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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. LOB

    Good for you Rudee!!!! God Bless you for speaking the truth!!! God Bless you for not being ashamed of the Gospel of Christ!!!! We can only pray for those that are lost that they too will come to know the love Christ Jesus has for us, that they will see that Christ will return and there is only two places we can go, Heaven or Hell!!! Personally, I'm investing in a guaranteed life insurance policy..... Jesus Christ, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, The Blood of Christ, shed for our sins, His resurrection that we may have redemption thru his shed blood!!!! God loves those that doubt, he loves the scoffers.... He loves all mankind. It is up to us to accept Him, He will never leave us or forsake us, He will never force Himself upon us!!!! But, know that the door is open for all those that call upon His name....... He is waiting, He is waiting so that we, as Christians can bring as many people possible into the Kingdom, He does not want to lose even one!!!!!!!! Father, help us!!!!! In Christ's Service..... Lanna

    March 24, 2011 at 11:03 pm |
  2. dina

    How can a man who apparentlyhas some education believe all this crap about the end of times and not understand how nature works.What a duffus who brings all of this mis information to his peole who blindl believe him. Nature cause earthquakes. And besides what kind of god coming or going would bring destruction to his people and bring on storms and hurricanes and other gtragedies. It seems to be this so called beneveloant god would come with kinder things, so it doesn't compute.This Graham is as dumb as his father was and all the evangelist people who preach about god coming when disasters happen. What a bunch of misinformation.

    March 24, 2011 at 5:57 pm |
  3. Robert

    ok people, the article says that he is just reminding christians just to be ready like always. hes not saying that it is the end. if youre tired of hearing what christians are saying why are you reading the belief blog?

    March 24, 2011 at 3:53 pm |
    • PraiseTheLard

      Because someone must try to try to counter the seemingly endless dissemination of ignorance...

      March 24, 2011 at 4:01 pm |
  4. doutingthomas

    the eternal soul was not one of Christs teachings this was introduced by the Babylonians and then the Greeks to an apostate, militarized church founded by Constantine. Christ teachings was to love your enemy's and your nebor as your self. think of all the wars caused by religon, if your religon supports war you cannot be following his command to love your enemies. CHRISTIANS YOU CANT HAVE IT BOTH WAYS you cant support Gods kingdom (government) AND THE APOSTATE CHURCH THAT SUPPORTS WHATEVER NATION YOU HAPPEN TO LIVE IN. wake up its no wonder so many criticize those who profess to have faith as hypocrites.

    March 24, 2011 at 2:59 pm |
  5. jendfly

    When will non-believers understand that you don't have to be religious to have faith in God. And what harm does it do you for us to believe? Must you constantly bash Christianity? There are a lot of bad people out there, but TRUE Christians are good people. They don't bend the rules to have a relationship with Christ. Please! Use your anger to help people, not bash on blogs.
    Thank you!

    March 24, 2011 at 8:35 am |
  6. David, Tallahassee, Florida

    I am truly puzzled as to why thinking people listen to idiots like Franklin and Pat Robinson. These people are clowns who are only interested in making money. The wars, famine and natural disasters that are occurring today were also taking place 8,000 year ago. People like Franklin and Robinson just may represent the anti-Christ. Think about that for a minute!

    March 24, 2011 at 8:27 am |
  7. mehmet

    In Kastamonu a group of high-school students came to me, saying: “Tell us about our Creator, our teachers do not speak of God.” I said to them: “All the sciences you study continuously speak of God and make known the Creator, each with its own particular tongue. Do not listen to your teachers; listen to them.

    “For example, a well-equipped pharmacy with life-giving potions and cures in every jar weighed out in precise and wondrous measures doubtless shows an extremely skilful, practised, and wise pharmacist. In the same way, to the extent that it is bigger and more perfect and better stocked than the pharmacy in the market-place, the pharmacy of the globe of the earth with its living potions and medicaments in the jars which are the four hundred thousand species of plants and animals shows and makes known to eyes that are blind even —by means of the measure or scale of the science of medicine that you study— the All-Wise One of Glory, Who is the Pharmacist of the mighty pharmacy of the earth.

    “To take another example; a wondrous factory which weaves thousands of sorts of cloth from a simple material doubtless makes known a manufacturer and skilful mechanic. In the same way, to whatever extent it is larger and more perfect than the human factory, this travelling dominical machine known as the globe of the earth with its hundreds of thousands of heads, in each of which are hundreds of thousands of factories, shows and makes known —by means of the measure or scale of the science of engineering which you study— its Manufacturer and Owner.

