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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. czopper

    It is clear these people don"t read their bible. It tells us right in Matthew 24:36 "concerning that day or hour nobody knows, neither the angels of the heavens nor the son, but only the Father".

    May 19, 2011 at 7:26 am |
  2. ISITME?

    I know the there is the separation of church and state, etc...but when people are leaving the job and becoming homeless, you would almost think that the government would step in. I understand what this pastor is TRYING to do and he has every right if he so choses, but God does not give us the authority to predict the day the world would end. Sure someone is going to be doomed on that day, someone is doomed everyday...but to predict the worlds demise, is a bit outlandish. What is presented here is more of a cultish mentatlity infestation, particularly when folks follow him like Zombies. I am sure one of his followers prayed about it also, and was probably told no by God, but since the pastor is more influential, they probably packed up and climbed aboard this "movement". Meanwhile I do understand how A particular church, not denomination, can make such radical decision without the heads/leaders of their denomination stepping in. I dont get it. I wonder how many more predictions he will make before another pastor from a totally different donation, outbids him on prognosis the inevitable.

    May 19, 2011 at 7:25 am |
  3. mmmiller

    What time on Saturday? I have a couple of things to do that morning.

    May 19, 2011 at 7:21 am |
    • Don

      Wait a minute, what time zone? If it occurs as at the International Date Line we are going to lose a whole bunch of time. Or will it be GMT? Are we taking DST into account?

      This is just way to complicated.

      May 19, 2011 at 7:28 am |
  4. Brenda

    The Bible itself says that no one will know the day or the hour that the Lord will return. The Bible only gaurantees it will happen not when like their billboards claim. False and inacurate claims hurt true christianity. The role of any Christian should be to A. Spread the Good News and B. Do your best to be ready for the rapture; regardless of when.

    May 19, 2011 at 7:21 am |
    • Richk

      Translation: People who believe in fairy tales contradict other people's version of those SAME fairy tales......sigh

      May 19, 2011 at 7:27 am |
    • Quinn

      you are 100% right says he will come like a thief in the night.

      May 19, 2011 at 7:58 am |
  5. revinger

    these are the same folks who have fallen for the paul ryan plan.

    May 19, 2011 at 7:20 am |
  6. a voice of reason

    Matthew 24:36
    “However, no one knows the day or hour when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the Son himself.[a] Only the Father knows.

    May 19, 2011 at 7:19 am |
    • Joe

      VOR you are exactly right. No one knows. I only hope that these people will see on Saturday night or Sunday morning that it is not God that is wrong it is the radio show they have been listening to.

      May 19, 2011 at 7:30 am |
  7. Michael

    Just saying.... If the world is going to end on the 21st, then why does his "special promotion" for his free CD's extend to May 26th ????????? Wouldn't that be too late??? Harolds Link: http://fsiforms.familyradio.org/fm/

    May 19, 2011 at 7:19 am |
  8. Angie

    The end is near, that is for sure, it has been near since Jesus spoke to the disciples (Matthew 24) but there is something certain, no man will know, no angel will now, not even Jesus knew when it was going to be done, not the day not the hour, Jesus says: ONLY THE FATHER knows....we just have to be ready, we just have to be prepared, and not listened to prophets that will MISLEAD others... the ones following this can crash in caos ans=d even loose their faith, so this person will become another prophet that misled people to crash their faith... yes we are called to preach the good news, and to know the end is near, but NOT TO GET FRIGHTENED.
    I DIDNT LIKE THE TONE THIS TWO REPORTERS USED, IT WAS DISRESPECTFUL, I feel sad for the ones believing it will be done in May 21st but the way they are laughing is the same as giving them "the other finger" as one reporter quoted"

    May 19, 2011 at 7:17 am |
  9. TXMom

    The rapture was supposed to have happened already in 1985. I was a teen, and asked my mother about it. When she told me what it was, I said "Really? What if we don't notice anyone missing?" And her reply? "Then I guess we didn't know any good people."

    May 19, 2011 at 7:17 am |
  10. JenBE

    I don't believe in any of this stuff, but I found the stories of these people nothing more than mildly amusing and quite harmless (compared to the hate spewed by the Westboro Baptist clan). Until the end of the article that is, when I read that one of these people has engaged his 7 year old daughter in "spreading the word", no gory detail spared. That particular bit of the story left me with a much less tolerant impression of the whole thing. It's completely unnecessary and just plain wrong to frighten a small child this way, especially considering (correct me if I'm wrong) that with her being so young and having presumably lived a "proper Christian life", she wouldn't be damned to hell anyway! Consenting adults are free to believe whatever they want, but shame on that guy for putting his child through such an ordeal!

