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. Dan

    People who think and wonder about "the End of Times" too frequently...
    scare the living S&$! out of me.

    March 21, 2011 at 10:55 pm |
  2. tnmtl

    What's up with CNN anyway???? Did they change the "C" to mean "church"?? Since when does a fariy-tale blog get headlines next to REAL news on their front page? I've lost a lot of respect for CNN.

    March 21, 2011 at 10:55 pm |
  3. Caliconor

    These religious nutjobs make me laugh. Religion was invented by people when science couldn't explain a thing. Now science can, and yet these delusional folks seriously still believe in an imaginary man in the sky. There is no proof that religion exists other than what some old preachers have told them.

    March 21, 2011 at 10:55 pm |
  4. joe

    Franklin Graham could be full of it. He could be just trying to generate fear in order to draw attention to himself in order to get publicity and donations. Emphasis on could

    March 21, 2011 at 10:54 pm |
    • Dan

      Sound like an easy way to riches to me. Welcome to the free market, capitalist economy. Have you learned anything by this?

      March 21, 2011 at 10:56 pm |
  5. Marc

    A Message to Mr. Sniffles and all who side with his belief: 1st God loves you, so much that he sent his only son Jesus to die for yours and my sins, that whosoever shall repent of thise sins and acknowledge Jesus as Lord and savior shall not perish but have everlasting life! This is my hope for you and secondly please do not blaspheme my Lord Jesus by saying he is crazy- you are playing Russian Roulette with your eternal soul; even if you do not believe i am right–I AM- Just earnestly get down on your knees and ask Jesus into your Heart and he will reveal himslef as the Way, the Truth and the Light. God Bless mr. Sniffles and reveal yourself to him in a mighty way through your Holy Spirit as he reads this -In JESUS MIGHTY NAME AMEN

    March 21, 2011 at 10:54 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      Bullish!t!! There are no gods, not even just one. The bible is just bad fiction – a manmade book of tribal myths. You are delusional and in need of phsychiatric help.

      March 21, 2011 at 11:05 pm |
    • Mr. Sniffles

      Actually, it was Jesus' family (including the Virgin Mary) who said he was out of his mind. That's in Mark 3:20-21. That's the infallable truth of the unerring Bible.

      There is no god, goddesses (except for Charlie Sheen's), vampires, Easter bunnies, elves, unicorns, or other man-made nonsense.

      If Jesus was really the son of God, then he "died" the most meaningless non-death ever – he knew it would only be temporary, just a bit of pain, then off to rule the universe. Every single human has or will suffer death, and without any assurance that what follows, if anything, will be good. Many, many people have endured much worse pain and misery before they died. Honestly, if you were up on your theology, you would know that Jesus never said his death would be important, or that we had this nasty guilt thing over all of us the instant we are born (what a load of scat!). The person who put all that in there was Paul, who freaked about an Old Testament assertion that those who are nailed to a tree are guilty, so he invented this bizarre and unbelievable guilt trip thing.

      Russian roulette with my soul? No, it's the lottery, 4,200 religions to chooses from, and if you pick one of the wrong 4199, off to hell with you. Or, most probably, you just stop – in which case you wasted your life, the only thing you really had, in service to something that does not exist. You think we are gambling with heaven or hell; we think you are throwing away your precious life trying to win something which is not there. Your only relief is that you will never discover that you were wrong, as you just stop and don't get to comprehend the nothingness of your choice.

      Hell to an atheist is wasting your life, because that all you get. You are already choosing that hell.

      March 21, 2011 at 11:16 pm |
    • Jimmy

      There are alot of lost souls in here. You can research as far back as you want to...research any civilization. They always believed in a God. Even if two different civilizations thousands of miles apart, still shared similiar beliefs...Coincidence?...Nice try! Mr.sniffle...you have got to be joking when you say all past and present generations were wrong and you have the right answers.....Unbelievable you or anyone could be that lost and blind.

      March 22, 2011 at 3:32 am |
  6. MrMailman


    March 21, 2011 at 10:52 pm |
  7. tnmtl

    Blah blah blah... this has been said before and will be said again in another twenty years by another self-serving money grubbing charlatan dooms-dayer. Everyone talks about how bad things are, and the person who says to look in the history books is correct! this has been happening for eons and there have been super nasty people and groups from the beginning of humanity!

    March 21, 2011 at 10:51 pm |
  8. Jeff

    I just have to laugh at the people who "claim to know" that the world is ending. I hope CNN schedules an interview with them the day after their end-of-days date comes and goes like the wind. If Graham is wrong, he should never be allowed to say the world is ending ever again, he only get's one shot at it.

