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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. Lin

    Isaiah 44:6 -In Rev 1:11, Jesus says He is the first and the last. Isa. 44:6 shows that the one who is "first and the last is actually God. "Thus saith the Lord, the King of Israel, and his redeemer, the Lord of host: I am the first, and I am the last, and beside me there is not God."

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

      Lin no offense but why should I believe anything that old irrelevant books has to say? Written by man and claimed by the same men that it came from divine guidance.... nonsense. Guess what I wrote a book too and god directed me when I wrote it. You should listen to me now because my book is infallable too!

      March 21, 2011 at 11:32 pm |
  2. The truth is hidden

    FSM, it is a biological fact! That mammals can auto inpregnate or self fertilize. It happens in small rodents more than larger mammals but it can happen. The one thing that is common among these offspring is they are sterile! So if it can happen in a rodent it CAN happen to a human. Hence the reason for testing of human meds on rodents is the biological similarities. The reason it is seen most often in rodents and small mammals is a simple matter of numbers(statistics). Rodents reproduce more than humans. That is true if you believe in God or not! You need to take a biology class or two before you make statements like that. Ignorance is the biggest cause of community distruction and warfare in the world. Ask the majority of those that supported slavery and the suppression of the native Americans. They blieved that Blacks and the Native American Indians were sub-human which was used to justify the injustices done against them. Don't be ignorant. (not in a derogitory term but in a not knowing term) Read because "A mind is a terrible thing to wast". I'm sure you've heard that before.

    March 21, 2011 at 11:20 pm |
    • bp

      Now we Know!
      And Knowing is half the battle

      G.I. JOE!

      sorry lol I couldnt resist

      March 21, 2011 at 11:27 pm |
    • Q

      Could you provide a reference for a doc-umented viable occurrence of human parthenogenesis? Just curious....

      March 22, 2011 at 12:09 am |
    • T mike

      So Mary self impregnated herself? Thats why Jesus Christ was sterile and had no children?
      Do you actually believe that or are you just being funny?

      Science does not oppose the Bible, in many cases it confirms statements from the Bible. There are many great scientist that actually believe in the God of the Bible. Gregor Mendel and George Washington Carver are great examples.

      These 2 men and many scientist that like today are not waisting their minds. Faith in a creator and science can and do co-exist.

      March 22, 2011 at 12:14 am |
  3. NORMMMM

    THE END IN THE BIBLE...APPROACHES BY WARS AND RUMORS OF WARS, EARTHQUAKES, FAMINES...

    IT WILL BE A POINT IN OUR WORLD WHEN EVERYWHERE...EVERYWHERE YOU LOOK ON THE NEWS
    WILL BE CONFLICTS, WARS, INSTABILITY, AND STRIFE EVERYWHERE IN THE WORLD...

    NOT ONE OR TWO WARS , BUT MANY NUMEROUS CONFLICTS AT THE SAME TIME...

    FOR THE EARTHQUAKES, THE SAME PRINCIPLE... ONE, TWO, THREE AND MANY EARTHQUAKES IN
    CLOSE PROXIMITY OF TIME, A PATTERN OF CONTINUOUS DISRUPTIONS OF THE EARTHS CRUST
    IN MANY, NUMEROUS PLACES AT THE SAME TIME OR SAME PERIOD WITHIN A YEAR.

    FAMINES....ALL OCCURING AT THE PRECISE MOMENT WHEN SOCIETIES CANNOT COPE DUE
    TO MANY WARS, MANY EARTHQUAKES IN A RELATIVELY SHORT PERIOD OF TIME OCCURS..

    THERE WILL BE THESE HAPPENINGS OCCURING VERY CLOSE TO EACH OTHER.

    WARS AND EARTHQUAKES WILL DISRUPT OUR COMFORT ZONE TO THE POINT WHERE FOOD WILL
    BE SCARCE AND FAMINES WILL OCCUR..

    THEN, YOU KNOW THAT WE ARE APPROACHING THE END OF AN AGE, WHERE ....HE... WILL COME
    BACK AND RESTORE ORDER AND PEACE ON EARTH...

    March 21, 2011 at 11:19 pm |
    • T mike

      Well said!!!

      March 22, 2011 at 12:03 am |
  4. timothy

    Thus saith Yahushua" I am coming soon.Have I not given you all the signs?Yet you would have me never return so you can continue in your sin and wickedness.I will have men who will not be afraid to speak the truth.But those who love money will always be ashamed of me.When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies and Obama and the world try to set up their kingdom on my Holy mountain,then will my fury come up in my face and I will fight against htem in great and furious rebukes.It is written,whether you hear or whether you forbear,it shall be done.

