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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. Lisa

    I thought judgement day was 12/21/12...hmmm – now what am I going to do now? I wasn't planning on starting my judgment day checklist until the beginning of 2012.

    May 18, 2011 at 2:39 pm |
    • Charles

      The Word of God tells ,on Matthew 24;36. But of that day and hour no one ;and i mean NO ONE KNOWS, knows not even the angels of heaven, but My father only ' MY FATHER ONLY ' So why is people believing in such ;NONSENCE; SHAMEFUL are u losing in your Faith. So i,ll tell you DEC 20 -2012 IS NOT TRUE ;MAY 21 2011 IS NOT TRUE .SO PLEASE PEOPLE DON,T QUIT YOUR DAY JOBS. CHRISTIANS AND DON,T GIVE UP YOUR CHILDREN EITHER PLEASE WAKE UP AND READ YOUR BIBLE OVER PLEASE .IT PLAINLY SAYS 'NO ONE KNOWS THE DAY OR HOUR' WHERE HERE FOR A LONG TIME IT,S GOD WILL FOR U TO LIVE LIFE N TO WORSHIP HIM . PRAISE THE NAME OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST OUR LORD AND SAVIOR ,AMEN. BROTHER N SISTERS . SO DON,T WORRY YOUR RECIVING THE WRONG MESSAGE SO GO TO A CHURCH THAT PREACHES THE RIGHT MESSAGE FROM THE WORD OF GOD AMEN TO THAT.

      May 18, 2011 at 3:11 pm |
    • Colin

      But Charlie – you Christians believe daady-god and sonny-god are the one thing. How can it know and not know at the same time?

      May 18, 2011 at 3:17 pm |
  2. Reads

    I swear this is like my 10th rapture...

    May 18, 2011 at 2:38 pm |
  3. MikeP

    While he claims judgement day comes on May 21st, he says the whole thing won't be over until October 21st, meaning he's given himself leeway to explain why nothing actually happens on saturday – he can claim the end times have begun, but that jesus just hasn't gotten around to judging YOU yet...

    May 18, 2011 at 2:37 pm |
    • God

      You need to read my memo above.

      May 18, 2011 at 2:38 pm |
    • Matt

      I mean, he's not Santa right? Santa has more powers than jeebus because he can get to every house in one night! What does that say for the son of gawd?

      May 18, 2011 at 2:42 pm |
  4. Dumsday

    If I don't make the cut, I hope they still honor my netflix membership during the tribulation. It's going to be boring without it.

    May 18, 2011 at 2:37 pm |
  5. spoo

    if anybody is really true on this claim, then be ready to put a bullet through your head if the end does not come

    May 18, 2011 at 2:37 pm |
  6. Skynet

    All is going accord to my plans......

    May 18, 2011 at 2:36 pm |
    • Kyle Reese

      I'm pretty sure Skynet can spell.

      May 18, 2011 at 2:40 pm |
    • Miles

      Indeed Kyle. I added an MS Office grammar and spell-check plugin. This is not Skynet.

      May 18, 2011 at 2:44 pm |
    • John Connor

      Ha! Your lack of Spell Check will be your undoing!!!

      May 18, 2011 at 2:48 pm |
  7. Doug

    Hey Saturday is my birthday, no way am I going to check out, I am going to a Cactus sale/show in Riverside California, and we all know that God loves us Cactus freaks.
    Looking for a Optunia Subulata Montose, yeah! they are the coolest.

    May 18, 2011 at 2:36 pm |
  8. God

    I've decided to postpone the inevitable.

    I'm giving you an extra year to atone for your sins.

    I'll be staying at the Sofitel if you need to contact me. Please send more maids.

    May 18, 2011 at 2:36 pm |
  9. Mark

    It's sad that people such as Politicans, Liberals and IRS agents and Talk show host and people who spam and hack computers won't make it to heaven

    May 18, 2011 at 2:35 pm |
    • God

      Unfortunately for you, Mark, neither will you.

      May 18, 2011 at 2:37 pm |
    • Matt

      We'll be kicking it in Purgatory having beer and cigars... Heaven's full as far as the Bible states. lolz

      May 18, 2011 at 2:41 pm |
    • JT

      It's sad for you Mark that you will suffer yet another big disappointment in life, such as the time you learned there was no tooth fairy, and that no big fat man dressed in red was going to slip down your chimney to give you presents. But hey, you still have Chris Angel...he can levitate! Oh wait...Mark I have more bad news for you concerning Chris Angel...

