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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. Dead Man Blogging

    And when the end comes, we will find ourselves in a dark tunnel, with a light at the end. And when we journey to the light, we will find ourselves in a bright white room, where an angel in white will speak to us, saying, "Welcome to Progressive Insurance."

    May 18, 2011 at 10:35 am |
    • Summer819

      I do believe you are right on!

      May 18, 2011 at 10:40 am |
  2. Corey

    I don't see the use in mocking these people. Neither they nor us know when it will happen, but why hate on them? Hate isn't good for you, regardless of whether one is an atheist or a born again Christian.

    May 18, 2011 at 10:35 am |
    • The Spiritual Leader of the Pagans

      just what exactly does "hate on them" mean in the English language?

      Does one put pieces of paper with the word hate on a persons head?

      May 18, 2011 at 10:39 am |
    • nerve9

      Why hate on them? Because they will become a drain on society come Monday, since they all quit their jobs. Also, no matter how absurd these people seem, people like this, with extreme beliefs, beget others like them. Reasonable people everywhere should indentify stupidity like this whenever we see it to ensure that it doesn't spread.

      May 18, 2011 at 10:43 am |
    • c-span

      I dont see them quitting there jobs as a bad thing. Modern darwinism. Let the idiot quit his job and step aside so the more qualified person can come in and do it. we should have an apocalypse scare at least twice a year. economic cleansing of stupidity. GENIUS! I'll have the boys draw some papers up.

      May 18, 2011 at 10:51 am |
  3. nerve9

    So, an earthquake will stike precisely on the International Date Line...a line arbitrarily drawn on a map of the world well over a thousand years after the Bible was written. It's not even technically a straight line! Oh, and earthquakes don't move! They are caused when tectonic plates slide against each other. Geez...these people are absurd! They blindly follow some idiot's prophecy without asking the most basic questions, like "how can an earthquake be predicted to strike a point that didn't exist when the, so called "prophecy" was made?"

    May 18, 2011 at 10:35 am |
    • John R

      Finally, an informed, coherent, fact based observation.

      May 18, 2011 at 10:55 am |
    • meowsers

      score – simple logic: 1 , christian radio group: 0

      May 18, 2011 at 4:09 pm |
  4. B-man

    I have heard from the great prophets if you wear an aluminum foil helmet you will be saved.

    May 18, 2011 at 10:34 am |
  5. c-span

    If the truth comes out on friday the 20th. than can't we change our minds about the whole thing before the big one actually hits us here in a america? I didn't know god followed up with time zones... Which one is he in?

    May 18, 2011 at 10:34 am |
    • The Spiritual Leader of the Pagans

      pagans and heathens have no worry

      only christians are going to be taken to hell

      the rest of us will have to show up for work Monday

      May 18, 2011 at 10:37 am |
    • Artemis

      "only christians are going to be taken to hell

      the rest of us will have to show up for work Monday"

      So we are all doomed, eh?

      May 18, 2011 at 10:41 am |
  6. Gene

    Harold Camping, I'm counting on you. I have a term paper due Monday that I haven't even started, and by GD, if Monday rolls around intact YOU'RE gonna write it!

    May 18, 2011 at 10:33 am |
  7. Reality

    What we do know:

    1. The Sun will burn out in 3-5 billion years so we have a time frame.

    2. Asteroids continue to whiz by us daily.

    3. One large hit and it is all over in a blast of permanent winter.

    4. There are enough nuclear weapons to do the same job.

    5. Most contemporary NT exegetes do not believe in the Second Coming so apparently there is no concern about JC coming back on an asteroid or cloud of raptors/rapture.

    Bottom line: our apocalypse will start between now and 3-5 billion CE.

    May 18, 2011 at 10:33 am |
    • laurab68

      thank god you narrowed it down for us! I was getting worried for a minute lol!

      May 18, 2011 at 10:39 am |
    • John R

      That is, assuming we don't get Warp Phase drive technology from the Vulcans before 3-5 billion years from now. If we get that, then we'll be out blasting Klingons when we get the bad news over the wire that the old hood just cracked up....

