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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. jessica

    so what are you believers going to do after nothing happens? poor people. quitting their jobs? they will regret it later. wonder how religious they will be when it is just another day?

    May 18, 2011 at 11:31 am |
    • Lettuce Prey

      They'll regret quitting their jobs, but we taxpayers will regret it even more when they receive unemployment benefits on our dime. Don't you wish there was a law stating something like "if you quit your job because you believe in a fairy story, you will not be elegible for unemployment benefits nor any type of public assistance" ??

      May 18, 2011 at 11:39 am |
    • Free

      Yeah, just try asking for your job back with this as an excuse!

      May 18, 2011 at 11:41 am |
    • David M

      @LettucePray: They will not get unemployment benefits. They quite their jobs. They were not laid off. If you quit, you get no benefits. They're on their own.

      May 18, 2011 at 11:42 am |
    • JeepDude

      You don't get unemployment benefits for quitting – you have to be laid off or fired.

      May 18, 2011 at 11:44 am |
    • Kyle

      Lettuce: I don't know where you live, but in every state I've been to you can't collect unemployment for willfully leaving your job. You have to be laid off or fired without cause; at least I'm fairly certain that's the deal. Welfare on the other hand..

      May 18, 2011 at 11:45 am |
    • Roger

      If they are so zealous, why havent they been around since Christ days' preaching? They just come out of nowhere and say, boom! That fits the story though, all of this helps bring down babylon the great, but we dont know what day...

      May 18, 2011 at 11:49 am |
    • Vipergtsrgt1

      Would that include people who believe in the American Dream?

      May 18, 2011 at 12:00 pm |
  2. Chris

    Jesus says he doesn't even know when the end is, how would these people know.

    May 18, 2011 at 11:31 am |
    • DLinDC

      Don't try to battle them with logic or common sense, they're un-armed.

      May 18, 2011 at 11:33 am |
  3. JKRichard

    Bar-b-que and Survivors Party on the 22nd. Woooha!

    May 18, 2011 at 11:30 am |
  4. jo jo

    SEND EARTHQUAKE GOD.... SEND EARTHQUAKE!!!!!

    May 18, 2011 at 11:30 am |
    • D

      'god' doesn't make earthquakes. plate tectonics make earthquakes.

      May 18, 2011 at 11:31 am |
    • Spud J Dog

      Quickly Jo Jo, learn to turn your CAPS LOCK OFF!

      May 18, 2011 at 11:44 am |
    • Stevie7

      Oh please, people. Everyone knows that Thor makes earthquakes by striking his mighty hammer on the ground....

      He just happens to always hit his hammer on fault lines.

      May 18, 2011 at 11:47 am |
  5. newhopebo

    ..I got a rapture a few years ago, but I stayed off my feet for a week and I'm fine now-morons!

    May 18, 2011 at 11:30 am |
  6. Youdaho

    If Heaven is so great, then why does the Pope ride around in a bullet proof vehicle?

    Seriously, though, the folks that spew this crap need serious psychological help.

    May 18, 2011 at 11:30 am |
  7. sylvan finkelstein

    DOES IT REALLY MATTER IN THE REAL WORLD NOT THE BIBLE PREACHING PEOPLE THAT THE WORLD WILL END
    I'M SURE SOMEDAY THAT MIGHT COME TO BE BUT FOR NOW THESE DILUDED CHURCH PEOPLE SHOULD STOP
    TAKING ACID..THERE HULUCINATING

    May 18, 2011 at 11:29 am |
    • just a guy

      But they can spell.

      May 18, 2011 at 11:48 am |
  8. Christian

    I believe in the end of days. But sadly this people have been misled. remember Jim Jones and the others? No one knows the "exact" time for our Lord Jesus to come and call us home, except for God the Father, and HE alone knows and He alone will tell His son Jesus the time.

    May 18, 2011 at 11:29 am |
    • slamnomcreek

      Finnaly someone said the right thing. Yes that is right, "no one will know when the exact time will come"

      May 18, 2011 at 11:36 am |
    • Spud J Dog

      60% of the people in this country worship a dead man on a stick........Anything is possible when you get that many grown people believing fairy tales.

      May 18, 2011 at 11:42 am |
  9. Nick

    Wow this story makes me hate people who are fanatic christians even more. I can't believe they quit their jobs to spread a warning that the world will end, thats being a stupid and irresponsible parent. Those people deserve to be shot.

