Before the Second Coming of Christ, we know from scripture that an overflowing scourge or desolating sickness (likely sicknesses) will be poured out from time to time on the earth.
We can’t know all the whens and wheres and hows of the Second Coming, but we can be aware of the signs so that when they appear, we will be prepared to act. I hope we can notice them early enough to act.
When men or devils boast that they can escape disease, death, or justice by their own power, that they can defeat the purposes of Almighty God, He is obliged to disabuse them of such a notion. For example, on several occasions, such as in 588 B.C. and A.D. 70, He flattened Jerusalem when the people of that city rejected and killed the prophets, including the Son of God. Mormon once asked, “Do ye suppose that ye can get rid of the justice of an offended God, who hath been trampled under feet of men. . . ?” (see 3 Nephi 28:35). The answer is no.
The Overflowing Scourge
Shortly before the Babylonian captivity of Jerusalem, Isaiah prophesied to scornful men who ruled the once holy city (see Isaiah 28:14):
Because ye have said, We have made a covenant with death, and with hell are we at agreement; when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, it shall not come unto us . . . [not so!] your covenant with death shall be disannulled, and your agreement with hell shall not stand; when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, then ye shall be trodden down by it. (Isaiah 28:15, 18.)
Among Jesus’s last sermons during His mortal life was the Olivet discourse where He prophesied that pestilences—devastating epidemic diseases—would precede his Second Coming:
And ye shall hear of these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be , and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. (Matthew 24:6–7; emphasis added. Compare Mark 13:8 and Luke 21:10–11.)and rumours of wars: see that ye be not : for all
A Desolating Sickness
A scourge, according to Merriam-Webster, is “a cause of wide or great affliction,” but it appears from latter-day scripture that this scourge is more than affliction: it will lead to the death of many souls “until the earth is empty”, as written in the Doctrine and Covenants:
For a desolating scourge shall go forth among the inhabitants of the earth, and shall continue to be poured out from time to time, if they repent not, until the earth is empty, and the inhabitants thereof are consumed away and utterly destroyed by the brightness of my coming. (Doctrine and Covenants 5:19; emphasis added.)
Later in that same book of modern scripture we read:
And there shall be men standing in that generation, that shall not pass until they shall see an overflowing scourge; for a desolating sickness shall cover the land. (Doctrine and Covenants 45:31.)
And similarly in the same book:
For I, the Doctrine and Covenants 84:96–98; emphasis added.), have laid my hands upon the nations, to them for their . And shall go forth, and they shall not be taken from the earth until I have completed my work, which shall be cut in righteousness—until all shall me, who remain, even from the least unto the greatest, and shall be filled with the knowledge of the Lord . . . (
Here the Lord tells us that the scourge will be a desolating sickness that will cover the land, that plagues that will not be taken from the earth until His work is complete. It is easy to imagine, given recent news, that a disease or series of diseases could get out of control and take thousands, even millions of lives, in spite of frantic human efforts.
With regard to COVID-19, active in 2020 and declared as a global pandemic, I’ll say it’s a possible candidate as one of these desolating sicknesses. I’ll also go out on a short limb and say we are living in prophetic season.
The knowledge and wisdom of men alone cannot save us from the decrees of God which will remain in force unless the inhabitants of the earth repent and turn to Him. He is both a just and merciful God, but mercy is not plentiful for the non-repentant. Given what we now see with ever-widening eyes, repentance is not always the first thing on people’s minds these days, but one can hope. You’ve heard this good advice which I repeat: hope for the best and prepare for the worst.
Those who are sincerely repentant are not doomed to suffer. Quite the contrary. They are promised an escape, but such promises are not extended to those who are too proud to repent or too blind to see a need for humility.
These are the last days. Of this I am certain.
This updated post was first published in October 2014.