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Topics covered in this essay:

bullet When did the millennium start?
bullet What happened during the year 2000?  
bullet What did the public expect at or near the millennium?

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When did the millennium start?

For many people around the world, a new millennium will not be starting in the immediate future. That is because they follow their own religious calendar. For example, the date 2001-JAN-1, the start of the millennium in the Gregorian calendar, is the middle of the year for these religious calendars:

bullet 155 BE for Baha'is
bullet 1921 SE for Hindus
bullet 5760 AM for Jews
bullet 1421 H. for Muslims
bullet 301 KE for Sikhs
bullet 1368 Y for Zoroastrians

A growing number of people around the world follow the Gregorian calendar, which was commissioned by Pope Gregory in the 16th century. It divides time into two segments: BCE (before the common era) and CE (common era).

The first year in the common era (CE) was year 0001. There was no year 0 CE. The day after 001-DEC-31 BCE was 001-JAN-1 CE. Thus the first century ended at the end of 100 CE. The second century started on 101-JAN-1. Similarly, the third century started on 201-JAN-1, the second millennium started on 1001-JAN-1 and our millennium started on 2001-JAN-1. However, most people attribute magical powers to the year 2000, and thus had great expectations for 2000-JAN-1, one year before current next millennium really began. The TV networks and other media also seem to have added to the hype by adopting 2000-JAN-1 as the beginning of the millennium.

A lot of people will celebrate 2000-DEC-25 as the 2,000th anniversary of Jesus' birth. Actually, most theologians believe that he was born about 4 to 7 BCE, probably in the autumn. Thus, the 2,000th anniversary of Jesus' birth has already happened, perhaps in 1997-AUG or SEP.

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What actually happened in the Year 2000?

On 1999-DEC-2, this author made seven predictions of significant developments at the start of the new millennium in North America. As of 2004-MAR, some prophecies came true; two prediction thankfully failed. We predicted:

bullet Thousands of computer programs will fail, largely in small commercial establishments. This will cause an unknown degree of disruption to all sectors of the economy. 1  This seems to have happened. CNN and other news sources reported on 2000-JAN-1 that there were no noticeable electric power interruptions, except those caused by weather which were unrelated to Y2K (the year 2000). Some computer failures have happened; but no overwhelming catastrophe occurred.
bullet Millions of misunderstandings will occur in the way in which we record dates, after the year 2000.  For example, consider 01/02/03. Does it mean January 02, 2003 or 01 February, 2003 or 2001-Feb-03? All three notations are in common usage. Apparently, society coped.
bullet None of the events described in the Bible will happen in the year 2000. The rapture, war of Armageddon, second coming of Jesus Christ, appearance of the Antichrist, etc. will not occur. No such events occurred at midnight, Palestine time, on the evening of 1999-DEC-31 as many people predicted. None happened during the rest of the year 2000, or since, either.
bullet Some religious leaders will explain why Jesus Christ did not come as expected. They will say that God has delayed the end of the world so that more people will have a chance to convert to Christianity and be saved. We have heard two sermons on Christian radio stations to this effect. However, most clergy seem to be ignoring this topic.
bullet The growth of minority religions will be viewed by some Christians as the main cause for Christ's delay. They will class these faith groups as "the enemy." This has not happened. There have been numerous attacks on religious minorities by political figures, including President G.W. Bush. Most have been attempts to terminate the religious freedom of Wiccans. But otherwise, there have just been the usual anti-cult and counter-cult activity against new religions. Whether animosity will increase in the future is an open question. 
bullet A serious backlash against minority religions will start circa 2002 and intensify for the following few years. These will include groups such as Jehovah's Witnesses , New Agers, Satanists, members of the Unification Church, Wiccans and other Neopagans. Other more established religious minorities such as Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, etc. will suffer as well. This did not happen at the last time when large numbers of Christians anticipated Christ's return -- the "great disappointment" of 1844. It did not happen this time either.
bullet The Satanic Ritual Abuse hoax may well be regenerated as the religious fervor intensifies. There are no signs of this; belief in the hoax continues to dissipate, except for the UK.

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What did the public expect at or near the millennium?

