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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. WIll III

    I'm only 29, and in my lifetime somebody has said the world is going to end at least 5 times that I can remember and had everyone talking about it. I mean why does it have to end right after I just finish college. I mean MAN! lol

    May 18, 2011 at 12:42 pm |
    • Rick

      God is punishing you being being the ultimate of evils, a perpetual student.

      May 18, 2011 at 12:45 pm |
  2. the_dude

    Chances are these people are totally wrong but still I wouldn't mind the world ending either.

    May 18, 2011 at 12:41 pm |
  3. MAYAN

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZVvhcUN-UGw&w=560&h=349]

    May 18, 2011 at 12:41 pm |
  4. Hi

    Notice how the guy in the picture is black... let's bring race into this issue.

    May 18, 2011 at 12:41 pm |
  5. Don

    "Morrell explained that the massive doomsday earthquake will start at the International Date Line before moving west." – Same as Santa on the Norad Tracker... Maybe we can follow along with the kids like on Christmas Eve.

    May 18, 2011 at 12:41 pm |
  6. SueAnn

    I certainly admire these folks and all the hard work they've done. I'm sure they've run across some folks who were hateful and disrespectful, yet God drove them on. If the Rapture comes on the 21st, I'm sure God will be waiting to shake their hand and give them a big hug. If not, I'm sure their Love for God will continue which is a good thing. A win/win if you ask me.

    May 18, 2011 at 12:41 pm |
    • Delusional

      SueAnn, you're just as mentally unstable as these people preaching the end. You 'admire' them?! What a waste of life.

      May 18, 2011 at 12:59 pm |
  7. jaczy1

    No one and I mean No one knows the day or the hour of Gods second coming, I pray that God watches over us all esp. our Government!!!!God Bless and watch over the people down South and for any and everyone going Through sometime..

    May 18, 2011 at 12:40 pm |
  8. toxictown

    How does this affect the "2012-ers"? Maybe they need to have a "nut-off". Before Saturday, of course.

    May 18, 2011 at 12:40 pm |
  9. Johnny

    More rubbish pushers. HAVE YOU HEARD THE AWESOME NEWS? yes, you will look like fools on 12/22.

    May 18, 2011 at 12:39 pm |
  10. KMAN

    People! You've got it all wrong!

    Everybody knows that the world won't end until that fateful day when the Chicago Cubs are one out away from winning the World Series.

    May 18, 2011 at 12:39 pm |
  11. David

    When this day does come and pass and NO rapture, milliions of people will say "O those crazy, nutty Christians!" Sadly, this small band of "so called believers" are defining Christianity and I believe that they will lead many away from the faith, and the national media will have another field day with the true believers. The bible says that no man can know the day or the hour. These people claim to know both. Jesus is returning one day, but it will not be this Saturday. There are many Chapters and verses in Scripture that talk about the End of Days. Jesus Himself spoke of the End in Matthew Chapter 24 in the Olivet Discourse. Don't take my word for it read it for yourselves people. Jesus is the Hope of Mankind, the Saviour of the World. Don't leave this world without Him. 1-888-NEED HIM is a non profit toll free number that tells you how to receive Him. Do it today.

    May 18, 2011 at 12:39 pm |
    • SueAnn

      David, you say they can't predict when God is coming. Yet you predict God is not coming this Saturday. Seems contrary r to what you are saying. When you talk to God, tell him I said hi!

      May 18, 2011 at 12:44 pm |
    • Shamrock6

      In hopes that you are right and this will lead peope away from the destructive nature of organized religion I applaud their efforts and am glad that they are getting a ton of media coverage. I just hope that due to their unintelligent nature they don't harm themselves or their children as a result of the disappointment and disillusionment that is sure to follow when absolutely nothing occurs this weekend.....or any other weekend for the next billion years until the sun really does burn out.

      May 18, 2011 at 12:46 pm |
  12. Jepammy

    I have a sweet 16 bday party to go to.......hope the weather holds....

    May 18, 2011 at 12:39 pm |
  13. iago

    As a Christian myself, I tend to get offended when we (Christians) try to ‘figure out God’ or put Him in a box so that we can understand His divine plan. Doing some research on the Family Radio website revealed how they came up with the date in question: “Judgment Day on May 21, 2011 is the culmination of five decades of intensive biblical study by Mr. [Harold] Camping and other bible teachers who have discovered the same biblical data.”

