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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. His Praise, His Glory, His Majesty

    His glory comes.
    Blood will spill all over the world in praise of God.
    God in his justice and wisdom will kill millons.

    May 18, 2011 at 5:23 pm |
  2. Bob

    So thats why the Thumpers voted in the T- Baggers... thought they'd only be in a couple of months.... wonder what their story will be on May 22nd.

    May 18, 2011 at 5:23 pm |
  3. Seriously??

    It's pure comedy people actually believe this kinda thing but then again, the world is chalk full of idiots and tards so I guess it's not too surprising. Oh, and fwiw, I gotta lotta plans on Saturday so I hope I don't have earthquakes and what not to deal with....will make driving a beotch!!

    May 18, 2011 at 5:22 pm |
  4. CommanderToaster

    The suspension of reason required to believe in God opens people up to all sorts of wacked ideas like this end-of-the-world nonsense.

    May 18, 2011 at 5:22 pm |
  5. The Truth

    Harold Camping is a fraud, a fake, a phony, a senile old hateful man, who for some strange reason is still alive....cant wait to call his show on monday and see how he went wrong....forgot to carry a few one's?? LMAO!!!

    May 18, 2011 at 5:22 pm |
  6. Staci White

    I don't want the world to end. But I like asians!!

    May 18, 2011 at 5:22 pm |
  7. MessengerofGod

    All things aside, I usually post a sarcastic political thread, or point out foolish government behavior. But with this thread I have to prophetically say. Not because of the worlds wealthy, or war mongers, or the greed of the rich, or the pollution of corporate slavery, or even population. We are simply at doomsday because it is the only way- because it is written. The wicked, the drunkards, the horrs, the pimps, the warmongers, the greedy, the thieves, the liars, the debtors, the vein. These are those who destroy the world for those who are true at heart, for the children, the children of God. Those self absorbed evil murders of compassion, they bring suffering and illness, and poverty through the centuries. I am but a washed up sick old prophet of almighty God. But the time of God now indeed is at hand, behold the floods, look to the stars as the son of man claimed, listen to your mother earth. Come swiftly lord God, bring judgement to the wicked and let the Godly loving meek inherit the whole earth. For thus the next trumpet sounds as the rivers drain and rivers widen. Amen

    May 18, 2011 at 5:21 pm |
    • Darren

      o look another Jesus freak. go peddle your rubbish else were. there is no god

      May 18, 2011 at 5:26 pm |
    • jit

      Yes, the river is draining, and the river is widening, due to the Army Corp Of Engineers. Seems to me, the End of the world coming via Government, not God. Let's see, 9/11, Earthquakes, New Orleans, Floods Rivers. Yep, it's the government. I don't see God in this at all.

      May 18, 2011 at 5:34 pm |
    • Orlando

      I went out to the river yesterday and it was drained and all the animals were out, but yet the mississippi is overflowing, The sun is aligning with the center of the galaxy, earthquakes, floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, The dollar has no value, I believe you. Its the only answer to this tragedy we have built of a world society

      May 18, 2011 at 5:36 pm |
    • Alexandra

      I belie this. You know the writings say look for these signs not specific acts of God. You have to admit people are pretty miserable and deprived because of bad people

      May 18, 2011 at 5:43 pm |
  8. thessalonian

    Hey can you guys send my b-day present a day early. My b-day is saturday.

    May 18, 2011 at 5:21 pm |
  9. MrWright

    I would just like to point out that not all christians are like this...

    May 18, 2011 at 5:21 pm |
  10. josephine bonaparte

    This is good news ! Now i need not be concerned about making the mortgage payment on my castle in June that my husband stuck me with many years ago !!

    May 18, 2011 at 5:21 pm |
  11. Rob

    Im watching every hollywood dooms day flick I can down load on saturday!! haha! LETS PARTY! nono LETS GET CRAZY AND PARTY!

    May 18, 2011 at 5:21 pm |
  12. kuk kabah

    I gave Harold Camping a challenge come Sunday morning. Let's see if he takes it.

    Kuk Kabah

    May 18, 2011 at 5:20 pm |
  13. Andrew

    This is a big bag of clown shoes. Religious kooks have thought they knew when the end of the World was many times. All were wrong. So are these cultist nutburgers.

    May 18, 2011 at 5:20 pm |
  14. Heidi

    And what if the world does not end in October......how stupid will these people feel. And if they are right, guess I won't be here anyways!

    May 18, 2011 at 5:20 pm |
  15. Ben

    Jesus was/is Jewish. He never said" now we will stop being Jewish." The last thing he did before the crucification was a passover Sadr. SO maybe all the Christians are the ones that will be left behind! See you Sunday the 22nd in Church!!!!

    May 18, 2011 at 5:20 pm |
  16. Shane

    New Headline: Tick Tock Goes the Cuckoo Clock

    May 18, 2011 at 5:20 pm |
  17. ryan

    did they sell all their possessions and give the money to the poor? If not...they dont believe it either.

    May 18, 2011 at 5:20 pm |
    • Terri

      haha, so true!

      May 18, 2011 at 5:21 pm |
    • thessalonian

      They gave it to their friends, hoping to get it back if things don't pan out.

      May 18, 2011 at 5:27 pm |
    • GKC

      Good point!

      May 18, 2011 at 5:31 pm |
  18. Xerio The Great

    this guy is crazy, how can the world end when the bible says that no one knows the day nor the hour that Jesus is coming

    May 18, 2011 at 5:19 pm |
  19. E. White

    I guess Matthew 24:36 means nothing to these imposter Christians...
    "But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only."

    May 18, 2011 at 5:19 pm |
    • Darren

      your all nuts. there is no god its a fairy tale. wake up and join the 21st century

      May 18, 2011 at 5:23 pm |
    • thessalonian

      E White? First name Ellen? You made some pretty lofty predictions about the coming yourself in your day to get that Seventh Day Adventist church going.

      May 18, 2011 at 5:25 pm |
    • thessalonian

      Um. Darren, the vast majority of people in the 21s. Century believe in God. I think your a bit out of it.

      May 18, 2011 at 5:26 pm |
  20. Scott in NH

    If the world ends on May 21, the last place to be destroyed will be Howland Island. The bad news is you need permission from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to enter the island. The good news is they only visit once every 2 years, and on May 21 while their are busy being destroying you'll be resting on the beach, still in May 20.

    May 18, 2011 at 5:19 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.