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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. Mongo

    Y'all should google Leon Festinger if y'all want to see what is going to happen Saturday.

    May 19, 2011 at 9:18 am |
  2. AZTech

    I happen to check out their website. My question is this, if the world is going to end on Saturday, why do they have a schedule for Sunday's radio broadcasts?

    May 19, 2011 at 9:17 am |
  3. Irene

    How can these people claim to be Christians? New testament clearly says that noone knows the hour, not even Jesus Himself. They should claim the name of this false prophet, not Christ's name. sad

    May 19, 2011 at 9:17 am |
    • 1plus1

      How can christians claim to be rational humans? Logic and reason clearly dictate that a Grande Supreme Being doesn't exist. I know how hard that is to face.. I spent many years trying to rationalize the beliefs I was taught, but my logical mind could no longer allow myself to subscribe to nonsense.

      May 19, 2011 at 10:21 am |
  4. Aku

    So what timezone does God operate out of? It will be the 21st in some parts of the world a good 15 hours before The USA gets raptured.

    May 19, 2011 at 9:16 am |
  5. Mack

    Not sure if this has come up but because this event will start at 6pm at the international dateline the rapture will occur on the 20th for anyone west of the central time zone. I'm not sure how this is going to work since the bible clearly pinpoints the 21st for the rapture. Possibly God will be having the main rapture event for the Central time zone and all points east and then little rapturettes as the remaining time zones roll into the 21st?

    You think God would have planned for this and inserted a rapture schedule in the bible.

    May 19, 2011 at 9:15 am |
  6. iPwn

    What flavor kool-aid will they be drinking on the 22nd?

    May 19, 2011 at 9:15 am |
  7. musikpal

    Though God wants His people to know the timing or when the time is near, yet no one knows the precisely the time.
    These people are not Christians, Christians know what the Bible said....."No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father." ,Matthew 24:36

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

    Great. The price of gas should drop like a rock by Monday.

    May 19, 2011 at 9:13 am |
  9. Jeff

    I was just wondering, is this supposed to begin on Saturday in the East or in the West? It is never the same date everywhere in the world.....have they even thought of that small problem? As usual, they are incapable of answering the most basic questions about their claims.

    May 19, 2011 at 9:12 am |
    • Jeff

      Oh, my bad, it is a rolling rapture.....I guess some people will know ahead time in order to have one hell of a party...no pun intended.

      May 19, 2011 at 9:16 am |
  10. brad

    Well, considering that the life expectancy of the average male is about 82, the world as I know it is going to end in about 24 years. I'll have my own personal Armageddon I need to worry about (or not).

    May 19, 2011 at 9:11 am |
    • Jeff

      Yes, this truly is when one's world ends.

      May 19, 2011 at 9:17 am |
    • Bible Clown

      Turns out it was actually Schwarzenegger's world that ended, not ours.

      May 19, 2011 at 11:22 am |
  11. Joe the Bartender

    Just because the say they are inspired by their Christian faith does not make it so, Christian or faith. When are we going to start using some critical thinking about this kind of absurd foolishness?

    May 19, 2011 at 9:11 am |
    • brad

      Hi, Joe.
      This might be a stretch but bear with me. Darwin showed us that all life struggles toward survival, ourselves included. Implicit is the possibility of extinction. So total annihilation (sp?) is a possibility for us. How we imagine this end is secondary to the fact itself.

      May 19, 2011 at 9:17 am |
  12. mkr

    Who is jesus?

    May 19, 2011 at 9:10 am |
    • JulieB

      Oh someday you'll be sorry you said that.

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

      The righteousness of the world. We are sinful. He took our punishment for us and will consider us righteous and holy if we believe in him and repent of our sin.

      May 19, 2011 at 9:30 am |
    • Bible Clown

      He's a Mexican guy who mows Julie's lawn.

      May 19, 2011 at 11:23 am |
  13. MrOpinionator

    Our economy needs these advertising dollars. Stupider things get advertised every day! Seriously though, thanks for the contribution.

