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. sure

    "...NO ONE knows the day nor time when the world will come to an end NOT EVEN the Son of our Heavenly Father.."
    So if everyday I wake up and say "today is doomsday" then technically I will have predicted it, meaning that the end of the world would never happen. I just saved the world.
    Um, your welcome 🙂

    May 18, 2011 at 4:35 pm |

    And I feel fine.

    May 18, 2011 at 4:35 pm |
  3. Dec2012

    What thou will do when thy day had passed on 22 May 2011 and thou still be here? Will thou sh!t thy pants?

    May 18, 2011 at 4:35 pm |
  4. mb526

    i feel sorry for them. They're not thinking rationally but I imagine many are nice people that are being conned by a 89 year old wack job. Either way I'm going out for a drink on the 21st.

    May 18, 2011 at 4:35 pm |
  5. James Asher

    May 21 may be the day that my film, "Answers", gets the green light for production.

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

    (chuckle) What these fools don't seem to realize is that the Bible was written by men, not God. Speculation based on fantasy is not a good use of one's time, but to each his own.

    May 18, 2011 at 4:35 pm |
  7. John _Atlanta GA

    Religion flies you into a building!

    May 18, 2011 at 4:35 pm |
  8. Anne

    I'm willing to bet anyone 1000$ that nothing will happen on Saturday – if it does then I lose, try to collect!!! 🙂

    May 18, 2011 at 4:35 pm |
  9. Notbuyingit

    To all those that believe that the world is ending May 21st:

    If this is true then there's sure to be a long line at the Pearly Gates. Maybe you should go ahead and off yourself now so you can be at the front of the line. Save me a stool at the bar.

    May 18, 2011 at 4:35 pm |
  10. Terry

    I bet this dude has a mortgage payment he can't make on May 22nd.. Ugh. Seriously.. GET A JOB and find something constructive to add to society!!

    May 18, 2011 at 4:35 pm |
  11. Steve

    One way to stop religious groups from making these predictions would be starting Monday this church will start paying taxes on their revenues. This will apply to all religious groups who pray on the weak minded and are trying to swell the coffers. Basically, put your money where your mouth is, because your nothing but a scam business in the name of god.

    May 18, 2011 at 4:34 pm |
  12. Dave L

    Don't most Christians believe that an invisible man in the sky is watching us to see if he's going to let us into his magical fairyland one day?

    If people are that gullible, why is it so surprising that they would try to calculate which day it would be?

    May 18, 2011 at 4:34 pm |
  13. dougo

    Where do these losers come from .... and what compels them to fooloe such a Charlatan?

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

    Of course, as usual this article and the people who comment on it will morph into a flame war between religious fanatics quoting verses from the bible and atheists quoting lines from.... uh.... fairy tales or what ever. There will be the occasional middle of the road skeptic who will say that it's all B.S. and make a catty joke or snide comment. Then someone will bring up Obama's birth certificate or the fact that Osama bin Laden is living in Oakland CA and isn't actually dead.

    Amazing on how I can predict the future of this thread, right? So hear this; the world ISN'T going to end when ever these people say it's going to. You should trust me because I predicted the future of this thread because of vision I had this morning. Or maybe that was me farting myself awake again! 😀

    May 18, 2011 at 4:34 pm |
  15. brandonsch1

    Ha ha, there's 43 pages of comments for this story! LOVE IT!

    I'm going to roll around on the grass and laugh til I puke when nothing happens on the 21st

    May 18, 2011 at 4:34 pm |
  16. Luis Wu

    How utterly stupid. But then, all religious people are stupid so what else is new?

    May 18, 2011 at 4:34 pm |
  17. Anthony

    If the world was ending Saturday I wouldn't be marching with a bunch of idiots. I'd be spending time with loved ones.

    May 18, 2011 at 4:34 pm |
  18. Yahoo

    CNN please interview these people on the 22nd.

    May 18, 2011 at 4:34 pm |
    • Lisa B.

      LMAO!!! How true 🙂

      May 18, 2011 at 4:45 pm |
  19. cartman

    Why does the world have to end on Saturday? It'll ruin my whole weekend... How about Monday the 23rd? Before I have to be at work mkay?

    May 18, 2011 at 4:34 pm |
    • brandonsch1

      Tee hee!

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

      I vote for Tuesday, Monday is a holiday!!!

      May 18, 2011 at 4:37 pm |
  20. Observer

    "he’ll both pray and wait for 16 hours."

    That should give him plenty of time to try to come up with some excuse for why he made a fool of himself.

    May 18, 2011 at 4:33 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.