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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. vel

    there is little difference between these people and standard theists. They all want their supposed magical free pass from death since they think that they and only they have the right beliefs. These particular idiots just want theirs sooner. I know that many other Chrisitans are hoping they are right but are too ashamed about their greed and credulousness to admit it.

    May 18, 2011 at 12:46 pm |
    • Colin

      The only difference is these guys set a date, thereby subjecting their bliefs to disproof. No mainstream Christian would ever do that, as they are bound to fail.

      May 18, 2011 at 12:49 pm |
  2. AspenAxl

    Hey doomsayers..
    you believed the world was going to end in the 1400's
    then 1994
    1996
    2000
    2001
    then it was dec 21 2012..now youre moving it up to saturday...very odd..

    May 18, 2011 at 12:45 pm |
    • WIll III

      Lets not forget the book "The Bible Code" also said 2006.....so I mean pardon me if I dont give away everything I own and hide in a monastery.

      May 18, 2011 at 12:50 pm |
  3. yoreal

    ....let me ask Dawkins to see what he thinks....lol

    May 18, 2011 at 12:45 pm |
  4. Adam

    Here we go again. Its not as if a religious fundamentalist group like this has not done this before (yawn). I need to find a good atheist party to hit up. If the world truly is going to end, I'd like to go out drinking a nice glass of wine.

    May 18, 2011 at 12:45 pm |
  5. Steve

    I hope all the believers disappear on Saturday. Then we sane Atheists can get on with our lives without fairy tales.

    May 18, 2011 at 12:45 pm |
  6. DrD

    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.

    This child should be taken away by social services. Disgusting.

    May 18, 2011 at 12:45 pm |
  7. Sean

    well at least I'll be at Fenway and I'll go down with a beer in my hand. Go Sox!

    May 18, 2011 at 12:44 pm |
  8. Atheist_Free_Thinker

    THE BOTTOM LINE:

    God is not real. He is made up by man, written about in that fairy tale bible my man to control the masses and make money.

    God is to adults as Santa Claus is to children.
    And we all know that Santa isn't real 🙂

    May 18, 2011 at 12:44 pm |
    • Acts 2:38

      Why do Atheists claim to be "Free thinkers" while repeating the same lies that someone else told them?

      May 18, 2011 at 12:50 pm |
    • Atheist_Free_Thinker

      We think for ourselves, not believe in fairy tales from a book written by men. We aren't required to have to follow childish dogma to live our lives. I make the god/Santa comparison because it is a good one, not because someone else said it before me.

      You should take a step out of that religious nonsense you live in and actually look at what you believe in. The bible is so full of contradictions yet is supposed to be the word of god? If he is supposed to be perfect, how can it have contradictions? That's easy to explain: it was written by man. Start to finish. Man made.

      But you won't buy that either...

      How come you're not in jail right now for numerous murders? The bible tells you (again, god's word) to kill anyone working on the sabbath. (Exodus 31:12-15) But you only follow the parts of the bible you agree with. You are so much a hypocrite it hurts.

      There is no god, never was, never will be.

      May 18, 2011 at 1:00 pm |
    • Spencer

      @ Acts 2:38 Although I have sympathies towards certain forms of Atheism and I believe in thinking critically I agree with your point. I guess some people feel the phrase 'free' refers to what they are freed from. Yet I hear so much the same rhetoric, words and phrases used time and time again from them just as you stated. I find it all amusing in the same way that I find it amusing that someone is prediction the end of the world.

      May 18, 2011 at 1:06 pm |
  9. PCollen

    WAIT JUST A MINUTE ! I thought the Jehovah's Witnesses had dibs on this rapture thing. According to the JW's, only members of their organization will make up the 144,000 who will get a free ride to Heaven and rule as Officers in Jehovah's
    executive coucil, under the guidance of Jesus. All the rest of humanity, past and present (there ain't no future) will have to remain on Paradise Earth...the new Garden of Eden.

