People the world over are preparing for the beginning of a new millennium at midnight on December 31, 1999. Extravagant plans for celebration have been made. Party hosts and party goers are primed for memorable entertainment. Unfortunately, the celebration will not last very long because the Y2K problem will take on a life of its own just sixty seconds after midnight. Everyone is wondering what the scope and magnitude of this man-made problem will be. This could be the last issue of Day Star, so it comes to you early in December to avoid the last minute holiday mail crunch. While serious problems may result from Y2K computer glitches, even more serious and important is the rapid approach of the last millennium, not the next millennium.
Historical Error Perpetuated
Calendar years have been based on the birth of Jesus only since the sixth century, about 1,400 years ago. Before that, nations used a variety of ways to determine their calendar year. The most common method of dating was determined by the reign of the king. For example, we read in the Bible,"Ezra arrived in Jerusalem in the fifth month of the seventh year of the king[Artaxerxes]."(Ezra 7:8; See also Luke 3:1.) Obviously, kings do not live forever and time marches on. This method of dating becomes complicated because the seventh year of Artaxerxes could also be the second year of another king in another nation. It becomes a nightmare to assemble historical decrees and events from various nations when no common or continuous dating scheme exists.
By the sixth century A.D., the Catholic Church's system of governance had endured longer than most civil governments. Since Church traditions and the dating of Church councils had become very important theological themes, the Church hierarchy decided that calendar years should be measured from the birth of Jesus, the King of kings. Thus, the Holy Roman Empire would have one calendar that would serve its world parish. So, during the sixth century leadership of Pope John I, a Scythian monk, Dionysus Exiguus, was appointed to calculate Jesus' birth as well as the date for Easter. The Church began to impose the calendar dating of Exiguus throughout the world. It took several years for the calendar to be accepted, because each monarchy preferred its own count of calendar years. For example, it was not until A.D. 664 that the "Christian Era" was finally adopted in England at the Synod of Whitby. After this, the acceptance of the Christian calendar gradually spread throughout Europe. Unfortunately, historians discovered years later that Exiguus had made a mistake. He omitted a four-year segment in his calculations. The error was not publicized. Making this change would have been embarrassing to the Church. Today, more than 1,400 years later, the four-year error continues in perpetuity.
The Julian Calendar
Julius Caesar implemented the January 1 to December 31 calendar that we use today in 45 B.C., prior to the birth of Jesus. Several centuries passed before the Julian calendar was associated with the birth of Jesus. Today, we combine the dating scheme of Julius Caesar with the dating of Exiguus without a second thought. For example, December 1, 1999, is a combination of both calendars. The December 1 date was provided by Julius Caesar and the A.D. 1999 portion is provided by the Catholic Church.
In 1582, the Church realized a correction was needed in the Julian calendar. The Julian calendar did not calculate leap years correctly and ten days of cumulative error had become evident. So, Pope Gregory XIII made a slight correction to the calendar and deleted ten days in October 1582 to correct the error. People went to sleep on Thursday night, the fourth of October, and arose on Friday morning, the fifteenth of October. (The four-year error was not corrected.) Despite these changes, the weekly cycle was not disturbed. (These changes imposed by Pope Gregory are similar to the changes that occur when Daylight Savings Time begins and ends in the U.S.) To prevent cumulative error from happening again, Gregory decreed that every century that could be evenly divided by 400 was to be considered a leap year. This insures that the calendar remains properly aligned with the Sun. Because of Pope Gregory's 1582 corrections, the calendar we use today is often called the Gregorian calendar.
Jesus was Born While Herod was Alive
After Dionysus Exiguus determined the year of Jesus' birth, historical events have been dated as B.C. (Before Christ) or A.D. (Anno Domini, a Latin phrase meaning, "in the year of our Lord.") Since the four-year error was not corrected, historians have adjusted the date of Christ's birth by saying that Jesus was born in 4 B.C., instead of saying that Jesus was born in year one (A.D. 1). Today, we can calculate from the information found in Scripture, that Jesus died in A.D. 30 at about 33 years of age. Jesus was born in 4 B.C. and this fact is confirmed historically by the fact that Herod the Great died in 4 B.C. (If we subtract 33 years from A.D. 30 the result is 3 B.C. because there is no "0" year. Then allowing that baby Jesus lived 12 months before He was one year of age means that His birth occurred during 4 B.C.) Remember, it was Herod the Great who attempted to kill baby Jesus by slaying all of the baby boys in Bethlehem.
