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. tuck0616

    Psalms 83:18

    March 22, 2011 at 7:11 am |
  2. Todd

    I love how Christians come out believe if you don't speak scripture by tongue they start thinking you fear God or the word or something. No we just believe lightening up the equations will find the door of reaching God one day. The End.

    March 22, 2011 at 7:10 am |
  3. Mixmatch

    This clown is a bigger buffoon than his father.

    March 22, 2011 at 7:08 am |
  4. Michael Heath

    Yeah Yeah, how many times have we heard this before ? It think religious nuts go to the "end game" so often because, as Bart Ehrman (Misquoting Jesus, God's Problem ) says, Christianity can't deal with evil and suffering (theodicy). The emphasis on eschatology (end times) is misdirected and should be on teleology, the end of life, not as terminus but as in its ultimate purose. the journey not the destination.

    March 22, 2011 at 7:08 am |
  5. David riker

    Franklin Graham is a sewer rat, just like his old man. I pi*ss on both of them and the god and savior they pray to.

    March 22, 2011 at 7:07 am |
  6. Derek

    Some peeps need to learn how to spell 😉

    March 22, 2011 at 7:07 am |
  7. Todd

    The way things are going major wars will be shorter b/c of the Time Wave Zero effect. 😉

    March 22, 2011 at 7:06 am |
  8. LeeCMH

    Thank you Jeeeeeeeeeeeeeeesus.

    March 22, 2011 at 7:05 am |
  9. Diana

    I am a christian and I do not belong to any church, i live my life the best i am able to by the bible, and a do unto others as i would want done to me. I am 69yo and do not fear death, or the end of time as we all know it. I believe that we all must repent for the time to answer for your life and how you have lived it is now, not to wait until the end of your life when you feel your life is almost over, looking back over my life i made some poor choices and have paid a high price for most.But always knowing GOD was there with me gave me hope, BELIEVE in your GOD and live life with love and dignity. Amen

    March 22, 2011 at 7:04 am |
  10. Al

    Religion is for the weak and the ignorant.

    March 22, 2011 at 7:02 am |
  11. Todd

    Its funny when you all say Amen, it really means Amon. Which goes back further than Jesus, further than Eygpt, all the way to Sumerian's cuneiform. back to the first civilization Eden, which is really called Edin to God Amun-Ra . Get off your high horse and read history and not the fake prepackaged history they teach in school. I mean REAL investigating.

    March 22, 2011 at 6:56 am |
    • Bo

      How does it go further than Jesus? Jesus is the Son of God, He is eternal.

      March 22, 2011 at 7:01 am |
  12. Lin

    Plenty o f pathetic ignorant people on here, contributing their inherited garbage, crude lack of knowledge (which will kill you, yes ignorance kills), and unthankful to boot for their very existance. God should bring a tsunami to this region, maybe that will teach all the inhumane thoughts something and wipe those out that keep bashing God and His children. WHO ARE YOU PUNY PEOPLE TO GOD ANYWAY? YOU THINK GOD NEEDS YOU? HE WILL WIPE ALL OF YOU OUT FOR FOLLOWING SATAN.
    Franklin Graham is not only a great child of God, HE WORKS TO RESCUE PEOPLE FROM DISASTERS, maybe you all sitting here on your a** can do something like go help those in disaster too, instead of bringing pestilence to this forum with your headious comments and your hatred for God.

    March 22, 2011 at 6:53 am |
  13. Todd

    I wish we could get off the religion blasphemy. It really gets us nowhere and not only that, it stumps innovation.

    March 22, 2011 at 6:49 am |
    • AGeek

      I wish that's all it did. It represses people, fosters hatred, causes wars, emboldens misogynists, and all manner of truly heinous acts.

