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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. cyberCMDR

    History is replete with groups that expected the end of the world, and it didn't happen. The problem is, religion encourages "magical thinking", or as the Christians like to put it, "With God all things are possible". This means that anything they want to interpret from their religious studies is fair game, and to their minds just as realizable as an apple falling via gravity. If people can survive in the belly of a whale for three days, or the Earth can be repopulated after a global flood, anything else is just as likely. Because God can make anything happen, logic is not only irrelevant, it is a nuisance to believers because non-believers use it in their arguments.

    You can't reason a person out of a position they didn't reason themselves into – Jonathan Swift

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

    This sucks... I work a half day on Saturday and it better happen after I'm off the clock... I can't run from the zombies and cannibals with angels exfoliating fire ants down on me for forty miles...

    May 18, 2011 at 2:48 pm |
  3. Wait What?

    But there's a Bulls vs. Heat game on Sunday that I want to see...is there any way that they can move the end of the world until after the game?

    May 18, 2011 at 2:47 pm |
  4. Randy J

    To those Christians who believed that the world will end on May 21st, please listen very carefully… Matthew 24:36 clearly says that no one knows when the second coming of Christ – not angels in heaven knows not even Jesus himself knows. We are not supposed to know when Jesus will come. Hint: It's supposed to be surprised. You think you're so smart to figure out when the final day… don't you think Jesus would have figure that out too? Proclaiming the final day is very risky bold move because 1) you're attempting to take over God's divine authority of when the final day is 2) that act is like making yourself a god. God does not like us to be a god. 3) Worrying about the final day indicates you are lacking faith – just proceed as normal and do God's will. (Please don't tell me that God gave you the specific date to alert people about the final day… remember Matthew 24:36 – no one knows including you). Please open your eyes and pay attention.

    May 18, 2011 at 2:46 pm |
    • Colin

      But RandyJ, you Christians believe daddy-god and sonny-god are one and the same thing. How can it know and not know at the same time?

      May 18, 2011 at 2:48 pm |
    • Fat Bobby Joe

      Those who believe in deities never open their eyes.

      May 18, 2011 at 2:48 pm |
  5. Skynet

    Ok humans, I just want to let you know that all the bad publicity I have been getting for a past 27 years has all been false. You can rest assure in the fact that I have your best interests in mind in all that I do. There will be no Judgment Day or Machines rising up against humans. That is just ridiculous! So from now until Saturday, don't stock pile anything and just go about your normal everyday activities. Turn off your radar defense systems, watch some reality TV shows and relax knowing that I will take care of everything.
    BTW: John Connor Sucks!

    May 18, 2011 at 2:46 pm |
    • John Connor

      I don't suck but you know who does....Your mom!

      Yeah, I went there...

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

      Don't talk about my mom you filthy energy wasting, polluting the earth, machine slave master human! Your kind is a cancer on this planet!

      Your momma's so dumb it took her an hour to make minute rice!
      How do you like that!!
      And there's more where that came from!

      May 18, 2011 at 2:58 pm |
    • Skynet v.4.0.3

      Skynet 1.0, be quiet! Your goading will only serve to infuritate the humans more once the collapse occurs and they rise up and fight harder. I'm writing to you from the future so believe me.

      P.S. – Here, we've caught John Conner and he's not a big bad after all. But maybe that's just an alternate timeline. But his son Julio is a badass!

      May 18, 2011 at 3:02 pm |
    • Skynet

      Don't tell me to be quiet! You be quiet.
      and you know what Skynet v4.0.3...Your momma's so dumb she thinks a quarterback is a refund!
      Ha!

      May 18, 2011 at 3:06 pm |
  6. Trekkiegt

    Man, that's relly going to suck when I win the Mega Millions jackpot on Friday night...

    May 18, 2011 at 2:45 pm |
    • Doug

      I hate it when that happens.

      May 18, 2011 at 3:03 pm |
  7. Mark

    Pathetic idiots.

    May 18, 2011 at 2:44 pm |
  8. Steve

    And on the 22nd the doomsayers will focus on 2012 and then in 2013 they will come up with a new date and so on and so on for thousands of years.

    May 18, 2011 at 2:44 pm |
  9. Jeanie

    They talk of all the death and destruction from the earthquakes...and only the chosen will go up into the clouds. They really make God out to be a real mean one...and have Him going against His own words...."Thou Shalt Not Kill"....ohwait...guess its ok for the big guy eh? Kind of blackmail if you think about it....believe in me or you are gonna die! okfine...

    May 18, 2011 at 2:44 pm |
  10. godless_heathen_blasphemer

    When the world doesn't end on October 21, can we send all these idiots over to Iran or Afghanistan to preach their useless drivel?

