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From Postmodern to Bimillennial Consciousness

I prepared this paper, “From Postmodern to Bimillennial Consciousness: The quest to commemorate Christ s 2,000th Jubilee” for the scholars track of Orlando 95,July 29 in Orlando, Florida.

… I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I.
–Psalm 61:2

The 20th century will no doubt be remembered as a Pentecostal century, given the birth of the modern Pentecostal/Charismatic movement and its dramatic growth. In less than three generations, this movement has grown to an amazing 462 million, making it the second largest expression of faith within the Christian movement, second only to Roman Catholics.1

This paper considers how the Pentecostal/Charismatic movement can help shape the 2,000th anniversary of the birth of Christ. Its focus is on the year 2000, more precisely Anno Domini 2000 (actually A.D. 2001), the Great Jubilee of the Incarnation of Our Lord.

Much in the same way that Pope John Paul II called the church to prepare for the advent of the third millennium in his apostolic letter Tertio Millennio Adveniente, (Vatican Press, November 1994) this paper is a call to theologians, educators and publishers to undergird the immense preparations needed for the historical anniversary upon us, the bimillennial of the birth of Christ, which will unfold from 1996 to 2001.

If it was time to commemorate the 2,500th birthday of Aristotle, or the 100th anniversary of Einstein, we would likely reflect on the impact philosophy or physics has had. With the arrival of the year 2000, we are at a unique position to weigh the life and impact of Jesus of Nazareth. It will be appropriate for anyone, not just Christians to ask, “Why have the values and attitudes of this poor man of Nazareth so deeply affected the cultures who followed him over the past twenty centuries? ”

This paper uses the term, “bimillennial,” to refer to Christ’s 2,000th jubilee. Bi- meaning two, together with “millennial”–a thousand, refers to a two-thousandth anniversary.

Just as the United States had a bicentennial in 1976 to celebrate it s 200th anniversary, so the world will have a bimillennial in 2000 to mark the 2,000th anniversary of the birth of its only Savior.

Preparations for the American bicentennial began long before 1976. The United States officially opened its bicentennial era in 1971. So too, on the occasion of this 4th Congress on the Holy Spirit and World Evangelization, it is fitting for the church to open the “bimillennial era.” Let it be written that Orlando ’95 made a historic declaration: “the bimillennial era of Christ has begun.”

As with any centennial or bicentennial, a bimillennial would have a series of major themes and common programs, all associated through international months, weeks and days leading up to its culmination.

We will likely see this anniversary era of Christ develop from 1996 to 2001. Before it is all done, bimillennial tributes to Jesus will likely fill our cities, churches, theaters, libraries, museums and stadiums. As academicians, we have a unique role to insure that this mega-anniversary gets focused and remains coherent.

In describing our age, the label postmodern has emerged as a term to depict our disoriented state of culture. The former avant-gardes have lost their authority. In their place, postmoderns now exercise their creativity by blending previously incompatible styles, doctrines and methods in fields as diverse as art, literature, scholarship, advertising, and politics.

In their blending of disparate elements, postmoderns have found anniversaries an ideal vehicle for reassessing past authorities, particularly “dead white guys” revered by western civilization. According to one scholar, “we now commemorate what we no longer wish to emulate.”2

While visiting Independence Hall in Philadelphia last July 4th, Vaclav Havel, the European playwright turned president of the Czech Republic gave a speech on human rights, and the gift of liberty endowed by our Creator. In doing so, he artfully described postmodern culture:

Today, many things indicate that we are going thorough a transitional period, when it seems that something is on the way out and something else is painfully being born. It is as if something were crumbling, decaying, and exhausting itself, while some thing else, still indistinct, were arising from the rubble.

Periods of history when values undergo a fundamental shift are certainly not unprecedented . . . . The distinguishing features of such transitional periods are a mixing and blending of cultures and a plurality or parallelism of intellectual and spiritual worlds.

These are periods when all consistent value systems collapse, when cultures distant in time and space are discovered or rediscovered. They are periods when there is a tendency to quote, to imitate, and to amplify, rather than to state with authority or integrate. New meaning is gradually born from the encounter, or the intersection, of many different elements.

Today, this state of mind or of the human world is called postmodernism. And thus today we find ourselves in a paradoxical situation. We enjoy all the achievements of modern civilization that have made our physical existence on this earth easier in so many important ways.

Yet we do not know exactly what to do with ourselves, where to turn. The world of our experiences seems chaotic, disconnected, confusing. There appear to be no integrating forces, no unified meaning, no true inner understanding of phenomena in our experience of the world. Experts can explain anything in the objective world to us, yet we understand our own lives less and less. In short, we live in the postmodern world, where everything is possible and almost nothing is certain.3

Like Havel, nearly every writer on contemporary culture considers postmodernism to be a transitional phenomena. To start with, it is labeled after its predecessor, guaranteeing its soon obsolescence. Yet the very openness of postmodernism to every nuance of opinion, makes it difficult for it to speculate about the future direction of culture.

In the opinion of cultural historian William M. Johnston, author of Celebrations: The Cult of Anniversaries in Europe and the United States Today, postmodernism will one day be seen as a transition to “bimillennial consciousness.” He writes:

As soon as one starts to imagine how the shift from 1999 to the years 2000 and 2001 will affect attitudes worldwide, one can see that the Great Climax will evoke, however fleetingly, some kind of new consciousness. The years 2000 and 2001 will unleash preoccupation with crisis and renewal sufficient to put postmodernism in the shade. It seems not unlikely, therefore, that postmodernism will one day be seen as a transition to bimillennial consciousness.3 

This paper builds on Johnston’s premise. It explores how, in the providence of the Great Calendar, the bimillennial of Christ could well provide an impetus, sufficient to close the postmodern age of anniversaries.

