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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. CG

    Life's gonna suck for them when May 22nd rolls around.

    May 18, 2011 at 1:10 pm |
  2. garc

    Come the rapture...Can I have your car?

    May 18, 2011 at 1:10 pm |
  3. Neild

    The lunatics are on the grass.

    May 18, 2011 at 1:10 pm |
  4. OtakuAnthony

    If the world doesn't end I will say told you so. Who knew people still believed what is written in fiction books.

    May 18, 2011 at 1:10 pm |
  5. Dave

    Well i'll be in Las Vegas at the Rammstein concert...May 21st at 8:00 p.m. ... please wait until the concert is over please i have been waiting 10 years to see them in concert...!!! Thanks LOL

    May 18, 2011 at 1:10 pm |
  6. Reality

    To All Doomsdayers: See you Sunday.

    May 18, 2011 at 1:09 pm |
  7. Clevelandben

    Oh..what a quandry...what to wear..what to wear! CLEAN UNDERWEAR!

    May 18, 2011 at 1:09 pm |
  8. kudz

    It seems kinda odd to me that God would utilize modern, human, political constructs like the International Date Line and conform his destruction schedule to our references of time. "At the tone the time will be 6p...KERSMASH!!!!!!!!!"

    May 18, 2011 at 1:09 pm |
  9. Chris Arp

    Everyone wants to feel special. They want to bellieve that something huge will happen to them. Humans are very consistent.

    May 18, 2011 at 1:09 pm |
  10. CMarkham

    Really? Read your Bible – only the Father knows when the time will come. Read the Bible! Matthew 24:36, Mark 13:32 and Acts 1:7

    May 18, 2011 at 1:09 pm |
  11. Rev.Rob

    And what are these people who quit their jobs and spent all their savings going to live on when the rapture doesn't happen? The welfare...... oops, I mean the charity of others? Can you draw welfare for being foolish? On the 22nd will all the billboards and signs be taken down? I think they should be left up as a reminder of how stupid people can be.

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

      Atheists should put take the billboards(I am sure they only rented them until May22) and put up "We Told you So" signs.

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

    May 21st!!!! Can this happen after the last Harry Potter movie comes out

    May 18, 2011 at 1:08 pm |
  13. Rich

    Religion is self delusion.

    May 18, 2011 at 1:08 pm |
  14. Good Lord

    Maybe, we as a civilization could start focusing on healing our planet and society rather than dreaming about its' destruction.

    May 18, 2011 at 1:07 pm |
  15. MyJudgement

    i've been living my life by the guidance of God for as long as I can remember. I follow Jesus Christ. and let me just say this to those who hear.. May 21st is going to go by, and "God's Judgement" or the "Day of the Lord" is not going to occur.

    Now I say this because from what I understand, NO MAN knows the times God has set in His authority...

    I hope God will find mercy for these people, to think they can understand what times GOD has set in his authority, is absurd and nothing more than ATTENTION SEEKING BEHAVIOR.

    Friends, Christians, brothers and sisters.. why CNN and the media choose to give them what they want, is between them and the media... I for one, think everyone should CONTINUE ON their life, forget about this "warning".. IT IS CERTAINLY NOT FROM GOD

    May 18, 2011 at 1:06 pm |
    • Aezel

      Like you are one to talk. Your beliefs are just as absurd as theirs. You have the same amount of evidence for what you think as they do, which is ZERO. You are all just creating a fantastical make-believe narrative around yourself and they are coming to a different conclusion than you do, yet you see fit to disparage their beleifs that they have zero evidence of, by relying on your beleifs which you have zero evidnece of. It is an infinite loop of stupidity.

      May 18, 2011 at 1:11 pm |
    • Artist

      Please note:
      .
      Schizophrenia is a mental disorder that makes it difficult to tell the difference between real and unreal experiences, to think logically, to have normal emotional responses, and to behave normally in social situations.
      As the illness continues, psychotic symptoms develop:
      • False beliefs or thoughts that are not based in reality (delusions)
      • Hearing, seeing, or feeling things that are not there (hallucinations)

      May 18, 2011 at 1:18 pm |
    • David Johnson

      @MyJudgement

      You said: "i've been living my life by the guidance of God for as long as I can remember. I follow Jesus Christ. and let me just say this to those who hear.. May 21st is going to go by, and "God's Judgement" or the "Day of the Lord" is not going to occur.
      Now I say this because from what I understand, NO MAN knows the times God has set in His authority...
      Friends, Christians, brothers and sisters.. why CNN and the media choose to give them what they want, is between them and the media... I for one, think everyone should CONTINUE ON their life, forget about this "warning".. IT IS CERTAINLY NOT FROM GOD"

      Religious opinions are like anuses. Everyone has one.

      The rapture etc. isn't going to happen, but not because of anything you claim to understand. It won't happen, because it is never going to happen. And all the caps you use in your posts won't make it so.

      Jesus, if He ever actually existed, is long dead. He isn't coming back. That is my understanding, and it should be yours.

      Cheers!

