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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

    it had better be true, i've been running up some serious credit card bills if it's not true i'm screwed!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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

      Thism whole thing is SAD.... He spent his entire life saving to demonstrate to all the world that he does not know the Bible. God says that NO ONE knows the end exept Him. The fact that this guy says it is May 21st, 2011 is an absolute guarantee that is will NOT occur. Very SAD to see this ignorance on a large scale. Hey maybe God will come and get him so he won't feel the pain on May 22nd!

      May 18, 2011 at 3:57 pm |
  2. Charles Osgoode

    So, when the end of the world doesn't happen on the 21st are these people going to pass out pamphlets, put up billboards, etc admitting they were wrong? Are they going to apologize to anyone who might have been silly enough to be sacred by the apocalyptic prophecy? Also, what happens to the loyal followers when the end doesn't come?

    It almost seems like a cult. These people are so sure that the world is going to end on the 21st that it wouldn't surprise me if some committed suicide. Not saying that they will, but it wouldn't surprise me if they did.

    Well, good luck to those crazy's.

    May 18, 2011 at 3:46 pm |
    • The Spiritual Leader of the Pagans and all The Pagan Gods.

      your post would suggest that you are really a lame f uck

      May 18, 2011 at 3:49 pm |
  3. se

    people who belive this nonsense are pathetic...The last quote says it all...I truly belive it's going to happen...but if it doesn't oh well we'll move on.

    May 18, 2011 at 3:46 pm |
  4. laurie209

    These nuts proclaiming to know when the earth will end. What if some people become so frightened that they take their life because of these nuts? Can they be charged with murder? Because this is only a tale. They should be. People like this are cruel and inhumane.

    May 18, 2011 at 3:46 pm |
  5. Mick

    It's funny until you read about the people who have quit their jobs, given away their belongings, and spent their life savings. And if you go to the familyradio site, there's a link on the home page to send donations to the ministry. If they really believe they're going to be whisked away to heaven in a few days why do they need MONEY?

    May 18, 2011 at 3:46 pm |
  6. Hey

    Did you see the article about one of these guys (who is 60 years old by the way) who spent his retirement on putting up more advertisements for this idiocy?

    I feel really bad for this guy. What is he going to do without any money? Whoever spear-headed this thing should be prosecuted.

    May 18, 2011 at 3:46 pm |
  7. svann

    CIHYS?

    May 18, 2011 at 3:46 pm |
  8. yeah right

    On May 23, I guarantee one of them will say something like "This is all part of God's plan. He tries to confuse us to test our faith." They say the same thing when confronted with geological/archaeological facts that don't square with the story book.

    May 18, 2011 at 3:45 pm |
  9. Falstaff1962

    So- if it doesn't happen, can I sue them for false advertising?

    May 18, 2011 at 3:45 pm |
  10. Shaking in my booties

    I love how Store has already applied for his radio broadcasting lisence for 2012.

    May 18, 2011 at 3:45 pm |
    • The Spiritual Leader of the Pagans and all The Pagan Gods.

      what is a lisence?

      May 18, 2011 at 3:48 pm |
  11. joshua

    this is bull crap. Im a christain but how would you know that month day and year would mean end of the world to you. God knows you dont, because other people want other attention. The end.

    May 18, 2011 at 3:45 pm |
  12. Broseph

    Do we know what time this is going to take place?

    May 18, 2011 at 3:45 pm |
  13. Barking Alien

    Maybe it is the end of the world for them since their unemployment benefits run out in May.

    May 18, 2011 at 3:45 pm |
  14. Spyhard007

    What a bunch of lunatics. Instead of searching for soul and soule clensing, they should search for knowledge, open up their minds. These lunatics not only waste their time, they are huge burdon to society as well. God bless them, if there is one!

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

    Question to the team, what's the next Doomsday date after May 21st passes? LOL

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

      October 21st 2011

      December 21st 2012

      May 18, 2011 at 3:47 pm |
  16. DarthWoo

    I guess they skipped over Mark 13:32. The irritating thing is that given past averages, there's a 4 to 1 probability of a 5.0 to 5.9 earthquake or 1 to 3 odds of a 6.0 to 6.9 earthquake occurring anywhere in the world. They'll see that insignificant earthquake and declare that they were right and it is just beginning. I just wish I could find some of these people and ask for their money if they're so sure they won't need it.

    May 18, 2011 at 3:44 pm |
  17. Flint Rock

    He (or she) works in strange ways.

    May 18, 2011 at 3:44 pm |
  18. sereny

    The world is just bursting with freaks!

    May 18, 2011 at 3:44 pm |
  19. bax

    Yeah right, on Armed Forces Day!!! Wait 'til 10/28/2011 or so the Mayan Calendar says! Then we move to a new dimension, right! No sarcasm here (hee heee)

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

      12/21/2012 – Mayan

      May 18, 2011 at 3:48 pm |
  20. Carol

    All through the 2nd WW there were religious groups that believed the world was going to end on so and so date. Their belief was that God would not keep tolerating all the killing going on in Europe. I was only nine and my Day saw me reading this driibble and he made me stop reading the junk, as he called it!

    May 18, 2011 at 3:43 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.