What role could Pentecostalism play in this transition to bimillennial consciousness? In light of the year 2000, how might the Pentecostal/Charismatic movement help turn the corner of society from postmodern permissiveness to bimillennial intensity, from postmodern disarray to bimillennial reorientation?

Or to ask it in another way, what impact on modern culture could a religious anniversary such as the bimillennial of Christ have at the dawn of the third millennium?

This paper, entitled From Postmodern to Bimillennial Consciousness: the quest to commemorate Christ’s 2,000th Jubilee, will explore the intersection of the postmodern age of anniversaries with the emerging Christian concern for the bimillennial of Christ. This paper will unfold through four points:

1. CONTRAST:  The postmodern vs. Pentecostal view of 2000.
2. CONFLICT:  The secular & the sacred tradition of the calendar.
3. CONSENSUS:  A common vision for the common good.
4. CAUTION:  Millennial cultures within the church.

As the Los Angeles Times recently said, “this is an event 2,000 years in the making.”4


While the year 2000 will be much like any other chronological year, anticipation of its advent has been a rich part of the cultural history of both Europe and America.5 From the 19th century utopia Looking Backwards to the present day Megatrends 2000, the year 2000 has been an annus mirabilis.

In my book, The Star of 2000 6, I describe how this “magnet hung in time” became a stellar year, touching the popular imagination. Reaching far beyond human understanding, the attraction of the year 2000 has crossed all fields, from commerce to government, from humanitarian causes to religious work.

In historical retrospect, symbolic years rarely live up to their reputation. In the case of George Orwell’s 1984, reality proved 180 degrees otherwise. Very little happened in 1984. Rather than the triumph of totalitarianism, by 1989 we witnessed the triumph of individualism, as communism collapsed across Eastern Europe.

Like 1984, the year 2000 is another symbolic year. As John Naisbitt, Megatrends 2000’s author says, “The year 2000 is the most compelling symbol of the future in our lifetimes.” And as a symbol, the year 2000 has attracted the attention of both postmoderns and Pentecostals, but their perspectives contrast greatly.

The Postmodern View
For postmoderns the year 2000 is ruled by “chronos.” By play of chance, we are approaching not just the change of a century, but the turn of a millennium. To be “Triple Zero” or into the year 2000 has become chic in some New York circles. The media has dubbed the turn of the millennium as the Millennium. The “new millennium” is frequently invoked in newspaper articles or books as the explanation for bizarre behavior.

This is vividly illustrated by the book, The Countdown to the Millennium: Curious but true news dispatches heralding the last days of the planet.7 Two writers have teamed up to give us 500 human interest stories of strange behavior and even stranger thought such as: homicidal kangaroos tails . . . 666 jelly doughnuts. . . Ted Kennedy on Mars . . . Barney Rubble postage stamp . . . odor maps and much more. In the postmodern world of chronos, chaos and creativity are close co-pilots in navigating the fin de siecle of the 1990s.

Another postmodern piece on 2000 is The Millennium Book.8 This is a storehouse of “top ten trivia,” where critics contribute lists of the best and worst of the last millennium, including the top ten tunes, the ten best parties, the ten worst natural disasters and the ten worst meals, including Spam.

According to William Johnston, the only problem the postmodern faces with 2000 is “over choice” in what to put on the list. The reason it is so difficult to make lists is, “because the calendric shift incorporates multiple anniversaries within it. During the year 2000, people will commemorate the arrival of the first millennium in the year 1000, as well as the turn of the years 500 and 1500, not to mention the inception of the notion of Anno Domini . . ..” 9

Johnston concludes by saying, “The difficulty of selecting bimillennial honorees shows that the Great Calendar will no longer suffice to impose consensus.  He feels every planner, every intellectual, and indeed every citizen must propose their own personal pantheon of bimillennial heroes, because the Great Calendar favors none in particular.” 10

This is postmodernism, an arbitrary, almost random approach to the year 2000. Guided by chronos, it affirms the existential notion of thrownness,  which states that none of us chooses where, when, or among whom spend our lives; we all are just tossed into existence. The postmodern view of 2000 is none other than the view of Times Square, an incoherent call to celebrate the biggest New Year’s Eve in 1,000 years.

In commenting on the distinction between a sacred and profane understanding of the year 2000, social commentator Michael Novak was quoted by the Reader’s Digest as saying: “Although the cultural elite may not realize it, most Americans already know what is sacred, and know it through religious traditions for which the year 2000 will not be the first millennium they have known.”

The Pentecostal View
After reviewing the postmodern view of 2000, where do Pentecostals stand? The Pentecostal view of 2000 is grounded in Bethlehem square, rather than Times Square. It anticipates Christmas 2000, not just New Year s 2000.

Rather than serve the king of chronos, the Pentecostal bows before the cradle of kairos as it looks to the year 2000. As the apostle Paul wrote, “When the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman” (Galatians 4:4).

To the Pentecostal or Charismatic, the year 2000 is first and foremost Anno Domini 2000, the great Jubilee of the Incarnation of Our Lord. As citizens of the City of Man, they will celebrate the arrival of the year 2000. But as citizens of the City of God, Pentecostals have something much more to commemorate, the 2,000th anniversary of the birth of Christ.

Rather than just mark the turn the millennium, the Pentecostal will commemorate the bimillennial of the person of Christ, and welcome the inauguration of the third millennium of the reign of Christ as Lord.