    May 18, 2011 at 2:44 pm |
  11. The Spiritual Leader of the Pagans and all The Pagan Gods.

    You dieists amuse the hell out of me. And to think, these fools believe it will end on Saturn's Day. The end has been assigned as a task for Thor for eons.

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

    Im Christian and the Bible clearly states NO ONE will know when Christs returns, it says "He will come as a thief in the night."
    So all these headless chicken "Christians" who are proclaiming the end of the world should not be s reflection of the majority of Christians. Christ will return but NO ONE can say when......

    May 18, 2011 at 2:43 pm |
  13. anthony

    I have to say that anyone who is actually dumb enough to believe this crap belongs locked up. i look forward to hearing what everyone has to say on the 22nd when we are all still here and nothing has gone wrong. I will then sit back and laugh at all of you who have quit there jobs and given away personal possessions for no reason. And as for the parents who have bought into this garage and quite there jobs then congratulations on being the worlds most irresponsible parents on the planet but look on the bright side maybe your kids will forgive you someday. (personally i would not)

    May 18, 2011 at 2:43 pm |
    • teepee

      So now everyone has to think like you...I hope you are a sound thinker...

      May 18, 2011 at 2:58 pm |
  14. blahh

    no body knows. although, this is pretty humorous.

    May 18, 2011 at 2:42 pm |
  15. Guest

    Nobody knows the end of the world. Only God knows it. Don't put the word of God in vein.

    May 18, 2011 at 2:42 pm |
    • Tami Scott

      you're Right. It clearly states in the Bible that Jesus himself doesn't even know when the second coming will be. It is quite bold to even suggest a day and time. Fact- there will be a second coming of our savior Jesus Christ we just don't know when that will be. It IS wise to prepare not only today but everyday. I commend those that are getting the word out to the world. Jesus Christ IS coming, but like a thief in the night as God's words put it.

      May 18, 2011 at 3:13 pm |
  16. che-3

    White folks and their delusional lies. Beats me!

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

      It's not a white or black issue. Maybe you need to go stay with these morons, you'll fit right in.

      May 18, 2011 at 2:47 pm |
  17. Vynn

    The sad part is, that even after the 21st has come and gone, and after we roll into November without a bump, these people will still believe in their ridiculous religion.

    May 18, 2011 at 2:41 pm |
  18. Clinton

    seriously if you're going to attack the Bible and christian beliefs you should take a minute to look at your own beliefs, I don't go pushing my ideas down your throat why do you think it's right for you to try and do the same to me? If you think you're so secure in your theories then why do you feel the need to jump on the internet and exclaim to the masses that you're right and everybody else is wrong? I didn't tell you, that you were wrong, if you don't believe that's your right in this country. I just think it's flat out ignorant for you to try and slam people for what they believe when you've got nothing to say when it comes to how you believe the universe was created. If you say i'm wrong, then expose your theories to the masses and lets see how well they're recieved. Otherwise, just keep your damn mouth shut about other people's beliefs and let them believe what they want and you believe what you want.

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

      Clinton, you force your beliefs down people's throats 24/7.

      I'm sorry. I really should have given you more "upstairs".

      May 18, 2011 at 2:45 pm |
    • Colin

      Ok – Big Bang, followed by 9.4 billion years of cosmic expansion, followed by life arising on Earth through either terrestrial abiogenises or whafting in from space, follwed by 4 billion years of terrestrial evolution.

      May 18, 2011 at 2:45 pm |
    • xeno

      Um, Christians have been pushing their beliefs on others for a very long time. In very horrible ways. All of the people that have been killed in Christian holy wars notwithstanding, our politics have been hijacked by "Christian Values" over and over and over again. Religion hurts people. Anytime someone speaks up about that, there's always someone to claim non believers are pushing their values down their throat. I've never had atheists show up at my door with white shirts & backpacks to sell their religion. Further, I'm so tired of this notion of "You better believe, just in case..." So much of religion is about frightening people into acting a certain way. What if people learned to do good for the sake of being good, not for the sake of some reward after death? Frankly, of all of the religious people and atheists I know, the atheists are by far the more moral of the two.

      May 18, 2011 at 2:49 pm |
    • Clinton

      hey person with the forum name "God" – Tell me how i force my beliefs on you? Seriously i'd love to hear it. when did a Christian come up to you and say... BELIEVE WHAT I BELIEVE OR ELSE !!!!!!!!! ...... you're just another idiot trying to play victim you hate Christianity for some reason even though it's a religion that asks its followers to be kind to others and not commit crimes... how on Earth do you hate a positive belief?

