We had an eventful start to the new year. Firstly, we had wars and rumours of war with clashes between US and Iran. The hubris had barely subsided when news of a pestilence purportedly arising from Wuhan shocked the entire world. This is supplemented with reports of the worst attack of locusts in 70 years in North and East Africa. Will famine follow? Time will tell.

The novel coronavirus has now arrived in Singapore with the first reports of community transmission. Why did the Lord permit this to happen?

Firstly, it is a call for man to truly reflect on the vanity of life and repent. Many were engaged in buying and selling, trying to make a fortune in the world and building their own mansions and “kingdoms”. They were eating, drinking and making merry. The shopping malls were often full. However, with the virus now on our shores, plenty of Singaporeans begin to avoid places with large crowds. We see traffic drastically dropping in these malls. We are now forced to be at home. Hopefully, men will take this opportunity to reflect on the vanity of such fleshly enjoyment. What is the point of sinful pleasures? They are nothing but soap bubbles, which will quickly pop after they are formed. And judgement awaits after this life of vain works and pleasures. Read the book of Ecclesiastes to understand the vanity of life without God. Will man not repent and turn to Christ for salvation?

Secondly, it is a call for man to be humble. Singapore’s location makes it a suitable transportation hub. However, what is usually an advantage can also turn to be a major disadvantage. If the virus were to be from Singapore, it can easily spread to other nations of the world. Nations rise and fall at the Lord’s behest. Let arrogancy be set aside and let us plead earnestly for the Lord to be merciful to our nation.

Thirdly, the pestilence is one of the signs of Christ’s imminent coming. “For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places.” (Matt. 24:7) Are we ready for His coming?

Alas, the Bible tells us that the end times will be filled with scoffers who mock the Second Coming of Christ. “Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, 4 And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation” (2 Pet. 3:3-4). Such is the hardness of the hearts of man. The pestilence is meant to be a call to turn to Christ. Will that happen with the lifting of the pestilence? Going by the Scriptures, the majority will continue to persist in their ways. Buying and trading. Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die. If only they will awake to the reality of life!

On the other hand, let those who profess Christ not have the same spirit and attitude as the world. “The Lord delayeth His coming. He is not coming so soon. This pestilence is just the beginning of sorrows. I can get back to enjoy my worldly pleasures after this pestilence is lifted.”

Hear what Christ says of such thinking – “Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his lord hath made ruler over his household, to give them meat in due season? Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing. Verily I say unto you, That he shall make him ruler over all his goods. But and if that evil servant shall say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming; and shall begin to smite his fellowservants, and to eat and drink with the drunken; the lord of that servant shall come in a day when he looketh not for him, and in an hour that he is not aware of, and shall cut him asunder, and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matt. 24:45-51)

Christians should be looking forward to the return of our Saviour. We want to meet with Christ soon and not later. Is it therefore not evil and pretentious to say that the coming of the Lord is not imminent? If we do so, we are no different from the people of the world.

In my younger days, I recalled how Rev Timothy Tow would remind the congregation of the imminent coming of Christ. And he did so with additional fervour during the 2004 Indonesian (Indian Ocean) Tsunami and the 2011 Japan Tsunami. As I heard the messages, I began to wonder in my heart why there were multiple messages on this topic. Anyway the world will continue to run, will it not? How foolish was I! At least now I am beginning to understand a little of why he did so, for we as Christians are often so complacent in our walk before God. Even with these signs, we do not take good care of how we live in the presence of Christ. Let us therefore take honest stock of our lives, and walk truthfully in the sight of the Lord.

Why then does it seem that Christ is delaying His coming? 2 Peter 3:9 has the answer. “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”

May man everywhere repent of their sins and turn to Christ. In the meantime, may all who profess Christ walk in, “all holy conversation and godliness” (2 Pet. 3:11).

Yours affectionately,
Pastor Clement Chew