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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. David, CA

    These nuts are a vat of kool aid away from following Heaven's Gate. I wonder what flavor they'll use.

    May 18, 2011 at 4:06 pm |
    • Steve (the real one)

      Heaven's Gate use Kool-Aid? I knew Jim Jones did, wasn't sure about HG.

      May 18, 2011 at 4:34 pm |
  2. The King

    I hope the morons who have spent/gave away all their "worldy possesions", have the decency to blow their brains out on 22May rather than being a burden on those of us responsible enough to continue on living...Though I'm sure they'll sign up for welfare and we'll support them. Losers.

    May 18, 2011 at 4:06 pm |
  3. thessalonian

    We can be sure of 1 thing. It won't be May21st. No one knows the day or the hours. These people will go the way of the millerites and many others who have played this game. Some will loose their faith. Some will go to the next false teacher/prophet. Wish I knew one so I could get some of his stuff.

    May 18, 2011 at 4:06 pm |
  4. Frankly Speaking..

    Praise the lord! Hallelujah!!

    May 18, 2011 at 4:06 pm |
  5. parmaguy

    Can it be pushed back til monday? I mean come on, I have a trip planned this coming weekend dammit!!!!!

    May 18, 2011 at 4:06 pm |
  6. Josh

    I just don't Understand why these people would just now say anything about this doomsday dilemma. Its just 5 days away, But I am going to have to disagree with them. Everyone's wondering about the 2012 B.S. and now this...I just don't get it. No one really knows when God will come. Isn't there suppose to be a war first and then the rebuilding of the jewish temple?

    May 18, 2011 at 4:06 pm |
    • Lucy

      (Matthew 24:36-44) 36 “Concerning that day and hour nobody knows, neither the angels of the heavens nor the Son, but only the Father. 37 For just as the days of Noah were, so the presence of the Son of man will be. 38 For as they were in those days before the flood, eating and drinking, men marrying and women being given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark; 39 and they took no note until the flood came and swept them all away, so the presence of the Son of man will be. 40 Then two men will be in the field: one will be taken along and the other be abandoned; 41 two women will be grinding at the hand mill: one will be taken along and the other be abandoned. 42 Keep on the watch, therefore, because YOU do not know on what day YOUR Lord is coming. 43 “But know one thing, that if the householder had known in what watch the thief was coming, he would have kept awake and not allowed his house to be broken into. 44 On this account YOU too prove yourselves ready, because at an hour that YOU do not think to be it, the Son of man is coming.

      May 18, 2011 at 4:14 pm |
  7. Super Canuck

    Great. Can they please also load up the WBC nutmegs in their RV's and take them with? The rest of us would really appreciate this and happy trails...

    May 18, 2011 at 4:06 pm |
  8. Sox Fan

    So I guess I don't get to see the Sox vs Cubs game........... I better DVR just in case 🙂

    May 18, 2011 at 4:06 pm |
  9. Kat

    LOL! This is great.. made my day!! Needed something hilarious like this today.. Thanks!!

    May 18, 2011 at 4:05 pm |
  10. JuJuBee

    OMG, I am going to laugh my butt off on May 22nd at all of the bewildered people, wondering why they are still here. Good grief.

    May 18, 2011 at 4:05 pm |
  11. Urbanite

    Blah blah blah. any body with a brain cell or 2 knows the world will end December 21st 2012....

    May 18, 2011 at 4:05 pm |
  12. mike

    Jesus is a pot smoking liberal.

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

      jesus was gay!

      May 18, 2011 at 4:08 pm |
    • Iamgod

      So true. He and his GAY buddy are going too PARTY that night.

      May 18, 2011 at 4:11 pm |
  13. Gregg

    Sorry, but you don't have to be a theologian to know that these "Christians" are deluded. It's an indisputable fact that no man knows the hour of the return of Christ. Clearly these people don't read the bible enough or twist it for some kind of a agenda. But, oh well, it's better than them strapping on bombs and blowing themselves up in the name of their beliefs.

    May 18, 2011 at 4:05 pm |
  14. Paul

    To Victor:
    "The Bible says no one knows the exact day, hour or moment when Christ will return."

    Amen to that!

    May 18, 2011 at 4:05 pm |
  15. David Kelly

    I'm going to laugh my ass of if this IS the rapture but only the people who didn't presume to KNOW it was going to happen get taken and these boos are left scratching their heads.

    May 18, 2011 at 4:05 pm |
    • David, CA

      Dolphins will be the ones taken. "So long and thanks for all the fish!"

      May 18, 2011 at 4:08 pm |
    • Steve (the real one)

      David, CA
      Dolphins will be the ones taken. "So long and thanks for all the fish!"
      -------
      NOOOOOO!! Leave Dan Marino and Don Shula alone!!!

      May 18, 2011 at 4:14 pm |
  16. whatever

    People are funny. The sky is falling. Yes it's time for God to destroy the world. All you bad people into the basement everyone else follow me upstairs.

    May 18, 2011 at 4:04 pm |
  17. Leucadia101

    this is soooooo hilarious. They run around and warn us all even though we apparently can't be saved? sounds like they are gloating

    May 18, 2011 at 4:04 pm |
  18. BET?

    wanna bet that it doesn't happen?

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

      The Bible clearly states that information, they need to open their bibles. As no one knows when that time will be:

      (Matthew 24:36-44) 36 “Concerning that day and hour nobody knows, neither the angels of the heavens nor the Son, but only the Father. 37 For just as the days of Noah were, so the presence of the Son of man will be. 38 For as they were in those days before the flood, eating and drinking, men marrying and women being given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark; 39 and they took no note until the flood came and swept them all away, so the presence of the Son of man will be. 40 Then two men will be in the field: one will be taken along and the other be abandoned; 41 two women will be grinding at the hand mill: one will be taken along and the other be abandoned. 42 Keep on the watch, therefore, because YOU do not know on what day YOUR Lord is coming. 43 “But know one thing, that if the householder had known in what watch the thief was coming, he would have kept awake and not allowed his house to be broken into. 44 On this account YOU too prove yourselves ready, because at an hour that YOU do not think to be it, the Son of man is coming.

      May 18, 2011 at 4:11 pm |
  19. Joe

    Can we interview these kooks on Monday?

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

      Their responses wouldn't be any different than the last time they were supposed to get "raptured" or the time before that. Or I would guess the time before that.

      May 18, 2011 at 4:18 pm |
  20. Midav

    I don't think bellevue psychiatric hospital has enough space for these crazies.

    May 18, 2011 at 4:04 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.