2000—A Marked Year?
IS THERE anything special about the year 2000? People living in Western lands generally view it as the first year of the third millennium. Elaborate preparations to celebrate it are under way. Huge electronic clocks are being installed to count off the seconds until the new millennium dawns. Gala New Year’s Eve balls are being organized. T-shirts bearing end-of-millennium slogans are being hawked at country stores as well as in big-city shopping malls.
Churches, large and small, will be joining in the year-long festivities. Early next year, Pope John Paul II is expected to travel to Israel to lead Roman Catholics in what has been called “the Roman Catholic Church’s jubilee celebration of the millennium.” It is estimated that between two and a half million and six million tourists, from the devout to the curious, are planning to visit Israel next year.
Why are so many people planning to visit Israel? Speaking for the pope, Roger Cardinal Etchegaray, a Vatican official, said: “The year 2000 is a celebration of Christ and his life in this land. Therefore it is only natural that the Pope would come here.” How is the year 2000 connected with Christ? The year 2000 is commonly thought to mark exactly 2,000 years from the birth of Christ. But does it? We shall see.
The year 2000 is even more significant to members of some religious groups. They are convinced that within the next year or so, Jesus will return to the Mount of Olives and the battle of Armageddon, spoken of in the book of Revelation, will be fought in the valley of Megiddo. (Revelation 16:14-16) In anticipation of these events, hundreds of U.S. residents are selling their homes and most of their belongings and are moving to Israel. For the benefit of any who cannot leave their homes, a prominent U.S. evangelist has reportedly promised to broadcast the return of Jesus on television—in color!
In Western lands, plans to usher in the third millennium are intensifying. People in other lands, however, are going about their business. These people—the majority of the world’s population—do not believe that Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah. Neither do they necessarily accept the B.C.-A.D. style of dating.* Many Muslims, for example, use their own calendar, according to which next year will be 1420—not 2000. Muslims number the years from the date the prophet Muḥammad fled from Mecca to Medina. All in all, people worldwide use some 40 different calendars.
Should the year 2000 have meaning for Christians? Is January 1, 2000, really a red-letter day? These questions will be answered in the following article.
In the B.C.-A.D. system of dating, events that occurred before the traditional time of Jesus’ birth are designated “B.C.” years (before Christ); those that took place after are labeled “A.D.” years (Anno Domini—“in the year of our Lord.”) However, some informed scholars prefer to use the secular designations “B.C.E.” (before our Common Era) and “C.E.” (of our Common Era.)