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PUNXSUTAWNEY â Richard Peirce wonât take credit for the idea to use his 1991 Cadillac DeVille to bring a message from God to people everywhere.
âGod put this idea in my mind,â he said.
And if you havenât seen the vehicle, youâre not looking hard enough.
With yellow lettering emblazoned against the carâs maroon body color, the message is clear and startling: Judgment Day is Saturday, May 21, 2011 â eight weeks from today.
âEveryone will know this is God bringing judgment,â Richard, alongside his wife, Hilary DeMane, said. âIt will be so overwhelming, people will know this is Judgment Day.â
The fact that a full-sized billboard stands atop the Indiana Hill outside Punxsutawney declaring âKing Jesus Returnsâ is dramatic proof that this movement, which now circles the globe, is attempting to make people aware that the Day of Judgment may be nearer than the rest of the world wants to believe.Â
CitingÂ exhaustive studies of the scriptures, proponents of the announcement point out that âthe Bible guaranteesâ that the Rapture (the return of Christ) will occur May 21, 2011, followed by the physical end of the world Oct. 21. Bible scholars from many nations concur with the message of Harold Camping, the founder of Family Stations Inc., home to Family Radio, a Christian broadcasting system based in Oakland, Calif. Â
Â EstablishedÂ as a single radio station in 1959, Family Radio has grown to 66 stations across the United States. It now provides ministry in 61 languages via satellites, short-wave radio and most recently, the Internet. The broadcasting network is not affiliated with any church or political organization.Â
Â Although Family Radio is most closely identified with the May 21 warning, the networkâs message is supported and corroborated by numerous other organizations, including eBible Fellowship, Latter Rain, Bible Ministries International and WeCanKnow.com. All of them are quick to declare that the Bible is the only source of their beliefs.
Â Refuting the idea that they areÂ a cult, advocates of the Judgment Day message point out that no earthly leader is making any demands for his or her allegiance and obedience. They are volunteers whose âsole authority, the Word of God inspiresâ them to freely contribute time, effort and money to alert others to the coming Rapture.Â
SOUNDING THE ALARM â
CLOSE TO HOME
Among those moved âto sound the alarmâ are the Peirces, who say they âfeel a great sadness for people who are spiritually blind.â Â
To put their faith into action, the couple distribute tracts, publish advertisements in the newspaper and help to underwrite the costs of such projects as the placement of billboards. They welcome sincere and open discussion with anyone wishing to learn more about the Bibleâs warnings about the end of time.Â
Â The Peircesâ vehicle is not the only way they are relaying the message, as similar messages adorn the front of their home and the door of their nearby garage. Even more to the point, Richard and Hilary spend a great deal of time âin prayer and in searching the Scriptures, seeking to give God the glory to the best of (their) ability.â
âIt is impossible to come to the truth unless God opens oneâs eyes,â Richard said. âHe is pleased to open minds and hearts to understanding His message. He calls us to sound the alarm, to warn others about the Day of Judgment. Everyone needs to be warned before Godâs perfect and final judgment brings about the new heaven and the new earth.â
The warnings to which the Peirces refer are derived from a large collection of verses from the Old and New Testaments, in which various numbers are part of the text. Adherents of the imminent Rapture point out that both individual words and individual numbers have spiritual meanings that can be determined by careful and prayerful study of the Bible.
Â At the center of the mathematical process that pinpoints May 21 as the exact day on which Christ will return is a statement from 2 Peter 3:8.Â The context of the verse focuses upon Noah and the Great Flood,Â and also the end of time, noting that âone day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.â Â
Â Using that scale to measure history through a juxtaposition of the ancient Jewish calendar and the modern calendar, scholars have been able to calculate the dates of Biblical events. Although space does not permit a detailed illustration, numbers in verses from Genesis to Exodus to Jeremiah, Jonah, Daniel and Revelation, among others, lead to the date for Judgment Day.Â (See Dates, Numbers, at the bottom of the story).Â
To those who readily respond that the Bible declares that no one except the Lord can know the date and time when Christ will return, Richard points out that God has never destroyed people or places without giving advanced spiritual warning.Â Whether it was the people of Noahâs day, or Abraham at Sodom and Gommorah, or Pharaoh in Egypt, or Jonah at Nineveh, there have always been efforts to proclaim the need for preparation and repentance, he said.
