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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. madkoz

    The end of the world is a pretty good reason to not do anything to improve this one.

    March 22, 2011 at 6:27 am |
  2. jerry mdosi

    Well, to all you RIDICULERS – 2 peter chapter 3 – enough said. Discern what is written not what your silly friend says beause they are afraid that is why these days more and more people would like not to believe – you cannot wish away what is happening. Not to say I believe Graham or any other TV evangelizers – most of these guys who OWN churches have their rewards now can we say KA- CHING!

    March 22, 2011 at 6:16 am |
    • Whaaaat?

      Again with this afraid crap. I am not the least bit afriad to die knowing religion is complete BS. It is you who are so afraid of death that you cling to a fairy tail which flys in the face of all reason. You dont believe iun santa clause because it makes no sense what so ever but you buy the bible word for word. Insanity. I suppose you believe Jonah really lived in that whale too?

      March 22, 2011 at 8:56 am |
  3. jerry mdosi

    Well, to all you RIDICULORS – 2 peter chapter 3 – enough said. Discern what is written not what your silly friend says beause they are afraid that is why these days more and more people would like not to believe – you cannot wish away what is happening. Not to say I believe Graham or any other TV evangelizers – most of these guys who OWN churches have their rewards now can we say KA- CHING!

    March 22, 2011 at 6:16 am |
  4. aroseisarose

    why didn't you publish graham's comments about our president? i certainly feel they are newsworthy (if not OUTRIGHT lunacy). something or other about president obama allowing the entire us government system to become infiltrated with the muslim brotherhood (yet, he offers not one name, not one shred of proof). let's get the WHOLE story out there

    March 22, 2011 at 6:15 am |
  5. Luis Wu

    What an utterly stupid moron.

    March 22, 2011 at 6:11 am |
    • Joe

      no u stupid..he a man of God you should have more respect for him than that

      March 22, 2011 at 6:25 am |
  6. Jim1151

    Franklin, upon finishing his statement, asked the deacons to begin passing the offering plates to the congregation. By all indications of visual counts, it looked to be a pretty profitable Sunday.

    March 22, 2011 at 6:05 am |
  7. drinky

    The end is near...give me all your $$$ you friggin moronic sheep who believe in fairy tales...

    March 22, 2011 at 5:48 am |
  8. bwydeman

    Are you aware that in the last year, the largest numbers of people ever have died by sudden disaster? Accounts that I have read put the number at nearly 300,000 people world-wide. But I suspect that it should be far more people who have died in swift and potent catastrophes in 2010 alone. That is far more than the average of 77,000 deaths each year.

    The earthquake in Haiti alone killed more than 222,000 people, while heatwaves and fires in Russia killed more than 56,000. The earthquake in Chile killed almost 1,000, and the floods in Pakistan and China killed more than 3,200. There were 950 major disasters recorded last year, more than any other year since 1980. There were almost three major disasters every day somewhere in the world. Something is happening, my friends. And the people of the world have no idea what is the cause. Craig Fugate, the director of FEMA, which is the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency said, “It just seemed like it was back-to-back and it came in waves… The term ’100-year event’ really lost its meaning this year.” FEMA handled 79 disasters in 2010, which was a record. The average is 34.

    It seems that in some ways the whole earth is coming apart at the seams. It reminds me of the statement in the book Selected Messages, Vol. 2, page 391.

    “Troublous times are before us. The judgments of God are abroad in the land. Calamities follow one another in rapid succession. Soon God is to rise out of His place to shake terribly the earth, and to punish the inhabitants for their iniquity. Then He will stand up in behalf of His people, and will give them His protecting care. He will throw His everlasting arms around them to shield them from all harm.”

    What does it mean that “the judgments of God are abroad in the land?” It means that God is permitting the development of disasters in many different ways and in many different forms. You see my friends, God’s prophets accurately point out that at the end of time everything will be in chaos. So as the earth shakes, rattles and rolls, we are told that the worst is yet to come.

    Here is another statement that shows us that God permits Satan to wreak havoc on planet earth. This one is from Great Controversy, page 589-590.

