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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. yanni

    idiots! Must be they can't–or don't–read.

    May 18, 2011 at 11:25 am |
  2. JM Smith

    An open letter to Harold Camping's followers:

    http://jmsmith.org/blog/harold-camping

    May 18, 2011 at 11:25 am |
  3. Jim

    This just shows what type of society we really live in.

    May 18, 2011 at 11:25 am |
  4. jon doe

    im goin on a cruise on sunday,cant this crap wait till like.....after i get back

    May 18, 2011 at 11:24 am |
  5. Mike

    Turn the clock back to 1975 when the Jehovah's Witnesses said the end was coming that very year. People sold their homes, quit their jobs, left non-believing family....and what happened? NOTHING! I ws one of those kids, only 12 back in '75, when my JW parents told me God's hand was coming to wipe out all the bad. The mental abuse I went through was very 'un-Godly' and I believe many of these kids now are going through the same thing. All it's going to take is one quake somewhere in the world on Saturday and all hell is going to break loose. It's fine to have you beliefes but it is not fine to push them on the young and everyone else. On Saturday, I wil be down the shore waiting for hog dog and a coke...not the end of the world.

    May 18, 2011 at 11:23 am |
  6. AceRyder

    Damn – Saturday is normally the day I sleep in.

    May 18, 2011 at 11:23 am |
  7. Shamrock6

    At best Harold Camping is deeply, deeply disturbed. At worst he is severly mentally ill and possibly has dementia and or Alzheimers. Either way, when next week comes and absolutely nothing has occurred he should be taken and put into a home where he can relax and try to enjoy his final days. He should no longer be allowed to speak to anyone regarding this garbage. I feel badly for everyone that he has negatively affected and if anyone harms themselves over this he should be held responsible.

    May 18, 2011 at 11:23 am |
  8. historyteacher

    Looks like I wont have to grade my finals now! EVERYONE GETS AN A!!!!

    May 18, 2011 at 11:23 am |
  9. Chuck

    OH MY!!! What an incredible GOD that will torture his beings unmentionable tortures. What happen to the loving, forgiving GOD I remember? I guess he changed his mind and only right wing christian nutjobs are part of his flock. Lucky for them to all spend an eternity together in the largest Psychiatric exile.

    May 18, 2011 at 11:23 am |
    • Twowheeljunkie

      Jesus is fine, it's his fan club I could do without. These people at the top of that list.

      May 18, 2011 at 12:18 pm |
  10. Looting pary this sat at Camping's Mansion

    regardless of whether the rapture happens or not, I say we clean out harold campings House. I hear he's worth several million... I hope someone starts a class action suit to represent all the people he's snowed on this one...

    May 18, 2011 at 11:23 am |
    • DLinDC

      Anybody got this clown's address ????

      May 18, 2011 at 11:28 am |
  11. George

    Someone has obviously made money off of this nonsense, and a bunch of people have lost money on it, but I can't find it in myself to feel compassion for the critically stupid.

    May 18, 2011 at 11:21 am |
  12. Chris

    With the way things are going and the amount of dumb people. I hope the world does end on Saturday. Better yet I hope I just dont wake up Saturday morning.

    May 18, 2011 at 11:21 am |
    • jude

      Chris – I'll bet there are more people than you can imagine who would be heartbroken to lose you. If this really is the way you feel, and not just something you typed in in a moment's anger, please ask for help.

      May 18, 2011 at 11:35 am |
  13. working

    I'm pretty sure the bible is clear about only God Himself knows the end of time. I'm also pretty sure that the Bible was written by men through God. In addition to that, the Bible made it clear that even Jesus Himself doesn't know that day that the end will come. Well I guess those who think doomsday is a specific day are smarter than Jesus and God told them only to tell the world. I'm pretty sure I'll be cleaning my yard and home on Saturday and as it turns into Sunday I'll be headed to church in the morrning. This is why people laugh at Christianity. There are soo many extremeists that just cause a laughing stock. God forgive them.

    May 18, 2011 at 11:21 am |
    • George

      You are "pretty sure"? That sounds like a shade of doubt hanging around there, so, off to hell you go !!

      May 18, 2011 at 11:23 am |
    • Free

      If Jesus himself doesn't even know then isn't that an argument against the trinity?

      May 18, 2011 at 11:34 am |
    • Blaqb0x

      If you are literate, then you are smarter than Jesus and God because there is not trace of either of them writing a single word of their own.

      May 18, 2011 at 12:04 pm |
  14. jo jo

    WATCH "Mayan compilation" on Youtube....

    youtube [. ] com/watch?v=ZVvhcUN-UGw

    May 18, 2011 at 11:21 am |
  15. tammy

    Crazy idiots

    May 18, 2011 at 11:21 am |
  16. George

    OH MY GOD !!! I BOUGHT GREEN BANANAS !!!

    May 18, 2011 at 11:20 am |
    • PirateJohn

      You win +1 innerwebz

      May 18, 2011 at 11:21 am |
  17. Brandi

    Not paying any bills this week..Going to party with my cash until 6pm saturday..

    May 18, 2011 at 11:20 am |
  18. gracie.butts

    It is sad that christians are saying this bad thing. Some people will do anything for attention to decieve others, instead of leading them to Chris, because the bible says that "No man can know the day or hour of Christ's return.
    STOP printing this type of information to the world.

    May 18, 2011 at 11:19 am |
    • Dee G.

      Who is Chris?

      May 18, 2011 at 11:26 am |
  19. auggdoug

    poor believers i have no word to you , so what are going to say after may 20?

    May 18, 2011 at 11:17 am |
    • Iya-lolla

      I'll be too busy looting your stuff.

      May 18, 2011 at 11:34 am |
  20. PGH STILLER FAN

    I`m not very religious but I also believe some 'powers that be' had to create that speck of dirt that expoloded in to a universe. So, if the powers that be is so kind and forgiving like all religions say he is then why would he bring so much pain and suffering to his human race like this group of people are saying is going to happen?

    May 18, 2011 at 11:17 am |
    • david

      This is a loaded question, but an vital one to pose. The God ppl speak of had to create an option (or choice between acceptance and refusal) Duet 30:15. If God didn't give you an opportunity to reject Him, you'd never have the ability to receive Him. It's up to us what choice we make, however there are effects for either decision. He'd rather you choose to receive Him, but He won't make you. If God IS love, we must understand love is a Choice, not an emotion... and because of that, it's in His inherent nature to present us with that choice. You can't force love, it's patient..... and so is He. just my opinion, but I have made the choice to believe it.

      May 18, 2011 at 11:38 am |
    • david

      by the way, I don't believe God is coming back like these other ppl are saying. When Jesus came the first time around, all the Church leaders at that time were wrong..... I have a feeling history is repeating itself.

      May 18, 2011 at 11:41 am |
    • Haha

      Like there is not enough suffering in this world already....

      May 18, 2011 at 11:43 am |
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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.