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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. Leonard

    Since you won't be needing your property, money or cars.... You can sign them over to me!

    May 18, 2011 at 4:47 pm |
  2. Shut up...

    Oh Sh!t this means I cannot go camping om Memorial Day weekend...

    May 18, 2011 at 4:47 pm |
  3. TMH041

    What are these kooks going to be doing on October 22, 2011, 5 months and a day from judgement day? This just proves that in many cases, but not all, religion preys on the emotionally and mentally weak.

    May 18, 2011 at 4:47 pm |
  4. karina

    These people are such an embarressment to Christians. The only thing they are going to do is make people not believe in the Jesus returning anymore. I HOPE THEY READ THIS.... YOU GUYS ARE A CULT I DONT KNOW WHO YOU THINK YOU ARE TO SAY YOU KNOW WHEN THE DATE IS...OBVIOUSLY YOU DONT KNOW WHAT IS IN THE BIBLE AND ALL YOU ARE GOING TO DO IS MAKE PEOPLE TURN AWAY. SO SAD YOU CALL YOURSELF CHRISTIANS

    May 18, 2011 at 4:47 pm |
  5. Subhash

    This is again one of those things that is being propogated by extremists !

    May 18, 2011 at 4:47 pm |
  6. binda

    Only god knows when will be the end of the world. He has not even revealed it to any of his prophets. Jesus is not god nor the son of god. Jesus is the prophet of God.

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

      You are wrong. Jesus is the Son of God and part of the deity. The scripture says, not implies, it. In fact confirmed it during Jesus' baptism.

      May 18, 2011 at 4:54 pm |
  7. Jorge

    If these so called Christians really believe in the word of God and the teachings of Jesus Christ, they would know what Jesus said to his disciples when asked when the end would come. He said to them, “no one knows when the end of time will be not even I, but the Father in Heaven himself knows”. These are evil peoples preaching false prophesies and leading some stray sheep to the slaughter house. Beware of the wolf who dresses in sheep clothing. Pray for peace, forgiveness and live a life mind free of when the end will come, not doing so are the tactics of Satan himself trying to destroy your happiness.

    May 18, 2011 at 4:46 pm |
  8. lnandez

    i guess i wont see hangover 2

    May 18, 2011 at 4:46 pm |
  9. Crying I'm Laughing So Hard

    I'm sorry, I couldn't get past the not buying green bananas comment. That has got to be the funniest thing I've read in a long time.

    May 18, 2011 at 4:45 pm |
  10. Allyson

    as the bible states, god will come when we LEAST expect him to. Since all these people will be expecting him to arrive saturday, it more than likely will not occur.

    HOWEVER;(this is coming from both sides) while many people say that the god will come, there is also an opposing side: those who disagree. So as these people have there doubts, or in other words "LEAST expect it to happen", there could be a chance he does come.

    Now where i stand? I would say i'm neutral. If god comes: thats great! if he doesn't: thats ok too. patience is a good quality to have. ANd honest, everyone should feel this way. Because whether or not the world ends this weekend or not, people who have been saved go to heaven anyway. And those who arent, go to hell. It doesn't matter. there are people in this world who are stubborn and feel we are the gullible ones and will NOT change no matter what we tell them. Please don't dis me for saying spreading the word of god is wrong. I'm not. What i'm saying is that people shouldn't be waiting until NOW to go and start saying "hey, be a christian or you'll die this weekend".

    My point is, it shouldn't matter if the world is ending or not. You shouldn't wait for the last minute to #1 preach and say "be a christian or spend eternaty in hell" OR #2become a christian in the first place.

    May 18, 2011 at 4:45 pm |
    • SeanNJ

      You are far far from "neutral."

      May 18, 2011 at 4:47 pm |
    • Jorge

      Very well put.

      May 18, 2011 at 4:50 pm |
    • Allyson

      explain.

      May 18, 2011 at 4:52 pm |
  11. Dilly

    I hope they have their purple shrouds and Nikes ready! LOL

    May 18, 2011 at 4:45 pm |
  12. MyJudgement

    these people create their own judgement.. that's all they do
    shame on them for judging their selves. instead, they should be judging EVIL WORKS. unfortunately, their own works are from evil. May God enlighten them on may 21st.

    May 18, 2011 at 4:45 pm |
    • Gracelynn

      I'm impressed by your writing. Are you a professional or just very knolwedgbeale?

      October 8, 2011 at 8:18 pm |
    • kgjlubfmf

      7C5Hgu ffkqkotnceil

      October 9, 2011 at 1:07 pm |
    • tgqvhdar

      bkjODA skknwyvuqdlb

      October 11, 2011 at 11:15 am |
  13. herman

    Make sure they have plenty of Kool-Aid

    May 18, 2011 at 4:45 pm |
  14. kevin

    my question, is what do these idiots do on the 22nd when the end of the world doesnt come and everything they believe in is proven false? lol I guess they will make up some excuse as to why it didnt happen and continue to hold onto their beliefs blindly without regard for reason lol

    May 18, 2011 at 4:45 pm |
  15. dmatrix

    everyone is invited to my doomsday after party!!!!!!!!!!! it will be on may 22nd @ nearest church in ur town!!!!!!

    they are making people to believe less in our religion!!!!!!! they are hurting our religion!!!!!!

    May 18, 2011 at 4:45 pm |
  16. Jerry

    Is this group an offshoot of those poor soul who killed themselves because they were waiting for a space ship to take them to heaven or some nonsense like that? Another bunch of nut cases. Don't we all have enough nonsense going on in the media that they have to think these people are news worthy!!!

    May 18, 2011 at 4:45 pm |
  17. Ace

    This are the same people that believe Sara Palin is smart.

    May 18, 2011 at 4:45 pm |
  18. frootyme

    Christianity is not an exception either.
    There are people who understand the scriptures in their own way Like OBL did for Islam.

    May 18, 2011 at 4:44 pm |
  19. jc

    Rapture insurance for your pets, Your money back if not satisfied!

    May 18, 2011 at 4:44 pm |
  20. Pleo

    I welcome the rapture on Saturday, if it means all the Tea Party people suddenly disappear and get raptured to away.

    May 18, 2011 at 4:44 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.