    March 21, 2011 at 11:18 pm |
    • C B

      It's YESHUA, you goyim idiot, and it's all crap.

      March 22, 2011 at 12:46 am |
    • Whaaaat?

      Hey wait a minute, Since when did Obama get in the Bible???

      March 22, 2011 at 3:14 am |
  5. Barter_Town

    Religion makes you stupid, folks.

    March 21, 2011 at 11:18 pm |
    • C B

      No, religion caters to those who are already stupid. Many studies confirm that atheists and agnostics have much higher IQs than those who follow a religion. Religion comforts those who can't think and discover the obvious for themselves, and that obvious truth is that there is no personal god out there of any denomination, form, gender, etc.

      March 22, 2011 at 12:46 am |
  6. RationalThinker

    Here's 90 tons of relief supplies, and by the way, the end is near. Ghost stories and fear-mongering! What do you suppose I do get down on my knees and give you money? Religious agenda has been far more destructive to human lives than any natural disaster in the history of our species.

    March 21, 2011 at 11:16 pm |
  7. SeanNJ

    You know what would be the most awesome thing ever? If the only ones "raptured" were the atheists.

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

      You belive in doomsday and it will come to you. We don't believe in it – it won't come to us.

      March 21, 2011 at 11:46 pm |
    • HELLO

      If you are atheist than you don't believe in the rapture in the first place. You need to think about what you say!! LOL

      March 22, 2011 at 9:31 am |
  8. JC

    Can CNN just change the name of this blog from "Belief" to "Nonsense"? These statements by the charlatan Grahm are a total load of crap and it is painful to have to put up in a supposedly advanced western nation during the 21st century. When I read stuff like this I half expect to walk out of the house and see everyone running around in smocks throwing turnips at witches. This guy deserves to be ridiculed.

    March 21, 2011 at 11:15 pm |
    • papia

      Well said.

      March 21, 2011 at 11:40 pm |
  9. Joshua24:15 here

    Isnt it easier to not believe then to have faith and believe?

    March 21, 2011 at 11:15 pm |
    • SeanNJ

      You can't seem to do it...

      March 21, 2011 at 11:18 pm |
  10. Adam

    The END IS NEAR! (Maybe) Nothing new here...

    March 21, 2011 at 11:15 pm |
  11. bp

    I love myself, Im awesome, I beat my dog and tell me parents to F off cause Im ungrateful, unholy, filled with hatred, cannot forgive, out of control a not lover of god. Well now that I filled your stereotype of a non believer wheres jesus? Surely he would of came I just admitted everything you described about us Atheist. Wait is that him? Nope just a plane..... tell you what you keep waiting while I go do something with my life.

    Seriously you fundies sound like the fanatics over here that I'm helping to keep out of your backyard.

    March 21, 2011 at 11:14 pm |
  12. Alex

    again with this christian's grabage about the end of the world.Face it dude, Jesus ain't coming and you need to go to him.

    March 21, 2011 at 11:14 pm |
  13. Paul NYC

    A lot of things could mean a lot of things - but they don't. For example, a person claiming they have some insight into some future event that they couldn't possibly know about COULD mean that the person in question was looking to rip off rubes who believe and dupe them into sending lots of cash to said person. Just saying.

    I'll make a deal with all the people who believe in this nonsense - I want your stuff now since you won't need it. You can keep your inbred relatives, though.

    March 21, 2011 at 11:13 pm |
  14. Callant

    Pathetic, just pathetic that Mr. Graham exploits the pain and sorry that this natural event has caused to validate his existence and further the apocalyptic frenzy. Charlatan doomsdayer is right.

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

      no...you are being warned. If you choose not to heed the warnings, then it's no one's fault but yours. God is not willing that any should perish.

      March 21, 2011 at 11:28 pm |
  15. mms69

    As per Vedas the current Yug (era – The last in a cycle of 4) called Kaliyug is 432,000 years long and started at 3102 BCE. We have a long ways to go Reverend.

    March 21, 2011 at 11:12 pm |
    • C B

      What's that? Another fairy tale? Sounds like East Indian BS, rather than Judeo-Christian BS.

      March 22, 2011 at 12:43 am |
  16. chuck

    For those that are saying that this has been happening throughout history, yes it has, I do not argue with that. But the key point Jesus makes is when you see all these signs at the same time, happening like labor pains, like women giving birth. Then you know it's near, He tells us that these signs will be more intense and more frequent. All the signs he gives us we see now, and the generation that sees all these signs at once is the generation that will see His coming. Do we know the day and hour? No, but he says that we will know when it's near.

