According to them, the end of the world is approaching, on the 30th of June to be precise and the obscure Christian sect is erecting billboards across the United States to let everyone know.
Growing in Grace International have stepped up their global campaign to announce the ‘transformation’ at the end of June, a day of final reckoning which will wipe out most of humanity, except their followers.
Adding their voices to the already noisy 2012 apocalypse brigade, Growing in Grace International are led by the charismatic Jose de Luis de Jesus, who openly calls himself the antichrist and makes his followers tattoo 666 onto their bodies.
The Puerto Rican national states that calling himself the antichrist is appropriate because it is wrong to worship the ‘Jewish teachings’ of Jesus, but rather to study the teachings of the Apostle Paul, who de Jesus claims to be in direct contact with.
Antichrist according to de Jesus means ‘no longer following Jesus of Nazareth as he lived in the days of his flesh.’
Spreading the word about June 30th has seen the Miami based-group invest in billboards featuring a smiling de Jesus and his 666 symbols prominently displayed imploring people to phone up his group and repent.
‘That day, the body of Jose de Luis de Jesus, who is a human like you and me, his flesh is going to be immortal,’ said Alex Poessy, the bishop of Growing in Grace International in Canada.
‘He’s going to be living forever.
‘And that will happen to him, but also his followers.’
‘All those that are not believers are going to be destroyed.’
With followers in 35 different nations, 287 radio stations and a 24-hour Spanish language television network, Growing in Grace International is not the first group to pick a date this year as the end of the world,
The famous Mayan ‘Long March’ calendar ends on December 21st 2012.
In addition to surviving the ‘transformation’, de Jesus promises his followers that following that apocalyptic event they will be given superpowers.
‘We can run and not get tired,’ said Axel Cooley who is the daughter of bishop Poessy.
‘Go through fire and not get burned.
‘I could be talking to you right now and then I could go through that wall.
‘So, you’ll know there is a difference.’
Basing their beliefs on passages from the Bible, Growing in Grace International followers are excited about the end of the world as far as we all know it.
‘The world’s not going to end,’ said Cooley.
‘What is going to end is the system.
‘All the governments and the currencies will fall.
‘The new government of the 666 will take over.’
Projecting the image of de Jesus with messages such as ‘666, number of wisdom’ or ‘Countdown to the transformation June 30, 2012’, billboards are up in the United states, Brazil and eight other countries.
Born in Ponce, Puerto Rico in 1946, de Jesus insists on all his followers calling him ‘dad’ and has stated that his conversion occurred in 1973 while living in Massachusetts.
The former petty-thief witnessed two angels coming down to him, ‘The body of Christ manifested in Jose de Luis de Jesus, and all of sudden, that’s when he knew,’ said Cooley of the transformation.
Founding Growing in Grace in 1986, its success has attracted some criticism, with some claiming that the group is little more than a cult.
‘They’re stupid people who believe in stupidities,’ said Regina Albarracin who lives in Pembroke Pines in Florida who says she has lost a son, Alvaro to the group.
There have also been queries raised about the correct use of funds at Growing in Grace International, with some money reportedly being syphoned off to a Colombian bank account in the name of de Jesus.
However, members are quick to deflect any criticism of the group.
‘All our lives have been enriched with this, If we were a cult then I guess we’re a pretty awesome cult,’ said Ana Guevara, who is a Canadian member.
Attending meetings called ‘tracings’, followers watch a sermon style broadcast from de Jesus before singing ‘We’re the ones who will live eternally,’ in Spanish.
Retreating from public view on April 22 of this year to prepare for the ‘transformation’, de Jesus is readying for his groups eventual takeover of the world.
‘A government where we will govern everything with a perfect order,’ described de Jesus in his goodbye address.
‘This is my last farewell for you. The time is finished.
‘We will see each other soon in Armageddon.’
Religious and sociological experts have expressed concern about this latest prediction of armageddon.
University of Waterloo sociologist Dr Lorne Dawson explained that a deadline is a sign that the ‘movement is starting to run into trouble’.
‘It’s a strong indicator that their authority is slipping, they’re losing followers, not acquiring followers at a level that they used to.
‘And nothing galvanises a group and galvanises attention like a new mention of an apocalypse.’
The June 30 prediction is very similar to that of Californian preacher and broadcaster Harold Camping who infamously declared the apocalypse would occur on May 21, 2011.
It didn’t and in the embarrassment that followed he retired from the public eye.
However, in the run up to the last day of June, Growing in Grace International members are totally sure that we have entered the last days on this earth.
‘We are sure that it’s going to happen,’ said Poessy.
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