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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. Andew

    Harold Camping, I got to say i admire the man even making these claims and gaining a huge movement caravaning around the US preaching this doomsday date. He seems like a nice man and maybe jaded with this claim, but he is only adding him self to a long list of false prophets, that according to the bible are just as much going to hell for preaching these kinds of things. I think Jesus mentions the world can not know the time and date of his return becuz it is a thing of him and GOD knowing, and jesus teaches prophets like these would come and go but not to run blindly to their predictions. Why? it just causes blind ignorant fear. Now Camping tries to justify his prediction cuz he claims that in prophecies to Daniel, if im wrong correct me, that God warns daniel what he sees must be locked away for time to pass and that eventually mans mind would opened up to reveal information in these prophecies. Camping's got a point in saying that. But at the end of the day I'm a christian thats sticking to Jesus' words...in other words "fool you wont know when Im coming back, so just do right for your fellow man and await my return while others make crazy assumptions"....For those who have no faith in a higher power, this is all hogwash and you have your right to say things like that, and I cant judge you either. Just lets live life to the fullest and do good and general and if i have a chance to preach to someone then god will bring me that chance. for now this is just another day.

    May 19, 2011 at 9:44 am |
    • musikpal

      Hmmm I like this comment, Andrew.

      May 19, 2011 at 10:13 am |
  2. Michael

    The Bible states that (not worded exactly) "no man will know the day, nor will the angels, no, nor the Son himself, but only the Father"...and for a man to claim himself to be a Holy Man of God, and fathom trying to predict God's will or work is sickening. This California man claims to be a prophet...look through history at God's prophets...none of them were ever wrong in their prophecies...not once! He was wrong, twice...If the Rapture were to happen on May 21st, 2011 then so be it...If it happens 1000 years from now, then so be it...however, claiming to KNOW what He knows is disgusting. I prayed for God's mercy on this man as this is the second time he has spoken of God's plan, and put a date and time on it. My biggest quam is: if God hasn't even let Jesus know when He is sending Jesus back to earth, then why would a man, who is a SERVANT of God, know this? It is impossible. He has blasphemically put himself on the same "All-Knowing" level of God and again, I pray for mercy on his soul.

    May 19, 2011 at 9:43 am |
    • Elwiss G

      Amen!!

      May 19, 2011 at 9:46 am |
    • drastic1

      he is calling in Jesus to deal with the Muslims, Hindus, atheists once and for all.

      May 19, 2011 at 9:47 am |
    • Russ

      Exactly. Think about how much money he has raised by his cool-aid drinking sheep. This man should be arrested for fraud in the disguise of religous belief.

      May 19, 2011 at 9:48 am |
    • Davey Jones

      I wish the story would say how he came to the conclusion that May 21st would be the day. How'd he arrive at that conclusion?

      May 19, 2011 at 9:50 am |
    • Bible Clown

      "arrested for fraud in the disguise of religous belief." That's not against the law in this country, because you could prosecute EVERY church for it and win. Either produce God, do a miracle, or lose the lawsuit: your choice.

      May 19, 2011 at 11:39 am |
  3. WildmanBill

    Like minded nut jobs were proclaiming the same fate at the turn of the 1800's to the early 1900's. Once again we have a group of weak minded people following a doctrine that will leave them hanging again. Of course the followers will say God has chosen to spare us again from this fate when the proclaimed end does not happen. Go away nut jobs and let us live our lives without you and your weakmineded slime.

    May 19, 2011 at 9:43 am |
    • MrEee

      “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?”

      Uh... OK, so the world is actually going to end later today, and you're going to go to hell if you don't convert to Islam. There, better run out and do that too. Morons.

      May 19, 2011 at 9:45 am |
  4. Marilyn

    Short and sweet, I don't believe this for a second.

    May 19, 2011 at 9:42 am |
  5. Déjà vu

    Camping did this before. He uses this strategy to drum up interest in his "church". On Sunday he will simply explain that it is what God wanted and we can't possibly understand.

    May 19, 2011 at 9:42 am |
  6. drastic1

    boy, the Muslims are in trouble now. The christians are bringing in the big guns. No more burning Korans, end the world instead. Thank you Jesus

    May 19, 2011 at 9:42 am |
  7. Russ

    These people should be arrested based on laws concerning "clear and present danger" on 6:01PM Saturday. This is ridiculous and it would make me sick if these people would end up getting food stamps or welfare after their employers kick them to the curb for being blatent morons and quitting their jobs, etc. I actually can't wait until these fundamentalists finally shut up after they look like idiots on Saturday.

    May 19, 2011 at 9:42 am |
  8. InFormed

    I hope these crackpots are not planning another 'Heaven's Gate' type ending to their craziness on May 21st. That would very sad, but not surprising.

    May 19, 2011 at 9:41 am |
    • MrEee

      I kind of hope they are. Remove this from the human gene pool...

      May 19, 2011 at 9:45 am |
    • Bible Clown

      No doubt they'll kill the kids to keep them from growing up as atheists after this wrecks their faith.

      May 19, 2011 at 11:40 am |
  9. PJ

    Bunch of loonies... when are people going to give up their fears and realize "gods" are just a very effective way to keep them dumb?

    May 19, 2011 at 9:41 am |
  10. Michael Wong

    I love the way Christians think they will be "Raptured" up into Heaven, based on the Book of Revelation. Have they ever bothered reading it? In Revelation 7, it says clearly that only 144,000 will be saved (you've probably heard this number from Jehovah's Witnesses) and that every last one of them will come from one of the 12 tribes of Israel (which no Christian ever wants to mention, because it means that nobody goes but the Jews).

