TUCSON, Ariz. -- With the countdown going sour, religious fundamentalist Bill Maupin and his small band of disciples today put their liftoff to heaven on hold.
Maupin, founder of Lighthouse Gospel Tract Foundation, gathered his flock Sunday and waited to be 'raptured' into heaven to meet God. It wasn't even a close encounter.
Based on his 274-page Bible tract, Maupin predicted June 28, 1981 would be the day people who were 'saved' would float to heaven like 'helium balloons.' Nothing happened and Maupin extended the deadline until noon today.
'Only about half of those who are Christians will go,' he said. 'When we leave, people are going to know it.'
Maupin, 51, said there wouldn't be any demonstration project with God taking only a chosen few in advance of full-scale earthly departure.
'He's going to do it up good. The Lord is so fair about this.'
A heavenly trumpet would sound, Maupin said, and rapture would occur everywhere -- not just at Tucson, Ariz., headquarters of his twice-weekly Bible study groups.
Some of Maupin's 40 to 50 followers had sold homes and personal belongings and quit jobs in anticipation of the trip, hoping to escape the onset of what Maupin predicted would be a satanic one-world government.
Maupin's flock held a countdown Sunday even though none of his predictions about events in the Middle East had come true. Israel was supposed to have established its borders, conquered two Arab rivals and returned the Sinai to Egypt before rapture could occur. But Maupin insisted he would be proven right.
'The only thing that could be off is the date,' he said. 'It's absolutely mind-blowing the way things are falling together,' Maupin told followers reading Bibles and Sunday comics in the living room of his home. The bumper sticker on one car parked outside read: 'Warning -- in case of rapture this car will be unmanned.'
Maupin's disciples said even if the night passed without rapture, it made no difference. Susan Hillary, 27, who said she 'retired' as a medical technician in the belief she was going to heaven, said if the rapture didn't come on schedule, it would only mean the sect had 'counted wrong.'
After the rapture, Maupin said the Anti-Christ will take over the world in 1984 and chop off the heads of those who refuse to become members of a satanic one-world government by accepting the imprint on their bodies of the numbers '666.'
Maupin said he already knows the identify of the Anti-Christ.
'I'd rather not say because the Lord told me to keep my mouth shut. But I'm 99 percent sure. He's well known to people. The governments are a bunch of crooks. He's going to be a middle-of-the-roader and he's got all the answers.'
It was against the background of a world supposedly about to be besieged by the Anti-Christ that some of Maupin's disciples quit their jobs, got rid of their homes or declined to renew apartment leases.
'Some sold their homes and donated the money toward it. One doctor sold his Porsche,' Maupin said.
Maupin's son Gary, 24, said it would be 'a sign to the world' if rapture had occurred. His mother, Liz Maupin, said she would be disappointed if her husband's prediction was wrong.
'I definitely would not lose faith,' she said. 'We would be wrong, not the Bible.'
Dick Tarr, 36, a telephone company employee, said he gave his paycheck last Friday to a friend and said he and his wife Karen, 35, and five children aged 7 to 12 were prepared for earthly departure. The friend would arrange care for the Tarr family's 17 cats and two dogs, he said.
'I told my employer I'd be raptured Sunday and I wouldn't be back Monday. But I haven't quit my job or anything like that,' said Tarr.
A sign on the wall of Maupin's home reads: 'Plan ahead: It wasn't raining when Noah built the Ark.'