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. Dwiteschrute

    All I know is.... this is Obama's fault.

    May 19, 2011 at 10:39 am |
    • daniel lara , brandon sanchez

      how is it his fault r u racist

      May 19, 2011 at 10:43 am |
  2. daniel lara , brandon sanchez

    If he said the same thing 199 whatever and nothing happened why would you belive him now , ima laugh my ass off when nothing happens !

    May 19, 2011 at 10:39 am |
  3. I am God

    Listen to ME... YOU FOOLS... THE WORLD WILL END... PACK UP ALL OF YOUR BELONGINGS, KIDS, ETC AND SUBMIT! SUBMIT! SUBMIT! You will be beam to Heaven to be with me! You are my children! I offer a nice bed for each and every one of you... 3 hot meals a day... and lovely pills to make you giggly and happy! Please call and make your reservations now at 1-800-IM-CRAZY... I REPEAT... CALL NOW AS SPACES ARE LIMITED! 1-800-IM-CRAZY! I HAVE A BRAND NEW THUNDERBOLT ECT MACHINE TO JOLT YOUR BRAINS AND MAKE YOU HAPPY AGAIN... CALL ME NOW – 1-800-IM-CRAZY... IF THE LINES ARE BUSY... CALL 1-800-IM-PSYCHO

    May 19, 2011 at 10:38 am |
    • daniel lara , brandon sanchez

      now your taking gibberish !

      May 19, 2011 at 10:39 am |
    • daniel lara , brandon sanchez

      get a life

      May 19, 2011 at 10:42 am |
    • I AM GOD

      I am your SAVIOR! NOW SUBMIT!

      May 19, 2011 at 10:47 am |
  4. Ziggy

    What about all the people who are not Jews or Christians? As they make up the bulk of the world population.

    May 19, 2011 at 10:38 am |
  5. A Matter of FAITH

    We are assured that the only way to make sure you are prepared for this event (when it actually happens- on whatever date) 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. Believe no man, only trust Gods word.

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

    CNN, please do a follow-up story on these idiots on Sunday, May 22nd.
    We all want to see their shocked expression when nothing has happened......

    Although I know what they will say on Sunday morning.....


    : )

    May 19, 2011 at 10:37 am |
  7. kristen

    Duh Duh! Dumbies the world its not gonna end someone just wants attention. 😉

    May 19, 2011 at 10:36 am |
  8. ksherr

    Well it stricty states in Matthew 7:15 in the Bible, it says "Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves." Camping, by claiming to herald the end of the world, a date known to God alone, is functioning as a prophet, which is wrong because Jesus was the last prophet.

    Anyways if it does happen we still have 5 months till october.. haha... i mean come on over we will have a bbq and go into the stores and take things. Again he contradicts himself like he did in 1994 when he said the world was going to end... Here is my understanding of what he said when it didn't happen the first time.... "oh look at me im a stoopy stoop stoopid headdd... i no know when world ends cause i'm half quacked..." But I mean if it happens they take about a lot of fire... at least i don't have to start my own fire for the bbq... everyones welcome :):)

    May 19, 2011 at 10:36 am |
  9. MC

    @Jeebus... I think you missed the part where the Bible was written by people inspired by God.They were just not written year after the fact. I'm a Christian and do believe that the end of the world is near, but in Matthew 24:36 "No man knows the day and hour". False teachers will rise up and I believe Harold is one of these people. He is being deceived and is therefore deceiving others. Matthew 24:31 says that Jesus will come back and gather His saints and that His coming will not be secret. Therefore, no rapture.

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

      How do you know they were "inspired by God". Many of the books read like letters to a distant church.

      May 19, 2011 at 10:41 am |
  10. I am God

    Listen to ME... YOU FOOLS... THE WORLD WILL END... PACK UP ALL OF YOUR BELONGINGS, KIDS, ETC AND SUBMIT! SUBMIT! SUBMIT! You will be beam to Heaven to be with me! You are my children! I offer a nice bed for each and every one of you... 3 hot meals a day... and lovely pills to make you giggly and happy! Please call and make your reservations now at 1-800-IM-PSYCHO

    May 19, 2011 at 10:36 am |
  11. Bob in SLC

    Its the end of the world as we know it...
    Its the end of the world as we know it...
    and I feel fine...

