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. TomorrowNeverDies

    BULL !!

    May 18, 2011 at 4:08 pm |
  2. chuck

    So, leaving families is ok to you folks? Personally, I'd stay with my family no matter what. Do u know why? I love them!
    I'm not like you guys that are convinced about May 21st. By leaving your families tells me you are without love and it's all about yourselves. Therefore, the creator's issuance of love to you has really not dented your head. You folks have no clue.
    It;s all about you. Compassionless and loveless is what you turned into.

    May 18, 2011 at 4:08 pm |
  3. maracana69

    Are these the same people who predicted the end of the world after Y2K? Here we are after 10 years....

    May 18, 2011 at 4:08 pm |
  4. Urbanite

    must be a slow news day if this is "FRONT PAGE NEWS!!!!"

    May 18, 2011 at 4:08 pm |
  5. iWonder

    Where is the Endeavour gonna land?? and are they gonna be the only ones not affected by this?

    May 18, 2011 at 4:08 pm |
  6. Mike

    "And now, it’s suddenly really near – so near that if these folks are right, you should probably pass on buying green bananas." LOL... literally

    May 18, 2011 at 4:08 pm |
  7. Kurt

    Earthquake or Earthquack? That sure is a slow progression. Did he take into account the shape of the time zones? Is this the leading edge, trailing edge, or center of the time zones? If I stand on the edge of the Pacific Time Zone near the Mountain Time Zone, do I get to watch people disappear in the Mountain Time Zone? Good thing time is an invention of man. This would be a logistical nightmare even for God!

    May 18, 2011 at 4:08 pm |
  8. Aquarian_sky

    "As for the exact day or hour, no one knows it, not the angels in heaven nor the Son, but it is known only to the Father."

    Jesus ought to know.

    May 18, 2011 at 4:08 pm |
  9. Tis

    Sorry if I double posted... My computer is laggy as hell.

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

      You did and the 11th commandment clearly states :"thou shalt not double-post". I'm not optimistic about your chances Saturday.

      May 18, 2011 at 4:12 pm |

    Yet another cult which is predicting an event that only God knows. According to the bible, no man or woman knows the hour or day when this will happen.

    May 18, 2011 at 4:07 pm |
  11. James

    If these people truly believe in what they preach, then I would like them to sell their homes to me for $1 a piece, with a May 22, 2011 closing date.

    May 18, 2011 at 4:07 pm |

      They can keep their homes as I don't want a vacation home in Oakland

      May 18, 2011 at 4:12 pm |
  12. jerry berry

    OK, I´ll buy your property for 50cents then. Don´t thank me, I´m just doing you a favor out of love.

    May 18, 2011 at 4:07 pm |
  13. You're Joking Right?

    These people are looney! If they call themselves Christians and read the Bible they would know that the "end of the world" would NOT be May 21st 2011. It states in the Bible that not even the angels in Heaven nor Christ himself knows when He is supposed to come back. Only God knows. AND, we may be in the "last days" but there are still a lot of unfulfilled prophecies that need to happen and I can guarantee you we've got awhile!

    May 18, 2011 at 4:07 pm |

      Your'e right on target

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

      wow! you have the power to guarantee when the end of the world will and will not happen?

      May 18, 2011 at 5:24 pm |
  14. B-man

    As American we should invest more in education so idiots like this can come up with logical opinions in life as opposed to flagrant idiocies. Get a life.......That is all

    May 18, 2011 at 4:07 pm |
    • guest

      just because you don't agree with them does not mean they have no life. You are putting a lot of importance on your own opinion.

      May 18, 2011 at 4:40 pm |
  15. Tis


    May 18, 2011 at 4:07 pm |
    • Anotherdayjustbelieve

      That was funnay Tis!

      May 18, 2011 at 4:08 pm |
    • B-man

      well stated

      May 18, 2011 at 4:09 pm |
  16. The Bible says no man knows the day nor the hour

    Wow I guess they skipped that part, No man knows the day nor the hour of the second coming of Christ. These people have been deceived.

    May 18, 2011 at 4:07 pm |
  17. Ridiculous

    If it's a large group, it's called a religion. If it's a small group, it's called a cult. If it's one person, it's called a mental illness.

    May 18, 2011 at 4:06 pm |
  18. Cereal Kid

    Will it happen after Saturday Morning cartoons?

    May 18, 2011 at 4:06 pm |
  19. Will

    If I see even ONE of these assh*les begging for money on May 22 because he's broke, hungry, and homeless, you can be sure that I will be in a less than charitable mood. Actions should have consequences. Stupidity should have consequences....

    May 18, 2011 at 4:06 pm |
  20. pasha

    I have never expected that CNN will provide live coverage from ku-ku house...

    May 18, 2011 at 4:06 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.