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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. Tony

    Is that all these people do? Sit around and wait for the end of the world? If even a fraction of that time was invested in a better world we'd be traveling the stars by now.

    March 21, 2011 at 11:46 pm |
    • PEACE OVER RELIGION

      THANK YOU!

      March 21, 2011 at 11:51 pm |
    • Karl

      Tony,

      In the entire history of Christendom, we have seen many, many examples of Christians who have been scientists, artists, writers and business people. Many who have been blessed with material wealth have established wonderful charities in addition to the direct benefit of their creative output to people who enjoy their work or are employed by them. Your concept of Christians merely sitting around, counting the hours until Christ returns is false. There are many who claim to be Christians and who do not act upon their beliefs. Don't make the mistake of judging Christianity on that basis.

      It is far more likely that someone will make false claims against Christianity in order to control others or to asuage their own guilt. The world would certainly be a better place if mankind was perfect. I recommend that you might be able to improve the world by abstaining from speaking ill of anyone and going out and doing as you say others should do. That would certainly be a better use of your time.

      Karl

      March 22, 2011 at 12:16 am |
  2. cgoregon

    Hopefully the end is near for nutballs like this.

    March 21, 2011 at 11:46 pm |
  3. Lin

    Don't be shocked at the comments on here, this world belongs to satan, so now we see his not only ignorant goats, they must come out to knock the truth but the truth cannot be erased anymore. JESUS IS LORD OF LORD AND KING OF KINGS, He will come back to send you all nay sayers and apostates and satanic helpers to give you your place by your choice. Lake of fire. We'll see if when you get there, due to an overwhelming lack of love and clarity, we'll see if you can fly out or quench your thirst there where you will be for despising YOUR CREATOR.

    March 21, 2011 at 11:45 pm |
    • SeanNJ

      *yawn* Get back under your bridge.

      March 21, 2011 at 11:53 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      Bullish!t... mor bullish!t...

      March 21, 2011 at 11:55 pm |
    • Bryan

      @Lin – It's funny how blood-thirsty you are as a good christian. Yet, the unbelievers are called evil? Strange days indeed.

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

      "by your choice"? Doesn't sound like much of a choice. Believe this or die? Sounds like dictatorial threats to me. God is not a dictator.

      March 22, 2011 at 2:37 pm |
  4. burgundy11

    Franklin,
    I have the utmost regard for your ministry and the ministry of your Dad and Mom and your family. But didn't Jesus say,"Even the angels don't know when this time will be."?

    March 21, 2011 at 11:44 pm |
    • juan

      If u read the article, Franklin said that he didn't know if this was a sign of the end times or not. I also have the utmost regard for his ministry.

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

      "No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Mark 13:32

      So no one knows the exact time which as you read the article notice he did not give an exact time. The bible also says that with the signs we will know that summer is near. So the sign are for a purpose but never should anyone give an exact time of day or hour.

      March 21, 2011 at 11:49 pm |
  5. juan

    What I find amusing is that supposed non-believers spend so much time worrying about what is said by Christians.........

    March 21, 2011 at 11:44 pm |
    • Q

      @Juan – I can think of two reasons. First, morbid curiosity at the workings of an irrational mind and second, theists act on their magical convictions and this does have implications beyond themselves...

      March 21, 2011 at 11:47 pm |
    • Brian

      Maybe because crazy christians tend to do more then talk when it comes to non-christians....Not a big fan of history eh?

      March 21, 2011 at 11:49 pm |
    • juan

      Yes, acting on our convictions, such as sending 90 tons of supplies to earthquake survivors! terrifying!!!!!

      March 21, 2011 at 11:51 pm |
    • bp

      Juan when religious people start wars cause they cant coexist because they believe themselves superios to all other religion or non believer or believe some piece of land was magically granted to them I worry. When they steal this countries wealth and then dont pay taxes I worry. When the scare people into believing in the boogie man then turn around and halt scientific advancement because it scares them that the results might shake their foundation of belief then in just angry.

      March 21, 2011 at 11:52 pm |
    • juan

      Bryan, try believing differently than the govt in say China, old atheistic Soviet Union, Iran or anywhere else in the Middle East except possibly Israel. Yeah, Christians just make your life horrible don't they?

      March 21, 2011 at 11:54 pm |
    • Q

      @Juan – For every act of theist charity, one could note a counter example of imposition on the rights of others. Still, holding up charity as the example invokes Euthyphro's dilemma...

      March 22, 2011 at 12:01 am |
    • juan

      bp
      I don't pretend that Christians are perfect. We aren't. Wars between religions and between different factions of the same religion? Sure, yes that happens, but it is also contrary to the teachings of Jesus found in what is called the Bible. Many of us do our best to follow those teachings and more importantly to follow God. From what I know of Samaritans Purse and Franklin Graham, they are good examples of Christian stewardship. Jesus taught us not to keel people but to di@ for others so that they can hear the truth and have a chance to live as well. Franklin has put his life on the line plenty of times and the work he guides through samaritans purse has made a positive impact on an huge # of people.

