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Viral Replication
By Dan Vis
March 30, 2020
Comments: 11

Here's the third and final part in our series on the coronavirus. Part 1 looked at how to approach the health crisis from a biblical perspective. Part 2 looked at strategies to overcome the adverse effects of social distancing. And this week we actually look at some massive inspiration we can draw from the pandemic...

Chart of spread of coronavirus...

The news seems to be almost all bad: infection rates are climbing, death tolls are increasing, the stock market is tanking, unemployment is skyrocketing, there's not enough face masks, or ventilators, and schools and businesses are closing--some permanently. It's enough to overwhelm anyone.

But there's actually some inspiration in this crisis that might just encourage you. In this article, I'd like to share one critically important lesson every believer can and should take from the pandemic.

Let's Be Cautious

Before getting into that lesson, let me first share a quick warning about making this plague excessively apocalyptic. Many believers, I've noticed, are seeing this crisis as a direct warning message from God. That it is an indicator of Christ's imminent return, the spark that will ignite the final crisis. And that these current events should drive us to seek God as never before.

It's true that Matthew 24:7For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. lists "pestilences" as one of several signs indicating the return of Christ is near. And some verses, like Leviticus 26:25And I will bring a sword upon you, that shall avenge the quarrel of my covenant: and when ye are gathered together within your cities, I will send the pestilence among you; and ye shall be delivered into the hand of the enemy. and Amos 4:10I have sent among you the pestilence after the manner of Egypt: your young men have I slain with the sword, and have taken away your horses; and I have made the stink of your camps to come up unto your nostrils: yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the LORD. certainly make clear God can send plagues like this as a judgment against a rebellious people.

But personally, I'm reluctant to assign God responsibility for creating this crisis. I've always tended to see God more in the heroes fighting to save life so sacrificially, such as our front line health care providers. It's also not clear to me that the Bible identifies this particular plague as having any special prophetic significance. There is a very clear endtime process revolving more around the merging of church and state, and our prophetic stopwatch should be linked to that, not this epidemic. And last, while it is always good to turn toward God, I'm not so sure the most effective motivation is fear and panic. When that is our primary motivation, human nature tends to revert to its prior behavior the instant the crisis is resolved.

“I'm reluctant to assign God responsibility for creating this crisis. I've always tended to see God more in the heroes fighting to save life so sacrificially, such as our front line health care providers.”

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So yes, let's encourage people to seek God. But let's be cautious about making claims that are questionable at best. Let's focus instead on the core elements of the Great Commission: taking in the Word effectively, living it out practically, and passing it on to others consistently.

Sensationalism is the last thing we need right now. The world has more than enough of that, already!

Exponential Sequences

What I'm hoping is that believers will glean another lesson from this pandemic, and that is the extraordinary power of viral replication. Back in my college days, I was actually a math major for a few years, and managed to get pretty far along in my training. Math always came easy, and I loved the sheer beauty and power of numbers. To me, grasping the explosive power of an exponential sequence, was easy and intuitive. But through the years, I've also come to realize not everyone relates to numbers the same way. Those graphs and charts don't always register.

I suspect this is the reason many people initially underestimated the threat of this virus. And even today, some are still minimizing the potential impact of this crisis on our health care system. Unless you understand what the numbers really say, it's difficult to grasp how serious this virus is.

Think about how it began: a few news story about some small outbreak in China. Then the first few headlines of isolated cases here and there in a handful of other countries. Then sudden outbreaks in specific countries, like Italy, and Iran. Pretty soon it had spread to pretty much every country. Here in the USA, we started getting reports from more and more states. Pretty soon, every state was reporting cases. Then I started watching local numbers. A few isolated cases, in a handful of counties. And then every day, new counties--including my local county just yesterday. In only 18 days from first touching rural North Dakota, we've soared into triple digits, with more than 1/3 of our counties reporting confirmed cases. Soon, I won't be looking at counties any more. I'll be tracking which towns and villages around me have the virus!

And remember, these are only the tested and confirmed cases. Experts predict the actual count is likely 50 times greater, or more!

Notice the process again: it started with a single case in just one location. From there it spread to pretty much every country. Then to pretty much every state. Then to every county. And soon it will be in most towns and villages. And all this in a matter of a few months! How did it spread so rapidly?

The answer is simple mathematics. Viral replication functions as an exponential sequence. That is, infection doesn't just add cases, it multiplies them. Every infected person becomes a new vector for the disease, infecting multiple others. That leads to explosive growth! To pandemic.

