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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. wes

    at what time???

    May 19, 2011 at 11:48 am |
  2. Mike

    Here's what you CAN book: starting on May 22nd, this group and all their fellow travelers will start telling us why they were misinterpreted, why the destruction was really "spiritual," or any other bizarre attempt to explain away their mistake. Jehovah's Witnesses have predicted the end of the world for decades...and were wrong each time; the Millerites predicted it in 1844 and again in 1845...and they were of course wrong too.

    This is the same old tired story.

    It might be that Camping will pass away from shock on that day, and his followers will interpret THAT as fulfillment of his bizarre rantings.

    But however they do it, they will rationalize what seems to normal people to be the impossible: how it is that the complete destruction of the earth does not mean the complete destruction of the earth. Let the countdown begin....

    May 19, 2011 at 11:47 am |
  3. Pico Deho

    Can this be true? Maybe I will have to restock my 1970's Atom-Bomb shelter. And keep Arnold and Newt outside.

    May 19, 2011 at 11:46 am |
  4. smiley

    Well I have a giant pile of socks that needs folding, but if the world is going to end of Saturday why bother ?

    May 19, 2011 at 11:43 am |
    • SDCyclist

      I never bother folding/sorting socks and underwear. I just shove them in my drawer in one big heap. I enjoy the daily task of trying to find a mate for a sock. And, if I'm being really lazy that day, I don't bother... I just wear mismatched socks (as long as they're the same color). But even then I can sometimes screw up that big time! Nothing like crossing your legs in a meeting to reveal you're wearing a brown sock and a blue sock... Argh...

      May 19, 2011 at 11:52 am |
  5. Jim B.

    Well if this is judgement day on May 21st, then the Mayan 12-21-12 is useless.

    May 19, 2011 at 11:42 am |
  6. IslamofPeace

    One of the sign of the end of the world is when the Sun comes from West. Now still we have time but try to create peace and remove the hatred among.

    May 19, 2011 at 11:42 am |
  7. brian

    how can u predict this i don't beleave that u could even post something like this and scare people shame on u 4 doing this and shame on cnn for posting this as well and listening to someone say this i will pray that u are wrong.

    May 19, 2011 at 11:42 am |
    • Angii

      Just chill. Its humorous. Enjoy....

      May 19, 2011 at 11:49 am |
    • BD

      Idiot

      May 19, 2011 at 11:52 am |
    • SDCyclist

      Relax... this isn't news... it's entertainment. 🙂 Have a great day! And definitely make plans for Sunday! Nothing is going to happen Saturday!

      May 19, 2011 at 11:57 am |
  8. svann

    Say what you will about these people, but they sure got the comments going here. 157 pages and counting.

    May 19, 2011 at 11:42 am |
  9. E

    I keep asking these people for all their money and possessions and yet I haven't received anything from them! The world is going to end so they don't need it – I'll take it off your hands for free! IDIOT MORON LOSERS! Get a life!

    May 19, 2011 at 11:41 am |
  10. TRS

    If it doesn't come to pass, these folks need to consider who started this rumor and who they were actually following, and label them a false prophet.

    Deut. 18:20-22
    20 “‘But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in My name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die.’ 21 “And if you say in your heart, ‘How shall we know the word which the LORD has not spoken?’—22 “when a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the thing does not happen or come to pass, that is the thing which the LORD has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him.”

    May 19, 2011 at 11:39 am |
    • Weston

      Good point. And one of many verses in both new and old testaments that shows this whole thing is nothing but a sham, even to believers.

      May 19, 2011 at 12:37 pm |
  11. drodgers

    i am sad that the world is ending on saturday.Why? Cuz i won't be able to watch The Hangover 2 movie.....lol

    May 19, 2011 at 11:38 am |
  12. Brian Zwart

    It's party-time!!!!!!

    May 19, 2011 at 11:38 am |
  13. john b

    I think many will be waking up saturday going "oh, i guess my sins from my entire past were judged. not just this past week

    May 19, 2011 at 11:38 am |
  14. R.D.

