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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. John Hein

    BA BA BOOEY
    BA BA BOOEY
    BA BA BOOEY
    BA BA BOOEY
    BA BA BOOEY

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

      FaFa Fo Hi

      May 18, 2011 at 2:04 pm |
    • John Hein

      Ronnie said forget about it and HPE said mmmmeaty.

      May 18, 2011 at 2:08 pm |
    • John Hein

      Shuli said you are all morons and Artie says, "Waaaa."

      May 18, 2011 at 2:09 pm |
    • John Hein

      I would like Robin to give me some rapture, maybe even Howard too.

      May 18, 2011 at 2:11 pm |
    • John Hein

      My friend Fred Norris is here with me and says we are doomed. ETM excuse me ETA says, "Hee Haw."

      May 18, 2011 at 2:13 pm |
    • John Hein

      Rapture day is near as D. Arquette just got a King Tut from Courtney C.A.

      May 18, 2011 at 2:18 pm |
  2. Holly

    Why does the media keep putting this in the news! Stop giving the nutters an audience. They cannot know the mind of God or Jesus any more than a monkey does! (oops was that Darwin slip, or a reference to our place before God?)

    May 18, 2011 at 2:00 pm |
  3. Unknown

    I not very religious so correct me if I'm wrong, but doesn't the Bible state that no one knows when the Rapture will happen. Not God, Jesus, nor humans for that matter can predict when it would happen.

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

      That is what it says! But if Jesus' words in the Bible can't get through to "them", no one here will either.

      May 18, 2011 at 2:06 pm |
  4. AmericanGirl

    This is exactly why Jesus does not let anyone know the time or the hour. Look at the distruction this is causing, unbelieveable! This is so sad...

    May 18, 2011 at 1:59 pm |
    • The Spiritual Leader of the Pagans and all The Pagan Gods.

      Don't you even know what it says in your own silly bible? You foolish female diest.
      Only your god the father knows ~ and he did not even tell jesus or the holy ghost.

      You need more gods to keep you from your stup!d doomed black soul

      May 18, 2011 at 2:08 pm |
  5. guitarharry

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

    May 18, 2011 at 1:59 pm |
  6. The Spiritual Leader of the Pagans and all The Pagan Gods.

    You diests will all be cosmic dust and we Pagans and all our Gods will be here still partaking in the bounty, albeit with many less people which is as Athena has spoken. Those among you who are anti-diests spend as much time prattling as the glazed over reborns. We will never discover the complete error of yor ways ~ you will just be gone.
    Rain has more power than your god.

    May 18, 2011 at 1:59 pm |
    • nerve9

      Athena, huh? Really...she said that to you?

      And now we've heard from the granola set. Any other wackos want to chime in? Scientologists, I'm looking at you.

      May 18, 2011 at 2:16 pm |
  7. Artist

    So I wonder how many of these nutjobs will kill themselves come Sunday when they lost everything?

    May 18, 2011 at 1:58 pm |
    • The Jackdaw

      All of them I hope.

      May 18, 2011 at 2:01 pm |
  8. ifmorozov

    Christian wackos have been preaching the end of the world since the first-century C.E.

    May 18, 2011 at 1:58 pm |
  9. Ashley

    "But they’re at an age where they love their lives."

    Does no one else find this quote INCREDIBLY creepy and sinister? I'm sorry, but at what point should one stop "loving their lives"? At what age is it RATIONAL for one to say "Oh, I don't love my life anymore, so, go ahead God, just blow it all up. Just kill me." ?

    And they say pro-choicers are anti-life... these guys take the cake!

    May 18, 2011 at 1:58 pm |
  10. Hope

    Actually, before Jesus comes, the Sunday Law will be passed which will state that everybody has to workship on Sunday. According to the Bible and the fourth Commandment, we should worship on Saturday which is the 7th day of the week. The Sabbath was changed from Saturday to Sunday by man (read early Christian history). We should obey God not man. Once the Sunday law is passed, Saturday Sabbath keepers will have to run to the mountains as they cannot buy or sell anything. God will provide them with bread and water. Then the 7 last plagues will fall on the rest of the world. Then Jesus will come and every eye will see him. Then Jesus will take all the 7th day Sabbath keepers and the people who have followed all the 10 commandments and who have accepted Him as their personal saviour to heaven. The rest of the people in the world will die (lost people). The righteous people will stay in heaven for 1,000 years and then Jesus will bring Heaven down to this earth. At that time the people who worshipped on Sunday (Lost) people will rise up and try to fight with God. Then God will send fire and destroy them. Then He will bring heaven down and the righteous people will live forever.

