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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. dango1234

    Damn, I was getting ready for dec 2012, now this crap comes along...it isn't fair....

    May 18, 2011 at 3:58 pm |
    • Mike

      Please do a story on Sunday of what these people are doing when they were wrong. Maybe if we make fools of them everytime they come up with this BS they will stop getting front page of the news when they think they know when the end is coming.

      May 18, 2011 at 4:09 pm |
  2. willie

    It's funny reading all these xtians trying to separate themselves from this doomsday cult. Don't they realize it's not the date that makes these people looks silly but the fact they believe this will actually happen at all!

    May 18, 2011 at 3:58 pm |
    • Artist

      That was my first thought when I started seeing their responses. LOL they dont get it lol

      May 18, 2011 at 3:59 pm |
    • Charles

      "A man lives by believing something: not by debating and arguing about many things."
      -Thomas Carlyle

      May 18, 2011 at 4:07 pm |
  3. Michael Cronin

    Conan says that this is true: thedailyturducken.blogspot.com/2011/05/end-of-world.html

    May 18, 2011 at 3:58 pm |
  4. Conversative_Bull

    I'm so not drinking any Kool Aid for the next few days....

    May 18, 2011 at 3:58 pm |
  5. BlackDynamiteNYC

    The World is coming to an end Saturday?
    I hate when that happens!
    BD

    May 18, 2011 at 3:58 pm |
  6. Laughingintheirface

    The idea of Christian fear tactics turns off so many people to religion. The "end of the world" is not coming. As a devout catholic I do not fear the end of the world. Nor should a baptist, Muslim, Jew, or atheist. This is nothing more than a group of uber-religious nut jobs going over board.

    May 18, 2011 at 3:57 pm |
  7. Ginny

    I was certain the Bible said "you know not the day nor the hour". I was taught to be prepared every day for that reason.

    May 18, 2011 at 3:57 pm |
  8. SUP

    JESUS CHRIST! this is ridiculous

    May 18, 2011 at 3:57 pm |
  9. RaptureReply

    Matthew 24:36 says : "No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father." #rapture that!

    May 18, 2011 at 3:57 pm |
  10. jim

    The basic problem with faith is that it demands that reason be abandoned – this is a clear example of that. It should illustrate the folly of allowing religion to trump reason as in the cases of the Creationists, Young Earthers, and the Global Warming deniers who base their argument on religion. Keep it in church.

    May 18, 2011 at 3:57 pm |
  11. NetNinja

    If nothing happens can we get rid of them? Maybe ship them to a warrm climate with a oh so tollerant people like Yemen, Iran, Iraq or Pakistan?

    May 18, 2011 at 3:57 pm |
  12. Byron

    the son of man is upon you...in the last fifiteen days "Before that day shall come," said Jesus, "great destruction shall come upon the world, for there shall be war so cruel and pitiless that the father shall slay the son, and the son shall slay the father by reason of the factions of peoples. Wherefore the cities shall be annihilated, and the country shall become desert. Such pestilences shall come that none shall be found to bear the dead to burial, so that they shall be left as food for beasts. To those who remain upon the earth

    God shall send such scarcity that bread shall be valued above gold, and they shall eat all manner of unclean things. O miserable age, in which scarce any one shall be heard to say: "I have sinned, have mercy on me, O God"; but with horrible voices they shall blaspheme him who is glorious and blessed for ever.

    After this, as that day draws near, for fifteen days, shall come every day a horrible sign over the inhabitants of the earth.

    The first day the sun shall run its course in heaven without light, but black as the dye of cloth; and it shall give groans, as a father who groans for a son near to death. The second day the moon shall be turned into blood, and blood shall come upon the earth like dew. The third day the stars shall be seen to fight among themselves like an army of enemies. The fourth day the stones and rocks shall dash against each other as cruel enemies. The fifth day every plant and herb shall weep blood. The sixth day the sea shall rise without leaving its place to the height of one hundred and fifty cubits, and shall stand all day like a wall. The seventh day it shall on the contrary sink so

    low as scarcely to be seen. The eighth day the birds and the animals of the earth and of the water shall gather themselves close together, and shall give forth roars and cries. The ninth day there shall be a hailstorm so horrible that it shall kill [such] that scarcely the tenth part of the living shall escape. The tenth day shall come such horrible lightning and thunder [such] that the third part of the mountains shall be split and scorched. The eleventh day every river shall run backwards, and shall run blood and not water. The twelfth day every created thing shall groan and cry. The thirteenth day the heaven shall be rolled up like a book, and it shall rain fire, so that every living thing shall die. The fourteenth day there shall be an earthquake so horrible that the tops of the mountains shall fly through the air like birds, and all the earth shall become a plain. The fifteenth day the holy angels shall die, and God alone shall remain alive; to whom be honour and glory."

