As the world nears the advent of the Third Millennium of the Christian or common era (CE), there are already indications this milestone promises to be an uneasy leap forward for many people and social structures. Among the more disconcerting elements being touted at this time are predicted disruptions caused by the "Y2K Bug", uncertainty over pivotal decisions in the Middle East peace process, and fears raised by apocalyptic rumblings centered on the years 2000/2001.
As the public interest in the coming Millennium has grown, especially concerning the masses of Christian pilgrims expected in Israel, numerous journalists have approached the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem in recent months in pursuit of relevant stories. Much of the current media focus has sought to magnify the sensational actions and beliefs of rumored or reclusive fringe groups, at the expense of the overwhelming majority of sincere, peaceful Christian adherents worldwide. Such reporting has resulted in a gross distortion of Christian views on the approach of the new Millennium and caused unnecessary apprehensions in Israel about the millions of Christians expected to make pilgrimage here over the next two to three years to mark this event. * In response, the Christian Embassy considers it imperative that the wider public recognize the difference between responsible coverage of the Millennium and that which tends to the more negative and even derisive.
The Christian Embassy has extensive experience in hosting Protestant pilgrims as well as Catholic groups in Israel for the past twenty years, particularly at our Christian celebration of the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles each fall. The Israel Ministry of Tourism routinely describes this as the largest annual event on Israel's tourism calendar, as over 5000 Christians from more than 100 nations gather in Jerusalem to participate in this biblical festival over a nine-day period. Our Feast pilgrims are always welcomed by Israel and have never presented any security or other risk to the public here. We are confident this also will prove the case with the vast majority of Millennium pilgrims.
In simple terms, the Christian Embassy does not assign any prophetic significance to the passing of the years 2000 or 2001 on the secular (Gregorian) calendar.** We see no scriptural or other basis for giving these coming two years any inordinate eschatological significance, though they do have symbolic value. We know of no other accepted, mainstream evangelical Christian leader or ministry who has made a distinct connection between the Christian belief in the return of the Lord and the year 2000. The vast majority of Christians do not take seriously anyone who may be setting with certainty either 2000 or 2001 as the date for Christ's return.
Admittedly, there are a wide variety of prophetic views and interpretations among Christians, and they are coming under increasing scrutiny. Evangelical Christians in general realize that attempting to set dates for prophetic events derogates from the clear teaching of Scripture and is counterproductive to the aims of our faith.
We have a sense that we live in prophetic times. The Christian Embassy shares with many others a firm belief in "the coming of the Lord." We also believe there are many biblical promises being fulfilled in our day which signify Messiah's soon coming, and that the most unmistakable sign of such an event is the ingathering of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel. The attention given to an array of Millennial thinking (Christian or otherwise) presents a unique opportunity for Christians and others to gain greater understanding of the biblical significance of the modern restoration of Israel and its relation to the future reign of Messiah on the earth.
The Millennium is also an exceptional occasion for Christians from many backgrounds to stand in unity and declare Jesus (Yeshua) as the central figure of our lives and faith. Jesus asked the question, "When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?" (Luke 18:8). Two thousand years after His ministry, death, resurrection, and ascension the answer to this question is a resounding "Yes!" Biblical faith indeed is alive in the hearts and lives of millions around the world. This generation of believers has the rarest of opportunities to proclaim the vibrancy of our faith by coming to Israel during this Millennium season to visit the biblical sites and learn more about Messiah and God's Word. We encourage Christians everywhere to make this journey to explore further the account of the life of Jesus and its cultural setting, and thereby attain more respect for His own Jewish people.
At the turn of the First Millennium, many who professed Christ made the grievous mistake of taking up the sword on their way to Jerusalem. Today, as many Christians come up to the Holy City, there is an unprecedented moment to express the true, loving nature of our Lord and, by firm dedication, to hopefully bind up some of the past wounds caused in His name.
Finally, the Christian Embassy is concerned with the Israeli public's perception of the millions of Christian visitors coming here. Israeli authorities certainly have the right and duty to take all reasonable precautions and make informed assessments of any potential security risks on an individual basis. However Israelis and others need to look past the incautious dissemination of negative images and recognize that these pilgrims are coming with peaceful intentions to see the biblical sites, and will go home with what we hope is a good impression of modern Israel. We view the Christian observance of the Millennium as an opportunity for the Israeli people to welcome and win many new friends around the world.*No one should confuse the Christian faith with the sort of fearful mindset controlling those followers of Denver cult figure Monte Kim Miller who were arrested recently in Jerusalem and deported.
**Even if one were to go by this non-biblical calendar, most Bible Scholars agree that Jesus probably was born in 4-5 BC, only months before the death of King Herod in 4 BC. Therefore the year 1996 was more approximately 2000 years since the birth of Jesus of Nazareth.