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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. MAn

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZVvhcUN-UGw&w=640&h=360]

    May 18, 2011 at 1:55 pm |
    • MAn

      [gigya src="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZVvhcUN-UGw&fs=1&hl=en_US" width="464" height="376" quality="high" wmode="transparent" allowFullScreen="true" ]

      May 18, 2011 at 1:56 pm |
    • Bruce

      Try instead of [ and ] ...

      May 18, 2011 at 2:00 pm |
    • Bruce

      LOL I meant try less-than and greater-than signs instead of [ and ]. They disappeared on me.

      May 18, 2011 at 2:01 pm |
  2. Ian

    I think I'd rather see photos of their faces after the fact, rather than photos of bin Laden 🙂

    May 18, 2011 at 1:55 pm |
  3. Steve

    Personally I think the whole thing is horse s**t. And when it doesn't happen, I know exactly what these idiots will say. "Oh God decided to give us a reprieve."

    May 18, 2011 at 1:54 pm |
    • john

      lol...that's right. They will also say it was their prayers that saved the world and they need continued financial support to keep it going or we are all doomed.

      May 18, 2011 at 1:57 pm |
  4. john

    Quick...drink some Kabala water! lol

    May 18, 2011 at 1:54 pm |
  5. John Connor

    Confession....
    I'm a little relieved that Judgment Day and the War with the Machines is finally coming to pass. I mean, I've been waiting for this to come for all my life. It's all my mom ever talks about! Thanks to her, I go to bed each night and dream about it. Look, I'm not going to lie and say it's not going to suck for a while but after I lead human's to victory and things start to get back to normal a little I was thinking about becoming a Veterinarian because I really love animals. If that doesn't work out I was thinking along the lines of Interpretive Dancing? I just hope that I can pay rent doing that in a post apocalyptic world...

    May 18, 2011 at 1:54 pm |
    • john

      you live in a trailer, correct?

      May 18, 2011 at 1:56 pm |
    • John Connor

      So I was talking to a guy the other day from 2013 he was trying to tell me that he could not emphasize enough about the importance of stockpiling toilet paper. That stuff is more valuable than gold where he comes from!
      Note to self: Stop by Costco after work....

      May 18, 2011 at 2:04 pm |
  6. Realist

    Halfwits....I wish god WOULD come and take them away!!

    May 18, 2011 at 1:54 pm |
  7. humtake

    Where will babies still in the womb go? According to Christianity, they are people too. Unless there is a personal church in every womb, it sounds like they are condemned to heck for not attending and worshipping. Those fetuses, we all know they are evil people!!!

    May 18, 2011 at 1:54 pm |
  8. notgonnahappen

    This has to be some kind of mistake. Saturday's no good for me. Can we push it back until, say Tuesday? But wait, if the world does come to an end on Saturday, I should be able to get a discounted rate at my favorite golf course on Sunday...after church of course.
    Wasn't the world supposed to end on 6/6/06.

    Dumsday, I like your thinking.

    May 18, 2011 at 1:54 pm |
    • Lin

      How about Friday? My MasterCard and student loan payments are due Saturday.

      May 18, 2011 at 1:57 pm |
  9. bc

    one of them nuts must be kin to the jim jones group! lol lol

    May 18, 2011 at 1:53 pm |
  10. JT

    I always watch with morbid facination at what religion does to people, whether these nuts or other Christians who believe exactly as these nuts do except for naming a date. It's comical to see other Christians call them whack jobs when there's only a hair width's difference between them.

    May 18, 2011 at 1:53 pm |
  11. george busch

    I hope they factored in that the first year was year 0. I would hate to see them miss it by a whole year like the Millerites did in 1843. But then again, when 1844 rolled past.......

    May 18, 2011 at 1:53 pm |
    • Todd

      Actually the first year was 1, there was no year 0, nice try at being smart though

      May 18, 2011 at 1:59 pm |
    • willie

      Actually Todd, that calendar was created over a thousand years later. There never was a year 1 either!

      May 18, 2011 at 2:33 pm |
  12. Brandt

    I just find this fascinating. Clearly things are "happening" in the world. People of various faiths agree that a cataclysm / judgment / transition / whatever is going to happen. But why Saturday? 😛 In my view more events need to take place and we can't know the exact time of the end. Then there are those people who love making strawmen of people who say we are "near the end" and radicalize us, pegging us with these folks. "Ah the end...it's not coming for another 1000 years. After all, Jesus didn't come May 21st." Yeah, makes perfect sense to me! Either end of the spectrum is filled with ostriches with heads in the sand or complete nutjobs.

    May 18, 2011 at 1:52 pm |
  13. John Hein

    BaBa Booey – BaBa Booey, next item please.

    May 18, 2011 at 1:52 pm |
  14. John-117

    Oh, by the way. I have listened to Harold Camping and this is NOT THE FIRST TIME he has predicted the end. (Oh, and he was wrong last time......)

    May 18, 2011 at 1:52 pm |
  15. Adam

    Oh I can't wait to hear what these religious tools have to say on Sunday! Religion is man made, God does not exist, and science has already told us when the true natural end of the world is: in a few billion years, when the Sun goes supernova! Now I can't speak for a man made doomsday, however since the republitards aren't in power we are safe for a few more years.

    May 18, 2011 at 1:52 pm |
    • george busch

      What do you call an educated Republican?
      A Democrat.

      May 18, 2011 at 1:56 pm |
    • STBV

      You guys are so funny. So simple minded. God created science, the earth, and you. Open your eyes and find the truth here.

      http://www.jamesbouvier.com

      May 18, 2011 at 1:59 pm |
  16. Norm

    Oh these poor misguided souls.
    God has told us He will come as a thief in the night.
    No man is to know the time of His coming.
    The arrogance these people are showing will surely buy them a one way ticket in the opposite direction when Judgement Day does come.

    May 18, 2011 at 1:52 pm |
  17. Eric

    This just in. Jesus twitters Judgement Day to be May 21st!!

    May 18, 2011 at 1:51 pm |
  18. Some dude

    personally, I at first thought it was all a bunch of lies, but when I heard that my little pony has made a comeback on the internet, and has become 'cool' I knew it was the end times, if only we'd listened sooner

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

    The man Harold Camping is a FALSE prophet and brings shame to the Christian community.

    http://www.opposingviews.com/i/may-21-2011-rapture-predictor-harold-camping-was-wrong-before

    May 18, 2011 at 1:51 pm |
  20. willie

    It sounds silly to normal folks but remember they are teaching innocent children about this. Years of psychotherapy and delusional living for these sad kids. No way to raise children.

    May 18, 2011 at 1:50 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.