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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. MS

    Part of me hopes that they are right. I've got finals next week that I'm not looking forward to.

    May 18, 2011 at 1:50 pm |
    • Jim AR

      Oh, there's no question; the signs are all there: ABC cancelled "V;" NBC cancelled "Law and Order LA;" and CBS cancelled "$#*! My Dad Says." I am maxing out all my credit cards. What the heck.

      May 18, 2011 at 2:05 pm |
  2. gary banta

    Harold Camping is correct !!!...The last thing you should do is laugh or mock with only a few days left...You better pray for mercy......May 21 2011 is correct though my own study of the Bible!! ...the Bible guarantees it!!!....Read it yourself or go to http://www.familyradio.com

    May 18, 2011 at 1:50 pm |
    • SDCyclist

      Okay, Gary! LOL! Let me get on that right away! LOL!

      May 18, 2011 at 2:09 pm |
    • Steve (the real one)

      So Camping is correct, even through the bible clearly states no one knows but the Father? Careful Gary, you have placed the words of a man before the word of God. Camping is wrong and was just as wrong in 1994. Please give me a scripture that indicates your theory. How many more opportunities are you going to give that false prophet?

      May 18, 2011 at 2:12 pm |
    • Mike

      . Really? Please share with all of us your great knowledge of God's word where He says on May 21, 2011 Jesus is coming back? What are you going to say to your lost family members on Sunday? Stop following this false prophet and follow Jesus

      P.S. Don't forget to set your alarm clock so you can go to church on Sunday. Oh wait, I forgot, your leader told you to leave His Church.

      May 18, 2011 at 2:24 pm |
    • Dave

      mister camping- if you wanna be famous try this...."Jump off the gym, splatter on the street and go for the cover" of did you get your ID-10-T card in the mail yet....oh youll get on the 21st of may.

      May 18, 2011 at 3:44 pm |
  3. mrlgh

    It's the end of the world again?

    May 18, 2011 at 1:49 pm |
  4. MAn

    HOW DO I EMBED VIDEO IN THIS BOARD?!?!

    May 18, 2011 at 1:49 pm |
    • Bruce

      Doesn't work if you have caps lock set...

      May 18, 2011 at 1:57 pm |
    • SDCyclist

      @Bruce: LOL! Good one. Thanks for the laugh 🙂

      May 18, 2011 at 2:09 pm |
  5. MJ

    Really Christians????Really? American Christians are the laughing stock of the entire free world. This is a great country but can you imagine how much better it would be without these people? God, please, rapture them off this Earth! I will be sure to post a comment on Sunday, when we are all still here......Right-Wing-Nut-Jobs-Right-Wing-Nut-Jobs-Yes-You-Are! Yes-You-Are! You are crazy people – You are crazy people! Go away-Go away!

    May 18, 2011 at 1:48 pm |
    • Colin

      Sadly, you are correct MJ. As an Australian moving to America, one of the most advanced nations on Earth, I was truly amazed at how simplistic religious views were still so pervasive in the middle and South of the country.

      It was like walking into NASA and finding their most gifted aerospace engineers huddled excitedly over the astrology column in the National Enquirer.

      May 18, 2011 at 1:51 pm |
    • MJ

      @Colin.The only good thing that I can see is that most of these people are old and on the way out. In the past, it was easy to manipulate your children and indoctrinate them into your madness. Now, kids have the internet. They can research what mom and dad preach, see what other people are saying and form their own opinion. Cant hide the real world anymore! My best evidence is our President. The U.S. elected a Black man named Barack Hussein Obama to the countries highest office! Things are for sure changing for the better.

      May 18, 2011 at 1:59 pm |
    • Lisa P.

      Out with the old, in with the new!

      May 18, 2011 at 2:00 pm |
    • Steve (the real one)

      MJ

      Really Christians????Really? American Christians are the laughing stock of the entire free world. This is a great country but can you imagine how much better it would be without these people? God, please, rapture them off this Earth! I will be sure to post a comment on Sunday, when we are all still here......Right-Wing-Nut-Jobs-Right-Wing-Nut-Jobs-Yes-You-Are! Yes-You-Are! You are crazy people – You are crazy people! Go away-Go away!
      -----
      News Flash MJ. I'm a Christian and I beIive Camping is wrong and those of his followers who sold and gave away their stuff and quit their jobs will be in for a very rude awakening come Sunday! Camping predicted the same thing in 1994. Wrong then and wrong now. The rapture is coming, don't be decieved. No man knows when. i am looking forwar dto reading your post on Sunday, May 22, 2011!

      May 18, 2011 at 2:06 pm |
    • Mike

      Michael Jackson; is that you? I knew you really didn't die. I know you're hiding out in Graceland with Elvis. How are the two of you doing?

      May 18, 2011 at 2:16 pm |
  6. John-117

    I want to see a front page story with all the explanations of how they missed it on Monday. It will be a great way to start the week.

    May 18, 2011 at 1:48 pm |
  7. sonofanangel

    An earthquake for sure,a few thousands dead for sure but its not the end of the world, "not even the angels know when the end of times is coming".....

