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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. jon

    god created earth?
    who created god?
    who created the person who created god?

    March 22, 2011 at 9:55 pm |
  2. jon

    k i ll the pope!
    k i ll the pope!
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    k i ll the pope!
    k i ll the pope!
    k i ll the pope!
    v

    March 22, 2011 at 9:31 pm |
  3. jon

    typical non-thinking droid
    learn to think for yourselves!!!
    religion is gunk!
    especially the bible!!!
    more people have died because of this farce called the bible than any other undertaking by man!
    kill the pope!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    March 22, 2011 at 9:27 pm |
  4. Tammy

    Every knee shall bow, every tongue confess that God is love, love has come for us all!

    March 22, 2011 at 9:23 pm |
  5. Spidey-Man

    To Start... I'm an Atheist. And damned proud of it. I used to listen t his Dad when I was a kid. Even after I grew up a bit and got away from the fairy tales... He was still okay... a bit loopy at times but nowhere near cancer worthy... Like some comments I've seen about his kid. Grow up. Just because you don't like the person... You can't always disagree with the results. If he wants to help. Let them. We can't dictate where that help should go... As much as I want to push for that help here where and when we really need it.

    March 22, 2011 at 9:23 pm |
  6. jon

    my balls are itchy

    March 22, 2011 at 9:12 pm |
  7. jon

    religion is for drones-those that cant think for themselves
    like george bush(the single worst national leader in the history of mankind)

    March 22, 2011 at 9:11 pm |
  8. Athesia

    Sin is the sickness of the soul...and out of all the beliefs and religions out there....Jesus Christ is the ONLY one the paid the penalty for this debilitating disease, and also so that we could know and have fellowship with God. Humanity was sick, and God Himself became the anecdote. That's the most incredibly display of love anyone in this world will ever know.

    March 22, 2011 at 6:19 pm |
    • Magic

      Athesia,

      Jesus paid the penalty "so that we could know and have fellowship with God. "

      If you want fellowship with a god who is appeased by the killing of someone, I feel sorry for you; and you are certainly nobody with whom I would want to have fellowship.

      March 22, 2011 at 6:34 pm |
  9. Muneef

    The disaster is what we ore pared for;

    What is happening today among Muslims is above Islam which is being blamed for,for example take the wars Muslims against Muslims all through history when were kingdoms and empires.

    Recent history the hot and cold wars between sunnies and shiaa's (Iraq vs Iran)(Iraq vs Kuwait)(Yemen civil wars) and so on a list can be made ! Although we were told that the Muslim has a right against Muslims;

    http://muslimways.com/imam-an-nawawi-s-forty-hadiths/hadith-35-the-brotherhood-of-islaam.html

    What ever is happening is nothing of Islam. A Muslim calling a Muslim as infidel for having difference of opinions in between, is not of Islam...!!! What is happening is evil teachings that are non of Quran of Islam...

    Those who allowed them self to spill blood of a Muslim for any reason religious or non religious, will not mind spilling bloods of any people Muslims or non for any reason they will invent because they became as addicted as those playing it video games on play stations...
    What is happening to the world? The whole world was brainwashed with video games and play stations of making a kill by wars from street wars to army wars? Sad to see most have it as Arabs and Muslims being the enemy calling Allah Akbar with each terror move? Allah Akbar and kill the infidel was a recorded message in an imported children toy guns and pistols,the recording plays sound of shooting and back ground voice shouting these things ! Aren't such games considered as brain washing kids,teaching them violence. 
    Toy companies has marketed for violence and wars more than any other games,same was for the film industry that had added to that violence education...
    Read once about an Indian immigrant family living in America,who's young boy of theirs was addicted to a game that has a man using hooky stick to kill people...as learnt from the game he prepared the hooky stick killing his father,mother,young sister and run away back to collage pretending not to know until the neighbors smelled the rotting corpuses called the police to find rooms filled with flys....
    What generations we prepared for are the ones who we are to meet sooner or later.                     

