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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. Joe

    Lunacy. No wonder I spent years as an atheist.

    May 18, 2011 at 6:18 pm |
  2. Toby

    "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."

    This is precisely what is WRONG with religion; the idea that we should respect nonsense and hurtful ideas and practices just because they are part of a person's religious identification and associated with their doctrines. If no thinking person questions the suicide bomber's religious beliefs (which we know full well they don't) then they go out and blow a group of innocent people to chunks of flesh just because their god told them they would inherit paradise. We MUST question (and ridicule, if necessary) these divisive, obnoxious, and immoral ideas before they end our civilization. Peace.

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

    Christians believe the darnedest things.

    May 18, 2011 at 6:17 pm |
  4. God

    Sorry for the confusion: I'm actually not going to devastate the world. What I'm really going to do is to rid the gene pool of its 10,000 worst contributors, in an effort to speed up the evolution of the human race (yes: I made the system automatic, so that I didn't have to bother diddling with it at every moment: Darwin was right, but the process turned out slower than I expected, and I got bored, hence the urge to speed things up a tad). I didn't lie when I told them I was saving them... I just didn't say what I was saving them for...

    May 18, 2011 at 6:17 pm |
    • Lycidas

      oy vey

      May 18, 2011 at 6:18 pm |
  5. JonesJ7

    Can't we wait until the 26th? Thats when The Hangover Part II comes out!!!!

    May 18, 2011 at 6:17 pm |
  6. HeXx

    Superman vs Spiderman? Please..... they're both wussies.

    Now if it was Ghost Rider vs Wolverine..... then you'd have something.

    May 18, 2011 at 6:16 pm |
  7. Chitown Jason

    Also, is it even physically possible to have a "rolling earthquake" that travels ONLY west? Wouldn't it travel in all directions from the epicenter? lmao....

    Sounds like a good reason to party on Friday night anyways...

    May 18, 2011 at 6:16 pm |
  8. Tyler

    Is it even possible for an earthquake to travel around the world like that....

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

    These people are christians the same way Bin Laden is Muslim, which is to say they are not.

    I should hurry up and let them deposit all there money in my bank account before the 21st though.

    May 18, 2011 at 6:15 pm |
  10. Admonition

    All that already happened. end of who's world?. let's hope it's the end of the Bush Center for Indignation and private defense contracting.

    May 18, 2011 at 6:15 pm |
  11. Chitown Jason

    Awesome! Sucks for New Zealand and Australia, they don't get any warning...whereas America gets nearly a whole day advance. I guess we really are blessed by God here. lol

    May 18, 2011 at 6:15 pm |
    • Sean O.

      I am so glad that someone else acknowledges the fact that we have time zones. So how is this all supposed to work again? It's like Y2K all over again. When the clock hits midnight in Australia and everything is fine, I guess the truth will finally set us free. I loved the humor and sarcasm used in your post.

      May 18, 2011 at 6:31 pm |
  12. Sophia A.

    To those of you who actually believe that the world is coming to an end–you need Jesus. If you are outside of Christ and this compels you to find him–good for you. But seriously, if you want TRUTH go to your Bibles–and your Bible makes clear that "not even the son of Man (Christ) knows the day or hour" of His coming. Matthew 24:36-42 says:

    "36“But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone. 37“For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah. 38“For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, 39and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so will the coming of the Son of Man be. 40“Then there will be two men in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. 41“Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one will be left.

    Be Ready for His Coming
    42“Therefore be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming. 43“But be sure of this, that if the head of the house had known at what time of the night the thief was coming, he would have been on the alert and would not have allowed his house to be broken into. 44“For this reason you also must be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think He will.

    May 18, 2011 at 6:15 pm |
    • sally gauthier

      Exactly. You can't get plainer than that. Read it, and read it again! That is the truth!

      May 18, 2011 at 6:29 pm |
  13. Steve

    WOW! Is CNN going to cover this? Let's see...they"l have to have a camera crew at every timezone when each earthquake hits. Oh I'll be glued to the TV all day!

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

    The END is a process, that began years ago, and progresses with time. No one can really predict what tribulation will take place and when. We've already seen enough humbling disasters, and they do not discriminate. All people in the way of what events lay ahead will fall victim.

    May 18, 2011 at 6:14 pm |
  15. Kellye Edge

    Be careful how you laugh......the Bible is true. Yes, there are those that are extremists & those that misinturpret the Bible, but it's our job as Christians to make sure folks know the catching away of the church is coming. No, the world won't just end......but, Jesus is coming soon. We must make sure we are right with HIM in our heart.

    May 18, 2011 at 6:14 pm |
    • debinga

      Amen...we are only told to be vigilent in our watch...this kind of stuff is what turns people away from becoming christians.

      May 18, 2011 at 6:20 pm |
    • Anderson

      Wow! Silliness

      May 18, 2011 at 6:22 pm |
    • larry c. lyons

      If every bit of the bible is true then how many legs to locusts and grasshoppers have? Leviticus says 4. Last I checked they have 6.

      Also did Moses have horns? Depending on the translation, he either did nor did not? Which is true?

      May 21, 2011 at 1:17 pm |
  16. Rory

    I'm guessing the day (21st) will start with a huge solar flare, followed by various earthquakes, tsunami's & general natural disasterish happenings.... on top of this there could well be a zombie invasion, nuclear war & so on.. Just a typical Saturday afternoon ;o)

    May 18, 2011 at 6:13 pm |
  17. Mike

    "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."

    You see, the problem here is that Christianity does a disservice to Christianity by maintaining the very notion of a judgment day. The rapture? The end of the world at the hand of a supernatural being?

    We really are an infantile civilization. Religious nonsense should have been discarded before the invention of metallurgy, let alone carried into the atomic age.

    May 18, 2011 at 6:13 pm |
    • rypay

      totally agree. I believe in santa claus, the tooth fairy, and the easter bunny.

      May 18, 2011 at 6:21 pm |
  18. CrowdedPond

    My worst nightmare. Everyone disappears Saturday except me, Glenn Beck, Dick Cheney, Sarah Palin, and GWB.

    May 18, 2011 at 6:13 pm |
    • debinga

      That would be a nightmare...LOL

      May 18, 2011 at 6:17 pm |
    • Zeph

      I would guess you might have to put up with the likes of Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter as well...they DO say that the suffering will be unspeakable...

      May 18, 2011 at 6:26 pm |
    • dgatza

      Wait, are you sure that wouldn't be like the best day ever?

      May 18, 2011 at 6:33 pm |
  19. Duke13

    By his "prophecy" Harold Camping is stating that Jesus lied in Matthew 24:36 and other scripture. Camping's followers are putting their faith in Camping's "prophecy" rather than putting their faith in God.

    May 18, 2011 at 6:13 pm |
    • mary

      Yes, they obviously haven't read the Bible have they...

      May 18, 2011 at 6:22 pm |
  20. peter giatano

    they finally bomming for obama the anti-christ

    May 18, 2011 at 6:13 pm |
    • george

      Don't you have to go grease your hair or something?

      May 18, 2011 at 6:15 pm |
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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.