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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. Lance

    Somebody should tell them that Judgement day happens within, not without. There will be no day where you are magically yanked off the planet, unless it's in your own head. You control your own reality. You make your own heaven or hell.

    We live at a time of great, enormous stakes. Let's realize that it is not US versus THEM, or YOU versus ME, that in fact we really are ALL for ONE and ONE for ALL. It's the only way we really will pass the tests and move into heaven, aka, an Earth filled with love, respect and responsibility for the stewardship of both our inner and outer world.

    The time has come. Some may bury their heads in the sand, as for the rest, it's your world, and we all live in it. Please make it a good one.

    May 18, 2011 at 12:59 pm |
    • Andy

      For over 30 yrs, one man has presented a much different and positive perspective on the happenings of the time. According to British author, lecturer and artist Benjamin Creme the one expected under various names – Christ for Christians, 5'th Buddha for Buddhists, Messiah for Jews, etc... – has returned and is now in the modern world. His personal name is Maitreya, and he comes as a teacher, not religious leader. Maitreya is the head of the Spiritual Hierarchy which is the group of perfected men like us who have gone ahead in the long journey of evolution. Maitreya is here to show humanity the way out of its problems – he says nations sharing is the way to peace, to end hunger and war forever.

      May 18, 2011 at 1:15 pm |
  2. itsjustme

    This is fearmongering and in its own way, violates "truth in advertising" - I believe they've been hyping this day for weeks on-air. Isnt' that more or less an FCC violation? or is this First Amendment free speech?

    May 18, 2011 at 12:58 pm |
  3. PCollen

    Read this and weep......with LAUGHTER:

    http://carm.org/jehovahs-witnesses-and-their-many-false-prophecies

    May 18, 2011 at 12:57 pm |
  4. Boytjie

    What about the astronauts on the space station and the shuttle – what time will they be raptured?

    May 18, 2011 at 12:57 pm |
  5. Michael

    But of that day and that hour KNOWETH NO MAN, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father. Mark 13:32 (emphasis added)

    May 18, 2011 at 12:57 pm |
  6. Jimmy

    I took off Friday to get ready for the rapture. So much cleaning to do. I don't want to receive Jesus with laundry and dishes stacked to the sky. How embarrassing.

    May 18, 2011 at 12:56 pm |
  7. Mike

    Wasn't this an episode of the Simpsons? Everybody gathered to see the end of the world, and it turned out to be an advertising gimmick for the opening of a mall...

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

      There was also another one where everyone was "Left Below"

      May 18, 2011 at 1:05 pm |
  8. Lee

    The leader of this church Harold Camping already predicted the end would come in 1994. Well, I guess hes right this time....

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

      I guess you can be wrong only so many times. Eventually you may get it right. Lol

      May 18, 2011 at 1:13 pm |
  9. Evrgreen

    Wonder where they are going to hide when they noticed that nothing out of the ordinary happened.

    May 18, 2011 at 12:56 pm |
  10. Richard

    Scripture says: But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but my Father only. Matt: 24. This chapter is devoted to what is coming, it implies that a Christian must be ready at all times for the "end." Those who proclaim that the end is on a particular date is actually heretical to the Bible. if they say they know when the end is, they (and I'm sure many believe this) are God.

    May 18, 2011 at 12:55 pm |
    • Bruce

      Mr. Camping OBVIOUSLY never read Matthew 24:36 for himself, nor has he ever been challenged by skeptics quoting that verse to him.

      Otherwise, he would never do what he's doing now.

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

      Negative, he's been involved in this very thing since the 90s, getting date after date wrong time and time again. Don't tell me he doesn't know what he's doing, we're obviously seeing a man who hardened himself in his ways. There's only one reason why anybody would continue deceiving people like this and it's called PRIDE.

      May 18, 2011 at 1:12 pm |
  11. Rose

    Well, when life gets boring some people take their bikes and ride around the world, some climb highest mountains, some quit jobs and volunteer in Africa, some go cheat on their spouses and some switch to dooms-day-coming-15-minutes-of-fame campaign ... what ever works! As long as they don't bother me. As for the kids – i would take kids away from them on a base on mental abuse.

    May 18, 2011 at 12:55 pm |
  12. Paul

    So I shouldn't bother cutting my lawn this week?

    May 18, 2011 at 12:55 pm |
    • David

      Or grocery shopping? Should I wait until Sunday to go? Hate to have all that food sitting in the refrigerator going bad..

      May 18, 2011 at 1:01 pm |
  13. Mustang95

    One word says it all...

    IDIOTS!

    May 18, 2011 at 12:55 pm |
  14. WooHoo!

    Can't wait till the post rapture party on Sunday the 22nd when these morons will be nothing but a laughing stock.

    May 18, 2011 at 12:54 pm |
  15. Aezel

    So here is the thing. When the world DOESN'T end this weekend, these morons will have a long explanation immediately available for the public. That means that right now, they are already preparing this explanation, which means for all intents and purposes, they know they are lying. We'll see who's right come Sunday.

    May 18, 2011 at 12:54 pm |
  16. Jay Langham

    Thanks for telling me this after I made my monthly house payment. I could have blown that $$ on something fun!

    May 18, 2011 at 12:54 pm |
  17. Sanjeet Syiemlieh

    Saturday is the day of the Lord (Sabbath) so, He rests on this day and for sure nothing will happen as it is written in the Bible. Besides no one will know the hour of His second coming even the angels of the Lord.........!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    May 18, 2011 at 12:54 pm |
  18. Steven

    No, no, no !!! I am all set for the end of the world on Dec 2012. I can not change everything now.

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

      lol

      May 18, 2011 at 1:07 pm |
  19. DigitalDan

    Oh boy, the wack jobs are at it again. Sorry folks, Be a LONG time before Doomsday.

    May 18, 2011 at 12:53 pm |
  20. What if

    What if this does come true? If Mr. Camping, by the grace of God is right, what happens to those who believe in coming of Christ but don't believe in Mr. Camping's theory? Does that send them to hell? What if Camping is merely a false prophet?

    Personally, if it happens it happens. We can't control it or stop it. I simply ask that we do not rush to judgement n those that have believe in Mr. Camping. For in the end, if you believe, they will be judged for what they may have done right and for what they have done wrong.

    May 18, 2011 at 12:53 pm |
    • lacoaster

      Just continue paying your bills, otherwise, you might feel the heat of a lake of flames. 7 years of bad luck and the highest interest rates if approved.

      May 18, 2011 at 1:01 pm |
    • lacoaster

      BTW if you have any silver, I make you an offer at $26 per oz before you take off. I won't sin this time and will go with the true truth: I am planning to sell it a lot more expensive than that after Saturday.

      May 18, 2011 at 1:10 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.