From the late 1980s on, Richard said, God has unsealed the books of prophecy so that those who are willing to sound the alarm can do so with assurance that the scriptures are indeed the unalterable word of the Lord.
The message is not contained to one part of the world or another.
There are groups of people â or âcaravans,â generally traveling in RVs â leaving jobs, family and friends to fan out across the United States to share the message with others. Richard also described a huge banner flying along Pennsylvania Avenue, across from the White House, several weeks ago.
âThey saw that,â he said. âPresident Obama saw that. The U.S. government knows.â
The message isnât confined to the United States, either. Richard said that 450 billboards sharing the message have also recently been erected in India.
âDonât take my word for it,â he said. âGo to the Bible. This message is out there big-time. Itâs all in Godâs hands.â
The dreadful time is âso close, that when it gets here, salvation is over,â Richard said.
Those who come to salvation will gather with God in the clouds, while those who died saved will be raised up by God to the clouds, âwhen God brings all those people to him,â he said.
Those who do not find salvation, Richard said, will enter the final five months of judgment, with death all around them.
If someone dies unsaved, he or she will not suffer in hell, he said, and that through the recently-revealed scriptures, it is known that an unsaved person will experience no pain, no suffering â his or her life will simply stop.
There will be no mistaking May 21 as Judgment Day, Richard said, citing ongoing events in the world today.
âPeople will not be able to say, âThis is a natural occurrence,ââ he said. âThis is God Almighty having perfect and final judgment.â
Citing the March 11 earthquake and subsequent tsunami in Japan, Richard said, âMultiply that by 1,000. And in five months, Oct. 21, 2011, this whole earth, solar system, universe â it will be no more. God will create a new heaven, a new earth, with no pain and suffering.â
âThere will be nothing but horror and death, but even in Godâs mercy, it will be over,â Hilary said.
DISCOVERY AND RESPONSE
A retired ophthalmic technician, Richard had listened âoff and on for about 35 yearsâ to Family Radio programming. It was âonly about five or six years agoâ that God chose him, he said, to follow âthe narrow path.â At that time, he became more serious about âthe Word of God, which is the only authority for the messageâÂ that he now shares. Â
Meanwhile, Hilary, a chef instructor, explained that she had grown up in a church where she learned traditional doctrine, yet she had not paid much attention to thoughts of the end of the world until she and Richard had dated â having met through mutual friends near Richardâs former home in Washington. D.C. â and later marrying in 2005. During those years, Hilary began to devote more time to listening to Family Radio, studying the scriptures and discussing the Rapture with her husband. Â
âI did not start listening to Family Radio until I met Richard,â she said. âI didnât believe Richard or Family Radio â God is the one who helped me understand. Only God can open the mind and the heart.
âAt the time, neither one of us were saved,â Hilary said. âWe lived by Godâs mercy until I searched out this information. We did not strive over this, but spent time together praying about it.â
Since then, the two have willingly and humbly assumed the responsibility for making others aware of Godâs timetable.
Â Asked how people react to their desire to share the scriptures, Hilary said that most are too polite to be rude.
âMy family and friends are too polite to argue, but they donât agree,â she said. âI think they say, âLetâs just get back to my world.ââ
Listeners may not agree with those espousing the coming of Judgment Day, but the Peirces say nearly all have little desire to explore the Bible to see what God has declared. Â
âIt is sad to say that people generally are attached to this world where God has provided them with so many blessings. We feel a deep spiritual anguish for those who do not take the opportunity that God is now giving to remove their arrogance and pride by creating a new heart and a new spirit within them.â
Richard said he was recently approached by a local pastor about the message.