Back to the Millennium
It may surprise you that the third millennium since Christ's birth actually started in 1997! The arrival of that date came without a peep. Despite the new millennium hoopla, next year will actually be the 2,004th year since Jesus Christ's birth. Very few people in the general public are aware of the four-year error, but does it really matter? Well, yes and no. No, it does not matter how we calculate the passage of years, as long as everyone uses the same numbering scheme. On the other hand, this situation does point out how error can become "truth" over time. Billions of people have been misled over something as simple as calculating the passage of time since the birth of Christ, and yet, no one has enough authority to set the world straight! (Can you image any nation celebrating it's 2,000th birthday four years late?) If a world of people can be misled over something this simple, what does this say about more complicated truths? If Christians sincerely wanted to celebrate the third millennium since Christ's birth, they should have done so in 1997. The year 2,000 has been heralded a "Year of Jubilee" by Catholics and Evangelicals alike. What is it about the 2,004th year since the birth of Christ that makes it a Jubilee year?
Looking Over "The Last Millennium"
Worldwide, we hear politicians making boastful claims about the new millennium. The prowess of man is so vain; humankind is so gullible. During the past millennium, the world has been ravaged by manmade religious intolerance and persecution, murder, wars, and the displacement of wealth through dishonesty and greed. Not only has humankind had to deal with man's cruelty to man, it has also shuddered under the scourge of plague, famine, earthquakes and violent storms. Although we have seen some of the most technological advances during the last millennium, especially during the past 200 years, they have not been enough to stop poverty or world hunger. The twentieth century may be considered "enlightened," but it was not enough to stop two world wars that cost billions of dollars and millions of lives. In fact, since 1980, we have managed to kill another four million people through war. Is this planet a troublesome place to live? A review of the past millennium leads me to say, "yes." As more and more countries develop weapons of mass destruction, a person can only wonder what will the next millennium be like? Will man use these weapons to annihilate millions? I believe an attempt is not far away.
Isn't it interesting that technology began to flourish at the end of what is historically called "the Dark Ages." In 1798, Napoleon ended 1,260 years of papal control over Europe when he seized Vatican City and placed the pope in exile. Since that time, the advancement of technology has exploded! Is this just a coincidence? I don't think so. I am convinced that the great technological advances of the past 200 years only became possible when religion became subject to a greater truth than itself. Religion has a predictable cycle that begins with advanced thinking. As religion evolves into an institution, it eventually consolidates its powers and ultimately becomes stagnant and stultifying. As darkness settles in, religious leaders try to keep the formation of new ideas contained by preventing them from gaining acceptance. This cycle has not changed since religion began. Looking back, when Napoleon hobbled the Church of Rome and minds became free to think the unthinkable and question the unquestionable, the light of truth dawned! Technology may have made great advances during the past 200 years, but the carnal nature of man has not changed! Technology has only rerouted and hastened the downward spiral of man.
Looking Forward to the Last Millennium
As you can see, my view of the past and even the future is not an encouraging one, if limited to an Earthly perspective. Solomon said,"There is nothing new under the sun."(Eccl 1:9) What goes around, comes around. At the present time, the only thing that allows nations of the world to have any semblance of world peace is God's daily intervention in the affairs of man. If time were to continue for another millennium, uninterrupted by Jesus Christ's coming, wouldn't the next millennium resemble the past six millenniums? Yes! Of course it would, all because the human heart remains desperately evil. (Jer 17:9) Isn't it ironic that the world will be celebrating nothing of value on December 31, 1999? Everyone should be able to see the parallel that exists between this foolish celebration and Belshazzar's celebration during his last night in Babylon. (Dan 5) No doubt many will be inebriated with liquor, wealth or pleasure at year end, but just as in Belshazzar's day, the handwriting is on the wall.
The compelling difference between the celebration of the third millennium and the celebration of the seventh millennium is this: The seventh millennium not only ushers in the establishment of Jesus' kingdom, it mandates the total annihilation of the kingdoms of man. (Jesus will put to death every wicked person who is alive at the time of the Second Coming. Dan 2:44; Rev 19:19-21) The information in the Bible indicates that the seventh millennium will commence sometime between 1998 and 2017. God's "seven-millennial-day" clock began ticking when sin began and after allowing sin to work for six millennial days, the time has almost come for the seventh or sabbatical millennium of rest God has prepared for His people, as well as the planet itself.
