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. Mark

    Fairy tales are useful for children. Grow up.

    March 22, 2011 at 1:13 am |
  2. rebrep

    What is it with CNN? I've never used profanity or said anything even remotely insulting, as I see so many others do here. But my comments (concise and to the point) get lost in moderated oblivion. I give up. I quit. CNN has successfully muted my freedom of speech. I'm done with CNN.

    March 22, 2011 at 1:10 am |
    • rebrep

      I love irony.

      March 22, 2011 at 1:13 am |
  3. Mark Miner

    Let's have a show of hands, how many of you bashing Franklin Graham and dismissing him as a nutjob actually watched his Newsmax interview? Anybody? Anybody at all, don't be shy. Hello? Okay, here's the deal. He specifically stated to the newscaster that he didn't know if the earthquakes and tsunami were related to the end times or not. While the newscaster mentioned the tsunami and the 2010 Haiti earthquake, Katrina, and the 2004 tsunami as examples, she seemed to be digging for Graham to acknowledge that these were end times related. He did not do so, he acknowledged the possibility and stated that it could be even 1000 years from now. Graham's whole point was that we do not know when the end times are coming, but that Christians should be ready to stand before God at any point because the end times could come, or the end of our lives, at any time. He stated that Christians should pray about it and study the Bible, but he said multiple times that he did not know if these were signs of the end times or not. Newsmax appears to have been looking for a good headline for the article and posted a sensational headline that misdirected the nature of what Graham was saying. CNN picked it up, but hey, sensationalism makes good copy and sells papers and brings in blog readers too I guess. All of you posters razzing the man over what he said or didn't say, please take the time to actually do some basic 2 minute research before declaring yourselves to be experts on the matter. To paraphrase someone somewhere, it is better to be quiet and thought to be stupid, than open your mouth and remove all doubt.

    March 22, 2011 at 1:08 am |
    • Paris Merriot

      He doesn't say truely if It's the end times because if he says it is and once again a fairy tale beliver saying prophecy will be wrong. I hope for the future that Jesus isn't around after another 2,000 years, meaning people will not remember these silly stories.

      March 22, 2011 at 1:22 am |
  4. faithful10

    Please read the article again. He never said the world is about to end, just that he doesn't know...it could be soon or not. He did say he thought it would be sooner than later but didn't make any predictions. Rev. Graham does amazing work all over the world. His organization, Samaritan's Purse, is tirelessly working on the border of Libya/Tunisia handing out supplies to the refugees. If this is crazy, we need more of it.

    March 22, 2011 at 1:08 am |
  5. RichardSRussell

    So this is, what? The 104,766th prediction of the End of Days since Jesus lied about coming back during his disciples' lifetimes? Ho hum. Why is this news?

    March 22, 2011 at 1:07 am |
  6. saundra

    We are taught to believe and revere God and Jesus. The only point to Christianity is to follow God's plan. If we do not and someone decides we are nuts because we do not believe as they do just might and most probably will snuff out our lights.
    At that point it is well that we do believe in Chritianity because otherwise the end is when we lost our life. Jesus saves us for all eternity but only if we follow him.

    March 22, 2011 at 1:07 am |
  7. Mike

    I mentioned before that events like these have happened millions of times before in earth's history. It just came to mind that it is when they stop happening that we should begin to worry.

    March 22, 2011 at 1:05 am |
  8. God

    One can only hope!

    March 22, 2011 at 1:05 am |
  9. Calpurnpiso

    burgundy11 What part of:

    " It is sad to see this Christ-PSychosis affected man still expressing his bizarre metamagical beliefs as would any other schizophrenic in this 21st Century, when the science of neurology PROVES that we are evolved mutated primates that create God angels, demons & other imaginary friends with our BRAINS, didn't you understand?

