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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. PracticalMan

    Looks like a whole bunch of business for mental health professionals. The only difference between these lunatics and anyone else who believes in deities..is not much.

    May 18, 2011 at 12:12 pm |
  2. John

    Personally I'm impressed that God is going to observe the completely arbitraty and man-made Internatal Date Line to start his apocalypse. Wouldn't it make a better story to say it starts over the Valley of Hinnom (Gehenna?) I'll be at the athiest rapture party in Houston. I'll try to get there early so we can watch the earthquakes start on tv and roll west across the globe like a New Year's celebration.

    May 18, 2011 at 12:11 pm |
  3. D Sent

    These wackos are going to feel really stupid when it doesn't happen. If they are giving away your stuff i need a better car, I will write them a receipt stating their generosity and kindness...so they get a better seat in "heaven"... Idiots!

    May 18, 2011 at 12:11 pm |
  4. Isaac

    There are people who are stupid, people who are really stupid..... and then people that believe this type of garbage.

    May 18, 2011 at 12:11 pm |
  5. Dennis

    CLOVERFIELD MONSTER!!!!

    May 18, 2011 at 12:11 pm |
  6. False Prophets

    May 21st – prepare for doomsday
    May 22nd – prepare for the unemployment line

    May 18, 2011 at 12:11 pm |
  7. jo jo

    The whole earth is upside down.

    May 18, 2011 at 12:10 pm |
  8. MP

    meshuganahs

    May 18, 2011 at 12:10 pm |
  9. Armando

    Man! I was going to mow the lawn this Saturday. Gee what to do?

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

    if we're supposed to be "sorted" on the 21st, I hope im on gryffindor!

    May 18, 2011 at 12:09 pm |
  11. Donnie

    Wow. This is actually good news for me. I've got a bunch of drywall and painting work to finish at the house this weekend, so this will really take a lot off my plate. Thanks God for freeing up my weekends...FOR ETERNITY!

    May 18, 2011 at 12:07 pm |
    • karen

      not so fast, you might just get left behind.

      May 18, 2011 at 12:13 pm |
    • Donnie's wife

      You get back here, mister, and finish this drywall, or you WILL meet your maker!

      May 18, 2011 at 1:00 pm |
  12. stonedwhitetrash

    IT'S ABOUT TIME

    May 18, 2011 at 12:07 pm |
  13. Nija

    The end could be for them but for me, noT now. You guys are nuts and who will drive the S Classes (Benz) , Bently, Fanthom? Can someone give me their Benz or Posh PLEEEEEEASE PLEASE.

    May 18, 2011 at 12:06 pm |
  14. Jimbo-Bob

    It sounds to me like these people just wanted an excuse to quit their boring dead end jobs and what better way to do that then in the name of god. This way they can travel the country talking about god and trick themselves into not feeling guilty that they are lazy sacks of no good nothing. They can also trick themselves about not feeling bad about lying to everyone because they think their antics are pushing people to go to church, their actual motive. Typical religious nuts preying on the weak minded, scare tactics...the oldest trick in the religious book.

    May 18, 2011 at 12:06 pm |
  15. ILoveJesus

    ANY teaching that is different from what Jesus has already made crystal clear in the Gospels is a FALSE doctrine and perverted teaching. ANY false doctrine or perverted teaching is meant to do only one thing...and that is to further alienate people from Christianity and the TRUE Gospel of Jesus Christ. False doctrines and false teachings are not meant to save but to kill and destroy the truth.

    May 18, 2011 at 12:06 pm |
    • truth2power

      Your faith is admirable but faith is not fact.
      There is no PROOF of what ANY religion teaches and your insistence that YOURS is the ONLY true way is an outstanding insult to the majority of people who do NOT believe in your faith.
      Besides, by being so narrow minded you make yourself a smaller person.

      "I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians, they are so unlike your Christ,."
      -Gandhi

      May 18, 2011 at 12:15 pm |
    • Maggze

      I was just thinking the same exact thing and about to post it...God always confirms "HIS" Word!!!! When the world doesn't end on Saturday...just as you have said...it will further alienate people from Christianity...those that do give their live to Christ during the "scare tactic" will most likely turn their back on God when the events do no occur according to these people and those going around spreading this false doctrine will have their blood on their hands when they stand before God on Judgement Day. Just know that when you give your life to the Lord...He will communicate with you and you don't need someone else to tell you what He is going to do. That is a clear sign of a control freak and pure arrogance when someone thinks they are the only one God tells anything to...He does NOT work that way...the Bible was written so that every man, woman, and child would have the knowledge not just a certain group. God bless you all and remember He loves you and He wants you to make the right choices...He doesn't want to see you fail!!!

