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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. fundies

    Blind Faith, while a great group, is a stupid practice.

    May 18, 2011 at 1:38 pm |
    • willie

      Blind Faith, live at Hyde park, 1969. Tremendous performance. Steve Winwood, Rick Grech, Eric Clapton and the great Ginger Baker. Now that's heaven!

      May 18, 2011 at 1:45 pm |
  2. Rahul

    The French Open starts on 22nd. Can't judgment day be delayed by 2 weeks? 😉

    May 18, 2011 at 1:38 pm |
    • Gail, Chapel Hill, NC

      LOVE your response! The world needs MANY more people like you and Jamal from Detroit, MI.
      Thanks!

      May 18, 2011 at 2:26 pm |
  3. oh fudge!

    Maybe a couple billion people will commit suicide and some of our global issues may be diverted on May 21st. We can only hope for the best.

    May 18, 2011 at 1:37 pm |
  4. Dave Christian

    The Holy Trinity, yes the three in one, but they are all one, yet they are three. You can not imagine 7 dimensional thinking because you are only man

    May 18, 2011 at 1:37 pm |
    • Laughing

      I would like to know a) what are the 7 dimensions, I only know 5 b) so my puny brain can't get a handle on this trinity thing but yours can? isn't pride a sin? SHAME! 3) the holy trinity was explained to me like this: water can come in three forms, ice, liquid and steam. It's all water but it's still 3 separate things. Then again I guess my puny brain can't handle that fact either, AHHHH my head, it hurts!

      Oh and lastly say what you will, but.......really? you want to believe in a god who impregnated a virgin with himself so he could be born then tell himself to have himself betrayed and killed on a cross and then for some reason throw in a third self. sounds creepy.....at best

      May 18, 2011 at 1:46 pm |
  5. John Connor

    My T-800 has an audio glitch. Every time it sees a 10 year old kid it asks, "Am I your Daddy?"
    Trying to get it fixed before Saturday...

    May 18, 2011 at 1:37 pm |
  6. Andy

    For over 30 yrs one man has presented a much different & positive take on the happenings of the time. According to British author & lecturer 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 1:37 pm |
  7. Jamal Brown, Detroit, MI

    All I know is that I sold all my personal belongings because of this, so if Harold is wrong, I'll be making a visit.

    May 18, 2011 at 1:37 pm |
    • Gail, Chapel Hill, NC

      Thanks, Jamal ! I LOVED your response! It totally made my day! Keep it up!

      May 18, 2011 at 2:23 pm |
  8. samantha lamb

    why do ppl do this ppl can not put a date on the second coming of our Lord i am defintely not a doomsday sayer at all Not one person onthis earth knows the day nor the hour when the Son of Man should come God alone knows when he shall come. it is also nothing to joke about. i pray to God that he will allow this word to come to repentence and that he will forgive us for all that we have done. also Oh Lord have mercy on this world right now Please

    May 18, 2011 at 1:37 pm |
    • RdclCntrst

      Lord, in thy mercy, shower thy servant Samantha Lamb with punctuation, that her message be intelligible in Thy name. Amen.

      May 18, 2011 at 1:50 pm |
  9. Cdub

    I am all for spreading the good word, but I disagree with what one person said in this article. Yes these people are spreading the word, but they are giving a false prophecy and in doing such, it give Christians a "bad name" if you will. It makes Christians appear to be not in their right state of mind. God bless these people for spreading the word, but I do wish they would follow their own heart and not the words of a radio host. Christians give priests too much power in the sense that they feel their word is the complete word of god, but it is not. The priest is a messenger. It is up to the individual to follow and read into that message in their own way. Do not follow blindly as the bible warns to be mindful of those who say they are speaking for God when in fact they are speaking for themselves.

    May 18, 2011 at 1:37 pm |
    • Gary

      I see a lot of Christians commenting that these May 21st people aren't "responsible Christians," or some such thing. But the only difference I see between these people and mainstream Christianity is that these people set a deadline. Other than that, they say exactly the same things: Jesus is returning to the earth, and it is urgent that you believe in him, or you will go to hell. You fundamentalist born-again Christians claiming to be offended by these "false prophets" really ought to regard them more closely, because they're exactly what you look like to the rest of the world.

      May 18, 2011 at 1:50 pm |
  10. Carl LaFong

    If it really does happen I will send all the bloggers on this page a nice postcard.

    May 18, 2011 at 1:36 pm |
  11. CaliThinker

    Does anyone know how to set a reminder in Outlook?

    May 18, 2011 at 1:36 pm |
  12. chokedmonkey

    ah it's prolly the day the bank forcloses on his house...

    May 18, 2011 at 1:35 pm |
  13. willie

    I think it's about time we called these nutcases bluffs. If the rapture does happen when you say, I'll admit I'm wrong and never say another word against christianity. If it doesn't happen then you go away, shut up about your mythical jesus and let us normal people finally live in peace.

    May 18, 2011 at 1:35 pm |
  14. PoconoPhil

    It turns out the only way to get to heaven is through a tiny little sect in Paraguay. Don't say you weren't warned.

    May 18, 2011 at 1:35 pm |
  15. Tiffany

    hey hey i just remembered E3 is going to be in june at LA and Nintendo is going to show the new Wii. so yeah the world is not going to end and were not going to be beamed up to heaven. hehe beam me up scotty lol.

    May 18, 2011 at 1:34 pm |
  16. YBP

    Those pamphlets are 'blowing in the wind' because they have been taken for trash and discarded. I imagine that many of these doomsday people will commit suicide on Saturday in order to somehow enter 'the Kingdom.' That's what usually happens. This is yet another travesty brought about by that violent, ignorant, cowardly part of human nature that invented religion.

    May 18, 2011 at 1:34 pm |
  17. Rick

    "Store said, even if we got there, there would be no time to edit and publish, so what's the point?"

    Store should've gotten the divine insight that CNN doesn't proofread anymore.

    May 18, 2011 at 1:34 pm |
  18. AJ

    Thanks for the laughs 🙂

    May 18, 2011 at 1:34 pm |
  19. Matthew Posten

    If ABDULLAH THE BUTCHER says it's going to be the end of the world, then I will believe it. Until then, I'm just hoping for the best, and making all of my payments on time!!!

    May 18, 2011 at 1:34 pm |
  20. Asian Man!

    Bible “guarantees” the world’s end.... WOW.... As JEW-BUDDHIST..... I haven't play CALL OF DUTY MODERN WARFARE 3. It's not even out yet.

    Can anyone explain why people break TENTH COMMANDMENT LAWS?

    May 18, 2011 at 1:33 pm |
    • Dave Christian

      The Bible says the world is without end actually

      May 18, 2011 at 1:39 pm |
    • Tiffany

      i hear ya man im on my toes waiting for that game and the new elders scrolls game. and the new wii

      May 18, 2011 at 1:40 pm |
    • clay

      the bible says that man will not know when the end is nigh. this is just some stupid thing like what happened with y2k so dont worry youll get MW3

      May 18, 2011 at 1:42 pm |
    • Pumbaa

      What time zone did God pick for the end of the world? Is it going to end first in Australia and later end in the USA after the date changes at midnight?

      May 18, 2011 at 1:45 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.