    March 22, 2011 at 6:06 pm |
  10. Byrd

    Curious, why CNN wouldn't have a View all Comments option on a religious question. Unless, of course, they were trying to manage or influence the conversation.

    Seein' In can be a dangerous thing. You really should watch that, you know...

    March 22, 2011 at 4:59 pm |
  11. Jesusfreakazoid

    It's the end of the world as we know it...

    Send all of your money to the Billy Graham Cruisade. God is a little short on cash, and you can't take it with you.

    March 22, 2011 at 4:31 pm |
  12. Jesue

    All praise Thug Jesus, the end is near and the Alligator Jesus is on earth. Amen.

    March 22, 2011 at 3:50 pm |
  13. Jesusfreakazoid

    It's the end of the world! Send me all of your money and God will reward you.

    March 22, 2011 at 3:34 pm |
    • yen Phan

      You are so good and smart too.

      March 22, 2011 at 9:10 pm |
  14. PRISM1234

    CW, good to see you here! 🙂

    March 22, 2011 at 3:23 pm |
  15. Byrd

    Looks more like the AntiChrist to me. Had I known that untold years of chasing beers and babes would have made me holy, I'd have tried even harder. Come to think of it, hell, I must at least be a friggin' saint.

    March 22, 2011 at 3:17 pm |
  16. Jesusfreakazoid

    Great, another prophet predicting the end of the world. Hey Graham, prophets have been predicting the end for centuries. Join the club moron.

    March 22, 2011 at 3:11 pm |
  17. John

    Well Karl you are right. There are many Christians that care deeply and try to help others. Very moral indeed. Unfortunately there are also many who simply like the idea of vicariously wishing torture on others because they don't have the same belief system. The best people I know are Christians. So are some of the worst.

    March 22, 2011 at 2:42 pm |
  18. Rosemary Peppercorn

    The only true sign of that the end of the world is near is if Sarah Palin runs for the presidency. It will end if she wins.

    March 22, 2011 at 1:56 pm |
  19. PLEASE FIX IT CNN

    Another broken forum... where posts and replies are flung all over the joint - ***sigh***

    March 22, 2011 at 1:26 pm |
  20. Gaeta

    To all of you scorners and mockers especially darrenhankens and all of you who doubt and make fun of the bible who say its not real and its just a fear tactic i pray that you open your eyes before its too late. If you do not heed Gods warning you will regret it. May be not today or tomorrow but when you are face to face with him and did not accept Jesus gift of salvation you will. By then it will be too late, So yes go ahead and laugh and make fun, but i do guarantee you that soon you will lament your decisions.

    March 22, 2011 at 1:04 pm |
    • largencharge

      Apophis, 2036. If there were ever a 'game changer', it's a rock that is 885 ft in diameter. 1 in 250K chance. For those who play the lottery/lotto, you'll like you chances.

      March 22, 2011 at 1:29 pm |
    • Jesusbejesus

      War and famine and earthquakes have never happened before..... say, "The END IS NEAR!" now repeat for a couple of thousand years.

      March 22, 2011 at 3:20 pm |
    • What?

      Bible is real, since it's a book, but it doesn't mean the content within it is properly understood or even real. Many things in it are actually borrowed from older myth and reworked into the Christian mythos. However, it is unlikely many people will investigate let alone admit to this.

      March 22, 2011 at 5:16 pm |
    • Dev

      For all of you who actually believe the bible to be a book of facts, I pray that someday you see the light. What I find especially troubling are those who actually want to see the end of days in our lifetime. Like those "Christian Zionists" who want a major nuclear war to start in Israel so the bible's ambiguously worded prophecies can come true. These people are incredibly dangerous to the well being of the world and as long as Christianity is around we will never be safe. If such a conflict does return it will not bring Jesus back, no miracles will occur, just widespread death and destruction and the end of our civilization and the world we have worked so hard to build. The people who are actually encouraging this to happen are sick in the head and we as humans must stop them before it is too late. Plus Christianity is just plain lame even without the Armageddon stuff.

      March 22, 2011 at 6:04 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.