Terry Ratzmann (search), the man who police say killed seven people and then himself during a church service, was a member of the Living Church of God (search), a denomination that focuses on "end-time" prophecies.

The church's estimated 6,300 members in 40 countries place a strong emphasis on using world news to "prove" that these are end times, to be followed by Christ's second coming.

This year, the group's leader, Dr. Roderick C. Meredith (search), wrote that events prophesied in the Bible are "beginning to occur with increasing frequency."

"We are not talking about decades in the future. We are talking about Bible prophesies that will intensify within the next five to 15 years of your life," he wrote in the church's magazine, Tomorrow's World (search).

Meredith advised members to gather emergency food supplies and follow government instructions on how to prepare for an emergency. He also warned about a coming "financial emergency" and cited an article from the San Francisco Chronicle about the financial fallout as baby boomers retire.

The Charlotte, N.C.-based Living Church of God grew out of a schism in the Worldwide Church of God, formed in 1933 as the Radio Church of God by Herbert W. Armstrong. Armstrong, an Oregon advertising man, preached that Anglo-Americans were Jews, descendants of the lost "ten tribes of Israel."

"The Worldwide Church felt they would be the only ones saved ... and all the rest of us were going to hell," said James Lewis, who teaches religious studies at the University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point.

"There's a lot of churches that believe that, but the Worldwide Church was a bit more explicit about it," he said.

Armstrong's followers worship Saturday mornings, as Ratzmann did, and often rent facilities rather than erect their own buildings. They believe in faith healing, strictly oppose divorce, and are told to shun worldly involvements, including politics, military service or participation in juries.

After Armstrong's death in 1986, the church began to move toward more mainstream evangelical Christianity, Lewis said. Many longtime members who did not like the doctrinal change withdrew and formed splinter groups.

Meredith led one of the numerous groups that broke away, forming the "Global Church of God" in 1992 to perpetuate Armstrong's original teachings. In the late 1990s, Meredith split with that group and went on to form the Living Church of God.