Diseases of the Apocalypse

The first part of the tribulation begins with a set of four events, figuratively called the four horsemen of the apocalypse:

1. World War 3
2. severe civil unrest
3. famine in wealthy developed nations
4. death from a variety of causes, and the fear of death.

Within the set of events called the fourth horsemen is death (and the fear of death) “by the creatures of the earth”.

{6:7} And when he had opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature saying: “Draw near and see.”
{6:8} And behold, a pale horse. And he who was sitting upon it, his name was Death, and Hell was following him. And authority was given to him over the four parts of the earth, to destroy by the sword, by famine, and by death, and by the creatures of the earth.

Which creatures of the earth can put to death so many persons and cause so much fear as to be worthy of mention among the events of the apocalypse? Wild animals do not kill many persons; neither do cattle or domesticated animals. The only “creatures of the earth” that can and have killed millions upon millions of human persons are microorganisms: bacteria and viruses. So death by the creatures of the earth is death by disease epidemics and pandemics (a pandemic is a widespread epidemic).

The fourth set of events includes diseases that kill millions of people throughout the world. Which diseases?

About the time of World War I, the Spanish Flu killed tens of millions of persons. The fatality rate was about 10% to 20%, and the disease killed 3 to 5% of the world population. 1918 Flu Pandemic. 50 to 100 million persons died. Today, it is still possible for some new version of the flu to cause a pandemic. But we have vaccines against the flu, and new flu vaccines can be made fairly quickly.

The worst diseases today include Ebola (Ebola Viral Disease; EVD) and MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome). Ebola has a 90% fatality rate, and MERS has about a 50% fatality rate. The number of MERS cases to date is approaching 1,000 and the number of Ebola cases to date is approaching 2,500. Both are possibly among the diseases that will ravage humanity during the apocalypse.

Ebola is unusual among diseases. It’s effects are gruesome and very severe. WebMD says:

“Ebola is a rare but deadly virus that causes bleeding inside and outside the body. As the virus spreads through the body, it damages the immune system and organs. Ultimately, it causes levels of blood-clotting cells to drop. This leads to severe, uncontrollable bleeding. The disease, also known as Ebola hemorrhagic fever or Ebola virus, kills up to 90% of people who are infected.”

CDC Ebola Information and WHO disease outbreak updates.

Ebola is an apocalyptic disease. It is more severe in its effects than perhaps any other disease. The body loses its ability to clot blood. The patient bleeds internally and externally, and the blood is highly contagious. The organs of the body are said to liquefy. Fear of death is one of the aspects of the fourth horseman of the apocalypse. Ebola is a fearsome disease.

At the present time, the number of Ebola cases is doubling every month. Once World War 3 breaks out, along with severe civil unrest, the disease will spread more easily and more quickly. Famine will weaken many persons’ immune systems, making them more vulnerable to every disease. Ebola may be one of the diseases of the fourth horseman, perhaps the preeminent one.

Ronald L. Conte Jr.
Roman Catholic theologian and
translator of the Catholic Public Domain Version of the Bible.

Apocalypse Survival Guide for Christians
available in print (paperback) and in Kindle format.

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