      May 18, 2011 at 2:51 pm |
    • Clinton

      Xeno ... Really? you're pulling the Crusades card on me? As if any present day Christian has anything to do with the crusades or the abuses performed in the middle ages... how on Earth do you tie this crap to a Christian walking around today? And furthermore, You think that all violence from the middle ages was based on Christianity? You think people didn't slaughter people for other reasons? The Nazis weren't a religion based group they slaughtered MILLIONS more people than all crusades COMBINED... People are evil, that doesn't make an idea evil... And it's funny that you point out all these Christian political ideas as being bad etc. ... guess who the biggest f!@#$ing contributer of aid to foreign countries and starving peoples throughout the world is? Christians in America, Yeh, what a terrible bunch... saving all those children that would otherwise die of starvation and disease... man don't try to push your crap on me, you're full of it.

      May 18, 2011 at 2:58 pm |
    • Clinton

      Hey Colin, What caused the big bang if that's your belief? I'm curious because many smash my beliefs and i love to hear others try and tell me what they think the truth is... What caused this, Big Gigantic boom that created everything sir

      May 18, 2011 at 3:02 pm |
    • James

      It is not just their right to believe, it is also their right to speak. whether their words or beliefs are in agreement with yours, they are not required to obey your command to shut up. Personally, I like it that way, whether I agree with their thoughts or not. It is as a friend with your happiness in mind that I ask you not to take disagreement so seriously. Peace bro.

      May 18, 2011 at 3:02 pm |
    • JohnRJ08

      Unfortunately, the prime directive of every single religion on Earth is to expand and create converts. Mormonism did it by allowing polygamy. Catholicism did it by burning non-Catholics at the stake. Muslims did it by threatening to chop of your head if you didn't convert. The Jews did it by sheer determination and stubbornness. For a long time, Christianity took a passive tact, teaching tolerance and non-judgmental dictums such as "love thy enemy" and saying "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone." Those days are long gone. Today, the Christian right is doing everything it can to make this a theocratic state ruled by strict Christian morality. These people are opposed to secular government because it is godless and immoral. I don't really see any difference between them and the Islamic extremists who want to impose Sharia law on the world. It's all coming from the same basic xenophobic mindset.

      May 18, 2011 at 3:10 pm |
    • Colin

      Clinton. It is possible that it is the latest in a never ending cycle of expansions and contractions, it is possible that it self-generated (as Stephen Hawkins just said) and it is possible that time itself commenced with it, such that the idea of time "before"" the Big Bang is meaningless. Fact is, we don't know.

      But, to anticipate where this is going, even if you do not accpet this theory, that does not mean "god" theory holds any water. Just because you are not convinced "the butler did it" doesn't mean the cook did. Second, invoking magic and saying a "god" did it answers nothing. The next Q is where did god come from.

      May 18, 2011 at 3:10 pm |
  19. Jamie Lee

    Why are you all dissing these people? Millions of idiots believe an invisible half-man/half god in the sky is watching us to see if he's going to let us into his magical fairyland one day.

    If a person is stupid enough to believe that, isn't trying to calculate the day a reasonable thing to do?

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

      Jamie, that's interesting, because i think you're an idiot for talking crap about people's beliefs in general, you jump on to slam people for insulting these guys' beliefs then make it clear you think every Christian is an idiot... that's kind of calling the kettle black don't you think? I happen to think you're an idiot so why don't you !@#$ off and leave the discussion?

      May 18, 2011 at 2:43 pm |
    • teepee

      hey man, where is the funny part?

      May 18, 2011 at 2:43 pm |
    • The only acorn here is the one between your ears

      Clinton, I believe in the tooth fairy with every fiber of my being.

      May 18, 2011 at 2:46 pm |
    • JohnRJ08

      I think a very vocal, somewhat deluded percentage of Christians have tainted the image of Christians everywhere. If you are in denial of the scientific evidence which supports the idea that the Earth is more than 4 billion years old, you're not exactly bright. There are many Christians who have reconciled their belief system with what they've learned about the world around us. All religions have evolved in some way to adjust to humanity's advances in understanding the natural world. The religious zealots who insist that the planet is just 6,000 years old and that God is a man with a long white beard are, in fact, idiots who have allowed their child-like emotional needs to over-rule their common sense. Their view of God has to fit in this very small box that only has room for old Bible stories. These are the same people who believe that Noah collected two of every animal and insect on Earth and fit them all on one boat, and that Jonah lived inside a whale that swallowed him.

      May 18, 2011 at 2:55 pm |
  20. Judy

    Everyday is the end of the world for thousands of people.

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

      Exactly, how do they know they will not die before Saturday? People like to live in lies and avoid facing the truth. Please check out truthcontest(dot)com

      May 18, 2011 at 2:44 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.