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May 18th, 2011
05:00 AM ET

Tick tock goes the doomsday clock

By Jessica Ravitz, CNN

(CNN) - For months they’ve been spreading the word, answering the biblical call of Ezekiel 33 to sound the alarm and warn the people.

Their message, which they say the Bible guarantees, is simple: The end of the world is near.

And now, it’s suddenly really near - so near that if these folks are right, you should probably pass on buying green bananas.

Perhaps you’ve already noticed, what with the billboards and signs dotting the landscape, the pamphlets blowing in the wind and the RVs plastered with Judgment Day warnings weaving through cities. Or maybe, as the birds chirped outside and you sipped your morning coffee, a full-page newspaper ad for the upcoming mass destruction caught your eye.

May 21, 2011, according to loyal listeners of Family Radio, a Christian broadcasting network based in Oakland, California, will mark the Day of Rapture and the start of Judgment Day (which, they say, will last five months). Those who are saved will be taken up to heaven, and those who aren’t will endure unspeakable suffering. Dead bodies will be strewn about as earthquakes ravage the Earth, they say. And come October 21, they’ll tell you, the entire world will be kaput.

It’s the kind of belief that riles up churchgoers who insist no one can know when Judgment Day will come, and the sort that many say does a disservice to Christianity. And it’s the kind of message that delights the types who are planning tongue-in-cheek End of the World parties and are responding to a Facebook invitation to attend a post-rapture looting. Rapture events, including one at a tiki bar in Fort Lauderdale, are being hosted by American Atheists. News outlets, comedians and even Doonesbury can’t seem to resist a good end-of-the-world prophecy.

Billboard battle over Judgment Day

Earlier this year, CNN traveled with a team of believers - all of whom had walked away from friends, families and jobs - as they set out to share this serious message aboard a caravan of Judgment Day RVs. These ambassadors or co-laborers in God’s work, as they see themselves, let us into their world. Along the way we met other supporters, as well as a sea of skeptics, many of them drunken pirates gathered for an annual festival in Florida.

Read about that journey and the roots of this doomsday message

With only days to go, we wanted to know how the ambassadors are feeling now. Are they making special plans and saying goodbyes? Have their convictions stayed strong, or have doubts crept in? Are they at peace, excited or maybe afraid?

“We’ve been a little busy, as you can imagine,” said Fred Store, the team leader on our journey.

Reached at a motor home park in Providence, Rhode Island, Store spoke of the surge of support he’s seen in recent months – the 60 like-minded people (including someone who works for Homeland Security, he boasted) who joined his small crew on the Mall in Washington, and the hundreds who gathered in Times Square in New York.

But at the same time he said resistance from those who don’t believe has grown, too. The more people heard about the May 21 warning, the more they discussed it with their pastors and came prepared to argue.

Learn about doomsdays throughout time

And the media, while they’ve helped spread the message, will be turned away in the coming days. CNN hoped to be with Store and his team on doomsday, but the members said they needed that time to focus on their relationship with God. Perhaps that’s just as well, as an official at Family Radio headquarters pointed out: “What makes you think you’ll be able to get to them? The roads will be a mess," he said, referring to the expected earthquakes. Plus, Store said, even if we got there, there would be no time to edit and publish, so what's the point?

Store’s faith remains unwavering. Come Saturday, he and his team will be in Boston, standing in a spot with heavy foot traffic, passing out their pamphlets – which they call tracts – and doing what they believe God called them to do until the very end.

No longer with the team is Darryl Keitt, who ditched his caravan on May 6. He said his time on the RV was a “gift from God,” but he decided he needed to spend the last couple of weeks focusing on his non-believing family and friends in New Jersey. It was a decision he prayed about for several weeks.

His Elizabeth, New Jersey, apartment is pretty sparse, seeing as he gave away most everything before hitting the road.

“I was able to get my old place back,” he said. “But we only have four days to go, so I don’t need much.”

He’s reaching out to old friends and hoping his family will come around and believe what he says he knows to be true.

“I have not seen any signs that they are believing the message,” he said. “But I can’t read anybody’s heart; only God can. And I’m still praying for them. All I can do is continue to share my convictions.”