By faith, the Pentecostal believes the flame of religious revival in the third millennium is already lit and spreading across the world. The greater and fuller reign of Christ’s kingdom is anticipated for ages to come. For His is an ever increasing kingdom, an empire of the Holy Spirit of which there will be no end.


Given the contrast between the postmodern and the Pentecostal view of the year 2000, the potential for cultural conflict to engulf the bimillennial era is high.

Permit me to illustrate this potential conflict between the secular and the sacred tradition of the Great Calendar by relating two personal experiences. The first was with a postmodern academic, the second with a Catholic Charismatic leader.

The Great Omission

About three years ago I ran across Celebrations by William Johnston. With delight I spent an evening poring through the pages of this scholarly book on the bimillennial. It was thorough. I kept reading, looking for his direct treatment of the bimillennial of Jesus.

Rather than just one paragraph on the bimillennial, it had three chapters. One was even entitled, “Christian Anniversaries in a Secular Age.”  I read on. The book closed with a rundown on the major anniversaries of late 1990s. But it completely overlooked Christ s 2,000th anniversary.

The next morning I dashed off a letter to Johnston in Massachusetts to ask: “Was it an oversight in your book, or just an omission of the obvious, that caused you not to mention the upcoming 2,000th anniversary of the birth of Jesus?”

Two weeks later I got his response: “Here I fear I will disappoint you.”  In technical fashion, Johnston explained that A.D. 2000 would not be the bimillennial of Jesus since he assumed, as most historians do, that Jesus was born at the latest by 4 B.C., which would put his bimillennial in 1997.

Johnston is correct, technically that is. But let s go a step further. It is not uncommon for major anniversaries to be celebrated on days other than their actual dates. We don’t even celebrate George Washington s birthday on the actual anniversary, but rather on the established anniversary date. So it will be with Christ’s anniversary. Accurate or not, Jesus’  bimillennial almost certainly will be celebrated the world over in 2000, no matter if secular scholars recognize the historical season or not.

No Person Can Monopolize?
Is it presumptuous to believe that the life once given in Bethlehem square might still serve as a guiding vision over what some call our modern-day “naked public squares”?

Christians cannot presume they will be the only ones celebrating 2000, but all of society should be aware that the roots of 2000 tap deeply into Christ.

Rather than become locked in conflict after our first interaction, William Johnston and I developed a mutual enriching dialogue on the secular and sacred sides of the bimillennial “coin.”

For example, he discovered that I could make a well-reasoned case for tribute 2000 events in the public square, which would build on our civic tradition.

I learned from Johnston that difficulty any one person or group will face in unifying major mega-anniversaries in our postmodern era. Even though the world lives under the banner of our common civil calendar with its predictable anniversaries, Johnston cautioned me against a vacuum of values which can subvert any single conviction or mega-image. In correspondence he wrote:

I predict that [christo-centric] efforts such as yours to focus the bimillennial will be only partly successful because too many other groups will seize the initiative to impose shape on the amorphousness of this super-anniversary. The appeal of the cult of anniversaries is that each one supplies its own agenda, as we saw with the Columbus year. Even that lost shape as the year proceeded. The shapelessness of the bimillennial will be even more apparent, come the Year 2000 . . . My inference from studying recent commemorations is that no person or group can preempt or monopolize an event like 2000.

This is a clear wake-up call, not just to the church, but to anyone who believes that society ought to have a common vision of the common good.

The reality Johnston reminds us here is “countercommemorations.” Not only do today’s cultural managers use major anniversaries to celebrate every nuance of opinion, but cultural critics particularly “aim to reshape offerings of the Great Calendar into counter images of official agendas.”

This struggle to bring meaning to the cultural symbols of society was all too apparent during the quincentennial.

Do We Protest or Parade?
Three years ago I saw a bumper sticker which summarized the fault lines which surfaced in the quincentennial. It read, “Discover Columbus  Legacy: 500 years of racism, oppression, & stolen land.” Unfortunately, in 1992 most Americans or Europeans didn’t know whether to protest or parade.

Sadly, even the churches were divided as they entered the quincentennial. Two years before the 500th anniversary of Christopher Columbus in the Americas, mainline Protestant leaders talked about invasion, oppression and genocide.  They called for repentance and reconciliation.

On the other hand, Roman Catholic groups forged ahead with plans for commemoration and talk of evangelization. The rest of us were left in the middle to ask what the quincentennial was really about. Were we celebrating a continent that was found or mourning an indigenous American civilization that was lost?

In October 1991, Time magazine asked, “Will the hero of 1492 be the villain of 1992?”  Even at that early point, the fuss over Columbus threatened to rain on the Rose Parade. Originally, the Pasadena Tournament of Roses Association had chosen Cristobal Colon, a 20th-generation descendant of Columbus, as the 1992 parade grand marshal.

After an onslaught of Columbus-bashing, the Rose Parade had second thoughts. They struck a deal. Colon would only be a co-grand marshall. He would be joined by Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell, an American Indian descendant. So on January 1, 1992, Colon in a carriage, and Campbell on his horse, alternated in the lead of the Rose Parade, each man free to receive applause or boos. The sobering thing about 1992 is that Christ stands in precise relationship to the bimillennial as Columbus did to the quincentennial.

Whatever our perspective on 1492, mega-anniversaries should not be designated as a battleground for cultural war. We must do better for Christ s bimillennial. What I learned from my dialogue with my postmodern friend is that a way must be found for the whole world to appreciate the reason for the season.

Are They Stealing Our Thunder?
In the past twenty years, the modern age of anniversaries has spawned huge commemorative, heritage and travel industries. Already this mega-anniversary complex has turned its eyes on the year 2000. This anniversary will differ from others in that the turn of the calendar touches all humanity. The world has never celebrated a centennial or millennial together, much less a bimillennial. This celebration will undoubtedly attract unprecedented attention, culminating in 1999, 2000 and 2001 with extravaganzas which will unite the world as never before.

