A billboard along Interstate 17 in Phoenix, photographed Wednesday, is one of many throughout the Valley proclaiming Saturday to be the date of the Christian Rapture. [Jayson Peters, Tribune] Jayson Peters/Tribune

Billboards across the Valley are warning about judgment day, which according to eBible Fellowship, the Bible apparently says is Saturday, May 21.

Though the eBible Fellowship seems to guarantee it - local church leaders say no one knows when judgment day will come and they will treat Saturday like any other day.

"I think God is very intentional about us not knowing," said Pastor Allan Fuller of Mountain Park Community Church in Ahwatukee Foothills. "In the first century they believed it was going to happen right away, that's why they didn't even write anything down.

"That's why the New Testament wasn't even written down for years after the events took place. They didn't think it would go beyond their generation."

Fuller said he hasn't heard a lot of questions about May 21. He says it may be something people are curious about, but he hasn't met anyone who is really fearful about it.

Personally, he, like many other Christian church leaders, does not believe in the Rapture.

Stephen Hammer, pastor of Esperanza Lutheran Church in Ahwatukee, says the word "Rapture" is not even found in the Bible.

"The idea of Rapture is actually a fairly recent idea developed in the late 19th century by a guy from Scotland and it was picked up by a guy in the United States who had previously been convicted of either forgery or fraud, or something," Hammer said. "It certainly got legs at that point.

"I think it's a cobbling together this piece and that piece from the Bible and a lot of it from Revelation and some novels."

According to judgmentday2011.com, Harold Camping is the man behind predictions of the Rapture.

The 89-year-old man apparently made predictions that the Rapture would occur in 1994 but that turned out to be false. Camping believes it was due to a mathematical error. This time the radio personality from Family Radio and his followers are confident.

Hammer says this is not the first time predictions have been made and it won't be the last, but he said that he doesn't keep up with these things.

"Over 30 years ago when I was in seminary I got a subscription to a pretty conservative church magazine," he said. "They were talking about the world ending then.

"At the end there were some classified ads and one of the ads was for freeze dried food for after the end of the world, for you to survive.

"I will never forget this line. It said at the end ‘Included in your shipment is a 357 magnum to protect you from people who wish to take advantage of your Christian forethought.'

"I just thought that was kind of amusing and it stuck with me. So I'm going to survive this thing and I'm going to shoot somebody else in order to continue surviving this thing? I just don't find that plausible in any way."

For those who are worried about salvation the pastors suggest doing some reading.

"I would suggest reading the Book of John in the New Testament," Fuller said. "We can throw around opinions. We can go to Wikipedia. We can search on the Internet what the significance of May 21 is. We can talk to people, we can call pastors. But the most trusted source is scripture itself."

Hammer also suggests a book by a Lutheran professor, Barbara Rossing, called "The Rapture Exposed." He says the book goes through all the worries about the Book of Revelation and reveals that there is really no biblical argument for the Rapture.

Both pastors said they will treat this Sunday services like any other Sunday.

"A great Lutheran quote, actually from Martin Luther, was when he was asked what he'd do if he knew the world was going to end," Hammer said. "He said ‘I would go plant a tree.'

"I'm going to keep on keeping on and if I'm wrong and things end on Saturday that would be just OK. I'm not going to spend a lot of time worrying about it or stalking up on freeze dried food in case I'm left behind."

• Contact writer: (480) 898-7914 or ahurtado@ahwatukee.com



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