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. Toad

    God said: If you deny Me infront of your friends, I will deny you in front of Mine... Rejoice! but be ready. No man, only the Son and He Himself know when it will be. There will be no time of preparation.

    May 19, 2011 at 8:21 am |
    • jim

      So god is petty and impatient?

      May 19, 2011 at 8:24 am |
  2. Wayne317

    No man knows the day nor hour? Well of course not, if you are writting a book with an end time for a God you know doesn't exist, why would you give an end date? The Bible can't give an end date because then the religion would die the second after the end date passes. This way, Jesus alleged return can scare people forever.

    May 19, 2011 at 8:21 am |
  3. Smegma Botwin

    Republicans. Go figure.

    May 19, 2011 at 8:20 am |
  4. Nancy

    As Prince sang "They say two thousand zero zero party over oops out of time, so tonight I'm going to party like it's 1999...

    May 19, 2011 at 8:19 am |
  5. jim

    Oh Hell – Why does rapture have to happen on the Weekend? That's it – I'm going Pagan.

    May 19, 2011 at 8:18 am |
  6. People will believe anything.

    My,My, My, how our country listens to nut jobs, there is NO God, people it's called faith, if you didn't have that then you would not know what to do with your meager existence. And will believe the next bible pusher that comes along, Look back through time Christian religion is nothing but a bunch of plagiarized material stolen through time. And there's no proof except a fictional book of rules and guidelines of how to live and behave until your judgement. People how about focus your energies on getting this country that is full of real problems back on track, get the political nut jobs, and corrupt politicians out of office!!! Remember these elected individuals work for us. "We the people by the people", not self agendized self riteous asshats that are only looking out for themselves. Believe in what you wish as it is a free country.

    May 19, 2011 at 8:16 am |
  7. Robert Harris

    I'm perplexed at the number of Christians attacking these people without a full understanding of their arguement (how many have actually listened to the logic) and using only a single scripture they obviously dont fully understand as the basis of their whole arguement. The frequent verse cited is Matthew 24:36 "But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only." from the King James version. So let me first pose the question. What is the difference in the term knoweth and the term know as used in the new testament? Both are used frequently in the King James version of the bible so it would stand to reason that they have different meanings. I will tell you that it has been argued that the word "knoweth" is the result of translation from a word in the original languages of the bible which meant to know something instinctively, as in – No man can know the hour or the day instinctively, but can learn this through study and understanding of God's word. – Even if that is untrue, if you don't know exactly what IS the difference in the terms, you have no businesss using the scripture to attack anyone else or as proof of ANYTHING until you do.

    While I myself am an agnostic and believe, as most, that the 21st will come and go as any other day, I do think that people who have based their whole life on their faith in the teachings of the bible should be a little more open to learning what the original language of the bible really intended to mean.

    May 19, 2011 at 8:16 am |
    • LivinginVA

      Excellent point. My uncle is a biblical scholar who has read the Bible in several (dead) languages and translations. He says that you really have to read it for the overarching concepts, not specifics – as every person who translates it does so with their own opinions and prejudices.

      May 19, 2011 at 8:26 am |
    • Robert Harris

      “It is impossible to begin to learn that which one thinks they already know" -Epictetus

      May 19, 2011 at 9:19 am |
    • Bible Clown

      I found a hidden message in THE CAT IN THE HAT that directly contradicts their revelation. One book's as holy as another.

      May 19, 2011 at 10:32 am |
  8. Dave

    Should I bother sending my mortgage payment?

    May 19, 2011 at 8:15 am |
  9. xxsevensxx

    You mean Jesus didn't tell you guys about this? Dude sent out a Facebook invite ages ago.

    May 19, 2011 at 8:12 am |
  10. Will Haskell

    Well, hopefully we can push the day back a week because Hangover 2 doesn't open until May 26th and I really want to see it.

    May 19, 2011 at 8:12 am |
  11. greg

    this is all part of the hiding the real stories people, cnn runs non stop mind molesting stories like these, daily, every day a new one,to keep our minds off the real news, cnn, do you think we really want to hear about every crackpot group, answer, hell no, do some real news reporting,but alas, we all know who you really are working for, hence this crap you call news, there are alternatives people, cnn wants to control your minds, don't become a sheeple to their ploys.

    May 19, 2011 at 8:07 am |
    • Sean

      so why are you here reading it?

      May 19, 2011 at 8:19 am |
    • greg

      wake up sean,don't ask me,ask yourself,thats the question you should be focusing on,but alas, it seams the matrix has you.

      May 19, 2011 at 8:21 am |
  12. Roadkill220

    I find this funny, the world wont end Saturday and i know this because things haven't got bad enough for it to end yet 😛 and the bible says no one knows when it will end so this man is most likely crazy

    May 19, 2011 at 8:06 am |
    • Saiyan5

      He's not crazy. His own world will end on May the 21st.
      It shouldn't come as any surprise that CNN is reporting such a story over and over again. "Lately it's one man say" and let's spread the word ( MIND GAME).