âHe agreed that things are bad in the church, but his church is OK,â he said. âHe was not in opposition. He believes we are getting pretty close, but he doesnât think we can know the exact day.â
During visits with people they describe as their âChristian brothers and sistersâ who are also spreading the message, the Peirces say they have heard of or met pastors leaving their pastorates to spread the same message.
âThey had come to this conclusion,â Richard said. âItâs not common, but it is happening.â
Richard said when delivering his message, he has been met with disbelief and name-calling. He has been called a false prophet, told that it is a sin to set a date for Judgment Day, and that he should be ashamed of himself.
âAll I can do is be obedient,â he said. âIf we donât warn, the blood of the people will be on our hands.â
The Peirces say part of the mainstream populationâs reluctance to ponder the truth of the Word of God comes from mistaken beliefs. Since churches teach that those who confess Christ are safe and that no man can know when Christ will return, members of those congregations are in spiritual blindness, Richard said. Â
Like the people in Noahâs day, who did not respond to the warning of the flood,Â those who mock, scoff or turn indifferent hearts to present-day alarms will perish.Â Like their counterparts across the nation and around the world, the Peirces are working to share hope with those who truly want to escape destruction.
They say, unfortunately, organized religion has lost its role in preparing people for Judgment Day. In the last 20 to 30 years, the couple say the age of the church has come to an end.
âToday, even the music has become like the music of the world,â Hilary said. âFor too long, the modern church has been preaching a gospel based on man, and offering salvation through human effort, instead of grace and faith. People have become spiritually blind to the truth, and man has become the authority for his own salvation. People do not believe, not for a lack of guidance, but because they are not asking for a new heart.â
Â After about 2,000 years, God is no longer using the church as the means to save people, they said.Â True believers are urged to trust only in the Lord, rather than relying upon pastors or rituals for salvation.
Richard said contrary to Biblical teachings, churches have placed women in places of authority, even in the pulpit. The ordination of homosexuals is also an indictment against the church, he said.Â The Judgment Day movement avows that it is outside the churches that God is saving a multitude of people before Christ returns.Â
Â RichardÂ repeatedly emphasized that âGod is still gracious and full of compassion. He is still saving people, even during these last days. Those who are spiritually dead cannot come to God, but there is still time for certain people to be saved.Â It is contrary to the whole nature of God to say that the end of the world will come without warning.â
Between now andÂ May 21, the Peirces said they will continue to study the scriptures and pray. Until that day, they will do as much as they can to call peopleâs attention to prepare for the Rapture. Â
âYou still do everything to the glory of God, to the best of your ability to the glory of God,â Hilary said.Â
âThis is the day of salvation. God is still at work, but on May 21,Â the door will be shut, just as in the days of Noah,â Richard said. âThere will follow five months of horrible times; death will be everywhere, and the unsaved will be in spiritual anguish. Then God will usher in the new heaven and earth.Â And those whom He has chosen to save will be safe and secure with Jesus.â
The following are important dates in history, according to EBible Fellowship:
â˘ 11,013 B.C. â Creation. God created the world and man (Adam and Eve).
â˘ 4990 B.C. â The flood of Noahâs day (6,023 years from creation). All perished in a worldwide flood. Only Noah, his wife and his three sons and their wives survived in the ark.
â˘ 7 B.C. â The year Jesus Christ was born (11,006 years from creation).
â˘ 33 A.D. â The year Jesus Christ was crucified, and the church age began (11,045 years from creation).
â˘ 1988 A.D. â The 13,000th year of earthâs history. This year ended the church age and began the great tribulation period of 23 years (8,400 days).
â˘ 1994 A.D. â Sept. 7, the first 2,300-day period of the great tribulation came to an end, and the latter rain began (commencing Godâs plan to save a great multitude of people outside the churches).
â˘ 2011 A.D. â May 21, the rapture will occur at the end of the 8,400-day great tribulation. Oct. 21, the world will be destroyed by fire.