    It says this shortly after Revelation 6, where it says that the stars will fall from the sky and the sky will be rolled up like a carpet at Home Depot. I love how no one ever talks about that part, because it sounds so obviously stupid.

    May 19, 2011 at 9:41 am |
    • InFormed

      You mean that there are other parts that are not stupid???

      May 19, 2011 at 9:43 am |
    • razzi

      It's mostly based on other books of the bible, not Revelation.

      May 19, 2011 at 9:45 am |
    • Steve (the real one)

      Fail! the 144,000 are Jewish preachers who wil come on te scene AFTER the rapture. The bible says John saw in heaven and number which could not be numbered (talking about the amount of people there).
      1. 144,000 can be numbered
      2. the 144,000 are world wide preachers and NOT the number of the saved!

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

      @Steve (the real one): You said, "Fail!"

      And that's where you've should've stopped.

      May 19, 2011 at 9:51 am |
    • MrEee

      There are lots of parts that aren't stupid, like where David goes and bangs this guy's wife and then kills the husband... But sure, lots of pillars of salt / burning bush stupidity. 🙂

      May 19, 2011 at 9:53 am |
    • Steve (the real one)

      SeanNJ
      @Steve (the real one): You said, "Fail!"
      And that's where you've should've stopped.
      -----–
      If we don't share how will you know? Sorry SeanNJ, I really should have kept going. Exactly why should I have stopped Sean? Fairy tale? You don't want to hear it? Why?

      May 19, 2011 at 9:58 am |
  11. JF

    Man, – why does the world have to end on a weekend?!?!?!?!?!

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

      no more shopping

      May 19, 2011 at 9:42 am |
    • Déjà vu

      No kidding. The playoffs aren't over yet!

      May 19, 2011 at 9:44 am |
  12. GDog

    Darn! Can't it wait till after Memorial Day 2011. I really don't feel like dealing with the end of the world right now.

    May 19, 2011 at 9:40 am |
  13. jeremy

    LOL

    May 19, 2011 at 9:38 am |
  14. razzi

    Well, since God says no one will know when he is come backing, I guarantee it won't be on 5/21/2011 !

    May 19, 2011 at 9:38 am |
    • Tuntun

      True

      May 19, 2011 at 9:43 am |
  15. Nick

    Lets see, this will make I think about the third end of the world I'll have lived through since I was about ten years old. I'm 47 now. I'm fully confident come Monday morning the 23rd, I'll be sitting at work just like any other day.

    These doomsdayers are nothing but kooks and should be treated as nothing more. Weak minded kooks.

    May 19, 2011 at 9:38 am |
  16. BD70

    Wouldn't their jaws drop if Jesus came back and took everyone but them:-)

    May 19, 2011 at 9:37 am |
    • jeremy

      awww thats messed up

      May 19, 2011 at 9:39 am |
    • Bible Clown

      He could come back and bring His whip, and run them out of town. Now THAT would get people back to church.

      May 19, 2011 at 11:43 am |
  17. Just Wonder

    CNN is in desperate need for a headline since there is no earthquake,flood or bombing or anything really going on to cover.

    May 19, 2011 at 9:37 am |
    • Dawn

      Yes indeed... its not like there's a war on anywhere.

      May 19, 2011 at 9:49 am |
  18. Tony

    I am actually glad these people are doing this. They will be showing us and themselves how dumb they are. They are like a mental illness spreading through our society in the same way jihadism is spreading through the Muslim world. They contribute nothing to our world except fear and ignorance. When the sun rises on Sunday, May 22, and we are all still around, maybe some of these ignorant people will realize how foolish they are and repent by becoming rational. Maybe they will conclude that the devil made them do this.

    In the meantime I am planning a road trip the the Wine Country in California next week and have already made my reservations. I am quite confident that all those great wineries will still be there.

    May 19, 2011 at 9:37 am |
    • Ryan in Michigan

      Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot would be proud of you. They also said religion was a mental illness spreading like a plague through society and subsequently killed millions to try to stop the "plague."

      May 19, 2011 at 9:44 am |
    • MrEee

      They may not have been kind people, but they were right. The fundamental issue is just that you have lots of weak-minded people, so they're going to believe in something, and the leaders you mention just wanted them to believe in their political ideologies instead of religion. It's total idiocy, and it's even more amazing how many people can't take an objective look at their 'faiths' and see what crocks they are.

      May 19, 2011 at 9:49 am |
    • A Matter of FAITH

      The day will come....probably not May 21st. But, the only way to make sure you are prepared for this event (when it actually happens) is to obey the scriptures related to your salvation. They say Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. Once you have done this the day or the hour will no longer matter.

      May 19, 2011 at 10:18 am |
    • Tony

      Hey Ryan in Michigan: I wasn't referring to religious faith, I was referring to Fundamentalist fanatics in all religions. As far as the celebreties you mentioned go, they are just as bad. Maybe Osama Bin Ladin would be proud of you.

      May 19, 2011 at 11:53 am |
  19. John Armstrong Citizen III

    You may have missed Matthew 24:36 in your research. ""However, no one knows the day or hour when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the Son himself. Only the Father knows."

    May 19, 2011 at 9:36 am |
    • razzi

      No doubt...I guess they missed that!

      May 19, 2011 at 9:40 am |
    • Elwiss G

      Amen!! That is exactly the truth! It is written right on the bible! Only our heavenly father will know.

      May 19, 2011 at 9:43 am |
  20. RT

    Went to Family Radio website and sent them a e-mail asking; "Are you accepting donations after 5/21/11?" Their answer; Yes please send donations to P.O box..........Too Funny!

    May 19, 2011 at 9:35 am |
    • Elwiss G

      lol!

      May 19, 2011 at 9:43 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.