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. PirateJohn

    Dontcha think it's a little more than a mere coinkeydink that every person who comes up with some calculation regarding the date of the rapture just so happens to pick a date that's sometime in the near future? I'd like to see somebody make a prediction that the world will end on Januar 18, 4219, but there just ain't any press in that.

    May 18, 2011 at 6:38 pm |
  2. hubert gabon

    this day will come but i don t thint it will be on the 21th
    what everyone needs to know is to be prepared at all times.

    May 18, 2011 at 6:38 pm |
  3. Jessy

    Watch, just watch. I bet God never intended for a rapture or end-of-the-world event anyways. I bet God wanted us all to progress scientifically and technologically to the point where we can spread among the stars as a civilization. In fact, I bet God is laughing at the bible as we speak. After all, God never wrote the bible anyways.

    May 18, 2011 at 6:38 pm |
  4. Curtis

    If these are the kinds of people that populate heaven, I'd rather stay here.

    May 18, 2011 at 6:38 pm |
  5. Justathought

    So if Family Radio is saying that the end of the world is 6:00 pm in New Zealand – and they are 16 hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time , would that make it 2:00 am in Maryland (Friday night)

    May 18, 2011 at 6:37 pm |
  6. Don Cooper

    I'll wait for the movie...

    May 18, 2011 at 6:37 pm |
  7. God

    Every generation needs a reminder of the nut cases in the world. In your life you will see many more nut cases make their end of the world cases.

    May 18, 2011 at 6:37 pm |
  8. VTK

    See you Sunday...

    May 18, 2011 at 6:36 pm |
  9. Keith

    If the end of the World is coming why is Family Radio still asking for donations?

    May 18, 2011 at 6:36 pm |
  10. Tim

    Hide your kids, hide your wife we all getting Raptured. This is why, other than Christmas Eve, I will never drink the Kool-Aid and go to church where they spew all this propaganda. Know how much of the Bible Ive read? Half of the first page

    May 18, 2011 at 6:35 pm |


    May 18, 2011 at 6:35 pm |
    • Marco

      Loord are you going to be surprised when you die.

      May 18, 2011 at 6:38 pm |
    • Mike

      Do you have to yell so God hears you? If not...TAKE OFF THE CAPS LOCK!

      May 18, 2011 at 6:46 pm |
    • Sarah

      My husband and I were talking about that yesterday. We agree with you and why are these people so judgmental? Them believing the rapture will be Saturday isn't hurting anyone. Just makes me so sad that everyone feels they have the right to judge. The inky person worthy to judge us is God.

      May 18, 2011 at 6:49 pm |
  12. Me

    Hey ... since you won't be needing it, can I have your stuff?

    May 18, 2011 at 6:34 pm |
  13. Tiana

    : if this is true . ihave a whole lot of Re-pinting For my sins ,

    May 18, 2011 at 6:34 pm |
  14. Just Jim


    God didn't text and tell me where I put my car keys. I must not be one of the chosen.

    May 18, 2011 at 6:34 pm |
  15. fegs

    all these bible thumpers are gonna feel stupid when nothing happens! Idiots!

    May 18, 2011 at 6:33 pm |
  16. Stephanie

    id love to see wherein the bible it states these dates.. becuase last i read.. the bible does not give any dates...

    May 18, 2011 at 6:33 pm |
  17. Bpt203

    SO this means I won't be able to watch the Oprah finale on the 25th?! Devastated

    May 18, 2011 at 6:33 pm |
  18. AJ

    Oh no!!! My toilet juts gurgled 3 times after I flushed. I KNOW that means we only have 3 days left!!!

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

    Party at my place May 22nd

    May 18, 2011 at 6:33 pm |
  20. Logic

    These are the same people who believe in talking snakes and resurections............... And why should any LOGICAL (non religious) person take them seriously??!

    May 18, 2011 at 6:32 pm |
    • Michael

      ....and just think. They got a tax-exemption from all the money they raked in............I'm sure it's all used up since the world is ending...........yeah, right.

      May 18, 2011 at 6:37 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.