    March 21, 2011 at 10:51 pm |
    • Jimmy

      ...and we should not let you make the rules. Graham was not predicting anything. Your anger is blurring your reading and comprehension skills. Perhaps you should start your own organization and get your 15 minutes of fame on a CNN topic and then you can spread your word verses just attacking others for what they believe. I somehow doubt you will have 95% of the population on your side though. They have already made their choice, regardless of what religion it is.

      March 22, 2011 at 3:00 am |
  9. Deb

    umm...nations keep rising against nations, kingdoms keep rising against kingdoms and there have always been famines and earthquakes in various places. i could have made that "prediction" WARS! PESTILENCE! LOCUSTS! CHIPMUNKS! OMG OMG OMG!!! the end is near.

    March 21, 2011 at 10:50 pm |
    • Jimmy

      These are not predictions.

      March 22, 2011 at 2:55 am |
  10. PandaCakes3

    Really? this guy never cracked open a history book?These kinds of events have been happening SINCE THE DAWN OF TIME and NOW all the sudden people are paying attention? BS! End is near? Well guess I only have a few months to live according to the crazy's saying the world is ending i'm May of 2011!!! Uneducated people ARE STUPID!

    March 21, 2011 at 10:49 pm |
  11. GeeWhizBeav

    I've read that the Bible says, "No one of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions".

    I guess Mr. Graham's not going to be saved, either...

    March 21, 2011 at 10:49 pm |
    • God Seeker

      Don't judge. Worry about yourself. Are you making the right choices in your life?

      March 22, 2011 at 1:38 am |
  12. Bill

    Religious yahoos like this guy make me glad that I'm an agnostic.

    March 21, 2011 at 10:42 pm |
    • 2711jbm

      Amen, brother!

      March 21, 2011 at 10:56 pm |
    • stwebb

      You guys are what we need! Not Graham type's sending 90 tons of supplies, just guys like you who put down anyone you don't like or agree with! You two are awesome!

      March 21, 2011 at 11:13 pm |
    • McJesus


      March 21, 2011 at 11:51 pm |
    • Jimmy

      Religious people like him make you glad you are agnostic....I guess you could also say if there were no people like him, then you would be sad that you are agnostic.?????? This man should have no influence on your happiness or sorrow...if he does...then...like you have already shown...are weak.

      March 22, 2011 at 2:53 am |
    • chris

      maybe pick a better term to be glad about then.. Agnostic literally means "ignorant".

      March 23, 2011 at 1:56 pm |
  13. Steve

    The triple combo earthquake/tsunami/nuclear plant disaster certainly ranks as a major tragedy for the people of Ja.pan, but isn't connected in any way to supposed biblical prophesy. Wars and natural disasters have occured continuously throughout human history. Events of this sort are not occuring in ever increasing frequency as the doomsayers claim. It is only seemingly so in this modern information age where the instant spread of news creates the illusion that events such as these are happening more often than in the past. It is within the possible that some truly devastating extinction event like an asteriod strike or near star supernova or gamma ray burster or even worldwide nuclear war would herald the demise of mankind. Unfortunately for the believers there isn't going to be a Rapture or Jesus returning to guide you to the promised land or raise you up to heaven. You'll just be dead like the rest of us.

    March 21, 2011 at 10:26 pm |
    • Jimmy

      Steve, I don't know what book you are reading from or perhaps you are just talking without thinking. Religious people do not fear death as the way you put it.Death is a part of living... So you saying we will die just like everybody else is not big news here. I do not recall where God will give us immortal life on earth. Trust me...I have no desire to be on this planet with people like you any longer than I have too. It is truly sad for those who refuse to believe....this big blue marble is all ya'll have, it gets no better for you...at least we know the real truth. ...and this is what angers you.

      March 22, 2011 at 2:48 am |
    • Steve


      It isn't we who fear death...we accept death as the inevitable end to our existance. It's you who clings deperately to the hope that you'll continue existing in some manner after death of the body. You have nothing but myth to base that assumption on.

      March 22, 2011 at 4:46 am |
    • Steve


      Also if you had bothered to read what I actually wrote you would notice that I covered several options concerning the afterlife. Jehovahs do believe that they will live forever here on earth after the rapture and I also mentioned heaven where you think your soul will end up. News flash...You don't have a soul...it's all fairy tale thinking. Educate yourself.

      March 22, 2011 at 5:06 am |
  14. B

    This is how religious leaders keep their followers in line.... by scaring them at any opportunity they get.

    March 21, 2011 at 10:16 pm |
    • julio alves

      i think the Americans"s have been lost the vision that's cause of the happened a lot in America, it's seems toomany people don't believe that Jesus coming

      March 21, 2011 at 10:50 pm |
    • Da King

      Yes religious leaders to lead by fear.

