Y2K means "Year 2000," and has come to symbolize the worldwide computer-related chaos and disaster we are being assured will inevitably occur one nanosecond into the new millennium. This event bears no relationship to Bible prophecy (in spite of some attempts to make it fit) and was not a subject TBC has cared to address. However, the many letters and phone calls we've received, asking for counsel in response to Y2K warnings, cause us to respond.
What is the problem? Years ago memory was very expensive so, to save space, computer programmers used only two digits to indicate the year. Thus 65 meant 1965, etc. The digits 00 coming up January 1, 2000 would therefore mean 1900 to many computers and supposedly create all manner of chaos. Computer expert Michael S. Hyatt writes,
12:01AM January 1, 2000: Your electricity goes off. Phones aren't working. The computer at your local bank crashes. Police and 911 are nowhere to be found....
Social security checks will stop coming. Planes...will be grounded. Credit card charges will be rejected. Military defense systems will fail....The Federal Reserve will be unable to clear checks...your employer will go out of business. 1
Many respected authorities seem to agree. William McDonough, president, Federal Reserve Bank of New York, warns, "The failure to get [Y2K] right will affect the integrity of the payment system, financial markets, and...the domestic and the global economies."2 Arthur Gross, chief information officer for the IRS, has said, "Failure to achieve compliance with the year 2000 will jeopardize our way of life on this planet for some time to come."
London's Sunday Times of August 3, 1997 declared, "This is not a prediction, it is a certainty—there will be a serious disruption in the world's financial services ...[and] a millennium-induced crash of the world's stock markets around the middle of 1999." Early in 1998, Ed Yardeni, chief economic forecaster for an international investment banking firm, declared, "The Y2K virus has infected all the vital organs of our global body. A failure in one system could corrupt other systems.... There is no silver bullet." 3 Yardeni warns that in the stock market crash which he sees coming, investors "easily could lose $1 trillion...."4
Newsweek for June 2, 1997 had a Y2K feature article titled "The Day the World Shut Down." Nearly a year later Newsweek was still pessimistic, declaring that "Unless the Bug is purged, the air-traffic-control system will do a total Cinderella on New Year's Eve ...transform[ing] the friendly skies to the lonely skies." 5 Jack Van Impe has advised his TV viewers not to fly at that time.
Like Van Impe, many noted Christian writers and speakers are sounding Y2K alarms. All agree that the most difficult and potentially dangerous problem is program-embedded computer chips. Donald S. McAlvany has been in the forefront of alerting Christians to the Y2K problem. In his February 1998 The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor he writes,
[N]o one knows how many non-compliant chips there are...and it is estimated that 8 to 20 billion [embedded] chips are presently in use throughout the industrialized western world....All chips must be tested....This is not possible between now and 12/31/99....
[T]he coming computer crisis...could trigger...the onset of the biggest global depression since the 1930s....
The national power grid...is completely computer dependent and may be the most important system at risk...giving us the "mother of all electrical blackouts"....
In a special 1997 report, Gary North issued this grim portent: "On January 1, 2000, the world's computers will either shut down or go haywire. So will everything dependent on them....In 1999, depositors all over the world will figure this out and will pull their money out of the banks....The mother of all bank runs...will bankrupt banks all over the world...."
Chuck Missler informs us that one company involved in doing deeply classified government work has a two-day training course for all of its employees, instructing them that they should prepare for a national power blackout—not a brownout—of up to 90 days due to Y2K...."6 As late as August 1998, White House Y2K czar John Koskinen "admitted that not everything will be fixed and that his goal is to keep disruptions down to a manageable level."7 Manageable? North warns,
Panic...will happen...on a scale unimaginable, beginning sporadically at least one year before 2000....The millennium clock keeps ticking. There is nothing we can do to delay it. This disaster is programmed. If you think to yourself, "This just won't happen," ask yourself this question: "Exactly what is going to prevent it...?" Time is running out. Don't sit there, immobilized, like a deer caught in the headlights of an oncoming truck. (Emphasis in original.)8
Jerry Falwell's National Liberty Journal for October reports that "many technology experts believe that computers could begin to show signs of breakdown as early as January 1, 1999....It behooves all Americans to prepare now for what appears to be...inevitable...." The article continues,
If you live in downtown New York [or other large city], you should probably make plans not to be there January 1, 2000....The nation's inner cities could face major looting and violence....Be sure to put away enough food and provisions to include neighbors, Christian brothers and sisters and the poor around your family dinner table....
Pastors, begin to educate your flock now on the Y2K computer problem so each family can...be prepared to help those in your community who face problems caused by Y2K. The church that can amass a large clothes closet and food supply can use Y2K to share God's love and act as servants.
McAlvany agrees: "If you have the financial means...doesn't it make sense to acquire extra dehydrated/freeze-dried food for relatives, friends, people in your church, or associates who cannot afford to do so...? Think about it!" 9
Yes, think about it. How wealthy would one have to be to provide for all of one's family and special friends who can't afford to stock up for themselves? And where will all of that freeze-dried food come from when no supplier in that small and specialized industry has the production capacity to meet such demand? (Others advise Christians to arm themselves to protect their hoard.)
We are being told to take other urgent measures "while there is still time," such as moving out of cities into select locations complete with water well, acquiring a diesel generator for power, a wood stove, stacks of wood, etc., etc. How many families are able to do that? Furthermore, chaos and panic would result if millions of people all tried to follow such instructions!
