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 or the coronavirus. Loimos can also be translated plague which is an epidemic disease causing a high rate of mortality such as cardiovascular diseases. Furthermore, pestilence is a contagious or infectious epidemic disease that is virulent and devastating. Virulent is marked by a rapid, severe, and destructive course and able to overcome bodily defensive mechanisms : markedly pathogenic 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 is an outbreak of a disease that occurs over a wide geographic area and affects an exceptionally high proportion of the population 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
- Worldwide obesity has nearly tripled since 1975.
- In 2016, more than 1.9 billion adults, 18 years and older, were overweight. Of these over 650 million were obese.
WHO reports that obesity has reached epidemic proportions globally, with 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 8 million people each year. More than 7 million of those deaths are the result of direct tobacco use while around 1.2 million 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 17.9 million people died from CVDs in 2016, representing 31% of all global deaths.