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. David

    Thank God – I would have had to mow the lawn and it is up to like eight feet or something.

    May 18, 2011 at 2:23 pm |
    • ELIZA

      Lol, too funny.

      May 18, 2011 at 2:33 pm |
  2. Stupid is as stupid does!!!

    May I separate the red sea now or wait until the s*&t happens on Saturday? What a joke..
    Some people are really out there with this kind of s*&t.
    I believe in a god and he is good.
    Theory folks, theory... That's religion. Religion is like a Soap movie, that all. It is what you take from it spiritually, not to taken literally. Someone didn't actually spread the waters back in the day. It is just met to mean the waters have receeded and now we have two lakes... Idiots out there go away.... May god bless all of you...

    May 18, 2011 at 2:21 pm |
  3. ivan

    You actually want a comment on this?

    May 18, 2011 at 2:20 pm |
  4. ZingisBack

    BillCompton... remember we are spending the end of the world together!!!!

    May 18, 2011 at 2:19 pm |
  5. Will

    Darn...just when I was going to donate $1,000,000 to my local church on the 22nd. Oh well!

    May 18, 2011 at 2:19 pm |
    • gardengoddes46

      I love it!

      May 18, 2011 at 2:34 pm |
  6. peick

    I agree the world will end violently, but not necessarily Saturday. Still, it doesn't hurt to take the message of repentance to heart.

    May 18, 2011 at 2:19 pm |
  7. Emi

    How come you only hear of this in the U.S... i live in Canada and not once have we heard anything about this doomsday May 21... don't these people have anything better to do ???

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

      Simply put, no.

      May 18, 2011 at 2:20 pm |
    • peick

      'Cause the Canadians are all down here buying up our real estate, anyway.

      May 18, 2011 at 2:20 pm |
  8. Will

    Hey...does this mean that Blondie will sing "Rapture" in a live concert in New York on the 21st? That would be cool, dude! I hope she does "Heart of Glass," too.

    May 18, 2011 at 2:18 pm |
  9. mumbo jumbo

    I hope the rapture does happen so that the rest of humanity can finally progress.

    May 18, 2011 at 2:18 pm |
  10. jonescincy

    Now we know why so many countries were banning some religions hundreds of years ago. Not all just the ones they thought were kooky. That kinda sounds like a good idea now doesn't it?

    May 18, 2011 at 2:18 pm |
  11. Mikey B

    Christians are silly.

    May 18, 2011 at 2:17 pm |
    • peick

      Which Christians? Oh, wait. It would require effort to draw a distinction.

      May 18, 2011 at 2:22 pm |
    • Barnacle Bill

      All of them.

      May 18, 2011 at 2:25 pm |
    • Silly..But Saved!

      It's NEVER too late to accept Christ.

      May 18, 2011 at 2:27 pm |
    • Sir Ron

      I beg tol differ but these people ARE NOT Christians. They people are (sad to say) just honest folks who are of such a gullible nature that they are easily misguided. The Bible warns us of false prophets who will come in the name righeousness preaching peace.

      May 18, 2011 at 2:29 pm |
    • Stevie7

      I find it interesting how the 'false prophet' teaching is always used on anyone who doesn't agree with one's particular view point. It's kind of like how the verse about how even the devil can quote scripture for his own purpose is used – anyone else can always turn right around and use it on you.

      May 18, 2011 at 2:34 pm |
    • Free Ride

      No, they are false prophets because they do not follow the scripture. Not that you would understand what I'm saying.

      May 18, 2011 at 2:44 pm |
  12. Unknown

    Why would leave your kids if you believe in the end of the world? If I was living through the end of the world, I would prefer to die with my family.

    May 18, 2011 at 2:17 pm |
    • willie

      because xtians are selfish, only care about their own damn salvation.

      May 18, 2011 at 2:19 pm |
  13. willie

    The rapture happened in 1980. A big hit by Blondie. Sorry all you fundies missed it.

    May 18, 2011 at 2:17 pm |
  14. ficheye

    My cuckoo clock seems to know what's happening. And he tells me about it all the time.

