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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. nauj

    only God knows the day and the hour.

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

      Yup only the flying spaghetti monster knows

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

      And he's usually too drunk or stoned to make much sense anyway.

      May 18, 2011 at 3:39 pm |
    • CalgarySandy

      Yes, Nauj. The Bible that these wing nuts say they believe so strongly in says no one knows when Jesus will return. They are going against their god's will in making predictions like this and they are providing even more fodder to those who think Christianity is an offence against humankind with its bigotry and child abuse.

      May 18, 2011 at 3:41 pm |
    • dacupp

      Only god knows the time and date when the world will end.

      May 18, 2011 at 3:47 pm |
    • Bill

      what a completely inane article. May 21st?? Is that Sydney time or Pacific Standard Time (currently 17 hours difference)? I guess that concept is a little too much for this group to handle. The second coming of Christ has come and gone. His name: Albert Einstein. And he was also the king of the Jews.

      May 18, 2011 at 4:24 pm |
  2. Mike

    Dear "believers:"

    ....Can I have your stuff?

    Thanks.

    May 18, 2011 at 3:36 pm |
    • The Spiritual Leader of the Pagans and all The Pagan Gods.

      way worn out post over 10 hours ago

      May 18, 2011 at 3:46 pm |
  3. @CarlTres

    Kudos to Jessica for following these guys. It's really a fascinating look into the depths of human psyche. How can you rationalize an idea that is so self-admittedly far-fetched, to the point of sacrificing the future financial well-being of yourself and children? I can't wait for this series of posts to continue after May/October 21st, to see how they deal with the continuation of the world, and the loss of all their hopes, dreams, and expectations. Unless their right...

    May 18, 2011 at 3:36 pm |
    • The Spiritual Leader of the Pagans and all The Pagan Gods.

      I am retired now but I worked in the mental health field for decades. I was once called to the county jail where a man had plucked his own eye out because "god told him to."
      You and I may think voodoo id silly but that does not make the person who was cursed in a village in Haiti any less dead.
      Human belief is the most destructive force on earrth.

      May 18, 2011 at 3:43 pm |
  4. lefty avenger

    The Religious faithful always support the apocalypse, just like they always support more war. We need to bring back the separation of church and state. We need to remove these right wing doom laden christians from office before they go out of their way(and out of their minds) to fulfill their own bogus prophesies. The Muslims and christians have a lot in common!

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

      Ummmm, who in office supports this that you are aware of?

      May 18, 2011 at 3:52 pm |
  5. george

    Dang. It's so hard to rent a tux this time of year with all the weddings and graduations. I wanted to dress for the occasion.

    May 18, 2011 at 3:36 pm |
  6. sbp

    S, if your birthday is the 22nd, you should get GREAT pressies – here, have a Ferrari, I'll be gone after Saturday anyway. You just have to ask for them a little early.

    May 18, 2011 at 3:36 pm |
  7. Michael

    All you people keep laughing, but if you think about it if you predict doomsday enough sooner or later someone will be right. Even stephen hawkin says the sun will go supernova if 50 billion years or so .. by did he hedge his bet. ... if you dont get the humor i feel for you.

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

      dont think i need to about 50 billion years, what year will that be? lets see, 50,000,002,011

      May 18, 2011 at 3:42 pm |
    • Cedar Rapids

      Actually its 5 billion, not 50 billion.

      May 18, 2011 at 3:49 pm |
  8. Mel

    Where did they get this date from? It's certainly not in the bible...or the Mayan calendar...haha

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

      Its written on a piece of paper hidden in Billy Graham's underwear

      May 18, 2011 at 3:40 pm |
  9. Miky

    Boy, what a bunch of knuckle-heads, you deserve to be miserable. Just enjoy life and be happy with what you have.

    May 18, 2011 at 3:35 pm |
  10. Rick's Real

    There can only be one reason for CNN to continue covering this story – and it's not because the world is ending. It's so that these idiots can be exposed. Come May 22, 2011 I GUARANTEE: Mission accomplished.

