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. Tommy Upshaw

    Could we continue this converstaion in 200 years. I believe we will all be better informed at that time.

    March 22, 2011 at 9:19 am |
  2. Steve

    After slogging my way through all these comments since I posted back on page 2 I feel it's nessesary to put up a few definitions for those who are using terms incorrectly(believers I'm pointing at you)

    Theist/Atheist : Pretty simple one here. A word describing the belief or non-belief in the existence of a god or gods. Only 2 possible choices here. God = Yes or No
    No other attributes can be attached to the terms.

    Gnostic/Agnostic: Again an easy one. A word describing knowledge. Gnostic means to know. Agnostic means to not know. Again only 2 possible choices. What I believe = I know or I don't know.
    This means that everybody falls into one of only 4 possible categories.
    Since no one can have absolute knowledge about the existence of god/s the Gnostic position is indefenceable as it places the burden of proof on them.

    None of the above terms says a single thing about religous or secular views on morality, the meaning of life, where the universe came from, where mankind came from, what happens when we die...blah,blah,blah. All this is either based in religous dogma or addressed in philosophy, science, history etc.

    The following words are those that are used by those with religous belief.
    God: creator of everything, trancendant supernatural being
    Satan: fallen angel who deceives man to turn against God
    Jesus: son of god, appeared on earth as a mortal, offered as blood sacrifice to atone for mans sin
    Sin: defiance of gods law
    Soul: trancendant aspect of mans being
    Heaven: Gods domain
    Hell: Satans domain
    Spirit: similar to soul
    Angel: non human race with some metaphysical powers
    Evil: consequence of sin, not to be confused with bad or wrong
    Bible: word of god, text by which religous belief is founded

    There are certainly others like miracle,prayer,faith but the point here is to demonstrate to believers that we don't attribute any of these words with any useful meaning. Hence using them to try to convey persuasive arguments fails because they are meaningless.
    Examples: We can't be threatened into believing in god by telling us we are destined to spend eternity in hell since we don't believe hell exists.
    We can't be angry at god because we don't believe god exists.
    We aren't concerned about where our soul will go after we die since we don't believe in a soul or an afterlife for that matter.

    End of line

    March 22, 2011 at 9:17 am |
    • skeaky

      Thanks professor steve...you can now take the blue pill and go back to the Matrix...please.

      March 22, 2011 at 9:56 am |
  3. Erik

    Alec Weidman is the only one who can save us now!!!

    March 22, 2011 at 9:17 am |
  4. mel

    frank is right the bible is correct the end is near date and time unknow, but be ready, events, times, erosion of moral values are the signs Jesus refers to. get ready for the return of Christ, is near

    March 22, 2011 at 9:16 am |
  5. Frank

    LORD, save us from Franklin Graham and his POMPOUS, OVERBEARING FAMILY!!!!

    Whoa, Franklin, JUST HOW MUCH MONEY DID YOUR MAKE LAST YEAR???? AND, YOUR HOUSE IS WORTH HOW MUCH???? Those don't sound like numbers befitting someone preparing for the end of the world.

    March 22, 2011 at 9:16 am |
  6. the lord works in mysterious ways


    March 22, 2011 at 9:15 am |
  7. james

    This proves one indisputable fact, human beings are approaching an extinction level event, but not because of some biblical prophesy. We have become brain dead. Idiots like Graham and Palin prove that Americans become more gullible every day. There maybe one brain cell between the two of them and it is linked to money, not God. The big question is this, if you are a so-called prophet of God then where is your proof? Did the Bible not say that all God’s real prophets received divine knowledge? They never said maybe, those prophets always spoke with a certainty. Now, unless you are saying these biblical prophets were hoaxes without a television or radio show, then either Graham is a liar and fraud, or the bible is a hoax.

    March 22, 2011 at 9:14 am |
    • skeaky

      James(aka turd)...Graham never claimed to be a prophet.

      March 22, 2011 at 9:53 am |
  8. Frank

    We are taught to walk in FAITH not FEAR, but all this mega-wealthy kookwad has is fear and hatred. (Anyone read his comments about Muslims.)

    Please, Franklin, crawl back to your mansion and leave us alone. You are not your dad. You never will be and your sister's attempt to be a man is failing miserably.

