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. Ryan

    Could you let me finish LA Noire first? geez!

    May 18, 2011 at 3:21 pm |
  2. Kate

    I read several of the site and a pamphlet from a believer that was sure he will not be here come the 21st. What I really don't understand is how you ignore all the other sign in the bible that are to tell of the end of days and believe a man that has come up with a mathematical equation! Really? So these people have not put their believe in God, but in man trying to be God. Amazing. If the Lord come back on Saturday I am ready and I hope to be with him. But I truly belive that all I will be doing this weekend his hanging out at the beach.

    May 18, 2011 at 3:21 pm |
    • Acts 2:38

      I agree.

      May 18, 2011 at 3:23 pm |
  3. Bellic

    Okay people, so if this is the day of God or Jesus' return, then why is the world ending? Shouldn't His return mean dancing in the street and joyous happy times? I would think if He was coming back to Earth, good times would come. It sounds as if it isn't He who is coming, but Satan, and he is bringing Hell with him.

    May 18, 2011 at 3:21 pm |
    • TheTruth

      Read the book of Revelations.... it explains a bunch of things, trust me, it helped me answer that question too...

      May 18, 2011 at 4:16 pm |
  4. D23

    I'm curious as to what Bible these "Chrisitans" are reading?? As a Christian, I do believe that this world will come to an end – but NO ONE knows the day or hour. I love how people are keen on grouping all religious individuals together as a whole. Eventhough the world ending on May 21ST is a bunch of crock, I would love to see the faces of the non-believers when it does indeed end 🙂

    May 18, 2011 at 3:21 pm |
    • TheTruth

      too bad, we won't be here to see their faces...

      May 18, 2011 at 4:15 pm |
    • Ogre

      @D23 and @TheTruth,

      You horrid, vicious twits – Fie upon you!

      May 18, 2011 at 4:21 pm |
  5. DancingInPDX

    Boy, I could sure go for a day of rapture. Oh ..., wait, my wife says it's not THAT kind of rapture. Damn.

    May 18, 2011 at 3:20 pm |
  6. RobThom

    Ironically, the 21st is the day I fly out from Ohio to go to Marine Corps Boot Camp in San Diego. I expect it'll definitely feel to me like the world's ending.

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

      Semper Fi and good luck with boot camp Rob. You'll do just fine, and I'm pretty sure the world won't end for you or anyone else on that day although as you said it might feel that way.

      May 18, 2011 at 3:25 pm |
    • Rachel

      Liar! You're not a Marine recruit-you're not even fit to try on the fatigues. From Ohio, you would train at Parris Island. Everyone west of the Mississippi goes to San Diego, unless you're a girl. Are you really just a little girl, recruit?

      May 18, 2011 at 3:39 pm |
  7. caroleann

    I'm a Christian..I agree with the guy who posted Matthew 24:36

    May 18, 2011 at 3:20 pm |
    • God (the REAL one)

      You are so lost.

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

      lies and fairy tales

      May 18, 2011 at 3:24 pm |
  8. Carlos Koopa

    We shouldn't laugh but I don't believe. What about Y2K, huh? Never happened. This is a way for people to make money.

    May 18, 2011 at 3:20 pm |
  9. Jim Weix, Palm City FL

    Just another group of losers trying to be important.

    In discussing His return to Earth, Jesus told His disciples, “... of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.” (Matthew 24:36)"

    Maybe if these losers would actually read the Bible, instead of inbreeding with their daughters and sisters, they would have the ability to understand that they are morons. Most likely there is already too much genetic damage though.

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

    I wish there was a god to create this "rapture". Then all these nutjobs would be gone, leaving the world to those of us who wish to do something creative with it rather than destroy it. Christians hate the world, the sooner they are gone, the better for the world.

    May 18, 2011 at 3:20 pm |
  11. flarnkingsgargle

    how convenient.

    May 18, 2011 at 3:19 pm |
  12. Luke

    Anybody who thinks the world id going to end May 21st
    can drop all their money and worldly possessions off at my house –
    and no give backs if you are wrong 🙂

    May 18, 2011 at 3:19 pm |
    • The Spiritual Leader of the Pagans and all The Pagan Gods.

      way over worked post diest

      May 18, 2011 at 3:21 pm |
    • JB

      and the overflow can be dropped off at my house. 🙂

      May 18, 2011 at 3:28 pm |
  13. eric

    Not only does this make all Christians look bad, it is scaring my 9 year old daughter to death. On Sunday, when nothing has happened, I hope someone files a lawsuit for causing undue anxiety. If it is a class action suit, add me to the class list.

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

    Can I buy any of their houses? I'll give them 10 cents on the dollar today. It's a great deal for them, as they will have the moeney for the last couple of day.

    May 18, 2011 at 3:19 pm |
  15. Pavan

    I think the guy who came up with F#$%& Stupid idea must be in his CRAMPS that DAY/NIGHT.....and made other foolish people believe to follow his uncertain retarded ideas from BIBLE and do marketing....GOD BLESS AMERICA & TAKE AWAY SUCH FOOLISH JOKERS.......

    May 18, 2011 at 3:19 pm |
  16. dave

    very simple test for people that call themselves christians, jesus said if you really believed in him you too can walk on water, well I have a bucket, anyone want to try? otherwise they are ALL liars

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

    Did these losers read the Bible where Jesus said not even he knew the day of judgement! What are they hallucinating on?

    May 18, 2011 at 3:19 pm |
    • dave

      they are halucinating on this neat little invention called religion, try it! you can get rich and on TV with it!

      May 18, 2011 at 3:21 pm |
  18. Ted Ward

    Well, I just hope they don't start mixing up Kool Aid batches...

    May 18, 2011 at 3:18 pm |
    • eric

      I hope they do.

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

      LOLOL, thanks for the laugh

      May 18, 2011 at 3:30 pm |


    May 18, 2011 at 3:18 pm |
    • dave

      you are a liar

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

      The first to die will be those who abuse the caps lock key.

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

      What is it with internet zealots and their liberal use of the CAPS LOCKS key?

      May 18, 2011 at 3:36 pm |
  20. Akira

    I hope some of these hard-core believers don't decide to commit mass suicide in an effort to join their God.

    May 18, 2011 at 3:18 pm |
    • dave

      let them

      May 18, 2011 at 3:19 pm |
    • God (the REAL one)

      I've chartered some extra Angels to do the extra paperwork.

      It won't be a problem.

      May 18, 2011 at 3:22 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.