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The Return of Epidemic Disease

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The world is heading toward a public health calamity of disastrous proportions. After declining for nearly a century, age-old plagues have reemerged— with a vengeance—in forms resistant to modern antibiotics!

The world is heading toward a public health calamity of disastrous proportions. After declining for nearly a century, age-old plagues have re-emerged—with a vengeance—in forms resistant to modern antibiotics! Infectious diseases in the United States have risen by nearly 60 percent in the last 25 years, now causing 25 percent of all deaths. According to the American Medical Association, "the problem is global and very serious" (Journal of the American Medical Association, Feb. 7, 2001, pp. 601–602). Microbiologist Alexander Tomaz warns that "we are on the verge of a medical nightmare that would turn the clock back to the days before antibiotics" (Killer Germs, Zimmerman, 1996, p. 55).

This surprising re-emergence of infectious disease was "unforeseen" by medical scientists who assumed that "ancient" plagues like cholera, diphtheria, malaria and tuberculosis were under control and nearly eradicated. Yet these deadly diseases—and a host of new ones—are spreading around the globe. We cannot afford to ignore what is happening. The dramatic return of epidemic disease will influence the future course of history.

Ancient Prophecies—Modern Plagues

Jesus predicted that, just before His second coming, the world would experience an escalating series of calamities: wars, violence, famines, earthquakes and pestilences—disease epidemics—on a global scale (Matthew 24:7; Luke 21:11). The Apostle John, describing the end of the age, mentions a pale horse that will kill one quarter of the world's population with the sword, hunger and "the beasts of the earth" (Revelation 6:8). The Greek word for "beasts" is therion, meaning a dangerous animal or venomous creature. Disease-causing bacteria and viruses—called "wee beasties" because of their diminutive size—are finding new opportunities because of recent decades' social, political and economic turmoil. Sexual promiscuity, violent political upheavals, natural disasters and economic privation facilitate the spread of disease. Meanwhile, the magic bullets of modern medicine—antibiotics—are losing their capacity to control dangerous microbial agents.

In the last two decades, one such agent—HIV/AIDS—has infected 36 million people, claimed 22 million lives and left 11 million orphans. This devastating new pestilence, caused by a virus which destroys the immune system, spreads rapidly among intravenous drug users and the sexually promiscuous. The AIDS epidemic is devastating entire regions in sub-Saharan Africa, and is spreading ominously in populous Southeast Asia. AIDS has been called "a viral nightmare that ravages all nations and threatens the very existence of our species" (Zimmerman, p. xi). Christ described that such events would occur at the end of the age (see Matthew 24:21–22).

The focus on AIDS has, however, obscured an even greater menace—the re-emergence of tuberculosis. TB is the world's most deadly infectious disease, currently infecting 2 billion people—one third of the world's population (JAMA, Jan. 18, 1995, p. 220). The TB virus can hide for years in an inactive form, then be activated by poor health, malnutrition, stress or another infection. AIDS patients are particularly susceptible to TB because of their damaged immune systems. One physician commented that "the twin plagues of AIDS and tuberculosis [have] come together in a synergy of terror never before seen in medical history" (Zimmerman, p. 86).

It is frightening to note that the world's "hot zones" for TB—sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia—are also hot zones for AIDS. Eastern Europe has ten times as many TB cases as AIDS, and "the worst situation for multi-drug resistant TB ever documented in the world" (Arizona Republic, Mar. 21, 1999). World Health Organization officials have warned that "drug-resistant TB could become the principal epidemic of the next decade" through immigration, tourism and rapid international travel (Ibid.). These factors could similarly spread the deadly hemorrhagic fevers caused by the Ebola and Marburg viruses. The mosquito-born West Nile virus recently appeared in New York City—its first appearance in the Western Hemisphere—causing concern among health officials (JAMA, May 2, 2000, p. 2,188). Together with a rapidly expanding global population (more than 6 billion people) and huge, crowded cities, these create a "recipe for disaster" (Zimmerman, p. 226) and "the greatest health disaster the world has ever known" (Ibid., p. 87).

A Lesson for Mankind

Thousands of years ago, God made a covenant with the ancient nation of Israel, promising to remove sickness from its midst if it would obey His divinely revealed laws (Exodus 15:26; 23:22–25; Deuteronomy 7:12–15). God also warned that He would bring curses—including terrible and incurable diseases—if Israel willfully disobeyed (see Leviticus 26; Deuteronomy 28). Those curses are coming to pass today among the descendants of ancient Israel. This includes the American and British-descended peoples; for more information on this topic, please request our free booklet What's Ahead for America and Britain?

The Creator of the Universe warns His chosen people that if they reject His instructions: "I will even appoint terror over you, wasting disease and fever… I will break the pride of your power… I will also send wild beasts [including wee beasties] among you, which will rob you of your children, destroy your livestock, and make you few in number… your highways shall be desolate" (Leviticus 26:16–22). God further warned, "the Lord will make the plague cling to you until He has consumed you… your ox shall be slaughtered before your eyes, but you shall not eat of it… the Lord will bring upon you and your descendants extraordinary plagues" (Deuteronomy 28:21, 31, 59). The Bible indicates that these curses would apply to future generations of Israelites (Deuteronomy 29:14–15).

These sobering prophecies have come alive in recent epidemics that have swept Britain and raised alarm in America and other nations. The outbreak of mad cow disease has claimed more than 80 human lives, caused hundreds of thousands of British cattle to be destroyed and cost the British government $7.5 billion. It has "wreaked havoc on Britain's once-proud beef industry" as other nations ban imports of British beef (London Daily News, Oct. 27, 2000).

Then came foot-and-mouth disease. Entire herds of apparently healthy cattle and sheep were slaughtered to control the epidemic. Some farmers contemplated suicide in the face of staggering losses (see Deuteronomy 28:34). Others, watching clouds of smoke rolling over the countryside from pyres of burning animal carcasses, spoke of a "plague of biblical proportions." Journalists referred to Britain as "the leper of Europe" (see Deuteronomy 28:37–42). Travel through many parts of Britain was drastically curtailed. Agricultural experts in America and other countries clearly understood their own vulnerability (USA Today, April 17, 2001).

Few today see the return of epidemic disease as a consequence of breaking the laws of Almighty God. Even to suggest such a connection invites ridicule. But the Bible predicted the current and future plagues—and that the effect of these plagues will be especially severe on the English-speaking peoples of the world who have "forsaken the covenant of the Lord" disregarded His laws (Deuteronomy 29:25). The whole world will come to understand this lesson (Deuteronomy 29:24–28). The surprising re-emergence of epidemic disease is a warning that Jesus Christ's return is near. To learn more about this vital subject, request our informative free booklet Fourteen Signs Announcing Christ's Return and continue reading Tomorrow's World, where prophecy comes alive.

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