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

      Why would you even take the time to post on this subject if you were not interested in it. These people are being misled, but they aren't crazy. We are misled every day by our goverment, doesn't make us crazy, just gullible.

      May 18, 2011 at 3:42 pm |
  11. La, La, La

    I can't wait for the end to come. All those Jesus lovers will be saying to themselves, we behaved good for this crap? I rather be in hell!

    May 18, 2011 at 3:35 pm |
  12. Luke

    People really believe a good, merciful, loving God would destroy the planet and kill everybody on It??
    What kind of messed up Sunday School did they go to?

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

      Noah's congregation...

      May 18, 2011 at 3:37 pm |
    • Cedar Rapids

      'People really believe a good, merciful, loving God would destroy the planet and kill everybody on It??
      What kind of messed up Sunday School did they go to?'

      The one that taught how in the past he did almost exactly that.

      May 18, 2011 at 3:41 pm |
    • Tim

      One that taught about Noah's Ark and the worl wide flood maybe? 😉

      May 18, 2011 at 3:48 pm |
  13. taxed

    What will these clowns be doing on 5/22?

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

      i'd be smoking cigars and drinking beer

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

      That's Sunday, they'll be in church wondering why God has forsaken them...

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

      They'll hear about another earthquake and go right back to saying "THE END IS NEAR... again!"

      May 18, 2011 at 3:42 pm |
  14. Common Sense is not Common

    the most craziest thing I have read in a few days. The things people believe. Never catches me off guard

    May 18, 2011 at 3:35 pm |
  15. DLinDC

    Current count – over 2200 comments. I hope I don't get raptured before I read them all.

    May 18, 2011 at 3:35 pm |
  16. oracle_guy_from_Delphi

    In the words of Mark Twain ... "Go to Heaven for the climate, Hell for the company."

    May 18, 2011 at 3:35 pm |
  17. s

    bummer, my birthday is on the 22nd, now I won't get any pressies.......

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

    They do not know anything. They should know that no one knows when God Will come.

    The Day and Hour Unknown

    Mark 13
    32 “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33 Be on guard! Be alert[e]! You do not know when that time will come. 34 It’s like a man going away: He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with their assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch.
    35 “Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back—whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn. 36 If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. 37 What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch!’”

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

      But Billy, you Christians believe daady-god and sonny-god are the one thing. How can it know and not know at the same time?

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

      No kidding. I'm not a religious man by any means but I've been spouting this for months. If you truly believe in the bible and what it tells you, then you know you're wrong. Just like if you were truly a Christian, you would have condemned the killing of bin Laden and all of your enemies. "Turn the other cheek." Just saying...everyone's a hypocrite.

      May 18, 2011 at 3:51 pm |
    • Kugaf

      http://www.wecanknow.com

      May 18, 2011 at 11:07 pm |
  19. Watchman

    But, what if they are right and you only had 3 days left, makes you wonder.

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

      No, it doesn't. It might make YOU wonder, but I'm smarter than that.

      May 18, 2011 at 3:36 pm |
    • Rick's Real

      Maybe it makes YOU wonder, but not me.

      May 18, 2011 at 3:36 pm |
    • KMAN821

      No dummy ... it only makes YOU wonder ... intelligent people have other things to do

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

      the bible say no man know the hour or day not even the angel in heaven only god the father know but the bible dose say i will come again i believe hes going to come but not on may 21st because the bible say NO MAN KNOW THE DAY OR THE HOUR.

      May 18, 2011 at 3:43 pm |
  20. Josh

    Someone tempered with this loney oxygen tank-got to wonder what mind altering drugs-Ativan, olanzapine, benztropine. On sunday pls call up the company and make some claims. To all the church goers-leave all your riches behind, I would drive to collect them pleaseeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee. No interest in going to heaven too crowded and already chaotic for my liking.

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

      I respect them for their convictions, I really do. They are not hurting anyone but themselves maybe, financially. You never know what tommorow will bring.

      May 18, 2011 at 3:39 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.