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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. Chris

    I would like to punch these people, as well as the followers of the church in Kansas (that protests soldiers funerals), right in the face. Some people just are ridiculous. I bet the ones that sold their homes and assets to fund this stupid marketing strategy will plead for welfare and other gov't funds.

    May 18, 2011 at 3:30 pm |
    • Gary

      People have the right to be stupid. No need to get upset.

      May 18, 2011 at 3:37 pm |
  2. buysellwwii

    buyandsellwwii.com

    May 18, 2011 at 3:30 pm |
  3. lol

    HAHAHAHAHAH!! get a real life you holy high rolers....

    May 18, 2011 at 3:29 pm |
  4. michael

    If the world is ending, then what is there to "prepare for?" If you and everyone else around you is going to die, then does it really matter what you do with your time and money? And if they mean by repent, then their actions are futile because they are only repenting after discovering the day they will die, which is pretty damn close. What a joke.

    May 18, 2011 at 3:29 pm |
  5. Julia Native American

    Even the angles in heaven, who see the face of God, do not know the time or day. Ref. Bible,

    May 18, 2011 at 3:29 pm |
  6. Sam

    Has anyone asked Tom Bergeron about this? He's the antichrist and the contestants on Dancing With The Stars are his minions. If anyone oughta know about the world coming to an end it would be him.

    May 18, 2011 at 3:29 pm |
  7. Arnold

    I should have waited until Sunday to tell Maria about my 10 year-old child..

    May 18, 2011 at 3:29 pm |
  8. Louis

    When May 22 arrives as usual, these morons will say that God changed his mind–and we wonder why the country is so screwed up.

    May 18, 2011 at 3:29 pm |
  9. teressa

    Another prime example of undiagnosed psychozos and/or running around without taking their meds...not to mention unproductive members of society...

    May 18, 2011 at 3:29 pm |
  10. Amy

    “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.” After having scared the beejesus (LOL) out of countless people with your nonsense? Here's a tip...I wouldn't push for Judgment Day if I were you. You might actually get held accountable for your actions.

    May 18, 2011 at 3:29 pm |
  11. Jim

    Silly Christians and their bed time stories. "He knows when you are sleeping. He knows when you're awake."

    May 18, 2011 at 3:29 pm |
    • Krissi

      Silly Jim, what does Santa (the Christmas song you wrote down) have to do with the end of the world? 🙂

      May 18, 2011 at 3:40 pm |
    • beinw

      That's Santa, genius!

      May 18, 2011 at 3:46 pm |
  12. Bee

    Can't wait for May 22nd!!

    May 18, 2011 at 3:29 pm |
  13. Dave

    I hope people go nuts, because I stocked up on ammo. Also looking forward to 12/21/2012.

    May 18, 2011 at 3:29 pm |
  14. closetiguana

    The world's gonna end? I better hurry up and make some money!

    May 18, 2011 at 3:29 pm |
  15. GJGVT

    what do these people do on May 22? probably the same thing they were doing on 1/1/2000... searching for the next day the world ends

    May 18, 2011 at 3:28 pm |
    • Raed

      May 22? Celebrating my son's birthday!

      May 18, 2011 at 3:39 pm |
  16. BOB

    How did Christianity start? Wasn't is people (the apostles) following one person (Jesus) and his teachings, while the rest of the community thought the same way about them as you do about this group?

    May 18, 2011 at 3:28 pm |
    • willie

      No, actually christianity started many years after the mythical figure called jesus was purported to have lived. The first writings didn't appear until 72CE.

      May 18, 2011 at 3:32 pm |
    • Cedar Rapids

      i dont recall jesus going around telling people the world was going to end May 21st.

      May 18, 2011 at 3:32 pm |
  17. ralphinator

    "Only the fool saith in his heart there is no God" - Psalms 14:1

    Lol I bet atheists hate that one, and they think believing in no God is somehow a new and intelligent idea.

    May 18, 2011 at 3:28 pm |
    • God (the REAL one)

      You are an idiot. How would you know what someone who is not an idiot thinks?

      May 18, 2011 at 3:29 pm |
    • Sam

      With a name like "ralphinator", he has to be an idiot.

      May 18, 2011 at 3:30 pm |
    • Cedar Rapids

      "Only the fool saith in his heart there is no God" – Psalms 14:1
      lol, yeah we soooo hate that one, a saying from the book that promotes the faith, such an unbiased source, lol

      May 18, 2011 at 3:31 pm |
    • Flying Spaghetti Monster

      Heathen!

      Oh, and using the Bible to prove the Bible is correct is circular reasoning and therefore stupid. Almost as stupid as you.

      May 18, 2011 at 3:35 pm |
    • Neal Kelley

      The bible says no one not even jesus knows when he is returning... how do you do?

      May 18, 2011 at 3:37 pm |
    • Dustin

      Yeah brah, we're totally worked up over that one. Can you tell? Sooooo upset.

      Derp.

      May 18, 2011 at 3:41 pm |
  18. Jake the Snake

    Religious organizations don't have to pay taxes – they contribute nothing to our country. But we have to endure this kind of crap.

    May 18, 2011 at 3:28 pm |
  19. Sarah Palin

    thats it. i'm done studying for my finals then.

    May 18, 2011 at 3:28 pm |
  20. Abrondon

    Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater. Jesus is coming again, but anyone who claims to know the day or hour is purely speculating.

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

      You sound as crazy as they do

      May 18, 2011 at 3:29 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.