Stories & Commentaries

Remembering Y2K With an Eye on Eternity

How lessons learned from Y2K hold true 20 years later

stock photo of 2020 candle

Photo by iStock/pr2is

Twenty years ago, John was in the final stages of preparations for the new year. Light gleamed off the rims of stacked cans of beans and vegetables. Powdered milk boxes, dozens of granola bars, and other dry foods made the shelf above the cans slope just a bit. Blankets and sleeping bags adorned another corner, while battery-operated, solar-powered, and crank-run lanterns and radios festooned yet another space in our basement — next to the giant jugs of drinking water. 

Last-minute Y2K measures included filling the upstairs tub with water, filling a large trash can with potable water, checking propane stove canisters, refreshing the medical kit. Pepper spray? Check. Air filtering masks? Check. Iodine pills? Check. Folding knives and other weapons? Check.

Ushering in 2000 with dire warnings of computer malfunctions causing anything and everything from complete utility failure to biological warfare to mass robberies/murders, John and his wife Karen huddled on the couch in their basement. Ready for the worst imaginable, when the clock moved from 11:59 to 12 midnight, they watched the ball drop on a live television program. 

Doubtful the predictions would come true after living a portion of her childhood ready to flee to the hills with her family and the footlocker of supplies her father had packed, Karen poured sparkling cider into glasses and the couple clicked cups.

A neighbor’s weak firecracker popped outside. Then silence.

No alarms, no bombs, no interrupted TV broadcast. With a heavy sigh, John climbed the basement stairs and went to bed. With such preparation, with the belief that something bad would come to fruition, disappointed marked each step to the dark bedroom.

Waiting Game

It was not unreasonable to think something would happen to dramatically change lives around the world with the turn of the century. Machines that had not been programmed to process beyond 1999 had to be reprogrammed. There was some justifiable cause for concern. [Read Time’s “20 Years Later, the Y2K Bug Seems Like a Joke — Because Those Behind the Scenes Took It Seriously.”]

Many people had stockpiled supplies and prepared bunkers. But much like the end of the world predictions Adventists are most familiar (1843 and 1844), and really any of the predictions that current existence would end during any time period, it didn’t happen. It. Just. Did not. Happen.

Those who would later start the Seventh-day Adventist Church believed that the Lord would come on October 22, 1844. They are part of a long list of world’s end predictors. In fact, since Christ’s death and resurrection there have been hundreds of individuals and groups to have publicly declared apocalyptic timeframes. For varying reasons.

Harold Camping, a founder of Family Radio in the U.S., was arguably one of the most prolific modern predictors of end times. He publicly predicted the end of the world as many as 12 times. He based his interpretations on biblical numerology; his last prediction was October 21, 2011. Camping died at age 92 in 2013.

Some thought the Mayan calendar’s end of the “Great Cycle” predicted the end of the world on December 21, 2012. And back in 1806 the British Prophet Hen of Leeds laid eggs with this inscription: “Christ is coming.” It was discovered that the owner had been writing on the eggs and inserting them back into the hen.

Refresher Course

While I wasn’t of the same mindset as my friends John and Karen, I used to think that we’d make it to 2003 and that would be it. I’m not sure where the thought came from, however, the feeling was persistent. But 2003 came and went, I got my master’s and had my first child in 2004 and the rest, well, is history.

Although we’ve been told in quite a few places in Scripture "about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” (Mark 13:32, NIV), that hasn’t stopped us from trying to figure out when "people will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory” (verse 26). As evidenced by history, this is an exercise in futility.

Our time is better spent going about the Father’s business, especially as these days become perilous (see 2 Tim. 3:1-5). We are to follow the golden rule (see Matt. 7:12 and Luke 6:31), and be His disciples to a world in need (see Matt. 28:19).

For a quick refresher course, read Mark 13 and Matthew 24. Both chapters are full of prophetic promises.

You’ll notice that these predictions don’t come with a specific date the events will occur. We are to recognize the signs and be ready, share His Word: “this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come” (Matt. 24:14).

Looking for more? Check out 1 Corinthians 15:52-54, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, Ezekiel 36:24, Isaiah 2:2, and Revelation 7:15-17. These are just a few of God’s prophetic promises His given to us in the Bible. 

The point is: It’s not about predictions and “getting ready,” it is about “being ready” and surrendering to Christ, loving and serving others — living in the moment — with an eye on eternity.