    March 22, 2011 at 9:12 am |
    • slambo8

      The the fellow who says we are to walk in faith and not fear – well the Scriptures say that the fear of God is the begining of all Wisdom. Faith is built by the hearing of the Word. Some of you folks need to study the Scriptures before you make such vain, incorrect statements. The key word in Franklin's comment is "maybe". I know this – (paraphrasing) Jesus said that we would not know the exact time – but there would be a few signs and he references some periods of Biblical history. HE IS COMMING BACK for His Church – and as Revelation's say to "destroy those who are destroying the earth", amoung other things. So – here is my prayer for you – My Father, Who is everywhere, You see all things, God, – Love, Truth, Light, is all part of You,
      Father, thank You for teaching me to fear You, as I would my earthly father, and that the fear of You is founded upon your Love. Your teachings in the Scriptures are made easy to understand and act upon when I know that that I stand in fear of You yet I stand
      in your Love and Light..Amen and Amen

      March 22, 2011 at 9:38 am |
  9. Timeto Listen

    Both Franklin and his dad Rev. Billy have done much good for the people, not only of the United States but of the world throughout many decades. They are the ones who have helped many whose faith was weak and who were facing crisis in their lives. The Grahams planted a seed to help those whom God has created, and that includes Everyone of us whether we believe in God or not, and they have stayed true to that mission throughout their lifetime. Now one has to understand that God helps those who help Him. Therefore, messages both Rev. Franklin and Rev. Billy receive should be considered relevant in today's world.

    Of course there will be those who will refuse to believe that their fingers help to pick up food to feed their face. They have the free will do do so. But the fact remains that God has entrusted His holy word upon these two fine Christian men and therefore they deserve respect from the un-Believers. Who knows? If the end came tomorrow, how many would be truly Saved and ready to live in eternity in peace and tranquility? Those who criticize God and the Grahams and do not believe? I don't think so. So, better rethink your stance as the steps you take today to Save your soul and spirit by becoming Born Again could very well be an investment in your eternal future!

    March 22, 2011 at 9:11 am |
  10. steelerguin

    I agree with Graham. I would not be so bold as to predict a date because the Bible say we no not the day or hour this will occur. Natural disasters help us realize we are not in control. As for you skeptics, you are free to draw your own conclusions as God has given us free will. For those who bash Graham, he is doing a lot more to help people in this world than most. What are you doing to ease suffering in the world?

    March 22, 2011 at 9:10 am |
    • M in FL

      What have I done to ease the burdens of others? Hmm, let's see – NOT scare the heck out of them with ridiculous made up stories? Not offended their intellect with such garbage? Not figure out how to manipulate simple-minded people and steal their hard earned $$? There's a loooong list better than any of those things.

      March 22, 2011 at 9:23 am |
  11. Fear

    No thanks. I don't need a religion governed by fear. All full up around here... keep moving.

    March 22, 2011 at 9:10 am |
    • PROS


      March 22, 2011 at 9:21 am |
  12. Andrew

    To all you doubters out there......what if we're right?

    March 22, 2011 at 9:08 am |
    • paulmco

      If you are right and we are wrong, then your god is cruel because he has taken great pains to hide his existence from a large percentage of the population. An omniscient god would fully understand the minds of non-believers and know exactly what evidence would convince them. An omnibenevolent god would desire a happy outcome for us (unity with him), so he would present us with the evidence we need (in whatever form it may take, varying person-to-person). The existence of atheists with a rational basis for our doubt in the christian god means that god is not using his powers in a way consistent with his (supposed) nature. The conclusion is that god is either cruel (in which case eternal separation from him would be a good thing), or non-existent (in which case we are not wrong).

      Reasonable atheists are indeed willing to consider alternate hypotheses and change our minds if the evidence supports them. But for the reason above (and many others; I cannot hope to list every argument against christianity in one post), we are not troubled by the thought of whether we are wrong.

      March 22, 2011 at 9:38 am |
  13. darkstar

    There is no 'end' that is near. Will you people please grow up and start acting like adults? There are so such things as sky-fairies, rising zombies or end of days coming! Idiots!

    March 22, 2011 at 9:08 am |
  14. Pastor Evans

    Jesus Christ is coming soon, but before He returns His glory will be revealed in mighty and spactacular ways through His true sons and daughters throughout the whole earth. Judgement and the removal of all man-established kingdoms and systems are being removed clearly, as declared in Hebrews chapter 12. The only Kingdom that will stand and remain is the Kingdom of Jesus Christ!!! The Bible is true and people can see what it has always said with their very own eyes and still don't believe. Wow!!! Praying for U!!!

    March 22, 2011 at 9:08 am |
  15. CW

    Well I see that all the non-'believers and atheists have made it here.

    First off....Mr. Gra-'ham...Thank you for your much needed efforts to help the people of Ja-'pan. Second I wonder...what are all the non-'believers and atheists doing?....I b-'et nothing but s-'pre-'ading there propaganda of ra-'nts.

