For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places (Matthew 24:7).
The Greek word translated pestilences is loimos which can have a broad range of meanings including any sudden fatal epidemic such as the Spanish Flu. Loimos can also be translated plague which is any disease of wide prevalence or of excessive mortality such as cardiovascular diseases. Furthermore, pestilence is “a virulent outbreak of any disease”. Virulent is “extremely toxic” and “marked by a rapid, severe, and malignant course; able to overcome bodily defense mechanisms” such as cancer.
Since end times events will occur on a worldwide scale, these plagues or pestilences would also need to be referred to as global or “pandemic” which are diseases “affecting or attacking the population of an extensive region, country, continent, global; extensively epidemic” such as obesity and tobacco use.
The ‘20th Century Death’ infographic estimates that a staggering 4.2 billion people died from some type of disease in the 20th century! Not all of those diseases would match the characteristics Jesus gave. Where to draw that line is not clear, so let’s just consider the 5 mentioned above that would fit the definitions and account for about 1.9 billion deaths in the 20th century, mostly after WWI.
Spanish Flu (1918-1919)
The Spanish flu lasted about 1 year. In that time an estimated 500 million people (about 20-40% of the world’s population) became ill and about 50 million died. The chart below shows the spike in deaths that occurred within a two-month period.
Overweight and Obesity
The World Obesity Federation states that ”The epidemic of obesity is now recognized as one of the most important public health problems facing the world today. Tragically, adult obesity is more common globally than under-nutrition. ”. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports these statistics:
- Worldwide obesity has more than doubled since 1980.
- In 2014, more than 1.9 billion adults, 18 years and older, were overweight. Of these over 600 million were obese.
WHO reports that ”Worldwide, at least 2.8 million people die each year as a result of being overweight or obese.”
The World Health Organization (WHO) states that ”Tobacco kills more than 7 million people each year. More than 6 million of those deaths are the result of direct tobacco use while around 890,000 are the result of non-smokers being exposed to second-hand smoke.”.
While smoking has been around for thousands of years, it was in 1881 when James Bonsack invented the cigarette-making machine that cigarette smoking became widespread. This graph illustrates the rise in cigarette consumption in the United States in the early 1900s. The Tobacco Atlas reports that ”Without appropriate prevention policies, the world will lose a billion lives this century due to tobacco smoking.”
Cancer has been around for centuries, but it “emerged in the 20th century as one of the top causes of death”. In particular, deaths due to lung cancer increased significantly primarily due to the widespread increase in smoking during the same period of time.
It is estimated that 530 million people died from cancer in the 20th century, with lung cancer being the highest at about 93 million. The American Cancer Society reports that more than 8 million people die from cancer each year.
Worldwide, the National Center for Biotechnology Information website states that: ”At the beginning of the 20th century, CVD was responsible for less than 10 percent of all deaths worldwide, but by 2001 that figure was 30 percent”.
Cardiovascular diseases, in general, killed an estimated 1.2 billion people worldwide in the 20th century. More specifically, ischemic (hardening of the arteries) heart disease killed an estimated 540 million people, and ischemic strokes killed about another 357 million people.
WHO reports these statistics:
- CVDs are the number 1 cause of death globally: more people die annually from CVDs than from any other cause.
- An estimated 17.7 million people died from CVDs in 2015, representing 31% of all global deaths. Of these deaths, an estimated 7.4 million were due to coronary heart disease and 6.7 million were due to stroke.