    May 18, 2011 at 2:15 pm |
    • Carlos


      May 18, 2011 at 2:37 pm |
  15. John Connor

    Ok Ok Ok. This is the most awesome thing ever. You know that guy from 2013 I was telling you about? Well he also gave me this list of all the girls that I am going to hook up with in the future, and you know what, I don't want to brag but it's a pretty long list! Included is also there present day address and phone numbers! Thank you future me! I know what I'm going doing from now until Judgment Day!!

    May 18, 2011 at 2:15 pm |
    • Bruce

      The former governor of California was asking about you. He made a big mess of things when I said I didn't know where you were.

      May 18, 2011 at 2:18 pm |
    • John Connor

      Yeah he was one of my T-800's for a while until he got hit by lightening and went rough.
      I'm not responsible for any of his actions.

      May 18, 2011 at 2:20 pm |
    • John Connor

      Oops! I mean Rogue not Rough! What kind of leader of humanity can't even spell right?? LoL

      May 18, 2011 at 2:27 pm |
    • Bruce

      Just send a robot back in time to correct your spelling!

      May 18, 2011 at 2:33 pm |
  16. Alex

    And the world is flat, the earth is the center of the universe...wow, that religion stuff sure is believable!

    May 18, 2011 at 2:15 pm |
    • Aezel

      Well that is Christianity and religion in general. Thousands of years of getting it 100% wrong on predictions and still being able to reel in the suckers.

      May 18, 2011 at 2:19 pm |
  17. John Hein

    Uh oh, Richard and Sal are at it again with Capt. Sulu.

    May 18, 2011 at 2:15 pm |
  18. Barnacle Bill

    Idiots will always be here, using religion as their primary weapon.

    Hopefully, these people will get to die right on schedule.

    May 18, 2011 at 2:14 pm |
    • Free

      Weapon, or excuse?

      May 18, 2011 at 2:23 pm |
    • Barnacle Bill

      There's really not much difference, is there?

      May 18, 2011 at 2:25 pm |
  19. Dave48

    How can they be right? Even Jesus said that no one knows the day or hr.

    May 18, 2011 at 2:14 pm |
    • Barnacle Bill

      Comic book characters don't really say things.

      May 18, 2011 at 2:15 pm |
    • I KNOW.. RIGHT

      Yes Jesus said, " That no man will know of the day or the hour" I just hope these poor people will be able to cope with the fact they had it wrong and don't turn against God.

      May 18, 2011 at 2:22 pm |
    • Barnacle Bill

      You cannot turn against a mythical character. You can only wake up from your delusion.

      May 18, 2011 at 2:24 pm |
    • Stevie7

      Someone said that Jesus said that nearly many decades after he supposedly said it. What if jesus actually said, "no one will know the day nor the hour ... except for Harold Camping." Sixty years is an awful long time to remember a specific quote. Ever play a game of telephone?

      May 18, 2011 at 2:29 pm |
    • Free Ride

      The Bible says to rightly divide the Word of Truth which means that ALL scripture must agree with ALL scripture. Harold only knows how to take the Word out of context and so you have someone saying they know the day when Jesus said NO MAN knows the day or the hour. So basically Harold is calling Jesus a liar! When really Harold is the liar! And the devil just sits back and laughs knowing he will use this to keep people from trusting in Jesus. But, Jesus said this would happen just before He does returns that false prophets would arise.

      May 18, 2011 at 2:30 pm |
  20. Keith

    I wonder what they will say come Sunday, or will they come up with another doomsday date like in the past. Give it up you morons and get a life. Find something constructive to do for a change.

    May 18, 2011 at 2:13 pm |
    • E Scott

      I wondered the same thing. Here's what they say on their website. No turning back!

      What if May 21 ends and nothing occurs?

      The Biblical evidence is too overwhelming and specific to be wrong. Christ's people can look with great confidence to this date because God promises His "beloved" He will not come upon them as a thief in the night.

      God in His mercy has revealed the vital information needed to know the day. Judgment Day on May 21, 2011 will occur because the bible declares it. Anyone whom God has not saved will arrive at that day with no hope for salvation. God warns simply the "door will be shut."

      May 18, 2011 at 2:18 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.