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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. fluke

    Does anyone else get depressed when they realize how many people in a society with real world responsibilities function according to these mythological, fantastical fairy tales?!

    March 22, 2011 at 12:31 am |
    • IG

      I do, it seems silly.

      March 22, 2011 at 9:30 am |
    • HeavenSent

      fluke, so you imagine yourself to be doing what these days? LOL

      March 22, 2011 at 2:41 pm |
  2. Mark

    This is rubbish. People have predicted the end times since we don't know when.....probably since Jesus died.
    and Wasn't the Cold war almost a perfect example of what Matthew said?
    and we are still here now
    how ironic.
    and by the way I am an atheist.

    March 22, 2011 at 12:30 am |
    • Wert

      And, I'm sure that it doesn't impress you a bit that men much smarter than yourself have been devout believers.

      March 22, 2011 at 12:34 am |
    • Wert

      Since you're an atheist, let me make you a challenge. Read the book "Darwin's Black Box" and then make dismissive remarks about believers. It's not light reading. It's molecular biology. It explains the science behind "intelligent design". Yes, the same "intelligent design" theory that TV commentators who don't know a thing about it make jokes about. Read the book and then be dismissive. It should be easy. All the "experts" on the TV shows that haven't read the book think so.

      March 22, 2011 at 12:45 am |
    • The truth is hidden

      I really hope you are the exception to the normal athiest because the ones I know are heartless and selfish and bitter. They hate me and I don't even preach to them. I really seem to make them angry when I help them when they need help and I don't wait around for them to thank me. It is really odd when I catch them looking at me with the quizical look of what's up with this guy? They just don't know I love them just because God loves them. I want to see them prosper and do well because God wants them to do well. I help them because God wants to help them, but because they don't want Him to help them I do until they will!

      March 22, 2011 at 1:21 am |
  3. RealityMan

    I'm with you, Tom! On the other hand, please let the rapture happen already. Take the believers away so the rest of us can get on with living in the real world.

    March 22, 2011 at 12:29 am |
  4. The Dude

    A Brief History of the Apocalypse

    http://www.abhota.info/end1.htm

    March 22, 2011 at 12:29 am |
    • HeavenSent

      The Dude, I've read it from His truth.

      Revelation 14:1-3, Revelation 20:12-15, Revelation 21:7-8

      Amen.

      March 22, 2011 at 2:37 pm |
  5. Lin

    "And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched: Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. And if thy foot offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter halt into life, than having two feet to be cast into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched: Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out: it is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire: Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched" (Mark 9:43-48). Also see Isaiah 66:22-24.

    March 22, 2011 at 12:28 am |
  6. Catist

    One day the Cat in the Hat WILL come back! Repent all ye who do not believeth in him!

    March 22, 2011 at 12:27 am |
    • The truth is hidden

      You really don't have to believe but I really wish you would. Life is much better because you will work harder, smarter and generate more benifits. You will learn to love more and be more than you can ever imagin. You will discover more about yourself and bring more value to those around you. Life is good when you know your purpose.

      March 22, 2011 at 1:12 am |
  7. The Dude

    Science will fly you into the Cosmos
    Religion will fly you into buildings

    March 22, 2011 at 12:26 am |
    • ReligionRotsYourBrain

      Oooohhhhhh, can't argue with that one. I have more to say but the plate is coming and I need to fill out this check here.....

      March 22, 2011 at 12:52 am |
    • The truth is hidden

      At the end of our lives I hope you remember this day and don't feel the same way.

      March 22, 2011 at 1:08 am |
    • ReligionRotsYourBrain

      Hope? Isn't that an Obama thing? Aren't you supposed to know? Or at least pray? What's with this "hope"? Dammit, now I'm REALLY confused.....

      March 22, 2011 at 1:15 am |
    • The truth is hidden

      Hope is the evidence I have of what I have seen and not seen! I know what I was and the potential in me to be distructive because of a hatred toward myself created to control my ansestors that for a long time controled me. A self image fostered by TV and stereo types that I saw distroying my community. I saw a hopeless people all around me that told me that I would and could be nothing until I found the Hope of Glory. I found out that my self image was not the imagination of men but the creation of God and it was far better than what I saw around me and what I was told. I found that if I believed. I had a hope and a promise that I may or maynot see here on earth but I will see at the end of my days. And thank God I have seen some victories here but I didn't have to! As Abraham believed I believe and I see no loss for me in that!.

      March 22, 2011 at 2:17 am |
    • HeavenSent

      Oh really Dude, apparently you've skipped over this scripture 1 Timothy 6:20

      Amen.

      March 22, 2011 at 2:31 pm |
  8. The truth is hidden

    M.

    Jesus himself predicted that the end will come within a generation of his life. So, we are left with two possibilities. Either he is a false prophet (and therefore we can ignore the whole Christian "end of the world" deal), or the world really did end some two thousand years ago...but nobody noticed. Choose which you prefer.

