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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. Aaron

    good riddance

    May 18, 2011 at 3:39 pm |
  2. john b

    So can i say that evryone who thinks they are better than us and will be raptured are commiting the sin of Pride and are stuck with us now?
    🙂

    May 18, 2011 at 3:39 pm |
  3. bob

    sounds like this religious leader is a witchdoctor drinking his own idiot coolade. guess he'll have to do some more "research" for the next few years to come up with his new apocalyptic scam. aka have genious's give him more money to drive rv's around the country praising his irrefutably wrong doctrines and predictions

    May 18, 2011 at 3:39 pm |
  4. Josh

    I am going atheist now for the following reasons:
    Satan deceived Adam and Eve-God did not destroy Satan instead about 1 billion humans have died and Satan is still alive.
    God cast Satan to Earth because he could not stand him in Heaven-Way to go
    Why did God destroy the world with Flood-and kept Satan alive-it seems to me the only people at dead end is humans
    I could continue with so many more reasons.

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

      So, you no longer believe in god because you are mad at what it did...You are no more an atheist than I am a fish.

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

      I suspect Josh means that if there were a God it would not be such a crud to its creation. An omnipotent and compassionate being would not behave like a toddler in a tantrum. Thus: No god.

      May 18, 2011 at 4:11 pm |
  5. Bert Salon

    And if it is not going to happen they will blame God!

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

      What I find interesting is the assumption that Jesus used the same calendar as us: The Gregorian Calendar. It was introduced in the 1500's by Pope Gregory. So, another mystery is how Jesus knew this was coming.

      May 18, 2011 at 4:08 pm |
  6. Fupped Duck

    Charlie Sheen makes more sense....Winning DUH!!!!
    The death of common sense surrounds us...

    May 18, 2011 at 3:38 pm |
  7. Will

    Do you know if any of these people are having yard sales? I could use some new furniture. Better yet, are they giving any of their money away? Bank accounts and ATM cards will be useless after Saturday, and I could use some more spending money.....

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

      i agree please forward any new info on mass church yardsales. i'm in the market for a couch, two rugs, a small table and chairs. i mean i'm looking for some deals like they're going out of style. can't take it with if your being beemed up might as well sell

      May 18, 2011 at 3:41 pm |
  8. Muttley

    Anyone claiming to know "the Hour and the day" is unbalanced and while they may be full of zeal they are dead wrong.

    If these "Christians" would read their own Holy Book they will find that Jesus of Nazareth states in Mark 13:32 "32 But of that day or that hour knoweth no one, not even the angels in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father. 33 Take ye heed, watch and pray: for ye know not when the time is."

    Point is that even Jesus (according to Him) himself doesn't know the timing so these folks need to go get an ice tea and chill out.

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

      But Mutley, 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 3:39 pm |
    • Bruce

      FYI, Camping has read these scriptures, and has an answer for those who use them to claim that we cannot know the day or the hour.

      I'm not saying it's the right answer, but it's an answer–and it's not as far-fetched as you might think. He uses scripture to make his point. He uses more scripture than you do, in fact.

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

      Colin, you apparently have no appreciation for the nuanced understanding of the Trinity and the idea of Mystery. It is not as simple as you make it out to be. In fact, it's quite convoluted and basically not-understandable–that is, it is Mystery. It evades understanding. It is set up to challenge those with intellectual pride, such that they are humbled by it.

      In other words, Mystery is humble pie for the intellectual.

      May 18, 2011 at 3:43 pm |
    • Colin

      Bruce – that sort of "its over my head" nonsense may be satisfying to you, but I seei it as very simple. It is yet another fundamental contradi-ction in this primitive and silly collection of myths.

      May 18, 2011 at 3:48 pm |
    • CalgarySandy

      The central mystery of Christianity is how 3 can be 1. No one understands this and anyone who claims to is lying or prideful. You are not meant to understand it. You are just meant to believe it. Putting people down who don't get it is arrogant and will be judged if any of this turns out to be true. Before I fled screaming from Christianity battered and bruised emotionally, spiritually, and physically this little mystery made me almost sick to my stomach with anxiety. Even as a child it struck me as unnecessarily weird. I could not accept what could not be explained and was abused for it. Now, had it been explained as a quantum mystery... LOL

      May 18, 2011 at 4:02 pm |
  9. Hal 9000

    Tell them I will make the kool-aid they just have to bring their own poison. The world is better off without people who are susceptable to this kind of nonsense.