    May 18, 2011 at 12:44 pm |
  10. SavedGuy

    This message of "the end time is on May 21st" by a small group of radical Christians is the equivalent of a group of black people totally defeating the purpose of the Civil Rights Movement coming out of obscurity and hopping on stage in black face, banjos, tap dancing, and singing "Oh Mammy." It totally would hurt the cause for blacks.... this is what is being done with this group of radical Christians... hurting our cause. It's quite sad.

    May 18, 2011 at 12:44 pm |
  11. JonQ

    The rapture is real enough as described in the Bible and will indeed happen. But Jesus himself said that men will not know when it's coming. We CAN'T know. If these people claim that the Bible guarantees May21st, they are saying that God accidently showed his hand and that Jesus is a liar. Sorry guys, you're just plain wrong.

    Nothing hurts the credibility of Christianity like Christians who speak falsely.

    May 18, 2011 at 12:44 pm |
    • Joe E.

      Very well said friend. Just love your God and love your neighbor. If you do that, everything else falls into place and you don't have to worry when the rapture will come. Come to think of it, we each will experience the rapture when we die. Peace to all!

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

    Now that I know that 6PM is when each time zone will get their behind-kicking, I invite y'all to spend your last hours with Merge98FM, as we spend our last six hours on Earth playing all your favorite going away, heaven, hell, or destruction songs from the 60's till today. You can Google Merge98FM, and we thank you for spending your last hours with the station with positively the most music, Merge98FM.

    May 18, 2011 at 12:43 pm |
  13. Spencer

    To a greater degree these people are doing more harm to themselves than to anyone else. However I'm sure that some of these folks who have quit their jobs over this prediction are hurting their families as well. The rest of us will look at this with great amusement. In the words of Obi Wan Kenobi : "Who's the more foolish? The fool, or the fool who follows him?"

    May 18, 2011 at 12:43 pm |
  14. Ethan

    Amazing Facts President and Nationally Recognized Prophecy Speaker Challenges Harold Camping’s May 21st Judgment Day
    http://www.cnbc.com/id/43054329

    May 18, 2011 at 12:43 pm |
  15. pod

    We need to watch out for the self prophesizing humans (these people can't think for themselves and will most likely be on the low end of the IQ range and thus will require "special handling"). As Saturday comes to a close and nothing has happened, these kooks may take drastic measures just so they can say, "see! i told you so.."

    If you see one of these, do what it takes.

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

    The only thing more idiotic and moronic than their end of the world prediction is what they will say when it doesn't happen. I never cease to be amazed at the stupidity of humans. Especially the kind that believe in fairy tales like religion. They're going to believe what they want to believe no matter what happens or what the actual facts of reality are. Morons all.

    May 18, 2011 at 12:43 pm |
    • my6cents

      i don't believe their prediction for the 21'st but he'll come back one day. since you know so much about what is real , please teach the rest of us.

      May 18, 2011 at 12:56 pm |
  17. John

    Darn. Just finished renovating the house.

    May 18, 2011 at 12:43 pm |
  18. snarkaholic

    Don't worry about Saturday. Oprah's last show isn't until the following Wednesday...and you know she'd never allow God to upstager her!

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

      foe reel g...

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

      Sorry, 'upstage'...

      May 18, 2011 at 12:52 pm |
    • Spencer

      Who is Oprah? (grin)

      May 18, 2011 at 1:15 pm |
  19. yoreal

    I noticed that their prediction is faulted...which one is it going to be?...destruction by earthquakes or destruction by the sun turning so red hot...???

    May 18, 2011 at 12:42 pm |
  20. Chris

    I'm not sure about the world ending on Saturday but if American corporations keep shipping US jobs overseas and Ben Bernake keeps monetizing our debt the end of the USA could come sooner than you think. And I don't need biblical prophecy to see it.

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

      Hear, Hear !!!! The world as we knew it has ended, and the middle class is kaput.

      May 18, 2011 at 12:46 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.