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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. albert

    Not Saturday!! I have a BBQ planned!!!!

    May 18, 2011 at 12:30 pm |
  2. Jim

    No one will know the time of our Lords return.. We are supposed to live our llives the best we can and follow God, if we knew when the end was we would do what we wanted and would straighten up our lives the day before.. That defeats the whole purpose of faith. Im just glad that when these predictions come out that people don't use it as an excuse to do harm or destruction to one another.

    May 18, 2011 at 12:30 pm |
  3. Jen in FL

    those pirates are in Tampa and are celebratring Gasparilla... and will be back again next year to celebrate!

    May 18, 2011 at 12:30 pm |
  4. Carrie

    I am scared.

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

      I love you Carrie. Soo cute name...

      May 18, 2011 at 12:31 pm |
    • PRISM 1234

      Carrie, what are you scared about?

      May 18, 2011 at 12:36 pm |
  5. Masada1

    It is really unfortunate that a small fringe of "believing Christians" are not following the Word of God. No one know the day or hour. What is it about this that they don't understand? This group is going against the very Biblical laws that they claim they are espousing, and maked them false prophets. Christians everywhere should condemn the actions of these few uninitated "believers".

    May 18, 2011 at 12:29 pm |
  6. Jimbo

    This is sad. Jesus said that He didn't come to judge the world but that the world would be saved through Him. He said that all authority in Heaven and Earth was given to Him. If Jesus didn't come to judge the world but instead took all the judgment Himself, than why are people preaching God's judgment on the world? God already judged the world at the cross. Since every person will eventually die, every person will stand before Christ whether they believe in God or not. It is an inevitability. Free will only operates here on earth. You only get to be an athiest here. In the spiritual realm, there is no debate about God. God is not going to destroy what He created. He is going to redeem it. Have you considered and accepted God's free gift of Christ and salvation? If you have, there is not judgment for you. God isn't coming to judge unbelievers. They are already judged by not believing in Christ. Here they are free to live and believe whatever they want. There is no pending judgment on the world. We will all stand before God in eternity. The only thing that will save anybody is the grace and mercy of God. Did you come to know Jesus Christ and what God offered mankind through Him?

    May 18, 2011 at 12:28 pm |
    • Bergus

      Wow. How do you get to heaven? I've seen dead bodies, they don't move.

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

      Well said. And accurate on all accounts that I have read.

      May 18, 2011 at 12:55 pm |
  7. Whom

    Damn. Looks like I'll have to call in "burst in flames" to work.

    May 18, 2011 at 12:28 pm |
    • Uniquitous

      I'm using that one too. (That is if I am not raptured too)

      May 18, 2011 at 12:54 pm |
  8. pvan2011

    chicken little DOES EXIST!!! He only changed his name.

    May 18, 2011 at 12:28 pm |
  9. Walt

    I hope Mr. Campings gets sued by all these people that have been following him. What are these poor people going to do on Monday when they realize they have no jobs, no belongings and probably no money........ file for unemployment. I'm sure that Mr. Campings will come up with a very creative explanation as to why nothing happened and probably postpone the date....

    May 18, 2011 at 12:28 pm |
  10. Claymation

    This Camping fellow knows exactly what he's doing. he's done it all before if you do your research on him. The fact is that he's feeding off these people, whether it be for money or fame, he's getting what he wants. May 21st will come and go and he'll say something like, "oops, I guess I miss calculated" He'll change the date and everyone that followed him will feel really stupid, and hopefully angry enough to expose his lies.
    Until then why don't all you pathetic followers of Camping write me a check entailing all of your life savings. I mean, it's not like you're gonna need it comes Saturday anyway, right?

    May 18, 2011 at 12:28 pm |
    • Jason

      Well said

      May 18, 2011 at 12:43 pm |
  11. WIll III

    Well, what's a lil doomsday to y'all according to them all won't die till fall.

    May 18, 2011 at 12:28 pm |
  12. Carrie

    I am very scared!

    May 18, 2011 at 12:28 pm |
    • Uniquitous

      Don't be scared. Jesus loves you and I do too.

      May 18, 2011 at 12:52 pm |
  13. The truth

    Snake oil and more snake oil !

    May 18, 2011 at 12:27 pm |
  14. NyteShayde

    I predict mass suicide attempt by these folks on May 22nd.

    May 18, 2011 at 12:27 pm |
  15. peter

    YES!!!........it is written in MATTHEW 24:36

    May 18, 2011 at 12:27 pm |
    • The Jackdaw

      May I interest you in these magic beans that I have?

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

      But Matthew 24:34 didn't happen so why should I believe any of it?

      May 18, 2011 at 12:40 pm |
  16. Time Traveler

    ***Message From 22 May 2011***
    The end of the world does not happen. I am sitting in my study enjoying a cup of coffee Sunday morning 22 May 2011.
    Have a greate day!

    May 18, 2011 at 12:27 pm |
    • Bruce

      Now go back in time and correct your spelling of "great" and I'll believe you...

      May 18, 2011 at 12:39 pm |
  17. Richard

    But I haven't done my laundry yet

    May 18, 2011 at 12:26 pm |
    • Time Traveler

      Better hurry Richard, you'll need at least one pair of clean underwear.

      May 18, 2011 at 12:29 pm |
  18. John Gordon

    I'm frantic. What I do with all my cash and my home. Please somone let me know what I should do.

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

      I will take all your money off your hands for these 3 magic beans I have!

      May 18, 2011 at 12:28 pm |
    • pod

      i know some nigerians who may be interested – you know the drill, just send your info!

      May 18, 2011 at 12:34 pm |
  19. Fester N. Scab

    Finally! The end of the world! It's about time Mother Nature flushes out the cesspool called humanity!

    May 18, 2011 at 12:26 pm |
    • Uniquitous

      LOL! Whatever happened to love for your fellow man? Oh wait, thats San Francisco. (did I just type that out loud?)

      May 18, 2011 at 12:50 pm |
  20. Richard Bloom

    Any Christian who believes that the Day of Judgment hasn't already come and gone–and that we're not living permanently in an Era of Judgment–hasn't thought seriously about August 1945 and its aftermath. This IS the messianic age. If you don't like it, there's something wrong with you, so get help: it's out there.

    May 18, 2011 at 12:26 pm |
    • NyteShayde

      Please heed your own advice and get help for your delusions.

      May 18, 2011 at 12:28 pm |
    • PRISM 1234

      That's the type of conclusions man comes up with when he does not know God, nor is taught by His Spirit!

      Friend, you too are amiss!

      May 18, 2011 at 12:34 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.