    I understand why a lot of you are upset and Christianity there are a lot of hypocrites I know, because I have seen it myself as a Christian. But without a personal relationship with Christ, Christianity is just like every other religion to a person. Christ must work through your life for you to live the Christian life. Otherwise it is IMPOSSIBLE!

    "I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ." - Mahatma Gandhi

    March 21, 2011 at 11:12 pm |
    • notarapper

      blah, blahblah... blah blah

      March 21, 2011 at 11:27 pm |
  17. eastwood1379@gmail.com

    God says in the Quran regarding the Trinity:

    "People of the Book (Jews and Christians)! Do not exceed the limits in your religion, and attribute to God nothing except the truth. The Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary, was only a Messenger of God, and His command that He conveyed unto Mary, and a spirit from Him. So believe in God and in His Messengers, and do not say: ‘God is a Trinity.' Give up this assertion; it would be better for you. God is indeed just One God. Far be it from His glory that He should have a son. To Him belongs all that is in the heavens and in the earth. God is sufficient for a guardian"
    (Quran 4:171).

    March 21, 2011 at 11:10 pm |
    • Marcy

      If it is believed that Jesus was a messenger from God...then you have to take into account who He said that He is...or not believe Him at all. "I am the way, the only way...no one comes unto the Father, but by Me." In John 10:36 of the Bible, He confirms that He calls Himself the "Son of God." You either believe who He says that He is, or you don't.

      March 21, 2011 at 11:23 pm |
    • Rv41

      So if they are the people of the book, then what are you called? People of the scroll? You're all the same snake oil salespeople.
      Excuse me while I go draw a picture of muhamad.

      March 21, 2011 at 11:24 pm |
    • T mike

      Not to argue, but how are you sure that Jesus was only a messenger. New Testament texts are approximately 500 years older than the Koran; which also talks about Jesus Christ being the Son of God. If you look at it from a logical point of view, many parts of the Koran seem like it was plagiarized.
      You cannot possibly find any fault in the Jesus of the Bible....He healed the sick, raised the dead, never fought any war, obey laws and died on the cross from our sins. Unfortunately, the Koran only calls him a "prophet". This is in sharp contrast to Mohammed who propagated Islam by method that included violence.
      Since the Koran also has stories that are eerily similar to text from the old testament or Torah, but changes key points; it would seem that the author of the Koran had knowledge of the Bible before writing the Koran.

      I am completely convinced that Jesus is the Son of God. That is the most important fact in the Bible and in all of human history. If Jesus truly is the Son of God and the only way for mankind to reach heaven, then you would have made a mistake with an eternal consequence.

      Whether you believe in Mohammed or Jesus Christ (Son of God), you are still taking a risk. I would advise you to seek the truth. Don't just follow any belief because thats all that you heard or seen. Just because people are willing to die for a belief does not make it right or true. Nazi's fought and died for lie, but that didn't change the fact that they died for a lie.
      Seek the truth. Its every human being's God given right to seek the truth.

      March 21, 2011 at 11:50 pm |
  18. EdithCalifornia

    End of the world -Well that sucks ! Now I can't complete my bucket list! Thanks Franklin I will make sure the money I have left will not be able to go to your church!

    March 21, 2011 at 11:08 pm |
  19. TC

    I hope the world ends so that ALL OF YOU and I mean EVERY LAST ONE OF YOU GO AWAY!!!!!

    March 21, 2011 at 11:07 pm |
    • The Devil

      ME TOO!

      March 21, 2011 at 11:19 pm |
    • FSM

      Count me in! tired of it

      March 21, 2011 at 11:21 pm |
    • emma

      so why even read the article????

      March 21, 2011 at 11:30 pm |
    • TC

      To see if the "BELIEVERS" and the "NON-BELIEVERS" were selfish and self absorbed just like me. Why did you read it Emma?

      March 21, 2011 at 11:43 pm |
    • emma

      I always kinda liked billy so I thought I'd see what his son had to say.....no big deal

      March 22, 2011 at 12:02 am |
    • TC

      To Emma and the rest of you. Whether you believe or do not believe, hold on to it tightly for there are those who will try to take it from you and turn it against you. Humans the "ULTIMATE DECIMATING SELF-DESTRUCTIVE VIRUS"

      March 22, 2011 at 12:13 am |
  20. Michael, Chapel Hill

    Amen to Rev Graham!

    March 21, 2011 at 11:06 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.