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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. Celestial1

    Why wasn't I around when they were giving away all their earthly possessions?

    May 18, 2011 at 3:09 pm |
    • Mike

      Sorry hate to see ya go!!!

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

      I know right, could have got some good stuff

      May 18, 2011 at 3:20 pm |
    • killyourgod

      all the good stuff they had....like pat boone records and jesus ashtrays. don't forget the ugly red christmas sweaters worn without the slightest hint of irony or humor. yeah, really missed out.

      May 18, 2011 at 5:32 pm |
  2. Nancy M. B.

    See you all on the 22nd!

    May 18, 2011 at 3:09 pm |
  3. Steve

    Sounds like a self inflicted apocolpse coming. Authorities should be watchful of mass suicides on children of this group.

    May 18, 2011 at 3:08 pm |
  4. Jimbo-Bob

    If these people want the world to end so much than they probably aren't going to help make it a better place.

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

      Agreed. Why can't all of these folks living for the destruction of all things simply just bring their own existence to an end if they want to go so bad, and rid the rest of the world (who are trying to move forward to a better future) of their stupidity?

      May 18, 2011 at 3:11 pm |
  5. darkstar

    Delusional thinking and schizophrenic behavior at its very finest. Nothing is going to happen at all on May 21st. The sun will still rise in the East and set in the West, and once again, the religious nuts will be sitting around looking like the fools that they are, and quickly trying to regroup to choose their next end-times date. Sometimes I feel like an island of intelligence amongst an ocean of stupidity. Grow up people, please.

    May 18, 2011 at 3:08 pm |
  6. Ruderalis

    It was a good time for Arnold to be out of office. He can now use his terminator skills to destroy the human population for Skynet.

    May 18, 2011 at 3:08 pm |
  7. see u sunday

    If there is a beginning then there must be an end – it just ain't happenin' on sturday; but just in case i will be religously playing golf. 🙂

    May 18, 2011 at 3:08 pm |
  8. TOM

    HOW STUPID. All just for media attention.

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

    The Bible states only God knows the day and hour, not man so they are wrong. Also after the rapture the world experiences & YEARS of Tribulation, not just a few months. What they are preaching is contrary to God's Word and that is why I know they are fake.

    May 18, 2011 at 3:07 pm |
    • Jimbo-Bob

      Well the word of God you speak of was written by men hundreds of years after all this stuff happened. Ever play the game telephone in preschool, I have a feeling that is kinda how the stories were passed down. I think your word is fake too.

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

      EXACTLY...Jesus said " no man will know the hour".But apparently what he meant to say was "no man BUT Harold Camping"..LOL..The fact that this false prophet has said this before and was wrong and STILL has followers astounds me.People want to believe anything but the truth

      May 18, 2011 at 3:13 pm |
    • frasier6670

      7 years of hell on earth for the people left according to the Book of Revelation. Then the second coming of Christ for whoever is left.

      May 18, 2011 at 3:15 pm |
  10. Grant Keeter

    Not even Christ knew the day or hour. But the Lord will return and he will come like a thief in the night. We ought to repent as a nation for our persistent sacrifice of children on an alter of convenience. We ought to turn from our wicked ways and repent of this culture of death. I am an abolitionist and I will not rest until the Lord returns or we have effected the abolition of human abortion.

    abolishhumanabortion.blogspot.com

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

      If Christ didn't even know the end date, then that speaks volumes for his supposed ominpotence. Face it, nothing is ever going to happen and you worship a dead Jewish zombie out of fear of absolutely nothing at all. Grow up.

      May 18, 2011 at 3:10 pm |
  11. Jay BB

    crap i was going to IHOP on sunday for some breakfast

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

      Go ahead Jay BB and enjoy that big stack of pancakes smothered in butter and maple syrup!

      May 18, 2011 at 3:10 pm |
  12. Billy B

    Great, another nut making it hard on all us Christians. Thanks HAROLD! Please don't lump us into his camp!!

    May 18, 2011 at 3:07 pm |
  13. Kevin

    OH GREAT! 3 days notice...thanks for the heads up CNN. I just extended my lease

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

      Classic!!

      May 18, 2011 at 3:18 pm |
  14. JTK

    this is all wrong as any true believer in our Lord Jesus Christ knows that it won't be massive earthquakes skipping about from timezone to timezone wreaking havoc and killing mankind that signals the end of days. Rather, it will be the Holy hand grenade of Antioch that kicks off our demise. And thou shalt count to three...no more, no less. Three shall be the number thou shalt count, and the number of the counting shall be three. Four shalt thou not count, neither count thou two, excepting that thou then proceed to three. Five is right out. Once the number three, being the third number, be reached, then lobbest thou thy Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch towards thy foe, who, being naughty in my sight, shall snuff it.

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

      I have sent the Killer Rabbit of Caerbannog to your residence to devour you.

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

      You sir are a scholar and a saint. Now, I shallow gallop away to the sound of coconuts!

      May 18, 2011 at 3:17 pm |
    • Chuck

      One, Two, Five! ..Ah, that's three my Lord. Yes, right, three!

      May 18, 2011 at 3:20 pm |
    • killyourgod

      runaway!!

      May 18, 2011 at 5:19 pm |
  15. erik

    the poor with imf boss should be happy it's over next few day.

    May 18, 2011 at 3:07 pm |
  16. Melissa

    Wasn't the end of the world supposed to be May 21, 2012? Coincidence?

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

      December 21, 2012– end of the Mayan calendar

      May 18, 2011 at 3:09 pm |
    • Chris

      The Mayan calendar ends on December 21, 2012.

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

      December 21st 2012 is an end to the Mayan calendar and will be when our galaxy will be in galactic center. The Maya believed that this will be a shift in consciousness for us. It is not the end of the world like people want to believe.

      May 18, 2011 at 3:17 pm |
    • jeanne

      actually it's December 21, 2012

      May 18, 2011 at 3:19 pm |
  17. Jonathan

    I'm totally going to take a Power of Attorney form to as many of these people as I can. If they're sure the world is going to end on Saturday I'm sure they won't mind me taking all their assets from them on Monday...which they don't have to worry about since there won't be a Monday.

    May 18, 2011 at 3:06 pm |
  18. RunForTheHills

    You have to be a real moron to believe there's a man who lives in the sky controlling everything.

    May 18, 2011 at 3:06 pm |
    • John Foster

      You have to be a real moron to think that Christians believe things that literally.

      May 18, 2011 at 3:14 pm |
  19. John

    There is not going to be a rapture on the day of may 21st or any other day..religion is one fairy tale that we do not let go as a child. people use your heads and think outside the box. lead you life by yourself and don't be lead around by someone else like sheep..

    May 18, 2011 at 3:06 pm |
  20. sane in FL

    This is bizarre. Are you people rationale adults or do you still believe in the Easter bunny and Santa as well?

    May 18, 2011 at 3:06 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.