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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. aginghippy

    I'm sorry, but the 21st doesn't work for me. Can we reschedule?

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

      21st does not fit my scedule either.

      May 18, 2011 at 3:13 pm |
    • Mustang95

      Golly. Well, just check your Lotus Notes for an availability and send me an invitation that works better. If we can't work out a full-scale End Times event, maybe we can do a Last Days Teleconference and save on travel expenses.

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

      I read their website and the say the Rapture and a MASSIVE earthquake will occur this Saturday.i quote "Otherwise business as usual" LMAO

      May 18, 2011 at 3:21 pm |
  2. Flying spaghetti monster

    I believe it.

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

      Ramen! Ramen!

      May 18, 2011 at 3:36 pm |
  3. Festivus

    Why is this is getting so much coverage? It's the internet equivalent to those guys with the sandwich boards stating "The end is near! Repent!". I seriously doubt the news of yesterday covered such things in the paper.

    May 18, 2011 at 3:11 pm |
  4. JP0

    All it takes is a little KoolAid to make their prediction come true.

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

    Matthew 24:36 (King James Version)
    But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.

    May 18, 2011 at 3:10 pm |
    • Jon Samuel

      NIV and many other versions have a very important addition to KJ version that I did not realize before - not even the Son knows. So Jesus Christ Himself who is God and part of the trinity does not know when - only the Father. These people that think they can figure out the day need to read their Bibles.

      ""No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father"

      May 18, 2011 at 3:21 pm |
  6. MEtoo

    How will you know if you died on that or any other day??

    May 18, 2011 at 3:10 pm |
  7. Marlye

    So I take it this caravan of doomsayers along with all the other annoying christians, missed the rapture bus.

    May 18, 2011 at 3:10 pm |
  8. Infidel

    Seriously, if this isn’t proof that organized religion is a mental disease, then I don’t know what is.

    May 18, 2011 at 3:10 pm |
  9. lisa

    Many families will be destroyed and people financially ruined because of Mr camping. He is spreading a false message of Jesus and the bible

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

      i agree, and i think it's funny how family radio advertises on their billboards and signs.

      May 18, 2011 at 3:17 pm |
  10. eleni russell

    yawns!!!!!! my only regret is i didn't win the lottery..drats and damnation!!!

    May 18, 2011 at 3:10 pm |
    • JP0

      It would be worse if you won the lottery just before you were raptured.

      May 18, 2011 at 3:27 pm |
  11. Jonah

    No suicide watch here. the time is drawing nigh. a little humility will never hurt you. remember the thief on the cross who reviled Jesus in his teeth on the cross. Later he met Jesus in Paradise. It's never too late. God Bless you all.

    May 18, 2011 at 3:10 pm |
    • JP0

      And you were there to verify this?

      May 18, 2011 at 3:26 pm |
  12. Itnatsirhc

    Religious zealots all suffer from neurological defects...yeah, that means bible thumpers are all nuts. Go through your local or national newspaper and look for the cause of violence reported in those articles, the result is that a majority of military action is associated to religious freaks trying to sell a product that serves up death, hatred, and suffering. If there were a God, why would this creature even be interested with violent monkeys who think they have purpose.

    May 18, 2011 at 3:10 pm |
  13. john316

    So I have until 6 to get my laundry done and other chores....hope I can squeeze it all in....caption should have read "Carnival" of christians...instead of caravan.....I always get the two confused......

    May 18, 2011 at 3:10 pm |
  14. Layla

    The end of the world is near LOL people go find a job. Oh no wait! continue to make laugh

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

    Dear CNN,

    Please post an article about their reactions on May 22nd. Thank you.

    Sincerely,
    the Unknown

    May 18, 2011 at 3:10 pm |
  16. TOM

    Nobody has ever been right about the rapture yet (because it is a lie). So why would they be the first to be right?

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

      They would have to be just lucky....well sort of!

      May 18, 2011 at 3:12 pm |
  17. Darkangel

    im going to rob a bank then

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

      Yes and use the "God forgot to rapture me defense".

      May 18, 2011 at 3:10 pm |
  18. Hope

    Evolved DNA

    "Evan..if god, the son and the holy ghost are the same person.. then as has been asked before, does the son not know when he will have his next road trip?"

    God is not a "person". The Holy Spirit is not a "person". Jesus was a person who was the Son of God. He had no biological father. God allowed Mary to become pregnant without Joseph's seed. But he was born from the womb and grew there. He also grew from a child into a man. And when God called Jesus to fulfill God's purpose, Jesus did it willfully because he loved God and was His Son. And Jesus loved God's world – His creation. So he gave up his life willfully because he knew God and that God would restore his life to save the sins of the world.

    So we all have the freedom to be forgiven because of Jesus. It's that simple. So Jesus was a man who was the Son of God. He faced temptation and sin just like we do.

    But just remember Evan, God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit are not people. Only Jesus walked the Earth in the flesh. God is God – the Creator of the Earth and all that lives here. The Holy Spirit is a gift from God through Jesus' sacrifice on the cross. The Holy Spirit is just that – a spirit that can be felt and heard in prayer. It is a guide for us all so we can have a relationship with God and Jesus. But the only person was Jesus and he was more that just a person. He was the Son of God Himself.

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

      Does god talk to you and do you talk to god? Do you hear his voice?

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

      Ok, now answer the question. How can god know and not know at the same time?

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

      So what you are saying is that God was the very first deadbeat dad / absentee father?

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

      And how crazy is your story of jesus compared to this doomsday BS? Oh the irony.

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

      Colin,
      please answer this, how can a big bang occur unless there is something to cause it. How does nothingness become something when Physics tells us that matter in the universe cannot be created nor destroyed, you can only alter its form.. i.e. solid to liquid to gas? ......... maybe you should think a little more about your theories before trying to talk crap about someone elses beliefs.

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

      Virgin Birth. Best excuse ever.

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

    Ok, all of you who believe this fact will happen next saturday, contact me and send all your money to my account.

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

      Jude – did you already blow your silver?

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

    This sucks cause my birthday is on the 27th. I guess that I better start partying early!

    May 18, 2011 at 3:09 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.