Tisan Dawud may not share his older half-brother's beliefs, but he supports the positive nature of what Keitt's doing and is awestruck by his dedication.

"He's trying to spread what he believes is the word of God, and I can't knock him for that," Dawud said Tuesday evening. "I became Muslim when I was very young, and he remained Christian. But I've always had respect for his beliefs, and he always had respect for my beliefs."

And rather than criticize or ridicule his brother, who he said isn't hurting anyone, Dawud wishes people would focus on those who deserve examination and condemnation - those selling drugs, molesting children, raping women or embezzling money, for example.

Keitt spends his days in prayer, reaching out to people on Facebook, listening to Family Radio and walking around his neighborhood in his Judgment Day cap and T-shirt. He ran out of tracts some time ago, and at this point it’s too late to order any more, he said. As for where he’ll be on Saturday: “It’s a good question," and one he's still considering.

He doesn’t like goodbyes, he said, and only told two people in his caravan team of 10 that he was leaving. He gave those two men, one of them Store, a quick hug and that was it.

“Preferably we’ll meet each other again,” Keitt said, “in heaven.”

Dennis Morrell was driving through Jacksonville, Florida, pulling his Judgment Day billboard trailer, when we reached him on his cell phone. He wasn’t part of the caravan of RVs but was among the Floridians who joined in to help Store’s team when they were in the city.

Morell and his wife quit their jobs to focus on warning others, a move that’s left their four kids – ages 17 to 24 – thinking “Mom and Dad are crazy,” he said.

He still hopes God will “open their spiritual eyes,” he said. “But they’re at an age where they love their lives. They don’t want this world to come to an end.”

His faith, though, is as firm as ever, and he wishes others would open their minds and hearts to this possibility.

“Why would you wait to see if this is actually going to happen? You have that option to cry out for mercy,” he said. “I don’t want to die and go to hell. Do you?”

He plans to spend the last days praying, up until the early hours of Saturday - when he’ll both pray and wait for 16 hours.

Why 16 hours? Morrell explained that the massive doomsday earthquake will start at the International Date Line before moving west. New Zealand, he said, will get hit first – at 6 p.m. local time. And then that wave of destruction will roll around the world, wreaking havoc at 6 p.m. in each time zone.

While Morrell expects he’ll reserve Saturday for private time, Benjamin Ramrajie of Ocala, Florida, doesn’t have any special plans.

We met Ramrajie in Tampa after his 7-year-old daughter issued a doomsday warning about how the sun would “turn red like blood.” He stood by and nodded his approval as she spoke about dead bodies and her fears of dying.

“Most of my family doesn’t agree 100 percent, and I don’t blame them because it is far-fetched,” he said. “I strongly believe it’s going to happen. But I just figure I’ll relax, maybe watch TV. If that’s the day we get raptured, great. If not, we’ll move on.”

- CNN Writer/Producer

Filed under: Bible • Christianity • Culture wars • End times

soundoff (6,292 Responses)
  1. jo jo

    Prophet Jeremiah was not God back then. He had no faith. He was message of God. Harold Egbert Camping is like PROPHET JEREMIAH. We saw IMF, Arnold, people lying cheat, steal, evil doings.... No one REPENT... People took too far breaking TENTH COMMANDMENTS. As Buddhist.... I KNOW FOR THIS FOR SURE....

    Muslims have seen RIOTS in MIDDLE EAST. They are sick of it. They have seen it. YES. MAY 21, 2011 should be judgement day.

    May 18, 2011 at 11:09 am |
    • eric

      So Arnold Schwarzenegger is part of God's plan for final judgment?

      May 18, 2011 at 3:22 pm |
  2. No

    These idiots should be publicly scorned and ridiculed at every opportunity.

    May 18, 2011 at 11:08 am |
  3. fastball

    I'd like to see if there are any red-faced believers in the congregration when they all wake up on the "morning after"?
    But all we'd get is the usual "who are we to know God's plan?" line. The favorite line of losers everywhere.

    May 18, 2011 at 11:08 am |
  4. dataman

    One can only add this comment:

    IDIOTS!!

    May 18, 2011 at 11:08 am |
  5. DGH

    I am a christian and believer in the world of God, but foe the end of the world crowd more tine helping other lest time trying to figure out what God is thinking. If God wont you to know something he will tell you.....

