Church Times’ Six-Question Covid-19 interview series (5)
Dr. Gary Maxey is an American. He is the founder of West Africa Theological Seminary, Lagos. He has been living in Nigeria for over 30 years training church leaders and equipping the saints using the platform of WATS.
He is passionate about having a balanced perspective to God’s word and has consistently been a voice warning against heresy in the Body of Christ.
His desire for a church that is well taught, informed the book, Seduction of Nigerian Church which has sold in thousands across the globe. He is the author of several other books.
In this interview, Gary Maxey, a septuagenarian, brings to bear his age long experience in the church and his understanding of end time issues.
Do you see the present pandemic as indication of the end of the age?
The COVID-19 pandemic is neither the first nor the last plague to visit the earth. Pandemics have been periodic reoccurrences across the centuries. The greatest pandemic in history was the Black Death that raged for four years in the 14th Century, claiming hundreds of millions of lives and wiping out 30% to 60% of Europe’s population. It took Europe more than 250 years to regain the previous level of population. Recurring cycles of the Black Death occurred periodically right up to the early 20th Century. The 1918 Spanish Influenza epidemic cost 50 million lives, including about 250,000 in West Africa.
I do not believe there is any reason to believe this current pandemic is a sign of the end of the age. The current COVID-19 pandemic will likely be significantly less devastating than some of the previous pandemics. On the other hand, the plagues we read about in Revelation 16 are quite obviously far more horrific than anything we are seeing now.
There have been such pandemics in years past. How is this different from others? There are several ways this current pandemic differs from previous ones. All of them have to do with modern science and technology.
(a) FIRST is global communication. Through the technology of the internet we can now trace the progress and spread of pandemics, showing trends and progress virtually on an hour-by-hour scale. World leaders and scientists are thereby able to scrutinize variations of medical intervention from country to country and use that information to improve responses elsewhere.
(b) SECOND is global travel. We can now fly to virtually any spot on the globe within twenty-four hours. When pandemics strike this means that disease-causing viruses and parasites can also move globally. In the case of COVID-19 what has made this particularly deadly is that the incubation period can take up to fourteen days, during which the carrier is asymptomatic. The closing of borders and restricting of travel in many cases came TOO LATE, though places like Nigeria are trying to learn the lesson that countries such as Italy and the US learned much too late.
(c) THIRD is the advance of modern medical science. Today we understand the human body better than ever before. The marvels of microscopic bacteria, viruses, parasites, etc., that we now understand were not even imagined in earlier centuries. We have antibiotics that were unknown 100 years ago. We have been able to fight polio (another fearful disease caused by a virus) to the ground. Yellow fever has been almost conquered. We fought off Ebola six years ago.
There are insinuations that the pandemic is a preparation towards one world government and the reign of the anti-Christ. Do you agree?
We cannot doubt that there have been steady moves toward the establishment of a one-world government. The UN was a step in that direction. We have a World Court. However, we have also seen the very weak response of the World Health Organization to this present crisis. I do not see any reason to assume that this pandemic will usher in the reign of the anti-Christ, nor do I believe that a functional one-world government is about to happen. At the moment the European Union seems to be falling apart, and the current trend, at least for now, may well be more toward nationalism than globalization. However, over the long range I believe we can expect more sentiments and moves toward a one-world government.
The WHO is currently working on a vaccine to deal with the pandemic. The vaccine according to the body should be ready in about a year from now. Should believers take the vaccine when out?
A vaccine for COVID-19 is currently being hotly pursued independently by at least six major pharmaceutical companies, totally independent of the WHO. In the meantime, there are already stop-gap “pre-vaccines” that are being tried. The creation of vaccines is possible because scientists are progressively understanding better how God made our bodies, and are finding ways to boost progress using our God-created immune system. In other words, they are following God’s biological blueprint and operating within God’s parameters. Developing vaccines for polio and yellow fever has saved millions of lives. Developing drugs to treat the malaria parasite has been equally helpful. The development of a vaccine for COVID-19 should and will happen, and when it does believers would be foolish to ignore it or be afraid of it.
Some believe the vaccine is a mark of the beast and that there will be an implant in the hands of people to monitor them by the one-world government. What do you think about this?
This is the kind of destructive nonsense that is being peddled by conspiracy theorists who pose as experts but who are giving out dangerous advice. First, I do not believe we are anywhere close in the prophetic timetable to the Mark of the Beast. Second, the COVID-19 vaccine will be available through a large variety of means once it is out. Third, speculations about requiring people to receive a vaccine in the form of a micro-chip are not based on reliable information. YES, there is discussion in some circles about implanting chips in the human body. If any vaccine were offered to me in the form of an implanted chip, I would refuse it and ask for the vaccine without a chip. I urge people to stop listening to people like Rick Wiles, who has blamed the current coronavirus on the Jews (exactly what happened in the Black Death centuries ago), and who gave extremely wild and dire predictions during the Y2K scare twenty-two years ago that later proved just about 100% false.
What should be the Christian attitude in times like this?
Let me suggest four things here. God wants his people in times of crisis to be the light of the world and the salt of the earth. What better time than now to do that?
(a) FIRST, keep calm. Do not fear. Psalm 56:3 says, “Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in You.” It is not shameful to be afraid; rather, it is a natural human emotion. But God wants us to lean on him and his word. He is a very present help in trouble!
(b) SECOND, stop your ears to all of the rumors and wild conspiracy theories going around. I am amazed at all I am hearing over the internet. I am especially disgusted with church leaders who are telling us that God spoke to them and told them this or that. Don’t listen to people like that, unless they are giving you and soundly explaining to you the word of God from the Bible. God’s revelation to us is always primarily through the scriptures. I am hearing people say that COVID-19 is not a virus but some kind of sinister PLOT. Don’t listen to that kind of garbage.
(c) THIRD, care for others around you. That involves us also being informed and following the sound advice of healthcare authorities and the government. Temporarily refraining from group meetings, hugging or shaking hands is common sense in an epidemic. But we can also find ways to support neighbors, and especially those who are needy and vulnerable. We should avoid hoarding, and instead share. That is part of our Christian character.
(d) FOURTH, let’s focus on God’s Kingdom. Now that churches are closed a great number are discovering how to be the church of Jesus out of our normal comfort zone. House churches are more resilient during epidemics than large churches. But also, we are discovering that the internet can be a great place to connect and be an organized body. In my church we are now expecting MORE people at our weekly ZOOM worship service than we normally have when we meet face-to-face. Last Sunday we had “attenders” from four continents! Hallelujah!