      March 22, 2011 at 12:08 am |
    • Bryan

      @Juan – It's because we take very seriously our search for truth and the means that sometimes we have to refute the disinformation spread by the believers in one elaborate fairytale or another.

      March 22, 2011 at 9:19 am |
    • Juan

      Bryan,
      I take very seriously the search for truth as well. We just disagree on what that Truth is.

      March 22, 2011 at 6:29 pm |
  6. Callant

    Marcy, who is Graham or you to warn me of anything?

    March 21, 2011 at 11:44 pm |
  7. Martin

    I just don't know why from when we are born that we are suppose to live in fear of God that the end is near and if we don't go to church that we are not going to go to heaven, etc. It's when something like this happens that people like Franklin Graham come out of the woodwork to once again try to instill fear in people, no different than Y2K. Perhaps he is emotionally weak and has been hitting the bottle hard again. It's hard to say, but what is his purpose anyway. I just don't have time for control freaks who are craving attention and preying on the emotionally weak. If you want to help people, help them, but don't try to steal the limelight with your religious rhetoric.

    March 21, 2011 at 11:44 pm |
  8. Cheryl

    Every knee shall bow and every tongue shalll confess!
    Repent!

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

      Or else God will Kill us=....I mean if we don't confess right, right? Bummer.

      March 22, 2011 at 2:34 pm |
  9. Dan

    By virtue of believing in God, then it exists. Following this same logic out – by virtue of believing in the Flying Spaghetti Monster, then it must also exist. Prove me wrong.

    March 21, 2011 at 11:42 pm |
    • Karl

      Dan,

      I urge you not to argue with those who do not show love to all people, regardless of religion. God loves you and does not wish that you turn away from Him. His justice alone will decide all of our fates. Just remember his promise that you need only to believe in Christ as your Savior and you will be reconciled with God. No other requirements. He simply wants you to understand that all people are sinners and that He has provided us with a plan of salvation out of love. However, those who rebel and refuse to honor God will have no place in Heaven. That is the simple truth.

      So, we have a choice – Eternal life or eternal death. With all of my heart, I would risk my life for you if it would help you to make the right decision. I would heartily recommend that all of those who have not read God's Word with an open mind and heart would benefit by doing so.

      Peace and Love to All,
      Karl

      March 22, 2011 at 12:02 am |
  10. Lin

    I'll be glad to see all the moronic satanic nay sayers enjoy their lake of fire when their turn comes.

    March 21, 2011 at 11:42 pm |
    • Brian

      You really are one sad person.

      March 21, 2011 at 11:47 pm |
    • bp

      Perfect example of scare tactics, Im sorry the modern day and common sense are calling.

      March 21, 2011 at 11:47 pm |
    • mark

      way to be a representative of Christ. So you revel in the thought of seeing people being tortured?

      March 21, 2011 at 11:48 pm |
    • Smite Me

      Lin,

      For saying that... or even thinking it for one second... consider yourself damned. You vicious beast.

      March 21, 2011 at 11:49 pm |
    • ssolilrose

      christian love shining through

      March 21, 2011 at 11:51 pm |
    • Callant

      "Lake of fire?" That's not just medieval, it's downright neanderthal.

      March 22, 2011 at 12:00 am |
    • John

      Preach it brother! Whenever anyone tries to inject some type of reason into these arguments they always revert to hell or the lake of fire. Cool down Lin!

      March 22, 2011 at 2:32 pm |
  11. Lisa

    I am shocked by some of the comments on here. Jesus said, When I return, will I find faith on the earth? It seems scarce now. Believe me, if you don't call him Lord now, you will when he returns in the clouds of glory!! And he loves you, he's waiting for you to call his name.

    March 21, 2011 at 11:41 pm |
    • Callant

      LORD! ummmm...nothing yet. I'll take two aspirin and call you in the morning.

      March 21, 2011 at 11:51 pm |
    • EvolvedDNA

      Lisa.. clouds of glory..what is that exactly..has god gone Hollywood.. I called out Lord.. heard from Jack, but no one else..what is first name anyway OHMY?

      March 22, 2011 at 12:06 am |
    • John

      Yes and don't forget that he loves you and will kill you if you forget to call him. Remember Revelation. A much different kind of Jesus that John and Paul write about. Since more than half the canonized Bible are from them its not surprising the message has been lost to their own very different version.

      March 22, 2011 at 2:30 pm |
  12. PEACE OVER RELIGION

    Where is John Lennon when you need him?

    March 21, 2011 at 11:40 pm |
    • stacey

      Perfectly said!

      March 21, 2011 at 11:50 pm |
  13. Lin

    "Look unto me and be saved, all the ends of the earth; for I am God and there is none else. … that unto me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear" (Isaiah 45:22,23b)

    "… stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ. For it is written, As I live saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me and every tongue shall confess to God." (Romans 14:10b, 11)

    "That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow … and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord." (Philippians 2:10a,11a)

    March 21, 2011 at 11:40 pm |
  14. Satan

    Here we go again, relgious nuts always saying the end will come and use fear to control people. Fear God and you must find peace through Jesus and then you will live forever. Might as well tell me I can fly off with the freakin toothfairy and if I don't believe in her she will take all of my teeth out. I wish I could live in 100 years from now when society will be more educated and open to the idea that all religions are made-up to control the masses.