    May 18, 2011 at 11:07 am |
    • No

      foe the tine other lest time trying out what God is thinking, you know. something will tell you.....

      May 18, 2011 at 11:12 am |
  6. fastball

    I wonder how many of them will be divesting themselves of all their worldly goods before the big event? C'mon, if you're gonna believe – believe ALL THE WAY!

    May 18, 2011 at 11:07 am |
    • HFM

      ahh...and that's the point....none of these brainwashed types have started doling out THIER cash to anyone who asks for it...in fact, recently in the DC area, a homeless woman asked one of the RV Doomsday 'Profits' for a $1, saying...'gee you won't need it..' but they declined to 'reach deep into their pockets' like they beseech their soon-to-be-fleeced flock each week on radio and tv, for those 'love gifts.' Don't cha just love hypocrisy?

      May 18, 2011 at 11:15 am |
  7. DC-JD

    TEST 01

    May 18, 2011 at 11:06 am |
  8. J

    I can't wait until the world DOESN'T end on Saturday and all the excuses these Bible thumpers come up with as to why the "prophecy" didn't happen.

    Should be fun. See you all Sunday.

    May 18, 2011 at 11:05 am |
    • Bruce

      I am looking forward to a follow-up story with these people when their very specific predictions fail to happen. You gotta give them credit though–they at least are making falsifiable claims. That is quite unlike most religious claims you run into.

      May 18, 2011 at 11:08 am |
    • Madtown

      True, some very good entertainment value!

      May 18, 2011 at 11:12 am |
    • Adam

      God didn't set his alarm clock.

      May 18, 2011 at 11:24 am |
  9. Dead Man Blogging

    It sounds like God is going to give a really bad review to Pirates of the Caribbean – On Stranger Tides, in theaters on Friday the 20th and available on bootleg Chinese BlueRay on Tuesday the 24th.

    May 18, 2011 at 11:05 am |
  10. RRMON

    Starting May 22, view individuals and take notice if they are themselves as you remember them to be, if you can notice any small changes to their personality, including their regular behavior patterns. If so, then one of you has been time warp… It happens so frequently.

    May 18, 2011 at 11:05 am |
  11. Katelynn Myrick

    Mark 13:32 – But ye shall receive power, after that the .... No man can know the day or hour of Christ's return.

    COME ON NOW, YOU KNOW YOU CANT CHOOSE THE DAY OUR SAVIOR IS TO COME BACK, ALTHOUGH I WILL BE READY. BUT REALLY YOU DO NOT KNOW WHAT DAY HE WILL RETURN, IT COULD BE TONIGHT OF 1 MILLION YEARS FROM NOW, YOU DONT KNOW, SO DONT JUST PUT UP MAY 21 TO MAKE A DAY WE ALL SURRENDER FOR OUR SINS, KNOWING THAT GOD DIED FOR THOSE. HE WILL COME WHEN HE IS READY.... YOU DO NOT DECIDE!

    May 18, 2011 at 11:04 am |
    • Bruce

      But it doesn't seem like he's predicting the day/hour that Jesus returns, but rather the day/hour that the earthquake starts. He has like a 5-month window of time where the whole returning thing could happen...

      May 18, 2011 at 11:06 am |
    • William Demuth

      Well actually the border patrol does, and unless he has papers, he aint getting past Sherriff Arpaio!

      May 18, 2011 at 11:08 am |
    • Katie

      Bruce, he says the rapture will take place that day and it will mark the first day of the "5 month" Judgement Day.. I'm with Katelynn on this.. No man knows.. Why predict it? Make sure you're ready. They are making the "true church" look like idiots but that's on them.

      May 18, 2011 at 11:26 am |
  12. lolrelgigion

    I think more athiests know what is in the christian bible that christians, blind faith leaves the world in the dark.

    May 18, 2011 at 11:04 am |
    • PallasAthene

      Yeah, and we keep trying to turn the lights on for them, but they keep turning the darn thing off again!

      May 18, 2011 at 11:11 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      @PallasAthene
      Say hi to Lazarus for me!

