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. The Jackdaw

    Maybe next week I can sell these fools some magic beans!

    May 18, 2011 at 12:25 pm |
    • odoylerules

      Send them my way when you're done – I've got a bridge for sale.

      May 18, 2011 at 4:31 pm |
  2. albert

    Even Jesus Christ does not know when is the exact date. Only the FATHER in heaven will tell him if the time has come to harvest and to end this world. That is written in the bible. And these guys already predicted the end of the world sometime ago and it didn't happen. Are they not ashamed of doing this?

    May 18, 2011 at 12:24 pm |
    • Lee

      All hail the great FATHER. When thou speaketh his name on the internet usith only the caps, so has decreed the FATHER, Ahhhhhmeeeehhn.

      May 18, 2011 at 12:38 pm |
    • Stevie7

      So much for an omniscient god, I guess. I didn't realize that god kept secrets from himself.

      May 18, 2011 at 12:39 pm |
  3. Johnny Chrome

    I wonder what flavor of Kool-Aid they'll be passing out on Sunday.

    I hope it's purple flavor.

    May 18, 2011 at 12:24 pm |
  4. Antonio Boone

    God be willing, May 21st will come and go just like any other day. This false teaching of the "May 21st Rapture" will do the reputation of Christianity harm in the secular world. Yet, those of us who are true Christians understand the Truth and are not shaken by false prophets and false Christians who rise up regularly in this world of sin. The world may count us as fools, but God counts us as blessed unto the perfection of ourselves in Christ Jesus, The Eternal God. AMEN

    May 18, 2011 at 12:24 pm |
    • PRISM 1234

      A M E N !

      May 18, 2011 at 12:30 pm |
    • odoylerules

      All of you Christians need to read Provocations by Kierkegaard. If you make it through you'll either give up on your faith because you realize what it's asking of you or you'll be a stronger christian. Or, for some of you, you won't understand a thing he's saying.

      May 18, 2011 at 4:30 pm |
  5. aldo1968

    The sad thing is that these people with young children have either given up all that they own and will have nothing when it does not happen as well as scaring their children into thinking that they will die.
    Truely sad.

    May 18, 2011 at 12:23 pm |
    • Uniquitous

      It is unfortunate if they are actually scaring children. However, remember, they do not see death as a bad thing. Their belief tells them that it is a wonderful thing because they will finally be in the presence of their heavenly Father. Life in heaven is far better than anything on earth. Why would they be scared.

      May 18, 2011 at 12:43 pm |
    • odoylerules

      Ugh, Uniq – kids don't understand this!! They haven't been brain-washed for as long as their parents have been and it isn't normal to believe this kind of crap- even for children. All they're doing is making their children afraid that deep inside god will see that they're not good enough and they will be stuck parentless and alone in a crumbling world on the 22nd. That is scary for children!! My girlfriend grew up with people like this and was always terrified as a kid that she'd wake up with her parents missing because she'd had an "evil" or "unclean" thought. I think these parents should all be reported to social services and be made to go to family therapy.

      May 18, 2011 at 4:27 pm |
  6. jo jo


    May 18, 2011 at 12:23 pm |
    • Lee

      m cookoo for cocoa puffs

      May 18, 2011 at 12:26 pm |
  7. The Jackdaw

    The weak-mindedness of people never seizes to amaze me. Maybe they will gain some perspective on May 22nd.

    May 18, 2011 at 12:23 pm |
  8. Isaac

    The inspiration of the bible depends on the ignorance of the person who reads it. – Robert G. Ingersoll

    May 18, 2011 at 12:23 pm |
    • Shamrock6

      Oh I am TOTALLY stealing this one. Great FU*KING quote man.

      May 18, 2011 at 12:25 pm |
  9. sf

    this country is retarded...wish it was easy relocate to another

    May 18, 2011 at 12:23 pm |
  10. Jessica

    I really would like to see a follow-up on this story on May 22. I'm dying to know what happens when think the world is ending and then wake up the next morning with no security, no job, no way to support your family...and not because of the economy!

    May 18, 2011 at 12:22 pm |
  11. Blah

    So... the past earthquakes, tsunamis, and all other natural disasters were just random acts of violence from "God"... Everything after May 21st will be because of Judgement Day though, obviously. I toooooootally agree with this Cult..err.. religion.

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

      Perhaps they mean to claim them as "rehearsals" for the big show to come. Or maybe they claim it is Gods way of waking up those people that have become complacent and dependant on themselves and no longer look to God for salvation.

      May 18, 2011 at 12:40 pm |
  12. runswithbeer

    Since no person who has ever walk the face of the Earth has ever actually heard God speak how is it possible that someone knows when the end of the Earth happens? Sorry folks but someone made all this up. And I'm not buying.

