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. myklds

    @truth seeker...you said and I quote "I really wish you could open your eyes and see that creationism is a denial of science, and therefore a denial of reality."

    It never ceased to amuse me how people make their premise,then, immediately jump into conclusion and claim absolute.

    But the million dollar question is, who was established first, Religion or Science? Or to be more specific, the creationism (based on the book of Genesis) or Darwinism (based on the THEORY of evolution)?

    It's crucial to identify who was "estabished" first, coz it would be foolish to to deny a thing that haven't existed yet.

    You must prove that Darwinism was first established, prior to Creationism. Otherwise, you can advertise your ignorance likewise your arrogance somewhere else.

    You were seeking for the truth, yet sadly, you might have chose to find and hold the absolute lie.

    May 18, 2011 at 10:24 pm |
    • ihtfpaeoh

      Who cares which was established first? What does that prove? What a stupid argument.

      May 18, 2011 at 10:48 pm |
    • faithhope

      Learn to read using that bird's thing inside your cranium that you may find anwers to your questions.

      May 20, 2011 at 4:00 am |
    • hopiafeit

      "Who cares which was established first? What does that prove? What a stupid argument."

      Nope, it wasn't the argument but your questions

      May 20, 2011 at 4:05 am |
  2. tallulah13

    I love the random-distribution feature on the CNN comment sites. I wonder where this comment will end up.

    Also: those of you who are freaking out because the world will end before the Canucks can win the Stanley Cup: They'll never bet past the team coming out of the East anyway, so it may be a mercy.

    Point 3: My money is on Spidey. He's sneaky.

    May 18, 2011 at 10:24 pm |
  3. Sandbur

    They say it will all end at 6 p.m. on Saturday, May 21.
    But what time zone will that be?
    Don't want to miss CNN's coverage.

    May 18, 2011 at 10:23 pm |
  4. Seemoo

    Does this mean i wont get my paycheck Monday??

    May 18, 2011 at 10:21 pm |
  5. sigmundfreud

    Thank God I'm an atheist!

    May 18, 2011 at 10:21 pm |
  6. Dottie D.

    I'm Glad I read this. I won't have to clean my house this week after all.

    May 18, 2011 at 10:19 pm |
  7. Arcadia Steve

    Actually, May 22, 1844 is a very significant day in world religion. It is the day that marks the inception of the Baha'i Faith (6 million adherents worldwide). On that evening (the day before the first telegraph message – 'What hath God wrought?"), a young Persian man named The Bab (The Gate) received his first follower/disciple (17 more followed soon after, including one woman). In America in mid-1844, the Christian Millerites looked for the Return of Christ – their spiritual successors are now known as the Seventh-Day Adventists. There were similar Messianic expectations at that time in the Islamic world. The Baha'i explanation of "Judgement Day" is that time when a new Messenger of God (Jesus, Moses, Abraham, Mohammad, Krishna, Bufdha) is alive and dwelling among mankind, allowing receptive souls to physically meet and accept/reject the new Prophet. I have no doubt that a study of Biblical prophecy would flag this as an important date, it's just that most folks look at it from a Greek-theology or Euro-centric perspective.

    May 18, 2011 at 10:18 pm |
  8. SkyKIng

    It's really scary that mentally defective people like these people have the right to vote!

    May 18, 2011 at 10:18 pm |
  9. pleasep

    Everyone knows the world officially ended with Y2k. We're all in heaven/hell, we just don't know it.

    May 18, 2011 at 10:17 pm |
    • sigmundfreud

      You mean we're in the flash- sideways version of "Lost"?

      May 18, 2011 at 10:22 pm |
  10. Sari in Vegas

    Why is it that every time there's an end of the world scare, the supposed date is always during a school break?? Can't it be right before Finals Week instead? Seriously, I'm thinking back- Heaven's Gate was over Spring Break, Y2K obviously was during Winter Break, the whole Mayan thing is also supposed to be over Winter Break, this is a week or so into summer.. Perhaps the idea that people won't spend their last moments with their families is just too negative of a selling point for these garbage peddlers.