      May 18, 2011 at 1:21 pm |
    • KW

      Amen. Not even Jesus himself knows when He's "coming back". Ay ay ay. If/when Judgement Day comes, true Christians are always ready and will be glad to be taken. Live your life. I feel bad for these people who've given everything up in order to get their message out. Some, I've read, have budgeted every last cent out to May 21, so that when they wake up on May 22 and realize they've got nothing left, they'll be SOL.

      May 18, 2011 at 1:25 pm |
  16. BioHzrd

    So does that mean my ticket to the All-Star Race this weekend is invalid?

    May 18, 2011 at 1:06 pm |
  17. Observer

    Only 3 shopping days left.

    May 18, 2011 at 1:06 pm |
  18. Tom

    My birthday is the 22nd. Does this mean that people should deliver my gifts on the 21st so I have some time to play with them?

    May 18, 2011 at 1:05 pm |
  19. Malaka Shakalaka

    Religious nut jobs.

    May 18, 2011 at 1:05 pm |
  20. David

    Bless them for being so devoted but they missed the boat by almost 2000 years. The dead in Christ rose. Jerusalem was destroyed and now we are reaching the end of the Gentiles (see Acts). The rapture concept has no biblical basis what so ever. The concept was conjured up back in 1830 in a dream no less at almost the same moment Mormonism was born. Dispensationalist John Nelson Darby put all his weight behind the idea and poof Pentecostalism emerged. Now all these people believe in something that is never going to happen. What they are mistaking as the signs for the rapture are actually the effects of the tribulation.

    May 18, 2011 at 1:05 pm |
    • David Johnson

      @David

      You said: "David
      Bless them for being so devoted but they missed the boat by almost 2000 years. The dead in Christ rose. Jerusalem was destroyed and now we are reaching the end of the Gentiles (see Acts). The rapture concept has no biblical basis what so ever. The concept was conjured up back in 1830 in a dream no less at almost the same moment Mormonism was born. Dispensationalist John Nelson Darby put all his weight behind the idea and poof Pentecostalism emerged. Now all these people believe in something that is never going to happen. What they are mistaking as the signs for the rapture are actually the effects of the tribulation."

      OR, let me offer another possibility. One which is more likely:

      I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.” – Matthew 24:34

      This controversial verse is in all three of the Olivet Discourse accounts. (These accounts are to be found in Matthew 24:1-51, Mark 13:1-37, and Luke 21:5-33). For some time, critics of the Christian faith have argued that Jesus explicitly said here that all of the events prophesied in the Olivet Discourse, including His return, would happen before the last person living at that time died.

      Jesus promised, that He would return within that generation, but He did not. Since He was wrong, He could not have been God, so the Christian faith, is based on error. To bolster the argument, in all of the other places in the Gospels where Jesus used the term “this generation,” he was referring to people living at that time.

      These guys also feel Jesus was "mistaken" LOL!
      The respected Christian apologist and author, C.S. Lewis 1960 essay "The Worlds Last Night"
      “Say what you like,” we shall be told, “the apocalyptic beliefs of the first Christians have been proved to be false. It is clear from the New Testament that they all expected the Second Coming in their own lifetime. And worse still, they had a reason, and one which you will find very embarrassing. Their Master had told them so. He shared, and indeed created, their delusion. He said in so many words, ‘this generation shall not pass till all these things be done.’ And he was wrong. He clearly knew no more about the end of the world than anyone else.”

      Bertrand Russell, in his book, 'Why I Am Not A Christian',
      He discredits the inspiration of the New Testament: "I am concerned with Christ as He appears in the Gospel narrative…He certainly thought that his second coming would occur in clouds of glory before the death of all the people who were living at the time. There are a great many texts that prove…He believed that his coming would happen during the lifetime of many then living. That was the belief of his earlier followers, and it was the basis of a good deal of his moral teaching." Russell later reasons that it would be fallacious to follow a religious leader (such as Jesus) who was mistaken on so basic a prediction as his parousia.

      parousia = second coming

      eschatology = •the branch of theology that is concerned with such final things as death and Last Judgment; Heaven and Hell; the ultimate destiny of humankind

      Albert Schweitzer in his 19-century book, 'The Quest of the Historical Jesus', summarized the problem of "Parousia delay" as follows: "The whole history of Christianity down to the present day... is based on the delay of the Parousia, the nonoccurrence of the Parousia, the abandonment of eschatology, the process and completion of the 'de-eschatologizing' of religion which has been connected therewith."

      Believers can spin this how they like, but Jesus said what He said. It is what it is.

      Cheers!

      May 18, 2011 at 1:13 pm |
    • Artist

      rightttttt
      .
      Schizophrenia is a mental disorder that makes it difficult to tell the difference between real and unreal experiences, to think logically, to have normal emotional responses, and to behave normally in social situations.
      As the illness continues, psychotic symptoms develop:
      • False beliefs or thoughts that are not based in reality (delusions)
      • Hearing, seeing, or feeling things that are not there (hallucinations)

      May 18, 2011 at 1:20 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.