The litmus test is whether or not a person has confessed their sins and accepted Jesus Christ as their personal Savior.
"It is as simple as that," says John Gilmore, general manager of Knology of Knoxville.
He and I met for a heart-attack-on-a-plate breakfast at Cracker Barrel, and as the waitress kept us plied with coffee long after we finished eating, Gilmore explained his theory that the End of Time is near. There is nothing we can do to stop it, and the only hope for anyone is that he or she confess his or her sins and acknowledge that salvation only comes through the blood of Jesus.
There's a lot of eschatology going around these days, and if what some modern-day prophets are telling us is true, things don't look good. Signs of the end are all around: the threat of a world flu epidemic; the changing climate; the series of disastrous hurricanes; earthquakes and tidal waves; and war and carnage on every front.
For Gilmore, it is the threat of an Antichrist, the move toward globalization and a New World Order that woke him up to what is really happening and what he is supposed to do about it.
In two letters to the News Sentinel within the past month, Gilmore lists a glut of reasons that an ancient and powerful secret organization is, essentially, making all the calls as to what happens politically and militarily. So much so, they actually control who gets elected as world leaders. They are called the Illuminati, and their agenda is to secure from within their ranks power over politics, economics and the social order of the day.
Their agenda is "the new world order" referred to in the Book of Revelation.
Both of Gilmore's letters can be read in full on the News Sentinel Web site, knoxnews.com.
Gilmore, 34, is well aware that people find his words and his beliefs threatening and are apt to dismiss them as being hokey.
"I certainly don't have the answers and am no great theologian, but I am convinced that the Antichrist is walking the earth somewhere today, that we are in the End Times, that the Illuminati is gaining control and moving us toward globalization, and that our only hope of getting into heaven when the time comes, and that time is near, is to accept Jesus Christ."
The Illuminati, he explains, is a secret organization composed of rich, powerful individuals acting in tandem to gain control of the world. Every president, he says, with the exception of Lincoln, Kennedy and Reagan (who were, by the way, all shot) was part of the Illuminati, and that is how and why they rose to such positions of power. The two Bush presidents, both members of Yale University's Skull & Bones secret organization, are members of the Illuminati as well, he says.
He says the Illuminati find special significance in the number 11. He calls it their code number.
Here, Gilmore offers a bit of spooky new math.
It was on Sept. 11, 1990, that the senior George Bush mentioned before Congress the phrase "A New World Order" for the first time. Eleven years later to the day, the World Trade Center was destroyed. The Madrid bombings were on March 11, 2004 - 911 days after Sept. 11, 2001.
And, says Gilmore, something very big is going to happen on Nov. 11, 2005 - three days from today.
"Look at that date: 11-11-2005. Add 1+1+1+1+2+0+0+5, and what do you get?"
There's no bravado about Gilmore, and he's at a loss as to why he was chosen, but he feels God is using him to spread a warning, to encourage people to wake up and see what is happening to our country, to recognize that God is withdrawing His protection as the Illuminati tightens its grip on history and the Antichrist waits in the wings.
"I don't know why God revealed all these things to me," says Gilmore. "I just know what I have to do about it."
Not only is Gilmore spreading the word through letters to newspapers and the business world, he also is preparing materially for the coming disaster on Friday. He is storing up materially for the continuing hard, testing times between now and the Rapture, when it will be only the "true Christians" who will be accepted into heaven, while everyone else will perish.
He has sold his stock. His house is on the market. He is stockpiling nonperishable food, water, gas and other necessities.
His research into the unexplained events of 9/11 convinces him of an inside conspiracy: the fact that there are no photos of the plane that hit the Pentagon (he says there wasn't one); the ultimate and complete destruction of both towers (it had to have been more than airplanes, he says); and the fact that Bush seemed, by his behavior when told, to have been expecting it.
In fact, says Gilmore, it was Illuminati involvement that got us into previous wars: the sinking of the Lusitania, Pearl Harbor, the Gulf of Tonquin - there being at least some evidence that United States leaders knew ahead of time about them all.
"I don't know whether the Illuminati orchestrated these events, but they knew how to use them to their favor," Gilmore argues.
The mess that the world, the United States in particular, bears witness to God's displeasure: our national debt, the decline of our auto industry, and the push toward globalization - Revelation's New World Order - as evidenced by organizations like the World Bank and the United Nations.
"The Illuminati is trying to destroy national sovereignty," says Gilmore. "They are moving us toward a time when power will only be at the top. Everything will be in their control."
Gilmore, who is a Methodist, says he grew up in the church and has always believed in God but that until recently, "Jesus was not that high on my list."
Within the past year, however, things have changed, as he says God revealed to him that the end is near and compelled him to tell as many people as he can:
"The main thing I have to say, and this is what God is saying through me, is that God does love us, that God is with us. We just need to repent, ask to be saved, ask that His will be done in our lives - and then we have nothing to worry about when the time comes."
I stayed behind a while after Gilmore left the Cracker Barrel. I looked around at the people nonchalantly eating biscuits and gravy, laughing. Kids played checkers on a nearby bench. A man and his wife across the way were bowing their heads in a blessing before their meal.
According to Gilmore, three days from now, everything is to change. Our world will be blown apart by another, more-serious terror attack. Should I say something to them? Tap them on the shoulder and tell them to get on their knees? To go home and start loading up on canned goods and getting their money out of everything except, maybe, gold?
I admire Gilmore for doing what he's doing, because if I believed what he believes, that would be the right thing to do.
Instead, I pay my bill and stop by the post office on the way to work to mail my granddaughter her birthday present.
She will be three on Friday. 11/11.