      Followers of Christ lead by love. God is not a big fan of religion.

      March 22, 2011 at 6:22 am |
  15. Brian

    Isn't just like the Jesus freaks to take hold of this situation and turn it into a way to pull more "non-believers" into their fold. Get real. Why do Christians constantly have to use fear in order to get their point across. I think I will stop what I am doing, believe all there rhetoric, give the Church 20% of my earnings (before taxes) and commit to bring more people in. Sound familiar? Sorry Franklin Graham, I am not biting. Then again my life wasn't a complete wreck as a youth and I did not completely rebel against my father either. Oh, sorry about that...I guess most of the other readers didn't know that. Your words mean nothing to me.

    March 21, 2011 at 10:05 pm |
    • Jason

      Where's this 20% comming from? and if i recall corectly many churches SUGEST 10% but do not require it , I'm not saying your wrong in saying that the end is not near, who knows? Even without the Bible i think anyone can see that this world's not going to last forever with all the crap that we keep putting it thorough however..... No need to jump on the hate train though against "Jesus Freaks" though , Brian, I don't recolecte anything being said about converting any one twoards Christianity, It's a news story, What Rev. Grahm said was news, I don't see any problem......

      March 21, 2011 at 11:23 pm |
    • mcrib

      The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge,
      but fools despise wisdom and instruction. Proverbs 1:7

      March 22, 2011 at 12:20 am |
  16. tallulah13

    Or it could mean that the Earth is still a living, changing planet, and that humans are inclined to make bad decisions about nuclear power.

    March 21, 2011 at 10:00 pm |
  17. Ron

    It's simply a natural occurrence. Nothing more. An unfortunate one, none the less, but still a natural happening with the Earth.

    March 21, 2011 at 9:53 pm |
    • 3rdMLNM

      to mr. Sniffles,

      Jesus means by that "THIS GENERATION"
      this specific generation who are alive now in the beginning of this THIRD DAY (=MILLENNIUM)
      and will thus witness these historic QUAKES and WAVES
      and immediately after that the coming of this SON OF MAN,

      John 6/40, 44-45 = Luke 21/25-28

      right here and now:


      March 22, 2011 at 4:08 am |
  18. 3rdMLNM

    Jesus said:

    On that Third and Last Day (=Millennium; please see Psalms 90/4 = John 6/40 in this regard)

    There will be signs in the Sun, the Moon, and the Stars,
    and on earth nations will be in dismay,
    perplexed by the ROAR OF THE SEA AND THE –those historic TSUNAMI– WAVES.
    People will die of fright in anticipation of what is coming upon the World,
    for the powers of the heavens will be –by those historic EARTHQUAKES– shaken!

    And then they will see the "Son of Man" coming in a Cloud with power and great glory!
    When these Signs begin to happen, stand erect and raise your heads, because your Redemption is at hand;
    right here now:


    March 21, 2011 at 9:40 pm |
    • Mr. Sniffles

      And after Jesus said that, he finished by saying "I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened."

      So unless there is some really really really old guys still around who were part of that generation, then Jesus was wrong. Or he was crazy. His family thought so: "When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.” (Mark 3:20-21) Funny how his family, who had known him all his life, and his virgin-birthing mother, thought he was out of his mind.

      March 21, 2011 at 10:19 pm |
    • Mark C

      Get help.

      March 21, 2011 at 10:57 pm |
    • C B

      I can quote J.R. "Bob" Dobbs and it makes a hell of a lot more sense than your insane Christian dribble.

      March 22, 2011 at 12:37 am |
  19. T-party

    end is near? earthquakes,Tsunami's,wars,civil unrest? uhh pick up a history book sounds like all the time. earthquakes have been abundant just google them?

    March 21, 2011 at 9:12 pm |
    • bill

      maybe you should read a history book. when were earthquakes ever this strong and frequent? i'll answer that. they havent been. not until now anyway.

      March 21, 2011 at 10:56 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Perhaps, Bill, you should consider the fact that never before has humanity had the capability to broadcast news even as it happens, giving you a knowledge of what is going on around the world at a faster speed than any other time in history. This is an active planet. The Earth's tectonic plates are continually in motion, thanks to the molten core of the earth. The earth moves all the time, whether you feel it or not.

      However, if you choose to run around shouting "The sky if falling!", feel free to do so.

      March 21, 2011 at 11:29 pm |
    • C B

      Bill, the Richter scale was developed in 1935. How do you know how strong earthquakes have been throughout history? Jesus Christ...

      March 22, 2011 at 12:35 am |
  20. im so smart

    God is kicking them in the bahooky

    March 21, 2011 at 8:57 pm |
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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.