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. sky man

    the sky is falling the sky is falling!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! o what a world this is

    May 18, 2011 at 6:12 pm |
  2. Ashlie

    This is not true!! No one knows when the rapture will happen...only GOD knows!! People have predicted doomsday for years and has failed miserably because we r all still here!! Yes the end is nearing as what the Bible is saying but there is NO date. When the rapture happens is when we will know it has happened!! Now y'all believe what you want but this is silly if u r a true Christian you know that God is the ONLY one who knows when we will return home!!

    May 18, 2011 at 6:12 pm |
    • Hmmm

      How long have they been saying "the end is near"? Oh Christians, your delusional minds never cease to amaze me.

      May 18, 2011 at 6:17 pm |
  3. indy

    did anyone else see the thing about the guy who helped decipher the dead sea scrolls, and concluded that jesus was the slang term the locals used for the mushrooms they were taking to get high?

    May 18, 2011 at 6:12 pm |
  4. Mayan Secrets Keeper

    My 21 the end of the world? ... Of course NOT... The world will end on December 21, 2012... In the mean while you all people can keep Fornicate around Under the Consent of the King as much as you want... Let's partyYyy!!

    May 18, 2011 at 6:11 pm |
  5. Ethan

    Watch this exclusive three-minute interview with Harold Camping and his followers at http://www.aftermay21.com. Then …

    1) Investigate all the FREE resources on http://www.aftermay21.com.
    2) Share with your friends and family. Save them from the deception.
    3) Like http://www.aftermay21.com on Facebook to spread the word.

    May 18, 2011 at 6:11 pm |
  6. Admonition

    Typical blind faith people think they think something. do they know even know what they're volunteering for when they put themselves out there like that?.

    May 18, 2011 at 6:10 pm |
  7. girl1

    you'd think these people would just be giving money away, instead they're asking for more donations! You think money will by you a ticket out of this rapture thing?

    wait, or is this an evil church scheme created to con people into giving them their life savings by saying the world will end?

    May 18, 2011 at 6:10 pm |
  8. Gabe

    Which time zone is the Rapture in? If it is 12:01 am Saturday morning in Australia, then wouldn't that be Friday here?

    May 18, 2011 at 6:09 pm |
    • girl1


      May 18, 2011 at 6:15 pm |
  9. Robert

    Many of the people who believe the world will end have quit their jobs and sold or gave away their homes... So, come Sunday morning, when the world is still here, these people will be out of work and homeless... I guess you can argue that THEIR world did indeed come to an end.

    May 18, 2011 at 6:09 pm |
    • BobnRM

      The first miracle is that they were able to sell their homes in this market!

      May 18, 2011 at 6:21 pm |
  10. The_Mick

    I don't know why this article mentions Ezekiel 33 because it's not even mentioned on the page where "Family Radio" explains the date of destruction amd Ezekiel contains no "biblical call" other than to tell wicked people they're wicked. Their web site's main page do quote Ezekiel 33:3 as saying "warn the people, blow the trumpet" but that specifically refers to warning wicked people they shall die while righteous people "shall live." I guess writer Jessica didn't have time to actually research the story!

    These people claim that 1) God gave Noah 7 days final warning before the flood began. 2) St. Peter said, a thousand years is like a day to God, 3) God's warning to Noah was also a warning to the world (making it up as they go along!) and since God gave Noah a 7 day warning and 7 days x 1000 years/day = 7000 years, he's giving the world a 7000 year warning. 4) Noah's flood began on May 21, 4900 BCE. 5) 2011 is 7000 years later (there was no year zero so 4900-1+2011 = 7000).

    Of course, archeology shows there were settlements that did just fine in 4900 BCE and were never flooded. Additionally, this group claims God knows everything that WILL happen which doesn't explain how God was disappointed that Saul turned from being righteous!

    Although it only starts with Abraham, if you want a serious, no ulterior motives, account of how the Old Testament of the Bible measures up with history, read the two superb, eye-opening books by the two celebrated Jewish coauthors, Israel Finkelstein [Archeology Director of Tel Aviv University] and Neil Ashur Silberman [contributing editor of Archeology Magazine], "The Bible Unearthed" and "David and Solomon."

    It may come as a shock to some, but the Jerusalem of David and Solomom was a tiny, mud-brick tribal village that was so insignificant that the Pharoah Sheshonq I (Shishak of the Bible) didn't even bother to attack it or anything else in Judah when he went after (Saul's?) larger cities of Samaria, Megiddo, etc. in Israel (of which Jerusalem was not a part!).

    May 18, 2011 at 6:09 pm |
    • Abanana

      If God gave Noah 7 days notice, and one day equals 1000 years, then did God really give him 7000 years warning, or some crazy fraction of a God day?

      May 19, 2011 at 2:30 am |
    • Abanana

      Sorry, I meant to add.....then where do they get that we were given a 7 day/ 7000 year warning? You don't even have to respond. There are too many comments......

      May 19, 2011 at 2:33 am |
  11. Hmmm

    "those who are saved will be taken up to heaven, and those who aren’t will endure unspeakable suffering"

    There goes that love again!

    May 18, 2011 at 6:09 pm |
  12. robert schmell

    These people are so pathedic!!!! scaring people into beliving this 'CRAP". Please lets all forget about these MORONS and have a great weekend.....

    May 18, 2011 at 6:09 pm |
  13. Hello

    I can't wait until May 22nd to see their faces and see what they have to say ......

    May 18, 2011 at 6:08 pm |
    • sky man


      May 18, 2011 at 6:14 pm |
  14. Steven

    I better get busy on my bucket list...

    May 18, 2011 at 6:08 pm |
  15. factsOnly

    Saturday won't work for me.
    I'm doing chores, drinking beer and living a life.

    May 18, 2011 at 6:08 pm |
  16. BirthdayGirl

    I just have to comment on my own personal irony here. I was born May 21, 1981 at exactly 6:00pm, so that would mean the world will in exactly to the minute of my 30th birthday. I have heard people say that life ends at 30, but I never took that literally. But seriously, I think this story is ridiculous.

    May 18, 2011 at 6:08 pm |
  17. Nelson

    if a single person in that group read the bible, God tells us that NO MAN KNOWS THE HOUR. So are they above God??????

    May 18, 2011 at 6:07 pm |
    • Mikey C

      Right. You've a different interpretation of the same insane fairy tale that these zealods are raving about and yet you feel compelled to judge them. "the end is near!" "only god knows the hour! Are they above god?". You both sound like raving idiots to me. Just sayin'

      May 18, 2011 at 6:22 pm |
  18. LXZ

    Funny, I was just on the FamilyRadio.com website and there is still an open link to donate to their cause. What what will they do with this "useless" money come Saturday......

    May 18, 2011 at 6:07 pm |
    • girl1

      sounds like a massive church scam to me.

      May 18, 2011 at 6:11 pm |
    • Jesus H Christ

      RELIGION = CULT period!

      May 18, 2011 at 6:13 pm |
  19. James Steele

    ONLY GOD KNOWS THE TIME,but it is near.

    May 18, 2011 at 6:07 pm |
    • Jamie


      May 18, 2011 at 6:17 pm |
  20. Alex

    only in america....

    May 18, 2011 at 6:07 pm |
    • girl1

      hah indeed

      May 18, 2011 at 6:10 pm |
    • Jesus H Christ


      May 18, 2011 at 6:12 pm |
    • Dave

      Yeah, there are no crazy religious fanatics in other countries.

      May 18, 2011 at 6:14 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.