    I see you did not understand my point. The BRAIN is the creator of GOD & other bizarre beliefs. This is proven by neurology.
    Isn't Christianity the acceptance of a resurrected God that saves with blood as true? All religions are based in the acceptance of metamagical bizarre beliefs as reality. This is no different to the beliefs of schizophrenic, and TL epileptics.
    FYI, Hitler was a ChristPSychotic, just like the KKK, Aryan Brotherhood, Militias, the Boys Scout founder Baden-Powell ( the first boyScout medal had a swastika), also Jim Jones ( Guayana masacre where 900 ChristPsychotics went to heaven by drinking cyanide), Koresh ( ChristPSchotics ascended to heaven in flames), Doe of HEaven's Gate that drank cyanide to board a spaceship piloted by Jesus that was trailing the comet HaleBop, Andrea Yates who drown her 5 children so JEsus could take care if them.......I have thousands of examples that prove my point. ReligiousBEliefs are a form of schizotypy that could become full blown. The Arizona shooter is a good example. He was brought up by a ChristPSychosis infected parents. Christian families had no idea the danger in feeding their children with such disgusting immoral intolerant, FALSE, anachronistic, anti-science, fairy tales. The BRAIN is the creator of God & other supernatural mumbo jumbo.

    The acceptance of bizarre metamagical beliefs i,e Christianity as reality is indicative of a neurological malfuction not unlike schizophrenia.
    I must point out, since you brought up Hitler, this ChristPsychosis leader wanted to be a priest. He emulated Jesus the Christ & wanted to be a savior of Germany. He cleverly created a NEW branch of Christianity, Nazism. It combined Catholicism, Lutheranism ( He love Luther's book, von die Juden u Ihre Lugen, from the Jews & their lies) an German ancient Paganism. He also wrote a BIBLE, Mein Kampf where he adopted many passages of the gospels, I suggest you read it to understand what a DEEPLY believing Christian this man was.
    The Catholic Church loved him and after the war, the Vatican help ( as well as Christian American CIA) many Christian Nazi scape to Argentina. He also admire the crusades ( 11thCe-13thC) were invasions of
    ChristPSychotics to exterminate the IslamPSychotics & JewishPsychotics from Nutty Land.
    Hitler did the samething with the Holocaust, Exterminate those who Killed Christ.

    These Bizarre beliefs accepted as TRUE in the Middle Ages was ok. Those folks had NO idea the brain was the organ to think with, they believe it was the Heart..lol..Believing those ancient fairy tales, which are NO different to those of Greek Mythology, today in the 21st Century as TRUE by educated folks, is sign of a neurological malfunction. However The uneducated & ignorant do have an excuse.

    I must point out this fact, the more one knows the more difficult it is for others to LIE to you. I think the government should place a SIGN at the entrance of ALL churches, other places of worship and the Creationism Museum. Like it does in Tobacco products. The sign should read:

    " WARNING: The bizarre metamagical stories narrated in these premises as TRUE are FALSE & MYTHOLOGICAL, accepting them as REALITY, can have detrimental effects on your ability to reason and stagnate your intellect."

    A true molestation of children is perverting their brains with the immoral perverted anachronistic lies of religious texts.


    March 22, 2011 at 1:04 am |
  10. Mike

    Events like these have happened millions of times in the earth's history. These people are so ignorant and self-centered to think that it is somehow prophetic or a sign of impending doom.

    March 22, 2011 at 1:03 am |
  11. Dwood

    I am a beliver. I belive the world will end just as the bible says it will. But I also know that major disasters are nothing new to the earth, they happen all the time. As do wars, famines, and plages. Pick any page out of a history book and one or more of these things will have happend at any time in the past. The fact that we now can know about somthing the instant it happens on earth, creates the illusion that the world is falling apart. in Thessalonians 5:2-3 it says "For you know quite well that the day of the Lord's return will come unexpectedly, like a thief in the night. When people are saying, "Everything is peaceful and secure." then disaster will fall on them as suddenly as a pregnant woman's labor pains begin. And there will be no escape." From a biblical point of view there are still many more things that have to happen before Jesus comes back. The Jewish temple plays a major role in the end times. But there is no such temple now, the Dome of the Rock sits in its place on the Temple Mount. Untill we see that temple, everything is simply speculation. Christians are not suppost to speculate on the end of the world. Worry only about living your life for Jesus, becasue that is what turly matters in the end.

    March 22, 2011 at 1:03 am |
  12. marc simmons

    idiot. move on.

    March 22, 2011 at 1:02 am |
  13. Pete

    Nothing like using a tragic natural disaster along with the gullibility of many people to get your fifteen minutes of fame.

    March 22, 2011 at 1:02 am |
    • 3N1Amen

      How are you helping may I ask Pete?? Did you ever think it was the media who takes whatever any religious person says to make big news?? They know it will pull people in, because most likely, no one can handle the "end".

