You think you're tired of books with millennium, Second Coming, Y2K, or end times in the title, think about me, a hapless book-review editor. I've actually had to take a look at every book (144,000 to be exact) that has crossed my desk in the last few months.

I'm so tired of the hype.

Consequently, for this review, I'm announcing The Best Book of the Millennium. That's definition 15b of of: "in respect to" (American Heritage Dictionary, third ed.). That is, the best book about things millennial:

The New Millennium Manual: A Once and Future Guide
by Robert G. Clouse, Robert N. Hosack, and Richard V. Pierard
Baker, 222 pp., $12.99, paper

Historians Clouse and Pierard have teamed up with editor Hosack to give us the most informative—and entertaining—pre-Y2K book on the end times. Combining church history, theology, and cultural analysis, they debunk millennial hype in the hopes of introducing readers to "the meaning of the coming millennial change."

The reader can tell right away this serious intent is going to be delivered with a grin: a quote from Tolkien's Lord of the Rings ends the introduction, and chapter one opens with philosopher Yogi Berra saying, "The future ain't what it used to be."

While outlining millennial views and summarizing the history of apocalypticism (in a way that is actually interesting and readable), they offer sidebars, cartoons, and photos that illustrate the varied and sometimes wacky world of end-times speculation (my favorites: a list of millennial-related Web sites and "The Two Railroads to Eternity" revival chart). Among the many prophetic figures and movements featured are Christopher Columbus (who, as Christophorus, "Christ bearer," thought he might be a key figure in end-times prophecies), the infamous Branch Davidians (who, I was surprised to discover, have been around for 60 years), and German Nazis (who, say the authors, "were propelled by a distinctly secular millennialism").

Despite the often sordid nature of end-times stories, the authors refuse cynicism: "As people who have heard God's loving invitation to share in his victory, we long for the day when the shout will resound throughout the heavens and earth: 'Praise God! For the Lord, almighty, is king!'"

Two runners-up
If you're confused about any of the prefixed-millennialisms, this addition to Zondervan's Counterpoint series should help: Three Views on the Millennium and Beyond (Zondervan, 330 pp., $16.99, paper). Editor Darrell Bock (professor of New Testament, Dallas Theological Seminary) moderates a gentle debate between postmillennialist Kenneth Gundry, Jr. (Bahnsen Theological Seminary, Placentia, Calif.), amillennialist Robert Strimple (Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia), and premillennialist Craig Blaising (Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Ky.).

In the and-now-for-something-a-little-different category, there is Beyond the End Times: The Rest of the Greatest Story Ever Told, by John Noe (Preterist Resources, 314 pp., $17.95, paper). While Bock and company debate the future Second Coming, John Noe argues that Jesus has already returned, as have the "last days" and "the judgment"—in the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in A.D. 70. This view—preterism—has a small following though; the likes of R. C. Sproul admit to being at least a "partial preterist." Be that as it may, Noe, president of the Prophecy Reformation Institute, argues, with no little energy, against traditional views. He is finally unconvincing (at least to this amillennialist), but preterism does have an internal logic that makes for exegetically interesting reading.

And just in case
Finally, in the hedge-your-bets category, there's Y2K for Women: How to Protect Your Home and Family in the Coming Crisis, by Karen S. Anderson (Nelson, 209 pp., $12.99, paper). I'm pretty skeptical about the severity of a Y2K "crisis"; then again, what do I know? So I thought I should mention the most practical Y2K book I've seen. The pragmatic Armstrong, founder of Y2K Women, answers the most mundane questions: Which is better to stockpile: canned milk or powdered? How does a woman handle her period without running water? And—the Y2K problem, as far as I'm concerned—how do you make coffee without electricity or gas?

Consequently, though The New Millennial Manual sits by my bedstand for nighttime browsing, Y2K for Women rests in the cupboard, right beside my flashlight and powdered milk.

See Also:
Stop the Dating Game
Don't waste your time doing what Jesus said can't be done.

Read more about these related topics:
End Times
Christian Fiction

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