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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. vortex100

    Go to http://www.trackingbibleprophecy.com to see the events that must happen before the world really ends. The bible indicates that there are numerous events that must unfold first, and many have not yet.

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

    They give us a bad name. Jesus didn't even tell his own Apostles when the world would end. What makes these people think they know more than what the Apostles did?

    May 18, 2011 at 7:02 pm |
  3. schooled&extraordinary

    According to Ezekiel:

    "And thou shalt eat it as barley cakes, and thou shalt bake it with dung that cometh out of man."-Ezekiel 4:12

    Ergo, you can go eat some you-know-what.

    May 18, 2011 at 7:02 pm |
  4. horsesh**

    shame on cnn for giving this horsesh** from page attention

    May 18, 2011 at 7:02 pm |
  5. Josh

    His Caddy is a couple of months behind on payment sence of ergancy before it gets repoed

    May 18, 2011 at 7:01 pm |
  6. Mark from Canada

    "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."

    Is he referring to the Christians? I'm confused – this is what the hypochristians did in my community.

    May 18, 2011 at 7:01 pm |
  7. CuCus

    Dammm u all and thought i was going to make some money on my grandfather's dentures

    May 18, 2011 at 7:01 pm |
  8. David Lucas

    Who's up for a rapture party? I'll bring the jack and coke.

    May 18, 2011 at 7:01 pm |
  9. Randy in Tulsa

    What a bunch of attention seeking idiots.These are people that should not be able to breed.They should be sterilized so they cannot infect future generations.

    May 18, 2011 at 7:01 pm |
  10. Ademan12

    So when we wake up on Sunday, is CNN going to have a story about mass suicide by means of drinking the holy coolaid.

    May 18, 2011 at 7:01 pm |
  11. James

    So will all these people commit suicide on that day then? I can only hope so

    May 18, 2011 at 7:00 pm |
  12. Phil

    Adding to what I mentioned earlier...because doomsday is on us "ANY DAY NOW" for the past couple thousand years.

    The planets will align and the sun will do something freaky and Earth will be destroyed. If all the planets aligned, the gravitational pull would be next to nothing due to the vast distances from each other and from our neighborhood star, the sun.

    Earth will align with the center of the galaxy...and, blah, blah, blah. Earth is ALWAYS aligned with the center of the galaxy...that is, the point between A and B is always a straight line. Again, nothing will happen because the mass at the center of the galaxy will have no detrimental effect with things 26,000 light years away.

    The bible "says so". Yeah, yeah... The bible was written by a primitive society many thousands of years ago to control people – and it has, for the most part worked well for many centuries. It has also caused more wars between people of different faiths and killed more people than you can imagine.

    Bottom line, there has never been and never will be "god". It's just pointless to worry away your life trying to make some magic man in the sky 'happy'.

    Imagine for a moment that religion never existed until just this year. We're a developed, technological race of beings floating around on this planet. Along comes someone who is trying to convince you that they've seen these things called miracles and watched the dead rise (aka jesus) and hear voices coming from the sky. These days, we would put that person on strong psychotropic medications because they're exhibiting paranoid/delusional behavior.

    Seriously - don't waste a good worry. Enjoy your life and just be nice to people. Yes, it is sad to imagine that we won't see loved ones when we die, but that's just the way things are. Also, to those who "see the light" when you die...that's your brain shutting down. Starvation of blood, oxygen, etc. Strange things happen when you deprive the brain of these things.

    May 18, 2011 at 7:00 pm |
  13. Jeff

    well, I think the bible says that predicted dates will be days the world won't end

    May 18, 2011 at 7:00 pm |
  14. jim

    First we calculate our calendar by Jesus birth- his death was 33-1/2 years later or 1978 years ago- if you take God at his 1000 years = a day that means we have aproximatly 22 years left- or 2033 subtract the 7 year tribulation period or 2026 – at best we are in "The Beginning of sorrows " period .

    May 18, 2011 at 7:00 pm |
  15. East Coast

    I can't wait to laugh at them Sunday!

    May 18, 2011 at 7:00 pm |
  16. MW

    The world better not end on Saturday because Game of Thrones is on Sunday.

    May 18, 2011 at 6:59 pm |
  17. Amanda

    While I don't personally put stock in the idea that the rapture's in a few days, I don't see anything wrong with the core concept of spreading the word. People have the right to expression, and if they want to dedicate their lives to this cause, then that's within their rights.

    However, the wife and husband who left behind a 17 year old kid...the father nodding with approval at his 7 year old daughter speaking about blood red suns...I hate to think of the children who've been damaged by this.

    May 18, 2011 at 6:59 pm |
  18. Somebody

    Christians: The Rapture is coming! The Rapture is coming!
    Skeptics: Nah...
    -Saturday, May 21, 2011
    News: Here, we have light rain and mild thunderstorms and a high of 67 today in Oakland California, a first in a few weeks, and will certainly be enjoyable for some.
    Me: He he he...
    Christians at 12 AM, May 22, 2011: Oh, dammit, guys we were wrong AGAIN!
    That's exactly what is going to happen. Frankly, the facts just don't add up with the myth, which is all this is. I plan to be playing BlazBlue Continuum Shift, with Noel, Mu-12, and Ragna, if you don't mind. Oh wait, Christians hate video games, too. They even predicted THEY would cause the end of the world, too. Funny how that works, eh Hilary Clinton and Jack Thompson?

    May 18, 2011 at 6:59 pm |
  19. Tony the Traveler

    Sooooo, ...uhhhhh, ...if by some stretch of the imagination none of this comes to pass ...then what do we do? I guess it would be apparent that it wasn't God's will yet. Do we get to switch the date to Dec 21, 2012, and get on board with the Mayan's? I guess we do get a five month window though. Ok, I think I got it now!!!

    May 18, 2011 at 6:59 pm |
    • jack

      This guy has been doing this for decades now. He also predicted that the world would end in 1988 and 1998. Strangely he seems to have been capitalizing on eschatology for so long with such a short time span of world ending mayhem. I predict the world will end april 1, 2014 I can prove this by feeding you a bunch of meaningless numbers and then telling you what I think they stand for and then I will wow you by using third grade math to come to my astounding answer you will be forced to accept because I invoked the name of GOD.

      May 18, 2011 at 7:15 pm |
  20. Atrefi

    Why are you arguing over Spiderman and Superman? Chuck Norris would roundhouse kick them into the Phantom Zone!

    May 18, 2011 at 6:58 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.