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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. Dung tin NhamNhi

    Everything is on God plan (not yours) Stop blah...blah....Shut up and get back to work to support your self, your family, and your country.

    May 18, 2011 at 4:29 pm |
  2. David W

    Is religion helping the human race, riding around the country in a attempt to scare people into belief in the religion. Thier children and family are probably corect, and that is my personal thought. It is my belief that the world most likely will not end May 21, and that nobody knows the end date of humanity. Unless scientists have found a giant rock is hurling through space towards eart, that's probly it folks, world keeps spinning.

    May 18, 2011 at 4:29 pm |
  3. Nelson Alexander Vasquez

    Also i dont know why this random old man that was wrong in 199whatever comes up again making god look like a herb / fool saying god is going to punish everone in the world by ending the worl. doesnt the bible say god wuld forgive yur sins no matter wat ? Which is why i can tak this rumor is b.s

    May 18, 2011 at 4:29 pm |
  4. Me, myself, and I

    Notice that the only Christians that are predicting the end of the world are ones in the United States, and that's it.

    May 18, 2011 at 4:29 pm |
    • A believer

      Ain't that something?!? Only in America!

      May 18, 2011 at 4:32 pm |
  5. Name*Jerry

    When it happens it will happen. The point is we should be ready whatever day God chooses. If you are ready there should be no fear only anticipation

    May 18, 2011 at 4:29 pm |
  6. Jennifer

    May God save us all n have mercy on us

    May 18, 2011 at 4:28 pm |
    • Kevin K in TX

      sweetheart, god doesn't exist..

      May 18, 2011 at 4:34 pm |
  7. john

    tell me...where do I send the check for salvation !?!?!?!?!

    May 18, 2011 at 4:28 pm |
  8. NeverTooL88

    So this end of the world pre-empts the one that's been predicted (allegedly) by the Mayan calendar for December 22, 2012? I'd like to know two things: (1) Do these folks feel foolish and ashamed when their predictions don't come to pass? And (2) Who profits from these exercises in mass hysteria? Sure, there will always be people ignorant and gullible enough to get caught up in such lame-brained prophecies. It's a form of mass psychosis. But someone has to start the ball rolling in the first place. Who and why? Am I just being cynical to believe that financial gain is the motive? Look at how many hucksters cleaned up selling everything from fairy dust to real estate in mountain caves to save people from the Y2K disaster that was sure to end life as we know it. And now they're at it again, promoting all sorts of save-yourself merchandise to protect you against the Mayan end times. I read where it's being predicted that the Earth will reverse its rotation. I'd like someone to explain to me just how that will work. Will the Earth stop suddenly, like on a dime, and then start up again just as suddenly and at the same speed but rotating in the opposite direction? And what happens in the brief pause between stopping and starting up again? Remember, the planet's rotation accounts for centrifugal force. That's what wants to hurl us off into space. It's the counteracting force of gravity that holds us down. So, if the Earth stops spinning, even for a second, centrifugal force is gone and we're all crushed by gravity. How does buying real estate in an underground cave save you from that? Then there are those who predict the magnetic poles will shift, so that the North Pole will become the South and vice-versa. Well guess what? That has already happened more than once in the planet's history. How do we know this? From glazes found on early pottery. The metallic particles in the glaze are frozen in time, and they are magnetically oriented pointing south rather than north. If the poles were to shift again tomorrow, chances are you wouldn't even notice it, and it certainly wouldn't cause a planetary catastrophe. Yes, some day life on Earth as we know it will come to an end, possibly as a result of a large asteriod or cometary collision. And yes, some day the Earth itself will be incinerated when the sun becomes a red dwarf and it expands outward to consume half of the planets in the solar system, but neither of those scenarios is going to happen on May 21, 2011 or on December 22, 2012. And if they do, buying fairy dust or real estate in an underground cave is not going to save you.

    May 18, 2011 at 4:28 pm |
    • Kevin K in TX

      It jesus man... its jesus... duh, don't you have faith? oh wait, that is retarded... just like religion and these freaking psychos...

      May 18, 2011 at 4:34 pm |
  9. Steve

    Soooo...what happens when these people wake up Sunday?

    Do they lose all faith?

    May 18, 2011 at 4:28 pm |
    • max in ny

      exactly what i was thinking. Theyll find some excuse to continue on believing what they believe

      May 18, 2011 at 4:30 pm |
  10. Allan Nelson

    Sub-Christian Cult publicity stunt for poor taste. No consideration for vulnerable Christians who are primed to be gullible to anything.