    For those who don't understand the term generation in a biblical sense it means the Generation of Christ and all those that are believers in Christ fit into that generation and until this generation has done its work as ambassadors for Christ to preach the Gospel to every nation (race of people). Then we will see the beginning of sorrows and the signs of his return. Get to work Brothers and Sisters. Share the love of God with the sick, homeless, motherless, fatherless, incarcerated, Godless and the hopeless. Show them the agape (unconditional) love that God has shown us through the Christ. Show the mercy and grace of God to all that you meet. Do good to those that hate you and dispitefully missuse you. God is your redeamer not the world or the flesh.

    March 22, 2011 at 12:26 am |
    • Q

      Not trying to stalk you in that I know it can be difficult to locate earlier posts and replies, but again, you'd previously written on parthenogenesis and I was wondering if you could provide a reference for a doc-umented viable occurrence in humans?

      March 22, 2011 at 12:28 am |
    • The truth is hidden

      There is only one that I know of! Jesus

      March 22, 2011 at 12:47 am |
    • Q

      I see....

      March 22, 2011 at 12:56 am |
    • The truth is hidden

      Both my parents where Biology teachers and I read their text books, periodicals and notes like bibles growing up and into my adult life.

      March 22, 2011 at 1:03 am |
  9. Lin

    human wisdom is not wisdom

    March 22, 2011 at 12:26 am |
    • C B

      Neither is believing 66 books worth of fairy tales.

      March 22, 2011 at 12:30 am |
    • HeavenSent

      Lin, they've never read Daniel 11:45

      Amen.

      March 22, 2011 at 2:26 pm |
    • Mi Ning

      "Human wisdom is not wisdom"? Well it's the only wisdom we have access to. Humans, despite their "lack of wisdom," wrote the Bible, the Koran, the Talmud,... There is much wisdom in those books. Humans are indeed capable of wisdom. It's because God let us evolve to have these really big brains and develop science, art and...religion. Use the intelligence God gave you. Use it to gather wisdom.

      March 30, 2011 at 5:25 pm |
  10. The Dude

    Religion is the Fast Food of Spirituality

    March 22, 2011 at 12:25 am |
    • C B

      Spirituality is also a waste of time.

      March 22, 2011 at 12:30 am |
  11. SC

    Since so many are quoting verses, I thought I'd share my favorite:

    Austin 3:16 says "I just whipped your @ss!"

    March 22, 2011 at 12:25 am |
    • C B

      HalleluJJJJAH! Praise the corpse of Gordon Solie, our savior!

      March 22, 2011 at 12:29 am |
  12. Lin

    "And the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb: And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name" (Revelation 14:9-11).

    March 22, 2011 at 12:25 am |
    • ReligionRotsYourBrain

      Lin, do a web search on "kissing hank's ass". Hank said a lot of stuff too. And I love mustard and ketchup on mine!

      March 22, 2011 at 12:49 am |
    • HeavenSent

      Lin, God Bless and remember Matthew 7:6 for the 1 Timothy 6:20 of the world.

      Amen.

      March 22, 2011 at 2:23 pm |
  13. The Dude

    Quick! Send him your life savings! Idiots!

    March 22, 2011 at 12:25 am |
    • Jesus

      Its; tough being Franklin Graham. The fishing is scarce. The religion biz has been hit hard in this recession. Whenever revenue falls, the religion businessmen pull out the end of times card. Let's face it folks...it's all about shearing the sheep or separating the benjamins from the fools.

      March 22, 2011 at 12:31 am |
    • C B

      AND max out your credit cards, too! Praise Bob! Give me slack!

      March 22, 2011 at 12:32 am |
  14. Gary H B

    You can't really be ignorant enough to think that these old myths and legends are real. Wake-up it's the 21st century, not the dark ages.

    March 22, 2011 at 12:24 am |
    • HeavenSent

      1 Timothy 6:20

      And how many years ago was this written?

      LOL.

      March 22, 2011 at 2:17 pm |
    • Magic

      HeavenSent

      "1 Timothy 6:20
      And how many years ago was this written?"

      And by whom? Saul of Tarsus... a neurotic, delusional, self-righteous, misogynistic, misanthropic, PR expert.

      LOL Indeed

      March 22, 2011 at 2:29 pm |
  15. ATHORITY!

    People listen carefully, Jesus is going to return, no matter what the spirit of the world say's. I see some of you think a giant rock is going to hit the earth, this is parcially true. A rock will hit the earth and that ROCK IS JESUS THE CHRIST MY SOLID ROCK! It doesnt matter when He's coming, the fact is, HE will return to His people(Jews) and the bride(church-gentiles). If your not apart of this great family, I would like for you to get to know the Saviour, because He want to save you. His Word Endureth Forever, but time doesnt so choose this day whom you will serve, the devil whose only job is to deceive as many as he can or God who gave His only Begotten son for our sins, His blood can heal, His word set you free, His Spirit can and will restore you. We will all stand before a Great and Terrible God and give an account for everything we do Here on earth. This is an opportunity to get thing right with God through His son Jesus before its to late! I Love You All, God bless!