    And having said this, Jesus smote his face with both his hands, and then smote the ground with his head. And having raised his head, he said: "Cursed be every one who shall insert into my sayings that I am the son of God." At these words the disciples fell down as dead, whereupon Jesus lifted them up, saying: 'Let us fear God now, if we would not be affrighted in that day.'

    May 18, 2011 at 3:57 pm |
    • jim

      Tell us about the Three Little Pigs next ....

      May 18, 2011 at 3:58 pm |
    • AJ

      Cool story bro

      May 18, 2011 at 4:04 pm |
    • Chelsea

      Where are you getting this from???

      May 18, 2011 at 4:15 pm |
  13. M. From PEI

    As usual, CNN shows ZERO journalistic integrity.

    The fact that they would even report on this so called story shows exactly what they are made of.

    Get back to journalism and stay away from this garbage and maybe at some point we can start to take you seriously again.

    May 18, 2011 at 3:57 pm |
    • PJ1981

      are you fox news guy? Fox news reported this on May 14th btw 🙂 just in case you are.

      I believe this is a very interesting story to cover. We talk about religion especially Islam (eg sharia law) and how it has led many to the wrong path. This is a similar case to a certain point where a misguided belief is ruining the lives of many. What has the church done to guide these guys back? CNN is not taking sides here fortunately. They have shown a journalistic balance in a story that truly showcases the power of misguided religious beliefs.

      May 18, 2011 at 4:11 pm |
  14. Nuke the Newt

    No wonder they were out of KoolAid at the supermarket!

    May 18, 2011 at 3:57 pm |
  15. Momof2

    How sad to be swept up into such a frenzy. Obviously these people don't truly read the Bible where it says that no man (or women) knows the day or the hour when Christ will return. Maybe they should just live from day to day as if that will be their last day.

    May 18, 2011 at 3:56 pm |
  16. Miranda

    just people over-analyzing numbers..
    Matthew 24:36

    May 18, 2011 at 3:56 pm |
  17. aBee

    I think all the "End of the World"/Apocalyptic nonsense is just a way for religon to scare non believers into believeing. Life is a circle and I agree that one day the world will "refresh" itself again as it has done so every so often (as science has proven), but believeing that this will involve angels fighting demons, humans being judged for their so called sins...aka free will (which the bible clearly states that God gave to mankind as his one and only gift) is a bit far featched, don't you think?

    May 18, 2011 at 3:56 pm |
  18. Charles

    Have to feel sorry for those folks. Bible says not even the angels in heaven know the hour.

    May 18, 2011 at 3:56 pm |
  19. Careing Brother

    We need to be kind to these folks. They are sincere Christians that are sincerely incorrect. When May 12 passes we need to encourage them to get back into their bibles. These fine folks have misinterpreted some bible scriptures they are not crazy or fanatical.

    May 18, 2011 at 3:56 pm |
    • John

      Did you read the part about where the parents quit their jobs and they have 4 kids? They are crazy. This is so, so sad.

      May 18, 2011 at 3:59 pm |
    • PJ1981

      If these guys are sincere lost souls, why wouldn't the church help them? They deciphered the text of bible and got misguided but their church should have worked to guide them back. I cant imagine that they read the text and never discussed it with their local church chapter. So who went wrong where? The person threw away their savings cause of this misguided belief. What/Who helped convert that initial "I wonder" into "I believe"?

      May 18, 2011 at 4:05 pm |
    • jason

      I agree and believe that is a wonderfully mature way to look at the situation

      May 18, 2011 at 4:16 pm |
  20. Blame Bush

    Those people ARE morons.

    May 18, 2011 at 3:56 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.