Doris Rosado watches her teenage daughters, Ninette and Kiara Mongrut, get the numbers “666” tattooed on their wrists, beaming with pride. The number typically conjures up biblical symbolism tied to the Antichrist, but this St. Catharines, Ont., family belongs to a obscure Christian sect for which “666” is a positive symbol of their group’s messianic leader.
“They wanted to do it,” Ms. Rosado, 45, said at the St. Catharines tattoo parlour where her daughters were inked. “But now it’s more important because we’re counting down… I’m so proud.”
For this family, and other members of Growing in Grace International, these tattoos are a way of demonstrating their faith as true believers of Jose de Luis de Jesus — who they fervently believe is the second coming of Jesus Christ — before a day of reckoning they believe will wipe out most of humanity.
The group, which they say has branches in five Canadian cities and members in more than 130 countries, believes that on June 30 (or July 1 across the international dateline), their Texas-based leader and his followers will be transformed, said Alex Poessy, the group’s bishop in Canada.
To spread the word, Growing in Grace put up billboards in Toronto this week featuring Mr. de Jesus.
“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…. He’s going to be living forever. And that will happen to him, but also his followers.”
But, said Mr. Poessy: “All those that are not believers are going to be destroyed.”
Growing in Grace International is not the first to prognosticate that the so-called end of the world will come this year. The Mayan calendar famously picks Dec. 21, 2012.
But Mr. de Jesus also predicts that the “transformation” will endow him, and his loyal followers, with superpowers, such as the ability to fly and walk through walls, said Axel Cooley, the bishop’s daughter.
“[We can] run and not get tired. 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,” Cooley said.
The global economy will collapse as currency markets “fail” and governments around the world will be forced to resign. These predictions are based on biblical passages, she adds.
“The world’s not going to end. 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,” she said.
The group’s billboards feature a picture of Mr. de Jesus, with such messages as “666, number of wisdom” or “Countdown to the transformation June 30, 2012.” The group is eyeing billboard locations in Ottawa and Kitchener as well, she said. Growing in Grace has also put up billboards in at least 10 countries, including the U.S., Brazil and Puerto Rico, Ms. Cooley said.