Judgement day is coming this weekend, according to a Christian movement based in Oakland, California. Family Radio Group, led by retired civil engineer Harold Camping, is predicting that Jesus Christ will return to earth on May 21st, to gather the faithful into heaven.
On that day, Camping and his followers say, "a great earthquake will occur", so powerful "it will throw open all graves." At that time, all believers will be joined with God, while "the bodies of all unsaved people will be thrown out upon the ground to be shamed," according to the prophecy posted on the radio network's web site.
Camping's prediction is based on his reading of passages in the Bible and calculations that have to do with global events that include the gay pride movement and the founding of Israel in 1948.
Around the world, there has been no shortage of opinions about Camping's prediction. From those who subscribe to the possibility, to those who think it's nonsense. The theory has also sparked a reaction from atheist groups, perhaps most notably in North Carolina where a group there is planning "The Rapture After Party in North Carolina - the best damned party in NC."
Grand Strand residents are skeptical of the prophecy, to say the least. Many told NewsChannel 15 they believe the end of the world will come someday, but not May 21st.
"That's up to the lord. Only he knows when it's going to end," said Jean Cornwell of Carolina Forest.
"I believe it's going to happen, but I don't believe it's gonna happen in two days from now," said Anthony Ray of Horry County.
Only two days? We've got a lot to do, America," said Carolina Forest resident Crystal Dotson.
Camping's prophecy is coming under heavy attack by more mainstream Christian clergy, including the pastor at Grand Strand Baptist Church, who says the prediction contradicts Biblical scripture.
"Only the Father knows the day and hour of his return," said Dr. Freddie Young. "And so to get maybe some kind of special revelation and say you know the day is tragic because there's no biblical basis for it."
Young said the greatest tragedy is for those who believed the prediction and sold all their possessions.
Over the main entrance to Young's Baptist church is a huge stained glass window depicting the second coming of Christ, with trumpets blowing to proclaim the rapture and Christians rising from the dead. But Young said before that will happen, there will be other prophesies not yet fulfilled.
"Judgement one day will come, but that's at the end of the book of Revelations, and there are a lot of things that have to transpire before then."
Young called Camping "just another date setter", one among a long list of doomsday prophets going back to the first century after Christ's death. The pastor said Camping is basing his prediction mainly on a single Biblical verse which states that one day to God is like a thousand years to his followers. Young said Camping came up with his own determination of the date when the Biblical flood occurred, then projects that date forward 7 thousand years to calculate May 21st, 2011 as judgement day.
Young scoffs at Camping's even more precise prophecy that Christ will appear at 6:00 p.m., Pacific time.
"I was amused by that, because I believe that if He was coming the 21st, it'd be Jerusalem time and if people are waiting on West Coast time, they might miss it."
Young said he lives his life as if judgement day is always imminent, but he doubts it will happen this Saturday.
"I got a feeling come Sunday, we'll be having services."
Do you believe the world is coming to an end on May 21, 2011? Let us know what you think.
NewsChannel 15's Ryan Naquin contributed to this report.