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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. Mike

    When Sunday comes and they find out that they were wrong, will they finally stop believing in silly things?

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

      no, they'll just come up with a new date and continue with their craziness.

      May 18, 2011 at 3:46 pm |
    • AthensGuy

      Dang... and I just paid off all my debts... If I had just known the world would end this weekend, I would have spent more on sinful things instead... any chance we could wait until AFTER the long weekend, at least?

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

      No, they won't but they will also be thinking about how they're going to pay off their credit cards.

      May 18, 2011 at 3:49 pm |
    • eldono

      Nnnnnnnnope.

      May 18, 2011 at 3:49 pm |
    • runchickenrun

      NOPEEEEE

      May 19, 2011 at 2:57 pm |
  2. Lame Reporting

    Ever notice that CNN rarely reports on legitimate, mission-centered Christians and Christian outreachs, but focuses instead on fringe elements that largely DO NOT represent Christianity; many of which have a political or some type of agenda. If these doomsday heralders were to actually read their bible, they'd find out that Christ is coming like a thief in the night; in a twinkling of an eye. He didn't give us clues as to the exact date and the purpose was so we'd follow Him and not drift off on some silly rabbit trail. Cheap attempt by CNN at getting site hits by getting people angry. Lame reporting!

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

      are you listening to yourself???
      .
      Schizophrenia is a mental disorder that makes it difficult to tell the difference between real and unreal experiences, to think logically, to have normal emotional responses, and to behave normally in social situations.
      As the illness continues, psychotic symptoms develop:
      • False beliefs or thoughts that are not based in reality (delusions)
      • Hearing, seeing, or feeling things that are not there (hallucinations)

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

      You still sound as silly as them,...What about all the rational Mormons and Muslims whose beliefs you discount? A cult is a cult is a cult. Christian arrogance is the problem, you want it shoved down everyone’s throat but can’t handle when it turns extreme. Yet you can blanket stereo type the whole of the Muslim faith as a violent religion.

      May 18, 2011 at 3:49 pm |
    • willie

      All christians believe in the second coming, that is what makes them christians. May 21 is just a date. It's the fact they think they will be swept away on this or any other date that is both hilarious and sad. Just by not putting a date on this purported event doesn't make you any less delusional.

      May 18, 2011 at 3:55 pm |
  3. Aliandsons

    According to all believes, regardless of: Jew, Christian, or Muslim, have faith that only Allah / God knows the real time of Day of Judgment, However He revealed sings about the nearness of Day of Judgment to His Messengers (Prophets). Arrival of Jesus is one of the biggest sing of Judgment Day nearness.

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

      Very True....

      May 19, 2011 at 2:59 pm |
  4. Mott the Hoople

    I am so glad I am way, way behind in my tax payments and my bills!!! WOO HOO!!! Whoever said procrastination is a bad thing?

    May 18, 2011 at 3:43 pm |
  5. Rick's Real

    Kool Aid sales are brisk...

    May 18, 2011 at 3:43 pm |
  6. willie

    I just can't imagine going to bed and hoping I'll be dead tomorrow. These people are clearly mentally ill.

    May 18, 2011 at 3:43 pm |
  7. nhjs

    Whose idea is this Doomsday business? Sarah Palin's or Michelle Bauchmann's?

    May 18, 2011 at 3:42 pm |
  8. ROB M

    I running my credit card balance up to the moon!

    May 18, 2011 at 3:42 pm |
  9. John

    I cant wait till nothing happens , there gonna look like idiots getting ready for dooms day. What idiots

    May 18, 2011 at 3:42 pm |
  10. The Donald

    I changed my mind, I am running for president.

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

    Yeah, they're nutty, but frankly I'd prefer to encounter their form of caring ministry to the evil insanity of a "church" like the Phelps/Westboro Baptist klan (spelling intentional).

    May 18, 2011 at 3:42 pm |
  12. enigma65

    Once again this generous, loving god who created his children in his image will wipe them out like a capricious child taking out a batalion of toy soldiers on the kitchen table. I didn't realize until just now that when the bible says he created man in his image they were talking about Stalin, Hitler, Pol Pot and all the others that had a thing fo mass-genocide.

