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. Sonia

    Why are so many people ready for the world to end? I guess I won't understand it. Many religious groups have said that the world will end many times befor....Well we're all still here.

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

      Except for those of us who aren't still here...

      Between now and Saturday at 6:00 p.m. local time, many people will die. It will be the end of the world–for them.

      May 18, 2011 at 12:56 pm |
    • Lee

      @bruce local time where? Only morons like you believe in such nonsense. You still believe in Santa Claus I bet.

      May 18, 2011 at 12:58 pm |
    • Bruce

      @Lee–you think it is ridiculous to believe that some people will die between now and Saturday? Hmmm...

      May 18, 2011 at 1:02 pm |
    • SaLeForce

      @Lee.... wait a minute! Are you saying there is NO Santa Clause?

      May 18, 2011 at 1:04 pm |
  2. gmn835

    Matthew 24:36 "No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father." (NIV)

    May 18, 2011 at 12:50 pm |
    • Rob M

      Oh, snap! Right there! In that book that they are always reading! It say's no one knows! Has no one brought this up the the Doomsdayers?

      May 18, 2011 at 12:54 pm |
    • redragon

      Then I better call my dad.

      May 18, 2011 at 12:57 pm |
    • Alex

      AGREED.. even in other religions they state that no one knows the final day.

      May 18, 2011 at 1:02 pm |
  3. Toddzilla

    These people are whack job's. Don't they know the end of the world isn't till 12/21/2012?!

    May 18, 2011 at 12:50 pm |
    • The Jackdaw

      Seriously, what morons!

      May 18, 2011 at 12:54 pm |
    • Rob M

      Thats also silly, the Mayan prediction for 12/21/2012 is the end of an age not the end of the world. Its supposed to bring a "shift in consciousness" as the Mayans belived this has already happened several times before. What exactly it means to have a shift in "global consciousness" is debated.

      May 18, 2011 at 1:00 pm |
  4. Jamie

    You should buy GLER today. It's a sure bet. I know it's going up...GLER GLER GLER.

    May 18, 2011 at 12:50 pm |
  5. Crazy Eddie

    Like I really NEEDED an excuse to get drunk as a skunk on Friday night...

    May 18, 2011 at 12:49 pm |
    • WIll III

      LO freakin L!. Im with ya!

      May 18, 2011 at 12:53 pm |
  6. Ricote

    I believe Jesus us in fact back, he came 13 years ago by divine conception and is growing up ready to terminate you in pieces unbelievers. Yes, he is the one, he lives in California with his mom Mildred

    May 18, 2011 at 12:49 pm |
  7. Joe - Wilmington, DE

    Crap!!! I just paid off my mortgage!

    May 18, 2011 at 12:49 pm |
  8. Jamie

    Amazing Christ doesn't even know the date, but these people do...wow!

    May 18, 2011 at 12:49 pm |
  9. Shamrock6

    Is anyone really shocked that a 90 year old deeply religous, deeply disturbed man is spouting this garbage off? I didn't think so.

    May 18, 2011 at 12:48 pm |
  10. lacoaster

    The idea of what is being told to happen this next Saturday is ignorant, stupid. Check the story of the 7th day Adventist church fiasco (baptist before). This kind of stupidity is not new. If you do the right thing, you should only be concerned with doing your best and you are going to die when you are going to die. Just like any other living being on this planet. We are not mother nature's exception. Get your selves together, get you feet in the ground and realize that having a time to live and a time to die is totally normal. Stop dreaming and taking lies as truth with the convenient excuse of faith. Do right things because of one reason: because it is right. If you go to a church and tell the world or give the impression that you are a saint or saved of something totally normal like death, that's blatantly untrue. If you repeat that lie too often, you might forget it is a lie. Wake up and realize that you are no different than the rest of the people even if you are told so or even if you read so. If you want to divide people, then try this: There are people that make better choices than others. Hope this helps. And if you are searching for the truth I have bad news for you: You have to read more than one book and search in more than one place and being lazy or making up excuses won't help. Ignorance is no longer a hiding place and it is about time to face smarter generations as information is harder to hide these days and more available. Don't try to hide the sun with your hand, it is still there. Now complaint to your pastor about me so he can feed you the frequent dose of lies you are used to take to avoid thinking.

    May 18, 2011 at 12:48 pm |
    • Curt

      my friend, if you are referring to the 1844 movement, the Seventh-day Adventist church wasn't organized until 1863 so they were not part of that movement. William Miller started the movement before SDA's were around. It is true that some of those individuals in the great disappointment did become SDA's later on in life. Seventh-day Adventists don't believe in preaching certain dates for the second coming and judgment day because the Bible is clear!