    May 18, 2011 at 1:58 pm |
    • willie

      Hope, simply put, you are delusional. No one has ever spoken to god directly, the bible was written by men. WAKE UP!!!

      May 18, 2011 at 2:02 pm |
    • guitarharry

      In my religion, the world will last for several more billion years and then it will be consumed by the sun as its supply of hydrogen slowly depletes, causing it to grow larger. Oh wait, that's not religion, it's SCIENTIFIC FACT! And by definition, a FACT is something that cannot be logically disputed. So there.

      May 18, 2011 at 2:03 pm |
    • Aezel

      Yeah lol. I'll be living in fear till then. NOT! You're going to be waiting a long time for your fairy tale to come true, because it won't ever happen.

      May 18, 2011 at 2:03 pm |
    • devus

      Here's a few other things/positions that have been concocted by humankind: The bible. The Pope. Priests. Churches. Christmas Day. Pretty much every aspect of organised religion has come about becuase of humans.

      May 18, 2011 at 2:21 pm |
  11. Mark

    Religion is a mental disease that prevents logical thinking. Anyone who professes a belief in this crap should be locked up and the key thrown away.

    May 18, 2011 at 1:57 pm |
  12. John Hein

    Ba Ba Booey, Ba Ba Booey.
    Doosday 5-21-11 Emotional Friend.
    1-4-3

    May 18, 2011 at 1:57 pm |
  13. Jasper

    Is it my imagination that people like predicting the end of the world all the time? Remember when all the planets rotations lined up perfectly and people said it would tear up the earth, or how about when the millenium came about and people said it was the coming of the end. How about Nostrodamus and all those who said he predicted the end? How about Jim Jones and David Koresh's Branch Davidians, remember them? History seems to be filled with people predicting if not hoping for the end of the world. If we spend all our energy toward something more productive than deal with this dribble, we would be in a better place....

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

      Yeah. All this is distracting me from the latest news about Arnold Schwarzenegger and Newt Gingrich. Not sure which is more stupid....

      May 18, 2011 at 2:05 pm |
  14. Really?

    I feel bad for anyone who is suckered into this delusion. This guy is basing calculations based off monkey math. He is a total fraud. Normally that wouldn't make me mad, but the fact that he has convinced so many people to forsake their lives, their loved ones, and abandon everything they ever worked for to parade around this nonsense. WORSE is that when this prediction DOESN'T happen, these people will understand what they lost. How many will commit suicide? How many will turn away from God? This Harold Camping guy is one of the worst sinners, yet he will happily parade around like he just made a slight miscalculation. I hope on HIS judgement day, God gives him a nice solid backhand.

    May 18, 2011 at 1:56 pm |
  15. James

    That "member of homeland security" who is with them needs to be fired ASAP. I don't feel very secure knowing a nut case like that is in charge of my "security". Someone like that will believe anything. "Hey Billybob that dude over there is a terrorist go git em."

    May 18, 2011 at 1:56 pm |
  16. Todd

    These people are such pathetic losers!!!! Cant wait to wake up Sunday morning, hit the golf course, have some drinks and laugh my a$$ off at the thought of these morons. What are they going to say sunday morning???

    May 18, 2011 at 1:56 pm |
    • nerve9

      I believe one of the first things will be "can I have my job back?"

      May 18, 2011 at 2:10 pm |
  17. Ragweed

    Matthew 24:42 – 44

    May 18, 2011 at 1:56 pm |
  18. tuoni

    Can't we postpone it until monday the 23rd, pending Subway Series outcome?

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

      Don't worry, Rapture or no rapture, In Typical Mets Fashion, They will Destroy the Yankees the first game, be up by 7 points the second and blow it, and be shut out the third game.

      May 18, 2011 at 4:27 pm |
  19. SDCyclist

    I hope it's true! Goodbye! Good riddance! The world will be a HUGELY better place without religious zealots! Actually... a hugely better place without religion of any kind! Ah... that would be so nice! Bye!!!!

