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. CHHoosiers

    Total lack of common sense.

    May 18, 2011 at 11:56 am |
    • wzrd1

      It's been my experience that common sense is becoming increasingly uncommon.
      See you all this Sunday.

      May 18, 2011 at 12:08 pm |
  2. Jeff

    These "Christians" are the very definition are defiling the message Jesus Christ came to spread to mankind. Jesus came to give life and more abundantly, and Paul also said, Christians do not have the spirit of fear, but of love. These demons are spreading the gospel of Satan himself. Satan also can roam around in sheep's clothing.

    May 18, 2011 at 11:55 am |
    • seraphim0

      ... its sad that you're so serious about this.

      May 18, 2011 at 12:02 pm |
  3. coder

    religion itself is blasphemy

    throughout time and history – nothing has caused more death and destruction than religion
    not even god

    it does not matter from whom you get your message of faith and belief
    the point is
    did you get the message?

    i believe in god
    i also believe that religion is the product of man

    a product constructed by man to control mankind

    so far – history proves – I am correct

    so for all you 'believers' out there
    what exactly are you believing?
    words written by another man, meant to enslave and control your very own will

    May 18, 2011 at 11:55 am |
  4. Ben

    Absolutely the best part of the article

    "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."

    As the Church Lady said, "how conveeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeenient." Does the wave of destruction take into account the Arizona time zone problem? How will it deal with Indiana? Does it kind of stop in some parts, or backtrack? Does it hammer Boise, and then jump BACK to eastern Nevada? And did I get my calculations right, that it's traveling about 1037 miles per hour?

    May 18, 2011 at 11:55 am |
    • Squirrel-Juggling Earthquake-Jesus

      Do you doubt my ability to make that earthquake happen precisely when and where I please? I will make it stop precisely on state lines and wait an hour – it can have some coffee and donuts while it waits. My magic earthquake apocalypse will obey local daylight savings time and time zone laws.

      Destruction will come to all but my craziest followers! Crazy is the new sane! The Fred Phelps Freakshow and the Family Radio mob are the only ones going to my heaven, where we will have jello and spam sandwiches while they adore me endlessly, every day for the rest of eternity.

      May 18, 2011 at 12:03 pm |
  5. JSV

    Sweet news. Now I don't have to mow the lawn on Sunday!

    May 18, 2011 at 11:55 am |
  6. rm

    This religion boolsheet is ridiculuous. Always has been, always will be. People who claim to know when the world will "end" or know what god is or thinks are fooling themselves. If I had a sealed brown paper bag on a table, do you think anyone could tell me what was inside? Didn't think so. So there is no one in this world to see through a 2 milimeter paper bag; but people want to claim they know what god is and what it's plans? FAIRY TALE, BS, LIES, INSANITY...By the way there is nothing inside that paper bag:)

    May 18, 2011 at 11:55 am |
    • Adios Fools

      Tuna fish? I can smell it from inside the bag. I guess that makes me a prophet as much as anyone?

      May 18, 2011 at 12:15 pm |
  7. Paul

    So what time does this all start on Saturday? I have Prom...that would be a real buzz kill.

    May 18, 2011 at 11:55 am |
    • TxFeatFan

      6:00 p.m., no matter where you are.

      Hey, you won't have to pay for dinner – and, if you're a smooth talker, you may get lucky!

      May 18, 2011 at 1:10 pm |
  8. Adios Fools

    Well that should free up some jobs and apartments. Have a nice trip. Let me guess, if it doesn't happen it's because the dude with the beard changed his mind and decided to postpone the earthquake and the end of the earth? I wonder if they'll still pray to God next month when they are still here and all of their possessions are gone and they want their apartments and houses back to contemplate what the hell went wrong? Ha ha what a bunch of fools.

    May 18, 2011 at 11:53 am |
  9. Daniel

    what is even more frightening is that we keep electing officials that believe similar fairy tales.....imagine a nuclear armed Sarah Palin of some other religious nut job...what is jesus whispered for her to pull the pin!

    May 18, 2011 at 11:53 am |
    • Lettuce Prey

      We had Dubya in there with the nuke codes for eight years. His minders somehow managed to keep him off the button.

      May 18, 2011 at 12:09 pm |
  10. pcrepairtools

    lmao may 21 is gonna be so awesome.. wonder what their excuse will be for being wrong you know they'll inevitably have some bu||sh1t reason

    May 18, 2011 at 11:53 am |
  11. ScottK

    "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." And the Kids would be right. And not only crazy, but unchristian by leaving their family to pursue some other crazy guys prediction.

    May 18, 2011 at 11:53 am |
    • Amazing Larry From Beyond The 24th Century ! ! !

