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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. Stephanie B.

    Omqqee' the world ihs nevr qonna end okay...Tha only thinq u quys r doinq rite now ihs scarinq other ppl too' death &' tht ihs not right at all !!!!!!! So all u juss need too' stop this nonsence!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Stop sayin tha world ihs gonna end ! IHTZ NOT TRUE!!~!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 😡

    May 18, 2011 at 8:35 pm |
  2. ShiniBaby

    Why is everyone always so focused on dying all the time? I understand that human beings are always driven towards the question of "the other side" or "life after death," but why are we focusing so much time and enegy on dying. This may not be the perfect world, but we were all given the gift of life. Lets do something POSITIVE. The books of creation and revelation are are STORIES, they are PARABLES. There are many wonderful lessions that can be absorbed from these books, but they are not to be taken literally. Instead of focusing all of this negative energy on the end of the world, why don't we focus on the more positive side of the bible/torah/koran. Living a good, just life.

    We don't need the rapture to see God. Every breath of life around us is a miracle, and we should cherish as much as we can until we are called to permanently rest.....whenever that time is.

    May 18, 2011 at 8:32 pm |
  3. jbirdjess

    It clearly says in 1 Thessalonians 5 that we will not be able to predict the end of the world.

    http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1+Thessalonians+5&version=NIV

    May 18, 2011 at 8:21 pm |
  4. Rabbi Malachi

    "Reached at a motor home park in Providence, Rhode Island, Store spoke of the surge of support...."

    The motor home park says it all....end of discussion.

    May 18, 2011 at 8:19 pm |
  5. Ryan

    I do not believe this AT all....the bible says that no one knows the time or date of his arrival, or the rapture...he will come like a thief in the night, when nobody expects it. Harold Camping was on Family Radio....when he predicted that Christ may come back in 1994 between September 15th-17th, its a load of crap to make money on the books they are writing (look up the book "1994" by Harold Camping) you will see he is full of it. I was 13 years old in 1994, I listened to family radio because I loved eschatology and wanted to learn more, Harold Camping and Family Radio scared me as a 13 year old boy to the point of tears with what he said was going to happen. I am waiting for Christ to return, and will patiently wait, not listen to when people "Believe" it will happen

    May 18, 2011 at 8:17 pm |
  6. Shinibaby02

    Shouldn't we all be focusing on living instead of dying? As human beings we are naturally drawn toward the mystery of "the other side" after we die, but shouldn't we make the best of things while we are ALIVE. The story of creation and the book of revelation are PARABLES. There are very valuable lessons in both books, but they are NOT to be taken litterly. I've heard so many rabbis, priests, ministers and so called prophets predict the end of the world for decades. We are still here. There are too many lessons in the bible/torah/koran to focus on the negative all the time. Stay positive and remember that we don't need a rapture to see God. Every breath of life around us is a miracle.

    May 18, 2011 at 8:16 pm |
  7. Leslie

    Jessica,
    Congrats on your " fair and balanced reporting.
    Not all Christians are not extremists. Clearly Mr. Store is in the minority. But you failed to interview credible Christians who believe the Bible, that one day UNKNOWN to man, the world will end.
    You also failed to deliver a non biased view of the interpretation of the book of Revelations.
    While I am disappointed in Mr. Store's extremist view, I am, as a journalist,, equally as disapponyef in your one sided report. I expect more out of CNN. And frankly, I expect more balanced reporting from a Jewish reporter (I suspect) than what you delivered.

    May 18, 2011 at 8:14 pm |
  8. TruthSeeker

    So what happens when the 22 of May comes and the world still looks the same? Are they just going to predict another date? When will human beings break free from the chains that bind us to irrational and illogical thinking? Why on earth would any sane person believe a dooms day prediction from a 2000 year old book written by desert wanderers who thought the world was flat and that the sun revolved around the earth? When will humanity open their eyes and move on to better things? We are capable of great things and yet we cling on to prophesies from the bronze age made by people who thought diseases and earthquakes were curses from god. I wish we could all just start using our brains to think.

    May 18, 2011 at 8:12 pm |
    • Johnny C.

      I think its kind of funny how you say that it's illogical because im absolutely positively sure that there is no "scientific" evidence that people came from creation. if you get your information from a discovery channel show then you're an idiot considering there are so many gaps that they cannot explain.