      March 22, 2011 at 7:01 am |
  14. Bo

    Well don't forget 2 Timothy chapter 3. It also tells alot. Now I am not knocking that this has been predicted many times, but really people come on. Do you really think the way things are going that Christ will not rapture the Church? These are signs of Christ coming not the end of the World not yet at least. This is not for the non believers in Christ to understand anyway. This is only for those who believe in Christ. So for the rest of y'all it is understood why you act or comment the way you do, because this is not for you at all. Only the true church(Body of Christ) will be raptured, and if you do not understand that seek God while he still may be found. There will be a time when the Gospel will not be preached. The reason a rapture will happen is because it is time for Christ to get His people up out of here and then it leads into revelations. WE have not reached Revelations yet we are in (Matthew 24 and 2 Timothy 3 for reference) this is our time period. So read it please not to scare you but to keep you alert. And attend Church, Seek God and seek Salvation please

    God Bless

    March 22, 2011 at 6:48 am |
  15. Eddy James

    It seems many commentators on this article did not read the article itself and the references made. If anyone sincerely desire to discover something of great value; broad, wide and deep searching is employed. It is known that things of high value are not found on the surface. It may not be wise come to a conclusion based on personal or limited experiences or knowledge. Current events are opportunities for us to always be on the alert, to render help at times of need, to keep seeking for solutions to our challenges, standing against all forms of oppressions and so on. Those that are not in pursuit of these ideals are the ones bringing the world to an end! True believers are those that are active in the discovery of truth that will lead to understanding of the earth we live in. If dig into the Bible, you will discover this ideal. LOVE!

    March 22, 2011 at 6:48 am |
    • AGeek

      Yes, correct. However far, FAR too many take the bible literally or as having exclusive province on truth in religion to the exclusion, intolerance, and even hatred of other religions. Those that take it further than your conclusion need to go play in heavy traffic.

      March 22, 2011 at 6:59 am |
    • Sudanta

      Plainly you've not read the Bible, particularly the Old Testament, or the parts in the New Testament where Jesus threatens huge swathes of humanity with eternal punishment simply because they don't think he's the creator of the universe.

      March 22, 2011 at 7:03 am |
    • Sandie

      well said Eddy !

      March 22, 2011 at 7:09 am |
    • Whaaaat?

      LOVE is everywhere at all times. and you dont need any book to learn how to express it. The Bible dsoes not hav a monopoly on Love and Kindness. The silent majority of people in the world are non-religious and they are just as good of people as anyone else who has "found god". Religion is nothing more that an excuse to slaughter and kill without taking personal responsibility.

      March 22, 2011 at 7:18 am |
    • Eddy James

      True believers are not religious. True Christianity is not a religion. It is a relationship. An experience. An active involvement in things that will benefit others even in this uncertain world.

      @Sudanta. Jesus said "he that is not against us is for us" (Luke9:50 or Mark9:40)and He will also say to some people that have done things in His name "depart from me, ye that work iniquity" (Matt7:23). If you are willing to read further around these verses to capture the context, you will find out that they all relate to active expression of love.

      @Whaaaat? If love is active everywhere, there wouldn't have been a 9-11-2001, a leader will not be shelling the citizens to remain in power. Active love will not keep us silent or in our comfort zone. Love endures. No pain no gain.

      It is a refreshing hope that evil will end one day. The day that will happen, nobody knows.

      March 22, 2011 at 8:18 am |
  16. Jordan

    The Earth/world has endured many natural disasters that could have been the "beginning": 1906 Earthquake in California; forest fires; flooding; etc. These things have been going on for centuries, even before humans roamed the Earth. To say that "this is the end" is presumptuous and a little ridiculous.

    March 22, 2011 at 6:48 am |
  17. Greg C.

    Said the ostrich...

    March 22, 2011 at 6:47 am |
  18. NotAFan

    This is crazy. We all know that finally allowing gay marraige in the USA is the only thing that will truly mark the downfall of humankind.

    March 22, 2011 at 6:44 am |
  19. lawdy lawd

    I am so glad I was raised in the absence of all this malarky. "the end is near....donate now while there's still time"

    March 22, 2011 at 6:43 am |
  20. Donald in CA

    Franklin seem to be the type of person who scares children and adults. Is he any kin to the rev. jim jones?

    March 22, 2011 at 6:31 am |
    • Flex

      Does having an opinion adds up to "scaring"........wake up and grow up.

      March 22, 2011 at 6:50 am |
    • AGeek

      Nope, but depending on that opinion, you can get labeled as f–king crazier than batsh-t pretty easily.

      March 22, 2011 at 6:56 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.