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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. shervin

    Control yourselves cause the man in the sky is a tyrant and a lonely psychopath dreamed up to steal your minds" – Chris Corner

    March 23, 2011 at 2:07 pm |
  2. Mike

    and his books, shows, merchandise get a boon...ergo he is profiting from this disaster.
    Televangelists are the closest we have to Satan.

    March 23, 2011 at 1:38 pm |
  3. Mars

    screw this guy. SCIENCE

    March 23, 2011 at 1:19 pm |
  4. latha rajamani

    According to Hindu Mythology the end of the present world is through Water.The present age is called Iron age and things have started to rust and the end is near.Its a well known fact that Hindus revere cows.According to Hindu mythology there are 2 other reasons why the world is going to end soon ,one is humans pay for water and other one is cows eat meat.

    March 23, 2011 at 12:48 pm |
  5. Mt. Airy

    Where does Franklin get this stuff? I don't recall his father Billy spouting such end of the world nonesense. I remember him as kind and Christ-like but I admit I was still a child when I last paid attention to him. I think the only "end times" Franklin is concerned with is the end of the empire built by his Dad and he'd rather have the "end times" come than witness its demise under his leadership. Their membership is low and budget not looking so good these days.

    March 23, 2011 at 12:34 pm |
  6. Ed

    Thats right scare the crap out of people so you can mind control them. You must want more money in the end.

    March 23, 2011 at 12:11 pm |
  7. Justin

    @Jesusfreakazoid

    No that's not correct, he says that he will come when all these things have been fulfilled. "Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened" Matthew 24:34

    Now this means that all of the signs he talks about have to happen first. Only then will his second coming be. He wasn't referring to the disciples. He was referring to the generation who sees all of these things come to pass. Fortunately we are the generation that has seen all of them. Starting with the re-birth of Isarel on May 14, 1948. Without this day all other signs preceding it are irrelevant. These are very exciting and troubling times, which is why we really grab ahold of our faith in God. If He's not holding this world together, I suspect it'll crumble much sooner than we "believers" think. We can't believe the super glue and duct tape are going to hold much longer. I prefer to believe what He puts in my heart. That's the whole point in faith. How can you explain when sometimes you can just feel somebody in the room with you. You turn and it's your brother, mother, father, friend? Sometimes there's just something more than just a "see, feel, taste". So because of the "something is going on more than I can see" is why He gives hope and peace. Rest assured... We sleep like babies at night, because we absolutely KNOW that we're taken care of no matter what the outcome in this world 🙂

    March 23, 2011 at 10:50 am |
  8. Justin

    I would also like to know why nobody would dare say these same things about Islam, Hinduism, buddhism? Our whole point in life is to do the works of God. These works are to love and help others who are in need. Fear has nothing to do with anything. The whole point of telling others about what times we're in, is just a reminder... Hey we're close, make sure to be ready, because I want to see you in Heaven with me 🙂 Just because you don't believe in something doesn't make it not true. Besides, we're here not to hurt others, but uplift and help others. We're to be selfless and respectful. There's nothing here to offend anyone unless you just hate the beautiful name of Yeshua aka Jesus. No matter how you look at it, we're rooting for you... To see you along side us in a more beautiful place than you can imagine!

    March 23, 2011 at 10:20 am |
    • debbie338

      Conversely, just because you believe in something does not make it true.

      March 23, 2011 at 11:48 am |
  9. Deliverance

    I am responding to rich, paulmco, and jim...Rich, is that all you got to respond with? sad. Paulmco, If all you want is scientific evidence you will never have faith for it is By Faith that we believe. I know how i use to be and once i accepted Christ I know the life changing experience in my life thaty took place so until you expeirence it you are just lost as i was.
    Jim, I was not smiling at their anger or "causing" others anger. I was smiling because i am secure in my beliefs and the anti-Christ spirit cannot stand it when we confront it. I do love all my lost friends and will pray for them but i do not have to love their antiChrist slanderings and i'm not afraid to face them as you seem to be. As for "causing" them anger...you even said that and i quote "spiritual arrogance is worse than spiritual ignorance" are you Jim causing them anger by calling me arrogant and them ignorant? See how easy words can be twisted to mean something other than how you thought?
    Finally as to the atheists that still believe in the scientific explanation that we evolved from monkeys haha...maybe atheists did evolve from monkeys that would explain thier lack of intelligence after all you become what you believe to be truth. If we evolved from monkeys (as the atheiest have) why haven't we evolved into something else by now? Okay get to typing your scientific responses while i spiritually denounce such foolishness.

