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. calihai

    Ha ha! God will destroy world by timezones!!!! hilarious!

    May 18, 2011 at 7:32 pm |
  2. Omar


    May 18, 2011 at 7:32 pm |
  3. john spring

    people only know what other people do, evaluation. strings cross and cause bad things but good always follows from it as we are positive movement from the big clash.

    May 18, 2011 at 7:31 pm |
  4. Nate

    On a serious note though, I would like to address the atheists out there that feel the need to slam Christianity left and right. Have Christians made mistakes? Yes, some big ones. I'm a Catholic and will admit to that. But slamming religious belief the way that some of you do is rather hypocritical. I mean, it really doesn't make you any better than the Christians that go around trying to shove their religion down other people's throats because they believe it to be right and go around denouncing other people's religions, or lack there of, because they think they're right. I'm not going to debate the authenticity of the stories of the Bible, because whether or not any of the things that happened in primarily the New Testament, because that's the part that one really needs to look at if they are in fact a Christian of any kind, there are still the valuable teaching. Teaching like helping others, solidarity with the poor and needy, forgiveness, and above all, love for one another. I know that many have failed to live up to that, but that doesn't mean that it should be discarded; it means that we're a) human, b) fail, and c)have to keep trying to be better than we are now. Just because there's people out there that like to believe in Jesus as being some kind of superhero here to save people and forget the fact that he was a man with specific teaching to follow, doesn't mean that you have free reign to criticize because some of us, many more than you might want to give credit to, don't act in a ridiculous manner as portrayed in articles here. Even if there is no God, I would still live my life by the teachings, and that's what being a Christian really means.
    1 John 2:4-6
    “If someone claims, “I know him well!” but doesn’t keep his commandments, he’s obviously a liar. His life doesn’t match his words. But the one who keeps God’s word is the person in whom we see God’s mature love. This is the only way to be sure we’re in God. Anyone who claims to be intimate with God ought to live the same kind of life Jesus lived.”

    P.S. Sorry this was so long.

    May 18, 2011 at 7:31 pm |
  5. Timi*

    This is so ridiculous. True Christians do not believe this. I am a CHRISTIAN and I no not when God will call His people home. I feel it wont be long, but there is no day none to us. When God is ready I will be gone.

    May 18, 2011 at 7:31 pm |
  6. Anonymous

    WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE?????? Do you people know anything??? The world ends when the world ends!!! No one EXCEPT GOD knows when!! You people are soooooooooooooooooo empty headed!!!! The world WON'T end when we predict it!!! OMG!!! You people are retarded!!!

    May 18, 2011 at 7:31 pm |
    • Dennis

      I'm not sure God appreciates you using the term OMG. Something about using His name in vain.

      May 18, 2011 at 7:38 pm |
    • Anonymous

      I meant Gosh that's all

      May 18, 2011 at 9:15 pm |
  7. calihai

    NOW THIS IS THE PRACTICAL JOKE OF THE YEAR!!!:-) Funny that god works by time zones, I thought that people created the time zones. And why would god bother to mess with people anyway, nothing else to do?

    May 18, 2011 at 7:30 pm |
  8. Dr. B. Good...

    Some of these people are going to feel really stupid on May 22nd, others will make up lame excuses. I hope they didn't run up their credit cards!

    May 18, 2011 at 7:29 pm |
  9. ptd31

    anyone who believes the world will end Saturday should just kill themselves now...
    1... if the world is ending sat, what's a few more days?

    2... it spares us any further stupidity from you

    May 18, 2011 at 7:28 pm |
  10. Dennis

    The real question is, if there is some kind of "rapture" for these people, what does it matter if they're working or going on with their normal lives when it happens? Do the scriptures actually suggest that those who are looking for His coming have quit their jobs and given away or sold all their possessions?

    May 18, 2011 at 7:28 pm |
  11. Guest

    I wonder what these Christians and their Family Radio will say on May 22, 2011. Can you guys donate me all your wealth since you're not going to need it anymore?

    May 18, 2011 at 7:28 pm |
  12. Lee Oates

    You don't need religion to realize that we are committing species suicide by our pollution and destruction of the planet. I think that most people in the back of their minds know with some cetainty that things are going to get very bad in the near future. Any intelligent person can understand that:

    (1) The worlds population continues to rise and our resources are declining. Oil has peaked.
    (2) We have built an entire civilization on a non-renewable resource (oil), and failed to seriously consider building alternate, non-polluting energy sources.
    (3) We are polluting the planet's air, water, oceans, and lands to the point of ecolgical collapse. [The Gulf oil spill being a classic example, or the killing of forests and phytoplankton to the point were it will affect our oxygen levels, or Climate change resulting from our destructive behaviours].
    (4) Our governments are corrupt, controlled by corporate interests, and block serious change. [World-wide, not simply the US].
    (5) Our food sources are declining, creating hunger and civil unrest. [World-wide]
    (6) The unequal distribution of wealth resulting in a few very rich and massive poverty [World-wide].
    (7) Human behaviour itself is working against our survival, i.e., denying problems, prograstination and hope it will go away, and leave it up to a fairy-tale figure to resolve it all in some supernatural way. Above all, a high level of ignorance prevails, maintained by politics and religion.
    (8) We are slowly building up to a 3rd world war involving nuclear weapons, which could hasten our destruction.