      May 19, 2011 at 8:56 am |
    • Robert Harris

      Well I assure you that's not exactly what the bible says... You have oversimplified a single verse by paraphrasing a translation of a translation. Don't you imagine that some of the original meaning and context may have been lost? Did you really hear the arguement or did you dismiss it out of hand?

      "“It is impossible for one to learn what one thinks they already know" -Epictetus

      May 19, 2011 at 9:24 am |
  13. Hmm

    The way I see it. They've given us a place and time when it will start and the earthquakes will hit at 6:00 as they progress around the world. Assuming the concept of hours existed when the prophecy was developed, then I have approximately 7 hours from the time the quakes start until it is 6:00 where I live, during which time I will become deeply religioius, otherwise, I think I'll grill some ribs.

    May 19, 2011 at 8:06 am |
    • Just wanna know

      So is this supposed to start at 6:00 EST or is it Greenwhich Mean Time?

      May 19, 2011 at 8:38 am |
  14. nofreakinway

    so if they are predicting the 2nd coming then where are the 2 witnesses that prophecy for 3 1/2 years before the second coming???? I mean the whole book of revelations is a big warning sign of what to look for when the time of Judgement happens. I'm sorry but I highly doubt that anything will happen on Saturday just nothing happened on 06-06-2006 or Y2K. I think these people are off their rockers since it clearly states in the bible that no one man will know exactly when Judgement day will happen.

    May 19, 2011 at 8:06 am |
  15. Nolagurl

    People who read the bible know that the bible says NO man knows the hour ... so if word is out that this is the day, rest assured it is NOT. Geez, people ... get a brain

    May 19, 2011 at 8:05 am |
    • Robert Harris

      As I've noted in other locations, I assure you that's not exactly what the bible says... You have oversimplified a single verse by paraphrasing a translation of a translation. Don't you imagine that some of the original meaning and context may have been lost? Did you really hear the arguement or did you dismiss it out of hand?

      The King James Version of Matthew 24:36 to which you are referring using the term "knoweth" and you will find that the term "know" is also used in other verses within the new testament. It has been argued that the word "knoweth" is used in this verse because in the original language of the book of Matthew, the meaning was "to know instinctively" as in no man knoweth the hour nor the day instinctively but could possibly learn it through a study of God's word.

      I am agnostic myself and like most, agree that the 21st will probably come and go like any other day. I just want to point out that most people on here are dismissing the possibility without even really understanding the very scripture they are using as a basis of their arguement. If I was a person of faith and truly believed in the teachings of the bible as so many in America claim, I think I might want to understand a little more before calling these people crackpots.

      "“It is impossible for one to learn what one thinks they already know" -Epictetus

      May 19, 2011 at 9:37 am |
  16. Antonio

    Those doctrines behave as a broken GPS that goes "recalculating" over and over... and people continue to follow the wrong path without noticing that.

    May 19, 2011 at 8:04 am |
  17. ChelleAN

    I'm just curious. Is this belief only among Americans or Christians around the world? I thought I read somewhere that the day that marks the end of the world is December 12, 2012.

    May 19, 2011 at 8:03 am |
    • ckelley

      12/21/12 has nothing to do with the bible. It's a misinterpretation of the Mayan calendar. Some poorly educated people believe that the Mayans prophesized the end of the world on that date, but what really happens – in the most basic terms – is that their calendar simply rolls over, much like ours does from December of one year to January of the next. In my humble – and educated, and logical – opinion, god, jesus, the bible, and the so-called Mayan prophecy are just myths that people came up with in order to scare others into doing their bidding. That's all. When the world ends, it's not going to be because some fictional character from a 2000 year old book decides to come out of the sky and take all the "true believers" back with him. It won't be because a few celestial bodies line up in a certain way. It won't be a pole shift, a colossal earthquake, or anything else that has been proven to be virtually impossible. It'll be something that makes sense.

      May 19, 2011 at 8:14 am |
    • LivinginVA

      Dec. 12, 2012 is from the Mayan calendar. The May 21st one is a tiny splinter group of Christians.

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

    I have full trust and faith in my Father. I admire those that follow their belief's even when no one else does. Personally, I don't think the end of the world will be on the 21st because as many have said before, no man knows the day, not the Son nor angels in Heaven. I am ready and I only hope that others are ready also for the day is coming, make no mistake, and when it does I'll meet my Father and rejoice in the sacrifice of the Son.

    May 19, 2011 at 8:02 am |
    • Aezel

      Same Response:
      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 beliefs that they have zero evidence of, by relying on your beliefs which you have zero evidence of. It is an infinite loop of stupidity.

      May 19, 2011 at 8:19 am |
  19. zapper45701

    Please, please, please–can all these holier than thou folks go ahead and take the early flight? Saturday will be just fine if they miss the plane today. The sooner you go, the happier the rest of us will be. Goodbye and good riddance.

    May 19, 2011 at 8:02 am |
  20. Tony

    Maybe the rapture will finally take away these religious zelots once and for all. Yes the world will end sometime between now and 3.5 billion years from now. My bet is sometime a few billion years from now when the Andromeda and the Milky Way galaxies collide verses vs what I hear on a radio show that collects significant donations from their listeners.

    May 19, 2011 at 8:01 am |
    • 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 8:08 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.