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The Bimillennial: A Great Year Coming

Starting in the mid-60’s, futurists began to focus their attention on the year 2000. It wasn’t until ten years later, during preparations for the U.S. bicentennial, that leaders considered the possibilities of what a celebration in the year 2000 might mean for the church.

Webmaster’s note: Starting in the mid-60’s, futurists began to focus their attention on the year 2000. It wasn’t until ten years later, during preparations for the U.S. bicentennial, that leaders considered the possibilities of what a celebration in the year 2000 might mean for our planet. It was natural for Christians to notice this early on, since A.D. 2000 stands for “Anno Domini 2000,” the two-thousandth anniversary of the birth of Jesus Christ. Playing off the interest in the upcoming bicentennial, Christianity Today, the magazine of the “born-again” movement, ran the following article as their cover story on January 3, 1975. Looking back 21 years, David Kucharsky now admits this trial balloon received far less response than anticipated. For us in the 1990’s, however, it is remarkable to consider how relevant this article is to our situation today. In a shortened form, here is the first article on celebrating the year 2000 to appear in a Christian publication.

The Bimillennial: A Great Year Coming
by David Kucharsky

January 2000A whole year of Christmas is one way we might look ahead to the bimillennial…

“Excuse me, but don’t you mean the bicentennial?”

No, the bimillennial.

“Oh, bimil . . . like pre-mil, post-mil, all that?”

Not exactly. Bimillennial.

“Hm. Bi-two. Millen . . . the year 2000!”

Right! We’re within a generation of it, you know.

“But do we have to start thinking about it already? Can’t we at least get the bicentennial out of the way first? I’m not sure I’ll live to see the turn of the century.”

There’s really not a lot of time. We’re now in the fourth quarter of this century. Population experts say that a majority of those alive today will still be alive in 2000. Anyway, would you want to miss out on helping to set the stage for what should be one of the greatest and grandest events in human history?

“Well, if you put it that way…”

We do. And we hasten to point out that the close of the millennium will have tremendous symbolic impact for everyone who uses the civil calendar, and will undoubtedly be marked by extensive secular celebrations. It will have even more significance for the Christian. For it will be Anno Domini 2000, the two-thousandth anniversary of the birth of Jesus Christ.

At its heart the bimillennial celebration should be a magnificent Christian observance. And to get this point across to its own people and to the world, the church must take the initiative soon. We should not allow the bimillennial to go the way of our Christmas celebration, with its materialistic and pagan accretions. We need to determine how 2000 can be celebrated in a truly biblical way.

If the church is able to seize and retain the cultural initiative it will find many natural “openings” through which to present the Gospel understandably and meaningfully. If Christians prepare themselves properly, they will have magnificent opportunities to minister evangelistically. People in the year 2000 will be naturally conscious as never before of Jesus Christ as the hinge of history, as the one who was made the focal point of our measure of time. Christians can build on this awareness for the glory of God.

Many who do not recognize the Lordship and Saviourhood of Christ nonetheless think well of him. Jews, though they reject his messiahship, can appreciate his being one of their own, inasmuch as he had a Jewish mother. Regardless of whether one embraces the theological Jesus, it is hard to dispute the fact that Jesus was the most important and influential person who has ever lived. On that basis alone the world should find him worthy of a momentous anniversary tribute. How much more there is for the redeemed of the Lord to celebrate.

The natural place to begin planning any kind of celebration is to inquire into precedents. How has it been done previously? In this case, however, the only comparable occasion was the year 1000, and that does not get us very far. For one thing, historians have recorded very little about what if anything was done by way of sheer celebration. It might be of help to bimillennial planners if some extensive research were undertaken as to what actually did take place a millennium ago.

There were, it seems, no great and memorable commemorations. The people of the West at that time were very much given to celebrations of all sorts, extending to relatively minor events. But this one was apparently too much for them. The approach of the year called forth fear rather than festivity.

Historians seem unsure exactly how the people felt about the turn of the millennium. . . . It must be remembered that these were truly barbarous times. Warfare was rife. Bloody strife was common in both the political and the ecclesiastical realms. The great schism between East and West was just around the corner. But some intense students of the medieval scene contend that the years just preceding and following 1000 were a major turning point….

Dare we hope that the year 2000 could serve to help our world out of its own dark ages? There is no foretelling what psychological effect the coming of the bimillennial will have on people. One could speculate that the subconscious anticipation of it is a factor in the recent surge of literature and sermons about the second coming of Christ. There have been a number of periods in church history characterized by an eschatological mania. The effect in our day could be an indifference toward temporal concerns, such as the bimillennial, on the presumption that the church will soon be raptured.