      May 18, 2011 at 10:57 am |
  8. Enigman

    Is it any small wonder that the Lord God has reserved Judgement for his creation that has turned away from him?

    May 18, 2011 at 10:33 am |
    • The Spiritual Leader of the Pagans

      what the WONDER truly is ~ you fools pray to a god who is such a miserable pr!ck

      May 18, 2011 at 10:35 am |
    • Ruderalis

      Maybe if he sent out angels like he did back in the day to communicate with us, then we would believe the supernatural. Otherwise, I haven't heard of anyone speaking to a burning bush and writing a new version of the Bible. Have you?

      May 18, 2011 at 10:57 am |
  9. The Spiritual Leader of the Pagans

    I can hardly wait. My Pagan church is having a post ~ end of the world buffet dinner and pot party that will go all night and into sunday.
    Finally, we will be rid of all these annoying christians.

    May 18, 2011 at 10:32 am |
    • Artemis

      And Pagan belief is better how?

      May 18, 2011 at 10:39 am |
    • Allways

      Stop giving Pagans a bad name like that. We're a nonviolent, peaceful religion. We don't celebrate the loss of life with such joviality. Don't listen to this fool. You're making Paganism sound like a death-worshipping cult, which it's not. If it end, it ends, it not, life will go on, leave it at that and stop shaming the Pagan name.

      May 18, 2011 at 10:49 am |
    • John R

      Pagan – the goths of contemporary religion. "Look how I don't conform to the religion of my parents" – i'm such a nonconformist – look at me, look at me!! Sorry, not been impressed with Paganism – it's on opiate like any other religions, just siller b/c it doesn't at least have the semi-legitimacy that 2000 years brings.....

      May 18, 2011 at 10:53 am |
    • Ruderalis

      That sounds like fun! Smoke a doobie and eat a nice fat bloody steak!

      May 18, 2011 at 10:54 am |
    • Allways

      Paganism, or at least some very early form of it, is widely known to predate Christianity. But who really knows?

      May 18, 2011 at 11:05 am |
  10. Corey

    II think it's a good idea for people to pray each day, recognize their faults and the bad things they've done, and ask for forgiveness. I believe that God and his Son hear me. When the end comes, whether my own personal end, or the end of this earth, I hope to be right with God. I hope as many people as possible begin to pray and ask for forgiveness, but there will definitely be many who don't, and many who will ridicule and hate those that do.

    11 Let the one who does wrong continue to do wrong; let the vile person continue to be vile; let the one who does right continue to do right; and let the holy person continue to be holy.”

    May 18, 2011 at 10:32 am |
  11. Dirk

    Does anyone have the contact info of one of those people. Until Friday they might be giving stuff away for free. I would take cars, houses, tv's and so on.

    May 18, 2011 at 10:31 am |
  12. JJ in CT

    This angers me, because when May 22nd comes and goes, the taxpayers will be the ones footing the bill for the foodstamps these people who quit their jobs and gave away their possessions will be living on. Maybe the tax-exempt churches should be the ones to shelter and feed them, as they're the ones filling their heads with this end of the world nonsense.

    Hopefully this will be the first learning experience in a long line of understanding that they need to educate themselves on the real world in which they live, not some bronze age mythology.

    May 18, 2011 at 10:31 am |
    • nerve9

      I completely agree with JJ. The real harm in this is not that these people have been hoodwinked, but that they've given up all their possessions, quit their jobs, and alienated their families! Once Monday rolls around these people will be just another drain on society.

      May 18, 2011 at 10:38 am |
  13. White820

    Since I'm a human being with free will, I choose not to go to Heaven or Hell. I'll take Door #3: the one that opens on the Void. Mmmm, sweet oblivion.

    May 18, 2011 at 10:31 am |
    • William Demuth

      I agree

      To me going to heaven with the simpletons would be a hell indeed!

