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. steve

    religious freaks

    May 18, 2011 at 5:00 pm |
  2. Danny S

    These people are crazy! First of all there has never been a specific day and time for the last day of earth... Second if there was, God would have never said " I will come like a thief in the night." Meaning he never stated an exact date for the last day of earth's existence... If these people were true Christians they would know this is false!

    May 18, 2011 at 5:00 pm |
  3. Monica L

    Bill, one more time, I'll bring the blue dress. Lets do a 3-way with Palen.

    May 18, 2011 at 5:00 pm |
  4. Ray

    Why is CNN giving time to this stupidity? Do they actually think that the rantings of fools is anything other that that? Come on CNN, why focus on something like this?

    May 18, 2011 at 5:00 pm |
  5. Seriously

    Of course, if the rapture does take place, according to the Holy Bible, clearly there are only 144,000 people going to ascend to heaven at that time and they are not going to be from America. Those will be from the 12 tribes of Israel. Some theologists have said that Americans are the lost 13th tribe, some mumbo jumbo, but still they aren't even eligible. Too bad, all this in vain.

    May 18, 2011 at 4:59 pm |
  6. matt

    dammit, I guess I won't ever hit my next birthday....it's a week after the world goes kaput in October. dam.

    May 18, 2011 at 4:59 pm |
  7. Ed

    Really sad that we have people this ignorant in this day and age.

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

    Funniest part in this story is "pass on buying green bananas". This is good fun story. I wish it was true; i could have topped up my credit card. I agree with someone said "who believes in it, Pass on all the money". If i get all your money, two things will happen. 1. if it does not happen, i will have a cool life. 2. If it happens, i like to pay my CC bill before may21st so that i die debt free. You never know these collection agencies, they chase you in hell.

    May 18, 2011 at 4:59 pm |
  9. Krazen

    @the athiests and others
    all this crap about the end of the world just gives christians a bad name. Plus its mostly catholics that are crazy with doomsday talk.

    May 18, 2011 at 4:59 pm |
    • The Guy

      Mostly Catholics? As in Camping who is a Christian Reformer and all of the previous "doomsday" guesses generated by Mormons and Baptists? Not exactly Catholics, dummy.

      May 18, 2011 at 5:03 pm |
    • HGH

      Catholics really? I don't see any of these Kool Aid drinking idiots as being Catholic. They are mostly made up churches (since anyone who doesn't like their religion can just create one now), with no history or tradition. That's who I see doing these things. I'm a Catholic and I don't think the end times are coming any time soon.

      May 18, 2011 at 5:08 pm |
  10. Vic of New York

    I'm amazed! Apparenlty, there are some Christians who believe these crackpots are giving them a bad name! But wait a second, what about the Christians who believe Jesus rose from the dead, moved a stone and took a majic carpet ride to "heaven" – they're NOT crackpots? What about the Christians who believe Jesus walked on water? I guess they're TOTALLY RATIONAL.

    Yikes! The whole premis of Christainity – and for that matter religion in general – is based on the faith that the gullible will believe whatever you tell them and drink whatever coolaid you give them.

    These guys are no more crackpots than any other religious zelot.

    May 18, 2011 at 4:59 pm |
    • HGH

      I know, it's like how people not long ago believed that people will be able to fly and go up into space. And that we would be able to transplant organs or cure certain diseases, what irrational crackpots...oh wait.

      May 18, 2011 at 5:11 pm |
    • jenni mc

      Amen! haha...

      May 18, 2011 at 5:16 pm |
  11. Francis

    No Heaven. No Hell. Nothing. Go Home and eat some steak on the May 21.

    May 18, 2011 at 4:59 pm |
  12. rh

    Calling these Doomsday cranks Christians is like calling bin Laden and the 9/11 terrorists Muslims – it ain't true.

    IMHO, the guy with the 7 year old daughter should be arrested for child abuse.

    May 18, 2011 at 4:59 pm |
  13. Andria Cheever

    This is not biblical, however, I find it very sobering and a good example to those of us who are Christians not to be lax in our daily lives and our duty to the world. There is going to be a judgment day, however, the Bible is clear no one knows the day nor the hour of Christ's second coming!

    May 18, 2011 at 4:58 pm |
  14. Charlie

    So THIS is why we're not concerned about the national debt! Ok... now I get it!

    May 18, 2011 at 4:58 pm |
  15. LouAz

    Duh, which chapter and verse in your bible book of anything and veverything splains the time zone stuff ? I can't seem to find that part . . . but since you are leaving anyway, can I have that 55 Chevy in your backyard ?

    May 18, 2011 at 4:58 pm |
    • rh

      That 55 Chevy is an abomination, I don't see anything in the Bible about internal combustion engines.

      May 18, 2011 at 5:02 pm |
  16. wearejustparticles

    Im more interested in what these folks are going to say on Sunday when they wake up and its just another day. Me, I'll be playing some golf Saturday, getting home, having a nice meal, couple of bong hits and be ready for any party that happens by and likely see you posters on here Monday.

    May 18, 2011 at 4:58 pm |
  17. Tipsy

    I hope authorities are keeping tabs on these people to prevent some kind of mass suicide or poisoning.
    Don't drink the Kool Aid.

    May 18, 2011 at 4:58 pm |
    • me

      i think you should let them all do a mass suicide itll get rid of all the stupid people listening to this crap

      May 18, 2011 at 5:05 pm |
  18. Madior

    I was sleeping and I had dream the movie 2012

    May 18, 2011 at 4:58 pm |
  19. CoreyG

    Get ready for the End of World/Anti-Christ propaganda... Scary times unfolding... The New World Order folks are about to push this "Ra-El" cult leader as Christ Returned. AND, guess what? He is making this claim on... you guessed it, the 21st! Fact is stranger than fiction is it not? "The Knights Templar are saying Christ has returned, and he will address the world on May 21st. They put up an informational website today, and a video. The website is http://www.ra-el.org/ and the video is on the "messages" page.
    "Get away weird!"
    Dallas, Texas

    May 18, 2011 at 4:58 pm |
  20. Krehator

    Well, since you are not going to need it anymore, please send me all your money.

    May 18, 2011 at 4:58 pm |
    • jordan

      me too.i will take your money from you losers.
      you are fools !!!

      May 18, 2011 at 5:06 pm |
    • Ron Johnson

      Harold Camping and his dopey followers need to step it up and make this interesting by putting some collateral up on their bet:


      May 18, 2011 at 5:09 pm |
    • CoreyG

      Why are we surprised that the "Sheeple" who do not rely on their own GOD given intellect are buying this hook line and sinker... ESP since the Bible says NO ONE knows the time of the end, even the most elect. People need to not stand so close to their Microwaves and Televisions... OR better yet TURN THEM OFF and read a book! my goodness. AND that Re-Al cult guys video/web site syncing w/this stuff just makes me shake my head.

      May 18, 2011 at 5:15 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.