    May 18, 2011 at 1:48 pm |
  8. willie

    I think the best way to deal with this issue is to laugh. Laugh at the morons who believe this. Let the kids see us laugh at the idiots as they pray to air molecules. Then when they want back into society after their failed rapture we should again laugh and say sorry, let your god take care of you now. Morons.

    May 18, 2011 at 1:48 pm |
    • CounterPointedStick

      I hope you are right, but I have to admit the type of unsolicited rancor you display in a trivial post underlines the real issue in this country.

      Misanthropes like yourself are killing this country.

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

    I was at the Ninth Avenue Food Festival in NYC on Saturday and the 5/21 people were parading around.
    I thought to myself "This is awesome. I can eat whatever I want because if the world is ending Saturday I can gain a pound or two, who cares..........

    May 18, 2011 at 1:48 pm |
  10. John

    Well couldn't this have waited till after the champions league final between Barcelona and Man Utd.

    May 18, 2011 at 1:47 pm |
  11. adron

    I'll be in Boston, getting my cam ready, YouTube here I come.

    May 18, 2011 at 1:47 pm |
  12. Stacie

    This whole thing is silly. While I am very happy for anyone who finds their spiritual or non-spiritual calling in life that makes them feel happy and complete, I can't help but laugh at this attempt at mass hysteria. Really, guys? Why not just live your life to the fullest? But either way, fundamentalists, thank you for giving me something to laugh at. And I look forward to being left behind if pigs suddenly sprout wings and you just happen to be correct. There will be a party.

    May 18, 2011 at 1:47 pm |
    • Bruce

      A few dozen people is not mass hysteria, fyi...

      May 18, 2011 at 1:48 pm |
  13. Mac

    Remember.... 1) Religion is based on authority and obedience. 2) SCIENCE is based on reason and logic. There is nothing logical about what these people are saying. Science hasn't necessarily proven that there is no god. However, science HAS proven that god is not necessary.

    May 18, 2011 at 1:47 pm |
    • Mike

      Christianity should be about a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. It's about placing one's faith in Jesus' death and resurrection. Christianity teaches salvation by grace (God's undeserved and unearned gift); whereas religion is based on good works.

      May 18, 2011 at 2:04 pm |
    • SDCyclist

      Science has no desire to prove there is or isn't a magical being controlling the Universe. They have nothing to do with each other.

      May 18, 2011 at 2:06 pm |
  14. MikeB

    It's the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine.

    May 18, 2011 at 1:47 pm |
  15. Leeann

    Mark 13:34-35 Enough said!

    May 18, 2011 at 1:47 pm |
    • Bruce

      Apparently Mr. Camping has never read these verses, nor has he ever been challenged by people who quote them. Quickly, find him and read him those verses so he can recant his predictions and tell everyone listening to his radio station he was mistaken!

      Run like the wind, child!

      May 18, 2011 at 1:51 pm |
  16. Stephen

    I don't understand how this is not a form of terrorism. These people should be formally charged when nothing happens on Saturday for purposefully inciting false fears in gullible people and essentially ruining their lives (financially, mentally, emotionally, etc)

    May 18, 2011 at 1:47 pm |
    • Mike

      If foolish people want to follow a false prophet, they have that God given right. If they were following Jesus they wouldn't be following this man. They're going to be greatly disappointed come Sunday morning.

      May 18, 2011 at 2:11 pm |
  17. Joshua

    Jesus said in the Bible no one knows the day of judgement, not even the angels. He must have meant no one EXCEPT an 89-year old engineer.

    They claim to base all of their beliefs on biblical scripture, yet conveniently ignore that one verse spoken by Jesus himself.

    It's too bad so many people have given up everything to follow this guy who takes numerology to new levels. Sunday will be a tough day for them.

    May 18, 2011 at 1:47 pm |
    • willie

      Um, Joshua, Jesus never spoke in the bible. Those little red letters are what other people said he said.

      May 18, 2011 at 1:52 pm |
  18. Dave

    I'll be in LAS VEGAS at the RAMMSTEIN CONCERT on My 21st at 8 p.m. please wait until the concert is over..i've been waiting 10 years for them to return to the U.S. thanks

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

      10 years?

      I saw em in LA in 2004

      May 18, 2011 at 1:51 pm |
    • cdimarco

      Ramstein concert? Man....maybe the world really IS ending that day :-I

      May 18, 2011 at 1:51 pm |
  19. Sharon

    The stupidity of some people is absolutely amazing. You can convince someone out there that anything you dream-up is true. Maybe they should try this bit of logic instead of blindly following: Man Created God!

    May 18, 2011 at 1:46 pm |
  20. RixR

    When the "end" doesn't come, well, these nuts will just say something like "God spared us" or "There must have been a miscalculation" or some such claptrap. Cognitive disassociation... Of course, I'd be tempted to say, "Hey, the Rapture took place- but looks like you and your followers didn't qualify." That, or they'll all go underground for a while to pretend they were taken up, etc.

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

      LOL! That's great. Love it! Imagine waking up the next day not having been raptured when you were fully expecting it. I think we're going to see quite a few suicides next week. Think "Heaven's Gate."

      May 18, 2011 at 2:02 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.