Christ certainly could return before the year 2000, and many Christians believe it likely. But one would be hard pressed to find scriptural justification for using that belief as an excuse to sit down on the job. We were told to glorify God and make disciples for his kingdom; our orders have not been changed. From the parable of the pounds (Luke 19) it is clear that Jesus wants us to be getting the most out of the resources he has entrusted to us until he comes back. Neglect of the bimillennial opportunity would probably signify laziness and carnality more than sound reasoning and firm conviction.

If we make plans and Christ returns before they can be carried out, we will have lost absolutely nothing, and we will have had the great privilege of working together for a marvelous cause. If we fail to plan, and Christ tarries, we will by default have turned over the opportunity to secular influences.

Decisions, Decisions…

A two-thousandth anniversary can be called a bimillennial, a bimillenary, or a bimillennium. We chose the first of these terms because it seemed likely to become the most common. But then we had another decision to make. One would think that “bimillennial” would be spelled like “millennial,” which all the major dictionaries spell with two n’s.

But Webster’s Third international (as well as the Seventh and Eighth New Collegiate, which are based on it) is the only leading work to include “bimillennial” as a noun, and it spells the word with only one n. We chose to dissent, and to spell it in what appears to us: to be the more likely way.

The anniversary will not be technically accurate; it has been quite well established that Christ was not born in the year-end connecting 1 B.C. and A.D. 1. But few major anniversaries are celebrated on the precise days…. The means of communications available to us today make possible a truly world-wide, church-wide brainstorming session on what the nature of the 2000 celebration should be. Early involvement of the people in the churches and not just of church professionals will contribute greatly to the success of the plans that are ultimately made. One of the great problems the church has faced of late is the gap between leadership and laity; laymen often feel that decisions are being imposed upon them, and without sufficient reason. For 2000, let every Christian believer have his say.

At the outset it would be well to concentrate on goals. Our underlying purpose, to glorify God, will, we trust, be readily agreed upon. But how best to do this can be expected to cause considerable dispute. If we get into arguing about concrete projects too soon, we are likely to suffer. Drawing up goals and objectives may be tedious and taxing, but the church will be thankful in the long run if it perseveres with the basics for a time.

Before deciding if and how something should be done, we must ask: What is it for? What good ends do we want it to achieve? What results can be expected? Some consensus on the crucial questions of goals and objectives ought to be arrived at before we move on to specific proposals.

What people want to do with the bimillennial will span a broad variety of concerns. Ivory-tower idealists may press for profound changes in humanity. Many school children and not a few job-holders may be satisfied if the bimillennial means they get extra time off. If we can suppress self-interest we can arrive at some reasonably satisfactory common ground. It’s worth trying.

For a start, these four guidelines seem advisable:

  1. Aim High. Given the state of the world and our society, it is hard to get people to commit themselves to any vast undertakings. No matter how urgent a new project may seem, some powerful motivational stimulants are always needed. Here in a two-thousandth anniversary we have a natural arousal agent that would be hard to duplicate. We literally won’t have another chance like this in a thousand years! Although we must take into account human limitations, we should try for achievements that would normally be out of the question.
  2. Set Goals whose Fulfillment can be Measured. There is an anti-bricks-and-mortar mood abroad in certain sectors of the church today that goes to the extreme of resisting commitment to anything very tangible. The danger of nebulous aims is that the achievements will be nebulous also. If there is value in starting something, then those who have a part in it ought to know how well it succeeds.
  3. Aim for Results that Endure. The spectacular will tempt us away from the lasting. But we ought to steer away from temporal observances that are quickly forgotten into long-lasting areas like literature and the arts, things that can be enjoyed over and over again and appreciated for a long time. Perhaps the church will have to battle for survival in the 2000s; we should be prepared for the worst eventuality. History can give us lessons as to what aspects of culture present a hedge against oppression in that they resist destruction by alien forces.
  4. Most Important, Keep the Overall Orientation God-directed. It is easy in the present world to confuse the secular and the sacred and to rationalize purely human efforts pantheistically. But this will not happen if we consciously stick by Scripture. This means keeping in mind our mission and ministry here on earth, and realizing that the bimillennial does not change our basic perspective but simply presents an excitingly different and promising context in which to pursue what we should have been doing all along. Let’s be true to the principle and try to put it across to others that God is on our side and that the demands he makes upon human beings are for their own good because he loves them. And let’s be sensitive to the church’s continuing need to demonstrate to the world that Christ makes a difference.

Reprinted with permission fromĀ Christianity Today magazine, Carol Stream, Illinois, copyright 1975.

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