    “While appearing to the children of men as a great physician who can heal all their maladies, he will bring disease and disaster, until populous cities are reduced to ruin and desolation. Even now he is at work. In accidents and calamities by sea and by land, in great conflagrations, in fierce tornadoes and terrific hailstorms, in tempests, floods, cyclones, tidal waves, and earthquakes, in every place and in a thousand forms, Satan is exercising his power. He sweeps away the ripening harvest, and famine and distress follow. He imparts to the air a deadly taint, and thousands perish by the pestilence. These visitations are to become more and more frequent and disastrous. Destruction will be upon both man and beast. “The earth mourneth and fadeth away,” “the haughty people . . . do languish. The earth also is defiled under the inhabitants thereof; because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, broken the everlasting covenant.” Isaiah 24:4, 5

    Why do all these things happen? It is because sinful man has turned away from God’s commandments. Also I want you to notice that violent storms or tempests, which bring hailstones, floods, tornados, hurricanes and cyclones, are mentioned in this passage. You can expect that Satan will soon let loose, and more of these things will take place in rapid succession.

    But other types of weather systems can create havoc and be just as deadly. One huge weather system “caused oppressive heat in Russia, while farther south it caused flooding in Pakistan that inundated 62,000 square miles, which is about the size of Wisconsin in the United States. That single heat-and-storm system killed almost 17,000 people.”

    Nations, cities and societies have placed themselves where nature can attack them with lethal force. Huge cities along seacoasts and near fault lines, for instance, make millions upon untold millions of people vulnerable to great seismic upheavals, tsunamis and other assaults from the sea. But inland cities are often not much less vulnerable to droughts, heatwaves, and fires either. Just ask the people in Moscow.

    Let us think about earthquakes for a few minutes. On the afternoon of January 12, 2010 the residents on the island nation of Haiti were going about their business as usual when a violent earthquake lashed out and threw the island into upheaval, killing approximately 225,000 people and leaving 1,000,000 homeless. 250,000 residences and 30,000 commercial buildings were all destroyed. One year later, more than a million people are still homeless, living in tents and other makeshift structures. Then in October 2010 the misery worsened as a cholera outbreak began sickening over 100,000 people and killing more than 3,300 earthquake survivors. As I was preparing this message, the cholera outbreak had spread to all the provinces of Haiti, to the Dominican Republic and even to the United States. Jesus is coming real soon and I believe it please give your to the saviour repent and confess to God your sins time is ticking. If you want more of the info on whats happening is this world please check out these wonderful sites.

    http://www.amazingfacts.org/FreeStuff/BibleStudies/StudyGuides/tabid/105/Default.aspx

    http://www.ktfministry.org/en/

    http://www.youtube.com/user/TheForerunner777

    March 22, 2011 at 5:33 am |
    • an84u

      Jeez, if it were not for bad news, I guess we'd have no news at all!

      March 22, 2011 at 5:38 am |
    • Another Person

      The earth is 4.5 billion years old. 4.5 BILLION! Seismic activity, plate tectonics and other geological events that cause "natural disasters" have been happening since the dawn of time.

      Don't read more into it than there is.
      The problem is two things. First.....We as humans inhabit so much of the earth it's hard to get missed by one of these events. Second.....we live in the information age when EVERYTHING that happens is reported immediately so it seems like there are more "bad things" happening. 150 years ago it would have been months before you found out about a disaster on the other side of the planet.

      Yes.... the end is coming. For us....... but not the earth. When ? Who knows? Humans are so vain. The earth doesn't even know we are here and could care less. The universe doesn't owe you to "live forever" anymore than most people think a fly has an afterlife. Something else will live here another billion years from now like the the dinosaurs before us.

      Be good and helpful to your fellow man and try to enjoy the ride. The physical journey is a sure thing. Don't get too wrapped up in dogma that was created before the age of reason.
      Galileo was locked up for saying the earth revolved around the sun.

      March 22, 2011 at 7:31 am |
    • Whaaaat?

      Do you reeeally think anyone bothered to read all that crap??

      March 22, 2011 at 8:52 am |
  9. an84u

    Franklin Graham – always the sweet-spirited grim weeper who seizes all kill-joy moments to ride boldly backwards on the ghostly apocalypsian horse! Where's the Christian gospel's good news?

    March 22, 2011 at 5:29 am |
  10. doctore0

    OMG OMG its the end of times OMG OMG keep on sinning

    March 22, 2011 at 5:24 am |
  11. holyguac

    It's one thing to believe in God, Christ, and the Bible. But I just cannot get into people being all "holier than thou" and beating other people over the head with their concept of interpretations of those words. Christ said "no one knows the hour" of Christs return except God the father. Try to tell these people who are so eager to see this world go down in flames. I guess if there is a judgement day, many cannot wait to see everyone but themselves condemned to the hell they so eagerly love to "warn" people about. If there is a heaven, hopefully it has a place for the righteous, and a separate section for the "self-righteous." That way these hell-lovers can sit around on clouds all day saying things like "I wonder what hell is like. I Know who ended up there, I warned them!" Hell hell hell. Some people love talking about it so much, you'd think that was all that God is about.