“Viral replication functions as an exponential sequence. That is, infection doesn't just add cases, it multiplies them... That leads to explosive growth!”

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Let me illustrate it with some real numbers. Current estimates are that the infection rate is doubling every on average, every 3 days. So if you have 100 infections today, three days later you'll have 200. Three days more and you'll have 400. Then 800, 1600, 3200, and so on. After just one month, doubling every 3 days, your 100 infections will skyrocket to 100,000. Another few weeks, and the number could be in the millions!

While it may be hard to grasp mathematically how powerful an exponential sequence is--the coronavirus gives us a vivid illustration of how it works. If you are not good with numbers, just follow the arc of this disease. That's what an exponential curve looks like. I'll get to why that is important in just a moment...

When Will It Stop?

When will it stop? It's impossible to give a direct time line, but here's a few factors that will influence how long our lives are going to be impacted by this.

First, social distancing and other containment measures can slow it's spread. And by reducing how quickly it spreads, we may be able to minimize the number of people needing hospitalization at any given point in time to manageable levels. But so far, at least in high population centers like New York, these measures have only had mixed results at best. The hope however, is that if enough people take these instructions seriously, and we're able to ramp up the capabilities of our medical system quickly enough (field hospitals, emergency production of ventilators, etc), we may just be able to manage supplying care to all who need it.

Second, a treatment or vaccine, could dramatically minimize the impact of this virus. A treatment won't slow its spread, but will help those who contract the disease experience milder symptoms and improve their chance of survival. An effective vaccine on the other hand, gives immunity to those who receive it, preventing them from becoming transmission vectors. If that happens to enough people, the progression of the disease will slow and eventually come to an end.

Unfortunately, developing treatments for a viral infection is very difficult, and unless some existing anti-viral proves effective, a cure is unlikely any time soon. Developing a vaccine is easier, and multiple vaccines are currently in development, but a significant testing protocol is required to verify they are both safe and effective, so it may also be some time before one of these becomes available.

The third, and most likely way for this pandemic will end is simply for enough people to contract the disease and recover. That should give those individuals a natural immunity to the disease, and thus slow it's spread in the same way a vaccine would. Disease experts say that once some 60-70% of a population develops immunity (whether naturally or through a vaccine), the rate of infection will go into decline and the disease spread will become more manageable.

Currently tests are being developed to detect Covid-19 antibodies, which would give us a better idea what percentage of the population has actually been infected. But until those tests become widely available, the only way to know we have reached that threshhold of immunity is when we see the infection rates begin to decline.

Where's the Inspiration?

You may look at all this information and not see much inspiration. The virus is spreading rapidly, and it is threatening to overwhelm our health care system. Our current strategies for slowing it's spread have had mixed results, and apart from some medical breakthrough, it looks as if it is simply going to have to run it's course. Not much to be encouraged about.

But here's my takeaway: this pandemic is a powerful model of how earth's final revival could spread. All it takes is one spark in one location, to ignite an exponential sequence. If it leads to viral replication, that revival could spread around the world in an incredibly brief period of time. First to every country, then to every state, then to every county, and finally to every town and village.

“This pandemic is a powerful model of how earth's final revival could spread. All it takes is one spark in one location, to ignite an exponential sequence.”

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It will be virtually impossible to stop it's spread until it has run it has course. The devil can try and slow its spread with restrictive measures, but he will only have mixed results at best. Cherished sin might keep revival from having any significant impact in our life. And a hard enough heart may convey some immunization against revival. But even so, millions will still be susceptible to the final revival, and countless lives will be changed.

From person to person, it will spread, until the entire earth has been reached. All we need is that initial first spark of a revival that is fully reproducible.

Peering Deeper

There are more lessons we can glean, if we peer deeper into how a virus actually works. Viruses are extremely tiny little bundles of genetic code. They don't even have the ability within themselves to replicate. To spread, they follow three basic steps. First, they attach to a cell and inject their code. Second that code takes over the heart of the cell (the nucleus) and uses its machinery to start producing copies of itself. Third, those copies of the virus exit the cell and proceed to infect even more cells. It's essentially a process of exponential reproduction as well!

I'm convinced, this is exactly how the final revival will work as well. The code for this "revival" virus is contained within the Word of God. To experience viral replication, that code must first enter into the human agent. By internalizing Scripture, we can facilitate that process. Second, that code must take over the heart of that person, controlling the reason, emotions, and will sufficiently to transform the life. Basically, the code causes a copy of the image of Christ to be reproduced in the individual. And then finally, that person becomes a vector for transmitting that code to the people around him, recreating the whole cycle.