    May 18, 2011 at 4:27 pm |
  11. Kevin K in TX

    Freaking retards... Just bring your car by my house since you won't need it come saturday..

    May 18, 2011 at 4:27 pm |
  12. Bluejeans

    DON'T DRINK THE KOOL-AID!!!

    May 18, 2011 at 4:27 pm |
  13. RaveGreen

    Just leave me to my crowbar and a 12 gauge. I'll be just fine.

    May 18, 2011 at 4:27 pm |
  14. Common sense

    This is me in May 22
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    . . . . . . . . . /. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ,}
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    . . . . . . . ./. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ,:”. . . ./
    . . . . . . .?. . . __. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . :`. . . ./
    . . . . . . . /__.(. . .“~-,_. . . . . . . . . . . . . . ,:`. . . .. ./
    . . . . . . /(_. . ”~,_. . . ..“~,_. . . . . . . . . .,:`. . . . _/
    . . . .. .{.._$;_. . .”=,_. . . .“-,_. . . ,.-~-,}, .~”; /. .. .}
    . . .. . .((. . .*~_. . . .”=-._. . .“;,,./`. . /” . . . ./. .. ../
    . . . .. . .\`~,. . ..“~.,. . . . . . . . . ..`. . .}. . . . . . ../
    . . . . . .(. ..`=-,,. . . .`. . . . . . . . . . . ..(. . . ;_,,-”
    . . . . . ../.`~,. . ..`-.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . ..\. . /\
    . . . . . . \`~.*-,. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ..|,./.....\,__
    ,,_. . . . . }.>-._\. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .|. . . . . . ..`=~-,
    . .. `=~-,_\_. . . `\,. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .\
    . . . . . . . . . .`=~-,,.\,. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .\
    . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . `:,, . . . . . . . . . . . . . `\. . . . . . ..__
    . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .`=-,. . . . . . . . . .,%`>–=="
    . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . _\. . . . . ._,-%. . . ..`\

    May 18, 2011 at 4:27 pm |
    • The Spiritual Leader of the Pagans and all The Pagan Gods.

      s like you have a hangover from an end of the world party

      May 18, 2011 at 4:43 pm |
  15. 2bits

    No actually that ticking you hear is what Orton hears: tick tock tick tock Tebow time is near!

    May 18, 2011 at 4:27 pm |
  16. Crying Wolf

    How convenient that the earthquake travels across timezones to strike at exactly 6:00 PM of all times.

    May 18, 2011 at 4:27 pm |
  17. f

    If it does come to pass Arnold Schwartzenegger will be kicking himself for telling his wife about the Babynator the other day.

    May 18, 2011 at 4:27 pm |
  18. electricgrendel

    I really hope this ends with a mass suicide.

    May 18, 2011 at 4:27 pm |
    • The Truth

      Me too! Harold Camping is a bigtime A S S H O LE!!!

      May 18, 2011 at 4:49 pm |
  19. bu

    ALL Religion is a disease of the Mind! Be part of the cure, not the problem!

    Help cure the religion disease!

    May 18, 2011 at 4:26 pm |
    • Kevin K in TX

      unfortunately there is no mental penicillin for these retards...

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

      I feel so sorry for that little girl. She must be having nightmares. Maybe she'll grow up and sing like Katy Perry. I think parents like that should have to take counseling.

      May 18, 2011 at 4:41 pm |
  20. Joel

    these people are not real christians if they were they would not be parading around saying the world is about to end. if they were real christian they would know what MATTHEW 24:36 SAYS. of that day and hour man knoweth not, nor the son of man nor the angels of heaven but the FATHER ALONE.

    May 18, 2011 at 4:26 pm |
    • Burstbubble

      I couldn't have said it better. Thanks for sharing. Now only if these people would listen?

      May 18, 2011 at 4:32 pm |
    • richie

      one of the great errors of modern christianity–judging who is a rel christian and who isn't. So you have the right to make that kind of judgement? What about judge not lest ye be judged? last i heard, one's religious life is between oneself and God–nobody else is invited to participate in that relationship.

      May 18, 2011 at 4:32 pm |
    • ralph

      Christians are so funny. THEY are wrong, come to OUR church! No wait, THEY are wrong, try our church. NO, I mean it, it's really my church that is right. When will people just wake up and realize after THOUSANDS of years nothing has happened the way any of them have said. You will live anywhere from 60-90 years. Why not enjoy the time you have instead of wasting your time?

      May 18, 2011 at 4:37 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.