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. sainten1821

    every few years we have some wack job tell us with some mathmatical equation that only they know how to perform that the end of the world will happen. plain and simple. only god knows when, man will not know. why would god put a mathmatical equation into the bible, come on.

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

    See you on Sunday! 🙂

    May 18, 2011 at 1:45 pm |
  3. AlMurray1958

    Have the Family Radio people let their lease on the radio frequency and station/broadcasting equipment lapse? or Have they renewed it? ..

    May 18, 2011 at 1:45 pm |
  4. Noooooooo!!

    Of course, on the week when they've almost got the Playstation Network back up and running...figures,

    May 18, 2011 at 1:45 pm |
  5. Colinmb

    Rats. I have my cruise booked for this weekend too. Wonder if I can get a refund if Judgement Day occurs or will they claim it was an act of god and not?

    May 18, 2011 at 1:44 pm |
  6. kso

    I'll be in a hot air balloon on saturday... so, i should be good for the megaquake. Bring it on Jesus!!!

    May 18, 2011 at 1:43 pm |
  7. Jeff

    According to their "spiritual leader" jesus will only take 2 million christian's to heaven and leave the other 1.8 billion here on earth to suffer before the universe itself ceases to exist. These people have no clue, God will NOT tell us when it's going to end.

    May 18, 2011 at 1:43 pm |
  8. cdimarco

    Well, I don't believe this is going to happen this Saturday, but the way I see it – even if the world did end on Saturday, I believe that Jesus covered my sins. I can go any time and that's ok.

    May 18, 2011 at 1:43 pm |
    • Man

      Well put!

      May 18, 2011 at 1:59 pm |
  9. Duffy

    Here's the challenge that I would issue to those who claim to truly believe the rapture will be here on Saturday. Promise me that if you are wrong, and the rapture does commence on Saturday, that you will give up your faith. What do you have to lose? You're certain the rapture is coming. Accordingly, you won't be here on May 22 for me to enforce the promise. If, however, you are here, your faith is based on a lie and you are better off ditching it for some version of reality.

    May 18, 2011 at 1:43 pm |
  10. And Anz

    Reaction to the senseless May 21, 2011 Judgment Day Announcement by some people...


    May 18, 2011 at 1:43 pm |
  11. gigi

    think Harold Camping's life is gonna end on May 21st... Look how old he is! Break a hip already and call it a day!

    May 18, 2011 at 1:43 pm |
    • Artist

      Lets hope they all get upset and off themselves 5/22

      May 18, 2011 at 1:45 pm |
  12. Raven

    No one man knows the year, the month, the day, or the hour but the holy father himself. On that day the world is held accountable not judged. Judgment comes when you stand before the throne of the lamb and hence then you are judged. When the trumpet is blown all shall hear it and all show know that the hour draws near. We have not gotten to that period in time yet. The seals have not yet all been broken and the bowls have yet not all been poor out. The Anti Christ has not yet revealed himself. There is many signs that have not yet come to pass. Although I think its a good idea to be prepared for any natural disaster. I do not think it's a good idea to follow a false prophet who claims he knows Gods day of judgment. I feel sorry for those who shall be led astray I just hope it doesn't end as some Heaven Gate Cult type scenario. The War or Gog and Magog has not come to pass people. This country has not yet collapsed one of 2 of the last 7 great kingdoms to perish before the end time draws near. I do however say to everyone reading to look to the skies, In the months perhaps next year or so, For a great deceptions shall be unmasked and has been unfolding for years now but soon, very soon the deception shall be released and the fall of the church shall come. This fall to the churches shall come swiftly and perhaps destroy the very foundation of the Vatican. Those who are believers must stay true to your beliefs in our lord. This ordeal with the May 21st End of Days followers, They actually might be the catalyst that brings about the deception in which I speak of and a monumental world shift in how religion is structured and allowed to continue by the powers that be.

    May 18, 2011 at 1:43 pm |
    • Artist

      Jesus get some help lol

      May 18, 2011 at 1:44 pm |
    • Colin

      But Raven, I thought you Christians believed god the father and god the son were one. How can it know and not know at the same time?

      May 18, 2011 at 1:45 pm |
  13. John Connor

    I caught my friend, Kyle Reese checking out my mom's Facebook page the other day. He told me that she is a total MILF! LOL!

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

      she is!

      May 18, 2011 at 1:46 pm |
    • Miles

      Yeah but don't make her mad though! (note to self: don't develop a technology that will backfire and destroy the world)

      May 18, 2011 at 1:57 pm |
  14. Dumsday

    Hey, if you believe that the end is coming Saturday, I'll bet you everything I own against everything you own that it isn't. If you are right you go to heaven; If I'm wrong you get all my money. It's win win for you. What do you have to lose?

    May 18, 2011 at 1:41 pm |
    • Jason

      Someone doesn't understand how betting works

      May 18, 2011 at 1:45 pm |
    • Dumsday

      At least that's what I'm hoping

      May 18, 2011 at 1:48 pm |
  15. YBP

    Amen! How many chances are we going to give these crazy people to properly interpret the 'sacred texts' for us? Come Sunday morning, they must all start looking for a new hobby/obsession. Preferably, one that doesn't involve, annoy or harass the rest of us. Those that didn't commit suicide on Saturday, that is.

    May 18, 2011 at 1:41 pm |
    • Artist

      Candace Christian

      I am sorry you have spent 40 years in delusion but there is treatment.
      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 1:42 pm |
  16. Ema

    I will be on a road trip on Saturday and if it does happen I will be glad to with my closest friends. = )

    May 18, 2011 at 1:40 pm |
  17. The Jackdaw

    Just when you think this stuff can't get any better they post a video! HAHAHAHAHA

    May 18, 2011 at 1:40 pm |
  18. Santa

    HA ha ha ha ha ha ha! This is the best POS Blog I've read all year.

    May 18, 2011 at 1:39 pm |
  19. Peanut Butter Jelly time

    Are people really this gullible this day in age, I mean come on selling your house, quiting your job, etc....really...F'n really!

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

      All the more reason to commit suicide at some point on Saturday. Say goodbye.

      May 18, 2011 at 1:42 pm |
  20. Slash

    Anyone seriously believing this is free to give me all their money so they can enter heaven in a pure state.

    May 18, 2011 at 1:39 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.