      May 18, 2011 at 12:22 pm |
    • TheTruth72

      @truth2power....Is the big bang fact? Is Darwin's evolutionary theory fact? Nope, they are theories. And many people called aethiests believe in those theories. What is belief? It is to have faith.

      Well, look at where we've arrived in this converstation. The word "faith". Yes, I realize that there always has to be faith in something, whether it's God or something else. But when looking at the whole picture and doing research, that is how the Truth becomes exposed. It does take some digging.

      May 18, 2011 at 12:43 pm |
  16. dgreen

    wow do they really think that God is going to come back on a day that man predicted? thats a little concerning that they think they know. And its going to be sad when Monday rolls around and they will have nothing to live off of because their whole life savings were spent on this. See you Monday.

    May 18, 2011 at 12:04 pm |
  17. Harpo

    Taken from an 1994 eoisode of the same comedy>>>>>>>>>>
    "Police in Vinton, La, were surprised when a driver wearing only a towel got out of a car they stopped, then got back in and sped off. They were dumbfounded when the car hit a tree and disgorged 20 people wearing nothing at all. "The Lord told them to get rid of all their belongings and go to Louisiana. So they got rid of all their clothes and pocketbooks and wallets and identification and the license plate off their car and came to our gorgeous state," Vinton Police Chief Dennis Drouillard said."

    http://www.thebestofblasphemy.com/TN.html

    May 18, 2011 at 12:04 pm |
  18. Arin

    Oh boy, another end of the world? It's probably going to be canceled like the other 48000 identical predictions made thus far.
    All religions are BS. Stop talking to invisible people and grow up. Jesus never existed... not the one doing petty magic tricks at least, and that's where the whole faith rests so it's pretty sad when it shatters. Maybe not. Good grief.

    May 18, 2011 at 12:03 pm |
    • Ernest

      Jesus exhisted and thats a fact you cannot die. He also rose from the dead, how do u explain that? and how do u explain the beginning. the universe came from something. not from some weird ass spontaneous combustion of gravity. even if u wanted to believe that where did the gravity come from in the beginning?

      May 18, 2011 at 12:09 pm |
    • truth2power

      Ernest,

      Your faith is admirable but... faith is not fact.

      May 18, 2011 at 12:11 pm |
    • Joe Jackson

      Ironically AMEN!!!

      May 18, 2011 at 12:12 pm |
    • Stephen

      You know there's plenty of evidence that supports the argument that Jesus did exist, right?

      May 18, 2011 at 12:12 pm |
    • Brian

      He got you on the gravity stuff. Guess there is still room for believers. Even if I am not one.

      May 18, 2011 at 12:15 pm |
    • Jimbo-Bob

      Jesus probably was a real person who was born to a not so virgin mother that claimed he was the son of god, therefore Jesus was raised thinking he was the son of God but actaully just born to an un-married women that didn't want to be stoned to death. Any child raised thining he was the son of god would probably act very christ like becuase he actually thought he was, I think it is pretty simple really.

      May 18, 2011 at 12:19 pm |
    • Lettuce Prey

      Ernest,

      There is no gravity. The earth sucks.

      Seriously, Ernest, it is obvious from your previous post that you have absolutely no understanding of gravity, what it is or how it works. Dude, crack a science book, will ya?

      May 18, 2011 at 12:35 pm |
    • TheTruth72

      @Arin....Don't you believe in something? You believe in Aethism? Couldn't you consider that a religion? It's really interesting to see how many people don't know what they are talking about and regurgitate the same old stuff that they hear from others. Just because you didn't live 2000 years ago and see something with your own eyes doesn't mean it didn't exist.

      May 18, 2011 at 12:36 pm |
    • LinCA

      @TheTruth72. If not collecting stamps is a hobby, then atheism might be a religion.

      A religion requires a belief in something for which there is no evidence. Atheism is the exact opposite. It is the rejection of a belief in anything unless there is supporting evidence.

      Please don't lump atheists in with the blissfully ignorant.

      May 18, 2011 at 2:23 pm |
  19. Robert Holt

    "Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh." Matthew 25:13. This small group claims to know the day. Jesus said that you don't know the day. I'll stick with Jesus, thank you very much. The Bible does not guarantee the May 21st date. This small group claims the Bible does guarantee the May 21st date, that's all. On May 22, the small group will be proven wrong, not the Bible. If I am correct, the Bible says that we are to look forward to Christ's return and to know the signs of His return. The problem is the date setters. Jesus will return. We just don't know exactly when. The important thing is to accept Jesus as your Savior. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16.

    May 18, 2011 at 12:03 pm |
    • Hope

      Well said!

      May 18, 2011 at 12:21 pm |
  20. Jason Goodrich

    End of The World Parties are always the best. Usually its on a hurricane day. I hope the weather is good Saturday night.

    May 18, 2011 at 12:03 pm |
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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.