Here I will inject my second personal experience. During Brighton ’91, I had a memorable discussion with a prominent Charismatic leader about the secular tradition of the bimillennial. We talked about how groups were seeing celebration 2000 more from the vantage point of Times Square than Bethlehem s manger square. Unconcerned that A.D. 2000 would be the most memorable Christmas in 2,000 years; these groups were only looking upon 2000 as the biggest New Year’s in 1,000 years.

I asked this noted Charismatic leader how he felt about this. In response to these various millennium theme trips and parties being planned, he told me, “The year 2000 is a Christian occasion. They have no right to steal our thunder!” That got me thinking. Could this assertion be true?

–Will the biggest New Year’s Eve in a 1,000 years be celebrated with such overkill and excess that it will preempt the celebration of the most memorable Christmas in 2,000 years?
–Will humanity miss the reason for the season if the year 2000 is celebrated as a world Thanksgiving year?
–Is the world fast developing a way to celebrate the year 2000 that might totally overlook history’s most influential person–Jesus Christ?
–Is the year 2000 exclusively a Christian anniversary?

I finally answered “no” to each of these questions. The world’s anniversary attraction to 2000 should not be interpreted as a countercommemoration of Jesus’ bimillennial. There are historical reasons why the year 2000 will bring such a mix of sacred and secular commemorations.

The Dual Nature of the Great Calendar
The reason why some will celebrate the year 2000 in a secular way, and others in a sacred manner, is that our Great Calendar is a carrier of both the secular and sacred traditions.

The calendar year of 2000 is both C.E. 2000 and A.D. 2000, both Common Era and Anno Domini (the Year of Our Lord). In keeping with this dual nature the year 2000 commemorates both the human legacy and the divine story.

Before civilization emerged, people lived season to season, year to year, and gave little thought to historical eras. Calendars were developed to mark national or religious beginnings. The Hebrew calendar started counting from creation, a moment supposed to be 3,760 years before the Christian era.

The Romans counted their calendar from the mythical birth of Rome in a year we designate as 753 B.C. Every succeeding centennial was a celebration of the continuity and achievements of the Roman era. For example, in A.D. 247, Emperor Philip Arabian celebrated the 1,000th anniversary of the Roman era.

The Christian Calendar and Sacred Anniversaries
Originally, the attraction to anniversaries was heightened by the historic churches through the liturgical calendar. Its purpose was to celebrate the life of Christ and the history of the church each year through designated holy days.

By the sixth century, the liturgical calendar was fully developed. The church year celebrated Christmas, preceded by a season of Advent, then Easter, preceded by a time of penitence and, finally, Pentecost, followed by a season where the acts of the apostles were celebrated. Many saints’ days, as well, were recognized and celebrated on the annual cycle.

Of course, the reference event for the Christian calendar was the birth of Christ in A.D. 1, as calculated by Dionysius Exiguus in A.D. 525. In 1582, Pope Gregory XIII fine-tuned the Christian calendar by revising the Julian calendar’s reckoning of leap years. Even so, the Gregorian calendar or New Style calendar remained exclusively European for almost 200 years.

The Common Calendar and Secular Anniversaries
The Gregorian calendar is now called the common calendar, due to its universal application. Although technically the common calendar counts from the birth of Christ, the annotations C.E. are not meant to refer to the Christian era. The common civil calendar is a secular abstraction meant to function without reference to a single culture or starting point.

Before 1700, few secular anniversaries in Europe were celebrated. Up until that time, only the birthdays of lords and ladies had been important enough to warrant celebration. Commoners rarely kept the dates of their birth, much less celebrated them.

National celebrations were practically unknown until the French Revolution commemorated its first anniversary in 1793. This same need to articulate a national identity prompted the United States to celebrate July 4th as Independence Day.

Rather than jettison the Christian calendar, what modern society has done is secularize it, by replacing Christian anniversaries with cultural or civic ones. Instead of holy days, we now have holidays.

In America we celebrate New Year’s Day, Valentine’s Day, President’s Day, Memorial Day, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Independence Day, Labor Day and Halloween. Instead of a Sabbath, we have the “weekend” which extends from Friday (or T.G.I.F.) to Monday night football. Leisure through entertainment or recreation has become the reward for labor.

The Agenda Setters
Gone are the days when the church alone could set the anniversary agenda for society. In addition to the state and media, we have the heritage, travel and sports industries promoting their own brand of anniversaries, each worshiping their own images and achievements. All these institutions will gear up for the bimillennial.

Rather than negate the civil tradition of the Great Calendar, we must find a way to celebrate the bimillennial of Christ and at the same time affirm the role that anniversaries have in reinforcing national identity, civil religion and the humanist tradition.


So far this paper has contrasted the postmodern and Pentecostal perspective of 2000, and highlighted the potential conflict between the secular and sacred traditions of the bimillennial.

In light of these contrasting and possible conflicting perspectives, and in view of the fact today’s cultural conflicts are becoming more polarized, the question of the hour might well be: “Is there any way for both parties to develop consensus: a common vision of the bimillennial for the common good?”

Pentecostals need to ask themselves, “Are we ready to engage postmoderns on the dance floor of mainstream culture, and allow the bimillennial of Jesus not just to reinforce group identity, but to call forth renewal within society?”

Postmoderns come to the dance with their own limitations. They will need to ask themselves, “Can we rise above our modus operandi of just multiplying diverse opinions to seek a genuine rather than pseudo consensus on the bimillennial?”