      March 22, 2011 at 1:05 am |
  14. leonard

    there is no end of the world.why would "christians" who claim to love others and want peace seem to want billions of people to die harriable deaths and suffer eternal suffering.sick is what i call it. but then I have never been a christian and thank G-d my family has never been in that pagan faith.

    March 22, 2011 at 1:01 am |
    • 3N1Amen

      and how do you know Leonard?? Do tell.

      March 22, 2011 at 1:03 am |
    • faithful10

      Christians don't want anyone to die horrible deaths or suffer eternal torment. That's why we live our lives in such a way that others can see Jesus in us and want to follow His teachings also. I pray peace and truth for you.

      March 22, 2011 at 1:21 am |
    • KSABQ

      Actually, Leonard, strictly speaking, the world WILL end. Most likely the end will come when the sun begins to exhaust its fuel supply and swells into a red giant. When the sun ends its "main sequence" lifespan, it will likely expand to about the diameter of Earth's orbit. Needless to say, if there's anyone left on this planet, they're toast.

      When will this happen? Based on observations of similar stars, the sun is predicted to last another 5 billion years or so. Plenty of time to put your affairs in order.

      Since nobody knew anything at all about astrophysics thousands of years ago, they came up with some rather colorful hypotheses about how the universe and world were created. They also speculated, also in a total vacuum of factual knowledge, about how it might possibly end. It is these speculations which make up the "creation" and "end of the world" stories common to most religions.

      Among the world's major religions, the Hindu creation story comes closest to reality. Hinduism teaches that the Universe was created when a sound arose from the empty dark ocean of nothingness. The sound was "Om", a vibration of creative energy – a standing wave, if you will. The Universe is a great spinning dance of energy and particles, driven by the eternal echos of the Word. A pretty good guess for 4,500 years ago! We now know that everything in the Universe exists in the form of standing waves of electromagnetic energy, and that the Universe is indeed a great spinning dance at all levels from the subatomic to the orbital mechanics of entire galaxies.

      If you pay attention in science class and develop an understanding of the actual physical reality of creation, you'll find that it's WAY more amazing, awesome, profound and spiritually moving than any pitiful earthly religion could possibly capture. God really is MUCH too big to fit into any one religion.

      Contrary to the teachings of various small-minded fundamentalists who got D-minuses in 9th grade science, there is absolutely NO inherent conflict between science and religion. Astrophysics is the science of HOW the cosmos was created, but science has nothing at all to say about WHY it exists – the purpose of Life, the Universe, and Everything. Finding the Ultimate Answer to the Ultimate Question is for theologians and philosophers, not scientists.

      When it comes to the down-to-Earth question of the purpose of human existence, and the "right and proper" way to live your life, it was again a Hindu philosopher who seems to have hit closest to the mark. For my money, Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha, absolutely nailed it.

      March 22, 2011 at 2:15 am |
  15. 3N1Amen

    Jesus IS coming back....and no one knows when. So if I were you, I'd study up of what God expects out of us during our short time here on earth...if you have not accepted Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, please seek Him. Eternity is forever...don't always go with the crowd AKA "the world", study yourself and find out what God has to say about Heaven and Hell. You have a choice. God is not going to make you choose Him. You will not get a second opportunity to accept Him once you die and are being tortured every minute of every day for eternity...Eternity is eternity. Please choose Him. Think about it real hard. If you were to die tomorrow, (as we don't know when our time is up) where will you go?? Heaven or Hell???? Turn or burn. Jesus loves you so much! He does not want you to suffer for eternity. Satan hates you. And will torment you forever because YOU were made in the image of God! Yes, YOU!!! So Satan hates God and will HATE you just like he does right now!

    God is knocking at your door....please let Him in.... Choose Him today so you can spend your eternity with Him in Heaven someday!

    March 22, 2011 at 12:59 am |
    • leonard


      March 22, 2011 at 1:02 am |
    • Matt

      Heaven sounds boring. All the cool people will be in Hell.

      March 22, 2011 at 1:06 am |
    • 3N1Amen

      Yeah Matt, there won't be any "cool" left in the cool people as the flames will fix that.

      March 22, 2011 at 1:08 am |
    • Q

      Ahhh...3N1Amen brings the Schadenfreude...

      March 22, 2011 at 1:10 am |
    • Matt

      3N1Amen – Awesome, I love a good fire. Hot dogs are tasty!

