Franklin Graham: Japan disaster could mean end is near
Franklin Graham suggested the earthquake in Japan could be a sign of the end times.
March 21st, 2011
04:20 PM ET

Franklin Graham: Japan disaster could mean end is near

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. 

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Belief • Bible • Christianity • Church

soundoff (1,412 Responses)
  1. Chuck McFadden

    "And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire" (Revelation 20:10-15). "He is merciful and just" Yessir, "merciful and just." Yup.

    March 22, 2011 at 12:47 am |
  2. redmustang03

    Remember in Matthew 24 it says clearly even Jesus even know only God. Jesus said this ""Concerning that day and hour nobody knows, neither the angels of the heavens nor the Son, but only the Father (Matthew 24)."

    March 22, 2011 at 12:47 am |
  3. richard

    The bible also spoke of mans knowledge growing at a greater pace. man traveling to and fro, in addition to more wars and greater increase of disasters. I don't know about you but these things have been going on lately as predicted in the Bile 2 thousand years ago. We have witnessed mankind knowledge and accomplish grow exponentially over this past century and our ability to travel and communicate in ways we couldn't even imaging 60, 70, 100 years ago much less the past ten years with our technological advancements. You may ridicule me and call me alarmist but I choose not to ignore and turn a blind eye to what is going on. I'm not fearful but encouraged that doesn't mean my faith isn't tested from time to time. There is mention of those who will deny Gods existence in the last days they will mock him and all who believe in him ( again written 2 thousand years ago). I wont keep going on and on but the track record and signs are very clear and for a book (the Bible) that was written two thousand years ago to predict so many incidence and events so accurately it does give one pause

    March 22, 2011 at 12:46 am |
    • Q

      Given the marketability of "psychic hotlines", "horoscopes" and "fortune cookies", I have a difficult time with these types of claims of unambiguous foreknowledge. Now had the bible contained one passage like, "...and the iPhone was rampant among the PC users causing consternation until the Droid hath set them free..." , I'd be sold.

      March 22, 2011 at 12:52 am |
    • juan

      Well Said!

      March 22, 2011 at 12:57 am |
    • ohhowsad

      Q you made my day!

      Richard – every generation since the grand Xian conversion has found all of the signs of the end times in their own backyards. That's why the guys who wrote the bible made it so ambiguous. I'm sure when they were making up all this stuff for the purposes of crowd control they were laughing saying "As long as we're coming up with all this crazy stuff let's come up with a ridiculous finale that even the most moronic of lowly peasant couldn't possibly believe." Except you all take it as fact. That stuff was preached at me my entire childhood then I learned to reason and question. Give it a try.

      March 22, 2011 at 2:19 am |
  4. Lifewhispers

    Fear mongering is what keeps Christianity alive. Remember that, when listening to people like Graham.

    March 22, 2011 at 12:46 am |
  5. Shatan

    Well, Well, Well;
    Looks like we got some people talking about the end of days. They be comin' ya'll.

    March 22, 2011 at 12:46 am |
  6. Godfree Master

    It's time to for God to push the reset button again: too many people believe in him- and for all he wrong reasons. It's a sign of a society that has reached an evolutionary dead-end. I hope the next batch he whips up doesn't start committing more atrocities in his name.

    March 22, 2011 at 12:45 am |
  7. Candy

    Mr. Graham must know that the end will also mean unemployment for him, no more preaching, no more donated money, no more perks. He'll be just be like any one in his flock. Is he ready for that? He'll probably say, "Lord, let's wait until the next big disaster."

    March 22, 2011 at 12:43 am |
  8. Nay Sayer

    I heard this same crap growing up in an evangelical church. Evangelicals LOVE the idea of an end time because they love the idea that they will instantly be proven correct. More than anything, evangelicals (and any other Christian that believes this nonsense) are terrified of having to explain their religion to people using logic or compassion. It's much easier to tell people that the end is nigh and everyone should turn before they burn.

    How very much these "Christians" are like the Jews who rejected Christ as messiah because he wasn't a destructive fulfillment of prophecy.

    March 22, 2011 at 12:43 am |
  9. Lin

    (my last post and this one come from : http://mb-soft.com/believe/text/inerranc.htm

    This definition also relates inerrancy to hermeneutics. Hermeneutics is the science of biblical interpretation. It is necessary to interpret a text properly, to know its correct meaning, before asserting that what a text says is false. Moreover, a key hermeneutical principle taught by the Reformers is the analogy of faith, which demands that apparent contradictions be harmonized if possible. If a passage appears to permit two interpretations, one of which conflicts with another passage and one of which does not, the latter must be adopted.