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

      You are mistaken. Many have heard the voice of God. Open the nightstand drawer in any hotel/motel in America. There is a book. Its all in there.

      May 18, 2011 at 12:38 pm |
    • Lee

      @uniquitous, dude, wow. Tell me, who wrote the bible? Was it god? Why did it end? Why cant he send someone an email nowadays? Or a txt? Why did he stop "talking" to people after the bible ends. Why did he want to make his presence known only to some nomads in a speck on the geographic scheme of things if god and christianity is the way for all of mankind? China has a 5000 written history with no mention of "god" speaking to anyone. Ill be awaiting your justifications to keep believing.

      May 18, 2011 at 12:44 pm |
    • odoylerules

      Nice try, Lee. Unfortunately their reason is always the same ... because god wants you to take it on "faith". What they forget is that the bible was "written" in a time when people didn't know about psychiatric problems that might make a person hear voices. It was a time when people didn't understand weather patterns or natural disasters. More importantly, it's been translated so many times by so many crooked people with their own agendas the book is just toxic. Great for bedtime stories but even then it should only be read by critically thinking people who understand its context. The bible is a dangerous book in the hands of the ignorant.

      May 18, 2011 at 4:19 pm |
  13. Everything Tea

    Oh noesss.....

    May 18, 2011 at 12:21 pm |
    • Lee

      Aiii knoooow

      May 18, 2011 at 12:24 pm |
  14. smokinmike

    If the would just have the good grace to shut up after May 22 . . .

    . . . but they won't . . .

    By then it will be something else.

    May 18, 2011 at 12:21 pm |
  15. NB

    Thank God I'm playing golf on Friday. Maybe I can go out with a round of glory!

    May 18, 2011 at 12:21 pm |
  16. J.C.

    Well i guess the 21st will prove 1 of 2 things... Either creationism is real and we are all done for.....or 2.... evolution is accurate and we will be fine... Im going to lean towards the latter of those 2.... and by lean I mean fall over the fence and pass out on that side.

    May 18, 2011 at 12:20 pm |
    • Devin

      He is right the 2nd one is true!

      May 18, 2011 at 12:23 pm |
    • PRISM 1234

      J.C. .....are you so out of touch, to think that May 21 is what All Bible believing Christians hold as true? If that's what your picture is of Christianity, and Bible teachings, then you are truly in treble deficiency of knowing even wht's happening in world around you! Why don't you at least read what some of the true Christians are saying on this blog?! Maybe you'll learn at least something! You poor, poor soul!

      May 18, 2011 at 12:29 pm |
    • Uniquitous

      It won't "prove" either of those things (well, unless they are right). But assuming they are wrong, it only proves there is a large group of people out in the world still that want desperately to believe in something greater than themselves and, most importantly, care enough about others to sacrifice of their own comforts to make sure others at least know about it and can decide for themselves. Have you ever cared enough about someone you have never met to do something like that? Try to imagine a world where everyone did that. THAT would be heaven on earth.

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

      @ubiquitous, This "greater power" you speak of, when you die, the world keeps on spinning. The sun will keep on converting its fuel to energy until it dies. It will then consume everything around it and start anew! Maybe to be viewed as a beautiful nebuka from some far off civilization first glancing out to the stars. Your existence is useless really in the grand scheme of things. Hows that for higher power

      May 18, 2011 at 12:49 pm |
    • odoylerules

      Uniquitous- what these people are doing is not caring it is dangerous. They have no scientific evidence to support their claims yet they have taken children out of school to proclaim their "message" and now they're traipsing about telling others to do the same! This is so wreckless! It isn't nice to convince a bunch of ignoramuses that they don't have to worry about what's gonna happen on the 22nd. If you do, they won't pay their bills or educate their children – things that will be important on the 22nd! If they were really unselfish then they would be feeding the hungry or stopping abuse. Nope, these folks just like the limelight and they are selfish ... big surprise.

      May 18, 2011 at 4:09 pm |
  17. Christian

    Lord forgive the ignorance of the ones supporting the end of days on May 21, also forgive those who are making the wrong choices before getting to know who you are!

    May 18, 2011 at 12:20 pm |
    • Enoch100

      For what its worth, I suspect they are wrong. For what is worth, let us live as if they are right.

      May 18, 2011 at 12:23 pm |
  18. svann

    Be careful of cults. They have been known to mass suicide and with the way this world is going it wouldnt surprise me if they decided to take others with them.

    May 18, 2011 at 12:20 pm |
  19. Mattins

    Let's hope this nutcase doesn't pull a Heaven's Gate...

    May 18, 2011 at 12:20 pm |
  20. WIll III

    Who knows? What I think would be hilarious but possibly scary is if they are right, but I'd haphazard a quess they turn out looking wrong like David Koresh. Excuse my wordplay. I'm ill 😉

    May 18, 2011 at 12:19 pm |
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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.