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. glugg

    Why now? there have been bigger natural disasters and bigger wars in history – bunch of baloney

    March 22, 2011 at 1:51 am |
  2. Chase


    Hmmm... let's see, War, Famine and Natural Disasters. Since humans have lived, all of these have been true and they will always continue to be true. Absolutely nothing new whatsoever. But ya... this COULD be the end.

    LOL. Seriously, you freakin christians are so simple minded that it makes me wonder whether humans evolved from apes or perhaps it was the other way around... for the love of eff's sakes you people are dumb.

    March 22, 2011 at 1:49 am |
    • Todd

      It was aa advance race that binded chromosome 2 and 3 remember? 😛

      March 22, 2011 at 7:05 am |
  3. Name*Chedar

    Jesus is now among the living, He is anyone who is forgiving, compassionate with loving kindness. Anyone who have this virtue can and is Jesus.

    March 22, 2011 at 1:49 am |
    • Da King

      At least he can have Jesus on the inside.

      March 22, 2011 at 6:05 am |
    • Jesus

      Most nights my girlfriend has Jesus on the inside and she loves it (so do I)!

      March 22, 2011 at 7:46 am |
  4. Grimaldas

    I love the Doomsday folk. They entertain me so. Since man has begun to count the hours of the passing day, so too, has he fortold his end. Enjoy the time we have now, worry not of the end. Respect your self and neighbor; live the day at hand, and not that of tomorrow.

    March 22, 2011 at 1:49 am |
    • Todd

      Isn't interesting how man is so inclined on his doom instead of finding alternate solutions to population growth and free energy? True humans will find balance. This is the only way to survive with a finite world.

      March 22, 2011 at 7:02 am |
  5. Beth

    "Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places."
    This is as general as a horoscope. Wars have existed throughout history, the same goes for famines and earthquakes. Like George Carlin, I'd rather worship the sun. At least I know the sun *IS* real.

    March 22, 2011 at 1:49 am |
  6. islandman42

    What a pile of crap....

    March 22, 2011 at 1:48 am |
  7. son of beelzebubba

    One sign of a cult: a charismatic leader. I give you the Graham family.

    March 22, 2011 at 1:47 am |
  8. SF

    Hello, I believe what The Truth72 says has scientific sense. My religious beliefs aside, if you take the data compiled during the last 20 years, you will find a drastic increase in disasters both natural and man made have increased. This phenomena has an increasing frequency that can be tracked and analysed. If our analysis is correct, this should increase. This increase and subsequent disasters (again natural and man made), if classified into the type of effect it would have on the world at large, will show that it would happen more frequently that ever before, this means, you will find the amount of deaths increasing, due to illnesses, such as cancer, natural disasters such as earthquakes, etc, wars and other man made destructions, all with an increased frequency. This doesnt stop there, if you look at a person's life, there too, you will find an increase in problems/troubles, frankly, its a part of the chain effect of the overall macro problem. If this means, one should adhere more to religion, meditation, etc, then please go ahead, that should give some respite and if you are really into it, a good peace of mind. I dont have the space to write in length however, I am sure, if one really wants to understand, I'll try to provide more info, if anyone really needs it. But then again, the best thing to do, frankly, is to be at peace with yourself, so do whatever has to be done to achieve it, no matter what happens in the world.

    March 22, 2011 at 1:47 am |
    • brad

      in the last 20 years the only thing that's seen a drastic increase is internet usage and the number of sites purporting to have the answers people should believe just because they have displayed the unsubstantiated information. We have actually had less major disasters while having more minor disasters. That probably supports anyones take on this. As far as psychosis I agree that we seem more isolated (because of and not despite of social networking), pharmy addicted, and psychotic

      March 22, 2011 at 1:55 am |
    • Itlyboy

      Is this just because human populations have increased and we have made more stuff to get destroyed.

      March 22, 2011 at 1:57 am |
    • Todd

      Have you ever heard of Time Scale Zero 🙂 Look it up! Awesome info on exactly what your talking about.

      March 22, 2011 at 7:00 am |
    • standingwave

      The Siberian Traps erupted for hundreds of thousands of years and nearly extinguished life on this planet.What's happening now is nothing in comparison.

      April 11, 2011 at 12:13 pm |
  9. doresearch

    "I have just as much authority as the pope, but fewer people who believe it."

    – George Carlin

    March 22, 2011 at 1:44 am |
    • Jesus

      Carlin was a hero! A great comic and observer of mankind.

      March 22, 2011 at 7:44 am |
  10. son of beelzebubba

    The church that misquoted scripture to persuade south carolinians in the mid 1800's (some congregations still do today) that slavery was meant to be are telling their cult-followers they might get beamed up soon? Are they sure they'll like where they're headed?

    March 22, 2011 at 1:44 am |
  11. StevieBoy

    And Jesus may or may not have said that he might come back at some unknown time, but he couldn't say just when though he did suggest that his sheeple hold their collective breaths in the meantime... anyone turning blue yet??? HA HA HA!!! There are those that would do just that don't you know???

    March 22, 2011 at 1:41 am |
  12. john

    I am glad this is in the "belief" blog area and not in some place that actually matters or is real.

    March 22, 2011 at 1:40 am |
  13. Jane

    God, I hate religion

    March 22, 2011 at 1:39 am |
    • God Seeker

      Read James. You don't have to like religion. Mankind are sinners and make mistakes. Look for the truths.

