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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. momof2kids

    Since when does it take an earthquake an hour to travel across a time zone?

    May 18, 2011 at 5:41 pm |
  2. nitrous

    Hmmmmm. How many of these people didn't bother to pay their taxes this year? Prime pickin's for the IRS agents!

    May 18, 2011 at 5:40 pm |
  3. skadams

    Only God knows the date, time and event of the end of the world. Men can only venture a guess.

    May 18, 2011 at 5:40 pm |
  4. theMiddleMan67

    To think that people thousands of years ago might have some ability to tell the future, is foolish. To think that the contents of a book written thousands of years ago, and then revised countless times to suit whoever was in power during any given era of history, is literally insane. I can't begin to wrap my mind around how other people "blindly" throw out logic and critical thinking and instead point at a book and tell me, "Look, it says so right there." I don't begrudged anyone that takes writings from any religion and incorporates the "values" that religion offers into the fabric of their day to day lives. However, I do take issue with anyone that looks at a book...any book, but especially a book written thousands of years ago and use it in their life like a recipe, or playbook. It's insane. That type of blind devotion allows people, in their minds, to alleviate themselves from any sense of accountability, and that...is VERY dangerous behavior. I would not call these people "fundamentalists" as much as I would call them "zealots", or members of a "cult". Sad and pathetic. Even if they turned out to be right through coincidence...I would still say what I am saying now. Then again, if they are right, we will all be gone, and it won't matter anyway, LOL.

    May 18, 2011 at 5:40 pm |
  5. goodegyptian

    Nothing will happen on May 21st. World's most powerful man doesn't buy it. Get real people!

    May 18, 2011 at 5:39 pm |
  6. RichardSRussell

    People Who Don’t Want Their Beliefs Laughed at Shouldn’t Have Such Funny Beliefs

    May 18, 2011 at 5:39 pm |
  7. Turp Griswald

    It will be interesting to watch their website on Saturday. 18 hour difference between NZ and where I live, so 6 pm Saturday will be midnight (Saturday morning, technically). Probably won't see an update in their web page, however, since their webmaster will have given away his/her laptop and won't be able to post updates.

    May 18, 2011 at 5:39 pm |
  8. Confused

    If that was all real, would 'god' really need to rapture all the people according to their time zone??? Give me a break!!!!!

    May 18, 2011 at 5:39 pm |
  9. Billy

    Do we take into account Daylight Savings Time? :p

    May 18, 2011 at 5:39 pm |
  10. K.C.

    Hey, how about this-lets get in a plane with enough fuel to wait out our area earthquake and then land wherever we can when it's over–they don't say the entire earth will be swallowed up–and how about the people at the space station??
    Sounds like a great Sci fi movie– "The day the Space Station got no reply"

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

      Movie = 2012... now we just have to find the secret safety ships.

      May 18, 2011 at 6:18 pm |
  11. Stephen

    These false prophets should read their Bibles again... Matthew 23:36 "But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, but My Father only." Why corrupt our faith, with tales of shame and fear? God is love, not hate. I reject the tenet of fear. I embrace the tenet of forgiveness, and the golden rule.

    May 18, 2011 at 5:39 pm |
    • BobBill Mcgee

      Those Christians give all Christians a bad name. Just what we needed...a bunch of whack jobs for everyone to base their idea of what Christians are.

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

      Amen

      May 18, 2011 at 5:51 pm |
    • Dave

      Unlike those evil Muslims... they're all as crazy as those extremists that kill people, lol.

      May 18, 2011 at 6:17 pm |
  12. Popcorn

    What I thought 2012 was the end of the world? You've got to be kidding me. :/

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

      That's the next set of nutjobs... this set just wanted to go first... you know... 15 minutes of fame etc.

      May 18, 2011 at 6:16 pm |
  13. billysam

    It's no wonder a Homeland Security guy joined them. He's got to keep an eye on these Christian Crazies. They don't deserve 'respect' for their beliefs. Like most religious dogma, it just leads to more pain and confusion in this world which, by the way, is the only world we've got.