      May 18, 2011 at 11:20 am |
  13. Bamarine

    I am a Christian, The Scriptures clearly state that NO MAN knows the time nor the hour in which he will come. While I commend them for spreading the word of God, all they are doing is giving the Athiest, Muslim and other non believers of Christ a reason not to believe. I want them to come to Jesus as much as any other Christian but this is not the Way. The Word of God will not return void.

    May 18, 2011 at 11:03 am |
    • William Demuth

      No man knows the hour, BECAUSE HE IS DEAD AND NOT COMING BACK!

      Get a grip, this cult of the dead thing is creepy beyond words

      Next thing you guys are gonna engage in ritualistic canibalisim.

      Oh thats right, you already do!

      May 18, 2011 at 11:06 am |
    • Madtown

      You're right. Whether you believe or not, kooks like this just make it easier to discount and laugh at the whole thing.

      May 18, 2011 at 11:08 am |
    • Eric

      and there's pretty good evidence that he probably never existed in the first place.

      May 18, 2011 at 11:17 am |
    • JBL

      Uh William, just so you know the vast majority of Christians do not believe that the bread of communion actually turns into Jesus' body. That is the Catholics, and a couple of other relatively small denominations. To most it is simply an act of remembering what Jesus did (dying for our sins). Just thought you would want to be accurately informed.

      May 18, 2011 at 11:20 am |
  14. PRISM 1234

    Poor deceived souls! That's what happens when one looks to man as a guide! Blind leading the blind...
    But when it doesn't happen, in order to protect their false doctrine, and the man who spread it, they will find an excuse, and set another date!

    But they don't need pity, they need a rebuke! They ought to know better!

    May 18, 2011 at 11:03 am |
    • Ralph

      "what happens when one looks to man as a guide! "

      That is exactly the problem. Men wrote the bible, not a God, not the man who claims to be the son of God. It was men thousands of years ago for the sole purpose of controlling the masses through fear and a final reward if you obey them which they don't have to give out. What is amazing is now YOU should know better!

      May 18, 2011 at 11:08 am |
    • Anon

      There is no god, sorry

      May 18, 2011 at 11:09 am |
    • Eric

      and then the creators of Christianity built in a big old loop hole into the whole thing. Kill someone, ask for forgiveness, you go to heaven. Be a good person and don't harm anyone, don't believe, hell for you. Because that's decent and moral.

      May 18, 2011 at 11:15 am |
    • PRISM 1234

      Hey, people, don't think that you're better off then those poor deceived souls ! You've swallowed different kind of hook, and are not seeing where the road you're on leads you!

      But there is no point to waste any words of wisdom here, because some can not tell the difference between treasure and trash!
      Good day!

      May 18, 2011 at 11:29 am |
    • Yo!

      "But there is no point to waste any words of wisdom here, because some can not tell the difference between treasure and trash!"

      Seriously when a "supposed" Christian talks trash like this it's easy to know who the trash is.....

      May 18, 2011 at 12:52 pm |
  15. jo jo

    SOME ONE TURN ON THE HAARP MACHINE ON!!!

    May 18, 2011 at 11:03 am |
  16. king soloman

    so when nothing happens can we all point and laugh?

    May 18, 2011 at 11:03 am |
  17. GE

    What if he dies on May 20?

    May 18, 2011 at 11:03 am |
  18. Da Bears

    Sweet. I dont have to wake up early and go to church Sunday

    May 18, 2011 at 11:02 am |
  19. Bruce

    Hey there, scientists, cut the guy a little slack. He is at least making falsifiable claims!

    May 18, 2011 at 11:02 am |
  20. Rosiepose

    because people still have so, so much to learn and earth is a school, one big group therapy..........so don't waste time........

    May 18, 2011 at 11:01 am |
    • Dave

      but are the children in danger? how do you justify taking them away; "their parents are crazy?". Okay, then take away all the children from parents who believe in a different god than I do (crazy), and kids from republicans (crazy), from people who watch reality tv (crazy), everyone who bought tickets to see Charlie Sheen.....

      May 18, 2011 at 11:09 am |
    • Dave

      Why my last comment went to you Rosiepose I don't know...sorry it was for William above

      May 18, 2011 at 11:11 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.