, over-the-top, and perhaps even perverse. Ironically however, according to Newsweek, State Representative Stephanie Borowicz of Pennsylvania recently submitted a resolution to the state’s general assembly establishing a state mandated day of fasting and prayer to atone for the coronavirus pandemic because, as she said, it is a “punishment inflicted upon us for our presumptuous sins.” She is not alone. Ralph Drollinger, a minister who leads a weekly Bible study group for President Trump’s cabinet, also referred to the crisis as representing an act of God’s judgment. Omar Ricci, a Muslim faith leader at one of the most prominent mosques in the U.S. said, “Thank God for this reminder that we are not in control and must always be dependent on God.” And the list goes on. A recent survey conducted by McLaughlin & Associates, a nationally respected polling company, showed that 44 percent of Americans believe the crisis is a wake-up call from God. Furthermore, the same survey found that at least one in five non-Christians said that the crisis has caused them to start reading the Bible, listening to Bible teaching and sermons online, and scouring the internet for information on Bible prophecy – something they would not have normally done. So, where are the Seventh-day Adventists? Are we engaged in study, prayer, and fasting? Are we telling it like it is? Are we giving the trumpet a certain sound? Considering what is happening in many of our churches, I would dare say, emphatically not.
Watered-down feel-good messages are not going to get us through this trial. Yet, this is what you will likely find in many, if not most of our churches today. People want comfort and solace, and if their pastor obliges them in the form of an eloquent dissertation on the love of Jesus without revealing what the Lord has to say about the time in which we are now living, they will ultimately not make any real changes in their lives or in their characters. They will not look in the mirror or consider the admonishments the Bible conveys. In short, they will not know what time it is. Instead, they will continue to be mesmerized by the relentless flow of contradictory mainstream news reports – futilely searching for answers to their troubles. They will ignore the signs of the times and fail abysmally to do what God has asked all of us to do when we see such signs. They will remain in denial. There will be no impetus to change their direction in life. They will continue to feed at the fake news trough, numbing themselves out on the perspective that suits them best, while failing to recognize the urgency of the need for repentance and prayer – much less the close proximity of the ominous events that lay ahead. That is, unless someone sounds the alarm. Yet most church leaders and pastors appear to be either too timid or too feeble to tell it like it is. They would prefer to coddle the feelings of their congregants, rather than trying to sober them up on the realities of present truth. As a result, despite the strong admonishments in scripture and the lucid depictions offered by The Great Controversy, many will opt to embrace the wisdom of the world’s so-called experts rather than to lean on the counsels of a loving, caring God who wants nothing more than for us than to surrender our foolishness, to ask for forgiveness, and to place Him at the forefront in our daily lives. Jesus warned that in the last days, the deceptions would be so great that, if possible, even the very elect would be deceived (Matthew 24:24). It would not be at all surprising that when a vaccine for COVID-19 is introduced, many and perhaps most in our church will be all too ready to roll up their sleeves because fear of the virus has blunted their discernment. They will not even consider the potential damage that an inadequately tested and cleverly hyped vaccine will cause, nor will they recognize the agenda that actually spawned its creation behind the scenes. What a startling, yet prophetic paradox this is. Have the depictions of last day events become so two-dimensional over the years that they no longer stir us to action? When will those in our church begin to pay attention to the warnings in scripture and the Spirit of Prophecy? What will it take?
Consider these rather pointed comments from The Great Controversy:
When God sends to men warnings so important that they are represented as proclaimed by holy angels flying in the midst of heaven, He requires every person endowed with reasoning powers to heed the message….But the masses of the people turn away their ears from hearing the truth and are turned unto fables. The apostle Paul declared, looking down to the last days: “The time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine.” 2 Timothy 4:3. That time has fully come. The multitudes do not want Bible truth, because it interferes with the desires of the sinful, world-loving heart; and Satan supplies the deceptions which they love (Great Controversy, p. 594).
