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. caper999

    I can't help but laugh at these folks. I look forward to the stupid looks on their faces on May 22nd when they realize just how crazy they really are..... Well... I guess they won't realize... They'll just pick a different date....

    May 19, 2011 at 6:01 am |
    • bob

      Yep, just like they have been doing forever. The JW's predicted the end five times after all. You'd think they'd start to wonder after, say, the third time or so...

      May 19, 2011 at 6:26 am |
  2. Largo Barbara

    Send these believers to the MIddle East – that way their wishes could come true.

    May 19, 2011 at 5:51 am |
  3. YourSoul

    – You were born in sin so its eminent that you are headed for HELL.
    – Unless you repent and ask Jesus in your heart you are headed for HELL

    – Repent
    – Ask for forgiveness only to God

    – Dont listen to man who claim they read the Bible – Read for yourself
    – Dont confess your sins to a molesting pervert – Only to God
    – Dont ask for forgiveness to a sinner woman – Only to God
    – Dont pray to statues or idols – Especially American Idol

    And if your one of the lucky ones ... you will avoid 900 deg Fahrenheit for all eternity.

    May 19, 2011 at 5:43 am |
    • Fox Mulder

      I'm sorry. You can not cite a belief as a "fact."

      May 19, 2011 at 5:50 am |
    • cosmicsnoop

      Hell and sin do not exist. I figured this out when I was 12. Read some books and grow up intellectually.

      May 19, 2011 at 5:54 am |
    • runner305

      Fact: No religion can be proven to be true!

      May 19, 2011 at 6:08 am |
    • caper999

      "When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things." - Corinthians 13:11

      One of the things I "put away" when I became a man was believing in fairy-tales... It's funny that this quote comes from the bible... The biggest fair-tale in history....

      May 19, 2011 at 6:09 am |
    • Jeff

      iSo my question is......should i go ahead and mow Saturday and pull weeds out of my flower beds or no?

      May 19, 2011 at 6:10 am |
  4. frankofbrightonbeach

    this gives christianity a bad name–what will camping do on may 22 ???? makes us appear foolish–false prophets are part of every generation--

    May 19, 2011 at 5:40 am |
  5. Rich McLenson

    Come on people . . . man has been predicting the end of time since the BEGINNING of time. When it comes it comes but quit looking over your shoulders.

    May 19, 2011 at 5:26 am |
    • Will

      Man can't possibly have been "predicting the end of time since the BEGINNING of time." A) Man was not around at the "BEGINNING of time," B) Man didn't even gain the ability to speak until roughly 200,000 years ago (which is a drop in the bucket to Wikipedia's guess that the earth is over 4.5 billion years old, and C) why would they logically (assuming you were remotely possible of being correct) man immediately assume the ultimate destruction of earth at the first dawn of life? That's a pretty pessimistic, prehistoric life.

      May 19, 2011 at 5:59 am |
  6. Fox Mulder

    So... What are these people going to do on the 22nd?

    May 19, 2011 at 5:23 am |
  7. Larissa

    I agree a lot is happening in the world, but no one knows the time or day when it will happen it is so clearly menitoned in the bible/

    May 19, 2011 at 5:16 am |
  8. Chadrack

    I admire the courage and temerity of these believers. I must say they are more christian than most of those who are arguing anyone knowing the day or not. I have listened to Family Radio to over 3yrs now and I've touched by the conviction of Harold that the day is really here. I think what we should concern ourselves with is to repent and seek the Lord whether we believe the day is here or not. Yes, no one knows the date as the scriptures say, but with all the evil going on in the church today is this not a voice in the wilderness for the church to turn from her evil ways? If you truly believe that the Lord is coming again then let this message be to you a wake up call. Let's stop trying to figure out whether this message is true or not. Let's return to the Lord.

    May 19, 2011 at 5:14 am |
  9. k.a. michael

    While i quite agree according to the bible that the end is nearer than we all expect in line with current realities and events around the world, but i vehemently disagree with the may 21st day of rapture because the bible says that the angels in heaven do not know the date, Our Lord Jesus does not know the day, neither is it revealed to the Holy spirit, nor the twenty four elders in heaven Mt.24:36 but be prepared all the same. This final day of rapture is only known to God the father, The almighty God , The Alpha and The Omega.

    May 19, 2011 at 5:04 am |
  10. betru2self7

    In a way it will be a judgment day... either for them who believed this teaching, or for those of us who dont, Regardless doomsday is coming on May 21, 2011

    May 19, 2011 at 5:03 am |
  11. giggles

    He is not in the truth! He is telling lies! Very sad!

    May 19, 2011 at 5:03 am |
  12. Susan

    NOBODY knows the hour nor the day...that's the Bible's story and I'm stickin' to it!

    May 19, 2011 at 5:02 am |
  13. Seriously

    If anyone believes in the Bible and the prophecies, then only God knows the day and time of the rapture. So, you all can rest assured that these morons do not know the day and time in advance. That fact in itself makes their whole cult movement ludicris and moot. Go on about your normal day on 21 May, 2011 and what out for idiots wanting to die and take others with them, perhaps. Sad that people get something stuck in their head and follow it through out of hope for a better life. Try education, study, working harder, finding better friends, moving to a different location, or if you're religions you can even try praying.

    May 19, 2011 at 4:55 am |
  14. CrimsonnCellularCell

    Oh yeah!

    The hell is going to erupt.

    Oh yeah!

    May 19, 2011 at 4:53 am |
  15. bob

    Actually, aside from the timing, why is Camping's prediction any more wacko than the ravings that fundamentalists already demand we believe? Stinging flying beasts with women's faces, dragons, women in the sky giving birth...and how many different people have been branded with the number "666" since the time of Christ? It's all silliness.