    Peace...and of co-'ar-'se May God Bless all of you.....believe me your going to need it.

    March 22, 2011 at 9:07 am |
    • Bill


      Science has already warned everyone when the world will end, and since you won't be here hundreds of millions of years from now (unless you're like Noah on crack and can live that long) you don't have to worry about it!

      March 22, 2011 at 9:33 am |
  16. Thank you CNN

    Thank you CNN for this article. Franklin Graham's organization does wonderful humanitarian works around the world year round. Franklin Graham knows, as anyone who earnestly reads the Bible, that no one can predict the end. There are signs of the end but we still can not know for certain when it will be. God says it comes like a thief in the night. Because we can not know when it will come, we must always be prepared. Being prepared means to have our hearts right with God and to be found doing his work when the end does come. And to you who are expressing hatred towards Christians, we share God's message with you because we love you and don't want you to spend eternity without God. You would be mad if we knew you were about to drive off a cliff and didn't warn you.

    March 22, 2011 at 9:07 am |
    • Maya

      That's fine. You've warned us. You've shouted and pointed at an invisible cliff. We think you're crazy. Now leave us alone.

      March 22, 2011 at 9:20 am |
    • Jesus Christo

      Christianity, like all religions is a made-up fable to control people morally. Graham and most ministers know there is no God and prey upon weak-minded citizens and fear them into giving. Please don't waste your time believing the lies of organized religion.

      March 22, 2011 at 9:21 am |
    • Frank

      I don't think a lot of what you may consider to be hatred toward Christians is actually that. I think it's more a repudiation of Franklin Graham, the sheltered uber-wealthy son of Billy Graham.

      Here's my question, if Frankie TRULY believes the end is near, why does he not liquidate all his possessions and use all the money for TV commercials or some other campaign to get the word out? ACTIONS speak louder than mere WORDS. I suspect Moneybags Graham is still planning on many many more years ahead of him.

      March 22, 2011 at 9:22 am |
    • SurelyUjest

      The Grahams are charletons! Send them money NOW!!

      March 22, 2011 at 9:29 am |
  17. Ironhouse

    LOL, nothing we have seen in 200 years comes close to what the plague did in Europe, yet THIS IS THE END TIMES. Please, we have gone through a lot worse numerous times, people just lose perspective on how bad it was when, 1 of every 3 people you knew died during the middle ages. Today is a far cry from that.

    March 22, 2011 at 9:07 am |
    • Ironhouse

      In 2000 the END IS NEAR, During the Cold War the END IS NEAR, During WWII END IS NEAR, During the Great Depression END IS NEAR, During WWI END IS NEAR, During the the Dark Ages END (WAS ALMOST REALLY) NEAR, After the Fall of the Bronze Age END IS NEAR, in the Year 1000 END IS NEAR, what do all these have in common?

      People exploiting the uneducated masses, using PROPHECY FOR PROFIT.

      March 22, 2011 at 9:16 am |
    • Pete the Ninja

      Nice comment. I am a Christian, and do believe Jesus will return at some point. I am also pentecostal, so i come from a slant that sometimes is just looking for a reason to say He will return. I often fight to bring up this same idea that you are mentioning, that we don't need to be like chicken little. We need to keep doing Christ's good works because He asked us to, not just because 'Jesus is coming, look busy'.

      March 22, 2011 at 9:24 am |
  18. the lord works in mysterious ways


    March 22, 2011 at 9:06 am |
  19. Chris

    Several have said that there is no evidence of Noah's Ark. Well, you need to go back to school. There are quite the number of Geological findings that suggest that there was a great flood.

    What about the parting of the Red Sea?? There is a line of artifacts along the bottom of the Red Sea that date back to that time (look it up).

    There are lots of geological findings that give a foundation for the people and stories of the Bible.

    Ask yourself one question .... Why do you persecute God so much by blogging the way that you do? Are "you" in control of your life or is it God's adversary?

    March 22, 2011 at 9:06 am |
    • Maya

      Large-scale floods have happened, but there is no proof for a worldwide flood, nor for any type of arc. The measures given in the Bible for the arc are ridiculous: it is completely impossible that two of each species could have fit into such a craft.

      The fact that there are artifacts on the floor of the Red Sea does not prove that it was parted. It suggests that ships sunk and their contents remained on the ocean floor.

      Ask YOURSELF one question: Why do you spend so much effort trying to get people to agree with your religious beliefs? Are they somehow less valid if people disagree with you?

