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. just be thankful

    Everyday you have is a gift. Be glad you have family,friends,work the ability to think,love, laugh,and those things you take for granted can change in a blink of an eye. I know one day walking the next paralyzed.
    I do believe in a life after this one. Even if you do not Stephen Hawking. Man can choose to live or extreminate it is a choice and doing what is right.

    May 18, 2011 at 6:58 pm |
  2. Virtual Banality

    Thers a lotta dum peeple that critisize others here. Everyone who critisizis others is an ideit.

    May 18, 2011 at 6:56 pm |
    • justme

      and you wouldn't be an idiot would you ?

      May 18, 2011 at 7:03 pm |
  3. Derek

    Beam me up Scotty! There's no intelligent life here!
    ... Oh! and please send your bank accounts my way before Sat. the 21st.

    May 18, 2011 at 6:56 pm |
  4. chosen1914

    What i believe is what Jesus Himself said, "CONCERNING THAT DAY AND HOUR NOBODY KNOWS, NEITHER THE ANGELS OF THE HEAVENS NOR THE SON, BUT ONLY THE FATHER." (Matthew 24:6); "KEEP ON THE WATCH, THEREFORE, BECAUSE YOU DO NOT KNOW ON WHAT DAY YOUR LORD IS COMING." (Matthew 24:42); "YET THE DAY OF THE LORD WILL COME AS A THIEF, ..." (II Peter 3:10). These are all based in the Bible and not on anyone's opinion.

    May 18, 2011 at 6:56 pm |
  5. Steve

    Stupidity is far more contagious than common sense...

    May 18, 2011 at 6:55 pm |
  6. God

    I am back!

    May 18, 2011 at 6:55 pm |

    thanks for the comedy!
    i guess stupidity has no limits rofl

    May 18, 2011 at 6:54 pm |
  8. God's big brother

    Don't worry everyone. If my cranky little brother tries to pull any crap on Saturday I'll beat him senseless. I got your back.

    May 18, 2011 at 6:54 pm |
  9. Randi

    These people make me laugh. What idiots.

    May 18, 2011 at 6:54 pm |
  10. Andy

    How I wish these morons would just shut up and drink the damn Koolaid!!

    May 18, 2011 at 6:54 pm |
  11. God


    May 18, 2011 at 6:54 pm |
  12. LKT

    Thank goodness the Rapture won't happen on Friday, May 20th. I have GOT to see the season ending episode of Supernatural!

    May 18, 2011 at 6:54 pm |
  13. Professor X

    Well if the world doesn't end maybe on Dec 21. 2012 it will?

    May 18, 2011 at 6:54 pm |
  14. CuCus

    Helloooooooo wake up there is no such thing as god or devil, hell or heaven !!!! It was a good story written thousands of years ago and edited a lot more then that. All these religions make me laugh the crap out.

    May 18, 2011 at 6:54 pm |
  15. Doctorf

    What a scam. The ability of people to delude themselves is amazing. Oh well, I have a tee time on Saturday so I am asking god to hold off until I get my round finished.

    May 18, 2011 at 6:53 pm |
  16. BadumpTSH

    Bobinator -> I'd like to know which Biblical scholars you're reading, because beside extreme neo-liberals who likewise claim Jesus didn't exist, reputable Bible scholars recognize that the Bible is largely without modification in the last three millenia.

    May 18, 2011 at 6:53 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      "Largely without modification in the last 3 millennia"? Aren't you kind of overlooking that the whole New Testament was added about 1000 years into your "unchanging" time span?

      Besides, just read the 4 different Easter stories in the 4 gospels to see that they couldn't even get their stories straight when they were writing in the same century.

      May 18, 2011 at 7:00 pm |
  17. John

    Why does the National Enquirer give these complete idiots any publicity?? Oh, sorry, it's CNN, hard to tell the difference.

    May 18, 2011 at 6:52 pm |
  18. R. Harris

    Wow, I can't wait to see a interview(s) on the 22nd. That's if one these idiots has the nerve to show their faces after what... A second failed prediction and major embarrassment. I guess the next crazy bunch of folks will ride out on the next Comet passing by after some magic Kool-Aid again.

    Personally religion was invited as first a explanation to provide answers in a highly uneducated time period. Then in the renaissance (and probably before) they (Kings and Priest) learned they could rule over people and take their money and in today's times just fools and old people believe in a "God". It's fake people, not only this story but the whole figurehead behind it is!

    May 18, 2011 at 6:52 pm |
    • Texan


      May 18, 2011 at 7:41 pm |
  19. Lilywhite

    When all is said and done, the Family Radio station should have to shut down for willingly and knowingly spreading mistruth. They should lose their license to broadcast. Promoting ignorance and blind following is exactly what the Bible, Jim Jones and now Family Radio are guilty of doing. Somehow though, because we protect religion and its practices (as outdated and blatantly wrong as they are) there will be no follow up on the willful misleading of people and religion will continue to misgude and destroy the masses.

    May 18, 2011 at 6:52 pm |
  20. ratty

    hahaha.. what a bunch of morons... 'nuff said

    May 18, 2011 at 6:51 pm |
    • BRod

      Agreed. What are they going to say when absolutely nothing happens on May 21st? How will they account for driving people further away from their religion?

      May 18, 2011 at 6:56 pm |
    • Taunter

      Slow news day or what, CNN? This is ridiculous.

      May 18, 2011 at 6:58 pm |
    • Some Random Hobo

      I agree. I believe in God but this is taking it to a whole another level. I mean really they said it would end before but did it? No.

      May 18, 2011 at 7:03 pm |
    • Grumpy

      My great uncle identified such folk as being examples of what he called "psycho ceramics", religious crackpots! Good call!

      May 18, 2011 at 7:04 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.