    If it is not for man to know the exact date when the end will come, then why, do you think, that God would put discernible clues in the bible for us to figure this date out? For Jesus to say that this date is not known to man, angels, or even Himself, how foolish to think that we can ‘outsmart’ God.

    If we Christians everywhere would stop trying to figure out God's plan and concentrate more on being the hands and feet of Jesus by reaching those who are lost, you'll touch more people as opposed to sending out RVs with "Repent Now..." pamphlets and billboards.

    May 18, 2011 at 12:39 pm |
    • Jepammy

      Completely agree with you 100%. The people from familyradio had predicted the rapture back in 1994, but had done some "mathematical" formula that wasn't right. God the almighty father is the only one that will figure this out and will do it when is necessary. As people and a fellow Christina myself all we can do is live our lives to the fullest, live well, in peace, be kind and treat others with dignity and respect, let HIM decide when it is our time, who will go where and how....that's his job. These fundamentalists continue to try to figure out this and that, waste time and energy....

      May 18, 2011 at 12:42 pm |
    • HA25

      Actually, Jepammy you can do more than that. You can ensure your Church doesn't discriminate, doesn't repress people, doesn't hoard wealth and power and doesn't brainwash little children who still believe in the Easter Bunney and Tooth Fairy into committing to a lifelong relationship with the magic man in the sky. You can ensure your church prosecutes molesters, if/when found and those that enable them to the fullest extent possible.

      May 18, 2011 at 12:56 pm |
  14. curleyg

    I need to know what time Sat. Do I bet the Preakness or not??

    May 18, 2011 at 12:39 pm |
  15. Joe

    The only thing that will end on Saturday is the current round of silly BS coming from these self deluded cretins. I wonder which chapters and verses they will quote to justify their hysterical mistake?

    May 18, 2011 at 12:38 pm |
  16. DoWhatNow

    “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.”

    If you strongly believe it's going to happen, why do you say you'll move on if it doesn't happen?

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

      I think he means that he strongly believes it will happen "someday," but isn't sure when.

      May 18, 2011 at 12:48 pm |
  17. rgvg

    You know I do belive the rature will happen in time, and I hav e doughts its going to be Saturday, But have you thought about it -what if they are right? You ready , i'm not. scary thought eternal damanation dosnt sound like a good time to me! I may get hammered here but Im gonna spend a few extra mins. makin' amends for the stupid things Ive done lately come friday night before bed. The old saying BETTER SAFE THAN SORRY comes to mind especially if that sorry goes on forever! If they are right hope I dont see ya come sunday.

    May 18, 2011 at 12:38 pm |
    • Shamrock6

      If you would have just paid more attention in school than you did in church you would be able to spell a lot better and be intelligent enough to realize there is no such thing as the rapture. Never was....never will be.

      May 18, 2011 at 12:43 pm |
    • HA25

      You seem to think that God would "count" your prayers as genuine when you already admitted you're just "hedging your bets"... Seems to me you should stick with what you believe all the time.

      Having said that – those Christians who are so easily able to dismiss these people should understand this is why I can so easily dismiss them...

      May 18, 2011 at 12:51 pm |
  18. Dragon

    Where are these crazy people from Okland, California? Artillery, queue coordinates at this position.

    May 18, 2011 at 12:38 pm |
  19. Iheartyou

    It's just so disturbing that in this day and age there are still people who can be so easily fooled by charlatans. You'd think folks would know better by now. sigh. Religious people frighten me. 😦

    May 18, 2011 at 12:38 pm |
  20. Rob

    I've got one question, when these idiots are proven wrong, AGAIN, can we disassemble all their churches, sell the components and donate the money to charity? Might teach the idiots to stop lying!

    May 18, 2011 at 12:37 pm |
    • Joe

      Yeah, and incarcerate them.

      May 18, 2011 at 12:40 pm |
    • RAWoD

      Hey Joe - they're already prisoners of their belief in fairy tales.

      May 18, 2011 at 2:14 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.