      May 18, 2011 at 10:52 am |
  14. Jason

    Well if the bible states:
    "The Bible says in the book of Matthew, chapter 24, verses 35 & 36,
    "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.
    But of that day and hour knoweth no [man], no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only."

    Then if the rapture comes, where shall we all go if there is no heaven? It states that Heaven shall pass too right? The stupidity never ceases to amaze me......

    May 18, 2011 at 10:31 am |
    • John R

      Again – I'm not religious, but don't misinterpret simple simple language and make yourself look ignorant – "heaven and earth" – it's a phrase which means "everything" – not the "afterlife" or "where God lives". It does say later there will be a new heaven and a new earth, etc – that is where we all go if we are picked by the right team when we die.
      Interestingly, the bible really doesn't talk about us getting wings and flitting around heaven, anyway. It contemplates a new earth, a new existance or reality where we don't experience evil, pain as we do here......

      May 18, 2011 at 10:50 am |
  15. James Lipnick

    I can't wait for the backpedalling on Sunday. What I think would be fitting would be a mass suicide of all of the followers of this nutjob on saturday. A nice thinning of the herd. Natural selection at its best. Christianity is stupid...Give up.

    May 18, 2011 at 10:30 am |
  16. G D

    Not on my calendar, must have missed the memo. Oh, wait, I set the calendar.

    May 18, 2011 at 10:29 am |
  17. sg

    how can judgement DAY last five months?

    May 18, 2011 at 10:29 am |
    • Dead Man Blogging

      It's like Groundhog Day.

      May 18, 2011 at 10:32 am |
    • Frankly Speaking..

      If you have no problem believing god getting murdered on cross, this should be a piece of cake! Now shut up and BELIEVE!!

      May 18, 2011 at 10:32 am |
  18. KJ

    Presumably most of these doomsdayers have already sold off their entire stock portfolio (and/or emptied their retirement accounts) and used the funds to alert as many of us as possible about the upcoming event.

    BTW, come the rapture, can I have your car?

    May 18, 2011 at 10:29 am |
  19. Really? Really??

    What I find really appalling is that a major, allegedly serious news outlet like CNN would bother to cover these pointless rantings. You have to wonder ... what are these dopes going to do on Sunday morning when nothing happens on Saturday? Will they just drop their bibles and walk off into the sunset? Dolts.

    May 18, 2011 at 10:29 am |
  20. laurab68

    I'm sorry but the sun will come up and go down on the 21st and it will do the same on the 22nd of this month. I will still be here as will my children. And on October 21 we will be planning Halloween just like every year before and after this one.
    Look people, God did not write the Bible, a bunch of humans did. It has changed over the years just as the english language has changed over the centuries (have you ever tried to read a letter from 400 years ago). A few letter is the english alphabet didn't exist 400 years ago. Have you ever played telephone? Who says that as the english language has changed that the meaning of the bible has become distorted over the years too?
    This is one of the many reasons I don't do religion. If my kids choose to follow a particular religion as they get older, that will be their choice, not my making it for them. To doctrinate a child into any religion is the same as doctrinating them into a cult.

    May 18, 2011 at 10:28 am |
    • John R

      I'm not religious, but really this is an uninformed statement – "telephone game" is actually not relevant to current biblical translations – they are actually pretty accurate to what was originally written, and this can be verified by numerous existing manuscripts from the early church. In other words, today's mainstream english bible versions are a translation of the original texts, or manuscripts dating very close to the original – they are not rewrites of rewrites of rewrites.
      Anyway – I agree with you thematically – written by people, but when you write such things that show you are ignorant of the source of current translations, it only serves to fuel fundamentalists' zeal and dismiss you as uninformed
      . All you have to say is – great, you have very accurate translations of texts from 2000 years ago, but (a) they were written by people and (b) Where the heck does it say in anyone's bible that the world is going to end on Saturday. Quackery.

      May 18, 2011 at 10:45 am |
    • Ruderalis

      @laurab68: You are right, good for you! The only thing a cult is good for is a free haircut...

      May 18, 2011 at 10:46 am |
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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.