In addressing these core issues, I feel that Os Guinness in The American Hour: A time of reckoning and the once and future role of faith (Free Press, 1993) has set the right tone to take us all beyond the bitterness of the present culture wars. But there are no guarantees.

The common ground between the Reformation and Enlightenment has practically disappeared in today’s culture. Like scaling Mt. Everest, the task of forging a consensus between these two traditions on the bimillennial could prove elusive. If that becomes the case, Pentecostals must settle for the consolation prize of at least maintaining the focus and coherence of Christ s 2,000th anniversary.

To Climb the Mountaintop
In charting the course of the bimillennial era before us, I find it helpful to compare it to scaling a mountain peak. Mountain climbers have learned the wisdom of scaling high peaks in stages. First they establish base camp. Then they successively reach higher levels. Finally they make the climb toward the pinnacle. In a similar way, I sense our climb up Christ s bimillennial mountain will unfold in three phases.

3.  Commemoration:  1999-2001
2.  Preparation:  1997-1998
1.  Exploration:  1995-1996

Exploration:  1995-1996

Still being uncharted ground for most, these years should call forth much investigation and study of what it would mean for both followers of Jesus and people of good will to commemorate the 2,000th anniversary of Christ together.

Bimillennial consultations should gather theologians, educators and publishers to focus the discussions. In addition, the bimillennial should be placed at the top of the agenda of various national conferences or annual meetings of denominations.

In June 1994, Pope John Paul II convened an extraordinary meeting of the world’s cardinals to ask how the Roman Catholic Church should commemorate the Holy Year 2000. This is no doubt the first of many church summits from now until 1996 that will turn the eyes of the world toward the mountain peak of Christ and 2000.

Much of the quest to define the bimillennial will pivot on how people, Christian or otherwise, relate to Jesus as a cultural symbol. It is obvious that Christ stands in relationship to the bimillennial in the same way that Columbus did to the quincentennial.

In contrast to the character discussions about whether Columbus was obsessed by gold or God, whether he was a saint or a womanizer, explorer or exploiter–no serious person would dare question the character of Christ.

There will always be the sensational author or movie claiming that Jesus didn’t die on the cross, was secretly married, or never lived! This kind of “creativity” with the Gospel narratives has never stuck to Christ.

Because the historical testimony is so strong against them, sensational allegations like these are best ignored, lest by our opposition they draw strength from the publicity. Counter-images like these are merely proof of the continuing fascination Jesus exercises on people’s minds.

As we approach the bimillennial, there should be no need for anyone to defend Jesus’ character. Even outside the church, there is an enormous respect and reverence toward Jesus. The vast majority of modern literary portrayals of Jesus are by no means lacking in aesthetic quality or theological depth. Christ has endured the test of time and will continue to do so.

The bimillennial will be a first-class opportunity for society to take another look at Jesus. This must become an occasion where the church extends an open hand, not a closed fist, to those who see in Jesus the highest and best ideals.

In reaching for the universality of Christ, we must not reach in the wrong direction. The false “cosmic Christ” of the New Age must be rejected, as well as the folklore that the New Age will begin as we enter the new millennium.

Others will not be tempted to such wild extremes. It is likely the “Jesus Seminar” may register no complaints about Jesus’ bimillennial. They will merely point out that the commemorations have more to do with the Christ of faith than the Jesus of history.11

Old arguments, even though largely resolved, have a strange resilient currency. The minimized Jesus may resurface again as we approach the bimillennial, but it should not define our ground rules to assess the life and legacy of Christ.

No person in the history of the world has called forth more study and reassessment than Jesus. After twenty centuries, we are at a unique position to weigh the Nazarene s life, to look with new eyes at the processes he unfolded, to reassess the values and attitudes he fostered in the cultures that followed him, found both in the West and the East.

We should not lose this opportunity to establish Christ s place in history and culture. We will need solid apologetics to counter historical revisionists, but we must go beyond reacting to counter-celebrants, to truly setting the agenda for the bimillennial.

At base camp consultations from now to 1996, we must offer fresh research and sound scholarship to questions such as:

–How should Christ s bimillennial be celebrated in a postmodern age?
–How has Jesus impacted each age and succeeding epoch over the past twenty centuries?
–What is unique and what is universal about the person of Christ?
–What meaning should this Great Jubilee of the Incarnation have for our civil tradition?

Let’s learn our lesson from the quincentennial. We shouldn’t let Christ’s bimillennial lose focus. If we establish base camp, and do our “exploration” work there, come 1999 we will not have to wring our hands in despair and say, “All is lost. I knew 2000 would be a P.C. Jubilee (politically correct and shallow).”

To stimulate academic contributions to this end, I have recently teamed up with an associate professor from the  Annenberg School of Communications at U.S.C. to launch a “Talk 2000” Forum on the Internet.12

Preparation: 1997-1998
After mapping the path to the peak of 2000, the church will likely turn her attention to get outfitted for the journey.

Building on the work of scholars at base camp, denominations should establish bimillennial commissions among their different departments. Mission groups should consider how their outreach can amplify the commemorative season. Dioceses and parishes should pray for a clearer vision of how they can join hands with others in their local area to honor Christ.

Also from 1997 to 1998, we should expect an unprecedented outpouring of scholarship to be produced on Jesus. In addition to theological and historical assessments, creative short stories, novels, plays, essays, books, symphonies and documentaries will likely be written about Christ, all reaching its crest by the year 2000 or soon after.

Up until now, most preparations for A.D. 2000 have been primarily cast in terms of a decade of evangelism. Others have turned their countdown to 2000 into annual celebration themes, such as the year of the family, the year of youth, the year of women.

