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. end is near

    personally im excited for the battle between heaven and hell, lock and load lets go!

    May 19, 2011 at 9:06 am |
  2. Imrational

    "Ant Chow"

    May 19, 2011 at 9:04 am |
  3. croco3

    About a decade ago in Uganda, another doomsday cult rounded up a herd of believers, told them to sell everything and come to live in some compound and await the end of the world. It did come: the leaders burned everyone inside houses, took off with all their possessions. These doomsday prophets have been wrong over and over again, and when the sheep who follow them realize they have thrown their lives away for nothing, BAD things can happen: some nut may decide to drive those RVs off the highway!!

    May 19, 2011 at 9:04 am |
  4. spaz

    get a grip people! Live life to the fullest and enjoy it! Stop wasting your precious time worrying about nonsense. Love, live, and enjoy!

    May 19, 2011 at 9:04 am |
  5. Ken

    So when May 22nd comes and these folks are still staring in the mirror, what will they do? Will they (A) realize that are start raving mad? (B) convince themselve a rapture did happen but they were still unpure and not chosen? (C) listen to the Family Radio who will broadcast a new date (we made a slight mistake) and passionately follow the new date?

    I think most will pick (C) because despite (A) and (B) both being true they will never admit that to themselves.

    May 19, 2011 at 9:04 am |
    • croco3

      These are people who have abdicated their ability to think for themselves. Family Radio will give them some bible lines and prophecies to swallow and make them believe they were left behind for a mission! And the whole nonsense goes on!

      May 19, 2011 at 9:08 am |
    • Bible Clown

      The Millerites always said "Oops, we were off by five years." Then five more, etc.

      May 19, 2011 at 11:15 am |
  6. Jenn

    Unreal! Get a grip people.

    May 19, 2011 at 9:02 am |
  7. Ben

    So does this mean we can stop worrying about the end of the world in December 2012?

    May 19, 2011 at 9:02 am |
    • Tim

      The world ended in 1984 and then again in Y2K, remember?

      May 19, 2011 at 9:06 am |
  8. randall12

    A good read based on Evangelical Theology written from a science fiction is Perceptional Threshold by Casper Parks.

    May 19, 2011 at 9:00 am |
    • DLinDC

      Crap, I'll never finish in time...

      May 19, 2011 at 10:58 am |
    • Bible Clown

      DL, you've got time to read all four books of Gene Wolfe's BOOK OF THE NEW SUN, which is actually full of heavy theology and the end of times, before the world even thinks about ending. Read it twice, it's pretty heavy stuff.

      May 19, 2011 at 11:20 am |
  9. his child

    may he have mercy on all our souls for not believing, not listening and praying for those who need it. he said deny me in front of the world and i will deny you in front of the father!!!! these folks may be misguided but at least they have belief in something!!! HE IS COMING BACK!!!!!! for all those who don't belkieve that i pray that what you think happens when you die happens for you because if what i believe happens my lord and savior JESUS will judge you based on your life.....what will you say?

    May 19, 2011 at 8:59 am |
    • Tim

      Would you bet me $20,000?? If you will I will give you my phone number. I will collect on the 22nd.

      May 19, 2011 at 9:04 am |
    • Jesus

      You're here for one short trip. After death, it's decomposition time. The bronze age mentality of 2,000 years ago had virtually nothing right and yet, you subscribe to their myths. Read about Horus, Mithra, First Council of Nicea, the Infancy Gospels, the Book of Giants. If that doesn't get your pea brain thinking, nothing will.

      May 19, 2011 at 9:05 am |
    • KC Observer

      Your belief system is laughable. Mary (if she existed) pulled the ultimate in getting away with cheating on Joseph (if he existed). She has a fling (cheating on Joseph) with some unmentioned individual, gets pregnant and then makes up some story to tell Joseph that it was god that impregnated her. Yeah..right! that Joseph was a gullible dude!!!

      May 19, 2011 at 9:25 am |
    • ckelley

      Why Jesus? Aside from Islam, Jesus's religion is the youngest major religion on the planet. Modern man has existed for approximately 200,000 years. What about all the poor souls that were born in the 198,000 years before Jesus was invented? Did they go to hell because they didn't know to worship him? Get a grip. I'm sure Siddhārtha Gautama, Krishna, Zeus, and the 5000+ other deities, most of whom were worshipped before the fictional character of Jesus was ever written, would take issue with your narrow little view on things. I pity you.

      May 19, 2011 at 9:43 am |
  10. Jahi98

    “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. (Mark 13:32) Any Christian who believes that the May 21 is the end clearly does not know the Word, and has been lead astray by false prophets.

    May 19, 2011 at 8:58 am |
    • Abu Ibrahim

      By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses Jesus as the Christ who has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God, and this is the spirit of the antichrist, that you have heard is coming, and now is already in the world. You are from God, little children, and have conquered them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world's perspective and the world listens to them. We are from God; the person who knows God listens to us, but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of deceit." 1 John 4:1-6

      The only prophet who praises Jesus is Prophet Muhammed (pbuh). It is an article of faith in Islam to believe and love Jesus, the son of Mary.