      March 22, 2011 at 1:17 am |
  16. arlo

    Gibbs ... lol... need to be shaken out of our comfort zone. So how was he shaken out.. by watching it on tv?

    March 22, 2011 at 12:58 am |
  17. juan

    If you back up to about 100 years ago; people were perplexed about the issue of the nation of Israel. It is in prophecy of the end times......but Israel had not existed as a nation for nearly 2500 years. Amazing how so many of the pieces seem to fall into place.

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

      It is amazing how neatly prophecy lines up after events have happened.

      March 22, 2011 at 1:04 am |
    • juan

      Matt, I'm not sure what your trying to say. Israel is clearly in the prophecies of the end times....... Israel hadn't existed as a nation until, what was it 1947 or 1948? Talking to people who were alive even in the 1920s and 1930s it was a question they had. Israel isn't a nation so how is this going to be fulfilled? and Why are people going to fighting over worthless desert in the Middle East? Interesting how time and events have answered those questions..............

      March 22, 2011 at 1:09 am |
    • Tom

      The history of Israel is more current, 72 years to be exact.

      March 22, 2011 at 1:11 am |
    • Matt

      Juan – I am saying that it is very easy after events have happened to comb The Bible or any other religious book for passages that seem to point to said event that has already happened and then say the events were foretold.

      March 22, 2011 at 1:34 am |
  18. Tim

    I wish people like Franklin Graham would go ahead and end themselves so we wouldn't have to heqar it all the time!

    March 22, 2011 at 12:49 am |
    • 3N1Amen

      and Tim, what are YOU doing to help the world??? Hmmm....I thought so.

      March 22, 2011 at 1:01 am |
    • Joe

      Then the world would be a smarter place!

      March 22, 2011 at 1:16 am |
    • Cara

      3N1Amen I don't see how he's helping the world by saying that the end is near.

      March 22, 2011 at 1:22 am |
  19. CM

    Yeah and Jesus said "no man knoweth" so it's hilarious when those heading up churches go off with any natural disaster with oh this may be it... And, the passage one taken one left who says it won't be the one left that gets the new heaven and new earth – maybe it's a brotherhood of people actually loving one another instead of trying to control rule and living for self! HMM God has a great way of never doing it the way men think it will.

    March 22, 2011 at 12:48 am |
  20. Alix

    Whatever. It'll come or it won't, and stirring people up doesn't help anything. What an idiot.

    March 22, 2011 at 12:47 am |

      The end ? Wow...no need for any more donations then.

      March 22, 2011 at 12:56 am |
    • 3N1Amen

      Jesus IS coming back....and no one knows when. So if I were you, I'd study up of what God expects out of us during our short time here on earth...if you have not accepted Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, please seek Him. Eternity is forever...don't always go with the crowd AKA "the world", study yourself and find out what God has to say about Heaven and Hell. You have a choice. God is not going to make you choose Him. You will not get a second opportunity to accept Him once you die and are being tortured every minute of every day for eternity...Eternity is eternity. Please choose Him. Think about it real hard. If you were to die tomorrow, (as we don't know when our time is up) where will you go?? Heaven or Hell???? Turn or burn. Jesus loves you so much! He does not want you to suffer for eternity. Satan hates you. And will torment you forever because YOU were made in the image of God! Yes, YOU!!! So Satan hates God and will HATE you just like he does right now!

      God is knocking at your door....please let Him in.... Choose Him today so you can spend your eternity with Him in Heaven someday!

      March 22, 2011 at 1:00 am |
    • C-dog

      Couldn't agree more. I mean, talk about hedging your bets: "The world is coming to an end!........Then again, maybe not!" This sort of talk exposes organized religion for what it is: Tale of sound and fury told by idiots (who love to scare the gullible into giving them money).

      March 22, 2011 at 1:03 am |
    • Objectivetruth Relgiousfiction

      Boy the Council of Nicea in all their *ahem* wisdom just put a zinger on folks by including that last book. But then again, it's about nonsensical as my favorite chunk of bizarre comedy, Leviticus. I bet Emperor Nero (as poor a statesman as he was) would ROFL if he knew a book about him would be used for ages as a prophecy for the end of the world (THESE are the end times! Yeah, for like a couple thousand years) . I'd ROFL too if wasn't scary how gullible people are and how crazy they're willing to get over fiction.

      March 22, 2011 at 1:21 am |
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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.