|Vol. 1, No. 6||Page 12||June 1999|
The Coming Millennium
We constantly read and hear of the coming millennium due to our calendar year soon to read 2000. We will hear this with greater emphasis until it comes and passes. It is referred to as "the millennium" and, at times, the references leave one thinking there never has been "a millennium." But we know this is not true, as there have been other millenniums during the lifetime of humanity.
The word "millennium" means "a period of 1000 years; . . . 1000 year anniversary or its celebration" (Webster's Third New International Dictionary, II:1434). We realize that one of the present living human beings have ever experienced the ending of one millennium and the beginning of a new millennium. We also realize there are many who have lived and died that did not experience the changing of a millennium.
The close and beginning of centuries and the close and beginning of the last millennium have been filled with confusion, contradiction and consternation in all areas of life and especially the fields of religion, politics and economics. They have a habit of blending and relating to each other. Religious thought during these times often looks toward the coming Antichrist, the second coming of Christ and the end of the world. We predict the tribe of soothsayers will increase measurably by the turn of 2000. Their rationale from twisting Scripture and their hyped writings will sweep up millions of innocent, well-meaning and unlearned people. They will combine numerology, astrology, fortune-telling and other occult practices with those many end-time Scriptures and people will be motivated to do extreme, excitable and excessive actions. The hucksters will laugh on the way to the bank. In fact, they already are laughing as they go to the bank.
Well-meaning religious leaders, as well as the hucksters, have never had difficulty finding in contemporary events; i.e. political, economic, social, religious, etc., what they describe as "signs of the times." It often seems as if they stand in watch of such. With imaginative minds, grabbing a Scripture here and grabbing another Scripture there, dabbling in the practices of the occult, and with pen, ink and a publisher, they mix and blend together and produce smooth, but outlandish theories about the end of time.
Sufficient religious and theological interest exists showing that at the close of a century and after the beginning of a new century, there is a millennia mania of some form. There have been 20 centuries since the birth of Christ. Consider some evidence that will prove our statements of the confusion at the change of centuries.
(1) At the close of the Twelfth century and the time of the Third Crusade (1189-1192), Spanish astrologers created a hysteria concerning the destruction of humanity. The Third Crusade was led by Frederick I of Germany, Philippe Auguste of France and Richard the Lion Hearted of England. Their armies were joined in hopes of freeing Jerusalem, which had fallen in 1187, to the Muslims. The Crusade accomplished little. However, just prior to the Crusade in 118, an end-time hysteria spread throughout Europe calling for Christians to hide in caves and mountains as the world was soon to be devastated by drought and famine, wind and storm, disease and earthquake. Only the faithful Christian would escape the destruction. The century passed and the new century began and life continued.
(2) Brother Arnold, an advocate of the Poor, was a rebel Dominican monk in the Roman Catholic Church from Swabia, a region in West Germany. Brother Arnold dreamed of taking the wealth from the Roman Catholic Church and distributing it to the poor, whom he considered the only Christians. He was supported by Emperor Frederick of Germany. Brother Arnold wrote a manifesto declaring
1260 as the apocalyptic year which will see the fulfillment of the Third Age. But before then Brother Arnold will call upon Christ in the name of the poor to judge Pope and hierarchy; and Christ will respond, he will appear on earth to pronounce her judgment. The Pope will stand revealed as Antichrist, the clergy as limbs of Antichrist. Christ will condemn them utterly not only for their immorality and worldliness and their abuse of the interdict but also--and chiefly for exploiting and oppressing the poor (Norman Cohn, The Pursuit of the Millennium, 111).When the hysteria subsided, the only thing Brother Arnold gained, and that was for a short period of time, was a following from among the poor.
(3) The Nutty Bookbinder. The year was 1527. The place was Germany. Hans Nut, a bookbinder by trade, claimed to be a prophet and announced that he had been sent by Christ to herald his coming in 1528. The coming of Christ was to be followed by 1000 years of free food and free sex (William M. Alnor, "Apocalypse Soon?" Today's Magazine, The Philadelphia Inquirer [April 12, 1981], 16). Hans Nut convinced some to follow him, but Christ never came. Hans Nut was taken captive in 1527, the year before Christ was to come, in Augsburg, Germany and was killed.
(4) The Anabaptists and the 1500s. Anabaptist means "rebaptizers." They rejected infant baptism and demanded all adults who had received infant baptism to be immersed.
