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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. stonrdude

    I am not unpacked from the last rapture, I just keep a bag packed and ready to go!

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

    Seriously people. Religion is a fraud created to control the masses. There are so many proven fallacies in the Bible that it is beyond me why so many people put their faith in it. Speaking of "Faith", it's such a convenient cop-out every time someone asks a question that cannot be answered. "You just have to have faith". Why? Because a book that was written hundreds of years ago says so? Think about it, if this book was written today, and nobody had ever heard of God, would we believe it as fact? Doesn't it seem a lot more likely that it was written as a way to control the unruly masses? Much like most things in life, conformation of the masses is derived from fear of retribution/penalty. "Follow these 10 Commandments, or you will burn in hell". Sounds like a threat to me. It's no different than our legal system. "Follow these laws, or you will be put in jail". While it may be a very successful ploy, it is just that.

    May 18, 2011 at 4:40 pm |
  3. SAM FROST

    Religion needs to be simplified........Keep it to yourself.

    May 18, 2011 at 4:40 pm |
  4. Bernie

    Maybe I should buy that 60" LCD flatscreen. Since I won't be here to pay it off

    May 18, 2011 at 4:40 pm |
  5. jc

    I will take care of your pets when you go to be with the Lord. $1000.00 per pet, in advance.

    May 18, 2011 at 4:40 pm |
  6. Brian

    Sooooo you're saying the NFL lockout won't get resolved any time soon then?

    May 18, 2011 at 4:40 pm |
  7. 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 4:40 pm |
    • Bernie

      That's the beauty of religion, you don't facts, you don't need proof, you don't need much...
      god works in mysterious ways, we know not the time or hour, gods knowledge it to great for us to comprehend....blah blah F-N blah...
      Nothing like falling back on the ramblings of some lunatic ancient goat herders to make me feel like i should get on my knees and pray to some jewish zombie

      May 18, 2011 at 4:43 pm |
    • Andrew H

      I'd rather follow the simple rules of the commandments and have a good life then realize later that I didn't need to, as opposed to not following them and spending the rest of eternity in Hell.

      May 18, 2011 at 4:59 pm |
  8. Farlath

    Zombie Jesus will eat you all!

    May 18, 2011 at 4:39 pm |
    • Bernie

      no way, I have my garlic neckles on

      May 18, 2011 at 4:44 pm |
  9. Sascha

    I have been listening to these people in the news for months, and I think these people need to be locked up. These people are freaking insane. If we listened to all the times that the world was going to end, we wouldn't be reading this article today would we?? We would have been dead in 1989, 1991, 1997, 1999, 2000, 2007, 2010, and all the other dates these idiots spew. The biggest saddest part of this whole news...is just that...we print it, post it, talk about it and that just gives these people more ammunition. We need to make a deal with these people, if the world ends on the day they say, then ok they are right. But if it doesn't, they all agree to go to prison for life! I bet the number will drop drasticaly of their "believers"!!!!

    May 18, 2011 at 4:39 pm |
    • David W

      And why should these "believers" be sent to prison? They are not hurting anyone but themselves. The punishment they will receive is, after May 21, they realize that they have flushed all their life savings away, for nothing.

      May 18, 2011 at 4:56 pm |
  10. Corey Johnson

    Maybe if we can convince enough religious whackos to leave their job we will have no unemployment rate. I think they should be encouraged. I am gonna make a prediction too. That on Saturday at 6:01 p.m. there will be a lot of newly found atheists.

    May 18, 2011 at 4:39 pm |
    • equalOpportunityOffender

      No there will be no new atheists at 6:01, just a lot of people scratching their heads wondering how they got the math wrong. Would be fascinating to find some people the Doomsday folks despise and have them disappear for a week - "Oh man, John the neighborhood sinner got raptured and I was left behind?"