    Love REM

    May 19, 2011 at 10:36 am |
  12. Sayantan

    Hey I thought we still had a year till 2012!! This expedited schedule does throw off my plans quite a bit!

    May 19, 2011 at 10:36 am |
  13. Dwiteschrute

    Fer Ye Not Young Madam's and Lads!!!!

    For the mighty Spaghetti Monster of Mordor will strike at 6:01 P.M. EST on May 20th the year of our Meatball 2011 and cover the world in his rich, meaty might until there is not a soul left on this earth.

    Praise Him and his Garlic Bread of Choice.

    May 19, 2011 at 10:35 am |
  14. Sean

    All cults have the same thing in common, they all believe in a sudden end to the world! why? sorry for them, the earth and the human race will prob survive a few million more years.

    May 19, 2011 at 10:34 am |
    • mh

      The earth will definitely be around for a few billions years yet. Humans, however, I don't know. Evolution doesn't stop now!

      May 19, 2011 at 10:40 am |
  15. Ziggy

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

    If the world continues – you will still have a good time.

    May 19, 2011 at 10:34 am |
    • pete

      and don't forget about the chronic too. roll up a FATTY!

      May 19, 2011 at 10:52 am |
  16. AB

    That day is my Birthday, the start of a new decade. Hope I get to do the judging;)

    May 19, 2011 at 10:33 am |
  17. Cecil

    I grew up in a small town in the Bible belt with the shadow of the rapture hanging over my head. Every Sunday, I'd listen to various preachers, pastors, and ministers talk about the end of the world, the rapture, and the signs of the times. Hearing these things as a child terrified me beyond all reason. Over the years, I saw many doomsday prophecies (both religious and secular) go unfulfilled, and I gradually relaxed and had a somewhat normal life, but to this day, the only grudge that I've held against my parents is the grudge I hold against them for exposing me to those things at such an early age. I'm now in my 40's and have children of my own. I've been very careful to insulate them from the insane ramblings of egomaniacs such as Camping. It is my considered opinion that anyone who makes an end-of-the-world prediction that leads to mass hysteria, as this one clearly has, should be fined, imprisoned, or both if the prophecy is not fulfilled. Let's hold these people accountable for the lives that they ruin.

    May 19, 2011 at 10:33 am |
    • Bob in SLC

      A class action lawsuit from the followers against the radio station sounds like a good way to hold them accountable, Camping should have to cover all losses of anyone who listened to his advice.

      May 19, 2011 at 10:39 am |
  18. Chillin

    Mark 13:32 “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 10:33 am |
    • Addison

      You hit that right on the nose!

      May 19, 2011 at 4:19 pm |
  19. Not All Docs Play Golf

    Actually, it's not a lot crazier than most of the beliefs of mainstream evangelical Christians in this country. I mean, a guy named Jonah spent 3 days in the belly of a whale, because the bible says so? Hard to make a subset of crazies stand out form the bigger herd.

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

      The bible makes no mention of a whale....just a great Fish...whale is a mammal. Absurd story none-the-less...

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

      Actually, the Old Testament says a great fish but the New Testament says a whale.

      May 19, 2011 at 10:46 am |
    • Ra

      Further evidence of literary freedoms taken during the re-draft... ;->

      May 19, 2011 at 10:56 am |
  20. Ra

    The earth will meet a fiery demise....when the sun reaches sufficient mass to create enough gravity to suck it in...the way many planets meet their makers. Humans (unless adapted via evolution) will be long extinct before this happens because the surface temp will have exceeded our comfort level so-to-speak. Here is an actual fact for all the devoted: All religions, every single one, are the result of cultural construction. Deny all you like; claim certain one's were divinely inspired, but at the end of the day, every single one began as individual, or group ideas for how to explain what cannot be explained. The existence of God can neither be proved or disproved....but to seek truth, one cannot have already decided one way or the other, lest they become boxed in by that belief.

    May 19, 2011 at 10:32 am |
    • pete


      May 19, 2011 at 11:12 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.