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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. lokii

    Just another band of fruitcake religous nutjobs that give us regular people a black eye. Just so I get this right, can I stone the congregation to death after their date passes? They would after all be considered false prophets at that point.

    May 18, 2011 at 3:34 pm |
    • s

      I reckon you have a good case. 'I'll take a large flat one and a packet of gravel then' (if you're a Monty Python addict you'll know what I'm talking about)

      May 18, 2011 at 3:36 pm |
    • Stranger Steve

      Italians are from Italy dude

      May 18, 2011 at 3:39 pm |
    • Cedar Rapids

      are there any women here today?

      May 18, 2011 at 3:39 pm |
    • August Red

      Total loonies! If it's true, why bother telling anyone? Time to enjoy the days left. I am with the other guy, can we go to your homes this week and take your stuff! LOL, Is this really news? Ever fruitcake gets is day in the sun, right CNN?

      May 18, 2011 at 3:45 pm |
  2. KiltinSA

    Read sarcasm:

    Please, if you're a Christian leader and plan on killing yourself and your congregation before on on May 21...take as many of your followers with you. Tell them to bring their friends and family too.

    Thank you!

    May 18, 2011 at 3:34 pm |
  3. Brian

    Now people can stop putting money in that collection plate. What do they need the money for if the world is going to end?

    May 18, 2011 at 3:34 pm |
  4. Ron

    Actually I hope Christ does come and rapture his flock, we'd instantly have a much smarter culture in our country.

    May 18, 2011 at 3:34 pm |
  5. Chris Chin

    Athists ar so dum. If God din't make the werld, Hoo put ol thu aminals on thu arc huh? Richerd Darwin?

    May 18, 2011 at 3:34 pm |
    • tcrowl18

      troll

      May 18, 2011 at 3:49 pm |
    • Chris Chin

      C'mon, I was hoping for more than that! You're no fun.

      May 18, 2011 at 3:52 pm |
  6. Dan

    I'd hate to be one of the people with a name mentioned in this article...they're going to look rather foolish come Sunday. I'm just sayin'...

    May 18, 2011 at 3:33 pm |
  7. Greg

    It's so much easier being Jewish. Thanks, parents.

    May 18, 2011 at 3:33 pm |
    • realist

      Ya real fun being jewish. Everyone hates you. Do yourself a favor and drop religion altogether. I stopped beliving in Santa when I was young. Time to stop beliving in fake gods as an adult.

      May 18, 2011 at 3:40 pm |
    • Chris Chin

      Thankfully that is true nowadays but I think Ann Frank might have disagreed. It is easier still to be a heathen. Thanks robot ninja space Jesus!

      May 18, 2011 at 3:45 pm |
    • Chris Chin

      BTW realist. That's not true at all. I quite like Jews. They are like Christians only intelligent and tolerant.

      May 18, 2011 at 3:48 pm |
  8. Chuck Cobb

    Stupid is forever.

    May 18, 2011 at 3:33 pm |
  9. Voice of Re@son

    Is that what they were banging on my door about the other day? If I'd known, well okay I'd still have ignored them

    May 18, 2011 at 3:33 pm |
  10. Fiona

    What I want to know - and I never read in these doomsday stories - is whether property owners who believe this have stopped paying their mortgages and let their property tax bills go unpaid. Have the doomsdayers continued to pay credit card bills? Car loans? Have they renewed their registration on their vehicles? It would speak to their sincerity or whether they are hedging their bets. It's easy for an apartment renter to give away most of his belongings, since he probably didn't have that much to begin with. But for someone who has a lot of money invested in a home or business, vehicles or boats, and has a credit rating that he might want to preserve...for that person to let all of that go, I might believe that he's sincere in his, ahem, delusion.

    May 18, 2011 at 3:33 pm |
  11. Reality

    For anyone that reads or has read the bible, then you would know that it say's "No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father." Matt 24:36 So, how on earth did these people get the day and hour of the end of the world???? They must've gone straight to heaven, bypassed all the Angels that guard God's throne, threw Jesus out of the room and got this one on one exclusive interview with I AM himself and he dished on the day He's gonna destroy everything. That's the only way....Seems a bit far fetched huh??? Much like their proclaimations.

    May 18, 2011 at 3:33 pm |
    • Voice of Re@son

      Why bother reading it when there are so many people willing to cram it down my throat without the slightest provocation?!

      May 18, 2011 at 3:36 pm |
    • Bruce

      FYI, Camping has an answer to your question. It may not be the correct answer, but it's not like he's never encountered Matthew 24:36 before...

      May 18, 2011 at 3:36 pm |
  12. Terry

    It is all Obama's fault.

    May 18, 2011 at 3:33 pm |
  13. Alex Lifeson

    ALL religions are CULTS. End of story.

    May 18, 2011 at 3:33 pm |
  14. Jeff

    So are the Christians going to drink the "kool-aid" on the 21st?

    May 18, 2011 at 3:32 pm |
  15. Angel

    I hope I am not sitting here alone on May 22. I will be mad enough to spit.

    May 18, 2011 at 3:32 pm |
  16. Sy2502

    In case we needed more proof that religion is a form of mental illness...

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

    Hey, quit raggin' on them!

    They make just as much sense as mainstream christians.

    May 18, 2011 at 3:32 pm |
  18. sstarts

    I HOPE PEOPLE READ THIS AND REALIZE IT IS NOT the true Christian belief. NO ONE knows the day of the rapture only GOD the FATHER. Not even Jesus the SON knows the day and time. Those that say otherwise are wrong and give more fuel to the fire of non believers. They give the rest of us black eyes! But the hammer another nail into Jesus as well.

    May 18, 2011 at 3:32 pm |
    • grumpy

      How the hell do YOU know it's not the true christian belief? You just said that only god knows, so who the hell are you. to speak for god?

      May 18, 2011 at 3:34 pm |
    • Colin

      But starts, how can daddy-god know and sonny-god not know when the yare the same thing?

      May 18, 2011 at 3:35 pm |
    • Artist

      Genius, you sound as extreme as they do...they are just putting a date on it. lol You nutjobs cause your own black eyes

      May 18, 2011 at 3:35 pm |
    • Seraphimo

      Exactly my point; if according to the Bible and Christ's words himself – that even the Son of God has no idea about the 2nd coming; I am now supposed to believe what men on earth say??!!!!! Seriously, how stupid are some people – these are the same people who claim they are religious elite!

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

      Unfortunately God doesnt exist. So you will never know.

      May 18, 2011 at 3:38 pm |
    • runner305

      I guess I'm really fortunate that I believe in science, so whatever the Doomsdayers AND Christianity have to say mean NOTHING to me.

      May 18, 2011 at 3:40 pm |
  19. Alan

    Dang,,,,,that's the day we get our new couch!

    May 18, 2011 at 3:32 pm |
    • Fiona

      Alan, it's supposed to take five months. you'll have a nice place to sit and watch the mayhem.

      May 18, 2011 at 3:34 pm |
  20. Senor Ed

    Dear Doomsdayers,

    Can you please postpone the end until Sunday? I have a date on Saturday night and I really wanna get laid!

    Thank you.

    May 18, 2011 at 3:32 pm |
    • Trevor

      amen brother.

      May 18, 2011 at 3:34 pm |
    • Nola

      thats what im talking about

      May 18, 2011 at 3:49 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.