    May 18, 2011 at 3:42 pm |
  13. marsmotel

    What a bunch of kooks! Nothing in that Bible has come true in 3000 years. That is why it is a sham! LOL

    May 18, 2011 at 3:42 pm |
    • Bob

      Actually there has been.

      Day and night were created in the bible.

      And there is one half truth. The bible says that God took a rib from Adam and created Eve. But some of the married guys I know must have had some part of their butt taken to create their wives because all they ever say is their wives are a pain in the butt.

      May 18, 2011 at 3:45 pm |
    • Eric

      too bad he created day and night before creating the sun. Ooops.

      May 18, 2011 at 3:50 pm |
    • Rick's Real

      I have to wonder on which half of the earth God created day on, and on which half he created night. Unless of course the earth was actually flat back then.

      May 18, 2011 at 3:56 pm |
  14. Amber B

    What message are these people trying to get out? This article never said if they are spreading The Good News of salvation or if they are just telling everyone that the "end" is coming.

    May 18, 2011 at 3:42 pm |
  15. Bill

    Christians are so silly...

    May 18, 2011 at 3:42 pm |
  16. nb

    "No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come." (NIV, Mark 13:32-33)

    May 18, 2011 at 3:42 pm |
    • Colin

      But nb, 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 3:43 pm |
    • Eric

      I got it, i'm going to create beings that will be evil and I will drown them all because they're evil then say i'm never going to do it again, so I knock up a virgin and give birth to myself to sacrifice myself to myself to forgive the evil that i gave to the being I messed up creating. That'll be clear and plausible 2000 years from now.

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

      and no one cares either...

      May 18, 2011 at 4:02 pm |
  17. Christian

    58 pages and still going no where. I wonder if there were any non-believers in these 58 pages that have considered Christianity as a result of reading this mess? Yes the article as a whole has put Christianity in a bad light. Makes it difficult to be caring and reach out to those that are curious. Sad to know that someday we will "ALL" know the truth and at that time it may be too late for those who do not believe, mostly out of their ignorance to even study that which they so vehemently come against.

    May 18, 2011 at 3:42 pm |
    • marsmotel

      Can you transfer all your money to me since you will not need it on Sunday the 22nd? Thanks.

      May 18, 2011 at 3:44 pm |
    • Eric

      Just because I would like there to be an afterlife doesn't make it true. No one has any proof that it's true that there is A god or afterlife let alone proof that it's a specific one.

      May 18, 2011 at 3:44 pm |
    • Artist

      Only difference between these wackjobs and yourself is you disagree on when.

      May 18, 2011 at 3:46 pm |
    • Athiest

      you realize your argument works both ways, right?

      May 18, 2011 at 3:52 pm |
    • Rick's Real

      You're wrong, Christian. Eternal life is there for ALL whose energy is accepted and absorbed by those who survive them, not just for those who put their baby teeth under their pillows and recite words from a dusty old book – and I'm not just talking about the Bible. There are those who always used fear as a way of effectively sucking the money out of your wallet, just as you're being sucked on right now.

      May 18, 2011 at 3:53 pm |
  18. Lolfuku

    Lol relegion

    May 18, 2011 at 3:41 pm |
  19. Eric

    Call them to donate money with the stipulation that you get it back if the world does end, then you'll see how serious they actually take it.

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

      i meant doesn't end.

      May 18, 2011 at 3:42 pm |
  20. Ray

    lol 'god' takes 5 months... what happened to all knowing?

    May 18, 2011 at 3:41 pm |
    • Dead Man Blogging

      Everyone going to Heaven has to go through the TSA Security line.

      May 18, 2011 at 3:45 pm |
    • Cedar Rapids

      'Everyone going to Heaven has to go through the TSA Security line.'
      Have to supply Id in advance to make sure you arent on the 'no rapture' list.

      May 18, 2011 at 4:01 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.