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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. abcxyz

    What a retarded bunch. They're NOT Christians, what they're professing is not even Biblical. In the Bible it says numerous times that no one knows the day or the hour. These people call themselves Christians, but they possessed by Satan. Even quitting their jobs to tell others before 5/21? hahahahHAHAHAHHAHAHA! Won't they feel like a giant A$$ when Sunday 5/22 rolls around...

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

      I prefer it if you called them a "Special Needs" bunch.......But I agree that they will/should feel silly when this does not happen....but I guess they will come up with some BS rationalization. Beyond Sunday.....how about Monday when they need to pick up the classifieds and look for a job.......or a week after that when the rent is due and all they have to pay with is "Repent" T-shirts!

      May 18, 2011 at 7:02 pm |
  2. hypcracymuch...

    its all good guys, i bought some life insurance!

    May 18, 2011 at 6:46 pm |
  3. Manbearpig

    THIS IS NOT NEWS!

    Come on CNN, your supposed to cover real issues. If I see another article like this on the main page I'm finding another source of news media.

    May 18, 2011 at 6:45 pm |
  4. Eric

    I'll bet you a million bucks that the world doesn't end on May 21, 2011.

    May 18, 2011 at 6:45 pm |
  5. suzy

    Just one question for Mr. Camping (The Doomsday Prophet...founder of Family Radio) who are 'the saved'? Those who have been baptized by immersion? Sprinkled at birth? How about those who have been baptized posthumously (baptisms for the dead); How about those who bowed their heads, closed their eyes and asked Jesus into their hearts? Are they saved?

    May 18, 2011 at 6:45 pm |
  6. Godless

    There's no reason to ridicule these people. Quite frankly, this is just sad and I feel sorry for them.

    May 18, 2011 at 6:45 pm |
    • Kevin, Richmond VA

      There is plenty of reason to ridicule these people. beliefs ar enot safe from ridicule. you say something comepletely stupid you will get called on it.

      May 18, 2011 at 6:58 pm |
  7. Hawaiian

    Ummm... I have a Tee Time to play Golf on May 21st. Do you think I'll be able to finish all 18 holes before we all die?

    May 18, 2011 at 6:45 pm |
  8. Jez

    Religion makes people stupid. If the world ends, it ends. End of story. Go back to work.

    May 18, 2011 at 6:44 pm |
  9. Gary

    Corinth 12:5 "And Lord said unto thee, Spiderman hath no chance against the Man of Steel"

    May 18, 2011 at 6:44 pm |
  10. Tammi

    Read Matthew 24 John 14 1 Corinthians 15 1 Thessalonians 4 and 5 This will tell you about the 2nd coming

    May 18, 2011 at 6:43 pm |
    • Jamie

      Read Ezekiel chapter 4 verse 12. This will tell you what you should go do now.

      May 18, 2011 at 6:47 pm |
  11. BR

    The Bible says no one knows the date or time .. Including Jesus .. Only God knows .. It is going happen ..Maybe not like these extremist say .. but you all better be ready to meet your maker ... Jesus is the only Way .. !!

    May 18, 2011 at 6:43 pm |
    • Tammi

      AMEN!!!

      May 18, 2011 at 6:44 pm |
    • bren

      I agree!!!!

      May 18, 2011 at 7:01 pm |
    • Admonition

      And god is acronym to......... gerent occults of demon-ocracy.

      May 18, 2011 at 7:19 pm |
  12. LOL

    Humans are products of evolution...Religion is something created by humans..Very much like how Cults are formed and created..Brainwashing and convincing vulnerable people to join and have "Faith". Funny thing is most of u religious freaks contradict the crap out of your beliefs..I feel sorry for your children.

    The people in this article should be locked up in an insane asylum...

    May 18, 2011 at 6:43 pm |
  13. Layla

    Wow do those people really believe the world is ending? No seriously, how stupid a human being could be!

    May 18, 2011 at 6:43 pm |
  14. Grant Causey

    Matthew chapter 24 verse 36 says, "but of that day and hour knoweth NO MAN, no, not the angels of heaven, but my FATHER ONLY"

    May 18, 2011 at 6:43 pm |
  15. Big Bob

    Nice spin with the muslim, CNN. Had to get him in there as the rational one, right?