      May 18, 2011 at 8:27 pm |
  9. FORMAT1998

    There was a man who thought the world would end this week.........DUMB DUMB DUMB DUMB DUUUUUMB -South Park

    May 18, 2011 at 8:08 pm |
  10. GenocydeHPW

    Well if anyone wants to give away all of their money and personal possessions, i will be more than happy to take them.....so that on Monday morning while your flat broke, at least i will be in "rapture". Damn glad to be Pagan.

    May 18, 2011 at 7:57 pm |
    • Johnny C.

      Sunday morning **

      May 18, 2011 at 8:23 pm |
  11. Steveeeee

    Im 16 years old. Lets all just come to an agreement if the world doesnt end this saturday lets all grow up and make our world a better place by educating third world countries. If it does end i would first like to point out that thank you all who screwed up my chances of living my life. It has to come to an end now bcuz ppl say its gonna be? No Thank You ill leave that up to my father, God. even if he doesnt exist. I still have something im always looking forward to; eternal happiness. I don't go to church because its boring as poo i dnt need someone telling me about God.. I know who God is and as long as i think about him once a day and try to make my life and others a better place then he should accept me. Just as we all need to accept eachother and their beliefs, thts why there's a war, it is because no one can get over the fact that other have their own beliefs and we center our determination around greed and the wealthy seperate themselves from the poor. World peace is inevitable, but whatever we can do to make someones life more worthwhile i think we should jump at the chance. Im just sick of all the sadness :(.

    May 18, 2011 at 7:52 pm |
    • life to live

      God bless you steve. me and you are on the same page here. im 16 too, and im so tried of people tearing down my hopes for a future. i want to grow up and do things but people are just so negative about it. I hate it the most when people talk about 20 yrs from now and then the next minute they laugh and tell me that im not gunna graduate becuz the world will end. what sense does that make????? i commend you for you thoughts! good looking out.

      May 18, 2011 at 7:59 pm |
    • Mel

      I hear ya. im a little but older then you. about 18 and i feel like the world is ending everyday. Like something else is going to happen that we have to look out for. we get this thrown in our faces and so quicly i feel like my world was taken from me. In matt. it says that not even the son knows.. so why would god allow these people too? i dont know why these people are telling everyone its going to end. Also the whole 2012 thing is scary too. I feel like once we get passed this i can feel free.. and i want to help so many people too. you are an amazing person with true ambitions.

      May 18, 2011 at 8:26 pm |
  12. jc

    On Sunday, can we finally put the bible under fiction?

    May 18, 2011 at 7:50 pm |
    • mark

      I think it should have been there already, I mean it truly is the greatest book of fiction ever written... but, in all due honesty, if Jesus comes back on Saturday, he better stop at my house for beers and a steak dinner, after which, I'll kick his lilly white butt and tell him to stop getting the religious sheep all riled up...

      May 18, 2011 at 8:21 pm |
  13. BOB

    Jesus said in Matthew 24:36 – no man knows the day nor the hour, not even the angels, no even the Son (jesus) doesnt know, only the Father knows

    May 18, 2011 at 7:50 pm |
  14. Deckard

    I don't know about all of you guys but, I really am starting to believe this stuff.
    ha, bartle doo

    May 18, 2011 at 7:50 pm |
    • life to live

      pls dont believe it. they are false. no one knows but God. Put your trust in him and not the mouth of lying attention seeking men, who use the name of God in vain.

      May 18, 2011 at 7:55 pm |
  15. Fritz Snickle

    I hope the rapture takes me before the IRS does

    May 18, 2011 at 7:48 pm |
  16. Fritz Snickle

    I like the little naughty bits
    tasty

    May 18, 2011 at 7:47 pm |
  17. Dee

    I can't find my phone, can someone call me before it all ends, just so i can talk on my phone for one last time !

    May 18, 2011 at 7:46 pm |
  18. Fritz Snickle

    Good Lord, please, oh please, most wise and omnipotent ruler of the kingdom of Heaven......we beseech thee in thy own holy name to take all the crackpot lunatics with you to thine holy bosom, release them from this mundane existence we heathens call reality.......please?