    The critiques of this 'movement' and publicity stunt is not regarding the dates of judgement but the legitimacy of the group's faith rather. True Christians, whose basis for belief and guidance is rooted in the Holy Bible, ought to know such talk is just that. Scripture itself teaches in Mt. 24:36 'no man knoweth the day or the hour, nor the angels of heaven, rather God only'. Its unfortunate though, that such misconception attracts this much attention because it alters the truthfulness of true believers and publicly blemishes the body of Christ as a whole. Most who hear and see such news, are not able or either willing to seperate nonsense from reality of believers who are sincere in their mission to follow Christ and prepare for his return. Scripture teaches that we are living in the time that exemplifies the return of Christ is near, true.... but the date of such is unknown and will remain that way until Christ cracks the sky in return for his people. The signs are spoken of in scripture of what to watch for and the warning to is to be prepared. There's not an appointment! KNOW THE TRUTH!

    May 19, 2011 at 11:38 am |
  15. ThinkRationally

    So...

    People who believe in God and the literal word of the bible, live by that (or claim they do), and believe that God will destroy the world some day = good people, good Christians.

    People who believe in God and the literal word of the bible, live by that (or claim they do), and believe that God will destroy the world on a specific date = CRAAAZAY

    Even if there are some other differences, I find it hilarious looking at this from the outside. To me, it sounds kinda like this:

    People who have 57 cats, talk to their plants, run down the street naked daily, refuse to eat with utensils because they're evil, shower 20 times a day to get rid of the "bugs", and sleep with the lights on = normal

    People who have 57 cats, talk to their plants, run down the street naked daily, refuse to eat with utensils because they're evil, shower 20 times a day to get rid of the "bugs", sleep with the lights on, and drive a red car = CRAAAZAY

    It's people ridiculing someone's wild interpretation of the bible because it doesn't agree with their wild interpretation of the bible–seems like pot-kettle stuff to me. Funny.

    May 19, 2011 at 11:37 am |
    • SDCyclist

      That's a great way to look at it. I've never believed in magical beings controlling the world from the sky. I was raised in the Catholic Church and I remember thinking (as a VERY young child being forced to go to church), "Wow... this is all BS!" And I never lost that thinking. I just couldn't square all the "just believe" and "faith is believing in things you can't see, touch, taste, hear, smell, or rationally make sense of... " crap in my head. It makes zero sense. It always has and always will.

      May 19, 2011 at 11:47 am |
  16. vmill

    CNN....why am I seeing this article for the 2nd day in a row on your front page? Very disappointing.

    May 19, 2011 at 11:37 am |
  17. YoungOne

    " Judgment Day (which, they say, will last five months)."

    People need to read a Bible for themselves instead of speaking what someone "influential" says. That statement is so fundamentally wrong its not funny.

    May 19, 2011 at 11:36 am |
  18. Annexian

    The "End of the World" has been predicted at least every other year by a group of 1000+ people and every DAY by some individual.

    Any of the non-Christians or agnostics or atheists, don't worry. Just say in your heart "Jesus, if you are real, please save me when it comes to that."

    Serious.

    It's real sick these "Prophets for Profit" who just want their own cults. You don't have to stand on the street corner handing out Chick Tracts or scream hatred at funerals and beat your kids with mattock handles. He came for all mankind, not an elect, that's why he was murdered by his own people.

    There shouldn't be ANY religion esp. "Organized Religion". The "Temple" was sundered by an earthquake, and the "Holy of Holies" laid bare for all to see. That means that every religion is null and void on any "Letter of the Law" authority it can claim. It has always been about Man and God, the desire for the creator to love and be loved by his creations.

    May 19, 2011 at 11:36 am |
  19. Tachy

    What would these guys say on the morning on May 22?

    May 19, 2011 at 11:36 am |
    • D.J

      I ask my self the same thing.mostlikely feel like complete idiots though.

      May 19, 2011 at 11:50 am |
  20. A.A

    So if the world is ending this Saturday then can I skip my Driving Class

    May 19, 2011 at 11:35 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.