Dear Associates, Students and Friends:
I read a headline the other day, similar to many others I read recently, “EU Nations: Bird Flu a ‘Global Threat.’” The EU is, of course, the European Union. Bird Flu is a deadly strain of influenza usually transmitted among domestic food birds such as chickens, ducks, geese, and turkeys. The virus is transmitted from bird to bird, and occasionally the virus is transmitted from bird to human. It can be fatal to humans. The great fear is that a mutated Bird Flu virus may develop a transmission vector that will allow for human to human transmission. This would cause a large human flu outbreak called an epidemic. A larger scale outbreak within large populations and between nations is called a pandemic. No natural immunity to this flu is known to exist for humans. Vaccines are being sought by national and international health agencies, but their efficacy will be unknown until an outbreak occurs. As with many such epidemic and pandemic diseases the weakest and least healthy in any society are generally struck down in greater numbers by the illness.
Up to the present day, great advances in public sanitation (clean water and efficient waste disposal), personal hygiene (proper washing of food, bodies, and especially hands with the clean water), wider and more balanced diets (from increased world trade), lowered infant and maternal mortality rates (due to proper medical sanitation and care), and medical advances in many areas (such as patient care, medicines, and emergency care), have all provided improved health for the populations of advanced nations against the great diseases of the past. In the last 150 years the longevity of populations of the developed nations rose considerably. Life expectancy for less developed nations is not much higher than in ancient times up through the middle 1800s.
Nonetheless, during the 1918 outbreak of influenza, nearly 700,000 people died in the United States alone with 20 to 40 million deaths worldwide, even in the most advanced and most sanitary locales, urban or rural. The great fear is that such a flu pandemic will hit again. 1
Therefore, with the threat of new diseases threatening around the world, this month’s article by Dr. Ernest Martin, “Disease Epidemics and Bible Prophecy” is a very timely subject. This article is transcribed and edited from a lecture Dr. Martin gave in 1994. It gives wide-ranging information about pestilence in biblical and secular history, as well as the prophecies for the end-time plagues to occur in the future. Since Dr. Martin first presented this lecture, there have been many more news reports about potential epidemics from various diseases, some of the best known being the Ebola virus, swine flu, AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome), SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), West Nile Virus, other new strains of influenza like the Bird Flu, anthrax, a return of smallpox, a return of Bubonic Plague, and more. All these diseases have been in the news in recent years and seriously concern public health officials around the world.
Such diseases most often devastate lands where public health and sanitary conditions are the worst, which means the threat is greatest in the poorest Third World countries. Even in advanced nations, a sudden reduction in sanitary conditions (such as in New Orleans in Gulf region of the United States due to hurricane strikes on the coasts) could lead to pestilence requiring a massive mobilization of public health resources.
As Dr. Martin points out, that future possibility will turn to a prophetic certainty for the entire world at some future time. Whereas in past centuries pestilence was transmitted by trade and shipping to distant lands in months, now people with no visible symptoms can carry the worst infectious diseases around the world in mere hours by jet travel. A smaller world is not necessarily a safer world.
In mid-October 2005 in Pakistan and India a large earthquake caused an estimated 80,000 people deaths (latest count, an exact figure is impossible) and at least 80,000 injuries. These deaths and injuries occurred in just moments from the large tremors. It is usual for famine and pestilence to follow such a catastrophic event. More deaths will follow as winter approaches.
Yet even such an event as the Pakistan earthquake that causes death in such magnitude, itself is not sufficient cause to identify the “beginning of sorrows” (Matthew 24:8) of the prophesied biblical end-times. Such quake events as occurred in Pakistan must happen in greater number and frequency until we can surely judge that the “beginning” has indeed begun. Remember, however, it was just in December 2004 when a 9.0 earthquake struck Indonesia and a tsunami struck around the Indian Ocean basin. Over 170,000 people were killed by that event. The Pakistan and Indonesia quakes together begin to give one pause as to whether the “beginning of sorrows” has begun. Concern and worry about plague or pestilence is in all our futures.
Dr. Martin’s article will make clear who is responsible for these natural disasters, especially disease epidemics. 2 In his article the manner in which Dr. Martin references the Scriptures will require you to keep your Bible open to track the context of the verses he cites. It is always important to read the verses around a cited passage so that you understand who is speaking, where, and who the audience is.
Through your communications to us I have come to understand that ASK occupies a secure corner in very many of your lives, a corner where knowledge and understanding of the Bible gives you personal peace from God, and certain hope of future salvation for yourself, your loved ones, and all of humanity — especially those who may not believe as you do. Your knowledge is made clear directly through the work of God the Father and Jesus Christ from the Scriptures, aided by the important research and work of Dr. Ernest L. Martin. It is our great pleasure to present this material to you. It is our honor.
As you interact with people over the next few days think about those you have encountered in your past and present: close relatives and extended family, as well as your friends and acquaintances in life. Consider how much (or how little) of God’s truth they know and understand. Of course we should not to feel superior to others in any possible way, because at “the end” (1 Corinthians 15:24), when God is “all in all” (verse 28) every human shall all be equal, without distinction of rank or status.
I ask you to think such things so that you can realize the blessings you have been given. We should all thank God for those blessings. The knowledge and understanding you have been given about your salvation is a tremendous and precious gift that comes directly from God the Father and Jesus Christ, through the Holy Scriptures to you. The role of ASK is to make the gracious gift of God’s Word as easy as possible to know and understand.
We feel blessed to have the means to present it to you. We need your financial support to carry on with the progress we have made. Thank you for providing us that support on a regular basis. For those who do not support us, may God bless you to begin to do so. As our supporting Associates age (as we all do!) we need more good people to supply that support when some are no longer able. We request this so ASK may continue to help you and others around the world with the finest of biblical scholarship. Thank you for helping us financially so we can help you understand your Bible.
David W. Sielaff,
1 See “Social Change and Public Health” at http://www.umanitoba.ca/faculties/medicine/units/history/notes/mh6.html, A.J. McMichael, et al., “The Changing Global Context of Public Health” in The Lancet Vol., August 5, 2000; 356: 495–499, at http://www.who.int/trade/en/McMichael_Beaglehole_Changing_Global_Context_Public_Health_2000.pdf, and the PBS television website: “Influenze 1818” at http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/influenza which has current flu threat information. DWS
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