      March 22, 2011 at 9:18 am |
    • SurelyUjest

      My take on this whole "the end is near" thing is that if religious folks say it all the time then if it comes they can claim they were right and say "told you so". It all seems like a way of giving up our personal responsibility for the actions of mankind lets face it we have in our means to end hunger, end war, cure many diseases, heal the environment, educated the masses if we just choose to do so collectively as a species rather than this country or that or one religion or another. I think you can believe what you want to believe but if you put all your faith in an old book and claim in to be true you make it true because that is where you put your energy. If you put your energy in to believing in mankind, mankind will prosper. it is hard to wish well and support all people but many of these devisive texts do mention that "we are all in this together" in one form or another. They also state that if we believe together we can accomplish "Heaven on Earth" or "nirvana" etc. This seems clear to me that the concept of self accountability has been around for a while. Having faith in yourself and fellow man means being accountable for yourself and fellow man. Take the whole God thing out of the equation and we can work wonders!

      March 22, 2011 at 9:27 am |
    • Frank

      There was no "Great Flood." There was no ship that held two of EVERY animal on the planet. Deal with it.

      You can be Christian and attend church without leaving your brain at the front door.

      March 22, 2011 at 9:27 am |
    • Bill

      Uh, floods have been happening since the creation of our planet, how does this prove that Noah had an ark? Try proving how a man could live over 500 years... and your information about the red sea is a stretch. Your taking things that could have a plethora of reasons of why they happened or how they got there and linking it to a story in the Bible. The stories in the Bible are merely stories. Meant to motivate and teach you something. You're more likely to live like Christ if you believe that the end is near, since it gives you a reason to "follow". Otherwise, what's the point? The end is not near, but it sure makes you feel better when you think it is though, right?

      March 22, 2011 at 9:27 am |
    • rich


      1. There is NO ARCHLOGICAL / GEOLOGICAL evidence PERIOD, that support your claim (only within the Christian community).

      a. In the Hebrew text (TOARH) it’s the Sea of REEDS not the RED sea.

      c. The stories are what they are STORIES that pre-date Christian writings, that the CHRISTIAN use to support their belief.

      d. The TERM GOD is of Germanic origins 6th century. The correct name is YAWEH or JEOVAH (sound no better than ZEUS or HERA), but by using the word GOD you make him/her/it sound more omi-important than using names that existed when the writings were written.

      e. So please tell me the difference between Mosses and John Smith, both claim to see GOD in a bush or a top hat, without anyone else around. To date this NO deity has not appeared TO ANYONE that would pass the most simple test….Being seen by more than one fruitcake.

      It is the Theory of Religion and the Science of Evolution. Stating facts on writings used thousands of years ago in a time when GODS were the norm and the world was still consider flat. Religion has it place in our shared history, but it’s time has grown old and the stories get bolder and bolder. NO one in the intervening years has ever brought back the dead (outside of modern medicine), parted any sea, river or pond, seen or heard an angel, deity (outside the mental condition of wanting to believe), Remember your own writing state “I’m a jealous GOD”, which would tend for the reader to believe there are more than one GOD. BAR NONE!

      Evil is what MEN do, not some made up being, given multiple names and created a following of followers, that to this day give fictions writing unending stories. Sorry “The Devil made me do it” does not and will not stand up in court.

      Bottom line is RELIGION is a fantasy of made-up ideas, that lack any truth. But religion does have a place in our society, to those it give comfort those that are under duress and a feeling of self-worth, for that I’m happy they believe.

      March 22, 2011 at 9:39 am |
  20. OK

    I believe Jesus showed us how to live period. How to live beyond the physical reality that WE created. Did he ascend? Don't know. Is he coming back? Don't know. Was the Bible written by man? appears so. What I do know is that science has proved that there are many dimensions to reality if you want to call reality reality. Maybe this is all a dream that we created for experience. I do believe that life in the physical is temporary, that there is a core to everyone of us and that is the essence of who we all are. We are more than physical. As for end times, all of the so called warning signs have been happening since the beginning of time as we know time. Speaking of time, time isn't even real.

    March 22, 2011 at 9:03 am |
    • the lord works in mysterious ways

      I don't normally offer any serious commentary, but I like your view on this issue.

      March 22, 2011 at 9:16 am |
    • Frank

      I'll bet Franklin Graham still cashes his checks.

      Oh yeah! Gotta love that capitalism!

      March 22, 2011 at 9:25 am |
    • skeaky

      Sorry...you can't take the blue pill and go back to the Matrix.
      Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." Jesus claimed to be God...that is why the Jews hung him on the cross. Either he was crazy, a liar or He was God. You have one choice to reject him or accept Him.
      Signs and wonders followed Him...stop giving Jesus the spiritual Hiesman.

      March 22, 2011 at 9:26 am |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32
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.