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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. special

    The bible tells us that God will come like a theif in the night. No one knows when he is coming. If someone did know that would mean that the Lord is a respecter of persons, which we clearly know he is not. The only thing that I can say is get your life right and stay that way because he can come at anytime.

    May 18, 2011 at 4:24 pm |
    • Corey

      How dare you call the Flying Spaghetti Monster a thief.

      May 18, 2011 at 4:25 pm |
    • Pinewalker

      amen!

      May 18, 2011 at 4:33 pm |
    • J-Ex

      don't listen to Corey and the like. They have their own agenda and they troll the belief blog like bullies in a school yard.

      May 18, 2011 at 4:36 pm |
    • Andrew H

      Matthew 24:36-44 Clearly states NO ONE knows when the end will come, but God.
      36. "But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only. 37. But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. 38. For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, 39. and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. 40. Then two men will be fin the field: one will be taken and the other left. 41. Two women will be grinding at the mill: one will be taken and the other left. 42. Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming. 43. But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into. 44. Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.

      May 18, 2011 at 4:37 pm |
  2. Dave C

    Those aren't just sheep in the flock! They're dumb bunnies! Particularly funny that the one guy thinks earthquakes will start at the Date Line, as if our arbitrary human markings of longitude and time were things noted and respected by some god. Truly amazing how daffy these ducks can be. Do you think Family Radio will let me have their assets since they won't be needing them after October?

    May 18, 2011 at 4:24 pm |
  3. Guest

    And just when the Canucks are poised to win the Stanley Cup LOL.............

    May 18, 2011 at 4:23 pm |
    • Daryn

      Well, sheesh, that was one of the signs of the apocalypse right there.

      May 18, 2011 at 4:35 pm |
  4. votemout

    At least it is on Saturday, I would hate for it to happen while at work!

    May 18, 2011 at 4:23 pm |
  5. Yunki

    Mat 24: 4 Jesus answered: “Watch out that no one deceives you. 5 For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will deceive many. 6 You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. 7 Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. 8 All these are the beginning of birth pains.

    May 18, 2011 at 4:23 pm |
    • mollyd

      You are nuts...

      May 18, 2011 at 4:29 pm |
    • Bible Clown

      "Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom" Wow! That was 1941, right? So the world ended way back then, eh?

      May 18, 2011 at 4:53 pm |
  6. Lisa

    Crap.. and I just sent the mortgage payment!!!! 😦

    May 18, 2011 at 4:23 pm |
  7. Josh

    The person who made this claim also predicted that the world would end in the early 1990's.

    May 18, 2011 at 4:23 pm |
    • Daryn

      And he was right, non-believer! We haven't existed for decades!

      May 18, 2011 at 4:34 pm |
  8. Want_Tangible_News

    Is this really news worthy? I thought you guys wanted to separate yourself from Fox News. Looks like I'm switching to BBC.

    May 18, 2011 at 4:23 pm |
    • J-Ex

      Oh yeah BBC's the one to mimic.... http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/

      I want one of those hats!

      May 18, 2011 at 4:42 pm |
  9. JT

    Interesting that they chose RVs to cruise around in as they go about their doomsday route. I just wonder if it's an insurance policy just in case they're wrong so that they won't be living on the street.

    May 18, 2011 at 4:23 pm |
    • Stewie G.

      Plus....no need to feel guilty about using an inordinate amount of the Earth's natural energy resources while driving around in 7 mpg motorhomes!

      May 18, 2011 at 4:34 pm |
  10. bill

    these people are nuttier than chinese chicken salad. by the way, I thought Jesus was working at a record store in Quahog?

    May 18, 2011 at 4:22 pm |
  11. Zach

    Boy, these freaks are going to feel really stupid when the 22nd comes around and the world hasn't ended. I know enough about the Bible to know that once the rapture does happen (and NOBODY knows when that is going to happen), it will be 1,007 years before the world ends.

    May 18, 2011 at 4:22 pm |
  12. Scott

    Mass suicide I hope, nothing more then thinning of the heard

    May 18, 2011 at 4:22 pm |
  13. Anon

    How did you resist the temptation to ask them what they will do if it doesn't come true? Or did you and it just wasn't reported? If so, what did they say?

    May 18, 2011 at 4:22 pm |
  14. DTresh

    O man, time to dust of the the Nike's and track suit. Who is going to make the punch this time?We can pull straws to see who serves the drinks and who goes first.

    May 18, 2011 at 4:22 pm |
  15. Subject of Inquiry

    Is anyone doing or planning to do research on these folks to find out what they might have in common that makes them believe such a "far-fetched" idea? Is it ultimate escapism on their part? They just can't accept that living is so hard and they want recess? What is their education level? How many of them have followed other cultish concepts? There are a million questions one could ask. I hope some PhD somewhere is taking this opportunity for research into the sheep-fold syndrome.