      May 19, 2011 at 9:03 am |
  11. anonymous

    I love that their leader says he has studied the scriptures extensively, even though the Bible clearly says (multiple times) that no man may know the day nor the hour. Even God's angel's don't know the time of the Second Comming, which is the REAL end of the world.

    Even if it did happen, it wouldn't be the end of the world. It would be a SIGN of the Savior's Second Comming.

    May 19, 2011 at 8:57 am |
  12. bailoutsos

    Wonder what Camping's excuse will be on Sunday?

    May 19, 2011 at 8:56 am |
  13. Lawrence Iverson Thompson

    Interesting that God revealed the final day to this group's leader when Jesus himself said even he didn't know when it would be. I am sad that the news calls these people Christian when they have put their faith in another.

    May 19, 2011 at 8:55 am |
    • Abu Ibrahim

      Have you ever pondered: How can Jesus not know about the Hour? Isnt he the "very God of the very God?"

      May 19, 2011 at 8:57 am |
    • anonymous


      May 19, 2011 at 8:58 am |
    • anonymous

      Abu Ibrahim, Jesus is the Lord, He is the master. But he is not God. Jesus is our brother, our Savior, our Redeemer, and the Mediator. God is the Father of the spirits of mankind. He is the God of Gods. There is a diference. They are separate, and Jesus will not know the day nor the hour until God tells him.

      May 19, 2011 at 9:05 am |
    • Abu Ibrahim

      Anonymous, when you pray, do you pray to Jesus or God?

      For if you pray to God – the same God to whom Jesus himself prayed to – then you are a Muslim. But if you pray to Jesus, you are a Christian.

      May 19, 2011 at 9:09 am |
  14. Randy

    I can't do the 21st . . . I have a hair appointment . . .

    May 19, 2011 at 8:55 am |
    • Joe

      I hear ya, Randy. Saturday is no good for me either. I have a 12:30 tee time.

      May 19, 2011 at 9:13 am |
    • Layla

      Randy, I checked the weather network here where I live, it will be nice and sunny this Saturday and I planned to go hiking with my friends, so yes I can’t do May 21 either 🙂

      May 19, 2011 at 9:26 am |
  15. Original Gangster

    "The world ends" has at least two relevant meanings in this context: humanity's time on Earth ends (there are no humans or descendants left) and the Earth itself is destroyed. Assuming we don't destroy ourselves by our own actions, in about 4.5 billion years the Sun will have used up all its hydrogen fuel and it will expand in size to somewhere beyond the Earth's orbit, at which point the world will truly end. By then I expect humanity's descendants will have already found someplace else to live. Unless an asteroid hits us.

    May 19, 2011 at 8:53 am |
  16. Abu Ibrahim

    he Gospel of Matthew:
    Jesus himself didnt know about the Hour. God not knowing about the Hour?

    (KJV) Mat 24:3 And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?

    (KJV) Mat 24:36 But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.

    May 19, 2011 at 8:52 am |

    32 “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33 Be on guard! Be alert[a]! You do not know when that time will come.

    May 19, 2011 at 8:52 am |
  18. Damian

    This is a smalll group of looney tunes.....like those crazy Phelps/Westboro Church...........your average Christian in the US doesn't believe this crap for a second. They can be embarrassed on Sunday when nothing happens on May 21st.

    May 19, 2011 at 8:51 am |
  19. Holy Molly

    People who believe this is going to happen, need medication. Religion is good, stupidity is not. Wish the bible also predicted the economic melt down and tsunami. Also which horse is gonna win the derby, then we could have all been alive and millionaires. No religion is dumb. People who claim to be religious demigods because they think they know better are.

    May 19, 2011 at 8:51 am |
  20. Bill

    Jesus put this debate to rest over 2000 years ago. Nobody knows when the end will come except God. Period. End of Story.

    May 19, 2011 at 8:51 am |
    • Abu Ibrahim

      But Bill, if Jesus is God – as one of the three- shouldnt he be aware about the Hour?

      May 19, 2011 at 8:54 am |
    • anonymous

      Abu Ibrahim, Jesus is the Lord. He is the Master. But he is not God. Jesus is our brother, our savior, our redeemer, and the mediator. God is the father of the spirits of mankind. There is a difference. They are separate, and Jesus will not know the day nor the hour until God tells him.

      May 19, 2011 at 9:02 am |
    • Abu Ibrahim

      Anonymous, when you pray, do you pray to Jesus or God?

      For if you pray to God – the same God to whom Jesus himself prayed to – then you are a Muslim. But if you pray to Jesus, you are a Christian.

      May 19, 2011 at 9:07 am |
    • stood up

      Why, yes, he did, and consequently there is at least one 2000 year old person walking the earth.

      May 19, 2011 at 9:29 am |
    • Wayne317

      anonymous, you guys need to have a meeting to settle this. I know plenty of Christians who say Jesus, God, and holy thingy are all one. Let me know when you guys settle this ok?

      May 19, 2011 at 9:33 am |
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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.