    May 18, 2011 at 10:16 pm |
  11. Paul

    I know the people that believe in this whole will end on may 21st are probably bananas. But does it give the right to the two reporters to laugh about it? Not ethical and not professional. I'll give them two thumbs down to their professionalism

    May 18, 2011 at 10:15 pm |
  12. GDBnNH

    Does anyone know what time this is supposed to occur? The liquor stores close at six PM up here and I want to be sure to stock up on gin and vermouth before Judgment Day. Fortunately, the grocery stores are open later for the olives.

    May 18, 2011 at 10:15 pm |
  13. Grace B

    Personally, I think the "Rapture" happened a long time ago. The world is now full of the ones that got left behind.

    May 18, 2011 at 10:15 pm |
  14. pleasep

    Donald Trump, Birthers, Apocolypse 2012, Doomsday May 2011...Why does CNN keep reporting this trash.

    May 18, 2011 at 10:15 pm |
  15. Daniel

    Can I have ur stuff?

    May 18, 2011 at 10:13 pm |
  16. rinsac

    I'm so looking forward to your departure! The world will be a better place!

    May 18, 2011 at 10:13 pm |
    • ihtfpaeoh


      May 18, 2011 at 10:43 pm |
  17. Horus

    I can't believe people actually believe this nonsense. Religion can't be believed by a thinking person.

    May 18, 2011 at 10:13 pm |
    • Kent

      I guess then you didn't vote this election because both candidates professed their love for christianity and God

      May 18, 2011 at 10:30 pm |
  18. PentecostalTexan

    The Bible says that no man knows the day nor the hour only God. I believe the Lord Jesus will return in the rapture but it will come as the Bible says as a thief in the night. there will be no warning, those who are ready and right with God will be gone in the twinkling of an eye and there will be no hope for those who remain. all these people on this article above just assure me that the Lord wont return on May 21 or October 21!

    May 18, 2011 at 10:13 pm |
    • Paul

      Amen. That's what the Bible says, if I am not wrong, not even Angels know when this day is going to be. Correct me if I am wrong.

      May 18, 2011 at 10:17 pm |
    • Lisabeth

      You two are both very correct. I'm 23 and have been raised in church my entire life and the rapture has always been what fascinates me the most. Especially Revelations as a whole. I just wonder why I the world someone truly believes the Lord is coming back Saturday if they honestly READ the bible?? It says plain as day we won't know nor will the Angels. I just hope these people are truly prepared for WHENEVER our Lord comes because it makes me worry for these people if they think theyre above what God has spoken, then how truly sure are they that their name is in the Lambs Book of Life? I'm not passing judgement, it's just hard to believe if you're truly saved that you wouldnt go by/know the main things like that, that the Lord has made clear.

      May 18, 2011 at 10:48 pm |
  19. Kristi J

    I just hope this rapture thing waits until after the running of the Preakness at 5:04pm EST.

    May 18, 2011 at 10:12 pm |
  20. Science Prevails

    This stuff is just the rantings of warped minds. I think it is time for all the world as a people to finally decide what to do with the disease of religion. I hope that someday we decide that it has no place in a sane world.

    May 18, 2011 at 10:04 pm |
    • Jos

      I totally agree, when this "Doomsday" is finally over with and the world is still unchanged and everyone is still alive, than I think people should really start questioning religion. Religion is just based on some thoughts people had thousands of years ago before science was even a thought, so their is absolutely no proof except a book created by primitive people that no one seems to question because people in higher authority decide this is what happened just because people above them said so as well. This has continued for so many generations which makes it so popular in our world.

      May 18, 2011 at 10:35 pm |
    • BRYANT

      Man needs faith, its been with us since we lived in caves, performing rituals. We see a God above us cause we as humans look for a supreme being a god that controls everything and it opens our minds and doesn't have any laws or limits like science. Its something very diffucult to explain and i know i can't convince anyone how imporrtant faith (to God) is, but i can say it does miracles.

      May 18, 2011 at 10:37 pm |
    • John B.

      Given that the vast majority of religious people think Harold Camping is a loony, your wishes won't go very far.

      May 19, 2011 at 12:58 am |
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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.