      March 22, 2011 at 1:51 am |
    • agathokles

      Then, if you hate religion, why are you lurking in the "Belief" Section of CNN.com?

      March 22, 2011 at 1:57 am |
    • Da King

      So does God.

      March 22, 2011 at 6:00 am |
    • Mabraham

      Fine. Find out who Jesus Christ is !

      March 22, 2011 at 8:39 am |
  14. Roger Federer

    and stop the 'the Bible teaches us' crap, it's been through thousands and thousands of people's mouth and political systems before it was finished. It just doesn't make sense, too many logical arguments available.

    March 22, 2011 at 1:39 am |
    • brad

      the bible teaches us as much as a person wants it to. where it is limited is in teaching historical facts.

      March 22, 2011 at 1:47 am |
    • God Seeker

      The Bible may not cover all of history but it is accurate when men are looking for answers on how to live and how to treat others. By reading the words in red and you might just learn something of value that hundreds of thousands of people have learned all thru history.

      March 22, 2011 at 1:58 am |
    • brad

      correct godseeker, one human fallacy is in taking it too seriously and purporting it to be the one and only truth, the other is in denying that it has great universal value as do all the great texts man has put together. for me reading similar myths from different ages and texts is a great way to review what it was to be man, before we started living very artificially constructed lives.

      March 22, 2011 at 2:06 am |
    • God Seeker

      Brad we all construct our own lives. What it looks like in the end is up to us. Freedom to choose. Freedom to believe. Freedom to write your own destiny.

      March 22, 2011 at 2:14 am |
  15. Roger Federer

    The Bible and other books are full of nonsense, of course there a good things in it for human beings to learn from, but I don't need a book like that to learn these things. Main things are making others happy (it even makes yourself happy, wow), respecting other people's view (ok, I'm a bit harsh on religious nonsense), and not trying to know what we will never know. Like is there a God? Waste of time and dangerous.

    March 22, 2011 at 1:36 am |
    • God Seeker

      Who created love and compassion? Science did not. Show some love and compassion and you will find the rewards in life.

      March 22, 2011 at 1:45 am |
    • JJJ

      God Seeker, science doesn't create anything. It is a method for observing and understanding the natural world. Engineering and Applied Science create things. But i'll turn you argument around: prove to me that God created love and compassion. I'm still waiting.. Oh, you CAN'T prove it? Then why did you apply a standard to others that you can't live up to yourself? Now give me your best bible verse as "proof" or tell me that you'll pray for me, because those are the only two comebacks I've EVER seen Christians offer...

      March 22, 2011 at 3:24 am |
    • standingwave

      Love and compassion are a survival mechanism that insure cooperation in any given society.Google "oxy-tocin".Btw,saying love and compassion weren't created by science is ridiculous and misleading.Science doesn't create emotion,it only describes it.

      April 11, 2011 at 12:09 pm |
  16. Gene

    "The End is Near" is good enough reason to cancel my 2 year mobile contract?

    March 22, 2011 at 1:35 am |
    • agathokles

      Why? If you cancel, they're charge you fees for it - now.

      March 22, 2011 at 1:56 am |
  17. Roger Federer

    I already can't wait for 01-01-2013, woohooooo!!

    March 22, 2011 at 1:33 am |
  18. CallMrAl

    Religious people make claims all the time, but it disturbs me that this week there was a potential presidential candidate in Israel and a whole lot of people who support Israel for the singular purpose of bringing about the destruction of our world. One cannot call themselves pro-life and actively seek the deaths of billions simply because they believe differently or are not "saved" by their very limited grasp of spirituality.

    March 22, 2011 at 1:32 am |
    • Mike R

      Right on, my friend.

      March 22, 2011 at 1:44 am |
    • brad

      when pro lifers also become peace activists and anti-capital punishment, I'll take them seriously at their word. Everyone loves babies, I mean c'mon they evolved to look that way for a reason. Loving the ugly and making hard choices takes guts. Just ask anyone that's been married for more than 20 years, ba-dahm-dump.

      March 22, 2011 at 1:45 am |
  19. God Seeker

    What is getting lost in all these comments is are you living your life with values, making good choices and loving your neighbor as yourself. The Bible is full of truths humans can learn from. It doesn't matter when the world will end. Live right today!

    March 22, 2011 at 1:32 am |
    • brad

      living every day like its your last is untenable, but at least snapping out of the fog and maybe trying to maintain your physical, psychological and economic welfare like every year could be your last is a good way to ensure you are giving your best to your family, coworkers and community.

      March 22, 2011 at 1:41 am |
    • Mike R

      Absolutely right. Well said.

      March 22, 2011 at 1:42 am |
    • God Seeker

      A start would be living right today! Not like it is your last But keep living right all of your days. Brad your comments are valid and we should make choices that benefit our families, friends, country and world. No one knows the future but we can all change it by how we act and what choices we make.

      March 22, 2011 at 2:05 am |
    • brad

      yep godseeker, just combating passive aggressive tendencies and letting someone on the highway from the access ramp, or not totally going ape crazy on the poor pharmacy tech when they tell you that they don't have the prescription from your doctor because it went to the wrong Walgreens would be a good start for most people. little things make a big difference where it counts.

      March 22, 2011 at 2:12 am |
  20. True beiliver


    March 22, 2011 at 1:31 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.