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. dudebro

    The ignorance on this board is incredible. Don't argue about the bible unless you've already read the bible. Period!

    May 18, 2011 at 5:31 pm |
    • Jamie

      I was raised Christian and I've read and studied the Bible. The 2 main things I've noticed in the Bible is that there are: 1) a lot of old men sitting around drinking wine, and 2) a lot of stories that are kind of hard to believe.

      May 18, 2011 at 5:47 pm |
  2. Angelo

    Relax.. these people are just mastering a "get rich quick" scheme with all the donations they have received from other idiots that donate money to their church. Saturday will come and go and they will be laughing as they ride into the sunset with their pockets full of cash... pretty smart if you ask me.

    May 18, 2011 at 5:31 pm |
  3. cabinguy

    God's going to kill most of the people on the planet this Saturday? Oh wow. That sucks.

    May 18, 2011 at 5:31 pm |
  4. terry Moore

    Oh YES PLEASE..the rapture, please.. Let it happen May 21st... The world woud become a lot saner if all the religious bigots and odd people ( to avoid writing ":absolute morons"..) just took off for...uhhhh..wherever..so I, for one, support the Rapture and hope for it... Then we , the cast outs, can have a beer and relax in the sun.Maybe even have an intelligent conversation with our brethens..Now wouldn't THAT be something ...?

    May 18, 2011 at 5:30 pm |
  5. jaime c f

    batman would beat spiderman and batman. bruce wayne all the way...

    May 18, 2011 at 5:30 pm |
    • jaime c f

      ok.. i am an idiot! oh well, i dead come sunday.

      May 18, 2011 at 5:32 pm |
  6. Grumpster

    These people need to have their kids put into protection. It is scary this can exist today. This is the same type of person, with the wrong influence, can turn into Osama. We just don't need these types around.

    May 18, 2011 at 5:29 pm |
    • ES

      Agreed, their children should become ward of the state and protected from their psycho parents.

      May 18, 2011 at 5:31 pm |
  7. Baddrobby

    What about the Mayan Calendar?

    May 18, 2011 at 5:29 pm |
  8. Veritas48

    The world may end on the day the doomsdayers predict or it may end sooner or later. I suppose the point is to be ready for eternity because doomsday is a metaphor for death which comes to all–often with no notice. Why would you sell all your possessions? The mandate is to keep on keeping on until the end. You aren't relieved of your duty as a steward until you are personally notified by the Master. Wasting resources on a doubtful prediction is not helping the cause of Christ.

    May 18, 2011 at 5:29 pm |
    • SurelyUjest

      Nice Catch all! It is obvious you are one of those obsessive Christians that drive the rest of us bonkers as we try to work and you end every conversation with "Praise Jesus" or "Amen to that". The rest of us have lives to live and jobs to do, your religious beliefs should remain in your head and in your church and in your home and NO WHERE else!

      May 18, 2011 at 5:45 pm |
  9. seeingthelight2011

    If Hell is in the center of the Earth, and the universe is going to be destroyed, how will people suffer an eternity in Hell? The bible contradicts itself worse than any other book! When people die we say they went to heaven, this totally contradicts the theory of judgement day all together.

    May 18, 2011 at 5:28 pm |
  10. John John

    And when it does not end we will hear the "We were just showing you how important it is to believe!"
    End of the world cults usually only last a generation or so except the Jehovah's Witlesses which kept changing the date every time it didn't happen and now say it will happen "soon" but won't give a date.
    Nothing in the bible is accurate in any way, it is just a mythology book folks. I know you want to believe in something because there are things you just don't get in science, but it is just primitive mythology with a little power politics influencing it from the middle ages up to today. Probably better to read a book on Physics or Biochemistry and maybe you will start to understand the fact that religion is just a crutch for those that couldn't stay awake in Chemistry class.

    May 18, 2011 at 5:28 pm |
  11. DH

    Samoa now considers itself to be on the opposite side of the date line as American Samoa... so did someone notify God to only release the fire and brimstone on one side and then come back a day later? Losers.

    May 18, 2011 at 5:28 pm |
    • jalapenosintheeyes

      he borrows Santas magical sled, don't you know nothing?

      May 18, 2011 at 5:34 pm |
  12. ThePreacher2

    This is bogus...Boy are these people going to feel silly when they are hugging each other and closing their eyes at 6 PM on Saturday and nothing happens...

    Everybody else knows it's set for 6:43 PM.

    May 18, 2011 at 5:28 pm |
  13. Scott in NH

    What happens on May 21 to the 66% of the world that isn't Christian?

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


      May 18, 2011 at 5:30 pm |
  14. itsjustme

    As I always say, Let God be the judge and jury of all of this.

    Family Radio is a scream. It's all they can talk about this afternoon; I tuned in out of curiosity.

    May 18, 2011 at 5:27 pm |
  15. Jesus

    I thought I'd come in a bit early and surprise you guys! 🙂

    May 18, 2011 at 5:27 pm |
    • jaime c f

      hey jesus... since you came early... would you please give me the lotto numbers for tonight? i promise i'll give 1/2 to the church and needy.

      May 18, 2011 at 5:31 pm |
    • TryThisOn

      Maybe they should put a small disclaimer on the bottom of their signs that says, give or take a few days... just in case.

      May 18, 2011 at 5:39 pm |
    • Jesus

      sure thing buddy, 6, 7, 21, 23, 32, 42
      don"t blow it all at once, ya hear!?

      May 18, 2011 at 5:39 pm |
    • SurelyUjest

      Hi Jesus! Thanks for visiting!

      May 18, 2011 at 5:39 pm |
  16. Jimbob

    Glad I live in West Virginia. Things happen 20 years later here than everywhere else.

