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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. Kuske

    Humans will be here today and gone tomorrow. We are dust in the wind. The universe will go on without us.

    May 18, 2011 at 5:53 pm |
  2. Billy

    Since you think it's the end of the world, can I have your stuff for free? Obviously you don't need money anymore. Send it my way.

    May 18, 2011 at 5:53 pm |
  3. DavidH

    Space aliens are coming to take us away! Hehe. I wouldn't mind meeting Thor. 🙂

    May 18, 2011 at 5:52 pm |
  4. Tammi

    Who are we to say when the End is coming? if you read the bible you will know that it is probably soon but no one knows the date and time. we could be gone in the next second... the way the world is who knows when Jesus is coming back.. but i can assure you of this...Jesus takes care of His people!!...He is always there no matter what. He loves each of us and has put us here for reason. The saved will one day be called to meet Him in the clouds and go to Heaven and not have to worry about anything anymore I want the people who are not saved to ask the Lord to come into your life and change you and get a personal relationship with Him. Just because you may be a good person doesnt mean you will go to Heaven.. you have to have a true relationship with God. you will either hear him say one day "welcome my good and faithful servent" or you will hear him say "depart from me, i never knew you" those people who dont know him will be in torment forever. there will be gnashing of teeth and you will want a sip of water on your tounge and will not get it.. you will be in agony.. But i have good news..its not too late Accept Him as your Savior and He will take care of everything else

    May 18, 2011 at 5:52 pm |
    • Mike

      Great job Tammi..........God Bless.

      May 18, 2011 at 5:57 pm |
    • hehe101

      I cannot believe this.

      May 18, 2011 at 5:57 pm |
  5. Mark Yelka

    In the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy series, we find a spaceship full of people who say they were one of three ships escaping a doomed planet. The "A" ship carried the great leaders, scientists, and thinkers. The "C" ship carried the workers, those who actually made things. Theirs, the "B" ship, consisted of middle managers, hairdressers, telephone sanitizers, and the like. It eventually becomes clear that their planet was not in fact doomed, and that they were the victims of a ploy to rid their world of a useless third of the population.

    May 18, 2011 at 5:52 pm |
  6. Steve Z in KC

    I think the royals play a 6:05 game that day so if New Zealand is the first–I'm thinking it won't hit until well after the 7th inning stretch. GO ROYALS>

    May 18, 2011 at 5:52 pm |
    • J-DAWG

      Hey Steve I think that Sun Fresh sells tickets buy one get one free. I would love to join you on such a historical day.

      May 18, 2011 at 6:07 pm |
  7. christopher

    im going to get real drunk from may to oct ,, just in case ..lol

    May 18, 2011 at 5:51 pm |
  8. Carrie Ann

    RELIGION IS MAN MADE because God can never be known by man. Don't even try. Toss away the shackles of the man made political systems known as religion and know God onto yourself, by yourself and for yourself.

    May 18, 2011 at 5:51 pm |
    • Mike

      Excuse me, not sure on what juice you have been drinking, but you are certifiable!!!

      May 18, 2011 at 5:56 pm |
  9. some dude

    I think the funny part is they will be just as gullible on May 22 as they are now.

    May 18, 2011 at 5:51 pm |
  10. Brasil1958

    Should change this to Dis-belief blog.

    May 18, 2011 at 5:51 pm |
  11. Apple

    Can anyone or Military intelligence turn on HAARP EARTHQUAKE MACHINE ON?

    Why need it? They called Christians doomsday as "SHEEPS!!!"

    May 18, 2011 at 5:51 pm |
  12. Jim

    I pray that their faith in god isn't destroyed when the world isn't. And if the world is destroyed, I pray that my faith in god despite my ignorance of the end times, will be enough. Amen.

    May 18, 2011 at 5:50 pm |
  13. Catparty

    I can't help but wonder how many suicides will happen on Saturday...

    May 18, 2011 at 5:50 pm |
    • hehe101

      I know! Be a bit of a bummer for me though.... school ends on Friday.

      May 18, 2011 at 5:55 pm |
    • Jeanette

      So true, and I can't help but wonder how many job openings after the suicides...

      May 18, 2011 at 6:02 pm |
  14. Kuske

    That's the day Mitt Romney, a Mormon, announces his run for the presidency. Damien Omen IV. It's all over.

    May 18, 2011 at 5:50 pm |
    • Terri

      HaHa...that was great.

      May 18, 2011 at 5:52 pm |
  15. darly 173

    Everyone has the right to their own beliefs so you should not condemn another for what they believe. No one knows the time of the Rapture except God himself. If you do not believe in God then I guess you will just have to wait and see. I personally believe that there is a God and that He and only He controls the universe and I thank Him everyday for the blessings He has given me in my life.

    May 18, 2011 at 5:50 pm |
    • Eric

      You're absolutely right. We shouldn't condemn anyone for their beliefs. We can definitely laugh our asses off for how foolish these people are though:)

      May 18, 2011 at 5:58 pm |
  16. Chantal

    i believe in christ and his love and care for us but he will come down when he wants to come down not when people say he is,

    May 18, 2011 at 5:50 pm |
  17. Wolfy

    It is with great glee that I see these deluded people actively and publicly promote unfounded predictions. On May 22 I hope the press will publish the failure of this prediction and perhaps one or maybe two or more people, may rethink how they form their belief symptoms. Or maybe I am hoping for too much. The most likely scenario is that they will move to the next delusion after sufficient rationalization of this failure. But one thing is sure, this is the path of delusions of all stripes.

    May 18, 2011 at 5:49 pm |
  18. Tim Rigney

    All else aside – *strictly* in terms of the math he did – 1.) This isn't 2011. It's either 1994 or 1997. (Scholars went back in the 6th century and calculated – of *course* they did; it's not as if they started counting in the year One – but it turns out they made a mistake. Reportedly it was either 14 or 17 years; they're not sure which.) 2.) Jesus may not have been Crucified in what we call the year 33 – it may have been as much as 20 years later than that.
    So even if his reasoning is right, he's STILL wrong!

    May 18, 2011 at 5:49 pm |
  19. Someone

    I have to work Saturday – I guess I should call in sick.

    I'd be more curious to see how these people feel in 6 months, when they have no job, no money, no things – and they realize they have sent a pot of money to some dude in Oakland, CA, who is laughing all the way to the bank.

    May 18, 2011 at 5:49 pm |
  20. Mike

    Let's all be sure we have a good laugh at these fools. Be sure to note the double irony of other religious groups butting in to declare this proclamation false.

    But while we're at it... maybe we can all pitch in a dollar or two to save the blighted families of these lemmings come Monday. Many of the doomers have given up their possessions to "spread the Word" before the big day and I can't bare the thought of some child being screwed out of a future because of the stupidity of our culture.

    May 18, 2011 at 5:49 pm |
    • ifoundJebusintahiti

      LOL all the way to 2012??!! since thats the next end of the world right? there have only been 100s of tho's going around since the beginning of thought... every Culture has thought it was the end at some point all threw history. the world will be here a long long time ,in human years? millions more

      May 18, 2011 at 6:03 pm |
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About this blog

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.