    May 18, 2011 at 7:45 pm |
  19. One of the Few

    It is a sad thing to see so many people caught up by this 90 yr old confused man. I am a believer (christian), but I do not believe that the world will end this Saturday...can it...only God knows. This group of individuals do not represet=nt the Kingdom of God...they speak what the word calls a False Teaching...so all who are following his foolish man...please seek God & not man!

    May 18, 2011 at 7:44 pm |
    • Rob

      But you do believe the rapture will come at some time, right? If so, there really isn't much of a difference between you and the confused old man. You both believe an imaginary man in the sky is going to end the world, he just gives a specific time. So any Christian that thinks Camping is crazy, but still believes the world will end in rapture, needs to look at their own beliefs and see how crazy they are.

      May 18, 2011 at 7:59 pm |
    • Johnny C.

      I think its funny that there are even faithless people looking at this. If there isn't a God, why bother reading? I do agree that there will be a rapture someday, but not Saturday. This person has some faith inside of him because he DID read what they had to say. I do pray for the people of today's society to change their ways. It's going to be a DAMN shame when they find out they were wrong.

      May 18, 2011 at 8:19 pm |
    • Rob

      Nope no faith here. I'm just reading the article to get a good laugh. Looking forward May 22 to hear of all of the excuses from Camping and his followers on why he was wrong. Although I do find it a little sad that a bunch of people gave away all of their belongs, quit their jobs, etc. to follow these crazy beliefs.

      Let me ask you something, have you ever had a little doubt in your religion? That doubt is reality speaking.... You should listen to it.

      May 18, 2011 at 8:25 pm |
    • Samantha

      i my be "faithless" as you call it, but it doesnt help to keep an open mind, i dont have a religion but that doesnt mean i cant interest myself in the religion of others

      and yeah i also wanna see whats gonna happen saturday while these guys are waiting to "go up to heaven" meanwhile the rest of us our down here having an actually life on a saturday night. which do u choose?

      May 18, 2011 at 8:33 pm |
    • Johnny C.

      nope never had a doubt. have an experience like me and we can talk. i believe that people that believe the rapture is this weekend are making fools of themselves considering that only God knows. haven't you noticed all the negativity around you? that is predicted, the devil is making his voice heard in this day and age with all the non believes, gays, and everything the bible said not to do. all this stuff is suddenly popular. maybe you have to big of a reputation to believe in a god, you're too cool for him have fun while you're burning

      May 18, 2011 at 8:37 pm |
  20. Twinship

    "I Don't Have Enough Faith To Be An Atheist" by Norman L Geisler and Frank Turek is an outstanding scientific look at creation (again, based on science). It's extremely profound and very interesting for anyone that wonders where we came from or where the universe came from. Regarding Christ: I would much rather live like there is a God/Savior and find out there isn't than to live like there isn't and find out there is!

    May 18, 2011 at 7:43 pm |
    • Peacemaker

      Well said. I agree.

      May 18, 2011 at 7:54 pm |
    • TruthSeeker

      Wow. You creationists all sound the same. It's like you get your stuff from a common source.....oh wait, you do. I really wish you could open your eyes and see that creationism is a denial of science, and therefore a denial of reality. You say you would rather live like there is a savior just in case he exists. Well what if the savior you bet on was the wrong one? What if Allah was the real god? Or what if Vishnu or Thor or Zeus was the right savior and you worshiped Jesus instead? What makes you think you have the right savior? And please don't say your faith. Your logic is really really flawed, but unfortunately only people outside the cage of religion can see that.

      May 18, 2011 at 8:01 pm |
    • David

      Why not live your life as a good person because it is the right thing to do not because you're doing it "just in case" you're worried to find out-yeah there is a God?

      May 18, 2011 at 8:26 pm |
    • Atheist

      EVERYONE WHO HAS PETS LOOK AT THIS! For a small $10 fee I will come to your place after the rapture and take care of your pet and feed him/her. At the very least I will let them out so they won't die a slow and painful death from starvation. Seriously it is a great deal!! Only operating in the Texas – Fl. southern states. I'm a dedicated athiest and will not go to your heaven after the end so..... offers are starting....now. There is a no return money rule as well. 😀

      May 18, 2011 at 8:47 pm |
    • prilyam

      Christian "just in case" is a pretty lame rationalization. Either believe wholeheartedly or chuck it.

      May 18, 2011 at 9:06 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.