This is all well and good, but we have largely missed the fact that A.D. 2000 points more to Christ than to the church or its constituencies. Like John the Baptist prepared the way for Jesus, these preliminary strategies will likely give way to preparations for Christ’s celebration.

In The Star of 2000, I develop the theme of Christ’s celebration 2000 being akin to a Jubilee Year, in the festival tradition of Passover, Pentecost and Tabernacles. Modern day Pentecostals and Charismatics have an experiential understanding of festivals through their praise and worship events. At its essence, the bimillennial of Christ is a heavenly call to come into the presence of God and feast on Him.

In fact, many Charismatics are not even waiting until 2000 to keep the feast. The June 1995 issue of Charisma magazine contained a full page color advertisement for a 1996 “Jerusalem Celebration 2000” hosted by Dr. David Yonggi Cho.

In our zest for celebration, we should let the accent fall on Christ, rather than the church. In preparing for 2000, the emphasis should be on Christ’s tribute2000, rather than our celebration 2000.

The bimillennial will best be celebrated as it dramatizes the story of how the Father loves the Son, and is now bringing him the world’s tribute and honor.

We need to turn the attention from spiritual warfare to what I call “spiritual procession.”  We need to develop a theology of consummation that is not overly apocalyptic nor prone to millennial fever. This theology of hope would put into proper perspective how humanity receives the “glory of the Lord” such that it might be given to God through Christ Jesus.

The March for Jesus movement, with its Charismatic roots from England, has made practical progress in this area. They have been on the forefront of honoring Christ through public worship. In their annual countdown marches to 2000, they are laying a good base of preparation for the bimillennial.

Commemoration: 1999-2001
After the preparation years, the church will climb the pinnacle from 1999-2001. This anniversary season of Christ will certainly be a mountain top experience for millions of Pentecostals/Charismatics worldwide.

By 1999 “tribute 2000” plans could emerge in some 100 major cities across the world. In addition, a whole string of bimillennial commemorations will begin to unfold in historic Christian centers, such as Jerusalem, Rome, Istanbul, London and Moscow.

Much like the Magi at the dawn of the first millennium, the road to Christ s bimillennial will take us on a journey to Bethlehem to honor the “Prince of Peace.” Leading the way in global commemorations will be the Journey of the Magi. This historical reenactment aims to retrace, on horses and camels, the 1,500 mile journey of the Wise Men through the Middle East. The Journey plans to arrive in Bethlehem by Epiphany 1999.

Also envisioned by this historic pilgrimage is a world congress on human rights in Jerusalem. In the 36 months that follow the Journey, organizers expect a variety of child and refugee agencies to commemorate the 2,000th anniversary of Jesus’ flight into Egypt with humanitarian projects. In addition, they expect believers around the world to create their own Magi prayer journeys or reconciliation walks across their own countries, states or cities.

The next bimillennial event of international magnitude will likely come on Christmas Eve 1999, as Pope John Paul II or his successor is scheduled to open a sealed golden door in St. Peter’s Basilica to inaugurate the Holy Year of 2000.

Over the next 12 months, more than 10 million pilgrims are expected to stream to Rome to celebrate the Great Jubilee of the Incarnation of Our Lord.

In The Star of 2000, I explain why celebrations of Jesus’ bimillennial in 2000 will last far more than just the 12 days of Christmas, but continue for these 12 months to become a historic “World Christmas Year.”  Both the original Christmas story and our shared Christmas culture will likely be commemorated throughout the year of 2000.

Concert halls will likely feature performances of Handel’s Messiah or Bach’s Christmas Oratorio. Special exhibits in art museums will celebrate the paintings of Christ, such as Raphael’s “The Sistine Madonna.” Theatres will be filled with productions such as “Jesus Was His Name” or “Godspell.”

Libraries will celebrate the literature of Christmas, such as Dicken’s Christmas Carol. In addition, practically every religious publisher will issue bimillennial editions of bibles or Christian classics, such as Pilgrims Progress or My Utmost for His Highest.

All this will lead up to the symbolic high point of the bimillennial: Christmas Day 2000, when the church will commemorate the 2,000th anniversary of the birth of its founder.

But that will not be the end. For on January 1, 2001, we will celebrate the inauguration of the third millennium of the Lordship of Christ over history. Truly kings and prophets longed to see our day!


The greatest threat to the commemoration of Christ s bimillennial will likely not come from postmodern culture. From what has emerged so far, postmoderns have largely ignored the religious aspects of the bimillennial, and instead have focused their attention on the commercial, trivial or violent manifestations of millennial culture.

The greatest challenge to the coherence of the bimillennial will likely not come from outside the church, but from within. This section considers the unrealistic and unrelated millennial agendas fostered upon Anno Domini 2000 by the fields of pop-eschatology, evangelization, or ecumenism.

Much like a computer virus, these fin de siecle notions have the potential to infect whole sectors of the church with millennial fever, weakening the ability of people to celebrate the bimillennial in thought as well as action.

In the book Century’s End, Hillel Schwartz has given us the definitive cultural history of the often bizarre “end of an age” culture from the 990s through the 1990s. Schwartz notes that fin de siecle as a French term, made its debut in 1885 to describe culture in decay. He quotes one French article of the 19th century:

“To be fin de siecle is to no longer be responsible; it is to resign oneself in a nearly fatal fashion to the influence of the times and environs . . . .” It is to languish with one’s century, to decay along with it.13 According to Schwartz the 1990s has its own fin de siecle.

As usual, we come to our end of century as others have come to theirs convinced of exhaustion, extreme peril, exorbitant risk, explosive transformation. This fin de siecle, like those before it, is the last gasp, the critical moment, the overture to a new age.

