“…we have found this man a plague, a creator of dissension among all the Jews throughout the world, and a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes.” Acts 24:5
You have to wonder where we are in the timeline in light of all that’s happening, and what those stoking the fires of fear really fear.
In Acts 24 we find Paul standing trial. He has narrowly escaped with his life from his accusers, the violent mob, the crooked Jewish high court and the band of hungry sworn assassins. He has been secreted off in the night by a detachment of Roman soldiers and taken to the palace of the regional governor, Felix. Here he will, as is his right as a Roman citizen, be given a hearing to determine what and if the charges against him warrant his being prosecuted according to Roman law
Reading through the chapter of study this week, Acts 24, this verse jumped out at me.
No small wonder since our whole world has been focused on and turned upside down to varying degrees by just that, a plague. Or as we more sophisticated of the 21st century call it, a pandemic. Not just any old pandemic—a global pandemic.
Paul is called a ringleader of that plague, that plague spawned by those called the Nazarenes. Interesting that the New King James, my current translation of choice, uses the word plague here while other popular translations use the word pestilent, which means deadly, lethal or virulent. Either way it is bad news. Paul is being accused of spreading something which causes death. Strong words, carefully chosen by this high power lawyer to besmirch a man for simply worshipping his God the way he believes he should, through Jesus Christ, his Lord.
It would seem to us, in the 21st century, that the words used to label Paul no longer have the sting that they once did, because like so many of the words that our culture latches on to in order to whip up fury or to silence opposition, the words pandemic, or plague, no longer carry the weight they once did because, in reality, the flu that has been unimaginatively labeled COVID, is just not all that lethal. If you get it, there is a more than good chance that you will survive.
And nearly every year for the last couple of decades there has been something else that was going to kill us all. Swine flu, Bird flu, Killer Bees, Aids, West Nile, SARS, Monkey Pox, Zika virus, to name a few. None of them lived up to the hype, so many of us just stopped listening. Like the boy who cried wolf! You can only panic for no good reason so many times before you stop listening, and then when the wolf does come you end up being wolf chow.
Not so with things of the past that were labeled as plagues, pandemics or pestilences. It would conjure up images of sure death preceded by immense suffering leaving the survivors to carry on in a world where corpses outnumber those left to bury them. There was no room for debate or denial. You were either dead or those you loved were all dead, and you just wished you were.
Thank God for the treatments and vaccines we have. I’m old enough to remember the horrors of Polio and we all know the devastation that small pox created among the natives of the Americas.
So, with that notion of what plagues used to mean, Paul here, in the mindset of his day, is being maliciously accused of being the ringleader of a death sect that threatens to destroy civilization itself. That is truly what they are intent on conveying here with their accusations and their arguments as to why Paul must be destroyed and this pestilence wiped out completely. And the High Priest Ananias and his corrupt Sanhedrin are the ringleaders of the effort to stop the Jesus plague.
A little, but relevant aside here; our pandemic seems to have a ringleader or two also and boy are they making hay while the sun shines. I’ll be willing to bet 99% of you had never heard the name Fauci before. Now he is a household name, love him or hate him. He has his own bobble head dolls, action figures, socks. There are even Fauci prayer candles that picture him like he is some sort of patron saint to be worshipped—quite disturbing if you ask me.
I know the plague is real, I know people who have died and many people are still getting sick, but the politicization of it all, and the shameless and thinly vailed leverage of this largely survivable plague has done far more damage to the economy and the psyche of this nation, and the world, than the flu virus, that it is, could have ever done if simple common sense and traditional rational had been used.
I think this flu is a little more stubborn and certainly more odious than most because it appears to have been manipulated by man via gain of function tweaking, and it appears that effective treatments are being suppressed. The evil of the manipulators behind this is unsurpassed.
This is one nature nor God can be blamed for. This one is all on us. But then, all sickness is on us because sin is what brought and brings sickness and death into God’s perfect creation.
But the Bible does speak of pestilences and famines to come as the end of God’s patience with man’s arrogance and depravity draws near and his wrath is poured out after all have had opportunity to accept or reject his gift of life. The same amazing gift of life that Pauls’ accusers call a plague.
But just imagine what it’s going to look like when the real plagues, the one’s that really do kill everyone who gets them, when the bowls of God’s wrath are poured out and the four horsemen of the Apocalypse are released.
If you’ve read the book, you’ll know that things get real. And the plagues found in those bowls, and the weapons of the horsemen that will bring the evil and deceived of this earth to their knees begging for an end to their suffering, are many and horrible. And would seem to be much worse than what we see today. But you have to wonder where we are in the timeline in light of all that’s happening.
Perhaps we’ll get into Revelation next.
I’m not convinced this is not it, that it hasn’t already started. Could a truly deadly plague like the black death or small pox have wreaked any more havoc, cause any more dissension and chaos, created global shortages, shut down business for good, altered election results, closed churches—in many cases for good—created fear and panic in the hearts of billions, driven millions to drugs and even suicide?
Could a truly deadly plague have wreaked more havoc on our medical communities? Made dying people afraid to go in for treatment of their life threatening ailments? Forced a generation of kids to miss out on significant chunks of their education and stolen their identities and individualism with a piece of cloth while giving them nightmares of impending death by disease for them and all they love?
And it is far from over I’m afraid. I don’t really see how the plagues of revelation could ask for more than what we got out of this one. Yeah, this plague, this pandemic might not kill everyone it touches outright, far from it, but the resulting disruptions, unrest and chaos it has and continues to cause, may in the end kill many more than we dare to imagine at this point.
More likely, this pandemic was whipped up by the devil himself for the purpose of destroying our system and recreating it in a way that allows his puppets to come into power. The Beast, the man of lawlessness, the Antichrist, whatever you want to label his chosen man—or woman.
We are a fragile people living in a fragile system and any ripple, if allowed to, can build in waves of fear and panic bringing it all crashing down around us. We are all surrounded by what we think are wonderful people until they get hungry. Then your neighbors become a hungry mob trying to take your food.
And then along comes a hero to save the day. And we all worship the new savior and take his mark—whatever that will be it will add up to 666, and life will be good again.
We can buy and sell, be part of society, participate in schools and commerce and not fear the authorities who only have our best interests at heart. Just show your hand or scan your forehead and there will be no problems here.
Brothers and sisters, stay awake, stay alert and keep praying! If our Jesus was not powerful and able to deliver, they would not fear his name, and they do!