    Probably the most important aspect of this definition is its definition of inerrancy in terms of truth and falsity rather than in terms of error. It has been far more common to define inerrancy as "without error," but a number of reasons argue for relating inerrancy to truth and falsity. To use "error" is to negate a negative idea.

    Truth, moreover, is a property of sentences, not words. Certain problems are commonly associated with views related to "error." Finally, "error" has been defined by some in the contemporary debate in such a way that almost every book ever written will qualify as inerrant. Error, they say, is willful deception; since the Bible never willfully deceives its readers, it is inerrant. This would mean that almost all other books are also inerrant, since few authors intentionally deceive their readers.

    Some have suggested that the Bible itself might help in settling the meaning of error. At first this appears to be a good suggestion, but there are reasons to reject it. First, "inerrancy" and "error" are theological rather than biblical terms. This means that the Bible applies neither word to itself. This does not mean that it is inappropriate to use these words of the Bible. Another theological term is "trinity." It is, however, more difficult to define such words. Second, a study of the Hebrew and Greek words for error may be classified into three groups: cases of error where intentionality cannot be involved (e.g., Job 6:24; 19:4), cases of error where intentionality may or may not be involved (e.g., 2 Sam. 6:7), and cases where intentionality must be involved (e.g., Judg. 16:10 – 12). Error, then, has nothing to do with intentionality.

    Admittedly, precision of statement and measurement will not be up to modern standards, but as long as what is said is true, inerrancy is not in doubt.

    Finally, the definition states that inerrancy covers all areas of knowledge. Inerrancy is not limited to matters of soteriological or ethical concern. It should be clear that biblical affirmations about faith and ethics are based upon God's action in history. No neat dichotomy can be made between the theological and factual.

    Arguments for Inerrancy

    March 22, 2011 at 12:42 am |
    • You are boring

      Another cut-and-paste bore from another forgettable person too lazy and too lacking in the ability to think to say something for themselves. I never read these cut-and-paste monsters.

      March 22, 2011 at 1:09 am |
  10. bob

    God loves everyone but he is going to make you die in fire and water. Yeah, if that is love, I want none of it. What are you bible bangers going to do when nothing happens in the next year or two. You can go on and on and on for years and years that the end is near. Here is your sign. Get a new hobby.

    March 22, 2011 at 12:41 am |
  11. Lin

    Inerrancy and Infallibility of the Bible
    Advanced Information
    The question of authority is central for any theology. Since Protestant theology has located authority in the Bible, the nature of biblical authority has been a fundamental concern. The Reformation passed to its heirs the belief that ultimate authority rests not in reason or a pope, but in an inspired Scripture. Thus, within conservative Protestantism the question of inerrancy has been much debated.

    Our List of 1,000 Religious Subjects
    The two words most often used to express the nature of scriptural authority are "inerrant" and "infallible." Though these two terms are, on etymological grounds, approximately synonymous, they are used differently. In Roman Catholic theology "inerrant" is applied to the Bible, "infallible" to the church, particularly the teaching function of pope and magisterium. Since Protestants reject the infallibility of both the pope and the church, the word has been used increasingly of the Scriptures. More recently "infallible" has been championed by those who hold to what B B Warfield called limited inspiration but what today is better called limited inerrancy. They limit the Bible's inerrancy to matters of faith and practice, particularly soteriological issues. Stephen T Davis reflects this tendency when he gives a stipulative definition for infallibility: the Bible makes no false or misleading statements about matters of faith and practice. In this article the two terms shall be used as virtually synonymous.

    Definition of Inerrancy
    Inerrancy is the view that when all the facts become known, they will demonstrate that the Bible in its original autographs and correctly interpreted is entirely true and never false in all it affirms, whether that relates to doctrine or ethics or to the social, physical, or life sciences.
    A number of points in this definition deserve discussion. Inerrancy is not presently demonstrable. Human knowledge is limited in two ways. First, because of our finitude and sinfulness, human beings misinterpret the data that exist. For instance, wrong conclusions can be drawn from inscriptions or texts. Second, we do not possess all the data that bear on the Bible. Some of that data may be lost forever, or they may be awaiting discovery by archaeologists. By claiming that inerrancy will be shown to be true after all the facts are known, one recognizes this. The defender of inerrancy argues only that there will be no conflict in the end.

    Further, inerrancy applies equally to all parts of the Bible as originally written. This means that no present manuscript or copy of Scripture, no matter how accurate, can be called inerrant.

