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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. Cliff Vegas

    Wait a sec... okay... now I'm ready.... Bwahahahahahahaha. Okay. Now that I've gotten that over with... on to important things.

    May 18, 2011 at 2:06 pm |
  2. 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 2:06 pm |
  3. Steve

    "...the 60 like-minded people (including someone who works for Homeland Security, he boasted)..."
    Congratulations on getting a TSA baggage screener in your camp! Your numbers are really swelling! Now you have .0000000194 % of the US population in your camp!

    Not to be too much of a D, but why are you boasting with the end so near? Isn't pride one of those things that keeps you out of heaven? Can't you be really really really good for just 3 more days?!?

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

    The world is going to end. AGAIN?!

    May 18, 2011 at 2:06 pm |
  5. Bruce

    Don't worry, guys. I just called up Mr. Camping and shared with him all the verses you have been posting, such as Matthew 24:36, and he said, "OMG, I can't believe I've never seen those before!" He has already recanted his predictions and apologized to everyone who believed him on his radio network.

    He says a few of them might need jobs now. You guys know anyone who's hiring?

    May 18, 2011 at 2:05 pm |
  6. Will Smith

    Nice hedge by these loonies saying the rapture wil take 5 months. That saves them the humiliation of May 22. Smooth!

    May 18, 2011 at 2:05 pm |
  7. Geovanni

    DO NOT LET THESE MEN LIE TO YOU.

    Mathew 24 says:

    3. As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. “Tell us,” they said, “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”

    4 Jesus answered: “Watch out that no one deceives you.
    5 For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will deceive many.
    6 You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come.

    23 At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Messiah!’ or, ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. 24 For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. 25 See, I have told you ahead of time.

    26 “So if anyone tells you, ‘There he is, out in the wilderness,’ do not go out; or, ‘Here he is, in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it.

    36 “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son,[f] but only the Father. 37 As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 38 For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; 39 and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 40 Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. 41 Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left.
    42 “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. 43 But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. 44 So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.

    NO ONE KNOWS THE DAY OR HOUR, and thus, NO ONE can say that the rapture will take place on May 21, 2011. It may happen, just as it may happen today, right this minute, but NO ONE can give us a date. However, I do urge all of you to seek God through Jesus Christ, his Son, who died for all of us in the cross. He is our Redeemer and Lord.

    May 18, 2011 at 2:05 pm |
    • The Jackdaw

      Your interpretation of BS trumps their interpretation of BS. Wow, I’m convinced it’s all real now! Can I interest you in some magic beans?

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

      Yo, I have a bridge in brooklyn for real cheap. You wanna buy it? I'll sell it to you for half off.

      May 18, 2011 at 2:08 pm |
  8. Eddie

    Damn, the subway series will be on that weekend.

    May 18, 2011 at 2:04 pm |
  9. The Jackdaw

    I have magic beans for sail, $400 each! You must buy 3 at a time for them to work! Please call!

    May 18, 2011 at 2:04 pm |
  10. southie

    where in the bible did they get the idea that it would happen 6 p.m. this Saturday?

    May 18, 2011 at 2:04 pm |
  11. Marco

    To all the believers, the plans have changed. Come Sat. we are all going to commit suicide at 5:59pm. Don't wus out, here's your chance to meet your (akhem) maker.

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

    I am personally not a believer but I feel that everyone has the right to believe in what he or she would like to believe in. Given that mainstream Christianity rejects this ridiculous prediction I feel bad for Christians who will now as a group get another slap in the face because of some out spoken jerk.

    May 18, 2011 at 2:03 pm |
    • Jimbo-Bob

      I won't feel bad, believing in the regular stories out of the bible is just as crazy.

      May 18, 2011 at 2:04 pm |
    • Just an observation

      At least they know how Muslims feel!

      May 18, 2011 at 2:24 pm |
  13. Jimbo-Bob

    Maybe we'll get lucky and the world will end for these people on the 21st while we just go about our business. Let's only hope they have some kool-aid lined up and black robes ready for Saturday night.

    May 18, 2011 at 2:03 pm |
  14. yourface

    this guy sounds like baloni

    May 18, 2011 at 2:02 pm |
  15. Kent

    Morons.

    May 18, 2011 at 2:02 pm |
  16. Spring

    The return of Christ in May 21, 2011? Really? Listen to Dan Boone's Biblical and hopeful short message with book plug at end. http://vimeo.com/19214504

    May 18, 2011 at 2:02 pm |
  17. J.P.

    I live in Alabama. Not by choice. Job transfer.... I am surrounded by crazy people.

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

      You wouldn't be the first to escape to the North from crazy southerners...

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

      Realist, I have lived in the North and the South. Both have their nutters, the only difference is the North hides it better. Personally I would rather know who they are so I can avoid them.

      May 18, 2011 at 2:23 pm |
  18. Susan

    God, these people really are just awful. To think that if something is going to happen, that God would tell us anyway. To think that God would even do that to us. And when it doesn't happen, they will be disappointed. Disappointed that tons of people didn't die and misery didn't come. Ugh. How can they even live with themselves?

    May 18, 2011 at 2:02 pm |
  19. Clinton

    Artist – I'm sorry dude, the Bible says no man will know what day the end will come, I'm inclined to believe in Scripture over a few crackpot yahoo's that felt like they wanted to start a "movement" Sorry, I believe in God, not a bunch of idiots with nothing better to do... that WANT to believe so strongly that they come up with some date out of the blue, God sent us a message stating that NO MAN WILL KNOW THE DAY THAT THE WORLD WILL END... that's pretty simple and plain to me, i got the message loud and clear, he's saying... Don't !@#$ing worry about it, it'll happen when it happens, be a good person all the time and you won't have to friggin worry about it... People like this that spew ignorance do more disservice to the Christian faith than any Athiest or Christian hating group EVER COULD!

    May 18, 2011 at 2:01 pm |
    • Jorge Wissar

      Dude It won't End in 2012 losers who say that you guys suck that you say it will end in 2012 so people they are saying that cause they want money so dont be scared it wont end in 2012 so pray every night and pray in the morning and talk with jesus during school or everyday ok thanks.

      Your Welcome
      Siincerely Jorge

      May 18, 2011 at 2:11 pm |
  20. McG

    When the World ends on Saturday, It going to HAVE to happen BY 10am locally (Pennsylvania time). After 10 am locally it will be after midnight on the far end of the eastern atmosphere, making it May 22nd. The Bible, or the people interpreting it, wouldn't be incorrect about finding a date for the end of the world, would they? Hell no! So if you're really worried about Armageddon coming on Saturday, set your alarm for 10:30am. If you wake up to your alarm, you've made it. The same logic applies for December 21st, 2012.

    P.S. Hawaii only has a 2 hour window.. if it makes it to 2am there, all is good.
    P.S.S. Fiji and Somoa are exactly 24 hours apart. There's no overlap. Fiji might be spared. Maybe Fiji is Heaven?

    May 18, 2011 at 2:01 pm |
    • willie

      most people don't need to set their alarms for 10:30 AM. Are you a musician?

      May 18, 2011 at 2:05 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.