The novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) has been at the heart of bizarre conspiracy theories ever since it struck China in November last year. The virus has infected nearly 330,000 people globally and more than 14,000 have died from coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
With millions of people isolating from each other and hospitals being pushed to the brink of collapse, many have questioned whether coronavirus is a harbinger of doom.
Conspiracy theorists have spent the last few weeks sharing online prophecies of plague and pestilence from the Bible.
One person on Twitter said: “God has a very distinct way of letting the world know is in charge of everything.
“The Coronavirus is one of the five deadliest plagues that have been prophesied in God’s word the Bible.”
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Another person said: “Everybody is so surprised and shocked about this Coronavirus… but if you read the Bible… God spoke through his prophets… these things will happen and there are more to come…”
A third Twitter user said: “Isaiah 26 vs 20. Just take a minute to read that Bible verse then you will understand the current situation right now. #COVID-19 #coronavirus #StayAtHome”.
But is there any reason for Christians worldwide to truly believe the world is racing towards doom?
According to Ulrich Lehner, a Catholic theologian at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, US, the Bible does not support man-made prophecies of the end times.
He told CNN: “Jesus himself said, ‘You don’t know the hour,’ yet some self-appointed prophets today seem to know more than the angels around God’s throne.”
Jesus himself said, ‘You don’t know the hour,’
Proof of this can be found in Matthew 24:36, which states only God knows when the world will come to an end.
The scripture reads: “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”
Mr Lehner said: “Perhaps in these guys who create mass panic there is also a certain pride, a bloated self-confidence that ‘I have some special insight’.
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“If that’s not devilish, I don’t know what is.”
Claims of the apocalypse were also analysed by Elisha Jones, a youth director at a church in Southeast Texas.
He said Jesus predicted pestilence and calamities in the end days, and the Earth is witnessing the “birthing pains before Jesus’ second coming”.
He said: “I absolutely think it could be a direct sign of something God said would happen or even a precursor for things to come.”
Conspiracy theorists online have also linked the coronavirus to the Book of Revelation, which contains the last chapters of the Bible.
The Book of Revelation describes a series of destructive events that will precede the end of the world.
However, Timothy Beal, author of The Book of Revelation: A Biography, does not believe this is supported by scripture.
He said: “They break off from the larger text and circulate like little viruses in our culture that hook on to other things and that’s when they really take off and spread.”
The Bible expert added: “Almost none of the people talking about Revelation have really sat down and read it.”