    May 18, 2011 at 5:38 pm |
  14. tnvet

    I am a Christian and I do believe that the world will end one day as stated. Do I think it is Saturday? No. Will it happen? It could. I just try and live my life the way I believe Christ directed me to and hope I have done well enough.

    Bottom line is for all the non-believers, If I am right then there are a whole lot of jokesters on here that will spend eternity in a fate worse than death. If the non-believers are right then when I die I won't know the difference:-)

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

      It's sad that you have to have someone direct your life for you. I'll be my own director.

      May 18, 2011 at 5:51 pm |
    • Dave

      Yep, and if you're wrong you'll have wasted huge portions of your life on something completely insignificant instead of being in love with your family, dedicating your time to help your fellow man, watching your kids play, learning new aspects of science... yes... let's waste years of our life praising something, rather than taking the morals/ethics of the book, living by them, and throwing out all the ritual. – D

      May 18, 2011 at 6:15 pm |
  15. antaganostic

    I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but God doesn't care about our self-devised international datelines and timezones anymore than he cares about touchdowns in football, homeruns in baseball, or 3-pointers in basketball.

    Somehow you know he will start an earthquake exactly on OUR international date line and follow our timezones in a sequential manner??? Does God have OCD?

    Let's pick this conversation up on Monday morning right where we left off...

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

      hi antognostic, this was my reply (to this May 21st thing) on comment page 93, I thought you might find it interesting....

      I also don't believe in this May 21st thing. If it happens, it is because of technology, and someones control of it. Now, the Space shuttle just went up. If this May 21st thing happens, you can be sure it's those in control of technology. The World has come to know too much of their plan. And they must do away with us (Whoever they are). We have come to know too much through the internet, and whoever they are, don't want us in their future. This my friends, Is the truth.

      May 18, 2011 at 5:50 pm |
    • jit

      I should say.... the World has become TOO independent, and they must do away with us.

      May 18, 2011 at 5:59 pm |
  16. Tim Rigney

    Stevie Nicks, 2001: "AND the planets of the universe – go their way. NOT astounded by the sun or the moon – or by the day. You and I will *simply* disappear – out-of-sight. But I'm afraid – soon there'll be – no light."

    May 18, 2011 at 5:38 pm |
  17. Jim

    Man, I'm going to go out and rack up my credit cards and enjoy these last 4 days. I mean, how could those Christians be wrong? They've proven the Earth is 6000 thousands years old and that abstinence is the best way to prevent pregnancies and STD's.

    May 18, 2011 at 5:37 pm |
  18. Mr. Magoo

    I wish I knew someone giving all their stuff away before Saturday.

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

    OK, so we have established that Superman could in fact defeat Spiderman. However, who is more powerful, Superman or Jesus?

    May 18, 2011 at 5:37 pm |
    • Virtual Banality

      Superman silly. Jesus couldn't even beat a couple of Romans. Superman would destroy Spiderman, then throw his corpse at Jesus without even breaking a sweat.

      May 18, 2011 at 5:55 pm |
    • Dave

      He's got a point... seriously... for that matter Batboy could probably wreck Jesus's grill.

      May 18, 2011 at 6:20 pm |
  20. Ello?

    I'll believe it when I see it. There is no scientific evidence to support "the end of the world." I'll giggle when we go about our day on Saturday and nothing happens and all of the wack jobs spent thousands maybe millions on this nonsense.

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

      There is a ton of evidence in the Bible but God only knows when the Rapture will take place. 5 months of hell is putting it mildly. Years. It amazes me that someone can deny God but yet deep down they know He exists. People need to open their minds up and listen to a good preacher (John Hagee, Billy Graham) before it is too late for them.

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

      You know the best part of all of this if these nut jobs are right??? If the rapture does happen, then all of the christians are gone!!! Woo hoo!! Only the logic thinking athiests will be left. Now that sounds like heaven on earth to me!!!!

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

      Brooke, I could kiss you. Brilliant.

      May 18, 2011 at 6:20 pm |
    • Dave

      Oh and somebody... I think the hardest part is wanting to believe there is a god, but deep down inside knowing there isn't... it's like I want to play along to appease family and friends... coworkers, etc... but it would just be a charade.

      May 18, 2011 at 6:22 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.