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Rapturous Certainty 

What's behind those "Judgment Day" billboards

Thursday, May 12 2011
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Allison Warden of WeCanKnow.com has no room for doubt, and no time for baking.

Warden is a prime mover behind the ominous yet chipper "Save the Date: Return of Christ, May 21, 2011" billboards erected in L.A. and around the country. As such, she has devoted so much of her free time over the last two years to warning people that the end is nigh that she has forsaken leisure activities she used to enjoy, such as photography and baking cookies. Now when she needs a sugar fix, she settles for store-bought.

"You've been trained from the time you were a child to think of a future," she explains of the Rapture. "But when you start realizing that it's God's will be done, not my will be done, you stop thinking like that.

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"I have things I'd like to do," she continues by phone from her home in Raleigh, N.C. "I'd love to go West. I'd love to see the Rocky Mountains. There's a lot of things I could be doing at 29, just living my life, but you sort of put personal interests aside, knowing that in a few weeks, those earthly things just won't matter. Planning past May 21 is just not something I've done."

Warden still reports to her job as a payroll clerk but plans to use her accrued vacation soon to make the most of what she is utterly certain will be her final hours on the planet. She'll spend her last earthly days passing out tracts and warning people that the clock is ticking on salvation.

Warden and her associates aren't after last-minute "accept Jesus into your heart" conversions. The goal of the billboard campaign is simply to warn people, out of love-thy-neighbor compassion, about what's around the corner, and to serve as "an invitation to learn more" — about the Bible, salvation and judgment, she says.

The message is not intended solely for nonbelievers or members of other faiths, but also for Christians who have strayed by remaining with corrupt churches — that is, any church that has "fallen away from God's word" by clinging to the notion that the precise timing of the judgment can't be pinpointed. According to Warden's beliefs, even if these corrupt churches were to mend their evil ways, nothing they could do would alter their fate. Salvation isn't earned but pre-destined, each individual's fate determined by God millennia ago.

So why bother with the billboards, the website, the tracts? Warden and other believers see themselves as instruments of God, charged with the duty to teach the Gospel and to warn of the sword.

"People that think, 'Well, I can't change it, so what's the difference,' they don't have a proper respect for the word of God. They don't care whether or not they're saved. But they will care on May 22. They'll care a lot."

Rejection of the May 21 deadline by mainstream Christians is rooted in delusion, Warden says. "They're not looking at the Bible, so they can't see truth. They'll tell you no man knows the day and hour, but they won't look at all the other examples in Scripture that clearly indicate that God's elect will be able to know the date, but only in the end-times."

Chief among the elect is Harold Camping, the Christian radio broadcaster whose calculations are responsible for the current countdown. Yet this is not his first such prediction. Camping once published a book called 1994? in which he predicted that the Rapture would take place on Sept. 6, 1994 — maybe. Thus the question mark in the title.

This time around, however, Camping isn't hedging bets or adding question marks. WeCanKnow.com directs visitors to The-Latter-Rain.com, a site that "is not affiliated with any church, denomination, organization or group." It provides an explanation of the methods Camping's camp used to determine the dates of both the Rapture and the final destruction of the universe, scheduled to occur in October of this year.

Camping's method is little more than numerology. Numbers are assigned meanings on the basis of their appearance in the Bible, and these "number clues" are decoded by adding, subtracting and multiplying until the desired result is achieved.

In one clue, the site explains that because Noah was given seven days' warning before the flood, and "a day is as a thousand years," mankind has precisely 7,000 years from the flood to achieve salvation. This is one of the more straightforward of the site's proofs. The others grow progressively more convoluted.

For example, the time from the Rapture to the end of the universe is determined to be 153 days, because "when we see that number we immediately think of the 153 fish of John 11:21. Also, the number 153 breaks down into 17 x 3 x 3. The number 17 signifies God's kingdom and the number 3 signifies God's plan."

The site advocates "using a significant number's multiple of 1,000 and adding 23" as a method of determining the date of the Rapture in relation to the supposed dates of the flood, the Crucifixion, birthdays of kings and various Levitical feasts.

Warden has found it difficult to split apart from friends and family members who don't share her beliefs, but nothing has shaken her faith in Camping's math, and she doesn't seriously entertain questions about the possibility that his prediction may be inaccurate. "Having seen it straight from Scripture, it's like saying, 'What if you wake up tomorrow and the sky's not blue?' I mean, this is a fact. You can't really contravene God."

Here's her vision: A worldwide earthquake will burst open graves. The bodies of the saved will be resurrected. The bones of the unsaved will lie upon the ground.

An alternate possible scenario could include a catastrophic flood of cognitive dissonance unleashed in the minds of Camping's followers should May 21 pass without incident.

Warden says she has no plans to answer questions from a reporter on May 22, even in the event that she is not one of those souls called up. "I think that given the gravity of the events on May 21, even if communications are up, I think the focus that everyone's attention will be on is their personal lack of salvation and lack of hope.

"So even if I am left here, I wouldn't anticipate doing interviews."

Reach the writer at linda@ljwilliamson.com

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