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. Wipe0ut

    CNN Trivia

    Q: What make Atheist a dolt?

    A: They "firmly" believe in their unbelief.


    May 19, 2011 at 12:25 am |
    • Observer

      A recent poll/survey showed that the average atheist and average agnostic know more about the Bible than the average Christian and have a higher education. What were you saying about "dolts"?

      May 19, 2011 at 12:34 am |
    • DMC

      "mysticism is for people who can't do the math" Stephen Hawkings.

      May 19, 2011 at 1:50 pm |
  2. rgvg

    I know jesus is real-don't care if you don't agree –and There will someday be a rapture, I DONT think its coming saturday, but stop all the mudsliggin' for a sec and think about this-What if they are right?! scary thought, eternal damnation dosn't sound like a good time to me. I'm about to get blasted here I'm sure but I think I'll spend a few more min. friday night fessin' up the dumb crap I've done lately. If i'm still here saturday which we will prob be I'm not the worse for it If It hits the fan then... There's an old saying you have heard I'm sure- better safe than sorry–maybe that should of read better saved than... :p

    May 19, 2011 at 12:23 am |
  3. Wipe0ut

    CNN Trivia:

    Q: Why Atheists tend to act brave behind their computers?

    A: Because they didn't have the balls to be in the foxholes.


    May 19, 2011 at 12:23 am |
    • Observer

      Glad you find your own "joke" funny because it's so totally factless.

      May 19, 2011 at 12:27 am |
    • Faux Paws

      You should check, I think there's a pill for that.

      May 19, 2011 at 1:53 am |
  4. wruss

    really? OMG run for cover the world is going to end for the upteenth time. Why do we even entertain these people. Let the world end just knock these people of it and leave the rest of us to live in peace without them. Give me a break

    May 19, 2011 at 12:22 am |
  5. Reality

    As per Family Stations' IRS Form 990, Camping is paid no salary. There, however, is a "loan" to party X for $175,000 noted on the 2009 Form 990. The 2008 Form 990 was sent back to Family Stations because of many errors. Looks like Camping false prophecies extend to his dealings with the IRS!!! It also appears that Family Stations/Camping uses a lot of the money they/(Camping) receive in donations for investments in the the stock and bond market. "Non-profits" do not pay taxes on dividends, interest or capital gains. Another dodge by Camping to cheat the IRS and the US taxpayers?

    What else do we know:

    1. The Sun will burn out in 3-5 billion years so we have a time frame.

    2. Asteroids continue to whiz by us daily.

    3. One large hit and it is all over in a blast of permanent winter.

    4. There are enough nuclear weapons to do the same job.

    5. Most contemporary NT exegetes do not believe in the Second Coming so apparently there is no concern about JC coming back on an asteroid or cloud of raptors/rapture.

    Bottom line: our apocalypse will start between now and 3-5 billion CE.

    May 19, 2011 at 12:21 am |
  6. 12-21-12

    Everyone knows 12-21-12 is coming, so live everyday as if it's your last!

    May 19, 2011 at 12:20 am |
    • 12-21-12

      You guys are premature...hope this isn't happening to your girl!!!

      May 19, 2011 at 12:22 am |
  7. Mark H

    All I can say is who is the person responsible for this nonsense? I am a Christian myself, and this chicken little nonsense too will pass anyone read a Bible ought to know no one has a clue when Christ will return, also there are Bible Websites on the net. and believe me there will indeed more misconceptions of this and that.

    I will be at work and go home and life will still go on, just chalk it up as the day it will not happen, paranoid no absolutely not, besides when it happens you will be the first to know!

    Enjoy life however find a good Bible Based Church and get some real answers.

    May 19, 2011 at 12:19 am |
  8. ru kidding me?

    Does this truly mean..... the Oakland Raiders are moving back to Los Angeles....AGAIN LOL

    May 19, 2011 at 12:19 am |
  9. Joe the atheist

    This is very scary that we are giving media time to those idiots and morons.

    May 19, 2011 at 12:18 am |
  10. lisa

    NOT TRUE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    May 19, 2011 at 12:18 am |
  11. wruss

    Really, OMG take cover the world is going to end again for the upteenth time. Give me a break. Why do we even entertain these people. Really the world needs to end anyways just when it does eliminte these people and leave the rest so we all can live in peace without them.

    May 19, 2011 at 12:18 am |
  12. rebecca

    OKAY, I would LOVE to believe this because it's 2 more days till 'Dooms Day', but if it were to come true, why hasn't my country and Asian countries heard about this. And an the skeptic side, what if it doesn't happen?

    May 19, 2011 at 12:17 am |
  13. Bart Brown

    Anybody know how this will affect my Social Security?

    May 19, 2011 at 12:16 am |
    • Dave

      Your screwed.... but then you were going to be screwed anyway....

      May 19, 2011 at 12:22 am |
  14. lazeroo7

    read Matthew's capter 24..all of it ..its all i have to say. 😉

    May 19, 2011 at 12:14 am |

    Dave i will be praying for you! and DMC maybe you be like Saul of Tarsus and the lord will come into your life and lead you down the path of righteousness

    May 19, 2011 at 12:14 am |
  16. AreWeThereYet

    Seriously, folks, if the world ends on Saturday, I will be THRILLED because then I'll no longer have to worry about how I'm going to pay my bills, or drag my ass out of bed 5 days a week to go to a job I hate, or endure the sunless existence in this God-forsaken land they call Wisconsin.

    May 19, 2011 at 12:09 am |
  17. Ben LaBédaine

    See you next wednesday.

    May 19, 2011 at 12:09 am |
  18. GARYDE

    and folks really believe this crapola?

    May 19, 2011 at 12:09 am |
  19. Lawrence Namale

    lets talk on Sunday.

    May 19, 2011 at 12:06 am |
  20. Jean

    Why do I sense that some people want and/or need the world to end and some seem even a bit gleeful that fellow human beings should be left behind to suffer torment? It just seems rather unChristian. It sounds more like the spiteful, taunting things that children say to each other. "Father loves me more." "Father is going to take me to live with him forever, but he's not going to take you." "Father is going to punish you when he gets home."

    May 19, 2011 at 12:02 am |
    • God Illusion

      You sense it because you are correct. Religion is rife with sanctimonious, arrogant, prideful idiots.

      May 19, 2011 at 12:06 am |
    • 12-21-12

      We are stupid! God is smart! If a religious person opens it's mouth...DON'T BELIEVE IT!

      May 19, 2011 at 12:25 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.