    May 18, 2011 at 5:27 pm |
  17. John

    I'm supposed to pick up an ounce of reefer on the 22nd.
    Should I move that date up?

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

      I always say buy before the supply runs out, you never know when your dealer might sell off your "reserved" bag.

      May 18, 2011 at 5:38 pm |
  18. Robert

    They all quit their jobs huh? What will they do when things get back to normal? Of course they'll blame Obama, taxes and the government for their financial woes.

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

      Here here!!

      May 18, 2011 at 5:37 pm |
  19. Geno L.

    So human beings have been fortune telling of the end of the world for centuries, now. My question to all is; how many times has the world come to an end? My answer is none because we are all still living and people are still firttune telling of end. What a joke all of you are. I would say that those of you fortune telling are probably going to be the ones left to die a terrible death and ask what happened, I was all about this book written by man and it was wrong? DamnI'm stupid for believe fortune tellers! Ha, ha, you were wrong and died just like everyone before you and will continue to die after you.

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

      Your post smells of fear. You are afraid that one day this will come true. Or else why would you want death to become of anyone? Or..you just could be evil. One of those best describes your post.

      May 18, 2011 at 5:45 pm |
    • SurelyUjest

      I don't really read fear in to this reply it may be a bit drama filled realism. Geno is like a lot of us, we have heard the preaching and the predictions and watched the protestors at funerals and Waco and going back through history we have read of litterally thousands of other cases of religious extremists. The messages are old and rehashed and though Geno would imagine one day you will all wake up and understand it is a myth like all other myths I do not imagine this at all. I know based on watching politics people choose the easy path in life and listen to false promises over and over and follow simple explainations for things that require facts and comparisions etc......some folks are sheep and will never wake up that is why they are called a "flock". The truth is right there simple....no fear...no negative attack just the facts....many people are sheep and some are extremists sheep.

      May 18, 2011 at 5:52 pm |
  20. surfergirl

    i used to be a good christian, but with nutcase stories like this, i find i'm beginning to lose my faith. and the information due to science of course, too. i try hard to be a christian still, but things like this turn me completely away.

    May 18, 2011 at 5:27 pm |
    • Veritas48

      If you are a "true Christian", then your responsibility is to obey Christ, read the Word, pray, and fellowship. Goats will always be with us until the Day of Separation occurs. Don't be discouraged. Work out Your salvation with fear and trembling. Don't let others and Satan rob your joy.

      May 18, 2011 at 5:33 pm |
    • SurelyUjest

      I think the words of Christ are paramount to seeking spiritual peace and understanding. Other than what Jesus is actually quoted as saying in the Bible I cannot get my hands around any of the rest of it.

      I plan on waking up on May 22nd the same as I do any other Sunday I will go to my UU church and meet with my fellowship and we will probably discuss exactly this story!!!

      May 18, 2011 at 5:36 pm |
    • jaime c f

      listen.. seriously... jesus was killed by the religious leaders of his day. you should NOT be surprised about the reglious nut jobs. be a disciple of christ, not a religious person. the word christian is only mentioned a couple times in the Bible. study out being a disciple. it will show you how to be a follower of Christ and not anyone or anything else. don't lose heart, there is nothing new under the sun... meaning, what you are going through, all mankind has gone through. 🙂

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

      @Surfergirl, I promise you, it is possible to be a Christian and not commit intellectual suicide. In fact, if Christianity is true, it would also have to be the most intellectually satisfying pursuit around. Don't be afraid to ask questions. If God exists, he's smart.

      May 18, 2011 at 5:38 pm |
    • Jamie

      I hear you! I was raised to be a good Christian, but after many years I have finally learned how to think for myself. It is funny how so many people actually believe a half-man/half-god in the sky is monitoring us to see if we are worthy of entrance into his magical fairyland.

      May 18, 2011 at 5:38 pm |
    • surgerboy

      This does not have anything to do with Christianity.

      May 18, 2011 at 5:39 pm |
    • Ryan

      hey...your post caught my eye so i wanted to offer my reply..

      just because they're are crazy finatics doesn't mean its the majority. there always be "extremists" or people who think of crazy ideas with each religion. look at the catholic people. the pope? thats evern worse than what the article is about.

      there are alot of things that science has proven that doesnt mean it contradicts the word of God.

      May 18, 2011 at 5:41 pm |
    • Banks

      Unfortunately there will always be people like this to make any belief in God a joke. I say take a step back, look at what you believe and see if that can co-exist with things that Jesus taught – not the words people put in his mouth, but actual teachings of his. I don't believe the earth is 7000 years old, I believe there were dinosaurs, for all I know there are aliens. None of these things make me not believe in God. There are other things that can shake my faith, but that's the case in anything. I think science and God co-exist, but those are my own thoughts. Everyone really has to decide for themselves. Just keep an open mind about everything.

      May 18, 2011 at 5:49 pm |
    • killyourgod

      my advice surfergirl, if that is your real name, is to stop letting slaves like these commentors tell you how to live your life and who to obey. first and foremost, obey your self. follow no man's code, and believe me, if this jesus fella did exist, he was merely a man amongst many other men that proclaimed they were messiah's and were the mouthpiece of god. follow your own code and don't let weak- willed slaves like these fool you into thinking you can't live by your own sense of individuality.

      May 18, 2011 at 5:53 pm |
    • warrantedbelief

      I hope you do realize that Dispensationalism is only one way of interpreting what is known to be as "the end times" prophecies. Please do not equate this particular perspective with Christianity itself, since the majority of Christians do not hold this view and find it to be deeply flawed from the biblical perspective. If you are interested, I would recommend reading someone like N.T.Wright on this. Cheers.

      May 18, 2011 at 6:07 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.