    March 22, 2011 at 12:23 am |
    • ReligionRotsYourBrain

      I hope you have to account for your bad grammar. Maybe if education cuts weren't so deep more Christians could get a lucid point across. Look, here comes the plate, get out your checkbook!

      March 22, 2011 at 12:45 am |
    • TheTruth72

      @ReligionRotsYourBrain....Okay, so when the economies of the world crashes. And America starts getting hit by huge earthquakes and your laying in a pile of rubble waiting for someone to save you while many people are rushing to the stores to take all they can for themselves. Will the American government be there to care for you? I highly doubt it. Might want to look for your closest Christian buddy, cause we'll be right there helping people on their feet and accepting them with open arms even when we get put down with negative comments.

      March 22, 2011 at 12:51 am |
    • ReligionRotsYourBrain

      Who are you, Ted Haggard? Keep your "open arms" away from me, I heard that before from a youth minister.

      March 22, 2011 at 1:01 am |
    • TheTruth72

      You need a hug! (3o.o)3

      March 22, 2011 at 2:11 am |
    • GÜNTER

      HELLO ATHORITY, WHAT DO YOU MAKE OF ACTS 1:8 'IN THE SAME MANNER'? KIND REGARDS, GUNTER

      March 29, 2011 at 4:11 pm |
  16. Tom

    Doomsday predictions have a remarkably bad track record.

    March 22, 2011 at 12:20 am |
    • mack

      Never stops people from blindly believing, though. Funny, huh? A million things go wrong and then Mee-Maw's invisible tumor gets a bit smaller and it's a freakin' god-sent miracle. People will wise up one of these days.

      March 22, 2011 at 12:25 am |
    • TheTruth72

      True Christians will never tell exact dates. Even date ranges you should be skeptical of. Really, the only thing that matters is your relationship with God and Jesus and that Jesus died for mankinds sins. We must acknowledge that and repent of our sins and we will be forgiven.

      March 22, 2011 at 12:26 am |
    • Tom

      Yes, doomsday predictions do best when exact dates are not given. If they are given, they invariably don't pan out. I predict that more doomsday predictions will be made.

      March 22, 2011 at 7:56 am |
  17. Leonid Brezhnev

    What a bunch of bull. I would expect a more intelligent perspective from the son of Billy Graham. Oh, wait...isn't the world ending on May 21???? Holy Apocalypse, Batman!!!

    March 22, 2011 at 12:20 am |
    • TheTruth72

      May 21st is a bunch of baloney. Those people who are following that doctrine are following Harold Camping and his poor wisdom of understanding the Bible. No one knows the day or hour of the return of Jesus, only God. Not even Jesus knows until he is sent.

      March 22, 2011 at 12:24 am |
    • copanut

      "No one knows the day or hour of the return of Jesus, only God. Not even Jesus knows until he is sent."

      By definition, Christians believe that Jesus is god, that the two are one in the same. But here you insist that Jesus/God doesn't know when he will return, and that only God/Jesus knows.

      Typical mental fornication of the True Believer.

      March 25, 2011 at 7:08 pm |
  18. Travis

    I would think the times during WWII and the Great Depression would have been a bigger cause for concern for the end of times. Also the Cold War seemed pretty grim.

    March 22, 2011 at 12:16 am |
    • Travis

      Also, I could be wrong, but isn't the end of the world supposed to come at a time of peace and prosperity?

      March 22, 2011 at 12:17 am |
    • TheTruth72

      Yes, many people did think it was the end of times then, but certain things were not in place for it to truly be the end of times. For instance, the technology of the internet makes it possible to send gifts just about instantly all over the world. We did not have that back then, it would take multiple days or weeks to get a letter to someone in another country. Check out the passage of the two witnesses in Revelation.

      March 22, 2011 at 12:22 am |
    • C B

      Travis, you obviously didn't live through 21 Jump Street, Cop Rock, and Solid Gold. That was pure hell.

      March 22, 2011 at 12:28 am |
    • Jesus

      End of rimes? The religion biz has been hit hard in this recession. Whenever revenue falls, the religion businessmen pull out the end of times card. Let's face it folks...it's all about shearing the sheep or separating the benjamins from the fools.

      March 22, 2011 at 12:29 am |
    • TheTruth72

      @Travis....Not the end, but the beginning of tribulation. Jesus will come when the world is basically laid to waste by man made wars and God's judgement to wake people up.