    May 19, 2011 at 4:51 am |
  16. andy

    "There will be one day in the future, and on that day a catastrophic event will occur, and many people will die." So were the words of God.
    If there is an infinite God, he has infinite more important things to do in this universe than to kill off some insignificant living things on an insignificant little planet in this vast universe. We give ourselves too much importance.

    May 19, 2011 at 4:49 am |
    • Robert Stephens

      Agreed. Perfect.

      May 19, 2011 at 4:52 am |
    • Seriously

      So Andy, does writing those words somehow make you feel more powerful, wiser, infantly more important in the universe? It must, because those words did absolutely nothing for me except to make me feel sorry for you in your emptiness. One day, you will realize that there is no life after death, just an end, and your body will recycle into the earth's dust. That's our fate as humans. Sucks, huh? Live your life to its fullest. Don't save your raisins and nuts for Sunday because Saturday night is your last time on earth... (that's metaphorically speaking... I'm not saying Sat. 21, May is your last day...ROFL).

      May 19, 2011 at 5:01 am |
    • andy

      To Seriously: First, I do not ever feel "infantly" (that is not a word) more important in the universe. I am just another human being on this earth. And to think that an infinitely powerful God would bother with a bunch of human beings is really trying to make ourselves important than we are. I have not mock your God, or any other religion's God. I merely pointed out the fallacy in some people to think that God would really try to kill them to teach them a lesson. It is similar to saying that parents would kill their children to teach them a lesson. However, I do agree with you that we should live our life to the fullest and love each other, so let's not try in ROFL (that is pretty juvenile) at each other's opinion. May your belief carry you through life and bring you happiness, and so will mine. Lastly, you assumed that I don't believe in God. Maybe I just believe in a more benevolent God.

      May 19, 2011 at 5:24 am |
    • Dan

      I don't believe you have to feel small or empty to have those views. In fact you should feel larger, and maybe even more significant. The atoms that occupy our body were cooked in the element rich supernovae of large stars and spewed across the universe to one day become a part of us all. In that sense we are part of the universe as much as our planet or sun is. You don't have to feel small in order to come to terms with an idea that we will once again become part of the universe in death, and give nutrients back to the ecosystems that have helped sustain life as we know it. When I look up at the stars at night and realize part of what has created those stars is within my own body, and that along the way has allowed me to have these feelings of awe and wonder as I gaze upon them, I feel incredibly warm and welcome. Even if the universe is constantly trying to kill us with asteroids, comets, and natural disasters caused by the very physics that allows us to exist hahaha.

      As far as these doomsday people go, it's sad to think of those few people that left kids behind to go spread this message. I'm not a religious person, but I believe this paints an even worse picture of christianity in the public's eye even though it's only a small minority of the religion doing this. Also, who wouldn't want to spend their last days on Earth with their families and friends, in the company of loved ones, rather than traveling around the country trying to convince people they are right so they feel better about themselves.

      I'm concerned for these people's well-being Saturday. I hope it's not another mass suicide for no reason.

      May 19, 2011 at 5:30 am |
    • andy

      To Dan: Thank you and very well said. We are all made from all the same atoms and we will return to the same atoms. If you believe that God created the universe, then when we die and return to the universe, we return to God's arms. If you don't believe in God, that alright too, because when we die we return to the same atoms that make up the universe. Funny how in either case we return to the same thing.

      May 19, 2011 at 5:39 am |
  17. Robert Stephens

    Insanity and I am a Christian. This is so tragic that these odd minions, who are afraid of the dark, embrace this silliness. We will be here. Come on over and have a beer on me on the afternoon of the 22nd. Insane..........and too, I demand retractions on the 22nd too, like, "We were in error!"

    May 19, 2011 at 4:48 am |
  18. dee

    The Bible is the most misunderstood, misinterpreted, and mistranslated book of all time. Revelations is said to be the most misinterpreted. Here is another view http://godtalkblog.com/. It's not possible to really know the future. You walk out each day not knowing if it is going to be your last, or if you will find a 100 dollar bill on the ground. Also, all we have is our perceptions of what God is. It's been said that ignorance is the root of all evil.....

    May 19, 2011 at 4:41 am |
    • Ogre

      "The Bible is the most misunderstood, misinterpreted, and mistranslated book of all time."

      Yes. It is quite nonsensical that a purportedly all-knowing and all-powerful god would sign off on such a work.

      May 19, 2011 at 4:51 am |
  19. mrbaka

    Look...there is no judgement day period. Reason for all this is just to get some publicity. When 3/21/2011 gets here, its just another day nothing new. The only one thing that I would call judgement day and fear most is when a freaking asteroid the size of Texas hits planet earth. Thats what you call obliteration.

    May 19, 2011 at 4:38 am |
    • Seriously

      Obviously you don't realize that an asteriod the size of just the Empire State Building that actually makes it to the surface of the earth at the average speed of most objects coming from the asteroid belt in our solar system would cause enough destruction and devastation on earth to wipe out most if not all of the planet. That's just how fragile we are and its amazing how well our atmosphere protects us from most asteroids that burn-up before they reach the earth's surface and impact. However, its only a matter of time and we will be inhilated. Its a roll of the dice and we've been living on borrow time. Sad, huh?

      May 19, 2011 at 5:09 am |
  20. CrimsonDuece

    I liked that the writer said, "this is the sort that many say does a disservice to Christianity". I thought most organized religion did this on a regular basis. It seems with all the hypocritical followers, money scamming leaders, adultering clergy, child molesting priests... A few nuts who think they know when the world is going to end is the least of Christianity's concerns.

    May 19, 2011 at 4:38 am |
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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.