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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. Helen Kim

    I wonder what kind of messages that Family Radio will post on May 22, 2011.
    Here is my guess" We've been saved !" LOL

    May 18, 2011 at 4:33 pm |
    • odoylerules

      Do you know that there are actual websites that allow you to write an email which will be mass mailed the day after the rapture to let your friends and family know where you've gone, what to expect, and what they should do?! It's like $14.95/year. I wonder who the designated heathen is that promises not to believe so he'll be able to send the emails? Fraud is easy to find ... just follow the money.

      May 18, 2011 at 4:41 pm |
  2. john

    "Send your money to Jesus, but make the check out to me." -Hank Williams Jr.

    May 18, 2011 at 4:32 pm |
  3. Elvis Costello

    Waitin' for the end of the world

    May 18, 2011 at 4:32 pm |
  4. dunno

    This is the difference between Spiritual Fruits, and Religious Nuts.

    May 18, 2011 at 4:32 pm |
  5. mahboob

    I see a bad moon rising
    I see trouble on the way
    I see earthquakes and lightnin'
    I see bad times today
    Don't go 'round tonight
    It's bound to take your life
    There's a bad moon on the rise
    I hear hurricanes a blowin'
    I know the end is commin' soon
    I fear rivers over flowing
    I hear the voice of rage and ruin
    Hope you got your things together
    Hope you are quite prepared to die
    Looks like we'er in for nasty weather
    One eye is taken for an eye

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

      More nostalgia:

      "They're coming to take me away. Ha! Ha! They're coming to take me away"

      May 18, 2011 at 4:35 pm |
  6. Rapture Party

    I'm throwing a party on Rapture Day! Jesus is my guest of honor.

    May 18, 2011 at 4:32 pm |
  7. Nursehope

    Poor planning on the believers part. Why not arrange so that ALL the faithful are in one place at the designated time? 'Sure would save their make-believe superpower all the trouble of having to traipse all over picking up bodies!

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

      Right?! At $4/gallon God's not going to be very happy when he does get these idiots. First order of business in heaven ... cleaning the bathrooms for you fools

      May 18, 2011 at 4:36 pm |
  8. MattD

    How does one get real facts from a book translated and edited over an eon or two? Since most rational people I know would say you can't, then how about this.....how much money do you think one can gleam from around 60 families to support this "event"?

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

      Most rational people who think rationally know that if something is said it will happen and it does there is a reason why, if in fact historical facts that were predicted by the bible happened then what is your reasoning?, yes in fact God exist and His son Jesus came so that our sins can be forgiven, each one of us will stand before the father and expose our case Mr, and i sugest you get your case well prepared or find the only "lawyer" whos gonna step up for you and the disrespectful people in this forum. if you dont want to beleive i am sorry for you but please dont offend what someone else beleives in. As for the person who is doing this prediction, the bible is pretty clear, no one will know when the rapture comes for it will come as the thief in the night. dont beleive in people because we are all the same, just people beleive in the higher power and the instructions he left for us in the bible. Have a nice day and may God and His Son be with you

      May 18, 2011 at 5:17 pm |
  9. Lilpdarealist

    I believe He is going to return as well, just not on May 31st

    For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night(1 Thess. 5:2).

    May 18, 2011 at 4:31 pm |
    • dodgers2011

      blah blah blah...amen.

      May 18, 2011 at 4:44 pm |
  10. serena

    >We have given you the 7 pairs and the great Quran<
    Unfortunately those who claim adherence to the Quran are its worst enemies

    May 18, 2011 at 4:31 pm |
  11. Observer

    The "tick tock" sound is strictly in the heads of the wackos.

    May 18, 2011 at 4:31 pm |
  12. pugs

    It's the end of the world as they know it.. And I feel fine.

    May 18, 2011 at 4:31 pm |
  13. Steve in St. Louis

    Thank God I'm an atheist

    May 18, 2011 at 4:31 pm |
    • g5

      you will be ok then, only fanatics will go....... to hell on 21st

      May 18, 2011 at 4:34 pm |
  14. Corey

    **************************
    OUTCAMPAIGN.ORG*
    **************************

    Enough is enough.

    May 18, 2011 at 4:30 pm |
  15. We'll still be here

    Leftovers from Heaven's Gate.

    May 18, 2011 at 4:30 pm |
  16. Alex

    the whole christian religion is a cult and full of BS

    May 18, 2011 at 4:30 pm |
    • dodgers2011

      True. only difference between a cult and a religion is the number of members.

      May 18, 2011 at 4:43 pm |
  17. meowsers

    wait, does this mean america get's a heads up after the rest of the time zones are done-zo? are we allowed to pray for forgiveness before the "earthquakes" come rolling? if so, america wins again!

    May 18, 2011 at 4:30 pm |
  18. Chewy

    Man, doesn't it just figure? My birthday is the 22nd and I have great seats for the Phillies game. Maybe I can trade them for Satursday's game. Does anyone know what time this will kick in? I sure hope it's not until after the last pitch! (Seriously, do rational people really believe this stuff? Sunday really is my birthday though...)

    May 18, 2011 at 4:30 pm |
    • Brian

      I'd stick with the 22nd. Should be plenty of open seats available so you could just move all the way up to the front!

      May 18, 2011 at 4:35 pm |
    • Daniil

      happy birthday!! i hope you have a very nice day!

      May 18, 2011 at 4:36 pm |
    • Snooks

      Happy Birthday 🙂

      May 18, 2011 at 4:38 pm |
    • dodgers2011

      Happy Birthday. See you in hell, i guess.

      May 18, 2011 at 4:41 pm |
    • Cathy

      My birthday is the 22nd also! Happy birthday to you! Hope you aren't dead!

      May 18, 2011 at 4:41 pm |
  19. tdl

    Christians WHO AREN'T BRAINWASHED know that God said He would never tell anyone when the rapture would occur and NO ONE could ever know when it will happen. This guy is a total psycho. Don't believe his lies.

    May 18, 2011 at 4:29 pm |
    • odoylerules

      "christians who aren't brainwashed"? Please avoid oxymorons in your posts – it's distracting.

      May 18, 2011 at 4:33 pm |
    • Luis Wu

      We don't believe your ignorant nonsense either. Who freaking cares what an old book of ancient mythology says? How utterly stupid.

      May 18, 2011 at 4:33 pm |
    • Corey

      God said the world would definitely end.. But he also said he would never tell anyone when it would happen. And he is mysteriously absent.. Does anyone else find this overly convenient? OUTCAMPAIGN.ORG

      May 18, 2011 at 4:33 pm |
    • jamie

      You are right and that's what the bible says.

      May 18, 2011 at 4:38 pm |
    • moakley

      Actually Christians who read the Bible instead of just revere it will know that from Mark, Matthew, and Luke, that Jesus was describing end of times events to his deciples that would occur within their lifetime. The authors of those books were wrong as have been every apocalypticist since. The only thing prophecy can be used for, with certainty, is to predict the past.

      May 18, 2011 at 5:30 pm |
  20. Mr Mark

    Idiots.

    For those Xians who say that "when they die, atheists will know who was right and who was wrong about the afterlife," I would suggest that their claim is similar to what these rapture idiots are going to experience this Sunday.

    There's no there "there" there.

    May 18, 2011 at 4:29 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.