    March 23, 2011 at 10:00 am |
  10. Grandpa Tom

    Come on graham, grow a pair!!!!!! is it or isn't it the end of days??? At least Harold Camping had the stones to say that the rapture will be held on April 21st this year, unless it rains in which case it will be held on the 22nd.

    I really gotta start a religion. it's the only real way to make money and run for president,, just look at huckaboob.

    March 23, 2011 at 9:44 am |
    • debbie338

      Actually, he says May 21, not April. So, we have a whole extra month!!

      March 23, 2011 at 11:47 am |
  11. Nick

    High magnitude earthquakes, city-clearing tsunamis, powerful hurricanes, and large volcanic eruptions have happened throughout the history of humanity and long before we ever walked the Earth. Wars have occurred everywhere in the world since before recorded history. If natural disasters and war were supposed to be indicators of the end of the world, then they are less reliable than the lottery numbers on fortune cookies.

    March 23, 2011 at 2:44 am |
  12. JP

    As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. "Tell us," they said, "when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?"

    Jesus answered: "Watch out that no one deceives you.

    For many will come in my name, claiming, 'I am the Christ,' and will deceive many.

    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. [Matthew Chapter 24]

    March 23, 2011 at 1:04 am |
    • Jesusfreakazoid

      Jesus also said that he would return before they died. That was about two thousand years ago.

      Of course who knows what Jesus really said. No one wrote down anything he said while he was alive. He was illiterate so he couldn't write it down himself.

      March 23, 2011 at 4:03 am |
  13. Frederica

    Bravo, Mr. Graham! Faithfulness counts in all ages. That's what our Lord Jesus wants to see in His people for all time.

    March 23, 2011 at 12:01 am |
  14. Bill

    Well, I wouldn't say the bible causes good or bad. I see it as an ambitious literary construct of quite colorful
    imaginations. I say this with all do respect, ofcourse. The problem seems to be not with the authors but rather
    with the various readers over the centuries. Now, when I say 'problem' I mean in so far as these stories being
    interpreted according to the personal beliefs of the individual. Some of these works parallel ones personal beliefs,
    challenge ones personal beliefs, or enhance ones personal beliefs. Something for everyone, which includes
    ofcourse those individuals whose personal beliefs would see such writings as a roadblock to his or her being.
    And so they pay it no mind beyond what may seem to at least hint in their own lifes direction. But then there are
    those that would say you believe it all or not at all. As with most systems of belief the belief systems themselves
    are not subject to change. They may or may not take on the dress of the present times but the core beliefs are
    written in stone, as it were, and are not subject to change. Religion differs from other disciplines, ofcourse,
    such as science, among others. Now, ofcourse, science is no more the enemy of religion as religion is not
    the enemy of science, though a great many of the beliefs of each do not appear to coincide. But that would be do in no
    small part to the core beliefs of each system. Science arrives at a conclusion based on that which can be physically
    percieved, while religion has but faith in their own conclusions. And, ofcourse, without faith science would not
    bother to persue what they, themselves, choose to persue within their system of beliefs, the difference being
    that science will alter their beliefs should they descover a Physical reason to do so. Which is why science will
    not find proof of that which religion expounds, beyond what physical artifacts may be unearthed. And even then
    science cannot relate the artifact to a system of beliefs that have no bearing on their own. But I suppose the
    bottom line for the individual is his or her own personal beliefs. The results of those beliefs are before us all.
    Because they are of us. They are ours and we can change them. Believe it. Or don't.

    March 22, 2011 at 11:39 pm |
  15. Petrea

    mmmmmmmmmm, the end might be soon

    March 22, 2011 at 11:12 pm |
  16. Truth4uall

    It is interesting to see that so many people are fulfilling the prophesy of the end times by denying the existence of God and acting arrogant. To deny a complete perception of things by many generations is Narcissistic. The facts are evident to those who have faith. The facts are what you "choose" to see. The universe is far more interesting than your puny brains could possibly handle. Ignorance is a choice to protect your independence from the collective productivity of existence. You can stick your head in the sand and claim you are blind, or you can open your pineal gland, the seat of your soul to higher dimensions...

