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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. Marc

    More republican nutjobs!!

    May 18, 2011 at 5:36 pm |
  2. doomed!

    Oh no! But Lady Gaga's new album comes out Monday! CRAP

    May 18, 2011 at 5:36 pm |
  3. nitrous

    I'd kill to be their life insurance beneficiary.

    May 18, 2011 at 5:36 pm |
  4. Jeff Goldblum

    July 4th is the only day we should worry about. Don't worry, Will Smith's got this!

    May 18, 2011 at 5:36 pm |
  5. NoMoney

    Hey...so does this mean that I shouldn't pay my rent this Friday...these people are really stupid

    May 18, 2011 at 5:36 pm |
  6. Joshua L

    I wonder if this is going to help anyone get laid? Just wondering.

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

      hahahahahahahahaha

      May 18, 2011 at 5:38 pm |
    • K.C.

      Not the head of the IMF!

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

      hmmm....

      May 18, 2011 at 5:43 pm |
    • Virtual Banality

      Makes me wonder; who would Jesus do?

      May 18, 2011 at 5:49 pm |
  7. Silly me

    Whoo hoo, the end of the world! I won't have to go to work anymore! 🙂

    May 18, 2011 at 5:36 pm |
  8. Jim In Chicago

    All Doomsdayers:

    Please forward all of your financial assets to me. I am working with God to transfer your funds from earth to heaven. I will be waiting for you with your cash in heaven (Please check in first and bring your receipt. And expect to wait a while)

    May 18, 2011 at 5:36 pm |
  9. ManawaGirl

    Superman will definately whoop Spidey. Spiderman can't even master the opening of his own show! All of those injuries just prove that Spiderman doesn't have that 'it' factor that the alien from Krypton does!

    May 18, 2011 at 5:35 pm |
  10. Does anyone know the truth?

    I'm only 2 years away from graduating high school. I don't want to die yet! I don't even know what to believe these days. First 2000, 2012, and now this? I really hope it's not true. And why does it have to be on CNN, an official news place. Does that mean it is true or what? I like to know other people's opinions so I don't feel so alone.

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

      dont worry about it, you can still go to your sr. prom

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

      Dude, I wouldn't worry about it, you will be graduating from High School.

      May 18, 2011 at 5:42 pm |
    • nibiru

      it is real, but not may 21, 2011, it's dec 21, 2012.
      nibiru is coming to the inner solar system, pole shift is coming

      May 18, 2011 at 5:43 pm |
    • cdimarco

      The year I was graduating was the Y2K sham – that passed and a guarentee this will pass. One thing you'll learn is that the media isn't interested in posting the truth; they're interested in causing a buzz.

      May 18, 2011 at 5:44 pm |
    • jmm

      do not fret, high school student – if these people really "read" the bible, it says very clearly that NO ONE will know the day or the hour or minute when our Lord will come – and it cannot be predicted – i think you are safe to finish High School

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

      I don't think judgement day will happen this day... The bible never says so and I'm getting ready to graduate highschool in about a year. First there was Y2K then this and then 2012 (if judgement day doesn't come, which isn't going to happen). I am going to major in meterology and I have gone to some earthquake research centers. I asked them about this and they said it's more than likely not going to happen. I have seen all of the data and proof and i concluded there is a 95% chance an "earthquake" isn't going to happen. So, I don't think its going to happen this way. It might happen some other way. And if it does, we won't graduate 😛

      May 18, 2011 at 5:47 pm |
    • Charles

      Why should we believe this, and since when is CNN an "official news source?" A lot of stories that come from them these days are not credible and ridiculous. By the way, the phrase "end of the world" is a joke in itself. The "world" will still be here long after man has been purged from existence and considering what we've "allowed" to be done to this planet, it will be better off.

      May 18, 2011 at 5:47 pm |
    • Not True

      The bible says that no one knows the day or the hour. These people are nuts!

      May 18, 2011 at 5:48 pm |
    • cdimarco

      on a sidenote- brandon; there's really no way to predict earthquakes. We know where they historically occur, and the historical frequencies, but that's about it.

      May 18, 2011 at 5:53 pm |
  11. Fred

    Sounds like a great reason to have a party!!

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

    Oooh I have an idea some needs to setup a really good loud speaker system about a block away then blow a really loud trumpet into. Now that would be funny

    May 18, 2011 at 5:34 pm |
  13. Dave

    Does this mean I can skip my car payment?

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

      Better yet, it means you can HAVE their cars!

      May 18, 2011 at 5:44 pm |
  14. K

    All companies are requested to deposit 3 months salary in Advance on May 20th the Friday the real TGIF.. for last Party time.

    May 18, 2011 at 5:34 pm |
  15. raggedhand

    I want to sneak around and put little piles of clothes out on the street in front of these churches...just like the rapture came and and took up other people...and left these believers behind.

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

      I support this! lol

      May 18, 2011 at 5:46 pm |
  16. GKC

    These people will be very dissapointed come May 22. Suddenly they will find themselves with way too much time in their hands and a lot of signs to throw in the trash.

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

      Well, at least these .5-baked religious fanatics seem to have learned how to spell judgment. The last go around this same mulberry bush, the faithful seemed to think it was "judgement." 😉

      May 18, 2011 at 5:43 pm |
  17. paul

    didn't the world end like years ago???

    May 18, 2011 at 5:33 pm |
  18. sara

    hey.. my birthday is on 05/22, lol that sucks.. just my luck.... 🙂

    May 18, 2011 at 5:33 pm |
  19. bailoutsos

    Do they get to beat the chit out of the old man on May 22nd?

    May 18, 2011 at 5:32 pm |
  20. Michael Surbaugh

    Dang-it I just renewed my XBOX Live subscription.

    May 18, 2011 at 5:32 pm |
    • Fernt

      me too. how long-sighted of us!

      May 18, 2011 at 5:35 pm |
    • K

      Bro you missed to read " stop buying green babana" ?

      May 18, 2011 at 5:35 pm |
    • GKC

      LOL!

      May 18, 2011 at 5:35 pm |
    • Fernt

      i thought the green banana line was top shelf.

      May 18, 2011 at 5:37 pm |
    • Eric

      I was about to pay $60 for 4,000 MS points. These people saved me some money. Of course the end of the world being near saving money doesnt matter either way.

      May 18, 2011 at 5:42 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.