    May 18, 2011 at 6:42 pm |
    • Big Bob

      You're a genius, Big Bob! Nobody picked that up! ; D

      May 18, 2011 at 6:51 pm |
  16. LORD HAVE MERCY

    I AGREE WITH ABBY AND ALL THE OTHER BELIEVERS, AND TO THOSE WHO ARE IGNORANT TO THE 'FACT' I PRAY GOD HAVE MERCY ON YOUR SOULS. I'D RATHER LIVE MY LIFE KNOWING THERE IS A GOD THAN TO DIE AND FIND OUT THERE IS. ALSO MAN MADE THE BIBLE AND GOD MADE MAN, IN THE LIKENESS OF HIM.

    May 18, 2011 at 6:42 pm |
    • Kevin, Richmond VA

      What if when you died you believe in god, but it turns out you had the wrong one?

      Pascals wager is for amatures.

      May 18, 2011 at 6:54 pm |
    • Mike

      Still banging that caps lock like Charlie Sheen and a 7 gram rock EH?

      May 18, 2011 at 6:55 pm |
    • jesse

      lol @ pascal's wager

      May 18, 2011 at 6:56 pm |
  17. Rus

    I do not believe this hype a bit... ...BECAUSE I believe the holy Word of God (that's the Bible (not the mayan map/calendar or some kind of hell-bound knowledge you conjured up with your buddies that think they know so much. On the other hand, the end of days comes to every one of us at some time and we don't know when that will be. I could be before I finish this or before arriving home this evening for me.
    I am 35. Isn't it an eerie feeling and at doesn't it make you want to deal with the truth about your standing with a holy God when you see several people dying in your local community that were about your same age or younger (probably doing some of the same foolishness they were doing at the time of death). We have all been stupid at times, crossed the line for just a little more thrill, and/or went out on a limb for some empty and vain pursuit at some point. It may not even be our own actions that cause our demise.
    The point that I am making is that we all have a final day, hour, and breath. I may or may not see the coming of the Son of Man, the Faithful, Truth, Messiah, Jesus, Christ, Christ Jesus, Jesus Christ... or one of the myriad of other names that He holds.
    My question to myself and to you, friends, is what are you doing and how are you handling this minute, this hour, and this day that God has spared us. More than ever, it is my attempt to be faithful with the time, energy, and efforts that I am given.
    What about you. Where do you stand? and what are you doing with your time?
    There is no way to deny death, even our time has not expired by May 21 or sometime in 2012.
    Turn to the Word of God and let Him speak to you. If you open up and allow Him, He will show you real truth. Often, that truth is not what we want to know or hear, but it is real and we are far from Him. We could not even come up with our own best ends, final outing, or last ultimatum. Let's face the facts.
    By the way, for all of you that have some great knowledge about the last week, day, or hour, you can stand on these certainties of your by assigning all of your assets, housing, financial accounts, and other devices to a beneficiary before the week ends. Since you know, don't leave that burden to others.

    May 18, 2011 at 6:42 pm |
    • Mike

      You forgot to say "Abracadabra or HocusPocus".

      May 18, 2011 at 6:53 pm |
  18. JR

    Boy, are they going to feel stupid on Sunday.

    "Nevermind!"

    May 18, 2011 at 6:42 pm |
  19. Red Pison

    I try to leave everything open as a possibility, but personally I think a lot of these die hard fanatics are going to be questioning their faith when the most they'll get on the 21st is some light rain.

    May 18, 2011 at 6:42 pm |
    • kanon

      Nope. They'll just claim we were spared!

      May 18, 2011 at 6:49 pm |
  20. bluemax77

    FRUITCAKES..!!

    May 18, 2011 at 6:42 pm |
    • Manchurian_Renegade

      This looks like a publicitiy stunt of fear mongering and terror in pushing converts and fundamentalism. I don't mean to disrespect anyone's faith. wheather this would have been done by Muslim, Buddists, Hindus, Christians, or any doomsday cult I'd say the same thing. This date is going to pass, the world will still be here, and there will be alot more people who have made life long comittments on a false call, hoping for real estate in paradise.
      Then there will be another stint, and it too will go by and many more life comittments on false calls. The false calls go by without substance but many people changing their entire lives forever because of them.

      May 18, 2011 at 6:56 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.