      May 18, 2011 at 4:48 pm |
    • Brasil1958

      I think you've got something there Corey. At next years Masters I will hold up a sign which says "Atheist 6:01" and wear a "Rainbow Head" hairdo.

      May 18, 2011 at 4:54 pm |
  11. Jean Hochu

    Atheists and nonbelievers are not concerned

    May 18, 2011 at 4:39 pm |
    • pccoder

      all those bodies that get left behind will surely mean that working in the funeral business should be profitable starting on Sunday! 🙂

      May 18, 2011 at 4:55 pm |
  12. roy

    guess i picked the wrong weekend to give up CRACK!!!

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

      LOL and I picked the wrong week to quit sniffin glue

      May 18, 2011 at 4:45 pm |
  13. Oakton Tommy

    Why is this nonsense news?

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

      because "news" is what happens to be going on in the world, at any given time. This happens to be going on, despite whether we sane folk believe it or not.

      May 18, 2011 at 4:54 pm |
  14. fresh

    Haven't they ever heard the verse in The Bible that says no one will know the time or day?

    May 18, 2011 at 4:38 pm |
    • Brasil1958

      What is "time"?

      May 18, 2011 at 4:51 pm |
  15. AC Summers

    There is no set date for doomsday. When it happens it will happen...

    May 18, 2011 at 4:38 pm |
  16. Cathy W

    I wonder what they'll do when May 22nd comes and goes? Lose their faith? Go back to their lives? Pick a new date?

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

      Probably pick a new date ... and blame it on the media for messing up the calendar! Seriously, though, what kind of God would use coercion to get folks to believe in him/her/it? Sounds more like a power-hungry, egocentric human than that which created the universe ...

      May 18, 2011 at 4:42 pm |
    • Brasil1958

      Pick a new date and say God gave us a reprieve to repent. There will ALWAYS be another date. Wait until next year. Then you will see mass looney gatherings.

      May 18, 2011 at 4:49 pm |
    • David W

      The leader of this "cult" has done this several times in the past. His excuse every time has been that his math was wrong.

      May 18, 2011 at 5:15 pm |
  17. Wonder Woman

    Hey! Spiderman, Superman or even Aquaman can't stop me. I could whip them all and still have time to take on Santa, Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy and Donald Trump. My advice to Christians is to STOP drinking the Kool-Aid.

    May 18, 2011 at 4:38 pm |
  18. Johnny

    I would hardly consider this group "Christians" but nonetheless if the fear of the end of the world is making them clean up their lives, go for it. But now what happens a year from now when they realize they are wrong?

    May 18, 2011 at 4:37 pm |
    • Brasil1958

      Do you think it will take these bozo's a year to figure out it didn't happen? Maybe it's a Kool-Aid hangover. I'll stick to Quantum Mechanics/Quantum Enigma and phaze them out of reality. Boy will they wonder where they are 🙂

      May 18, 2011 at 4:47 pm |
  19. Dec2012

    Crazy peeps!

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

    Runs in circles with his hard hat on screaming the sky is falling the sky is falling..... I have to go now, off to the store to stock up on goodies for my end of the world party this Saturday! See you all in the after life, if your not at my party. LOL

    May 18, 2011 at 4:37 pm |
    • Joe

      it amazes me that there are people this uneducated/ignorant in our country

      May 18, 2011 at 4:46 pm |
    • Bernie

      10 bucks Sarah and Michele Bachman are the leaders running around yelling to repent...just after the take up their campaign contributions of course

      May 18, 2011 at 4:48 pm |
    • Dennis

      What a bunch of whack jobs! I am now Christian, a follower of Jesus, as apposed to a religious person, but was once a Jehovah's Witness and they also wrecked my early life with date(s) of certain destruction. As soon as somebody starts claiming to know God's mind then they are immediately disregarded by me.

      God will do what God will do. He is the creator and we are His creation and trying to pin a date on Him is silly. God will not be mocked.

      May 18, 2011 at 4:52 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.