Billboard campaign claims Jesus will return in May

Save the date: Jesus is coming on May 21, 2011.

At least, that's according to organizers of a billboard campaign slated to hit metro Atlanta next week. Allison Warden of Raleigh, N.C.-based said the Christian Web site plans to place 50 billboards in the metro area proclaiming the rapture and Jesus' imminent return, based on analysis of Scripture and biblical genealogy.

"The Bible teaches that Christ is returning on May 21 and we want to encourage people to go to Scripture and investigate for themselves," said Warden, who insists the Christmas-timed campaign is not a gimmick. "All information in the Bible points to this date. God is going to be saving people right up until the last moment."

The billboards, which are up already in  places like Nashville, Detroit and Omaha, Neb., show three wise men on camels and the star of Bethlehem with the message, "He is coming again."

Seventy-nine percent of U.S. Christians say they believe Christ will return one day, according to a 2006 survey by the Pew Research Center's Forum on Religion & Public Life and the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press. Additionally, 20 percent of Christians in the United States believe it will happen in their lifetime.

Warden declined to say how much the billboard campaign, which will run for a month in metro Atlanta, will cost and who is paying for it. In other cities, billboards have been paid for by individual donors.  California-based Family Radio Worldwide, a Christian nonprofit radio network, sponsored the billboards in Nashville.

The campaign has raised some eyebrows locally, even before the first billboard is up.

The Rev. Kevin Myers, senior pastor of 12Stone Church in Lawrenceville, said the Bible says that Christ will return, but doesn't say when.

"I don't think it helps to define the date and put it out there. It conflicts with the very Scripture you're encouraging people to read."

David P. Gushee, a professor of Christian ethics and head of the Center for Theology and Public Life at Mercer University, agreed. "I'm glad they have it figured out," he said. "No one knows the day or the hour. Only the Father knows and I think that teaching has provided good guidance to Christians throughout the centuries. You never attempt to fix a date for Christ's return."

If May 21 passes with no return, he said, it could prove to be embarrassing for the campaign organizers and a disappointment for those who take such things seriously. "It's really a bad idea."

Smyrna resident Ed Buckner, a member of the board and former president of American Atheists, said the group is considering a reply.

"In all honesty, I think Christians, and not just atheists, ought to ridicule these billboards and protest against them," he said. "They're really putting Christianity on the spot."

According to, following the rapture for believers on May 21, God will destroy the world on Oct. 21, 2011.

Recently, both believers and nonbelievers have been using outdoor advertising to get their point across.

American Atheists recently created a stir with a billboard about Christmas outside the Lincoln Tunnel in New Jersey, saying "You know it's a myth -- this season, celebrate reason." The billboard was countered by the Catholic League, which put up its own billboard, "You know it's real -- this season celebrate Jesus."