      And May 22, the kids will be sure of it.

      May 18, 2011 at 11:55 am |
  12. Worrywart

    Oh great!!! So how many of these people will be applying for welfare on Monday the 23rd, since they've given up their wealth and worldy posessions? We need some kind of emergency clause added, so none of these idiots will be eligible.

    May 18, 2011 at 11:52 am |
  13. Guest3

    Don't get me wrong, there's a lot of boring/pointless material that is published on CNN, but this is pretty entertaining. I'll be the first to admit, I want CNN do a followup interview just to see their reactions Monday.

    May 18, 2011 at 11:52 am |
  14. Troy

    At least they are not blowing anyone up like some people like to do when they spread their word of love.

    May 18, 2011 at 11:52 am |
  15. GonzoG

    May 21st? End of the world?

    With all the (#$)@ that's been going on in my life, I COULD WORK WITH THAT.

    As a matter of fact, From my viewpoint today, I'll be most disapointed if there is a May 22nd.

    But then, my #(_@&@ life will go on and so will I.

    May 18, 2011 at 11:52 am |
    • Tom

      Wow, well arent you just a ray of sunshine!!

      May 18, 2011 at 11:57 am |
    • GonzoG

      I've heard that before.

      May 18, 2011 at 12:01 pm |
    • GonzoG

      However, the end of the world coming on May 21st DOES #(%&@$ a perfectly good Saturday.
      Any chance of moving it to, say 2AM on Monday morning?
      I've got a pretty good weekend planned with the family. Movie (trying to convince wife we need to go see THOR or PIRATES), a nice, but not expensive dinner out. Relaxing Saturday, before the rainy cold Sunday when we'll do all the housework we've been ignoring this week.

      May 18, 2011 at 12:06 pm |
  16. Troy

    Have to love crazy people.

    May 18, 2011 at 11:51 am |
  17. myweightinwords

    I can remember when the date was supposed to be sometime in 1988, September I think. Absolutely guaranteed.

    And here we are. Still.

    May 18, 2011 at 11:51 am |
    • Lettuce Prey

      There's been at least one EOTW scheduled in each decade since I can remember (and I'm a boomer). I think there were two or three in the 90s, including Y2K. I have a cousin who married in 95 and when I asked her about the possibility of offspring, she told me that she and her husband did not want to bring children into a world that was going to end at midnight on Dec. 31, 1999. I've always considered her to be from the shallow end of the family gene pool, so perhaps that's not a bad thing.

      May 18, 2011 at 12:06 pm |
    • I told you so

      Yeah. My aunt and uncle blew their wad then. They were broke as hell for a long time after that.

      May 18, 2011 at 12:09 pm |
    • Or maybe...

      ...he did return to rapture the true believers. But as it turns out all the Christian sects were the wrong belief system. The people with the correct views were the Ebionites. Sadly, they are an extinct group.

      May 18, 2011 at 12:25 pm |
  18. ven

    That believer in the article was right when he was talking about his kids. (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.”) Only he was really talking about himself wanting the world to come to an end. I kinda don't blame these people, life sucks right now but its still better than it ever has been historically. And I'm sure Jesus didn't want billboards and pamphlets, he said to pray in your room and lock the door. Life sucks, now get back to work slaves.

    May 18, 2011 at 11:51 am |
  19. T3chsupport

    These poor, poor, gullible idiots. I feel for their families. I feel for them on May 22. Try not to rub it in too much, they're going to be delicate as it is, and they won't need anyone else telling them how stupid they are, they'll find that out first hand.

    May 18, 2011 at 11:50 am |
    • Lettuce Prey

      And Monday morning they'll be at the unemployment office filling out forms to receive benefits on our dime. I don't feel sorry for them.

      May 18, 2011 at 12:02 pm |
    • Worrywart

      Welfare more likely. Still on our dime though. Awesome!!!

      May 18, 2011 at 12:12 pm |
  20. delano j sheffield

    @jo jo Is it really the bible doesn't work or rather the person reading it doesn't work right.

    You can't judge a book by its interpreter. Any more than a scientific method is secured when it can't be duplicated. I suppose the better objective, verifiable, method would be to determine in context and within a framework what the bible Actually says.


    May 18, 2011 at 11:49 am |
    • Amazing Larry From Beyond The 24th Century ! ! !

      Delano, the Bible does not hold up well to "objective and verifiable." And the "can't judge a book by its interpreter" thing is just a cop out to avoid responsibility for the millions who have done evil in the name of the Bible. If so many people interpret it to mean "seize power" and "oppress those who don't conform", then the problem is in fact the Bible and the religion.

      May 18, 2011 at 11:54 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.