As with the Gulf War, Y2K is being tied in with Bible prophecy by some—but it simply isn't there. Ron Reese of Maranatha Ministries published a tract in mid-1998 which said in part,
In short...you do not have much time to prepare for...THE GREATEST SOCIAL, POLITICAL, AND FINANCIAL CRISIS MANKIND HAS FACED...!!!The Bible prophesies SEVERAL MAJOR MILITARY CONFLICTS during the final seven years of Tribulation....MORE THAN HALF OF THE POPULATION OF THE WORLD WILL DIE...!!! Could this computer Y2K crisis play a MAJOR role in bringing about these horrible wars...?!! [Emphasis in original.] 10
The Bend Ministerial Association (BMA) in the small town of Bend, Oregon (about 35,000 population) already has a Y2K committee which meets weekly. The committee chairman says, "We've read enough to convince us this could be a serious problem...." In October, a special speaker at the BMA painted a scenario of total disaster, computers crashing everywhere, no power, no water, no food on the market shelves. Pastors were urged to alert their members to buy wood stoves and generators, to stock up on wood, food, water and to have enough to share it all with unsaved neighbors who would be caught unprepared. Christians, like Joseph in Egypt, could preserve those around them and as a result win them to Christ. Pastors were also cautioned that Clinton could very well use the crisis to declare martial law, suspend elections and take complete control. And even if the United States Defense Department got its computers fixed in time (not likely), for sure the Russians would not, and on January 1, 2000 their missiles, already pointed at our cities, could launch by mistake. Local pastors were urged to get together to plan for the rescue of Bend; and, by the way, since the Mormons already had their food and water storage perfected, we should work with and learn from them.
Let's make a calm appraisal. Bend's Christian community is neither large enough nor wealthy enough to supply the entire city, nor do missiles launch at a computer glitch. Predictions that the shelves in grocery stores will be bare and therefore we ought to stock up right now could themselves trigger hoarding that could cause the shortages. Logically, computers have nothing to do with growing wheat or apples or chickens or anything else. Nor will supermarket trucks stop running because of a computer problem, thereby letting a competitor gain an advantage! You may be certain that AT&T and the major banks and Wall Street firms and industrial giants who are in this for the money are not going to allow themselves to lose a dime because of Y2K! Many people already have credit cards expiring beyond 2000, as will many mortgages, etc.
Computer failures are nothing new. We have learned to live with and somehow to work around them. Surely most, if not all, of the Y2K glitches that will arise on January 1, 2000, will be recognized for what they are and dealt with relatively quickly and painlessly.
Furthermore, many authorities predict no disaster. Tony Hampel, group manager for Year 2000 Marketing, Sun Microsystems, Inc., says, "Year 2000 is an annoyance, a speed bump. We're overassessing the end-of-the-world aspect of the Year 2000 problem."11 Alex Patelis, economist, advised the international investment firm of Goldman, Sachs, "We view Y2K as a tremor, not a quake...." 12 Rick Egelton of Harris Bank/Bank of Montreal, has said of Y2K, "The impact would be similar to the economic effects of a snowstorm."13 On July 13, 1998, Wall Street held a series of Y2K tests and there were no glitches.14 AT&T, Sprint, and MCI all expect to be ready and the Federal Communications Commission estimated that 98 percent of the nation's 1,400 regional carriers upon which the big three's transmissions depend would be "compliant by mid-1999."
Sally Katzen, administrator of Office of Management and Budget, told Congress July 10, 1997, "We are confident that...the year 2000 computer problem will be a nonevent."15 Vice President Al Gore stated a few weeks ago, "We have set a deadline of March 31, 1999, for the Federal Government to be in full compliance....16 On July 14, 1998, addressing the National Academy of Sciences, the President said, "The American people have a right to expect uninterrupted service from government...." He said the Social Security Administration was already more than 90 percent ready—undermining predictions that Social Security checks wouldn't be in the mail.
For those companies unable to complete full Y2K compliance, there are viable alternatives. The preferred method, being adopted around the world, is called "windowing," which delays needed corrections as far into the future as a.d. 2050. Rich Hoffman of the U.S. Army Materiel Command's Year 2000 team says, "It buys you time."17 In September Hoffman said the army's systems were about 80 percent Y2K compliant and "on schedule to be completely fixed by the end of this year ." Anything left hanging would be "windowed" and taken care of later. Windowing effectively prevents the predicted chaos.
An inquiry to any bank provides all of the information necessary to lay Y2K rumors to rest. Members of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), which insures all accounts, have on hand copies of an FDIC brochure titled "The Year 2000 Date Change: What...[It] Means to You and Your Insured Financial Institution." It explains that "Four federal regulatory agencies...are closely monitoring the progress made by banks and savings associations in completing critical steps required by their Year 2000 plans...."
As for the predicted air traffic chaos, Boeing and Airbus say their aircraft have no Year 2000 safety issues. And though only one-third of the FAA's critical computer systems had been fixed as of late September 1998, administrator Jane Garvey insisted the organization would be ready and announced personal plans to fly commercially across the country shortly after midnight January 1, 2000.18
In our opinion, there will be problems, but not nearly of the magnitude we are hearing. Fear can easily sidetrack Christians from the real tasks in these last days. Y2K has not been foretold in God's Word. This is not prophecy from an Agabus who "signified by the Spirit that there should be great dearth throughout all the world" (Acts:11:28). It's an electronic problem with electronic solutions that are now in process.
We are not to be anxious for tomorrow but to trust in our Lord for we do not know (nor do the "pundits") what a day may bring forth (Prov:27:1; Philippians:4:6-7; James:4:13-15). It is only prudent always to have extra food and water, flashlights, medical supplies and other items on hand that could be helpful in any emergency. Beyond that, Christ gave very specific commands and promises in Matthew:6:25-34. We suggest meditating upon that passage and obeying it. TBC