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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. Jeff

    I just went to their website... they are still accepting donations... for what????

    Doom averted. Nothing to see here sheeple... go back to your "big macs" and "dancing with the stars"

    May 19, 2011 at 10:32 am |
  2. paul shelby

    what's sad is that CNN reports on such dumb stories like this.....is there nothing better report on? why is this news? like the world is not comming to an end for some religious group doesn't every other day. To entertain these ideas is arrogant and has no place in national news......

    May 19, 2011 at 10:31 am |
  3. James Olsen

    Heres the problem these people ARE DOING HARM, there are a lot of folks out there that are a bit more marginal with grips on sanity and such and they hear stuff like this and go into a painc, and thats what these supposed "True Believers" are counting on, its not right, and its dangerous

    May 19, 2011 at 10:31 am |
  4. Ziggy

    CORRECTION – Time to eat prime-grade steaks, buy and drink Louis XIII brandy, and smoke some good cigars and be home and with the family.

    May 19, 2011 at 10:31 am |
  5. Greg

    Idiots !!!

    May 19, 2011 at 10:30 am |
    • No One

      Exactly. What I want to know is, why give all these whack jobs press coverage but then NEVER go back to them the day AFTER and re-interview them and ask if they regret believing and regret giving away all their possessions? Now THAT'S the news article I really want to read!

      May 19, 2011 at 10:37 am |
  6. clc777

    not sure if these people r right or wrong I do know that the usa is having more Earthquakes that are more than normal, look down in Missouri at the New Madrid fault, in Pennsylvania up in Maine in Canada the problem is that the crust of the earth is shifting if you believe this or not it may not be the end of the world as we see it but it will change a lot in the next few months.

    May 19, 2011 at 10:30 am |
    • Michael

      There are no more earthquakes than normal... just the upper end of the median range. The Earth's crust is -always- shifting. New Madrid fault, however, doesn't shift, it just gets pulled, as it is a weak point, not an actual full plate fault.

      May 19, 2011 at 10:31 am |
  7. Tim

    The issue is very simple. If you believe in the bible or not is irrelevant. They do, and the answer for them is in the bible. What gets me is that they pick and choose which parts to believe. You can't claim the bible is Gods word and simply ignore the parts you find inconvenient. More than once it says you will not know when the end will come.

    Revelation 3:3 "I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come to you."
    Matthew 24:42 "Watch therefore: for you know not what hour your Lord does come"
    Matthew 24:44 "Therefore be you also ready: for in such an hour as you think not the Son of man comes."
    and there are others...

    May 19, 2011 at 10:30 am |
    • Atheist_Free_Thinker

      ALL christians pick and choose which parts to believe. Exodus 31:12-15 says that you must put to death anyone that works on the sabbath.

      How many of you bible thumpers follow that part of the bible, huh? How many people have you killed on the sabbath to please that imaginary god of yours?

      Hypocrites. Follow whatever parts you want and say that your religion is the only true one. You are all sad and pathetic. Instead of helping the world grow, you're just keeping it stuck in the middle ages with retarded religion.

      May 19, 2011 at 10:35 am |
    • Beel

      Wow.....over 5000 responses. Must have struck a nerve somewhere. You are correct about what people pick and choose to believe. We call them "cafeteria Christians". The Book of Revelation states that whoever claims to know the date of "The End of The World / The Return of Christ" will be wrong. Christ Himself said so and He will make sure that it doesn't happen on the date someone claims it will occur..If any of God's Word is true then all of it is true. Can't pick and choose. It's "either / or."....

      May 19, 2011 at 10:37 am |
    • Elaine

      I agree, Tim. No one knows when. The whole point is to be ready. Not with water purification tablets, or RME's, but to have an active, alive relationship with God. Want to know how? Grab a Bible and read the book of Romans Chapter 10, verses 9 + 10.

      May 19, 2011 at 10:43 am |
    • Samantha

      Tim you have become my favorite person on CNN right now. I believe the Bible and have my entire life, though I may not be living correctly (according to my religion) I still believe every word in it. I had a friend who said that all of the recent events (eg the tornados) means we will all dye soon. But as I told her and I specifically quoted a part of the Bible to her in which you have listed here, that no one knows and predicting it is just a waste of time. I think the people who are saying the world is going to end really need to open their Bibles back up and re-read every word.

      May 19, 2011 at 10:43 am |
  8. Donna

    Dangit!! I'm going to miss Gaga's new album!

    May 19, 2011 at 10:29 am |
  9. Josh

    Hahaha, can't wait to see there faces when nothing happens!

    May 19, 2011 at 10:29 am |
  10. A Matter of FAITH

    We are assured that the only way to make sure you are prepared for this event (when it actually happens- whatever the day) 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 10:29 am |
  11. Ziggy

    Time to eat prime-grade steaks, buy and drink Louie XIII brandy, and smoke some good cigars and be home and with the family.

    May 19, 2011 at 10:29 am |
  12. Russ

    As the worlds population explodes an equal % of nuts appear nothing unusual here. Just think of the # of people who think Sarah Palin would make a good President.

    May 19, 2011 at 10:29 am |
  13. God

    My name spelled backwards is Dog

    May 19, 2011 at 10:28 am |
    • Satan

      STFU, I'M PLOTTING MAH EVILZ!

      May 19, 2011 at 10:30 am |
    • Bhudda

      Hey guys what's up?

      May 19, 2011 at 10:31 am |
    • Muhammod

      Shut up Bhudda

      May 19, 2011 at 10:32 am |
    • Elron Hubbard

      Does anyone still remember me? Hello?

      May 19, 2011 at 10:33 am |
    • Cthulu

      rthrrthrthrthrrhrhtrhtrhrhtrhthrthrhthrthrhtrjtrthrthrthrthrhthrthrthrthrhtrhthrtrhhrhthhhrthrthrhthrthrhtrhthrhtrh!!!

      🙂

      May 19, 2011 at 10:33 am |
    • kristen

      your stupid!

      May 19, 2011 at 10:34 am |
    • Some Guy Sitting By The Seven Eleven

      You big sillies, everybody knows that nacho cheese stain is the true creator of the universe!

      May 19, 2011 at 10:36 am |
    • kristen

      I'm stupid!

      May 19, 2011 at 10:37 am |
    • kristen

      I like pooholes and dead kittens

      May 19, 2011 at 10:38 am |
  14. George

    This is why rational people see religion as a dangerous thing........

    Because some folks really are dumber than dirt.

    May 19, 2011 at 10:28 am |
    • Michael

      Some?

      May 19, 2011 at 10:32 am |
  15. ru kidding me?

    i'll be in vegas on the 21st of may... i bet they have already printed out " I SURVIVED THE END OF THE WORLD" t-shirts... i'll get two and send one to that idiot.... Harold Camping

    May 19, 2011 at 10:28 am |
  16. Julie Labrouste

    Really CNN...REALLY?! O.O

    May 19, 2011 at 10:28 am |
  17. Atxcash

    WAHOO! means no more house payments ;P

    May 19, 2011 at 10:28 am |
  18. Bear Grylls

    Rapture is happening, better drink my own pee

    May 19, 2011 at 10:28 am |
  19. Jim

    If Family Radio is promoting Saturday as Judgement Day, does that mean they will go off the air permanently? Halleluia!

    May 19, 2011 at 10:27 am |
  20. Vic of New York

    They may have a point.... Based on all the recent rain, maybe we should start building an Ark!

    May 19, 2011 at 10:27 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.