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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. Chris

    Why is it so hard for people to understand that when you die, you go back to the same state of existance you were before you were born! It's very simple!

    When you die, you cease to exist, just like you didn't exist before you were born! It's that simple people!

    I love life and would like to live on after I die, but I understand it's not going to happen, I'm just lucky to be here in the first place. Why is this not enough for some people?

    Religion is going to be our downfall if we don't rid ourselves of this nonsense! We must conserve our resources, we must protect this place for future generations, this planet is our home and no magical being in the sky can come save us!

    This is it fellas!

    May 18, 2011 at 10:39 pm |
  2. Santa Claus

    Catholic, Protestant, Islamic, Jewish, whatever, you are no better than the crazies holding their breaths May 21st. It's called mass delusion, group think, and drinking the kool-aid. There is no god. Your life is precious, live it, and stop following diluted, hearsay written thousands of years ago by people taking drugs in the desert.

    May 18, 2011 at 10:37 pm |
  3. John from to future

    May 22 looks nice...rainy but we live

    May 18, 2011 at 10:36 pm |
  4. Falkentyne

    Going to say this before it gets lost in the spam wave (was a reply to another person's message about "Satan owning the Church.")

    I think you just proved that Satan (if he/it exists) DOES run the Church. I had experiences when I was a kid, that proved that these "Pastors" that claim to be blessed by the "Holy Spirit" are not blessed at all. Perfect example: I used to play a game called "The Bard's Tale," and my mom and this pastor at my youth group both said that this game was Satanic and that anything having to do with wizards, dragons, warriors, any kind of magic, is satanic. I was even given a phamplet a few years later called "Dungeons and dragons: the cataclysm of the new age" or something, and they tried to defend Lord of the Rings, as literature, while claiming all other fantasy books were evil. They claimed that all the wizards in LOTR were evil, and since all the wizards are bad guys, this book can still be accepted by Christians. Obviously NONE of those low IQ bandwagoners even READ the books (I did a critical analysis of the LOTR series in 12th grade for my English class). Not only were some of the themes/events in LOTR very loosely based on some Christianity ideals, as well as World War strife (Gandalf's resurrection, the state of the world, and some precursor events described in The Silmarillion, etc), but they omitted that Gandalf, one of the protagonists, was a WIZARD, too. And one of the good guys! Oh noes! And what about Radagast? But the big clincher came many years later, when I found out that the programmer of that "Satatic" game, Bard's Tale, was a born again Christian and an evangelist! And many themes in the game were directly based on Christianity, including some of the puzzles! Now, if this "Holy Spirit" were REAL and deeply rooted in the Church, you would think that it would STOP Christians from calling other Christians Satanic, now wouldn't you??

    In the end, while I DO believe we were created by SOMETHING, and life and the universe didn't just come about randomly, by accident (DNA is just TOO incredible to have been a RANDOM collection that just happened to come together the corerct way), I do NOT know if that Creator is/was indeed the Christian God/Muslim God or anything. Maybe the North American Indians knew more than we did about the "Great Spirit." Heck, what about the Nazca Lines? And why did the Pyramids of MesoAmerica and Egypt all date to around the same time period? Oh well, maybe someday we'll have the answers...

    May 18, 2011 at 10:36 pm |
  5. Sofia Auctor

    Wow... Can't wait to see Monday's interview...

    May 18, 2011 at 10:36 pm |
  6. daniel

    no one knows when the world will end only God will know when it ends. how could this man know, when not even Jesus knows? i'm sure these people are good Christians but i am sure that this could be blaspheme of a degree the earth has never known

    May 18, 2011 at 10:35 pm |
  7. Daniel

    I smell a distraction from the NWO.

    May 18, 2011 at 10:34 pm |
  8. Blake

    end of the world? that means I dont have to go to work!

    May 18, 2011 at 10:33 pm |
  9. Dale

    Wooot I'm gonna spend all my money on crap.....then sue these people when it doesn't happen

    May 18, 2011 at 10:33 pm |
  10. Casual Observer

    Regardless of the story, the reporters in the video need to show a little more professionalism – they are news reporters, not at a slumber party. Let's be professional out there – regardless of how "unique" the story may be.

    May 18, 2011 at 10:32 pm |
  11. A Special Little Sunbeam

    Most people get cake and ice cream on their birthdays. I get the Judgement Day... If, of course, these crazy people are correct. I suppose we will just have to wait and see, yes? For everyone else born on May 21st, or October 21st, we really are special little sunbeams, aren't we...

    May 18, 2011 at 10:32 pm |
  12. Capt Huffnpuff

    i can't say much is going to change in my life between now and the 21st, so party on dude!

    May 18, 2011 at 10:29 pm |
  13. mervyn

    I just want to be part of 4600 comments. Shazam.

    May 18, 2011 at 10:28 pm |
  14. jimzcarz

    Don't drink the Kool-Aid

    May 18, 2011 at 10:28 pm |
  15. Bob

    Some say the end is near. Some say we'll see armageddon soon. I certainly hope we will. I sure could use a vacation from this BS three ring circus sideshow of freaks!

    May 18, 2011 at 10:27 pm |
    • B-man

      Woo Hoo!

      May 18, 2011 at 10:36 pm |
  16. Peaceman

    Can't we all just get along?

    May 18, 2011 at 10:27 pm |
  17. Expat in Singapore

    Idiots....

    May 18, 2011 at 10:27 pm |
  18. kiki

    the way i see it is our lord made this world and the only one who knows when it will be over people need to be right with god thank him for your blessings and the blessing you have got or didnt get our jesus christ died on the cross for our sins no ones perfect

    May 18, 2011 at 10:26 pm |
    • marrod

      Your comment is right on. Only God knows when he will call us. Hopefully this will not be another Guyana tragedy.

      May 18, 2011 at 10:44 pm |
  19. joemama

    I hope it's true because my car insurance is due shortly afterward.

    May 18, 2011 at 10:25 pm |
  20. sangko

    Won't he be going to hell when he dies (regardless of May 21st bs)? False-prophesying?

    May 18, 2011 at 10:25 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.