By Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor
The Rev. Franklin Graham says the earthquake and tsunami in Japan could be a sign of the end times. The key word there is could. The founder of the Samaritan's Purse charity told Newsmax on Friday:
What are the signs of [Christ’s] second coming? War and famine and earthquakes … escalating like labor pains. ... Maybe this is it, I don’t know. We should pray and be vigilant. The Bible teaches us Jesus is going to return someday. Many of us we believe that day is sooner rather than later.
Graham, the son of famed evangelist Billy Graham, is paraphrasing from the Gospel of Matthew in the New Testament. In Chapter 24, Jesus is leaving the temple in Jerusalem and predicts its destruction. His disciples ask when it will happen, and he answers:
You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains.
There are several schools of thought in the Christian tradition on this passage. One suggests Jesus is talking about the coming destruction of the temple by the Romans; others view it as a warning sign of the end times.
Throughout the course of Christian history, many have read the words of Jesus into their own time. Graham is certainly not alone in his interpretation of the passage, nor is he outside the mainstream of most Christian traditions by hedging his assertion with "maybe" and "I don't know" instead of giving a definitive, "This is the end!"
The Rev. Tom Stegman says there are many ways to read the passage in Matthew 24. A Jesuit priest and associate professor of New Testament at Boston College, Stegman agrees with Graham that Christians ought to remain vigilant in how they live their lives so they line up with Christ's teaching.
“I don’t question anyone’s motivation. However, the history of interpretation of apocalyptic texts and Jesus' speculation about the end in Mark 13 ought to give us pause in involving ourselves too much in speculation of the end times,” Stegman told CNN.
Darrell Bock, a research professor of New Testament Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary, said the passage is one repeated in Mark and Luke as well. But, Bock said, “Matthew is the clearest when talking about the end because of the way the questions start off the discourse at the beginning of the passage.”
Bock said the text Graham quoted from is layered. Unlike other apocalyptic texts like the Book of Daniel or Revelation, which many Christians believe prophesy the end times in vivid detail, here Jesus has more than one goal.
“I think you have to be careful. Jesus is trying to do two things at once,” Bock said. Jesus is talking about the end times and using these examples “to create in people a responsibility of not knowing when the end will come.”
"[Jesus] is telling [his disciples] to persevere because they don’t know when the end will be," Bock said. “It’s never an attempt to have us calendar out when the end is going to happen.
“I actually think what Graham is doing is raising the accountability issue,” Bock added.
Eddie Gibbs, a professor of church growth at Fuller Theological Seminary, told CNN Graham could represent "a particular segment of the evangelical movement that thinks the end is near."
"My response would be to say the Matthew 24 passage in fact relates to every period of history. There have always been catastrophic earthquakes," Gibbs said.
"The many natural catastrophes that occur are really warning sings to us that life is fragile. I think modern people need that warning. When these awful things happen, it is a reminder that nature is far, far more powerful than our ability to control it."
Gibbs said he does not think the earthquake in Japan augurs the end of the world.
"I would personally regard it as a progressive fulfillment, not that this is a special fulfillment of 'end times.' These catastrophes continue to happen, and I think we need them to shake us out of our comfort zone."
“I think that on Franklin’s side, we do need that reminder today that we live in a finite world,” Gibbs said.
Regardless of Graham's beliefs, his aid organization continues to be on the front lines of disasters around the world.
Last week, Graham's charity shipped 90 tons of relief supplies to Japan. As with many other organizations, working in the hardest-hit areas has brought elevated concerns for safety. Graham told Newsmax:
I’ve told my staff, if any of you are nervous you don’t have go. ... I haven’t had one person back out. There are dangers wherever we go in the world, but as Christians we put faith in God. He’s called us to do this work. He’ll look after us and protect us. It’s not going to stop us from responding and helping.
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Logmion is here and says Bring Back Petrus Romanus
These are very interesting comments. Mine is to say one day these things will come to pass. I've discovered personally that money goes either to the sorcerers (black magic), the doctor or to the preacher. Thus the debate on the Graham's use of money should be out of way. They dont force anyone to give, and evidence of what they do is all over and their accountability systems are in the open.
Now to the Story of Jesus. You can think of it as any other story but He is your creator! You live cos of His grace, at His breath your life is preserved or lost. He died and rose and is coming back again for His own.
All the news of the world will record that event, and it will be too late to believe then. I sure will not be here to add to this blog, but I'll warn yu not to take the MARK. It's easy to refuse and refute the blood of Jesus now, but the one coming after him will be irresistible cos he will say what people want to hear. Be careful to resist. Good tidings to all.
Raquel, (Endtime warning messenger)
Idiots like this make me hope the end is near.
What shame this lunatics bring on our race.
Luckily the Muslims will kill them all soon.
I hope Jesus returns, because I intend to try him for crimes against humanity.
Then I will crucify him again. (Remind me to go to the Home Depot for some 2×4's and a box of nails.)
the alliens who are god will be here soon.god is everything good.god is the mastery of all,geometery,trigometery and all physical science. einstein and von browne i believe figured that out. by splitting the atom in 1945 and thank god before the germans did and operation paperclip allowed america to go to the moon and many other wonders that we still are unaware of.yes we are in the end times.the alliens who elite german scientists found out thru arcelogical digs in india in the 1930s to 1940s were here long before us. re atlantis,german flying bell,and many other discoveries are known to exist such as time travel and to warp time travel and speed to go to different parts of the universe in lightening speed.the hopi indians believe in there rituals that the star people game down and mated with there woman in ships.they came from far distancesin space by bending space time critical mass continum. einstein predicted that this exists e=mc squared. einstein was one of these people who had allien bloodline such as nostradamus,plato and other famous people.the new jeruselem will when the day arrives will be a large allien ship that will sit overhead of the city.such as moses who parted the sea,he was a man of allien decent,a very wise and good man.technology such as nuclear weapons were used before, a time where technology was farther advanced than our own.the germans were looking for this during the war.i believe the us govt knows about these things,but that is good because as long a the united states is allied with israel we will be spared the wrath of god.the us and israel are the good of the world,we have to allign owerselves as in other nations to over throw communism and tyrney in the world such as alkita and the muslem brotherhood. appologize for the spelling ......................tim
..and the tooth fairy, Santa Claus, and The Easter Bunny are real...I am shocked people take a book so seriously.
Why does this man irritate? I feel that everything he does is from EGO.
Please read the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Book of Revelation. We are living in the end times. The 10 kings are from Russia as is the Harlot of Babylon. The false prophet is Dwayne Johnson. He wrestled in the WWF as the Rock.
Yes they do throw a bone every now and then to the poor
such as in horrible Haiti which is ruled by the man who has the ammo.
They do nothing to change Africa,nothing.
The problem is these loving Christians will find a way to blame the Hatians and The Africans for their plight...
The more these charlatan preachers scare you,the more
money in their pockets be it talk of Hell and now the world's end.
And we make these jerks tax free for preaching this malarkey.
If you say that God is not good is because you do not know HIm.
If you want to see the work the Graham and Samaritan Purse does, I encourage you to GO and spend some time in their camp in Haiti. You would be amazed at the selflessness and compassion shown to others day in and day out while working on hard conditions, in the name of Jesus.
You speak of what you do not know.
Christianity = The belief that a cosmic Jewish Zombie who was his own father can make you live forever if you symbolically eat his flesh and telepathically tell him you accept him as your master, so he can remove an evil force from your soul that is present in humanity because a rib-woman was convinced by a talking snake to eat from a magical tree...
He's another charleton...he probably does his charity for a tax write off.
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.