    March 21, 2011 at 11:40 pm |
  15. Cheryl

    Repent Repent!!!
    Every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess

    March 21, 2011 at 11:39 pm |
  16. Mr Mark

    Idiot.

    March 21, 2011 at 11:39 pm |
  17. The truth is hidden

    Todd

    Then you better start killing kids who talk back to you, anyone who touches pig products, any woman who doesn't marry her rapist, any woman who isn't a virgin upon getting married, any one who works on the Sabbath, anyone who wears mixed fabrics, and anyone who wears their hair too short or too long.

    Yo, truth boy, do you ever actually read that book from cover to cover, or do you just read the passages that you like?

    Todd, I have, cover to cover, there is a verse in II Tim 2:15 that tells me to study to understand what is ment by the Word. It also tells me that some will understand and some will not because many who have eyes will not see and and have ears and do not hear. As for killing babies, marrage to rapist and that nonsense, where have you read that comming out of the mouth of Christ. You might need to read my post about ignorance. I also know this, one day every man women and child will find out the truth. Is He real or if He is not. It is my hope that the Christ of the Bible becomes the example to all who live on this earth. It would be a much better place no matter if he is real or not. I argue the former. What is there to lose read about Him. He is good.

    March 21, 2011 at 11:38 pm |
    • sethro

      It's in the old Testament, being Helenists christians we follow Christ

      March 21, 2011 at 11:42 pm |
  18. rebekah lover of God

    Just look around us and we can not deny that the end is coming. Only the Lord knows for sure when, but it is coming. I pray for all of you that do not believe in our Almighty God!!!! For with him anything is possible, he loves us all, even the nonbelievers. Our country was founded on Godly beliefs and it is sad that we are moving away from. May God be with us ALL!!!!!

    March 21, 2011 at 11:38 pm |
    • PEACE OVER RELIGION

      Honestly...Deism was the popular "belief" of the time America was founded. Look it up. Oh and any religion that wipes out a whole entire race...not cool. Not cool.

      March 21, 2011 at 11:44 pm |
    • EvolvedDNA

      Rebekah..The world will end one day but I suspect it will be about 5 billion years or so, I know that the death cults want it to come in their life times but it will not .. sorry.. religions will have to be content with salivating over natural disasters.. I predict.. and you have read it here ..that we will get volcanoes, more earthquakes and tsunamis, droughts and a flood or two in years to come.

      March 21, 2011 at 11:56 pm |
    • John

      Yes the sky is falling! Stupid nonsense. Don't forget the dude who started the whole world is ending thing was Pual. and he never even met Jesus!

      March 22, 2011 at 2:25 pm |
  19. Jason

    Too funny to read all of this hate on here – it's a sign of its own, a sign of fear in non-believers!

    March 21, 2011 at 11:37 pm |
    • Q

      @Jason – Well, yes, some non-believers can be a bit caustic in response to a lifetime of judgmental claims of unknowable knowledge coming from their theist neighbors. Not necessarily a justification but certainly an explanation. As for fear, well, yes. I think you could call it "fear" in the same way you might cross to the other side of the street when up ahead, you see someone conversing loudly with their invisible friend. Irrational and delusional folks, while not always, can be dangerous...

      March 21, 2011 at 11:44 pm |
    • C B

      I fear nothing of the sort. I spent 40 years of my life raised in that BS, praying fervently, not questioning why prayers weren't answered (God's will – what a copout), etc. The sooner you realize you're following vapor, the better off you'll be. There may be a creator, but there is certainly no personal god. NONE.

      March 22, 2011 at 12:54 am |
  20. SABrown

    Anyone who believes this crap is potentally dangerous, because if you believe the end of the world is at hand, you could do something rash without concern for consequences.

    March 21, 2011 at 11:36 pm |
    • Ethos with pathos

      Better keep the global warming crowd away then....they have been screaming about the end of the world a lot.

      March 21, 2011 at 11:39 pm |
    • Sean

      It appears, the sins of the father are being visited on his loon son!

      March 21, 2011 at 11:41 pm |
    • gatormaniac

      Very true about the global warming people. They have been talking about the end of the world a lot. Talk about money. Study up on that and see how much money is involved in the whole global warming belief.

      March 21, 2011 at 11:45 pm |
    • Jesus

      Global Warming is scientific fact unlike the Bible which is pure BS make believe.

      March 21, 2011 at 11:48 pm |
    • JOregon

      The bible is true.
      Global warming is true.
      In fact the bible says soon the Earth will get real hot.
      2 Peter 3:10 But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.
      Sounds like major global warming.

      March 22, 2011 at 12:03 am |
    • PraiseTheLard

      Gatormaniac wrote: "see how much money is involved in the whole global warming belief."

      And how much money is and has been involved in the whole organized religion garbage?

      March 22, 2011 at 2:33 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.