    May 19, 2011 at 9:10 am |
  14. Jimmy Bean

    I'm having a dooms day party this saturday and we will count down to 6:00pm. Get ready 3..2..1.. HAPPY DOOMS DAY!!!!

    May 19, 2011 at 9:09 am |
  15. Not worried - yet

    I'm not terribly worried. China is a full 12 hours ahead of us. If the world is coming to an end on Saturday, my friend in Shanghai will call me, which will give me a full 12 hours to prepare (and party).

    May 19, 2011 at 9:09 am |
  16. 1plus1

    Would you consider it rude if a rational, clear thinking person asks for evidence?

    May 19, 2011 at 9:08 am |
  17. sonny

    so here is a question. Have these people been still paying their bills or did they just tell their creditors the world is coming to an end so we dont have to pay? then after this does not happen do our tax dollars help them while they collect food stamps and go on welfare? these people are nuts!!

    May 19, 2011 at 9:08 am |
  18. WayOutThere

    The End Times Prophecy for the Christians was fulfilled 167 years ago....so they are a little late.
    bahai-insights.blogspot.com/2010/05/declaration-bab-return-jesus-christ.html

    May 19, 2011 at 9:07 am |
  19. Mike

    This is the dumbest story CNN has ever reported on. There is no evidence to support a doomsday claim other than a book that claims snakes can talk and that the world is 6000 years old... This is the worst primary source I have ever heard of.. Can't wait for doomsday not to come and these people are jobless, homeless, and familyness due to their stupidity.

    May 19, 2011 at 9:07 am |
    • Dave J

      Wow Mike, your words of hate are just crazy. You act like these people stole from you. You almost look like an antichrist.

      May 19, 2011 at 9:27 am |
    • ckelley

      DaveJ...you just look like a Kool-aid drinking moron.

      May 19, 2011 at 9:36 am |
    • Small Biz IL

      Mike Mike Mike..... Ye of Little Faith. Aren't you going to feel silly when everything you were sure of disappears on Saturday? Oh- wait- you won't feel anything... nor will any of the rest of us. I gotta go pack and give crap away which is stupid because they're just going to give it away again and so on and so on.... Nice talking with you... for the last time... and the first time... well- good luck with the rapture. Hope it's a smooth ride and the connections are on time! Is their meal service on Rapture Airlines?

      May 19, 2011 at 9:40 am |
    • maggie

      The snake did not speak, it was an invible person speaking. Why do you think Eve said later on she was deceived? Because she realized what had happened to her but by then it was too late. Being deceived it is not an excuse to be desobedient. She allowed the desire of the eyes to run wild with her.
      Remember what God has said to Adam " the day you eat from the tree of knowledge you will posively die". Imagine that Eve had spent countless time in the garden and passed that tree many times before that particular event took place. One day while she was passing, she probably saw the serpent on the tree eating its fruits and suddenly the snake starting to speak. She must had concluded the only logical explanation of the snake sudden speech is the eaten of the fruit. If the snake a dumb animal can speak by eating this fruit, imagine what it would do for me. Her reasoning was flawed. The snake told Eve, the only reason God forbade them drom eating the fruit, it was because God knew by eating the fruit, they would become like God and they would not die. The question is, Eve allowed herself to be deceived because of her desire to become God. She was thinking of herself, not of God who gave her life and a beautiful home. She was anungratefull child period.

      May 19, 2011 at 9:49 am |
    • Satan

      Maggie, the Bible says the snake spoke. Where do you get all this "Imagine Eve did this" and "she probably thought that" stuff come from? The snake spoke, and God cursed it afterwards. If it was an innocent bystander, why did God go all pre-medieval on it? And why is it ok for you to make up Bible stuff, but not for us? Can I make up a Bible verse too?

      May 19, 2011 at 11:30 am |
  20. JohnM

    If this cult leader really believes this, then why hasn't he liquidated his assets in preperation for this day, and sent the money to starving people all over the world with bibles and gospel tracts, etc.? The answer? Because he's not really sure. He's been wrong before and he will be wrong this time, and he'll be wrong the next time he put's gullible people through this wringer.

    May 19, 2011 at 9:06 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.