The new year dawns bright with promise.
The promise is the coming of Jesus Christ in the body. He will deliver His beleaguered saints from their enemies. He will raise from the dead into immortal life all who fell asleep in Him. He will publicly vindicate in the final judgment those who confessed His name in this Christ-denying world. He will take His bride, the elect church, to Himself in the bliss of the marriage of the perfected covenant of grace. He will liberate the groaning creation from the bondage of corruption.
The hope of the church is this coming of her Savior and Lord. Titus 2:13 calls it “that blessed hope.” The church’s prayer on the first day of the new year is the fervent petition, “Come, Lord Jesus.” When the Protestant Reformed Churches, following the wise direction of Dordt, gather for worship on New Year’s Day, they strengthen and express this hope. The sermon arouses, deepens, and focuses this hope. The prayers and the singing of the Psalms voice it, so that it wings its way to God in heaven. The fellowship of the congregation in “one hope” (Eph. 4:4) binds the members ever more closely together.
Two Signs That Christ’s Coming Is Near
That the new year dawns bright with the promise of Jesus’ coming is not to be understood as though Jesus might return in 1999. His coming is near, but it is not imminent. In the language of II Thessalonians 2:2, the day of Christ is not “at hand.” Christ cannot come at any time. He must come in God’s appointed time. What the day, hour, month, or year may be, no man knows, can know, or may know. But there are two great events that precede the coming according to II Thessalonians 2:3. They are objective, clear, certain signs to the believer of the nearness of the coming of Christ. One takes place in the realm of the churches and the other, in the sphere of the nations. These events are the apostasy of the churches and the revelation of the Antichrist.
Already the falling away of the churches from the truth of Holy Scripture is advanced. Rome is hardened in her doctrine of salvation by man. Modernistic Protestantism doubts the whole of divine revelation in Holy Scripture. Many churches that call themselves “evangelical” are avowedly committed to a gospel that the apostle condemns as the false gospel of salvation by man’s will in Romans 9:16 : “It is not of him that willeth ….” Many Reformed and Presbyterian churches are fatally compromised by the same lie in the popular teaching that the gospel expresses a love of God in Jesus Christ for every human, a sincere desire (will) of God to save every human, and a gracious attempt to realize this desire. Still other churches are swept away from sound doctrine and Christ onto the wild seas of mysticism by the gale-force winds of the charismatic movement.
We will see still more and greater departure in 1999.
Already the mystery of iniquity that will bring to power “that Wicked (One)” (II Thess. 2:8) is working with great and obvious effect. The nations oppose the sovereignty of God and exalt themselves as divinely sovereign in fulfillment of Psalm 2, Daniel 7, II Thessalonians 2:4, and the book of Revelation. They deify themselves on behalf of Man. They deny God’s authority over life and death, reject His will for the ordering of the family, and even disannul that most basic of all laws in creation: the difference between male and female. The state approves the murder of the unborn and aged (soon the handicapped, and then the Christians), promotes feminism, and legalizes homosexuality. Thus the state lays claim to deity.
This will intensify in 1999.
To be sure, we will see these heart-shrinking developments as serving the coming of Jesus Christ. The Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has prevailed to open the book of the counsel of the Almighty God, and to loose its seals (Rev. 5:5) These developments too are the carrying out by our Lord Christ of the all-comprehensive plan of God that has one, urgent goal: the coming of Jesus Christ. By means of apostasy and the Antichrist, Jesus Christ comes quickly. For this reason the church is not afraid. We look through the apostasy and the man of sin to the coming of Jesus Christ.
But we will see these events in such a way that we must contend with them in fierce, painful struggle and in such a way that we suffer because of them. The way for the church, as for every member, is amidst the faithlessness and through the tribulation. There will be no “rapture” out. Preparation is called for, therefore, and watchfulness … and courage.
A Computer “Bug”
It is a shame that Christians largely ignore these important signs of the end, but become alarmed about “Y2K.”
Y2K is jargon for the “year 2000.” It refers specifically to a problem, or “bug,” in many computers. Computers were programmed to recognize the year by means only of the last two digits, e.g., 99. On January 1, 2000 these computers, unable to determine the new century, will fail to perform the functions for which they were designed. Because so much depends on computers, there is the possibility, we are told, of serious disruption of society. There may be a shutdown of electricity and the cutting off of the supply of water; a halt to transportation, including the moving of food; the closing of the banks; and an interruption of basic services of government. Some shrilly predict the collapse of the economy, the breakdown of all order, and the disintegration of civilization worldwide.
