Midnight, December 31 1999, and the world celebrates the dawn of the new millennium. For most of earth's six billion inhabitants it will merely be the turn of the calendar. But it is, supposedly, of particular significance for Christians.
TThe millennium celebration is a birthday - the birth, in Christian eyes, of the most significant individual ever. The calendar date of January 1st 2000 is meant to mark two thousand years from the birth of Jesus the Messiah as a baby in far off Bethlehem. Truly something to celebrate.
Two Thousand Years?
There are, of course, problems with the date. The completion of two thousand years will not take place till the end of 2000 A.D.! But "tell that to the Marines"! 2000 is a nice round figure, and somehow 2001 doesn't have the same ring to it. Nor does 25 December 1999 - the traditional date for the celebration of his birth. Besides, Jesus was really born around what we would date as 3 B.C. or 4 B.C. [see The Feast of the Nativity.] The dating of his birth was inaccurately calculated for the first time in the sixth century. The true anniversary of the birth of Jesus is thus long past, unnoticed even by his followers. Nor was his birth in mid-winter!
But there's more. For many Christians there's an almost magical significance to the number. Two whole millennia have elapsed, and surely it is time for his promised return.
Medieval Europe witnessed a similar millennium fever as the year rolled over from 999 to 1000. There was fear of terrible catastrophe - but mingled with the vague hope that the new year would witness the return of Messiah.
The year 2000 seems set to repeat the process, despite modern sophistication. There is fear of asteroid impact. Fear of new untreatable disease. Fear of environmental catastrophe through global warning, sun-flares affecting earth's magnetic field stirring 400 m.p.h. winds, lingering fear about nuclear war and new and frightening weaponry, destructive weather patterns. Millions fear the inevitable effects of globalization of politics and economics in the hands of faceless multi-national companies - many larger than most countries in their "GNP". And worldwide is the growing fear of alien invasion from outside our cozy solar system. Nor are all these fears entirely irrational!
Y2K is the symbol used in the media for the year two thousand but with the implications of the so-called "millennium bug".
This "millennium bug" only affects computers. It is not infectious. It is not even a computer "virus". It cannot infect humans! It is merely a mistake in the way that dates used to be stored in computers.
On the rare chance that you are unfamiliar with this, it can be explained briefly as follows. Due to the scarcity of space on computers in the 1960's, the United States government, to conserve space, made it a standard that years be expressed in computer programs by only he last two digits - eg, 1999 by 99.
The problem arises when the calendar rolls over from 1999 to 2000. Older computers will assume that 00 is 1900. This may cause problems with financial calculations - interest, mortgages, pensions etc. Some computers may simply refuse to work! Much of this - at least in the developed world - is fixable, and governments and companies are mostly confident the problems are - almost - solved.
But many instruments and machines have "embedded chips" - components which in many cases are inaccessible and therefore out of reach of computer engineers. These include nuclear power units, electric power stations, communication satellites, heating and air-conditioning units, some appliances. If these fail, it is feared there could be civil disorder since go much of life - even food,in the supermarket - is, dependent on electric power.
The worst scenario is unlikely - a return to medieval standards. More likely is a temporary - days, weeks, months - period of varying inconvenience for all of us. It would be prudent to make preparations at home to take care of your - and your neighbors' -likely needs for a few days.
Now mix in the chaos that may result from the predicted inability of our technological world to cope with the "millennium bug" in computer systems. If only the predicted five percent of the world's billions of computer chips fail as they roll over from 1999 to 2000, then some disruption is inevitable.
It is predicted that there could be serious power failure which could - remember it will be the northern hemisphere's mid-winter - shut down your heating appliances, most of which depend on electricity. Water won't be pumped to your faucet, nor will sewage be pumped away, nor water-purifying chemicals be correctly added. Bank and investment company records may be deleted, welfare payments go unpaid, all money terminals present only a blank screen. Phones, dependent on satellite links, will "die" and all communication systems (apart from yelling) will cease to operate.
Governments around the world are taking their own precautions. Security forces will be on stand-by as widespread looting is expected. In Canada army and police leave is cancelled, and reportedly the United States government is printing an extra $50 billion. Supply depots are being prepared. Control centers are already manned. Medical centers, hospitals etc. are preparing to cope with casualties - and with the failure of their electronic equipment. Some airlines are grounding all flights.
So, on the occasion of this millennium fears may be well-founded. The doom-sayers may have a point! There may be no deception this time. Should only a percentage of our interlocking systems fail we are in trouble.
The wise will take heed - and take sensible precautions.
The Real Deception
The years and fears leading to 1000 A.D. were mingled with hope. And millions have high expectations for this turn of the calendar. New Agers anticipate the "dawning of the Age of Aquarius". Eastern mystics expect a final avatar - the incarnation of a deity who will bring peace on earth. Christians, too, reflect this hope. Many live in expectation that 2000 A.D. will see the predicted return of Jesus Christ. Coupled with this is the supposed spectacular "rapture" - the sudden snatching away from cars and aeroplanes and sidewalks and ships of all "born-again" Christians to be with Christ.
Let's inspect the evidence for such momentous events.
The Year 2000?
One of the firmest predictions of the Scriptures is that Jesus Christ will return. He will establish an earthly Kingdom in which his rule will extend "from sea to shining sea". Two thousand years from his supposed birth seems nice timing for his return. Many students of prophecy believe God has allocated six thousand years for man to have a go at working out his own destiny. Some calculate the time is up - in 2000 A.D.!
A fallacy here is that we have already missed the boat. The chronology is based on that of James Ussher, 17th century Archbishop of Armagh, who proposed the beginning of creation as 4004 B.C. If he was correct, we ought now to be several years into the seventh thousand years since creation!