      May 18, 2011 at 2:48 pm |
  10. 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.

    Whew! Glad that's over.

    May 18, 2011 at 2:35 pm |
    • teepee

      lol!

      May 18, 2011 at 2:40 pm |
  11. teepee

    Well. Christianity is about to get a black eye...

    May 18, 2011 at 2:34 pm |
    • Matt

      They'll come up with more BS to cover up their FAIL.

      May 18, 2011 at 2:49 pm |
  12. mister

    I believe the rapture will happen someday, but NO one knows when. I would like to hear how they came up with an exact date, and an exact time...6pm in every time zone? If they are reading the bible it says that it will happen in the flash of an eye, not at 6pm in each time zone.

    May 18, 2011 at 2:33 pm |
  13. Cutterman

    It is my conjecture that the following of, or the belief in the Bible, as it is written (strict to word) is anti God. How can an omnipotent being’s true thoughts be recorded in any size book. Weather it’s the Christian Bible, Torah, Koran or all the books everywhere; they would all fall infinitely short. So to see them as the only words of God is to sell him short, undercutting his status as the ultimate being or as God at all. This does not include those who use the words as a guide line and those of you who God speaks to personally. The first group is what the vast majority of “religious” folk are and the second group needs to seek professional help or at the very least should be writing the stuff down.
    The point here is trying to glean any precise information from any religious text is dumb, at best. Corrupt and reprehensible at worst.

    May 18, 2011 at 2:33 pm |
    • teepee

      Oh shut up...

      May 18, 2011 at 2:35 pm |
    • willie

      It is a political book intended to control the minds of men through fear and guilt. Another form of government.

      May 18, 2011 at 2:37 pm |
    • Matt

      Or, OR.... the easiest answer is "It's all made up, and there is no God." I think that makes the most sense.

      May 18, 2011 at 2:50 pm |
    • Cutterman

      I don't disagree with any of you, even teepee, I just don't understand how anyone can hinge so much of
      there future on a wholly subjective book.

      May 18, 2011 at 5:45 pm |
  14. Richard

    On Sunday this will be their response to why it did not occur: "Because of our Godly diligence, we were able to stave off the Rapture. Because we were faithful, the world is getting a second chance. But for a short time..."

    May 18, 2011 at 2:32 pm |
  15. TheMovieFan

    Unfortunately, too many of these fools vote.

    May 18, 2011 at 2:32 pm |
    • Matt

      Scary.... very scary.

      May 18, 2011 at 2:40 pm |
  16. Kenny

    At least I will be able to sleep late on Sunday morning LOL

    May 18, 2011 at 2:32 pm |
  17. Gee Zuss

    Thank Gee Zuss I'm an Atheist!

    May 18, 2011 at 2:31 pm |
    • Matt

      Me too, and there are more every day thanks to craziness like 1999,2000,2001, and now 2011, and 2012.... PICK A DATE PEOPLE SHEESH!! Lolz

      May 18, 2011 at 2:39 pm |
    • Dbaker

      Alright sir, I shall see you looting!!!

      May 18, 2011 at 2:43 pm |
  18. John Dunn

    Religious idiots~!

    May 18, 2011 at 2:31 pm |
  19. Czech

    I just hope the 'Reverend' Fred Phelp, and his Westborough Baptist Church congregation, are the first to go. At least those of us remaining (the blasphemers, atheists, heathens, and gays) can carry on without the unwelcome judgement an annoyance of all those idiots.

    May 18, 2011 at 2:31 pm |
  20. Tired

    It can't come soon enough. The Human Race really needs to go the way of the Dinosaur.

    May 18, 2011 at 2:31 pm |
    • Kyle Reese

      So I suppose you are volunteering to go first?

      Intelligent life is the ULTIMATE goal of nature. Humanity is the most precious species on Earth. The Earth is our home, and without us serves no purpose.

      That why I joined the Resistance. BTW, have you seen Sarah Connor around anywhere?

      May 18, 2011 at 2:48 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.