Last Days of Sixth Millennium
I believe Bible prophecy indicates that the last 1,335 days of the sixth millennium mark the duration of the Great Tribulation. (Dan 12:11,12) Since we are in the window of time when the sixth millennium will end, the Great Tribulation could begin at any time. Keep in mind that the first day of the seventh millennium begins when the Lord calls forth the righteous dead from their graves and the righteous who are living will be caught up with them to meet the Lord in the air! The saints will be taken to Heaven for 1,000 years, that is, the seventh millennium.
(1 Thes 4:16-18; John 14:1-3) While in Heaven, the saints will reign with Christ and sit in judgment, passing sentence upon the deeds of the wicked. (Rev 20:4; 1 Cor 6:2) The phrase "sit in judgement" does not mean the saints will determine whether a person is saved or lost. That prerogative belongs only to Jesus who determines the eternal destiny of each person before the Second Coming occurs. (John 5:22; Rev 22:12) However, during the seventh millennium, the saints will determine the appropriate punishment of each wicked person. The term "appropriate punishment," is not used here to mean the punishment of eternal death. Instead, it relates to the extent of suffering that is inflicted upon the wicked before they experience death. The wicked must suffer proportionately for their evil deeds. This process is called restitution and God requires full restitution for sin. (Exo 22:1-6; 1 Cor 6:1-3; 2 Cor 5:10; Rom 12:19; Heb 10:29,30; Mat 5:26; Rev 20:4)
The seventh millennium will end as Jesus and the saints descend to Earth inside the holy city called "New Jerusalem" (Rev 21:2) At that time, Jesus will resurrect every wicked person who ever lived. (Rev 20:5, 12-15) As they stand before their Creator and His great white throne, they will hear their eternal sentence as well as the demand for restitution. As each sentence is carried out, the wicked are finally consumed in the fire. (Ezel 9:10; Rev 20:9) Sin and its malignant effect will be gone and so will the measurement of time. Never again will God count the days of millenniums. Eternity will be ours – endless days of joy! Praise God!
As December 31, 1999 draws to a close, the world will be foolishly celebrating the wrong date for the commencement of another millennium, as though there is no end to millenniums. On the other hand, individuals who listen to the Holy Spirit know that we live at a very sober time. Signs abound each day telling us that the sixth millennium is about to end. The Bible only speaks of 7,000 years in its entirety. God is about to visit this rebellious planet. Violent earthquakes, cyclones, hurricanes, tornadoes and volcanoes are happening with increasing strength and frequency. These are physical signs that our planet is literally breaking apart. Soon, horrific global destruction from the heavens will fall. (Isa 51:6) There will be meteoric showers of burning hail and two civilization-threatening asteroid impacts among other judgments. Many millions of people will perish. We are living in the lull before the storm of God's wrath, a storm which the world knows nothing about. All that remains are but the closing days of the sixth millennium. Why must it be this way? God told Isaiah,"The earth will be completely laid waste and totally plundered. The Lord has spoken this word. The earth dries up and withers, the world languishes and withers, the exalted of the earth languish. The earth is defiled by its people; they have disobeyed the laws, violated the statutes and broken the everlasting covenant. Therefore a curse consumes the earth; its people must bear their guilt. Therefore earth's inhabitants are burned up, and very few are left."(Isa 24:3-6)
Knowing what to expect during the last days of the sixth millennium is sobering, but the joy of knowing that the seventh millennium is spent with Jesus far outweighs our sorrow. Jesus graciously extends the offer of salvation to everyone and He promises that everyone who puts faith in Him will not perish, but have everlasting life. Today is the day of salvation. This is the good news! This is something worth rejoicing about right now. When Jesus purifies the Earth by fire at the end of the seventh millennium, He will create a new Heaven and a new Earth. He will then freely distribute the land to all of His children and the eternal Jubilee will begin. This is something worth sharing!
Be awake. Be watching and praying. Share the good news. There is a compassionate Savior. He is coming soon to rescue the saints. His name is Jesus Christ. He will appear as a gentle Lamb to those who love Him, and as a roaring Lion to those who continue to rebel and sin. May Jesus grant each of us a double portion of grace as we race toward the commencement of the last millennium! Pray now for God's sustaining grace, we are going to need it.