    May 18, 2011 at 4:21 pm |
  16. tom

    oh man! i thought the end was may 21, 2012 darn mayans. got to go out and get some new underwear, see ya'

    May 18, 2011 at 4:21 pm |
  17. Disappointed

    The scriptures describe events leading up to the last days because only the Father knows the exact day and hour. The explanation is written in the spiritual laws, just like there are natural laws. These scriptural descriptions are also called prophecies. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, hundreds of Biblical prophecies were recorded in the Old Testament on the coming of Jesus Christ. Everyone came true. The chances of every prophecy being fulfilled with precision is statistically improbable, making it supernatural. These prophecies were recorded by prophets living at different times throughout history. Even excellent record keeping can't explain the consistent prophetic messages nor the perfect accuracy with which they came true.

    Much the way the Old Testament recorded prophecy, the New Testament records prophecy for the end of the world, at least as you and I know it. This prophecy has and will come true as in past. Did you know that there is New Testament scripture written 2,000 years ago predicting the destruction of the Jewish Temple; the development of both T.V. and Internet; the creation of planes, trains, and automobiles; the events of the Holocaust; and the eventual One World Government/Economy/Religion. This One World philosophy is currently being worked out in the halls of national and international governing organizations. All you have to do is open a news paper to confirm this. Our fragile economy, vanishing middle class, and weakened dollar is a foreshadowing of things to come.

    The book of Revelations does not merry up to the scene as these folks describe it, even remotely, but there will be a rapture, and a Great Tribulation. If you think any genocide perpetrated by dictators in past was horrible, this period will be far worse. It's coming...if you wake up and realize God exists and his Son, Jesus, truly died as payment for your sins , but you realize after the rapture of the Church, you will be VERY saddened because your only recourse will be to deny the One World System which will likely result in your beheading. If you don't believe me, check out Revelations. If it doesn't seem like it could every happen, check out the court battle going on in Oklahoma over Sharia Law. If you're not familiar with Sharia Law, I strongly suggest you look it up because it is coming to a state near you!

    My recommendation to all the scoffers is to pick up a Bible and read it for yourself, even for your own amusement if you can't bring yourself to do it for your salvation. Start with the four gospels and skip to Romans. I wouldn't wish the Great Tribulation on my worst enemy so I hope you'll reconsider the existence of God, Jesus as your Saviour, and Heaven and Hell. They exist...and because matter cannot be destroyed, scientists have proven what God already knew, your spirit, which does exist (I can personally attest with 100% confidence), will go to one of these two places. Without Jesus as your Saviour, not by your own good deeds, you will go to Hell because God must put you there. That's one of his spiritual laws.

    I hope this sinks in for someone because the stuff I've read on here was tragic. It's as though the moral compass is gone, forget off. If you could see yourself from God's perspective, you'd throw-up!

    May 18, 2011 at 4:21 pm |
    • Corey

      Too bad god isn't real.

      May 18, 2011 at 4:23 pm |
    • mollyd

      You need to take your meds.......you are nuts....and so is the bible....nonsense....

      May 18, 2011 at 4:27 pm |
    • Daryn

      Well I read Lord of the Rings and I wouldn't wish a Balrog on anyone, so I wish you would all reconsider listening to the words of Gandalf, the one true god.

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

      Well said. I disgust me.

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

      Wait...are we using the Gregorian or Julian calendar? And why is it that the ultra-religious wackos in this forum can't spell?

      May 18, 2011 at 4:29 pm |
    • Bible Clown

      "pick up a Bible and read it for yourself" Read it, was bored. It's clearly the ancient holy book of some tribe, translated a bunch of times and filled with anger and hate. Nothing I'd base my entire life on. How about if you pick up LORD OF THE RINGS and check it for revelations?

      May 18, 2011 at 4:51 pm |
  18. yeah

    daaaaaaaang 75 pages of comments!! CNN sure knows how to milk this. Advertisers sign up!!!

    May 18, 2011 at 4:21 pm |
  19. james

    What will be their excuse when nothing of importance happens on the 21st? Oops, wrong year???

    May 18, 2011 at 4:21 pm |
    • Daryn

      Christianity – 2000+ years of "any second now"

      May 18, 2011 at 4:26 pm |
    • Stewie G.

      God changed his mind. And don't bother challenging them on it, because they'll simply throw out the ultimate bible thumper's trump card...."We are not meant to understand his ways."

      May 18, 2011 at 4:29 pm |
    • Bible Clown

      The Millerites always said 'five more years,' and keep on believing!

      May 18, 2011 at 4:49 pm |
  20. lacoaster

    I am might start working on a HUGE Wifi Antenna made up an old 80s dish antenna so I can bring my laptop and keep you posted while gravitating or going underground. Maybe I can start a Wifi business up there. Or maybe down there? Who knows. The point is that no matter where the hell I go, if you bring your Ipad, Laptop or Wifi capable phone, make sure you have some money if you want to be connected to the internet. No free password regardless you have sinned, repented or not. To Caesar what belongs to Caesar, to the Lord what belongs to the Lord. The internet connection up there will belong to me, so you better bring some cash or else.

    May 18, 2011 at 4:20 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.