    May 18, 2011 at 1:55 pm |
    • Steve (the real one)

      SDCyclist
      I hope it's true! Goodbye! Good riddance! The world will be a HUGELY better place without religious zealots! Actually... a hugely better place without religion of any kind! Ah... that would be so nice! Bye!!!!
      ---------
      Hate to break it to you SD but even after the rapture, there will be religious zealots on the earth. Even just a quick glance at Revelation will tell you that. False churches and a false prophet. You will always be surrounded by religion of some type until you die!

      May 18, 2011 at 2:25 pm |
  20. Clinton

    Why is it, every single time a nut job comes out and makes a prophetic statement, everybody jumps out of the wood work to bash my religion? guess what... there's crazy !@#$ing atheists too... Crazy doesn't pick a religion, crazy finds its way into all corners of the world... I believe in God, i believe in the words of the Bible and the simple but undeniable truths found within, that there is a creator that loves us, that created the universe in it's entirety and that provided us with some simple rules, i.e. don't kill people, don't steal, and generally just don't be a jerk...If you don't believe in My religion that's fine, i can sit here all day long and point out flaws in any generally held idea of how the universe was created... like how a big bang just exists out of nowhere, with no reason for any of it to happen, i.e. believing in sub particles and particles that just "ALWAYS EXISTED" is so much more believable than a Creator that created the universe... but i know that only leads to long drawn out never ending arguments... I'm just saying, if you don't believe in what i believe fine, leave me to my beliefs and i'll leave you to yours... But in that, when some nutjob comes up with some non-mainstream idea of something like the world ending or crap like that, don't try and pin it on me the other followers of my religion or my religion itself, because I could pin a thousand crackpot theories on Atheists or any other religion as well... just because a few idiots think something doesn't mean we all do and it doesn't do anything to tarnish my beliefs. So there, as i said before, just leave it alone

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

      Clinton, come Sunday prove that the rapture didn't happen

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

      Science is the new religion, just because someone doesn't believe in creation doesn't mean they believe in the big bang theory. You silly christians always make things us vs. them.

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

      Want to buy a "I Wasn't Raptured Either" button?

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

      Because this is CNN. They like to make all Christians look bad. No matter what their mental stability is. To many people in these forums, if your a Chrisitian then you're automatically an idiot.

      May 18, 2011 at 2:02 pm |
    • devus

      He's a loving God, yes indeed. He loves us all. And he's going to absolutely destroy every living thing on the face of this planet. People. Pets. Penguins. Everything (except for a select few). If that's your god, you can keep him. That's like the principal of a high school who's fed up with his students, so he burns the entire country to the ground.

      May 18, 2011 at 2:07 pm |
    • Quest

      No one can tarnish your beliefs but yourself. If you are a Christian, then suffereing unfair slings and arrows in the name of Jesus is a blessing, not a curse. Perhaps you can try to pray for those people that annoy you.

      May 18, 2011 at 2:07 pm |
    • nerve9

      My problem is not with your religion, Clinton. It's with the way you present your beliefs as "undeniable" to quote you directly. Atheists rarely say anything is "undeniable." They may hypothesize on the existence of certain sub-atomic particles or the origins of the universe, but these things are not considered "undeniable truths" as you claim your beliefs are. It's the arrogance of claiming something is undeniably true, especially without empirical proof, that bothers people.

      May 18, 2011 at 2:08 pm |
    • An Atheist

      Why do we bash your religion? Because it's the foundation upon which all this nonsense is built. If you could step back and look at the bible with a truly open mind, you'd be astounded. Unfortunately, that's a really hard thing for you to do because all your life you've been indoctrinated to believe that anything that comes from the bible is absolute truth.

      Trust me on this: The bible is interpreted in so many different ways, and by so many different people, that any cause one could think of can be justified by it. People easily believe stories like this article, and they even drink poison kool-aid, and all because, in some offhand way, someone found it in the bible.

      Put your faith in common sense. Give love. Play fair. Hey, even if someday you ARE judged, any supernatural being who would punish those qualities doesn't deserve to be worshipped!

      May 18, 2011 at 3:30 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.