Many Christians believed that one or more momentous events will happen near the start of the year 2001 - one year before the start of the actual millennium. Among the events anticipated were the end of the world as we know it, the battle of Armageddon between the forces of good and evil, the return of Jesus Christ to earth, or the rapture -- a miraculous event in which saved Christians, both dead or alive, will rise into the sky to meet Jesus. Some public opinion poll gave interesting results of the widespread nature of these beliefs:

bullet A Yankelovich Partners poll for Time/CNN in 1993-APR-28/9 found that 20% of Americans agreed that "...the second coming of Jesus Christ will occur sometime around the year 2000." 2 49% answered no, and 31% didn't know. 5
bullet An Associated Press poll in 1997 found that 24% of adult American Christians believed that Jesus Christ will return to earth within their lifetime and initiate the events described in the book of Revelation in the Christian Scriptures.
bullet A U.S. News and World Report poll on 1997-NOV-14 to 16 revealed that:
bullet 66% of Americans say that they believed that Jesus Christ will return to earth some day. This was an increase from 61% in 1994. 2
bullet Princeton Research Associates conducted a poll of 755 randomly selected adults, for Newsweek magazine's 1999-NOV-1 issue. 3,4 They found that:
bullet The following percentage of adults believed that the world will end with the battle of Armageddon as described in the Biblical book Revelation:
bullet 40% of American adults generally
bullet 45% of Christian adults
bullet 71% of Evangelical Protestants
bullet 28% of non-Evangelical Protestants
bullet 18% of Roman Catholics
bullet Of those who believed that Armageddon will happen:
bullet 47% believe that the Antichrist is on earth now
bullet 45% believe that Jesus will return during their lifetime.
bullet 15% believed that Jesus' return to earth will occur as early as the year 2000 CE. Of this group:
bullet 83% believed that the second coming will be preceded by natural disasters; 66% by epidemics; 62% by mayhem.
bullet 95% felt that they must "get right with the Lord" now in the expectation that Christ will return
bullet 62% felt an obligation to proselytize -- to convert non-Christians
bullet 68% expected to go to heaven
bullet 57% believed in the final judgment where people will be divided into two groups for transportation to heaven or hell.
bullet In 1999-OCT, the Pew Research Center released a study called "Americans look to the 21st century." They confirmed the Princeton poll, finding
bullet 44% believed that Jesus will probably return during their lifetime.
bullet 22% said that Jesus will definitely return before 2050 CE.
bullet 44% believed that Jesus will probably not return during their lifetime.

According to CNN,com:

Richard Landes, director of the Center for Millennial Studies at Boston University said: "Any time of radical and rapid change is a great candidate for apocalyptic expectations. The idea that modernity is a runaway juggernaut that's leading us ultimately to destruction and only God can save us from it is obviously a tremendous stimulant to the apocalyptic imagination, 2000 or not, and will continue to stimulate the apocalyptic imagination after the passage of 2000."

Few soothsayers, however, are reserving an exact date for the end. Some Christian ministers are making vague predictions of a cataclysm somewhere around the year 2000. Many leave their calendars blank, warning followers to be prepared "at any time."

Landes says: "Most organized religious groups -- denominations, churches and so on -- are going to stay away from formal apocalyptic expectations. But all Christians, all Jews and all Muslims have built into their religion the belief that at some point all these things are going to happen."

Now that the millennium has passed, the expectations of a significant number of Americans did not materialize. One of the great mysteries of the millennium is how these folks coped with their momentous disappointment when the year 2000 rolled into 2001 which rolled into 2002 without any apocalyptic events. We have not seen the results of any studies on this topic.

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  1. Dr. Ed. Yardeni, Center for Cybereconomics, at
  2. Poll data was mentioned in Michael Shermer, "The fire that will cleanse: Millennial meanings and the end of the world," Skeptic magazine, Vol 7, #3, 1999
  3. "Prophecy: What the Bible Says About the End of the World," Newsweek magazine, cover story, 1999-NOV-1, as reported in AANEWS for 1999-OCT-25.
  4. "Poll: 40% of Americans believe in apocalyptic end," Chaisma magazine. Reviewed in Maranatha Christian Journal at:
  5. Bernard McGinn, "Anti-Christ: Two thousand years of the human fascination with evil," HarperSanFrancisco, (1994), Page 281. Read reviews or order this book safely from online book store
  6. Steve Nettleton, "Apostles of the Apocalypse: Are we ready for the end?,", 1999, at:

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Copyright 1996 to 2005 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Removed from essay end_wrld.htm on 2001-FEB-7
Last update: 2005-MAY-15

Author:  B.A. Robinson

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