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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. Judas

    Nothing is gonna happen, and when the clock tick one minute after six I will be living my normal life.

    May 19, 2011 at 8:00 am |
  2. goof

    oh no not before the MLB all-star

    May 19, 2011 at 8:00 am |
  3. G Unit

    Someone or lets say this group has nothing better to do with their lives.

    May 19, 2011 at 7:59 am |
  4. Michelle

    Couldn't god wait until Monday? Everyone knows the weekend is not a good time for the rapture. How inconsiderate Jesus!

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

    It's funny to read that religious people are arguing about this. A fictional book was written. Religion is a giant book club, but most members of the book club just happen to think it's non-fiction. The guy predicting this is as silly as the guy arguing that he's wrong based on the bible.

    May 19, 2011 at 7:57 am |
  6. Brian

    If I had inside knowledge of doomsday like these people, I can think of many better things to do with my last days than walking around telling people about it.

    May 19, 2011 at 7:55 am |
    • libfreak48

      I'm wondering why, if you don't believe, this would bother you.

      May 19, 2011 at 8:01 am |
    • Bible Clown

      I'm wondering why it bothers libfreak that it bothers you. But I have a lot of curiousity.

      May 19, 2011 at 10:28 am |
  7. libfreak48

    It easy to laugh at these people, but if you call yourself a Christian, then you're supposed to believe "Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again." Catholics proclaim this every week at mass.

    And you're supposed to be ready for Him to come back – right now. So if you don't believe that, then stop wasting your time at church and sleep in on Sundays.

    Otherwise they're doing as they believe they should and proclaiming the Gospel just as Jesus taught them to.

    May 19, 2011 at 7:55 am |
    • Hmm

      Assuming they wrote their own version of the Bible, otherwise, it's supposed to be a "surprise".

      May 19, 2011 at 8:01 am |
  8. Kim

    @ Aezel : whatever you said, I am not going to argue with you. This is a real truth. You will see when it will come.

    May 19, 2011 at 7:55 am |
    • Aezel

      Oh I see it's a "real truth." Ya. What you really mean is: "I'm too dumb to understand your response so instead I'll just spew more religious talking points about "real truth," and threaten you that "you'll see" Queue ominous music. What a joke.

      May 19, 2011 at 8:24 am |
  9. Blueline

    Please do us a favour, would all of you religious fanatics just go away and leave all of us alone.

    May 19, 2011 at 7:53 am |
  10. Christina

    This whole doomsday thing is a hoax. The bible says no man shall no when the end is. So now all of the sudden it's this Saturday? Right. And anyway how would some random guy no where and when the first place will get hit?

    May 19, 2011 at 7:52 am |
    • Bible Clown

      He found the Secret Code in the Bible, just like in a movie. Isn't it exciting!

      May 19, 2011 at 8:22 am |
  11. Dave In Lonodn

    In all seriousness, I can actually understand why these people are so eager for the world to end. The real world scares there people, a lot. I mean think of it, Women voting, freedom of expression and thought all over the place. All that "science stuff" that contradicts their views on ....well, everything. On top of all of that, there's this black guy in White House!

    So, I guess if I was a bigoted reality challenged half-literate moron, who believed the Earth is only 6000 years old, and started with two fully formed humans named Adam and Eve. Who rode around a garden on dinosaurs chatting it up with talking snakes? The 21rst Century would probably scare the crap out me too.

    So to my friends in the SF Bay Area, when you see Harold Camping and his tens of devoted followers, camped out in downtown Oakland waiting to get "Beamed Up" to wing nut never-never land, smile as you walk by and say "Have a nice trip!" You'll make their day. Which is a warm memory they all are going to need, when the world is still here, come Sunday Morning.

    May 19, 2011 at 7:51 am |
  12. POD

    Why does it have to be on a Saturday.....why can't it be on Monday so that we have the whole weekend for our one last go around?

    May 19, 2011 at 7:51 am |
  13. Kim

    There is a Judgement day. The world will be end. Everyone will be judge by "God" one by one. The exact time when these events will occur is unknown, however there are said to be major and minor signs which are to occur near the time of End time.

    Destruction/flattening of the earth
    Creation of a new earth
    Resurrection of people
    Gathering of the people
    Judging of the people
    Separation of the people who are hellbound and heaven bound

    God forgives us and shows us the right path.

    May 19, 2011 at 7:48 am |
    • Aezel

      Like you are one to talk. Your beliefs are just as absurd as theirs. You have the same amount of evidence for what you think as they do, which is ZERO. You are all just creating a fantastical make-believe narrative around yourself and they are coming to a different conclusion than you do, yet you see fit to disparage their beleifs that they have zero evidence of, by relying on your beleifs which you have zero evidnece of. It is an infinite loop of stupidity.

      May 19, 2011 at 7:50 am |
    • Bible Clown

      "The world will be end." What more can I say? Educate yourself.

      May 19, 2011 at 7:59 am |
  14. Kate

    Well, they aren't entirely wrong. Each day the world as we know it ends a little and a new one begins. I just hope the people who gave up their jobs and homes have someone or something tangible to turn to on Sunday.

    May 19, 2011 at 7:47 am |
    • Bible Clown

      They'll retire and live on the millions they made from this scam, while the true believers take poison.

      May 19, 2011 at 8:20 am |
  15. Mark Potter

    Good bye.

    May 19, 2011 at 7:47 am |
  16. mon

    Oh my, this is so stupid...read your Bible and know the truth

    May 19, 2011 at 7:46 am |
  17. Doobruh

    All of this is a joke, Religion overall is a joke. All religions are cults. Most are for either money or fame or a shield from the sadness or fear of one. I am atheist. I believe that Jesus was a real person 2000 years ago BUT if he is the son of "God" then why can we not see "God" and how did Mary conceive Jesus with "God" if he can not be seen or touched.

    May 19, 2011 at 7:46 am |
    • tvguy007

      I agree with you brother. I read your post and thought that I had written it. I found some rapture t-shirts on swellshirt.com. I imagine there are lots of websites selling doomsday shirts

      May 19, 2011 at 7:59 am |
  18. Tom

    I hope whoever "walked away from kids" to do this is arrested on May 21st and their world really does end. That is pathetic. How can you walk away from kids and expect to go to heaven?

    May 19, 2011 at 7:46 am |
    • Michelle

      EXCATELY TOM!!! How can they go to heaven if they left their kids and family???!!! Their freaken crazy and stupid!!!!

      May 19, 2011 at 8:04 am |
  19. DIane

    pretty funny except there are children involved who must be stressed beyond belief.

    May 19, 2011 at 7:45 am |
    • Bible Clown

      It's going to be all over soon for those kids: "Here, drink this Holy Koolade and go back to sleep, and when you wake up you'll be with Jesus. If He won't come to us, then we'll jump on the comet and go to him." Bye-bye, kids. It's a cruel world anyway. You wouldn't have liked it.

      May 19, 2011 at 8:18 am |
  20. Thenextstep

    For anyone that wants to live past 5:00 central, please send $2.00 to:

    Whos Your Daddy
    P.O.Box I need a life
    Going Nowhere, VA BR549

    And include your address

    May 19, 2011 at 7:44 am |
    • mon

      Thats funny!

      May 19, 2011 at 7:50 am |
    • HeIsGod

      As a Christian that I am, I want to thank you for your comment. It's hilarious!

      May 19, 2011 at 8:03 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.