      March 22, 2011 at 12:29 am |
    • HeavenSent

      Travis, the anti-christ (satan) comes during peace and prosperity to deceive all.

      Amen.

      March 22, 2011 at 2:12 pm |
  19. sherry

    If you are going to bash someone at least read the article right and get the info right. Franklin Graham did not give a date when the world would end. And if you don't like reading about all this "religious" stuff then why are you on hear reading it and being ignorant with your hate of christians? I don't care for messed up celebrities or sports so I just don't read the articles and I don't post about these things. And I will say as a bible believing christian......those that are bashing God will bow down to Him one day and confess that He is Lord. Go ahead and have a field day and call me whatever you want. I just know you will recall this one day and hopefully not too late. And I am not living in fear or afraid of what is to come. I don't have any worries about my future and I don't give money to a preacher every week. I give to those who need help without asking or caring what they believe.

    March 22, 2011 at 12:15 am |
  20. TheTruth72

    This is actually one of the first articles I've seen that doesn't bash Christians outright. Nice for a change. I don't fully agree on Gibbs comments in the article however. Sounds somewhat paganistic. He should also do a little research on how many massive earthquakes we've had in the past 10 years compared to last 100.

    I've been watching closely and it appears like God is pouring out his Holy Spirit on people like never before. There are many propchecies being fulfilled by people posting videos on YouTube. One to check out is: theodorenmichele

    Guys, these aren't some nutty wackjobs. Please look around and see what is going on. Do some research for yourself on this subject. It's super fascinating.

    March 22, 2011 at 12:15 am |
    • Jesus

      The religion biz has been hot hard in this recession. Whenever revenue falls, the religion businessmen pull out the end of times card. Let's face it folks...it's all about shearing the sheep or separating the benjamins from the fools.

      March 22, 2011 at 12:28 am |
    • Jose

      I've been watching closely and it appears like God is pouring out his Holy Spirit on people like never before.

      What a stupid comment. What about the countless wars and famine that have taken place over the past 1000 years.

      " God is pouring out his Holy Spirit on people like never before." That sounds a little X-rated.

      March 22, 2011 at 12:34 am |
    • TheTruth72

      Your copy and paste skills are incredible. I'd like to see you take that time to do some research. There are many people out there that don't want your money and are spreading the Word of God. They've been shown things that are coming true before your very eyes, yet your eyes are shut. They are saying that things are a brewing and it's time for people to wake up. Don't watch those false preachers like Benny Hinn, they truly want your money and don't follow Christianity.

      March 22, 2011 at 12:35 am |
    • ReligionRotsYourBrain

      No, these ARE nutty whack-jobs. Just like family life, just like westboro, just like al queida. Just like you. See you tomorrow, see you in June, see you in 2013.

      March 22, 2011 at 12:36 am |
    • TheTruth72

      Apparently you need to read the Bible, Jose. It explains it.

      March 22, 2011 at 12:36 am |
    • TheTruth72

      @ReligionRotsYourBrain....I think you might need some help there buddy. You like to run around putting down people all the time? I wonder if you realize that you probably deal with at least 1 Christian every day without knowning when you go about. You probably think they are normal (not sure what your normal standards are, but it seems a bit low). Little do you know, they may be a person in one of these videos on Youtube.

      March 22, 2011 at 12:46 am |
    • ReligionRotsYourBrain

      I have a good idea who the Christians are, in my daily dealings. They're usually the ones who can't spell! Knowning! Cmon, you make this too easy!

      March 22, 2011 at 12:56 am |
    • SF

      Hello, I believe what The Truth72 says has scientific sense. My religious beliefs aside, if you take the data compiled during the last 20 years, you will find a drastic increase in disasters both natural and man made have increased. This phenomena has an increasing frequency that can be tracked and analysed. If our analysis is correct, this should increase. This increase and subsequent disasters (again natural and man made), if classified into the type of effect it would have on the world at large, will show that it would happen more frequently that ever before, this means, you will find the amount of deaths increasing, due to illnesses, such as cancer, natural disasters such as earthquakes, etc, wars and other man made destructions, all with an increased frequency. This doesnt stop there, if you look at a person's life, there too, you will find an increase in problems/troubles, frankly, its a part of the chain effect of the overall macro problem. If this means, one should adhere more to religion, meditation, etc, then please go ahead, that should give some respite and if you are really into it, a good peace of mind. I dont have the space to write in length however, I am sure, if one really wants to understand, I'll try to provide more info, if anyone really needs it.

      March 22, 2011 at 1:36 am |
    • MM

      Rich! This is nothing more than drive for donations. For those of you that really think that God makes earthquakes, please go back to 9th grade science so that you can learn a thing about plate techtonics.

      March 22, 2011 at 10:09 am |
    • HeavenSent

      Looks like they never read 1 Timothy 6:20

      Amen.

      March 22, 2011 at 2:10 pm |
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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.