“The code for the revival virus is contained within the Word of God. It must first enter into the human agent, take over the heart of that person, and then that person becomes a vector for transmitting it to others.”

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This has been the model we've advocated from the very beginning at FAST. That every believer must learn how to take in God's Word, live it out, and then pass it on to others. And we've built our whole training curriculum on that paradigm. Teaching believers how to internalize Scripture through effective memorization. Helping them apply it to their life practically through the basic skills of discipleship. And finally equipping leaders with the ministry skills they need to share the Word consistently.

It is the same basic methodology as the coronavirus. And we're praying it will produce the same kind of viral replication, we're seeing today.

The coronavirus is a terrible tragedy. And for many, no doubt, it is a wake up call to get their lives right with God. But even more, perhaps, it is a visual illustration of how the work will be finished. For those not good with math, we can see the power of an exponential sequence right before our eyes, right in our current headlines. And if we dig a little deeper we can even discern a clear blueprint for how that final revival will spread.

If we learn that lesson, and focus on building viral replication into all we do, the final revival may come sooner than we think. All it takes is one spark. From there, it will spread to every country, state, county, and town with a suddenness and power difficult to imagine up to now. Let's pray, that this is the lesson, and inspiration, and hope, that we draw from the current crisis!

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Comments

How easy is it to grasp the power of an exponential sequence? Is it easier to grasp viral replication? What insights might the current virus give us about how the work on earth could be finished? Does the current virus inspire you to pursue earth's last revival? Why or why not?

Posted by Dan Vis on 04/03/20 
Good thoughts John. The human agent does influence both the reception, internalization, and spread of the gospel. The more we can cooperate with God, the better!
Posted by John Gilmore on 04/03/20 

The replication of the virus causing Covid-19 does illustrate spread of the gospel. I too have seen exponential growth as not just possible but happening in both areas.

At the same time, host traits temper the growth. Just as hygiene resists reception of the virus, the distractions of things and entertainment and the cares of this life can block reception of the gospel. May God help us to find ways to get past those barriers with His message.    Also, just as those infected with the virus vary in symptoms, Christians vary in our reactions to His Word. Thank God that we may carry and spread the good news even if we personally show its effects less obviously.

Posted by Dan Vis on 03/31/20 
Thanks Kjersti!
Posted by Kjersti on 03/31/20 
On youtube serch for: Walter Veith and Martin Smith and -Coronavirus.
Posted by Dan Vis on 03/30/20 

The Gospel virus kind of does the same thing, doesn't it Clara? It leads to a death of the old man, and the birth of something new. Very exciting!

Yes, these are important times to be examining ourselves. But then again, we shouldn't really need a crisis to do that! It should be a regular part of our walk with God. Thanks for sharing!

Posted by Clara Koen on 03/30/20 
To kill a virus you have to kill the host cells, which is why cancer treatment is so severe to the poor sufferer. So with the sin virus, the old has to be regenerated by the cleansing, renewing of God’s Word.
I have been bothered by those in ecclesiastical positions who have cried “peace,peace...”, this is a time to be awakening and realising that “the last scenes will be rapid ones” and as this virus is particularly lethal to the older population business will never be “as usual “ again. Thank you Lord for this dramatic wake up call to make our salvation sure in Thee. In the Power and Name of Jesus, amen
Posted by Dan Vis on 03/30/20 

Love your enthusiasm Konni! Let's all get contagious, but with the right bug!

Praise God Sharlene, that was the goal! :)

JoAnn, I'm sure it is going to be exciting, and perhaps sooner than we think. Let's keep praying for it! And glad you'll be joining us again for the Breakout Memory Challenge. Looks like it's going to be a great group...

Sorry your link don't come through Kjersti. Try posting the url directly into the comment box. :)

Posted by Kjersti on 03/30/20 
Resived the following link.: youtu.be
This meeting is made were Walter Veith answer serten questions abouth the korona virus.
Posted by JoAnn Moon on 03/30/20 
That is good news! I am excited to think of what is in store as the gospel virus spreads. Thank you for the reminder. I am excited for the upcoming memory challenge. That is a good way for us all to prepare!
Posted by Sharlene Yvette Reyes on 03/30/20 
Very encouraging.
Posted by Konni Plue on 03/30/20 
Thank you Pastor Dan! I am so excited to be reminded again how exponential math helps us realize how God will work to fill the earth with the knowledge of His glory. (Habakkuk 2:14For the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.). I want to be infected with the WORD of God and very contagious! Thank you again for working tirelessly to share what God teaches you.


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