Thor Tolo recently spoke with Franklin Graham about the California wildfires, the passing of his mother Ruth and Samaritan’s Purse. The occasion was to promote a three-day evangelistic event in Tacoma, WA beginning Friday, November 2...
Thor Tolo: What will be the focus or the theme of your message on Friday, Franklin?
Franklin Graham: I’m going to talk about hell.
Now there is something refreshing—you hardly hear pastors from the pulpit on Sunday mornings speak so bluntly about something that most decidedly exists.
Well, I am going to be stopping in California. We have teams of people working in Southern California where they are helping with the aftermath of these devastating fires. It’s made me just stop and think about fire, and what hell is all about.
It is a place of torment; it is a place of judgment. And you know the Bible talks about God’s love and His forgiveness, but forgiveness from what? From sin. And what is the consequence of sin?
The Bible says there is a broad road and there are many that are on that road that is leading to destruction, but there is just a very narrow road that leads to life and the Bible says few find it. Well, I am coming to Tacoma [WA] because I want to help the few in Tacoma to find this narrow road.
I am glad you bring up hell because it allows me to make this second point. And that is, those who are especially new to the cross, or newer in their spiritual journey with Jesus, may not have a full grasp of how much more often the Carpenter from Galilee spoke about hell then heaven in the Gospels.
Well, He spoke a lot about hell and it is a subject that people avoid today because it is a negative thought…. The Bible says that “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosever believeth in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.” This “perish”—what is this about? This place that we go if we fail to obey, if we fail to follow, if we fail to accept God’s salvation—His Son Jesus Christ—what are the consequences to this? I think it is important for people to know the consequences, and give them an option, give them a choice, give them a chance. They have a decision: they can say yes, they can say no. I want to be faithful and make sure they understand what the choices are.
I’m glad, Franklin, that you brought up the California Wildfires because, with a couple isolated exceptions, like the arson that is suspected in Orange County, this truly was a natural disaster. Which reminds me … of a couple of years ago, and Hurricane Katrina, when you had suggested it may have been, at least in part, God’s wrath when it descended on New Orleans and wiped out so much of the Golf Coast. What did you precisely mean by that suggestion?
First of all, that particular statement was attributed to me, but I really didn’t say that one. I’ve said other things in life, but I didn’t say that. I made it very clear that I don’t think this was God’s judgment in Katrina, because there were churches that were blown down. There were a number of churches that went under water—good Bible teaching, preaching churches that went under water. Pastors lost their houses; good people lost their houses, as well as bad people. So, I don’t think it is necessary to say that was God’s judgment because I don’t know, I really don’t know.
I know that there were hundreds of thousands of people that were left homeless, and we had to do something about it. If Jesus were here on earth, I believe Jesus would be walking through the Ninth Ward reaching out his hand to those that had lost their homes and offering comfort, and making sure that they knew that He was the Son of God—that if they put their faith and trust in Him they can have eternal life.
When Jesus Christ was here on earth He had compassion for those that were hurting, for those that were hungry, for those that were sick—it is no different today. Jesus Christ is here living through us, and I want to make sure that we go to the areas of the world were there is war, famine, earthquakes, fires, and be able to reach out and do it in such a way that these people understand and know that God loves them and cares for them, and that Jesus Christ died for their sins, He rose again—He is alive—and He can come into that person’s heart today and make a change in that person’s life—He can turn that person’s life around … if they are willing to accept Him by faith into their life.
With the passing of your mother just a few months ago, can you reflect on her life and what it meant both to your father, Billy, and all the siblings in your family.
She was the—there are no words to describe my mother. She was the woman who was the force behind Billy Graham. She was the strongest person in my life that I know. A great, great woman—full of life, full of spunk, she wasn’t afraid of anybody, anywhere, anytime. She knew the word of God; she memorized it. She was my greatest support. When she passed away there was a big hole in my heart—and there always will be.
Samaritan’s Purse is a remarkable ministry. Can you share with us what you are hoping for in the next few years with this incredible ministry that has spanned the globe?
We just always want to be available to go into these war and famine areas and take the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and minister to people with their physical needs, but there is a spiritual need in every person’s life. When a state agency or a government agency responds to a disaster they can do a wonderful job, but there is a spiritual dimension they can’t touch, and that is what Samaritan’s Purse and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association—when we come into a situation we bring the Gospel, we bring the spiritual element into the relief work we are doing and that is the difference between us and state agencies or some other non-government groups—we bring the Gospel….