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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. pasha

    I hope some crazy house will pick them up on May 22, as that's the place where they have to be kept at

    May 18, 2011 at 4:11 pm |
  2. Rordog

    The word RAPTURE is never even mentioned in the bible. Jesus didn't preach a rapture..Christianity today as a whole is teaching a flawed doctrine.

    May 18, 2011 at 4:11 pm |
    • Steve (the real one)

      What you say is true HOWEVER... The word means to be caught away and that priciple is in the Bible. Paul wrote about it

      May 18, 2011 at 4:37 pm |
  3. Chloe

    Quack quack....

    God told me she might come back someday.....

    May 18, 2011 at 4:11 pm |
    • EddyWithani

      Yes, and I will give her the motor boat.

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

      You won't have to give Her anything...She'll just take it.

      May 18, 2011 at 5:18 pm |
  4. Billdog

    Whack jobs. I think they should sign all their assets over to me, now before it is to late.

    May 18, 2011 at 4:11 pm |
  5. JABZ

    ok first off, if you think the world is going to end and you are preparing your self WHY i mean why prepare and say good bye to loved ones when every night or at least every day you say goodbye and or goodnight to your loved ones, why do you have to prepare for that if you believe in gos, you'll see them soon. it's not goodbye it's see you later. it seems like people hate their lives in order to prepare for death and say goodbye. look at the people who commit suicide the "prepare to die and they say goodbye to their loved ones usually" seriously live life happy and don't prepare your self for death, because if you do you should be preparing your self every single day, because you are never promised tomorrow... come on people live life without regret and live life the way you want to "HAPPY"

    May 18, 2011 at 4:11 pm |
  6. TheyNotHim

    I hope this Saturday is the end. I want to meet Satan face to face and sign up on the dotted line. I want a shot at that a**hole Father of mine again. He really screwed the pooch down here when he could have made everything all cool and hunkey dorey. IM COMIN FOR YOU GOD...this Saturday (-aturday...aturday...urday) FOR ONE NIGHT ONLY ITS ME AND YOU GOD IN THE SQUARED CIRCLE! I WANT MY REVENGE FOR WHAT YOU DID TO MY BROTHER AT ARMAGGEDON XIVICCIXXLLL! YOU ARE MINE THIS TIME SUCKER...YOU BETTER BRING SONNY BOY AND THE HOLY SPIRIT TOO COZ THIS ONE IS GONNA BE A KNOCK DOWN DRAG OUT SLUGFEST BROTHER!

    ...act now and get this one time only special event on pay per view for only $149,999,999.99...

    May 18, 2011 at 4:11 pm |
    • davidk

      I thought your ticket price would be $66666666666666.666

      May 18, 2011 at 4:22 pm |
  7. Brian

    I hope they don't miss the bus!

    May 18, 2011 at 4:10 pm |
  8. Ed, Spring TX

    I admit that I haven't read the entire Bible but I'm nearly absolutely certain that May 21, 2011 is never metioned in it. Where did they come up with this date? I feel sorry for these delusional people. What's funny is that their excuse for waking up on May 22 will be that the Rapture really happened but they weren't one of the raptured people. Oh well, too bad.

    May 18, 2011 at 4:10 pm |
    • Ain't life Strange?

      The message was delivered by Harold Camping who has now got to be a mummy. He was like 135 back in the 80's. I've heard more end of the world predictions in the last 40 years, and I'm banking this one is as accurate as last 2 or 3 dozen.

      May 18, 2011 at 4:24 pm |
  9. TomorrowNeverDies

    Judgement day ha ? and Arnie already leaving us 😦

    May 18, 2011 at 4:10 pm |
    • Bible Clown

      Yeah, turns out it was just Arnold Schwartzenegger who is coming to an end.

      May 18, 2011 at 4:20 pm |
  10. bob

    I cant wait to hear the excuses and or re wordings of what they will say next day

    May 18, 2011 at 4:09 pm |
  11. Mat

    on sunday (the day after) several of us are planning to stop by family radio.com affiliated churches, in the early morning before services begin, to strew around disembodied clothing as if people there were raptured. All are welcome to join in, just bring some used clothing to an affiliated church on sunday morning and do the same.

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

      That is just wrong to mess with them like that. lmao

      May 18, 2011 at 4:28 pm |
    • Dan

      Haha, I love it!

      May 18, 2011 at 4:28 pm |
  12. thessalonian

    wonder if they will give me the bus on friday night since they will be done with it.

    May 18, 2011 at 4:09 pm |
    • Todd (another one)

      Would you seriously want it? I bet it smells like insanity and failure.

      May 18, 2011 at 4:14 pm |
  13. Captain Howdy

    believing in any religion at all is idiotic.

    May 18, 2011 at 4:09 pm |
    • Cosmo Jensen

      Captain Howdy ... funny , creepy but funny.

      May 18, 2011 at 4:10 pm |
  14. Cosmo Jensen

    Why am I always the last to know?...p.s. see you Sunday.

    May 18, 2011 at 4:09 pm |
  15. aceman

    You people are complete idiots. The world will end when the world ends. We will obliterate ourselves before any other force does. When we are all burning in our own waste, there will be no salvation. No heaven, no hell. Neither of which exist. We've had to listen to this drivel for centuries. Besides, I think the pedophile catholic priests would be first to go, along with their Vatican leaders who silently stood by. Just saying. Enjoy life. The end will come soon enough for each of us individually.

    May 18, 2011 at 4:09 pm |
  16. Solmanus

    When the world doesn't end on Saturday I wonder if they will pull a Heaven's Gate exit to save face. Then leave a note and say only the chosen ones were taken away by the UFO for salvation. You have to be a weak minded fool to fall for this nonsense.

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

    I love how someone can come up with a date from anything the bible says. The roman calendar had not been invented yet when the bible was assembled. There was no such thing as May 21st.

    May 18, 2011 at 4:09 pm |
  18. jerry berry

    how did they know my mother-in-law was coming to town?

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

      the rature started last night in North Idaho...the Reagan Republicans were voted in on our school board.....stay away from Idaho unless your Reaganites, Mormonites or termites....

      May 18, 2011 at 4:20 pm |
  19. You're Joking Right?

    What are they going to do when NOTHING happens? Go drink your Koolaid!

    May 18, 2011 at 4:08 pm |
    • Todd (another one)

      That is actually a serious possibility. They may do a "Heavens Gate" exit. "Here son, drink this special Jesus juice. Don't mind the bitter taste."

      May 18, 2011 at 4:12 pm |
    • Bible Clown

      IF we all know they are going to kill their children, why won't the Feds act? Pretty sick Darwin Awards this year, I guess.

      May 18, 2011 at 4:19 pm |
  20. BRUNO

    The Bible says we will not know the date and time when Christ return. The bible states that christ will come like a thief in the night. "does a thief call the cops and say hey i gonna rob this place at such and such lmfaooo....Stuped ass christians who dont know theyre own bible.

    May 18, 2011 at 4:08 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.