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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. Tevii

    This date has nothing to do with the bible. It is based on one mans calculation. A man who predicted the same thing back in 1994. The man is a kook and his followers are morons.
    Must suck for other Christians to have these fanatics representing your religion.

    May 18, 2011 at 5:10 pm |
  2. Russell

    So if these people aren't taken up in the rapture this Saturday, will they be renouncing God, and more importantly, will they attempt to become a drain on society now that they're broke, homeless and without jobs?

    May 18, 2011 at 5:09 pm |
  3. gravis

    Seriously? This is your headline news? What has the journalism profession become?

    If I announce that Jesus is coming to give me a BJ tomorrow, will it make front page?

    May 18, 2011 at 5:09 pm |
  4. Guster

    Change the first part of your name to "dumb". Again this is one man's guess. The Bible say's nothing about this "date".

    May 18, 2011 at 5:09 pm |
  5. j A h

    The world will continue to go on until either a random occurance happens which unleashes energy on a large enough scale to impact the earth, a purposed release of energy occurs on a large enough scale to impact the earth, or a neglectful allowance of energy on a large enough scale is released onto the earth. Does not matter who is the bearer of that energy, one of those three options is likely. At that point,life will cease at least in human terms and all these petty arguments will have been for nothing. If you really believe that you only have 3 days left, by all means find something more fulfilling than CNN to spend your last moments on.

    May 18, 2011 at 5:08 pm |
  6. Dave

    Can we expect a pre-judgement day for early birds?

    May 18, 2011 at 5:08 pm |
  7. Madior

    I was sleeping and I had dreaming the movie 2012

    May 18, 2011 at 5:07 pm |
  8. Pbsat

    This whole rapture prediction is phoney. This is what Bible says about this topic:in the Book of Matthew 24:36 NIV

    "No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father."

    So it appears Harold Camping knows something that Jesus and angels does not know?
    This is what Bible also says about people like him in Romans 2:24 YLT

    "for the name of God because of you is evil spoken of among the nations, according as it hath been written."

    May 18, 2011 at 5:07 pm |
  9. Smarter Human

    Ahhhhh..religion! Coocoo for Cocoa Puffs!

    May 18, 2011 at 5:07 pm |
  10. Phil

    It's not over till my lawn gnome says it's over!

    May 18, 2011 at 5:07 pm |
  11. Mikey

    The SUN in the sky is GOD for without it this planet and its life are FINISHED!

    Rapture day is in a few billion years.

    May 18, 2011 at 5:06 pm |
  12. AndyR

    Are these the same people behind the Global Warming theory?

    May 18, 2011 at 5:06 pm |
  13. SmartAss

    So, does this mean when the world doesn't end after the 21st the Christians will admit they were wrong all this time and lay down their stupid little book?

    May 18, 2011 at 5:06 pm |
    • Torqued22

      No, it will just prove that there are "false" Christians. Nowhere is that "stupid little book" does it say people will know when the end is. So obviously these claimed Christians aren't reading the same "stupid little book".

      May 18, 2011 at 5:25 pm |
    • Pete HName*

      Nope. Most Christians think these folks aren't running on all eight. As for calling the Bible a "stupid little book;" this just another example of the bitterness that fills those who don't know God. If you only knew...

      May 18, 2011 at 5:28 pm |
  14. yankeelover1

    I swear to you, if I knew when the end was coming for everyone, I'd take my family (9) to the Cayman Islands. We'd vacation in style for weeks with all the best food, drink and entertainment available. Then we would all sit on the beach and watch it from there. All put on my credit card but who cares.

    May 18, 2011 at 5:06 pm |
  15. Guster

    This is afringe group. The majority of Christians are following Christ's message to live everyday like it could be your last.

    May 18, 2011 at 5:06 pm |
  16. Scott in NH

    The island of Kiritimati, which is part of Kiribati claims to be in the time zone UTC+14, which would make them the first to be destroyed. But some nations refuse to believe that UTC+14 exitst. So on May 21 we'll get to see what time zone God think Kiritimati is in.

    May 18, 2011 at 5:06 pm |
  17. Hugo Chavez

    I cannot believe this is happening. I am planning to get re-elected next year, again, and suddendly these guys come up with this prediction. I really don't like it. – I have worked really hard setting this up so the elections results are in my benefit, regardless of the peoples' will. I have spent a lot of money to buy new equipment for the national guard and the police for them to go against the people effectively. And now you come with this ? – Can't you just modify this prediction and move the date twenty years while I continue destroying this south-american country? – I can still put more moeny in those accounts I have overseas for my future retirement to be as modest as I deserve.

    May 18, 2011 at 5:06 pm |
  18. Chris Freely

    Unemployment and stupidity make for a bad combination. Get a job, zealot.

    May 18, 2011 at 5:05 pm |
    • MiddleFinger

      The down side is that these religious wackos vote!

      May 18, 2011 at 5:09 pm |
  19. Fred

    Motor home park in Providence, Rhode Island? Lived in Prov,RI all my life never seen a motor home park....

    May 18, 2011 at 5:05 pm |
  20. Clarity

    I find it hard to believe anyone could honestly be content believing they live on this Earth for a short few years in the span of eternity and not be concerned about the hereafter. Especially when you remember that scientists have proven that energy cannot be destroyed. This alludes to the spirit in all of us, that is energy. Where do you suppose it will go?

    Also...what does someone who doesn't believe in God use as an explanation of this world. I hardly hope they'll cling to the weak theories of some of our "best" scientists. You can't suppose that this world just happened by accident and somehow came together in such perfect order from atoms up to galaxies by accident, right? Can you throw down some parts on the ground and hope the come together to make a computer, car or building? I'd hope you wouldn't want to operate something built that way...that's assuming you could get it to work. What makes you think anything that absurd resulted in what we see in space and on Earth. How do we explain the still "missing link" between us and the many proposed species out there? I'm just wondering on those loose arguments alone, why you wouldn't question the existence of God?

    May 18, 2011 at 5:04 pm |
    • MiddleFinger

      The Tribulation and God are not mutually inclusive.

      However, I again am hosting a Rapture party at my house on Saturday. 12 noon sharp. Frankincense and Myrrh provided. BYOB. We had a great time at the year 2000 millinium tribulation party.

      May 18, 2011 at 5:07 pm |
    • God's name is really Bernie

      SO I take it you think the world is coming to a crashing halt the 21st? Got anything you want to part with before God whisks you away? Flat screen? Car? Espresso machine?

      May 18, 2011 at 5:10 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.