Certain bread-eating prophets of disaster reproach the church for not preaching this impending calamity and for not admonishing her members to take drastic action. There are also those who are quick to relate the predicted evils of Y2K to the year 2000 as though this year of the new millennium has some special significance for the end of the world.
It is intriguing that a leading postmillennial Christian Reconstructionist is beside himself regarding Y2K. Gary North forecasts the direst calamity: the collapse of civilization worldwide. He calls for the most bizarre behavior: all Christians should give up their jobs, sell their homes, and move to some remote and desolate spot in the South. At once! There they are to dig a well, store up huge quantities of food, and wait out the upheaval. He himself has done so.
The very thing for which he has so sorely taxed Reformed amillennialism for, lo, these many years!
The evil for which he berated the Protestant Reformed Churches in his newsletter hardly a year ago!
The foolishness of the Protestant Reformed Churches that he ridiculed as only he can in his latest book (for some 16 pages; see Gary North, Sanctions and Dominion: An Economic Commentary on Numbers, ICE, 1997)!
But now, postmillennial Christian Reconstruction world-flight!
This madness is not a personal quirk of this bright and learned man. It is the natural outworking of his postmillennial eschatology, the natural fruit of his doctrine of the last things. North sees the supposed (and in his case hoped for) catastrophe of Y2K as the fulfillment finally (in the year 2000!) of the ardent dream of postmillennial Christian Reconstruction. Ungodly civilization will be destroyed by God, so that from their hideaways in Georgia and Arkansas North and the other Christian Reconstructionists who survive can rebuild civilization according to the biblical, and especially Old Testament, blueprint.
Despite their doctrinal differences, both of the main millennial fantasies—pre and post—tend to the same foolish behavior: abandonment of one’s everyday, earthly calling in order to wait for the “end,” often in some isolated refuge. The cure is conversion to solid, sober, Reformed, biblical amillennial eschatology.
Whether Y2K will cause hardships, who can say?
Fixing the problem with the computers is costing business and government billions of dollars. This alone is a hardship for the consumer and citizen, who pays the bill. One who remembers that people were ready to kill each other at the gas pumps when gas was scarce a few years ago has no difficulty believing that even temporary interruption of goods and services might trigger social disorder.
A Christian should take whatever precaution he judges to be wise. He should listen, however, to the civil authorities, not to individuals who have neither competence nor authority in the matter. If the civil authorities recommend storing up water for several days’ use, I suppose that the sensible Christian, like the sensible unbeliever, would store up some water.
Fleeing to the hinterlands is not an option for us. Apart from the fact that the Reformed believer may not abandon his God-given station and duties (least of all merely because someone with an utterly mistaken eschatology begins to cry that the sky is falling), there is no Protestant Reformed Church or good Christian school in those hinterlands.
The church has nothing to say about it. It is not part of the gospel of Scripture. Y2K is an earthly matter, like the forecast of a hurricane, the prediction of an epidemic of flu, or speculation about the falling of the stock market.
Y2K is of no special significance for the coming of Christ and the end of the world. The year 2000 means nothing for the end—no more than 1999 or 2001.
If Y2K should, in fact, result in severe social distress in North America , it will be another well-deserved judgment on these godless nations, like the present judgments of wicked rulers, the violence of young people raised without the Word of God and often in broken homes, and AIDS. God’s people suffer these judgments along with the ungodly. But for us the judgments are chastisements that discipline and that quicken our hope in the coming of Christ. They are not punishment, as they are for the world. Therefore, we can bear them patiently.
Whatever the effect of Y2K may be, it will not be the overthrow of the gathering kingdom of the beast and the opportunity for postmillennial Christian Reconstructionists to erect a carnal kingdom of Christ.
We have the apostle’s clear, sure word for it: “Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day (of Christ) shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition” (II Thess. 2:3).
The attention of the church must be directed to the great apostasy and the appearance of the Antichrist and, thus, to the coming of Christ.
Y2K is a distraction.