    This definition also relates inerrancy to hermeneutics. Hermeneutics is the science of biblical interpretation. It is necessary to interpret a text properly, to know its correct meaning, before asserting that what a text says is false. Moreover, a key hermeneutical principle taught by the Reformers is the analogy of faith, which demands that apparent contradictions be harmonized if possible. If a passage appears to permit two interpretations, one of which conflicts with another passage and one of which does not, the latter must be adopted

    March 22, 2011 at 12:41 am |
    • Q

      Sounds like contrived concordance based on an a priori position...

      March 22, 2011 at 12:44 am |
    • ohhowsad

      The "science of biblical interpretation"? Can I get a degree in that and minor in Epistemology of The Twlight Saga?

      March 22, 2011 at 2:09 am |
  12. Brian

    "Anyone can make derisive remarks."..........

    Yes, as you just did. I wonder why theologians can't get a real job. They used to argue about how many angels could dance on the head of a pin. I think it was the archbishop of Armagh who calculated that 324 angels can dance on the head of a pin.

    March 22, 2011 at 12:39 am |
  13. I AM GOD

    Wow...anything to fill those giving baskets they pass around, huh? What is praying to an imaginary being going to do for you when the 300 foot tall wall of water knocks you into the next life? Make it...softer..? Christians are just as insane as Muslims...and have killed far more people than any recent, or past, natural disasters in recorded history ever have. Heard of the inquisitions??? Probably not. It's far more convenient to say your "god" is a benevolent, kind, and caring being...while your religious zealots have slaughtered MILLIONS of people just because they don't believe in what you do. You people make me laugh every time you say that jesus saves...WHO, exactly, does he save? We all die. The idea of faith was created to control...period. I have faith in myself...because I am the only one that I choose to control. Sheeple...get over yourselves.

    March 22, 2011 at 12:39 am |
    • Robert

      I am wondering if "you" help others, if "you" do anything for anyone except bash people? The neat thing is that Graham has a right to believe in God but you seem to think that only YOU have rights to your own beliefs. How about you keep your mouth shut and focus on yourself instead of bashing people that are helping 1000s of less fortunate people.

      March 22, 2011 at 12:46 am |
    • I AM GOD

      OK, Robert...what is god doing to help those less fortunate than ourselves..? Sending earthquakes and tsunamis to Chile? Why is your god killing his own people...created in his image, no less? Does he hate himself so much for creating us, that he sits up "there" on his throne and plays with our strings like a marionette? Do you like thinking that your life has NO meaning? If you believe that god has preordaned your future, then your life means...NOTHING. Nothing you do matters, because your fate is already written before you were born. Sheeple...you'll believe whatever you're told. "It's god's plan"...LOL Bullsh!t. Oh, and, if you want to tell me to shut my mouth, come over here and do it...I'll help you "find" your god...

      March 22, 2011 at 12:51 am |
  14. Leonore H. Dvorkin

    Oh, please, true believers! Send me all your money. Sign your house and car over to me. You can find me very easily by doing a search on my name. (There are many thousands of listings for me and my husband, David Dvorkin, on Google.) If you do not do these things, then I will know that you do not truly believe that the end is near. I'm waiting....

    March 22, 2011 at 12:38 am |
  15. cryba

    I have a question: How come so many people who ridicule the Bible and Christianity read this article? Why is it that you are all so interested in what Franklin Graham has to say? I understand most Christians wanting to hear what he said, but why so many unbelievers? Think really deep for one second and ask yourself, "am I searching for the truth?". Maybe you are.

    March 22, 2011 at 12:37 am |
    • Godfree Master

      Because we DO read arguments from opinions that differ from ours. For one thing, it's why we can see "the faithful" are so self-delusional: they not only swallow this crap hook line and sinker- they blind themselves to how blind they are.

      March 22, 2011 at 12:52 am |
    • ohhowsad

      No, it's the same phenomenom as when traffic on the freeway slows down even though the accident is on the other side of the divider. You just need to gawk at something horrifying and feel glad it isn't you.

      March 22, 2011 at 12:54 am |
    • YaRite

      What Godfree Master said AND I like to read fiction section right after going through top news of the day.

      March 22, 2011 at 12:57 am |
  16. Baffled

    ??? Someone actually reads this stuff with open mind and believes in it? Bible references with respect to any predictions will be as accurate as Mayan doomsday prophesies and Nostradamus' famous ones. Which is it? Seems that people who have a burning need to believe in divine intervention and manipulation also have to believe in doomsday scenarios. Earth has seen gigantic earthquakes, megavolcanoes and green house effect that wiped out all the glaciers from the world, and life kept going in every instance. Believe what you may, everyone dies in the end, but someone ALWAYS survives, and it does not have to be in a hokey-pokey heaven.