    May 18, 2011 at 11:28 am |
    • jo jo

      I HATE GREEDY PEOPLE..... THEY SHOULDN'T BE ON EARTH.

      May 18, 2011 at 11:29 am |
  10. Jeff

    Pure idiocy born from the fear of being insignificant in the universe.

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

    The fact that these people believe this 100% is no more or less valid than the larger groups of people that believe otherwise.

    I believe I'll have a beer. It's close enough to lunchtime LOL.

    May 18, 2011 at 11:28 am |
    • Rob III

      It is five o'clock somewhere.

      May 18, 2011 at 11:40 am |
  12. SilentBoy741

    Dibs on their stuff!

    May 18, 2011 at 11:28 am |
  13. Kevin

    I'm curious to see what these people do when the world doesn't end on Saturday. Will they still have faith?

    May 18, 2011 at 11:27 am |
    • mkjp

      the problem is they aren't predicting the world will end saturday, they say it will be the start of 5 months of earthquakes. given that there have been a plethora of earthquakes recently, those will likely continue and then they will claim they were correct. we have another 5 months before they get proven wrong.

      May 18, 2011 at 11:29 am |
    • Nick

      They will be laughing stocks

      May 18, 2011 at 11:29 am |
    • Rob III

      Even after all that, some other excuse will be drawn up.

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

      @Nick. They already are.

      May 18, 2011 at 12:08 pm |
  14. jo jo

    WHY I WANT GOD TO PUNISH THE WORLD? I was victim of scam, mal-dental problems, people charing money, MONEY CHARGERS. OVERCHARGING. THERE IS NO GOD ON PEOPLE.

    I had enough with USA'S "IN GOD WE TRUST". I WANT GOD TO PUNISH THE WORLD !!! PUNISH IT!!! DESTROY EVERY HOUSES!!!

    May 18, 2011 at 11:27 am |
    • Spud J Dog

      Jo Jo, very eloquent. Speaking in tongues are we?

      May 18, 2011 at 11:39 am |
    • Typinator

      You can just see the spittle flying from Jo Jo's mouth whilst gesticulating wildly. Yikes!!

      May 18, 2011 at 11:57 am |
  15. Slick

    Common, not this weekend! It's a long weekend for us..

    P.S. Don't eat the pudding!

    May 18, 2011 at 11:26 am |
  16. Reality

    What we do 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 18, 2011 at 11:26 am |
    • Bruce

      You mean between 3,000,002,011 and 5,000,002,011 C.E.

      May 18, 2011 at 11:28 am |
    • jddrew

      Wait. So it's ok to buy green bananas? Too much conflicting information here

      May 18, 2011 at 11:40 am |
    • Typinator

      Actually, you narrow it down a bit. The sun has been gradually brightening through its main sequence as it burns through its hydrogen. In about 500 million years most areas around the equator will be uninhabitable due to this very gradual increase in the sun's energy output and after a billion years has gone by a runaway green house effect will have taken hold leaving most of the oceans evaporated into a much thicker atmosphere and probably most of the earth's life forms, including us, will be extinct with the exception of some extremophiles. So, give it about say 6 or 7 hundred million years.

      May 18, 2011 at 11:52 am |
  17. mkjp

    as long as they aren't convincing anyone to drink the koolaid at 5:59pm, I don't see this as hurting anyone. maybe they will be right, maybe not. life goes on, or not. whatever.

    May 18, 2011 at 11:26 am |
  18. Ernest

    haha, i thought it was 2012?!! it got moved up?!

    May 18, 2011 at 11:25 am |
    • Stevie7

      Some Mayan must have forgotten to carry a 1 or something.

      May 18, 2011 at 11:32 am |
  19. DLinDC

    "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."
    So we'll have 5 months of quiet w/o having to listen to this crap? Worth it ....

    May 18, 2011 at 11:25 am |
    • ManicZorbian

      What an awesome thought!!! Five months with no crap!!! LOL!!!

      May 18, 2011 at 11:35 am |
  20. Ted

    Damn... I guess there really won't be a football season....

    May 18, 2011 at 11:25 am |
    • Typinator

      My team is the Vikings, so absolutely, no matter what there really won't be a football season... for me anyway.

      May 18, 2011 at 12:05 pm |
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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.