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

      What they need is a nice comet.

      May 18, 2011 at 3:56 pm |
  10. Jeb

    More loony people... Common guys. I hope they have an explanation ready for when they wake the following day, STILL ALIVE!

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

      The Jehovah's Witnesses used to come out with new dates that did not pan out. Eventually they stopped announcing them, what with the ridicule and all.

      May 18, 2011 at 3:55 pm |
  11. vbscript2

    Hmm... Jesus said that neither He nor anyone but God the Father knew the time of His second coming... yet these guys keep claiming to. Funny how many people have made such predictions... and how they're batting 0.000 so far.

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

      vbscript2

      Hmm... Jesus said that neither He nor anyone but God the Father knew the time of His second coming... yet these guys keep claiming to. Funny how many people have made such predictions... and how they're batting 0.000 so far.
      --------
      that pretty much sums up their "proof"

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

      This silliness goes back to the early roots of Christianity. There are outbreaks whenever things get tough or when interesting dates come up like 2000, 1500, 1200, 1000, 800... It is an interesting area of study if you are into history and historical movements. It is called Chiliasm, Pre-Millenarianism, and Millenarianism. It is very scary for a child to be raised by these people. You are on your own if you want an education for anything other than pushing this garbage on others; i.e. Missionaries and Preachers. Bah. If it were not for the child abuse it would be uproariously funny.

      May 18, 2011 at 3:54 pm |
  12. Christina L

    I'm still not clear after reading the Bible parts they are talking about – how they came up w/May 21st and Oct. being the final day. I don't read where anyone asked them about this either..this is really not going to sit well with those that think Dec. 21st is the end....this is why God hasn't returned..He can't stomach all the wack-a-doos down here...I really dislike the adults putting this crap in the children's heads...

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

      You are right Christina,

      All this is doing is filling our kids head full of nonsence. What are they going to say when the people who are scared to death. Hurt or kill themselves because they are followers and nothing happens.These people are wacked out of their mind.

      May 18, 2011 at 3:50 pm |
  13. DarkerEvil

    Is this the same group of dummies who predicted Y2K or the earthquake in Rome last week? Don't worry, the Lord will come for you in his own good time.... or maybe Stephen Hawkings will come for you, yikes!
    I have faith that they are incorrect in their Religi–nut babble of lies. It could solve the deficit though............ nah.

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

      Dont include Y2K in these false predictions rot. It was hard work by computer people for the last couple of years leading up to Y2K that made it go as smoothly as it did.

      May 18, 2011 at 3:54 pm |
  14. Jason

    I had plans on Saturday, is there any way this can be postponed until Monday?

    May 18, 2011 at 3:37 pm |
    • zz1

      hahhahahhaa

      May 18, 2011 at 3:44 pm |
  15. Vulpes

    I will volunteer to hold onto the valuables of those to be taken to heaven ...

    May 18, 2011 at 3:37 pm |
  16. bschm

    Why couldn't it have been on the 19th, my 30th b-day is on the 20th.....

    May 18, 2011 at 3:37 pm |
  17. Tim Scott

    Bet they don't believe in global warming, that Obama was born in US, or evolution. And I bet they are mostly Republicans.

    May 18, 2011 at 3:36 pm |
    • vbscript2

      And I bet there's not many of them to start with...

      May 18, 2011 at 3:39 pm |
  18. Lips

    The world ended 3 months ago and we are all in hell...

    May 18, 2011 at 3:36 pm |
  19. Kat

    Wow.. I think someone will be extremely embarassed come sunday... lol

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

      Or very hung over

      May 18, 2011 at 3:44 pm |
  20. david2u

    I'm stocking up on hot dogs and marshmallows.

    May 18, 2011 at 3:36 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.