    May 19, 2011 at 7:12 am |
  11. Jason B.

    Good grief. What a bunch on nut jobs. And when the sun still rises on Sunday, their "leader" will come out with a statement about how he must have "miscalculated" and gotten the date or year wrong.

    I feel sorry for these people for having gotten brainwashed so easily. I feel even more sorry for the friends and families these crazies have abandoned following a fantasy.

    May 19, 2011 at 7:10 am |
  12. Steven

    "BEHOLD, I COME LIKE A THIEF IN THE NIGHT----jesus" NO ONE KNOWS FOR SURE WHEN JESUS WILL RETURN. THIS GROUP HAS NOT BEEN SPECIALLY CHOSEN BY GOD. HUGE FACE PALM on 21rst LOL

    May 19, 2011 at 7:06 am |
    • Fox Mulder

      Like a thief in the night? That's a good way to get shot... Does he know we've invented guns?

      May 19, 2011 at 7:09 am |
  13. Justin

    I'm a Christiane catholic and this is all a joke for real lol wow this guy who made this stupid prediction is making money off his books and why would he sell the books why not free may 21 is coming in 2 days and people would buy to see why not free hes doing it just for money that's all and this is gonna make Christians look dumb.

    May 19, 2011 at 7:05 am |
  14. ANFEM

    THE DATE OF RAPTURE REMAIN MYSTERY ACCORDING TO JESUS....IT WILL HAPPEN SUDDENLY. THOSE WHO ARE YET TO SURRENDER THEMSELVES TO JESUS SHOULD DO IT BECAUSE NO SINNERS WILL BE SPARED ON JUDGMENT DAY. RAPTURE, HELL & HEAVEN IS REAL BUT THE DATE OF RAPTURE IS NOT KNOWN. RUN AWAY FROM SIN. JESUS LOVES YOU

    May 19, 2011 at 7:00 am |
    • Justin

      ya ur right and jesus said he'll come as a theif.

      May 19, 2011 at 7:06 am |
    • MIke

      Its amazing how simple some people's minds are. The more you cling to this silly religion of yours, the more you will fall behind modern society.

      May 19, 2011 at 7:35 am |
    • cory223

      the rapture, as taught by some religions, is not a biblical teaching. The chosen ones will survive the tribulation, Alsnot magically be taken up before. That's why the bible says the days of the tribulation need to be cut short, or no chosen ones would survive it. Also, the earth isn't going to be destroyed, only wicked people.

      May 19, 2011 at 7:41 am |
  15. Newscast judge

    I do have to say these 2 women reporters are not very professional. Giggling, rolling the eyes, etc. Report the news – nothing else. Is that fair and balanced?

    May 19, 2011 at 6:59 am |
    • mike

      Balanced? Theres nothing to the story and people in it that's balanced!

      May 19, 2011 at 7:27 am |
    • Steve

      Are you kidding? On all the funny stories the reporters laugh. You can't call laughing unprofessional when the story is laughable.

      May 19, 2011 at 7:30 am |
  16. Fox Mulder

    On the 21st, at 6:01 he's going to claim to get a text message from god saying "LOL JK"

    May 19, 2011 at 6:59 am |
  17. Richard

    Scaremongering. People spreading this crap should feel ashamed. The weak-minded who believe these people should feel equally ashamed.

    May 19, 2011 at 6:57 am |
  18. keylargo

    I wonder how many of these dummies have turned over their life saving to the reverend, who will promptly disappear on the 21st. Same old, same old, same play, different actors!

    May 19, 2011 at 6:53 am |
  19. bruce

    the bible is the greatest novel ever written...it's a best seller and has created trillions in merchandise sales and the vatican gets all the royalties, except when they have to pay off the victims of their abuse..

    May 19, 2011 at 6:52 am |
  20. Diyasena

    The international date line is an imaginary line, just like their god is an imaginary god..

    May 19, 2011 at 6:51 am |
    • Line reality

      Must be nice to be such a know-it-all. It is why you will always remain small and in the minority line.

      May 19, 2011 at 7:05 am |
    • MIke

      @ Line reality, Diyasena says your god is fake. You say he is real. Why is Diyasena any more of a know-it-all than you? I shouldn't be surprised though. Religion is not comfortable with educating people, as it is proven that higher levels of education lead to lower levels of religiousness.

      May 19, 2011 at 7:32 am |
    • Quinn

      god is real none of the gold or online input or arguing change that fact..........you will see when either you die or he comes.............and believe me you want a relationship with god and the son jesus...sins only led to everlasting pain in hell for your sins

      May 19, 2011 at 8:02 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.