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. dsallen

    LOL @ the "be not wise in thine own eyes" poster. Maybe he should read it!

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

    Matthew 24:44 So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you DO NOT expect him.

    May 18, 2011 at 3:06 pm |
    • Bruce

      Oh no, I don't expect him at 6:00 p.m. local on Saturday...

      May 18, 2011 at 3:14 pm |
    • alex

      Ashley, grow a brain... Stop reading the bible and pick up a biology book and actually make a contribution to society..

      May 18, 2011 at 3:27 pm |
    • Sam

      I hate it when he doesn't call first and I haven't done the dishes.

      May 18, 2011 at 3:28 pm |
  3. jane

    It's pretty sad that "modern" American "Christians" have become such a bunch of wacko, oppressive, anti-everything-Jesus-actually-said, hypocrite, extremist fanatics. No wonder they are losing followers - and I do mean followers. Try thinking for yourself.

    May 18, 2011 at 3:06 pm |
    • Artist

      The christians here should be referred to as Christian Taliban.

      May 18, 2011 at 3:08 pm |
  4. mike f

    the bible and the word of God says that we will not know when the time of rapture is coming. I just don't think that this could be it.

    May 18, 2011 at 3:06 pm |
    • God

      "I just don't think"

      I'm sorry. I should have given you more neurons.

      May 18, 2011 at 3:09 pm |
  5. gaby

    only god knows.

    May 18, 2011 at 3:06 pm |
  6. Bibi5

    Why does the media give these people a platform? You can bet that if they weren't in the news, they would go away quietly.

    May 18, 2011 at 3:06 pm |
    • MDK

      Amen to that one!

      May 18, 2011 at 3:07 pm |
    • Bruce

      Camping owns a radio station, he is part of the media.

      May 18, 2011 at 3:12 pm |
    • alex

      This news is actually the most important news that we have today.. It's important to explain to people how rediculous religious ideology is.. The more people know this, the sooner they are to reject such rediculous notions as taught in religions such as christianity and islam..

      May 18, 2011 at 3:24 pm |
  7. Damian

    Give me a mother fn break!!!! are these crazy people for real? What a waste of time and energy!!!

    May 18, 2011 at 3:05 pm |
  8. Guest

    Don't be afraid whatever the future will hold you. Trust, obey God, believe, and have faith in God. Accept Jesus Christ as your God and saviour. Repent. The dates above are not on the Bible. Only God knows when it will end.

    May 18, 2011 at 3:05 pm |
    • God

      You go one believing that, sparks.

      May 18, 2011 at 3:08 pm |
  9. Peter

    I think these people are delusional but I feel bad for them. Many of these people have emptied their life savings in order to try and warn and save others. It is heart warming to know that with 3 days "'left" many people would spend it trying to help others, I will feel bad for them on May 22nd and hope they can recover and live the rest of their lives happily.

    May 18, 2011 at 3:04 pm |
    • squealy

      Nice post!

      May 18, 2011 at 3:47 pm |
  10. Bekah

    I don't really care if we all die or are raptured because I'm seeing the greatest band in the world, the Foo Fighters the night before!!!!!

    May 18, 2011 at 3:04 pm |
    • Barnacle Bill

      If that is the greatest band in the world, then the tooth fairy must be real.

      May 18, 2011 at 3:07 pm |
  11. Katmoondaddy

    Oh boy! I can tear up my mortgage now!

    May 18, 2011 at 3:04 pm |
  12. Justin_Imagine

    It's wreckless to denounce their views with such hatred. Personally, I don't believe all of this will happen, but there are a lot of things I don't believe in when it comes to organized religion. What I do believe in, though, is the concept of living life the best you can and caring for others the best you can. By attacking these people for their beliefs, we show them no kindness or understanding. They aren't harming anyone with their beliefs or actions, so let them be.

    May 18, 2011 at 3:03 pm |
    • Barnacle Bill


      And you want people to take you seriously?

      May 18, 2011 at 3:06 pm |
    • Artist


      It's wreckless to denounce their views with such hatred. Personally, I don't believe all of this will happen, but there are a lot of things I don't believe in when it comes to organized religion. What I do believe in, though, is the concept of living life the best you can and caring for others the best you can. By attacking these people for their beliefs, we show them no kindness or understanding.
      The only help is medical

      May 18, 2011 at 3:07 pm |
    • xeno

      Not harming anyone? They left their families.

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

      Yes, wreckless. It's wreckless to attack what people hold dear. Even if you have no understanding of the way the world works, you know that religion is responsible for amazing and awful things in the world. Why attack, scrutinize, ridicule, and denounce what people believe to be true and hold dear? You're only going to provoke them. If the word wreckless makes it hard for you to take me seriously, I imagine you'll probably want to change your display name.

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


      I was talking in terms of mass suicides and murders. They aren't a threat to society, only a nuisance.

      May 18, 2011 at 3:13 pm |
    • Rey

      You are absolutely correct. Well said.