Everything we love is falling apart around us and we can only hope for a good death; everything we deplore is falling away and the pangs of a great birth are upon us.

At century’s end we are inevitably host to an oxymoronic time: the best and worst, the most desperate and the most exultant; the most constrained and the most chaotic.14

Pentecostals and Charismatics must not think that they are immune from the “century-end” effect which Schwartz describes.

Millennial Eschatology
In eschatology, Pentecostal culture today is awash in a popular millennialism that has the potential to undermine bimillennial consciousness. One dispensational author cautions Bible prophecy teachers against using the year 2000 to “soothsay the second advent” through date-setting, or other non-biblical games such as pin-the-tail-on-the Antichrist.15

Millennialism gone awry fuels speculation about the Second Coming. Bimillennial consciousness, on the other hand, calls us to look back at the First Coming to commemorate the Incarnation. To the former, the year 2000 represents discontinuity, to the latter it represents continuity. Some think of 2000 and ask, “What is wrong with life?” others ask, “What is right with society, and how did it get that way through Christ?”

Whatever our end-times eschatology, as John Paul II says, we need to “cross the threshold” into the third millennium with hope. Bimillennial consciousness invites us to do exactly this, by commemorating the Incarnation and transmitting the human legacy into the next millennium.

Millennial Evangelism
Not just eschatology, but world evangelization has come under the strange pull of this century-end effect. Rather than Armageddon, the year 2000 is seen as the mother of all target dates, perfect for completing the end time missionary battle.

Since the mid-’80s, hundreds of groups have turned their guns to the year 2000 target, hoping to evangelize the world by that milestone. About a third of these A.D. 2000 groups operate from within the Pentecostal/Charismatic framework.

In speaking of world evangelization by 2000, the intent is not to Christianize, but rather to evangelize the world, or offer the Gospel to the remaining 22% of the world which does not have access to it in any measurable degree.16

From New Orleans ’87 to Indianapolis ’91, the North American Renewal Service Committee was an active proponent of this variety of A.D. 2000 evangelization.17 The group which has made its reputation by promising that the world will be reached with the Gospel by the year 2000 is the evangelical AD 2000 Movement led by Luis Bush and C. Peter Wagner. Despite their exclusion of Catholics, they have attracted a great many Pentecostals and Charismatics.

The “AD 2000 & Beyond” movement is built upon the evangelical watchword of “A Church for Every People by the Year 2000.” They are known for originating terms such as the 10/40 window, and “strategic-level spiritual warfare” to describe their priority targets for mission outreach.18

As biblical and apostolic as their goal is, with each passing month, it is proving more elusive by 2000. Rather than a church for every unreached people by the Year 2000, now Patrick Johnstone, author of Operation World, admits the movement should down scale its goals to merely place a missionary team among every major people.19

Rather than a capstone in world evangelization, it now appears the year 2000 will be just another stepping stone in church history.

But the millennial dream of completing the Great Commission by the year 2000 is hard to let go of. Despite disconfirmation from all mid-decade statistics, AD 2000 leaders are clinging to their official line that “It can be done!” by the turn of the millennium.

When unbalanced by theology, culture or history, millennial evangelization can lead us astray. The all-or-nothing AD 2000 goals set the church up for real disillusionment when the new century arrives and the goal line is not even in sight.

Furthermore, if we were to let the millennial evangelists lead the way to the year 2000, it might become nothing more than a triumphant church growth jubilee, celebrating the harvest gathered in the 20th century.

In our evangelical zeal, we should not let efforts to make 2000 a milestone in missions overshadow the need for it to be Anno Domini 2000, a historic memorial to Christ in terms of his anniversary.

Bimillennial consciousness would not negate A.D. 2000 evangelization, but rather affirm that what began as a decade of harvest would climax in “a celebration of centuries”  in honor of Christ.

Millennial Ecumenism
Surprisingly enough, the third impediment to bimillennial consciousness might come from an ecumenism, caught up in its millennial possibilities. While few leaders expect the restoration of full church communion by the turn of the millennium, it seems that the movement for Christian unity has experienced a resuscitation in light of A.D. 2000.

Why is this so? As we approach the advent of the third Christian millennium, there is an innate desire among church leaders across the denominational spectrum, to settle the remaining differences between communions that arose in the course of the second millennium, whether between the Greek Orthodox and Roman Catholics, or between the Roman Catholics and the Protestants.

This appears to be the motive behind Hans Kung’s Theology for the Third Millennium: An Ecumenical View, (Doubleday, 1988). It also seems to be the motive behind Evangelicals and Catholics Together: The Christian Mission in the Third Millennium, the historic accord initiated by Fr. Richard John Neuhaus and Chuck Colson.20

As good intentioned as the E.C.T. Accord is, few of its signers anticipated such sharp critic from fundamentalists.

Factor into this volatile cocktail the Pope’s recent encyclical on ecumenism, Ut Unum Sint (Vatican Press, May 1995). This document opens with a millennial statement which reads, “The call to Christian unity . . . is finding an even greater echo in the hearts of believers, especially as the year 2000 approaches.”

Then consider that the 50th jubilee of the ecumenical movement is on the horizon. The World Council of Churches recently called for their next assembly, which takes place in 1998, “to be celebrated as an ecumenical jubilee opening the way for the ecumenical movement into the future of the 21st century.”

In reference to this ecumenical jubilee, general secretary Dr. Konrad Raiser, said: “We are approaching the end of the second millennium, the period of Christian division, and the end of the century which has seen the emergence of the ecumenical movement. We should not lose the sense of expectancy and urgency.” 21

The pressure is clearly building on leaders of church communions to act prophetically to affirm Christian unity at the beginning of the third millennium, and at the same time, not let these overtures be empty symbolic gestures without substance.