Then, nowhere in Scripture is there any significance ascribed to the number two thousand. Yes, 7 or 40 or 70 or 1260 or 1335 or 2520 - but not 2000. Besides, Jesus, when quizzed about the time of his return, said he didn't know, that the time is unknown: "...of that day and hour no-one knows - not even the angels of heaven" (Matthew 24:36). Even Jesus himself didn't know (Mark 13:32).
All who raise expectations of his return at a specific time, then, are either deceiving you or are themselves deceived.
But don't relax just yet. Jesus did clearly predict the end of this age. Man's stupidity will culminate in total planetary destruction - unless Jesus returns to call a halt. The Bible foresees horrific times ahead -a mix of human cupidity and divine wrath. (Yes - God gets very angry!) The unrecognized interaction of human sin and natural disaster will ravage earth and its people. And herein is another point of deception!
Snatched To Safety?
Christian bookstores are heavy with titles which promise that you -if you are a "born-again Christian" - will be spared this devastation. Before Satan's destructive power is unleashed on all mankind, Jesus will snatch you away - the word used is rapture - to safety. Deception!
Awesome distress (the Bible term is "tribulation") is indeed clearly predicted - not only for the modern descendants of the patriarch Jacob (also named Israel), but for all mankind. Few, relatively, of earth's billions will survive (Isaiah 24:6). But the true Biblical prophetic timetable asserts that "the rapture" occurs only after much of the destruction. [See Before Jesus Comes].
The infamous "four horsemen of the Apocalypse" are predicted to stalk the end-time earth - false religion, war, famine and deadly disease pandemics. They precede the rapture. Following the beginning of these four scourges, angry nations will viciously launch their military force against the modern descendants of ancient Israel - what the Scriptures term, the time of "Jacob's trouble". This, too, will precede the rapture.
The people of God will all this time have feet firmly planted on solid earth. They will not be snatched away. They will not be in the clouds nor will they be in heaven. Many, as in past ages, will be martyred for their Christian faith. Many - as did Noah and Lot and Daniel - will have various forms of divine protection. But on earth.
Final Seals Open
Then, following the onset of "the great tribulation" upon Israel will come a time of unimaginable destruction.
The book of Revelation includes a blueprint for the sequence of events just before Jesus comes again. The years preceding this were unveiled to John as, one by one, seven seals were stripped from a scroll. The first four of these are the notorious "four horsemen". The fifth is a time known in Scripture as "Jacob's Trouble" - martyrdom of many Christians, and terrible distress upon modern Israel and the Jews. You can read this in Revelation 6:1 -11.
Next - the sixth seal - follows a worldwide calamity that drives world leaders from their palaces to seek refuge from what could be interpreted as earth entering an asteroid belt (See vv. 12-17). A great earthquake will cause volcanic dust to blacken the sun and turn the moon blood-red. John's description echoes many detailed prophetic texts from the Old Testament.
And still "the rapture" hasn't happened!
One more seal, the seventh, remains. This one encompasses what John records as "Seven Trumpets". This again is a period of awesome global destruction (Revelation chapters 8-9).
The Last Trumpet
The idea of trumpets is familiar to many - even to non-believers, perhaps through Handel's Messiah. Haven't we heard of "the last trumpet"? The apostle Paul details this for us (for example I Corinthians 15:52). It's the time when God's people from all of time will be resurrected from the dead. And it's the time that Jesus will return - not only to raise the dead from their graves, but to gather up - rapture, if you like - living believers (I Thessalonians 4:16-17).
Recall that this is sequenced after the so-called Tribulation. It is after the destruction symbolized by the sixth seal and the entirety of the first six "Trumpet judgments". Yet millions are deceived by religious leaders to expect miraculous protection in heaven from all this horror! Isn't it much more sensible to be prepared?
Those who are in Christ need not fear. We needn't fear the day-to-day trauma of life. Secure in Christ we needn't fear the end of the world at midnight on December 31 this year when the "millennium bug" may cause the breakdown of civilized society. Nor, trusting in God, and walking in the Spirit need we fear the certainty of the coming Tribulation nor the subsequent "time of [God's] wrath" (Revelation 6:17).
A question, here. Are you "secure in Christ"? Are you sure? Millions have accepted a watered-down - and useless - version of true conversion. [See Another gospel?.] And the vast majority of mankind don't even pretend to have a relationship with Christ. Yet "there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12).
Now, if you do not believe the Bible is the sure word of the Creator this may not bother you. But given the uncertain times in which we live - it would be prudent to investigate its claims. After all, these same Scriptures accurately predicted the time and circumstances of the first coming of Jesus as Messiah. Its predictions are sure.
Numerous "prophets" have predicted the end of the world. It is suggested that Nostradamus settled for July 4 1999. That's past. Another prediction - unrelated to the Y2K bug - is for a stupendous earthquake at midnight on December 31 this year. Other dates, too - even the astrologically significant August 11, 1999 - also past! (Didn't that pass quietly?!) And September 9.
When you see come to pass the "signs of his coming" predicted by Jesus and the prophets, then his return - and the real "rapture" - is near. When you experience the events shadowed by the "Seventh Trumpet" - then you can know for sure that He is here, on earth, about to take on His role of King of kings.
Don't be deceived by false expectations.
[See The Time of the Signs.]
To comment on this article or request more information, please contact James McBride by e-mail at the comment form below.
For PDF or mailed copy, see CGOM. Excerpt from New Horizons Issue 17, September/October 1999. Edited by James McBride of the Churches of God, United Kingdom.
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