    March 24, 2011 at 4:04 am |
  8. mehmet

    “Man is a living machine who is grieved with thousands of different sorrows and receives pleasure in thousands of different ways, and despite his utter impotence has innumerable enemies, physical and spiritual, and despite his infinite poverty, has countless needs, external and inner, and is a wretched creature continuously suffering the blows of death and separation. Yet, through belief and worship, he at once becomes connected to a Monarch so Glorious he finds a point of support against all his enemies and a source of help for all his needs, and like everyone takes pride at the honour and rank of the lord to whom he is attached, you can compare for yourselves how pleased and grateful and thankful and full of pride man becomes at being connected through belief to an infinitely Powerful and Compassionate Monarch, at entering His service through worship, and transforming for himself the announcement of the execution of the appointed hour into the papers releasing him from duty.”

    I repeat to the calamity-stricken prisoners what I said to the schoolboys: “One who recognizes Him and obeys Him is fortunate even if he is in prison. While one who forgets Him is wretched and a prisoner even if he resides in a palace.” Even, one wronged but fortunate man said to the wretched tyrants who were executing him: “I am not being executed but being demobilized and departing for where I shall find happiness. But I see that you are being condemned to eternal execution and am therefore taking perfect revenge on you.” And declaring: “There is no god but God!”, he happily surrendered up his spirit.

    March 24, 2011 at 4:03 am |
  9. Muneef

    Our faith of belief;

    Al-Ikhlas (Faith) sura 112:
    In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful
    Say: He is Allah, the One! (1) Allah, the eternally Besought of all! (2) He begetteth not nor was begotten. (3) And there is none comparable unto Him. (4).

    Al-Baqara (The Cow) sura 02:
    Allah! There is no God save Him, the Alive, the Eternal. Neither slumber nor sleep overtaketh Him. Unto Him belongeth whatsoever is in the heavens and whatsoever is in the earth. Who is he that intercedeth with Him save by His leave? He knoweth that which is in front of them and that which is behind them, while they encompass nothing of His knowledge save what He will. His throne includeth the heavens and the earth, and He is never weary of preserving them. He is the Sublime, the Tremendous. (255) There is no compulsion in religion. The right direction is henceforth distinct from error. And he who rejecteth false deities and believeth in Allah hath grasped a firm handhold which will never break. Allah is Hearer, Knower. (256) Allah is the Protecting Guardian of those who believe. He bringeth them out of darkness into light. As for those who disbelieve, their patrons are false deities. They bring them out of light into darkness. Such are rightful owners of the Fire. They will abide therein. (257).

    Al-Baqara sura 02:
    "Alif. Lam. Mim. (1) This is the Scripture whereof there is no doubt, a guidance unto those who ward off (evil). (2) Who believe in the Unseen, and establish worship, and spend of that We have bestowed upon them; (3) And who believe in that which is revealed unto thee (Muhammad) and that which was revealed before thee, and are certain of the Hereafter. (4) These depend on guidance from their Lord. These are the successful. (5)". 

    Al-Baqara sura 02:
    "The messenger believeth in that which hath been revealed unto him from his Lord and (so do) believers. Each one believeth in Allah and His angels and His scriptures and His messengers – We make no distinction between any of His messengers – and they say: We hear, and we obey. (Grant us) Thy forgiveness, our Lord. Unto Thee is the journeying. (285) Allah tasketh not a soul beyond its scope. For it (is only) that which it hath earned, and against it (only) that which it hath deserved. Our Lord! Condemn us not if we forget, or miss the mark! Our Lord! Lay not on us such a burden as thou didst lay on those before us! Our Lord! Impose not on us that which we have not the strength to bear! Pardon us, absolve us and have mercy on us, Thou, our Protector, and give us victory over the disbelieving folk. (286)".

       

    March 23, 2011 at 8:29 pm |
  10. Christian

    God is not mocked.

    March 23, 2011 at 7:24 pm |
  11. Slave to Satan

    I met Jesus today. He was mowing my yard. You would think the son of God would be able to speak English though.

    March 23, 2011 at 7:02 pm |
    • starr

      My mother use to always say, " Baby, people believe in Gods like themselves. If someone believes in a vengeful god, than they are no dought a vengeful person. If someone believes in a peaceful forgiving God, than they are in turn a peaceful, forgiving person."–kinda an interesting way to track on people eh?

      March 24, 2011 at 12:35 pm |
  12. Jay m

    JC: you need to be told that religion is taught everywhere

    March 23, 2011 at 6:00 pm |
  13. Jay m

    JC, You need to be told that Religion is taught all over the world.

    March 23, 2011 at 5:57 pm |
  14. Lee

    Somebody please flush this guy down the toilet.

    March 23, 2011 at 5:29 pm |
  15. Mikehattan

    The continued arrogance of believers who in each generation think of themselves as the 'chosen ones' who will witness the return of Christ is astonishing.

    March 23, 2011 at 5:27 pm |
    • Paul

      Mike
      True belivers know that we all are chosen, none of us are special. Your faith in your own assumption: "The continued arrogance of believers" is in it self as arrogant.

