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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. MAYAN

    if the WORLD END.... you don't have pay TAXES!!!! you just tell people that I want house. they will built a nice house for free!!!

    May 18, 2011 at 1:05 pm |
  2. Phil

    LOL RELIGION.

    May 18, 2011 at 1:05 pm |
  3. Iamgod

    There is NO heaven or hell you're just dead. Can anyone prove otherwise.

    May 18, 2011 at 1:04 pm |
    • Cesar

      VERY VERY TRUE

      May 18, 2011 at 1:11 pm |
  4. Cesar

    Ok the bible says that the end will come like a theif in the night....what dont these people understand, also the bible says there will be false prophets and false gods and not to believe in them. Apparently these people consider them selves christians but in reality their going against their own bible, their rules, these are the guys we'll see in hell.

    May 18, 2011 at 1:04 pm |
  5. Zeeman

    It's time for all of those human lemmings to find a cliff.

    May 18, 2011 at 1:04 pm |
  6. Observer

    This is going to ruin my entire weekend!

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

      Tell me about it!!!!! They shoulda planned this to happen on a Monday, in a dreary season, away from holidays, and a day it is rainy, and cold!

      May 18, 2011 at 1:22 pm |
  7. calvin

    Those who know the word will simply agree with gmn835 in agreeing with Matthew 24:36. For these people to take and add what is not in the word of God is Blasphemy!!! God Help them and this wicked world we live In. Yes Jesus is soon to Come but not by any man's date. Now I can see why the Bible reads to Pray without ceasing. Lord Forgive Us and Help us that the truth and revelation of you would be revealed, In Jesus name I pray. God Bless and Help The United States as well the entire World!!

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

      OMG–has anyone shared Matthew 24:36 with Mr. Camping? They should do that soon, so he can see the folly of his ways and recant his predictions!

      I can't believe nobody pointed that verse out before–it clears things right up!

      May 18, 2011 at 1:07 pm |
  8. Colin

    Christianity is the belief that a god exists that impregnated a virgin with himself, so he could give birth to himself to sacrifice himself to himself to negate a rule that he himself made.

    Atheism is the belief that the above belief is silly.

    May 18, 2011 at 1:03 pm |
  9. Scott

    How many followers will abandon this false prophet when he is proven wrong come Sunday morning the 22nd?

    May 18, 2011 at 1:03 pm |
  10. Raz

    I just bought a bunch of bananas this morning!! Now they're going to go to waste. Oh, well.

    May 18, 2011 at 1:03 pm |
  11. GrogInOhio

    Cool... I'm gonna quit paying bills!!

    May 18, 2011 at 1:02 pm |
  12. Brian

    Oh NO only 4 days LEFT, I'm sooo behind you guys. I still have to quit my job, sell my posessions and SPEND ALL MY MONEY!!! Don't worry though, when Saturday rolls around I'll be ready, sitting on the couch with my glass of Kool Aid waiting for the spaceship to pick me up HAHAHA

    May 18, 2011 at 1:02 pm |
  13. Frank Kushmaul

    Get your numchuks and your dad`s car.....I think I know where we can get a gun!

    May 18, 2011 at 1:02 pm |
  14. ptbam(proud to be an american)

    Ok, what's the excuse going to be this time when it doesn't happen? Crystal ball too foggy? Voices in the head to soft to hear? Moon not full? Oops, forgot about leap year? I'm waiting to hear a zinger of an excuse, so get ready to post those excuses, and be inventive please. We can all use a good laugh!!!

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

      No. When May 22nd rolls around, you tell them that the rapture occurred, 5 people in the Middle East were taken up to heaven and the rest of them are not worthy and must suffer "eternal hell" with the rest of us. 😀

      May 18, 2011 at 1:43 pm |
  15. Todd (another one)

    And in other news, religious idiots justify acting like idiots by idiotically believing that the fairy tales of Mother Goose and Grimm are real.

    Here is more news: churches are tax exemt. What the f***?

    May 18, 2011 at 1:01 pm |
  16. William

    This is all very depressing. It makes me sick! We as a species should be exploring other worlds by now! Imagine if the world could live as one? Imagine that we as a species had not been missinformed and devided by the nearly 5000 different religions, all claiming to be the only truth and the way? I'm mad as hell that all of the effort to build cathedrals and churches and lavish structures where millions of people waited there time, thoughts, emotions, and wealth to worhip somethng that has never existed! To all of the thousands of monks sitting around repeating scripture for there whole lives! Have they been productive in anyway toward advancing the human race as a species? The same goes for the madras's in the arab world where from a very early age the people are forced to rock and memorize the quran. To what end? Religion has been missleading the human species from what we should have been paying attention to for thousands of years, and now will prove to be the main reason for our extinction from the universe. Makes me very mad that we had a chance to live as one and create our own heaven on this earth, but was squadered because of all that devides us and religion being the primary one.

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

      Way too many people can not let go of fairy tales ...

      May 18, 2011 at 1:04 pm |
  17. CounterPointedStick

    BIGGEST. TROLL. EVAR.

    May 18, 2011 at 12:59 pm |
  18. Colin

    Which of the following groups is the more ridiculous?

    One group believes that a magical sky being created the entire Universe and its billions of galaxies, sat back, waited 13,400,000,000 years for planets to form and life to slowly evolve into human beings, then sent its “son” to Earth to die on a cross to save these humans from their “sins”. And the son and the god are the same thing, but only the god knows when he is returning, not the son.

    The second group believes that a magical sky being created the entire Universe and its billions of galaxies, sat back, waited 13,400,000,000 years for planets to form and life to slowly evolve into human beings, then sent its “son” to Earth to die on a cross to save these humans from their “sins”. And the son and the god are the same thing, but only the god knows when he is returning, not the son, and that day happens to be this Saturday.

    Not a lot of difference between what these nut cases believe and what your mainstream Christian believes, is there?

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

      Your post demonstrates an incredible ignorance of what Christians really believe. I suspect you are merely trying to be humorous, but if you are serious you should be pitied.

      May 18, 2011 at 1:08 pm |
    • Colin

      @Rapp. What am I missing? Unless you subscribe to the talking snake theory of a 6,000 year old World, what have I got wrong?

      May 18, 2011 at 1:17 pm |
    • CanIGetanAmen

      Actually the 2nd group believes the Earth is less than 10,000 years old and of course does not believe in evolution at all but other than that, you're spot on. It is funny though because my Christian friends think the Harold Camping group is off their rocker when they are really in the same tiny boat, lost at sea in their beliefs.

      May 18, 2011 at 1:35 pm |
  19. Jamie

    Buy GLER, before it's too late. GLER GLER GLER

    May 18, 2011 at 12:59 pm |
  20. GinaBonBon

    i have a scheduling conflict. this is no good for me 'cause i have an acupuncture appointment that morning.

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

      I have a tee time then, you think we could do Sunday?

      May 18, 2011 at 1:15 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.