    March 22, 2011 at 10:38 pm |
    • Steve

      The fact is you don't know what a fact is. If you're going to create your own definitions for words then nothing you say can be taken seriously. Facts are data. Concrete pieces of evidence. Faith is belief without facts, little more than wishful thinking. I can use my imagination to explore any number of speculations about reality. Like the possibility of multiple dimensions, time travel, an afterlife with no gods, gods with no afterlife or as Hitchens pointed out a comic god who sends the good people to eternal damnation with the bad folks enjoying everlasting bliss. The point is if you're going to use faith as a basis for belief then you can justify believing in anything. With faith accepted as a viable reason for belief all the worlds 4000+ religions become indistinguishable. All are accepted by their followers on faith with no evidenciary support. It's impossible for them to all be right and if so how can one determine which if any might be true. Evidence and reason are the only means by which we can determine what is actually true and real.

      March 23, 2011 at 9:46 am |
    • Juan

      The latest estimate of the number of religions in the world is actually in excess of 9,900. Since your worried about facts.......

      March 23, 2011 at 1:41 pm |
  17. King

    For all you who think your some kind a evolved Monkey,(only because they have similar features and can walk on two feet )
    I say " good luck in the after life" because God says " if you deny him he will deny you "

    March 22, 2011 at 10:34 pm |
    • Tammy

      Amen!

      March 23, 2011 at 5:58 am |
    • Jay The Atheist

      You are very uneducated, as most of you bible bumping hillbillies are. The lack of intelligence from the whole lot of you is completely staggering. The fact that you believe in "Jesus" alone shows me that you were indoctrinated as a child, and let down by our educational system. Thus you don't realize non-belief is even an option, so it's outlandish to you. The fact that you morons try to dispute science is beyond me, okay, you believe in a fictional book, you believe it dictates reality, I understand people saying the bible ain't reality based. It was made by man. But when you say that evolution is questionable you are displaying your ignorance to the fullest. Evolution is real, it's provable. However, a man in the sky is not. In fact the bible is not only disprovable, but it's plagiarised from many other texts from it's time period. The idea of "Jesus" was stolen from Horus of 3000bc. Born of a virgin star in the east, three kings, 12 disciples, teacher at 12, ministry at 30, just like attis, mythra, christna, dynosis, and many many others. I contend that you are all atheist, I just believe in one god fewer than you do

      March 23, 2011 at 8:03 am |
    • Rick

      King: Do you expect that people can fear retaliation from a being in which they do not believe? Is your logic that weak, or the need to make pronouncements that strong?

      March 23, 2011 at 10:10 am |
    • Calek789

      rick: thank you for making an educated and valid point. very refreshing

      March 23, 2011 at 1:44 pm |
    • Mike

      Jay: As a believer, I know that non-belief is an option that millions if not billions have chosen and with that choice have chosen to face the eternal consequences. Good luck with that.

      March 23, 2011 at 2:20 pm |
    • Q

      Is that right King, God will deny us...yeah thats love alright...what a sham

      March 23, 2011 at 2:26 pm |
  18. Tammy

    Every knee shall bow, every tongue confess that God is love and love has come for us ALL.

    March 22, 2011 at 10:32 pm |
    • Mike

      Nothing like putting your own spin on Scripture.

      March 23, 2011 at 2:16 pm |
  19. dave hopper

    think about it people!
    any religion that accepts the bush family is a farce!!!

    March 22, 2011 at 10:09 pm |
    • King

      Live it up now Dave ! Cause with words Like that your gonna find alot of trouble

      March 22, 2011 at 10:37 pm |
  20. dave hopper

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

    March 22, 2011 at 9:56 pm |
    • Frederica

      @Dave: God is self-existent from eternity to eternity. The only One who is without any beginning. God also created time and the sense of time.

      March 22, 2011 at 11:51 pm |
    • Brent

      Uniformitarianism!!! We do NOT have more earthquakes today than years ago. We have more earthquakes near people today than years ago. The numbers are very close to the same as the past. What I still don't understand is how bad the republicans are at protecting "god's Planet" that he supposedly made for us. If you love your god so much why don't you work hard to protect what he has given you and stop polluting it.

      March 23, 2011 at 12:15 pm |
    • Edward

      God is the adults version of Santa Clause.

      March 23, 2011 at 1:38 pm |
    • Calek789

      gotta love the ole theory of infinite regression...

      March 23, 2011 at 1:39 pm |
    • Q

      Christians say that we (and all of "creation") MUST have been created by god, because of the complexities of living things and processes. Well if that is true then someone(thing) must have created god, being that he is so complex. If complexity denotes being created, then who created god. And if he had no be created, then he is not infinite.

      March 23, 2011 at 2:24 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.