Like others around the country following the May 21 prophecy, Gary Vollmer knows that the final Judgment Day is imminent. He’s also the most sensible and easy-going Doomsayer you’ll ever meet.
Dark-wooded siding lines Vollmer’s beautifully kept, two-story home, which is perched at the corner of a quiet neighborhood just outside Alexandria, Va. A front door note politely informs the FedEx man to take packages to the house’s small stone addition, just to the right by a busy intersection.
The house itself sits behind a kids play pen filled with plastic toys and a bulky, four-door SUV, with enough room for his the whole family, stickered with quotes from the Bible and the Family Radio website. The paint-job behind the quote looks like the large golden streaks of a water color sunset. It’s actually a landscape of an unnamed metropolitan being decimated by fire and brimstone.
“This,” says Gary, pointing to his SUV, “will get great mocking and scourging if I’m here on the 21st. You know what I’m saying? And the 22nd, the 23rd.”
The family has just returned from a stroll around the block. Kim picks the two little boys out of their strollers and takes them inside while Gary, in his XL shirt also advertising the May 21 Judgment Day, stands outside in the breezy heat.
He looks incredibly calm for someone who knows that the world is coming to an end. Has he even done anything to prepare for the end of times?
“Read the Bible, that’s it. That’s all I can do,” says Gary. “Can’t do any more than that.”
Gary is one of the thousands, who he describes as “quasi-Christians,” that believes in the prophecies of Harold Camping. Classic Christian themes of Judgment Day abound: Fire, death, the suddenly-missing chosen ones. Neither Camping nor his followers have been shy about their beliefs, posting billboards, handing out flyers and going on cross-country RV rides to deliver the message. They are Ezekiel’s horn section.
Based out of California, Camping’s Family Radio broadcasts the 83-year-old’s ministry messages and numerological insights across the country and world. According to journalist Jaweed Kaleem, the ministry, with 66 locations across the country, is worth more than $120 million and their teachings are available in more than 50 languages. The May 21 D-Day was the date Camping discovered after reading a series of mathematical clues within the Bible. Key numbers include the 5 (it relates to salvation or destruction), 10 (completeness), and 17 (heaven). God, says Camping, both reveals and conceals the timing of His Son’s final return through the historical hints found in recorded Biblical events, all of which are found within word of God.
In the past few weeks, journalists and an amused public have focused in on the End of Times, as the followers of Camping see it. With one day left, the fervor over this loosely connected group of Christians has only increased. Apart from heathen organizing Judgment Day dance parties and “Hahaha May 21 Hahahaha” Facebook pages, there are stories of believers selling off all their possessions arising, Lazarus-like.
Gary knows “hundreds” of fellow believers in the area, many of whom have already closed up shop and headed for nature to await The Rapture.
This isn’t true of Gary. He’s holding onto the material possessions of this world like a responsible adult male. Several reasons include his nice house, good car and his beautiful family, which it is his responsibility to keep fed and happy. Allusively citing Proverbs 14:9-14, he mentions that he is “making favor of a righteous manner.”
“Well the thing is, is being in the world but not of the world. He says occupy it until I come. Well, you know what until He comes here and stands here, He hasn’t come. So I’m going to occupy it until the last trumpet.”
Not that he didn’t try.
“I took leave for two months from my job,” explains Gary. “I had actually resigned from my job and they said, ‘No. Here — just take leave.’ So I took leave.”
With all that God has blessed him, Gary says he saved up a bit of money, particularly for the last couple of months of family-time. In those final days of contemplation, Gary had a revelation of sorts that may not sit well with other May 21sters. Namely, that there’s still a few months left of earthly living. Specifically, five months more.
“You know, a lot of people have put out that we’ve talked quite a bit that [on] that day, we’re out of here, but I’m not totally … ,” he pauses for a second. “… trusting in that right now. I’ve seen a lot of stuff and done a lot of studying in the last couple of months and it may not be the destruction that’s been [described].”
Gary’s been talking with other believers who’ve also paid attention to a few hints from Camping himself about a possible October date. Gary says May 21 may mark the beginning of a “spiritual battle” rather than a physical one, which will end after exactly 5 months, on Oct. 21. After all, Jesus didn’t come down to earth to be a literal king of the Jews. He came to be resurrected as the King of Heaven. The spiritual battle, the test, says Gary, includes the ridicule the group is sure to face if there is a May 22.
“There could be a physical rapture, a physical destructing and that’s still a possibility, but I don’t see that anymore in my sight,” he says.
Not that there won’t be a judgment beginning May 21, it just marks the beginning of the end. It’ll be more of a fade-out ending, too, because a righteous God doesn’t just come down and beat people up for five months straight. As Gary notes, the Old Testament battles were very, very quick — “It was kill’em all. Finish. Over with.”
This spiritual battle then will test the true believer’s faith against “the scourging and the mocking,” says Gary. “That’s perfect. My truck’s here, it says the twenty-first. ‘Well, you ain’t gone man!’” Gary doesn’t even have enough spite in him to mock mockers convincingly.
Like Daniel in the lions’ den or Meshack and Abednego in the flaming fire, or even Christ, Gary says he’s willing to take the barbs because the Bible talks about the “great mocking and scourging of the saved.”
“I’ll pay the price but so what? Salvation is forever, you know?”
Plus, notes Gary, selling everything off after you think you’ve won the lottery is just kind of dumb. Like most every other aspect of Gary’s life, this is very sensible. So, he’s not concerned about those who plan to mock him, nor is he too worried about what the other May 21sters may think.
“The thing is, there’s a lot of stuff in the scripture that point to other things happening. Besides, up to this point, people were just listening to family radio and these things. I’ve never trusted The Man because it doesn’t say trust the man, it says trust God,” he said.
Gary knows all about The Man. It may be another reason he’s not too put off by the scourging that could come. Gary has a high-and-tight, looks like he can throw his weight around and works for the Department of Homeland Security.
“Oh yeah, they know,” the employee of The ‘Other’ Man says. “I’ve been in law enforcement for 20 years so there was no one really saying I was crazy. They’re not going to say that because I do my job well and whatever.”
He did, however, tell one of his co-workers that he may not be “rolling out on Saturday.” And Kim, who works in the military, has to return to work on Monday, too, should the end not come. As for the SUV, not even its owner Gary knows its fate after May 21.
“I don’t know. I may take this stuff off. It draws a lot of attention to my family,” says Gary. “It depends on what the message is…I may redo them again. Rewrap them with different verses and stuff. But I’m very comfortable. I have no fear of this.”
A man who knows his worth never does.