    March 22, 2011 at 5:20 am |
  12. Daph

    Has FRANKLIN GRAHAM turned into another DAVID CARESH < sp? The Waco guy who believed the same thing, or the ALIEN folks in CALIFORNIA.... or the many other thousands before who believed the same stuff ? Hes just scaring his "flocks" to send him more money, he needs more money ......

    March 22, 2011 at 5:15 am |
    • alumette

      Typical evangelical crap. They like to control as many fools as possible. If the earth's surface becomes a problem, look for the solutions instead of sending us the gloom and doom we cannot fix, but they are not scientists, just charlatans.

      March 22, 2011 at 5:52 am |
    • shamma banks

      The Waco guy, thought he was Jesus. LOL @ atheist saying Christians make things up.

      March 22, 2011 at 5:57 am |
  13. graceonfire

    I believe in God in Christ. I do not believe in christians.

    March 22, 2011 at 5:09 am |
  14. Thade

    LOL. Silly death cult.

    March 22, 2011 at 5:04 am |
  15. Heh

    A lake of Black fire awaits!! woo hooo!!!!!!!!!! BRING IT ON JESUS!!!

    March 22, 2011 at 5:03 am |
  16. jwpoe

    End of the world? Cool. I've got nothing better to do on Saturday if you're free, Jesus. If that doesn't work, I might be able to squeeze in a Rapture between 2pm and 4pm on Sunday after, but it depends on if the weather cancels my barbecue.

    March 22, 2011 at 4:55 am |
    • Kipper

      Can I come to your Barbecue?

      March 22, 2011 at 5:04 am |
  17. Da King

    The percentage of born again (john 3) Bible believes in this world is actually very small. Closer to the end that number will bump up some but many people will hold on to their rebellion or denial or distrust of God until the end. The Bible says the gate is narrow and few will enter through it. Believers live knowing this reality and though sad, just used it. Knowing the word of God and trying to live by it makes it easy for them to see the vast population that does not now know Gods will. Living according to Gods will (and no-one can do it perfectly) is actually a great way to go. His will is actually simple and nice. The world needs his will. Jesus did not come to condemn the world but to save his people (anyone who believes). Understanding and accepting that love, comes from knowledge of and believe in the scriptures. Once you believe you will receive the Holly Spirit. Then you will have discernment. Spiritual things are spiritually discerned. Our creator judges by what is in your heart. What he wants is your love in return. God does not like religion. It is of man and for man. Once you know him and love him back he will help you in everything, and you will know eternal peace in life and death. He knew you before you were born. Draw to him and He will draw to you. Believers are used to all the negativity they receive. It does not bother them, it is just a part of the natural world, makes them sad though. Once you know Gods love for YOU, your life will changes drastically for the better. And, his power will begin to work more in your life. I would describe that but only believers can actually understand that. Let a little light of God in and the door will open for you.Blessings. See ya up there.

    March 22, 2011 at 4:55 am |
    • DMan

      Amen brother. Very well said

      March 22, 2011 at 6:35 am |
  18. Jack English

    God didn't create man. Man created God and that's when the trouble started.

    March 22, 2011 at 4:37 am |
    • ewa

      Nope, the trouble is when Jesus, Allah, Zeus, Gilgamesh, and the various other pagan gods were created by man. The Flying Spaghetti Monster is our true savior. Google it on http://www.venganza.org

      March 22, 2011 at 5:18 am |
    • Joe

      woow ppl these days so ignorant

      March 22, 2011 at 6:22 am |
  19. Eat the Peanuts from my Shorts, Charlie Brown

    Does anyone have change for a $20?

    March 22, 2011 at 4:35 am |
  20. Frankline Delano Roosevelt had a mistress

    Why are so many 'Christians' such bad spellers, without the concept of punctuation, the shift key, or grammar. God forbid, grammar!

    March 22, 2011 at 4:32 am |
    • Mulf

      You ask a question but fail to use a question mark! Is that not punctuation?

      March 22, 2011 at 5:40 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.