SCOTT SIMON, host:
The end of the world is near - but not so fast. Judgment Day, two weeks away. Yes, that Judgment Day - May 21, according to some Christians. True believers will fly up to heaven, leaving the rest to a hellish fate.
NPR's Barbara Bradley Hagerty talked with people who are preparing for the end times.
BARBARA BRADLEY HAGERTY: Brian Haubert grabs some pamphlets and marches toward the flea market in Palmyra, New Jersey. He's carrying a poster announcing Judgment Day. He braces for rejection. Announcing God's wrath is not always a popular message.
Mr. BRIAN HAUBERT (Actuary): I've been called a heretic. I've been told I'm reading the wrong Bible. You know, and then there's the occasional person who seems to be genuinely interested.
HAGERTY: His friend and fellow believer, Kevin Brown, uses a gentler approach.
Mr. KEVIN BROWN (Business owner): May I share this with you guys? Thank you. May I? Spanish?
HAGERTY: Brown is polished, successful. He has his own nutrition and wellness business. But he says for those who can decode its secrets, the Bible is very clear - most of us are doomed.
Mr. BROWN: Starting in the Pacific Rim at around the 6 p.m. local time hour, in each time zone there will be a great earthquake, such as was never in the history of the Earth.
HAGERTY: The true Christian believers - he hopes he's one of them - will be raptured. They'll fly upward to heaven. As for the rest...
Mr. BROWN: Its just a horror of horror stories, and on top of all that, theres no more salvation at that point. And then the Bible says it will be 153 days later, the entire universe and planet Earth will be destroyed forever.
BERKES: Most Bible scholars note that even Jesus had no idea when Judgment Day would come. But May 21 believers are unfazed.
Mr. HAUBERT: I've crunched the numbers, and it's going to happen.
HAGERTY: Brian Haubert, whos an actuary for a life insurance company, says the Bible contains coded proofs that reveal the timing. For example, he says, from the time of Noah's flood to May 21, 2011, it's exactly 7,000 years. Revelations like this have changed his life.
Mr. HAUBERT: I no longer think about 401(k)s and retirement. You know, I'm not stressed about losing my job - which a lot of other people are in this economy. I'm just a lot less stressed and in a way, I'm more carefree.
HAGERTY: He tried to warn his friends and family. They think he's crazy. And that saddens him.
Mr. HAUBERT: Oh, it's very hard. I worry about friends and family and loved ones. But I guess more recently, I'm just really looking forward to it.
HAGERTY: Haubert is 33 and single. Kevin Brown is married with several young children, and none of them shares his beliefs. It's caused a huge rift with his wife, but he says that too was predicted in the Bible.
Mr. BROWN: God says, do you love husband or wife more than me? Do you love son or daughter more than me? And so there is a test, there is a trial here that the believers are going through. Its a fiery trial.
HAGERTY: No one knows how many people believe Judgment Day is right around the corner. But it appears that many became believers after turning on the radio.
Mr. HAROLD CAMPING (President and General Manager, Family Radio): Welcome to the open forum.
HAGERTY: Harold Camping is the 89-year-old founder of Family Radio, a Christian network worth $100 million in 2009. He's been interpreting the Bible on the air for years. He says everyone knows there'd be a judgment day at some point.
Mr. CAMPING: We just happen to be in that time in history. And whether we like it or not, we're here.
HAGERTY: Camping's predictions have inspired other groups to rally behind the May 21 date. And people have quit their jobs and left their families to get the message out.
Ms. ADRIENNE MARTINEZ: Knowing the date of the end of the world changes all your future plans.
HAGERTY: Adrienne Martinez thought she'd go to medical school until she began tuning into Family Radio. She and her husband, Joel, lived and worked in New York. But a year ago, they decided they wanted to spend their remaining time on Earth with their infant daughter.
Ms. MARTINEZ: My mentality was, why are we going to work for more money? It just seemed kind of greedy to me, and unnecessary.
Mr. JOEL MARTINEZ: God just made it possible. He opened doors that - he allowed us to quit our jobs. And we just moved, and here we are.
HAGERTY: In Orlando, in a rented house, passing out tracts and reading the Bible. Their daughter is 2, and their second child is due in June. Joel says they're spending the last of their savings. They don't see a need for one more dollar.
Mr. MARTINEZ: You know, you think about retirement and stuff like that. But whats the point of just having some money just sitting there?
Ms. MARTINEZ: Yeah. I mean, we budgeted everything in a way that on May 21, we, you know, we won't have anything left.
HAGERTY: Nothing, except for the fervent hope that all of them will be raptured.
Harold Camping is not the first person to fix a date for the end of the world. There have been dozens of such prophets and so far, they've all been wrong. Camping himself has had to do some recalculation. He first predicted the end would come September 6, 1994. He now explains that he had not completed his biblical research.
Mr. CAMPING: For example, I at that time had not gone through the book of Jeremiah, which is a big book in the Bible that has a whole lot to say about the whole matter of the end of the world.
HAGERTY: So you're not planning for May 22?
Mr. CAMPING: Oh, absolutely not. It is going to happen. There is no plan B.
HAGERTY: I've asked a dozen of Camping's followers the same question. Everyone said even entertaining the possibility that May 21 would come and go, without event, is an offense to God. They all hope they'll be raptured. Some, like Kevin Brown, worry about being left behind.
Mr. BROWN: If Im here on May 22 and I wake up, I'm going to be in hell. And that's where I don't want to be. So there is going to be a May 22d, and we don't want to be here.
HAGERTY: On the other hand he will, presumably, have lots of company.
Barbara Bradley Hagerty, NPR News.
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