    March 22, 2011 at 12:34 am |
  17. WayneVA

    Power of Jesus Christ to save individuals from their sins when the individual repents of sins and receives Jesus Christ into his or her life and commits his or her life to him.
    [44 ] Then he (Jesus) said to them (disciples), “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” [45 ] Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, [46 ] and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, [47 ] and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. [48 ] You are witnesses of these things.”
    (Luke 24:44-48 ESV)

    March 22, 2011 at 12:34 am |
    • YaRite

      Yup, quoting from a fairy tale book written by old men really make me want to convert. Hallelujah, I'm saved!

      March 22, 2011 at 12:53 am |
    • Winston5

      if God wrote the bible, how come many of the stories appear in religious texts thousands of years b4 christ?? Seriously.

      March 22, 2011 at 1:25 am |
  18. Lin

    This is what happens to all those who rebel agains the Lord God Almighty:

    "And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever. And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire" (Revelation 20:10-15).

    Please do yourself a favor, nay sayers, blasphemers against God, REPENT before you are thrown along with your satan to a place that you will never get used to nor ever be comfortable but in FIRE. Repent from the horrible hearts you have by attacking God Almighty with your satanic tongue and blaspheming Jesus with your wickedness. God is a loving God, He is also merciful and just, He heals and He saves those whom HE wills. Repent and pray to YOUR CREATOR that He humbles you and so He can forgive you because otherwise you are dead in His eyes already, He just gave you 'some' time and you are running out of it.

    March 22, 2011 at 12:33 am |
    • I AM GOD

      oooooooh....scaaaaaaaarrrrrrry stuff there..! I am shaking in my socks!! Is da big bad god coming to "smote" me if I don't love him...? Oooooooh...I'm a-SCAWED!!!!!!

      March 22, 2011 at 12:42 am |
    • SBFlorida

      If that is God, then he can go f@$% himself.

      March 22, 2011 at 12:44 am |
    • IG

      I mean, we don't ask to come here, we are made up of everything that "GOD" made us to be, then he wants to sentence us to a never ending fire because of the sins that he made us desire. Give me a break. When will people wake up and smell the coffee. Religion is the biggest con since the beginning of time. I just can't believe that in 2011, people still believe this nonsense.

      March 22, 2011 at 9:34 am |
    • I Believe

      God does not cast you into the fire. He has tried to get you to follow and do right. It is Satan that keeps you, since you prefer to follow him instead.

      March 30, 2011 at 8:47 am |
  19. Ron

    You people are seriously not in touch with reality..............you hurt my brain................seriously.

    March 22, 2011 at 12:33 am |
    • juan

      If you want to get in touch with Reality, he often post on here.... His post don't have much to do with reality but Oh Well........

      March 22, 2011 at 12:36 am |
    • juan

      If you want to get a grip on Reality that's between you and him.......

      March 22, 2011 at 12:38 am |
  20. Jussame

    I hear all the time that God is a loving God and therefore life should be all roses as we skip gleefully through fields of joy. Humanity had that chance. Again and again we have been given chances. I'm prepared for the trash talk that someone is going to do because someone won't like that I believe in God. Too bad for you as I will not waste a moment of my day responding to your silliness. Say what you will; it causes no change in my belief or faith. From your perspective, I'm wrong. From your perspective, if I were wrong and there was no God then nobody has to worry about being held accountable and you can gleefully do to anyone anything you want and you will never be held accountable. From my perspective, you're the one who is wrong and God very much exists; you will be held accountable regardless of whether you admit He exists or not. Fooling yourself into believing He doesn't exist is just foolish because the only one it hurts is you. God says whoever does not know Him but knows His ways will see Him and whoever knows Him but ignores His ways will never see Him.

    March 22, 2011 at 12:32 am |
    • jheron

      Your smug argument goes out the window if you are believing in the wrong God. And people who do not believe in god do hold themselves accountable. Why? Because we are part of a society. Perheps instead of believing blindly in simple answers, perhaps you should try to find real answers. That is the true shame of your blind faith and arrogance.

      March 22, 2011 at 12:46 am |
    • Winston5

      god = fear. check.

      March 22, 2011 at 1:06 am |
    • ohhowsad

      With or without a god, I would not do whatever I pleased to others. Because I'm a decent human being who knows right from wrong. Which I believe makes me more moral than those who only do right because they think they will burn in a lake of hellfire for all eternity if they're "bad".

      March 22, 2011 at 2:27 am |
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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.