      March 24, 2011 at 4:36 pm |
  16. Larian LeQuella

    Don't these nutballs ever tire of being wrong? They've been wrong 100% of the time for nearly 2000 years, you'd think they learn by now that it's all a deluded fantasy...

    March 23, 2011 at 5:08 pm |
  17. UncleBenny

    Here's a list of 220 previously announced dates for the end of the world (the vast majority of which, apparently, never came true):
    http://www.sullivan-county.com/nf0/y2k/bible_ca.htm

    March 23, 2011 at 3:24 pm |
  18. Rudee

    I see most of you take the the second comming a joke....well guess what?, Jesus had a word for all of you...scoffers....he said in the latter days scoffers would claim to the world that Jesus didnt exist and looks like hes right again...we may not know the hour and we may not know the day but Jesus demands that you know when the time is near and thats located in Matthews as well....heres a parable for you ....those of you who have ears , understand...those of you who have eyes, see....as were in the days of Noah so shall be the comming of man,,,,i urge you all to go read how it was in the days of Noah...Jesus Said when you see nations in peril and distraught know your time is nigh...this is exactly whats happening now in the world....nations and kings rising up against one another....more and more high powered quakes and flooding on the rise...diseases beginning their assault on mankind...yes people its coming...another great book to read...is Ezekiel...Daniel also tells you what to look for... and now it seems one of the four horsemen namely the white horse is about to rise and when you see that peace negoation contract come into play in the Middle East with Israel....trust me....thats it...no the world will never end but it will end as we know it....you have been warned....your time draweth closer and seriously if you want to see what the earth will be like when we get nuked...go read Ezekiel....also Revelations depicts a really good grim pic of the earth...Come Quickly Lord Jesus !

    March 23, 2011 at 3:06 pm |
    • Dave P

      "he said in the latter days scoffers would claim to the world that Jesus didnt exist and looks like hes right again"

      ..... WHAT? Ugh.... fanatically religious people are certifiably crazy... *Facepalm*...

      March 23, 2011 at 4:05 pm |
    • safety girl

      Rudee, you say "Jesus Said when you see nations in peril and distraught know your time is nigh...this is exactly whats happening now in the world....nations and kings rising up against one another..."

      Um, when HASN'T this stuff been happening? If what you say is true, then we should have been wiped out long ago. But, thanks for playing...

      March 23, 2011 at 4:10 pm |
    • Jacob

      Right. The end is here. Well I look forward to reading another post by another overly religious individual proclaiming "THE END TIMES ARE UPON US! REPENT!!!!" next year, and the year after that, and the year after that.... Is there a point when the world doesn't die that you people have to quiet down?

      March 23, 2011 at 4:22 pm |
    • Joyce Hunter

      God bless you Rudee!! You are right on!!! God bless you for your words. They are welcome!

      March 23, 2011 at 4:52 pm |
    • Jake

      lol........ Your really funny guess you can speak for Jesus. People like you that have no faith in humanity you put all your faith in a book that was written by HUMANS not god. It's ok that you haven't developed a sense for your own self, you fell prey to the biggest scam on this earth. Free your mind and you might live a good life.

      March 24, 2011 at 9:51 am |
    • Jake

      The way the you portray yourself makes me sick, if I were you I would probably want to believe in something besides myself because obviously you can't think for yourself.

      March 24, 2011 at 9:56 am |
    • LOB

      Good for you Rudee!!!! God Bless you for speaking the truth!!! God Bless you for not being ashamed of the Gospel of Christ!!!! We can only pray for those that are lost that they too will come to know the love Christ Jesus has for us, that they will see that Christ will return and there is only two places we can go, Heaven or Hell!!! Personally, I'm investing in a guaranteed life insurance policy..... Jesus Christ, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, The Blood of Christ, shed for our sins, His resurrection that we may have redemption thru his shed blood!!!! God loves those that doubt, he loves the scoffers.... He loves all mankind. It is up to us to accept Him, He will never leave us or forsake us, He will never force Himself upon us!!!! But, know that the door is open for all those that call upon His name....... He is waiting, He is waiting so that we, as Christians can bring as many people possible into the Kingdom, He does not want to lose even one!!!!!!!! Father, help us!!!!! In Christ's Service..... Lanna

      March 24, 2011 at 10:51 pm |
  19. Louis hudson

    Fundamentalist always have a spin on any natural catastrophe i am tired of their religious fervor.

    March 23, 2011 at 2:32 pm |
    • Linda Wade

      I second that.

      March 23, 2011 at 4:28 pm |
  20. Louis hudson

    Religious fundamentalist always have a spin on any natural catastrophe i am tired of their religious fervor.

    March 23, 2011 at 2:31 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.