      May 18, 2011 at 3:23 pm |
    • Julibear

      I think you mean "reckless."

      May 18, 2011 at 3:24 pm |
    • Sam

      They're scaring the hell out of their kids. That one guy's daughter is talking about dead bodies and he's nodding in agreement. That's harmless in your book?

      May 18, 2011 at 3:26 pm |
    • God (the REAL one)

      Justin, you're an idiot. The word you are struggling to use is RECKLESS.

      May 18, 2011 at 4:03 pm |
  13. Just Another Commentator

    I don't think their right, but I kinda hope they are. Civilization is so trite and pointless these days we might as well go out with a bang and not a whimper.

    May 18, 2011 at 3:03 pm |
    • Rey

      If you have a family, kids... civilization is never trite or pointless. There's always a point to do what's best for your family. So no, I hope they're not right. What am I saying?!!! I guarantee you, they are not right!

      May 18, 2011 at 3:21 pm |
  14. Jon

    Meh. They're more or less harmless. Standard sort of Millerite pattern, I guess. If there's one advantage to these kinds of "apocalypse fads," though, it's that it makes one contemplate how exactly one would live one's life if it were actually one's last day. Hey, for all I know, maybe that's the point of all this.

    May 18, 2011 at 3:03 pm |
    • Bibi5

      I'd rather sit around thinking what I'd do if I won the lottery, not what I would do if the world was going to end. Although, now that you ask, I'd eat as much chocolate ice cream–the good stuff–as I possibly could and not feel one bit guilty about it!!

      May 18, 2011 at 3:14 pm |
  15. Mike

    Someone is gonna be real disappointed May 21st lol

    May 18, 2011 at 3:03 pm |
  16. Rey

    I feel bad for the people in New Zealand. They won't have time to pray and be saved. At least here in the U.S. we'll see everything that has happened at other locations already and be able to pray for forgiveness and be saved. People from New Zealand should try to get here as soon as possible.

    May 18, 2011 at 3:03 pm |
    • Bruce

      People in Hawaii get all the breaks!

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

      great point! but i doubt if they thought of that – for all we know they define the world as the us of a. I'm a Christian – and I can say that these guys are nothing but loonies.... I hope CNN has a live feed on them on the 21st... they are'nt the 1st group to claim the end of the world...

      May 18, 2011 at 3:15 pm |
    • Julibear

      Do they have to acknowledge/believe in the Rapture in order to be saved? Isn't belief in JC enough to get you a place in heaven? Asking as an atheist who was raised in the Catholic Church. Its my understanding that if you accept Jesus into your heart you'll be saved. In which case, why bother to warn anyone? The saved will go up and the bad will stay and suffer for the next 5 months and then suffer in hell.

      May 18, 2011 at 3:22 pm |
  17. Mosgot

    All these people should be on suicide watch.

    May 18, 2011 at 3:03 pm |
    • Artist

      Why bother?????????????

      May 18, 2011 at 3:05 pm |
    • z

      Why? They're convinced they're going to die Sunday anyways, let them have their way.

      May 18, 2011 at 3:12 pm |
  18. MDK

    Seriously, how stupid are these idiots going to look and feel come Sunday (22nd) morning when the world will be as it always is?

    May 18, 2011 at 3:03 pm |
    • Damian

      Exactly! Which you know is going to happen. Haven't a bunch of othe looney tunes over the years proclaimed the end of the world was coming? ah duh we're still here !

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

      About as stupid as the majority of our US populations that believe a magical guy in the sky will give them stuff if they ask nicely while bowing thier head and kneeling.... I'm starting a new saying.. "If you dont believe your surrounded by idiots, then your the idiot"..

      May 18, 2011 at 3:15 pm |
    • 666

      Not saying I agree with these people, but you should learn to read...they mentioned it would last for 5 months, not one day and poof we are gone.

      May 18, 2011 at 3:16 pm |
    • Julibear

      Their reasoning is– if I wake up on the 22nd and I'm still here, its not that the Rapture didn't happen, its that I wasn't saved. Way to rationalize! So, I am wondering, do you have to believe that the world is going to end on that day in order to get Raptured? What if you're just a good Christian living your life? Don't they get bodily assumed just like everyone else? In which case, why bother to warn anyone? The good will go and the bad will stay regardless, right?

      May 18, 2011 at 3:19 pm |
  19. ChrisinCT

    I'll be praying for salvation at The Church of The Fonz.

    May 18, 2011 at 3:03 pm |
    • PRex

      The Fonz will have no pity on you Chris. Sorry.

      May 18, 2011 at 3:08 pm |
    • Damian


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

      "EEEHHHH" in the name of THE FONZ we pray.

      May 18, 2011 at 3:10 pm |
  20. Bob

    harold camping said in 1994 that the world MIGHT end their was a question mark at the end of the book he published!!!!

    May 18, 2011 at 3:02 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.