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. Jason

    Stop covering this story please. The leader wants attention. And your giving it to him.

    May 18, 2011 at 4:50 pm |
  2. Wallace

    I am performing in my first concert on Saturday. Can we delay this just for one more day?

    May 18, 2011 at 4:50 pm |
  3. JG

    Even God throws down, shutting this thing down on a Saturday!

    May 18, 2011 at 4:49 pm |
  4. Phil Newton

    In case of Rapture, who will feed your cat?

    May 18, 2011 at 4:49 pm |
  5. fiskenmann

    Don't forget, all you 5/21/11 nut jobs, to deposit all your money into my account since you want be around to spend it.

    May 18, 2011 at 4:49 pm |
  6. CB1963

    The end of the world is coming.........SOMEDAY!!!!

    May 18, 2011 at 4:49 pm |
  7. Mike C

    Well, I better pay off my car loan by Oct 21st. I sure don't want to go into eternal damnation in debt.

    May 18, 2011 at 4:49 pm |
  8. Mike AK

    Why were they giving away all their stuff? If the world is coming to an end, their stuff will be of no use to anyone. They might as well enjoy their crap while they can....

    May 18, 2011 at 4:49 pm |

    i don't think they know how earthquakes work

    May 18, 2011 at 4:49 pm |
  10. Beckahccp

    I personally don't believe that we will know when the world will end. As it has been posted already Read the book of Revelations. But I must comment on the fact that these women couldn't keep a straight face, as if, what they believe in, or the lack thereof, is somehow right! Keep an open mind, these people have faith and you know what, thats more than what a lot of people in this world have!!!! Don't loose sight of the gift that was given to us through Jesus Chirst, the only reason God will have mercy on us on the day we take our last breathe no matter how that may be!!

    May 18, 2011 at 4:49 pm |
  11. Phil Newton

    IIn case of Rapture, can I have your car?

    May 18, 2011 at 4:48 pm |
  12. gulliblechristian

    I can't believe there are so many gullible christians out there. Why don't they just die off. They are worthless to the society.

    May 18, 2011 at 4:48 pm |
  13. MailMan

    I'm really confused by the last paragraph of this article. How can one be so non-chalant about such an enormous claim?

    May 18, 2011 at 4:48 pm |
  14. da guff

    well, that's crazy and you never know what will happen

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

      I can tell you one thing, the national suicide rate will go up on MAY 22...lol

      May 18, 2011 at 4:59 pm |
  15. Joe

    More realistically, let's consider this...

    The human race has no place on this planet. Every creature in existance lives in harmony with it's surrounding doing it's part to continue the cycle of life. ... all except for the human race. The planet is much better off if we just left, or were never even here. So matter whether you believe in creationism or evolution, this seem like a mistake that shouldn't have happened. There are two possible explanations... 1. God screwed up and created man thereby causing an embalance in his world. This would suggest a falible god. 2. Another higher power, not godlike, but much more advanced than ourselves placed us here. This is a bit more plausible if you only accept the idea of a perfect God.

    That said, there are three possibilities for what will happen on May 21, 2011...

    1. God will rapture the human race and take all the deserving souls to heaven leaving the vast majority of his flawed creation to be destroyed.

    2. Aliens will come to earth and remove the deserving humans which have been successfully breeding for thousands of years in an unknowning effort to repopulate the slave supply for the Master Race. The rest will be left to fend for ourselves and protect our own planet from the cosmic onslaught of danger without the ongoing protection from our alien overlords.

    3. Nothing.

    You choose. I think I know what sounds most realistic to me. How about you?

    May 18, 2011 at 4:48 pm |
    • Bucklee 1234

      I like door #2.

      May 18, 2011 at 4:51 pm |
    • Ooookay

      Oh go hug a tree. If the damn planet would be better off without humans, hows about you start the ball rolling and prove that you have conviction in your tofu filled beliefs.

      May 18, 2011 at 5:01 pm |
    • Joe

      Ooookay.... perhaps you can explain to me how we are helping the planet. I'll guarantee that every example you come up with on how we help, is only because we caused the intial problem to begin with. I'm by far, not a tree hugger. But I am open-minded enough to recognize when we are doing far more damage by being here than if we were gone all together. Simple-minded people like yourself will make wonderful workers under our new alien masters. I'll remember you when I'm promoted up the ranks of the slave class and cracking the whip on your back.

      May 18, 2011 at 5:07 pm |
  16. CrowdedPond

    Oh, woe unto thee of little faith....

    Ha, ha. Do ya' think if there even was a Jesus, that the people of that era and geographic locale, spoke like the guy on the Quaker Oats box?

    Oh well, nobody said that life was meant to be a testament to being logical or smart, so let those who wish, wait to be swept up in their god's big butterfly net. The end is once again, near.

    May 18, 2011 at 4:48 pm |
  17. GD

    The world will never end. The human race will.

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

    These anti-Biblical, anti-Christian whackos make me giggle. Watch 'em try to sue the Radio Host that started this nonsense. I suppose that, for them, the world WILL end Saturday... without homes, without jobs, and mouths to feed, I'm sure there will be weeping and wailing, and gnashing of teeth, come Sunday.

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

    I really hope no one "steps out early" because of all of this.

    May 18, 2011 at 4:47 pm |
    • RIchard Head

      I do.... It might help with the unemployment rate...

      May 18, 2011 at 4:55 pm |
    • Sam

      Thinning of the herd . . . .

      May 18, 2011 at 5:00 pm |
  20. BobG

    Yes, the world as we know it will end, but probably not on Saturday. More likely, it'll happen in a few biillion years when the sun expandss rapidly as it depletes its' hydrogen fuel, and the earth is scorched. By then, however, we'll likely be scattered all over the galaxy. I

    t's too bad – in interviews, these seem like well meaning people, but anyone that tries to read specific dates into numbers quoted from the Bible is missing the point. Live your life by the Golden Rule, live every day as if it was your last, but don't expect it to be.

    Meanwhile, I hope they don't create too much of a buzz kill for myself and the 18 million or so others that will be celebrating birthdays on Saturday.

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

      No, you're wrong.


      May 18, 2011 at 4:54 pm |
    • Grageo

      Happy Birthday!

      May 18, 2011 at 4:59 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.