In the wake of the COVID-19 conundrum, we are witnessing the exercise of authoritarian overreach, the trampling of human rights, and the unraveling of our Constitution. Some may try to justify the shelter-in-place orders, the lockdowns, and other draconian measures by citing epidemiological principles that, while they appear on the surface to make plausible scientific sense, are actually speculative and theoretical at best. Never before in history have we quarantined healthy people. Standard protocol, even since the days of ancient Israel, has always been to isolate the sick. The truth is that the extreme measures being promoted by the CDC, NIH, WHO, and our government leadership have little to do with mitigating a pandemic. Rather, they represent a direct attack on the Constitution and the implementation of a long-standing agenda that is now finally coming to the fore. It has reached such a crescendo that some government agencies are even mandating how, when, and where religious services are to be held – a clear violation of the First Amendment. Every Seventh-day Adventist has undoubtedly heard at least some of the quotes from E.G. White on the significance of trampling upon the principles of our Constitution and the sequence of events that will ultimately ensue, but apparently many are slumbering even as these events unfold right before their eyes. In The Great Controversy, she references the founding principles of our country and the historical precedents that are now being insidiously challenged:
In that grand old document which our forefathers set forth as their bill of rights–the Declaration of Independence–they declared: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” And the Constitution guarantees, in the most explicit terms, the inviolability of conscience…. “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”
“The framers of the Constitution recognized the eternal principle that man’s relation with his God is above human legislation, and his rights of conscience inalienable. Reasoning was not necessary to establish this truth; we are conscious of it in our own bosoms. It is this consciousness which, in defiance of human laws, has sustained so many martyrs in tortures and flames. They felt that their duty to God was superior to human enactments, and that man could exercise no authority over their consciences. It is an inborn principle which nothing can eradicate.”–Congressional documents (U.S.A.), serial No. 200, document No. 271 (The Great Controversy, p. 295).
It is clearly time to wake up. We have been playing church for far too long – talking a blue streak about meaningless subjects like what color to paint the walls of the sanctuary or what dish to bring to the potluck. We are well beyond that now. This is not the time to engage in idle pursuits. The pandemic is merely the tip of the iceberg. It is the beginning of sorrows. We are going to experience far more devastating events upcoming. It is time to realize that the halcyon days are over. This is not going to end. It is all part of an agenda that has existed for decades involving eugenics, population control, and totalitarianism. Just take an objective look at the events around us. The deep economic impact and overall societal implications will eventually exceed the imagination of most. Tens of millions are already out of work. The economy is being surreptitiously undermined to the point where even the entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare may eventually collapse. Even if the virus is somehow eliminated from the picture through a highly touted [and potentially mandated] vaccine, the social distancing rules and other draconian measures are not going to be relinquished. Consider what this means. The psychosocial impact will be devastating. It already is. These peculiar modifications of social norms have now been woven into the fabric of our society – and not without serious consequences. Child abuse and domestic violence have risen exponentially, and people are committing suicide in much larger numbers than ever before. Our children are learning that we should fear close contact with others, while paranoia is driving many adults to bizarre obsessive-compulsive behaviors. All of this is the result of social distancing and lockdowns. And these manifestations are irreparable. Perhaps we can somehow skate through an economic collapse, but we are not going to repair millions of broken and alienated human beings, or children who have not had the socialization necessary for them to grow into normal, well-adjusted adults. It is high time to be realistic — the cure cannot and should not ever be worse than the disease. Alarmingly, the undercurrents in our country are already setting the stage for the final events of world history. In the midst of the unprecedented authoritarian measures, protests are breaking out across the nation. At the same time, there has been considerable saber-rattling between the U.S. and China, strongly suggesting the possibility of an armed conflict that may potentially involve nuclear weapons. Our distribution chain is being overtaxed and may eventually be severely damaged, causing food shortages and riots. Taken as a whole, the impact of these events will ultimately far outweigh the well-promoted threat of COVID-19. Yet despite the looming facts, many in our churches are still comfortably asleep. They just want to hear “smooth things.” The prophetic events that they have heard or been taught about throughout their history as Seventh-day Adventists have finally arrived in force, and most are oblivious to them. They have been thoroughly insulated by worldly pursuits and pleasures that are soon to become defunct.
If we are not doing what we have been apprised of as Seventh-day Adventists, like getting out of the cities, raising our own food, sounding the alarm for our family, friends, and neighbors, and most importantly preparing our characters for the Lord’s soon return, we are going to most certainly be lost forever. Never mind the news reports about COVID-19 or the Hegelian dialectic being perpetrated by the political left and right. Forget about the pundits, the doomsayers, and the conspiracy theorists. Fix your eyes on Jesus. Repent of the transgressions and miscalculations in your own life. Make amends with others. Study God’s Word. And most of all, have hope and look up, for your redemption draweth nigh.
By Arnie Suntag