In the early 1500s, the Anabaptist religion was filled with end-time mania. An early writer among them issued a prophecy that the millennium would begin in 1533. Likewise, he predicted that Strassburg, France had been chosen by God as the new Jerusalem of Revelation 21:2. Enoch and Elijah would appear as the two witnesses of Revelation 11:3 and destroy the unbelieving earth. However, the prophecy failed.
The Anabaptist tired of the persecution and tyranny of the Roman Catholic Church. They threw off the authoritarianism of the Roman Catholic Church, but turned eccentric and fanatical. An ex-Roman Catholic priest, Bernt Rothmann, led the change of events. He was joined by Bernhard Knipperdolling, Jan Bockelson (aka Jan Bockels or Jan van Leiden) and Jan Mattys. Mattys and Bockelson claimed to be the two witnesses, Enoch and Elijah, that earlier had failed to come as prophesied. They set up New Jerusalem in Munster rather than Strassburg. Munster became a dictatorship in which
all Catholics and Lutherans within the town were given until February 27 either to be rebaptized within the Anabaptist faith or to leave town. Thereafter all non-conformers would be executed (E.R. Chamberlain, Antichrist and the Millennium, 70).The above hysteria and mania occurred toward the end of one century and after the beginning of a new century. What evidence exists of the millennial mania in the year A.D. 1000? Remember, A.D. 1000 was the first millennium after the birth of Christ in 4 B.C. Think of the impact if those living then had all our present-day technology.
The Roman Catholic Church held an ecumenical council in A.D. 869, known as the Council of Constantinople IV. It is argued by the Roman Catholic Church that the decrees of the ecumenical councils are "infallible" (Donald Attwater (ed.), A Catholic Dictionary, 126); i.e. without error. The Council declared that the final century of the history of the world would begin in A.D. 900. They termed the ninth century as the "last days" in which "Christ would return around the year 1000 and usher in the Golden Advent" (William M. Alnor, Soothsayers Of The Second Advent, 55).
On New Year's Eve, A.D. 999, Pope Sylvester II began to celebrate what he thought would be the last midnight mass in history. Russel Chandler describes the setting as:
This was the final hour, the beginning of the day of wrath, the "nightfall of the universe," that fateful dreaded eve of the turn of the millennium, when the earth would dissolve into ashes . . . Church bells rang out what most though would not be a new year but history's finale . . . All across Europe . . . debts had been canceled, infidelities confessed, wrongdoings forgiven . . . On New Year's Eve, . . . Pope Sylvester II raised his hand skyward. The crowd--many dressed in sackcloth and ashes--remained transfixed, scarcely daring to breathe. As one account has it, the giant clock ticking away the last minutes suddenly stopped. Not a few died from fright, giving up their ghosts then and there. But after an awful moment that seemed like eternity suspended, the clock resumed its countdown. Only the ominous tick, tock and the voice of the pope broke the deadly silence. Sylvester chanted the sacred Latin phrases, and at precisely midnight the bells atop the great tower began to peal wildly. The Te Deum was sung. And no fire fell from heaven (Doomsday: The End of the World--A View Through Time, 47-48).
While the present-day prophetic writers, doom-dayers, soothsayers and end-time hucksters, use such words as "suggest," "could" and "probable" in referring to the possible A.D. 2000 religious events, their interpretive methods open the door for just as bizarre and unreal end-time events and problems as have occurred over the centuries.
Religious thought on occasion and among some leaders will produce fear, frenzy, mania, hysteria and great excitement especially when centuries turn and millenniums change on our calendar. For some reason, end-time events (i.e. the second coming of Christ and its attendant doctrines) seem to create a false prophetic climate and unreal and several unsound interpretaions of end-time doctrines. All the while, even though there is great sincerity in the proponents, they laugh all the way to the bank.
It is imperative that we remember the words of Paul, "be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word" (2 Thessalonians 2:2).
[Editor's Note: Brother W. Terry Varner is the Editor and Publisher of a fine Gospel journal entitled, Therefore Stand. The annual subscription for this monthly periodical is only $7.00. Bundle (10 or more to one address) and congregational rates are $4.00 and $5.00 per subscription respectively. Write: Therefore Stand, P.O. Box 461, Groveport, OH 43125-0461.]