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. sami

    in the bible it says that ever person has to be educated that Jesus died on the cross for our sins and that would be really unbelievable that very one knows so the end is not here.:)

    May 18, 2011 at 4:18 pm |
  2. Corey

    Send in the Fail Boat for this group of radical Christians.

    May 18, 2011 at 4:18 pm |
  3. jj

    Tick-tock goes the COO-COO clock!

    May 18, 2011 at 4:18 pm |
  4. markus

    This is awesome. I am NOT making my house payment.

    May 18, 2011 at 4:17 pm |
  5. Scott

    So I assume these churches will formally give up their tax deductible status on May 21?

    May 18, 2011 at 4:17 pm |
  6. katahdin

    To all the people being raptured: can I have your stuff?

    May 18, 2011 at 4:17 pm |
    • johnnyb52

      You will need it, except the rapture will when no one knows, so keep your hands off my stuff.

      May 18, 2011 at 4:19 pm |
    • The Spiritual Leader of the Pagans and all The Pagan Gods.

      this post was lame 500 times ago

      May 18, 2011 at 4:19 pm |
  7. crystal

    Not even the angels in Heaven know when the world will end...I will leave it at that!

    May 18, 2011 at 4:17 pm |
  8. Rordog

    Jesus came to the earth and was A god but not the Supreme God his father. The bible says man has seen Jesus but no man has seen GOD.

    May 18, 2011 at 4:17 pm |
  9. mathetes

    Idiotes. It's ppl like this that contribute to the scoffers scoffing.

    May 18, 2011 at 4:16 pm |
  10. Chiara

    Sure hope it doesn't happen before 1:00 PT because that's when I'm getting my hair done.

    May 18, 2011 at 4:16 pm |
    • George

      No need to worry, its not until 6 PM, by that time you'll look frazzled anyway.

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

    They don't have any biblical foundation for their preaching. If it is true that the end comes May 21st, why don't they sell me the radio station for $1.00 and after May 22nd we can start really studying the bible.
    The end is near yes, but these misguided people based on "numerology" have no true in their message.
    The union of Protestantism, Catholicism and Sorcery has not happened yet. Therefore theirs is a false doctrine.

    May 18, 2011 at 4:16 pm |
  12. Joe Talks


    May 18, 2011 at 4:16 pm |
    • skyking

      Yeah, Joe. Pray in one hand. Crap in the other one. See which one fills up the fastest.

      May 18, 2011 at 4:19 pm |
  13. David

    There's an angel standing in the sun, and he's crying in a loud voice: This is the supper of the mighty one. The lord of lords, king of kings has returned to lead his children home, to take them to the new Jerusalem...

    At least we got a great song in "Supper's Ready" (Genesis – 1972) out of this end of the world bologna.

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

    LMFAO!! The funny thing about it as that we've changed calendars since biblical times so even if this nonsense was true, they have the dates wrong. Anyhow, I'm just curious... does this mean that these Christians aren't planning on going to church this Sunday if (and when) their prediction is proven to be false? And if they do go, what's that sermon going to be like? Are they all going to just quit being Christians then? My suggestion to these people–if they really want to ensure speedy judgment by God–is to mix some potassium cyanide in with some Kool-Aid and drink it before bed Saturday night in the spirit of Jonestown. This will save that pastor the embarrassment of having to explain to his congregation on Sunday that he was wrong.

    May 18, 2011 at 4:15 pm |
    • becca

      He's used to it - he already had one failed prediction in the 90's...

      May 18, 2011 at 4:25 pm |
  15. tcd113

    sucks for all those virgins

    May 18, 2011 at 4:15 pm |
    • willie

      There's still time...

      May 18, 2011 at 4:19 pm |
  16. aaron

    LMAO what a bunch of.....Christians...I need to sleep in on that day the Doomsday needs to be postponed...*yawning

    May 18, 2011 at 4:15 pm |
  17. Brad

    So com Sunday we'll be living in the post apocalyptic world!

    May 18, 2011 at 4:15 pm |
  18. MrOpinionator

    There are dumb people out there. Had no clue that was newsworthy. Guess I'm wrong.

    May 18, 2011 at 4:15 pm |
  19. christophorm

    this is not happening...but listen up ..this comet elenin is not a comet but a brown dwarf star...everytime it lines up with the Earth and sun, there is a major earthquake...Im a christian and and we always have to see through nutcases for the name of chrisitans.

    May 18, 2011 at 4:14 pm |
  20. UnSub

    Does this mean if we are still here the day after it's proof that God does not exist?

    May 18, 2011 at 4:14 pm |
    • johnnyb52

      No, it's proof that anyone can be misled like it says in the bible, even followers. There are many warnings against false teachings and false prophecies. There are more warnings about not believing in God, especially Christ.

      May 18, 2011 at 4:18 pm |
    • lufty


      May 18, 2011 at 4:18 pm |
    • Rikitix

      It's a proof that noone can tell the future and that so many people are so gullible.

      May 18, 2011 at 4:20 pm |
    • Corey

      @johnny: Why put all your faith in the Bible? There are so many different religions that you are required to belief in according to their religious writings. You are only a Christian because of where you were born and how you were brought up. If you were born in India, you'd be praising Buddha. It's all nonsense. I myself play it safe with the one true god, the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

      May 18, 2011 at 4:20 pm |

      I think it means these people who believe this BS will kill themselves otherwise we will all be supporting these bums cause they have nothing left, no money no house nothing. Either way I'm not looking forward to Sat

      May 18, 2011 at 4:22 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.