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. Three Dog Mama

    Well, I guess we can say good bye to them. I'll take their money once they've left! Ha Ha! Another bunch of fundamentalists who make Christianity sound stupid. Just like any set of fundamentalists – they skew the truth to fit their needs.

    May 18, 2011 at 3:49 pm |
    • Xerxes 2010

      who's that 1 prophet that had his follows drink that poison, didnt he drink it alone and they all walked away? lol

      May 18, 2011 at 3:50 pm |
    • nick

      I always thought Christianity, was what made Christianity sound stupid.

      May 18, 2011 at 3:52 pm |
    • Ezekiel?

      Ezekiel? that's old testament. not christian. christian is new testament.

      May 18, 2011 at 3:53 pm |
    • The Spiritual Leader of the Pagans and all The Pagan Gods.

      Three Dog Mama ~ are you a wh0re?

      May 18, 2011 at 3:54 pm |
    • bradley

      Jesus Christ (pun intended) these people are idiots! I want all of their money signed over to me @ 12:01am on 5/22/11!

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

    I can't believe this reporter never asked this obvious, "when this doesn't happen, what are you going to do afterward?"

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

    5.21 is a freaking idea... If God is a graceful God, I don't think he will take anybody with him without asking us...If he does so, he is a dictator...

    May 18, 2011 at 3:48 pm |
  4. The Signs are Clear....Its going to happen

    I know that this is going to happen, if you add 322.4 to Hams birthday then subtract 45.3 in the second month on 17th day of the earths rotation, subtracting all the magnetic drift, polarizing the bi-quadrilateral phiper dorons, crooosss your eyes, then count to 10 slowly.....you are now being raptured into Heaven. See, it is true as I am standing here. This is going to happen cause it is in the Bible!

    May 18, 2011 at 3:48 pm |
  5. Cherish Marie

    I can't help but roll my eyes. I feel bad for the Christians who are not involved in this idiocy; they look bad by extension. Sorry guys. I'm just going to sit back and watch the hilarity. I'm surprised there aren't anydoom sayers on campus yet...

    May 18, 2011 at 3:48 pm |
  6. Hman

    Well, if you really believe this, then remember the Bible promises that Jesus will preside over a 1000 year kingdom here on Earth after Judgement Day. Now, assuming the final final final end is 5 months from now, I am prepared to house sit and watch over your possessions for you at a very reasonable daily rate during that interval. This way you won't have to worry about your pets, or the family photo album etc.

    May 18, 2011 at 3:48 pm |
  7. Christian95

    I'm a christian and I do not beleive this! It says in the Bible that we will not know the day only God does!!

    May 18, 2011 at 3:48 pm |
  8. Pete Martin

    Someone called that martian Mr.Harold Camping the other night and asked,"Mr. Camping,are you smoking crack cocaine".
    "Thank- you for the call" came the response from zombie like Camping" ."No,I do not smoke crack cocaine", was his response;also zombie like. Perhaps Mr. Camping has a Night Train Express or Ripple addiction! He is so weird....God would never entrust him to spread the word of an impending doomsday.
    Party On Everyone!

    May 18, 2011 at 3:48 pm |
  9. Andy

    I wonder if any of the many doomsday prophecy-wielding religions will ever realize that their beliefs were all created by MEN and no one can possibly know when and how the end will come. You can quote the Bible and all the other religious texts at me all you want, but those too were written by human men (who are infinitely fallible). So when doomsday comes, I'm pretty sure there will be a human man with his finger on the big red button, not God.

    May 18, 2011 at 3:48 pm |
  10. mark


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

    The trouble for these guys is that they are actually making a claim that is readily falsifiable. But when things don't work out for them on May 21, not all is lost. They can always hop on the climate change bandwagon and start warning people about global warming instead. Same tune, different lyrics.

    May 18, 2011 at 3:48 pm |
    • Cedar Rapids

      Except global warming of course actually has some science behind it and is accepted by a majority of earth science scientists so sure, apart from that, its exactly the same.

      May 18, 2011 at 4:06 pm |
  12. Anotherdayjustbelieve

    regardless of your view, this story should put the fear of God in us...

    May 18, 2011 at 3:47 pm |
    • tcrowl18

      lol why?

      May 18, 2011 at 3:53 pm |
  13. gina

    so i guess the new iphone will come out may 22nd...figures...

    May 18, 2011 at 3:47 pm |
  14. Dead Man Blogging

    Tick Tock Goes The Cuckoo Clock

    May 18, 2011 at 3:47 pm |
  15. Zeke

    The world can't go kaput five months later on October 21. This is right before Halloween and we always have a blast this day. What a bummer if we can't have another trick or trick day.

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

    looks like it's "Miller Time" all over again.

    May 18, 2011 at 3:47 pm |
  17. Adam

    I will be sure to pack up both my summer and winter gear to be better prepared for heaven/hell (which ever I get thrown into)

    May 18, 2011 at 3:47 pm |
  18. Meaty Portion

    I can't wait until these idiots wake up on the 22nd.

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

      I just hope they do wake up. I hope it's not going to be another one of those suicide cults.

      May 18, 2011 at 3:59 pm |
  19. luau

    CNN should do a followup report on these same individuals next week. I'd be interested in what they have to say, as in ha ha interested.

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

      It will be the same old story as past apocalyptic predictions... "we calculated the date wrong, the next rapture is going to be ...."

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

      They will have an excuse like they have the 100 times they predicted doomsday before and then they'll make a new date.

      May 18, 2011 at 3:55 pm |
  20. anrelli

    Every true Christian do not have to worry about any or such occurrence, because daily they should be living as if its their last day......

    May 18, 2011 at 3:46 pm |
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About this blog

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.