      May 18, 2011 at 1:16 pm |
    • lacoaster

      Please see "(baptist before)" at the end of the second sentence.

      May 18, 2011 at 1:47 pm |
    • lacoaster

      Ellen Gould White was in fact a follower of Miller. Your date for the organization of the Adventist church is also wrong: "In 1840 and 1842 Ellen, with other members of the family, attended Adventist meetings in Portland, accepted the views presented by William Miller and his associates, and confidently looked for Christ's imminent return. Ellen was an earnest missionary worker, seeking to win her youthful friends and doing her part in heralding the Advent message."
      Please see: http://www.whiteestate.org/about/egwbio.asp "The OFFICIAL Ellen G. White Website"
      Nice impro though.

      May 18, 2011 at 2:08 pm |
  11. yoreal

    ...these doomsdayers need to read more books from Dawkins....

    May 18, 2011 at 12:48 pm |
  12. Ruderalis

    If this is true, then we should start hearing reports of massive earthquakes in New Zealand around 10:00PM-11:00PM Pacific Time, here on Friday, May 20th... An observation I just found, May 21st is Armed Forces Day. Does got hate Armed Forces?

    May 18, 2011 at 12:48 pm |
    • JT

      God doesn't, but Fred Phelps does.

      May 18, 2011 at 12:56 pm |
  13. Really

    Where is Micheal Moore when you need him? HEY MIKE....GET ON THIS STAT!!!!!

    May 18, 2011 at 12:47 pm |
  14. DrD

    Actually that's a good time for it to end. it's all downhill from here believe me. I still dream about being back in college 20 years later.

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

      Probably because you are still paying those student loans off Dr.

      May 18, 2011 at 12:52 pm |
  15. Adam

    Agree %100. In fact any of these fools that have children should have their kids taken away. This is lunacy, and the young ones are the ones that suffer.

    May 18, 2011 at 12:46 pm |
  16. John

    ...but We won'y know who wins American Idol. Damn.

    May 18, 2011 at 12:46 pm |
  17. Rob M

    Pour yourself a cup of coffee, sit down at your computer, get on google, then search "Failed doomsday predictions" and you have an entire afternoon planned out. These people are sadly gullible, and the worst part is there is a member of the department of homeland security who had taken then 17-23rd of May off work to prepare for the "end of the world." and made a remark on not coming back the 23rd for obvious reasons.

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

      there may be more than one, but there is a homeland security police officer in my neighborhood with the doomsday RV's and van parked outside his house next to his government suv- i'm going to make sure and drive by saturday to see what he's up to 🙂

      May 18, 2011 at 1:04 pm |
  18. Bruce

    Rebecca Black made a song about Saturday, didn't she?

    Oh, wait–that was Friday... How could she be wrong? Can't anyone open up their bibles and read for themselves and discover the truths therein, and then write a really bad song about it that goes viral on youtube?

    She must have been writing the song in math class instead of paying attention or she wouldn't have made the miscalculation...

    May 18, 2011 at 12:46 pm |
  19. Rob

    Part of me hopes it does just so I wont have to listen to these people any more.

    May 18, 2011 at 12:46 pm |
  20. Theo

    The Bible as a whole is meant to be a parable. it implies simple realities with divine truths. When we start digging and dissecting every detail to the point we start looking for placement of words, that is when we shoot ourselves in the foot. Jesus only require us to love each others, trust and believe in him and to live beyond this physical world. Buddha and many other have taught this same truth. When May 21st passes and nothing happens, I hope that their faith is not faltered.

    May 18, 2011 at 12:46 pm |
    • get a life

      Theo, god lives in peoples minds and no where else.

      May 18, 2011 at 1:03 pm |
    • Curt

      Just a thought for all of us whether skeptics or believers in this prophecy- If you die on Saturday, then your life has ended and there is no tomorrow and no time for a change of heart. Judgment day has come and your probabationary period has ended. Your destiny has been decided at that moment of death. So many of us are playing with fire and presumption that we always have another day to choose Jesus and His ways or not. Walking on thin ice means that sooner or later Jesus will come and that ice will break and life will be over. For when one doesn't choose whom he or she will serve, they are in reality choosing death and eternal loss. No, the end of our world as we know it can't come according to the Bible by Saturday for the plagues must be poured out first and the time of trouble according to Daniel 12:1. Remember that I Thess. 4:16, 17 is quite clear that this event will not be secret and there will be a massive resurrection at the same time. Rev. 1:7 says every eye will see Him come. But it may be your end on Saturday if you die. Never put off tomorrow what you can do today. Jesus won't wait forever but how merciful and longsuffering He has been to us so far.

      May 18, 2011 at 1:08 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.