By its nature, ecumenism, like evangelization, or eschatology is not at odds with the bimillennial. But the stewardship of these symbols during the bimillennial era will prove to be a challenge.

Three years ago, the pope officially apologized for the church s wrongful persecution of Galileo some 300 years ago. As well, in June of 1995 the Southern Baptist did millennial penance by renouncing their roots in the slave-owning aristocracy.

As “identificational repentance”22 sweeps the church in light of the new millennium, journalists are having a ball with this global apology holy bandwagon.  As one columnist put “it’s all feel-good repentance Sunday, business as usual Monday and invitations out to another cathartic Apology-O-Rama by Friday: the self-serving in self-renewing pursuit of the meaningless.”23

The movement toward “indentifical repentance” needs to be affirmed, but the bimillennial must not become an occasion to point out the shortcomings of the church since the birth of Jesus.

Fortunately, that time of reckoning in terms of our “Holy Account Books” should be postponed until A.D. 2033, when we mark the bimillennial of the birth of the church.


This paper has sought to initiate a dialogue among theologians, educators and publishers about the transition from postmodern to bimillennial consciousness.

Can we Pentecostals and our postmodern academic colleagues transcend our respective cultures in order to commemorate the bimillennial in a focused, coherent way?

The answer to this question largely depends on where we go from here. In moving forward, no one should underestimate the power of bimillennial consciousness. It is far more than just an A.D. 2000 phenomena. This awareness could last for an entire generation, given that A.D. 2033 will bring the bimillennial of Christ’s victory on the Cross, followed by the 2,000th anniversary of Pentecost, the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Bimillennial consciousness has the potential to become a powerful paradigm which could interpret the advent of a more spiritual and peaceful third millennium. This is particularly true for Pentecostals, given that the centennial of their movement, January 1, 2001 is the identical calendrical date of Christ s bimillennial. In the providence of God, the bimillennial of Christ couldn t have come at a better time. It is within our reach to shape this 2,000th anniversary in postmodern culture as a season, super-charged with destiny in view of world history.

If Christ is genuinely honored by 2002, and his reputation established afresh in this modern age by 2010, then the Great Jubilee of 2000 may well be God’s trump card on top of the modern deck of history.


1. Barrett, David. The 20th Century Pentecostal/Charismatic Renewal in the Holy Spirit, With its Goal of World Evangelization, International Bulletin of Missionary Research, July 1988.
2. Johnston, William M. Celebrations: The Cult of Anniversaries in Europe and the United States Today. New Brunswick, Transaction, 1991, pp. 3, 6, x.
3. Vaclav Havel, The Need for Transcendence in the Post- modern World, Independence Hall, Philadelphia, July 4, 1994.
4. A Bash 2,000 Years in the Making, by Roy Rivenburg. Los Angeles Times, May 2, 1995, pp. E1, E5.
5. Schwartz, Hillel. Century’s End: The cultural history of the fin de si cle from the 990s to the 1990s. New York: Doubleday, 1991.
6. Gary, Jay. The Star of 2000: Our journey toward hope.. Colorado Spgs., Bimillennial Press, 1994.
7. Kohut, John J. and Roland Sweet, The Countdown to the Millennium: Curious but true news dispatches heralding the last days of the planet. New York: Signet, 1994.
8. Collins, Gail and Dan Collins. The Millennium Book: Your Essential All-Purpose Guide for the Year 2000. New York: Dolphin/Doubleday, 1991.
9. Johnston, p. x.
10. Johnston, p. 168.
11. In the third quest for the historical Jesus, many scholars feel the Jesus of history and the Christ of faith overlap considerably more than the Jesus Seminar would lead us to believe. See: Wilkins, Michael and J.P. Moreland, Jesus Under Fire: Modern Scholarship Reinvents the HIstorical Jesus. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1995).
12. To subscribe to 2000ad-L, a global town hall meeting on the bimillennial, contact me through
13. Schwartz, p. 159.
14. Schwartz, p. 9.
15. Alnor, William M. Soothsayers of the Second Advent, Revell, 1989.
16. Gary, Jay & Olgy, eds. The Countdown Has Begun: The story of the global consultation on AD 2000. Rockville, VA: AD 2000 Global Service Office, 1989.
17. Barrett, David and James Reapsome. Seven Hundred Plans to Evangelize the World: The rise of a global evangelization movement. Birmingham, New Hope, 1988.
18. Bush, Luis. AD 2000 and Beyond Handbook, 3rd. ed., Colorado Spgs: AD 2000 and Beyond Movement, 1993.
19. Gary, Jay. AD 2000 Gets a Millennial Check-Up, a wrap-up feature on GCOWE 95 from Bimillennial Press, May 29, 1995.
20. Fournier, Keith. A House United: Evangelical and Catholics Together, NavPress/LLF, 1994.
21. WCC assembly should be an ecumenical jubilee, Raiser says, Ecumenical News International Geneva, May 11, 1995.
22. Dawson, John. Healing America s Wounds, Ventura, CA: Regal Books, 1994.
23. Holy bandwagon! Global apology trend is taking off, by Ann Calhoun, San Jose Mercury News, July 23, 1995.

Jay Gary is the author of The Star of 2000, the first book to explore how the 2,000th anniversary of the birth of Christ will unfold as a historical era from 1996 to 2001. He serves as the moderator of “Talk 2000,” an online forum for academics on the Internet. In view of his year 2000 work over the past decade, in 1995 the Los Angeles Times dubbed him “The Millennium Doctor.”

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