The following article by Lake Union president Maurice Valentine was prepared on April 22, 2020.
Picture, if you will, four angels holding fabric that slips ever so slightly from their hands as the weight of the world bears down in the center of a sheet-like cloth that they’re grasping as tightly as they can.
The muscles in their arms, hands, and especially their fingers begin to burn as they attempt to keep the sheet from slipping.
Albert Einstein used the idea of an invisible fabric to depict gravity through which he postulated each planet is influenced by others. Even galaxies are said to coalesce in groups and are drawn toward each other as each shares this invisible space-time material.
Einstein may have been on to something as, in some ways, it reminds me of the picture that John the revelator described when he stated, “After these things I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth, that the wind should not blow on the earth, on the sea, or on any tree” (Rev. 7:1, NKJV).1
Is it possible God is attempting to grasp our attention as tiny micro-slips of this illustrative “sheet,” in Einstein’s case, or metaphorical “winds” in John the revelator’s vision, the latter of which, although meant to depict cosmic activities beyond our understanding, nevertheless yield for earth’s inhabitants life-destroying wars, earthquakes, tsunamis, tornadoes, hurricanes, wildfires, floods, and pandemics too?
From a spiritual perspective, is it possible He’s shaking us from our spiritual slumber in an attempt to wake us up? Because, like the disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane, although we are warned again and again to watch and pray, our love of the world and its comforts causes us to fall into a deep sleep again and again.
Providentially, God allows pandemics, such as those that happened in 1342 and 1918, with a pause of 576 years between them, in which the angels’ hands seemed to hold firmly with only ever so slight micro-slips, indicated by some smaller epidemics between those years.
Now we have a better understanding of what it means to see the winds slip as they did in 1918, when a major, life-destroying contagion swept the globe, killing, by some estimates, as many as 50 million precious souls whose fates were forever sealed.
Some would ask, “Is God judging the world?” I would need a face-to-face conversation with God to know the answer to that question. So to them I would say, “Jesus identified who is really at work.” He stated, “A thief comes only to steal and to kill and to destroy. I have come so that they may have life and have it in abundance” (John 10:10, HCSB).2
That said, my first point is that since 1918, there was only a 100-year pause before another global pandemic, not 576 years. Certainly, since 1918, life on earth has been interrupted by the destroyer of life as smaller epidemics typically lacking in global impact, such as the 1957 flu, have occurred. But notice how, since 1918, the sheet has slipped ever so slightly again and again.
In 1976, a dangerous disease called Ebola re-emerged. Most people alive today also remember the sudden scare caused by HIV in 1981. Since that time, the world has battled avian flu (1997), SARS (2002), H1N1/swine flu (2009), and Zika (2015), and now our world has been rocked and shocked by COVID-19.
Hopefully you noticed how these disease outbreaks are coming closer together, in quicker succession, increasing virulence, and greater severity. The greatest pain my heart feels is, painful as it is, not how many people have died globally in a COVID-19 world, but how many people are being swept by the enemy into Christ-less graves with no hope of eternity in view.
COVID-19 is a tectonic slip that, while small by Jesus’ last-day predictions, is still hopefully enough slippage that a sleepy church awakens from its lethargy, and a sin-entranced world is shaken enough to look to the holy writ of God’s Holy Word. My prayer is that we will rise from our spiritual slumber so we can hear His voice in the distance and be ready to go out to meet Him with our lamps trimmed and burning.
For Seventh-day Adventists, this is our day! This time is the end time about which we have invited our family and friends, even strangers to take Bible studies or attend meetings so they, too, could understand that the end is not yet, yet it’s even at the doors. Globally, we knocked on doors; secured billboards; advertised in newspapers, radio, and television with an invitation to hear the cry of three seemingly unimportant angelic messages in Revelation 14, messages of hope for a distracted, dying world.
A time is coming when there is no such thing as “time.” Then, thanks to Jesus, all creation and all the redeemed will enjoy eternal existence in God’s presence.
So, for now, while there may be or may not be “space-time fabric,” as postulated by an astrophysicist, there are, one way or another, four winds being held by the grace of God. We know this to be true because “we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts” (2 Peter 1:19). “For prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” (verse 21).
Is it possible that angels are working with God, attempting to save you, me, our families, neighbors, and friends who are collectively crying in the celestial realm, “Help me, Lord God! I can’t hold on much longer. They’re slipping!”
If you feel like you’re slipping, give your life to Jesus. Or give it again! Because no matter how treacherous, painful, or difficult, that’s when your life begins!