    Is it any wonder that the human species is slowly going insane as it faces the consequences of their behavior. Its all just a matter of time. I'll give us anywhere between 10 to 50 years. You can expect many more doomsday predictions in the near future as people are forced by circustances to acknowledge a dawning reality. And, In typical fashion, we will do our best to kill the messangers of bad news.

    May 18, 2011 at 7:27 pm |
  13. cgold

    Wow, what a bummer! I'm gonna miss my Christian friends this weekend. But parking will be a lot easier, less traffic, no lines at the movies. I'm pretty sure as an atheist that this doesn't apply to me. What a price to pay for believing in fairy tales, I hope it was worth it for them.

    May 18, 2011 at 7:27 pm |
  14. GAW

    On our all star line-up we have Angry Atheists who have it all just about figured out, Fundamentalist Christians. Now when are the 9/11 truthers going to show up? I'm going to die laughing here.

    May 18, 2011 at 7:27 pm |
  15. angus frank

    Well this happened before a group thought that in 1800's, after they found out it was rubbish and the day never happened, 2 left the group1 got drunk and started the Jehovah witnesses the other started Mormonism. Wonder who these guys will split off and be? evaluation is great, pity we only live 80 years, we could realized religion is stupid like mother tarrisa said. but we can;t so we will always have religion and its idiots for a long time to come.

    May 18, 2011 at 7:27 pm |
    • Dennis

      Wow, having studied the histories of both Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormons, this statement of yours is blatantly false. Sad, very sad.

      May 18, 2011 at 7:34 pm |
  16. dan k

    GREAT story – have any of you guys read the Family Radio people's website. WOW – if you do not know what the words CIRCULAR REASONING mean go there for a prime example. In the interest of full disclosure I AM an Agnostic leaning heavily towards moving to Atheism so it is all bunk to me really but I am also a fairly well read and, although by no means the brightest bulb in the box, pretty well educated and capable of listening to other points of view, processing that information and presenting my views (pro or con) in response. The gentleman that runs this group of folks has, at least once before, tried this drivel and his excuse for why it did not happen as he said then was OOPS, MATH ERROR. Yet, he finds more followers and will again when this does not happen and this latest group leaves him. At that point you cannot reason with folks like these. They believe what they believe IN SPITE of the facts not because of them. The "literal readers" of the work of FICTION called the BIBLE conveniently ignore the fact that it is a book that has been (i) heavily edited, (ii) translated hundreds, if not thousands, of times over the last couple a' thousand years and (iii) was "written" by folks over at least hundreds of years and at least hundreds of years AFTER the events it attempts to describe. I will admit – I have read a good portion of this book and it is a pretty good group of stories (some very likely based in truth, others complete fabrications) but that is ALL it is. Literal reading is impossible unless you can find the first version ever written in its original language, unedited or changed for convenience (King James Bible for example was written with the sole purpose of giving illiterate and uneducated folks an opportunity to join the fun. In simple terms, it was DUMBED DOWN TO THE LOWEST COMMON FACTOR TO SPREAD THE “WORD”). Even THEN it is still a work of fiction, edited by humans for readability as well as content (how many “lost books of the Bible” were left out on the whim of the “church” who was threatened by them?????????) Since this is likely boring folks I will not start on the Church (capital C, not lowercase C)!!!!!! My 2 cents is all – for what it is worth.

    May 18, 2011 at 7:26 pm |
  17. LeonBrown

    "no one knows the day or hour when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the Son himself. Only the Father knows. Matthew 24:36" but he said you will see signs so that means dont periodic that day is may 21 you even have people saying that it was suppose to be last week the 14 . he saying so when he do come be ready

    May 18, 2011 at 7:25 pm |
  18. Adam

    Superman would win Spiderman.. are you guys kidding me?

    May 18, 2011 at 7:25 pm |
  19. john

    People keep saying the second coming is a flood. Did the bible not say god would never again flood the earth?

    May 18, 2011 at 7:25 pm |
  20. CharlieSeattle

    Interesting rant. It fails on one point...

    There is no God.

    The only Heaven and Hell we will ever see is what we make for each other, on this Earth, here and now. Mostly been Hell so far.

    Remember, In the begining, Man created God.

    May 18, 2011 at 7:25 pm |
    • Dennis

      Then why are you on CNN's Belief Blog?

      May 18, 2011 at 7:30 pm |
    • LeonBrown

      im with dennis i would like to too lol

      May 18, 2011 at 7:40 pm |
    • LeonBrown

      im with dennis i would like to know too lol (correction)

      May 18, 2011 at 7:41 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.