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. BIll

    I cannot believe CNN is giving so much attention to this group. Makes you wonder, there are probably "closet" believers out there otherwise these bufoons would not be in the news at all, let alone the front page of CNN.

    May 18, 2011 at 4:04 pm |
  2. kso

    do you think my lender will give me a "grace" period on my house note in honor of rapture?

    It's a shame these people made it through puberty.

    May 18, 2011 at 4:03 pm |
  3. Awesome

    I see natural selection is still in effect.

    May 18, 2011 at 4:03 pm |
  4. bandit88


    May 18, 2011 at 4:03 pm |
  5. Eric

    If those loons are still on earth on Saturday, Jesus left them behind LOL

    May 18, 2011 at 4:03 pm |
  6. JP


    May 18, 2011 at 4:03 pm |
  7. odoylerules

    I hope that when they wake up on Sunday morning, still here, they'll put as much time and energy into promoting equality, feeding the hungry, and ending child abuse. But, I guess that kind of "christianity" is out of style now. They'll probably just stop off at walmart for some twinkies and smokes before settling in with their uneducated children to watch glen beck.

    May 18, 2011 at 4:03 pm |
    • Public Enemy Number 2

      They'll say: "Did we say 2011? Sorry, we meant 2012."

      May 18, 2011 at 4:04 pm |
  8. no way

    CNN-when you are doing stories about people like this, please refer to them as 'radical chrisitans' the same way you refer to al qaeda as 'radical muslims'. Most christians think this doomsday crap is bologna!

    May 18, 2011 at 4:02 pm |
  9. bandit88

    I understand the laugh factor of all this, I'm not a practicing Christian, I'm actually a lesbian for that matter, (whoa, someone gay taking up for the big GOD) regardless, in the Bible, it clearly states that it will be a day that no one will be able to call. It specifically says that small groups of people will figure it out and try to tell the world, but will be mocked. I don't laugh at anyone for their faith or beliefs, there is no reason to until you can prove your belief or their believe to a 100% no margin for error fault. Open your eyes.

    May 18, 2011 at 4:02 pm |
  10. Scathing Skeptic

    Does God observe Daylight Savings Time? I just want to know so that when the doomsday earthquake comes my way I can be sure that it doesn't interfere with my zumba class.

    May 18, 2011 at 4:02 pm |
  11. Tammy

    The bible says no man will know the day of judgement, even Jesus himself doesn't know the day...I think these people better get the real bible and not the false prophecy they are reading...wake up christians cause God has the day picked and we all better be ready or you will be left behind...read the stories Left Behind they tell all that is going to happen...

    May 18, 2011 at 4:02 pm |
    • Colin

      But Tammy, 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 4:04 pm |
  12. I

    Please, DO NOT include all Christians on this. This group of self called Christians have NOT read Matthew 24:36 where Jesus himself said that ONLY the Father knows the moment. Not even the angels know. Do not be fooled. Real Christians know this is just wrong. Let us focus on praying and promote the real message of JesusChrist; love, compassion, forgiveness and eternal salvation of our souls through His sacrifice on the cross.

    May 18, 2011 at 4:02 pm |
    • OpenUReyes

      Good post I;
      As I have said earlier they can choose to worship a Vengeful God or Loving God, the choice is theirs.

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

      Dont worry some of us are not fooled and view you eqaully as looney.

      May 18, 2011 at 4:04 pm |
    • Steve (the real one)

      I agree with you. I cannot imagine folks giving stuff away and quitting jobs. This is the second 'go round for camping. He make the same prediction in 1994. When will these folks start regarding him as a false prophet?

      @Artist, lay off the paint fumes, my friend!

      May 18, 2011 at 4:12 pm |
    • patriot1942


      May 18, 2011 at 4:17 pm |
    • patriot1942


      May 18, 2011 at 4:18 pm |
  13. Chuck

    we work in the basement....so we will be safe....haha....


    May 18, 2011 at 4:02 pm |
  14. Queen_Hidi

    .... And until now every one kept saying ... Muslim people are bunch of idiots!

    May 18, 2011 at 4:01 pm |
    • Artist

      I have always viewed christians and equal nuts to muslims.

      May 18, 2011 at 4:03 pm |
    • Chuck

      Artist...come up with a thought instead of just posting the word 'nut' under someones post. While they are defending a faith and debating a topic, you only go as far as calling them a 'nut'. If you are bored and looking for something to do that is easy, download angry birds.

      May 18, 2011 at 4:12 pm |
  15. w7rkd

    I once had the flu and thought the world was coming to and end, then again I heard the world was coming to an end on May 32nd 2012.

    May 18, 2011 at 4:01 pm |
  16. Byron

    I'm in Oklahoma

    May 18, 2011 at 4:01 pm |
    • skyking

      You're in Oklahoma? I'm so sorry.

      May 18, 2011 at 4:09 pm |
  17. theklam


    May 18, 2011 at 4:01 pm |
  18. OpenUReyes

    These religious preachers, the majority of who are frauds aka False Prophets, are attracting followers likes Flies to rotting garbage. People are desperate in these times for some sort of moral direction, instead of worshiping a Loving God they are all to often choosing a Vengeful God. Soon these misguided flocks, and their leaders will soon have to reap what they sow.

    May 18, 2011 at 4:01 pm |
    • Artist

      So says one nut to another nut.

      May 18, 2011 at 4:02 pm |
    • OpenUReyes

      @Artist; You might want to read what I post before you comment, but I guess that's normal for a High School freshman...

      May 18, 2011 at 4:09 pm |
    • Marna

      So, you're response to said comment is to try and ridicule the guy? Says the person boasting: "People are desperate in these times for some sort of moral direction, instead of worshiping a Loving God they are all to often choosing a Vengeful God."\

      Brilliant. You, sir, are a walking contradiction.

      May 18, 2011 at 5:14 pm |
  19. the gaabster

    So I guess so payments until May 22nd for me....

    May 18, 2011 at 4:00 pm |
  20. zoundsman

    Doomsday Ads 25% off-call Buddy's Billboard Services.

    May 18, 2011 at 4:00 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.