The private funeral for evangelist Billy Graham was held yesterday at the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte, NC before 2400 guests. Millions of others, from all over the world, watched the service online or on television. Billy Graham was 99 years old and will be buried next to his wife Ruth at the same library dedicated to his life and ministry. Billy Graham truly lived an extraordinary life. As a result, he was honored at his death by being only the fourth private citizen in United States history to lie in state at the United States Capitol rotunda in Washington, D.C on February 28-March 1. Graham is the first religious leader to be honored. At the ceremony, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan called Graham "America's pastor." President Donald Trump said Graham was "an ambassador for Christ." Many other tributes and accolades came in from all over the world to honor Graham and his ministry.
If you didn't know anything about Billy Graham, you would have to acknowledge that Billy's life had some sort of deeper meaning from Heaven's perspective. After all, Billy Graham spoke to over 200 million people in person during his ministry, the most of any person in human history about any subject. That number is only a fraction of those who heard him by radio or television over the years. Clearly, the fact that Billy Graham had such influence in the world for the Gospel and with Presidents and world leaders shows him to have had an extraordinary calling from the Lord. Billy's calling was most likely not even fully understood by himself.
Many have likened Billy Graham to the Apostle Paul as the two greatest evangelists in Church history for obvious reasons. Surely a case for that could be made. When the Lord called the Apostle Paul in Acts 9:15, the Lord told him,
But the Lord said to Ananias, "Go! This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel.The Apostle Paul spoke to more Gentiles that anyone in history to that point about the Lord Jesus Christ. The Lord's prophecy about Paul came true as he was sent to kings and leaders in the Gentile world, such as King Agrippa in Acts 25. Now the amazing thing about the Apostle Paul was the fact that he was the main person chosen by the Lord to spread the Gospel into the Nations following our Lord's death, burial and resurrection and His first coming. Paul was given the honor of spreading the Faith into the Nations, and as a result was considered the greatest evangelist in Biblical history to that time.
What is fascinating is the fact that Billy Graham was chosen by the Lord in a similar fashion as Paul had been chosen. However, this time, his ministry was not announcing the Gospel that had fully come in the Lord's 1st coming, but would be a prophetic proclamation of that same Gospel preparing people for the 2nd coming within that generation. This exact prophetic observation was picked up and proclaimed at the funeral by Billy Graham's own daughter, Anne Graham Lotz. In her remarks at her father's funeral, CBN News reflects on her comments by saying,
One of the more poignant tributes came from his daughter, Anne Graham Lotz, who explained the date of her father's passing, February 21, held spiritual significance that was "strategic" from "Heaven's point of view."That was the day, she explained, that Jews were focusing on reading scripture about how Moses led the people of Israel out of bondage – much as her father had led millions of people out of bondage to sin. "Moses was the great liberator," she explained. "He brought millions of people out of bondage to slavery, got them to the edge of the Promised Land and God took him to Heaven. God brought Joshua to lead them into the Promised Land to take them home." "And my father also is a great liberator," Lotz continued. "He brought millions of people out of bondage to sin and gets us to the edge of Heaven, the edge of the Promised Land and then God has called him home.""Could it be that God is going to bring Joshua to lead us into the Promised Land, lead us to Heaven and – you know what the New Testament name for Joshua is? It's Jesus. And I believe this is a shot across the bow from Heaven. And I believe God is saying: 'Wake up church! Wake up world! Jesus is coming!" she declared.
The focus of Anne's comments are clearly prophetic in nature. She saw her father's life as something amazing and not easily explained without the hand of God. How else do you explain how a North Carolina farm boy, that came out of nowhere, was raised up to such prominence and given an audience around the world like no other man in history, save the Apostle Paul himself? It seems clear that Anne realized all these issues are somehow connected to the Lord Jesus' return in the near future as the Gospel is going all over the world to fulfill our Lord's words in Matthew 24:14,
And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.
Billy Graham was the first evangelist in history to use radio and television in an effective and powerful way. His life and ministry is a prophetic glimpse into our Lord's words in Matthew 24, and a picture of the Great Commission of Matthew 28:18-20 being finished in our lifetime. Billy Graham's life was part of the fullness of time of the Lord's redeeming purposes for the world. We can all begin to see it all unfolding NOW in this generation as global communication is a major part of consummating the Lord's redeeming purposes for the world.
Much of Billy Graham's ministry is also prophetically tied to Israel, Jerusalem and the fullness of the Gentiles. Billy was born on November 7, 1918, just days before the Armistice on November 11 that ended World War I. World War I was a prophetic war from a Biblical perspective because it saw the early fulfillment of Bible prophecy as Jerusalem and Israel were freed from Turkish rule. This movement during the War, along with the promise of a Jewish homeland in the Balfour Declaration of November 1917 by the British government, revealed an astonishing plan for the ages that were unfolding the same time Billy Graham was born.
Little did Billy Graham know that all these prophetic events were about to unfold in his lifetime and that of his ministry. In looking at Billy's ministry, most would agree that his real ministry began in 1947 through what came to be known as his stadium styled "crusades." His first "crusade" was held in Grand Rapids, Michigan on September 13-21, 1947 at the Civic Auditorium and was attended by over 6000 people. Graham would go on to hold more than 400 such crusades in 185 countries on 6 continents, speaking to millions. Graham's star would grow and grow from that time until he became a world renowned religious figure and the most powerful Christian witness in history since the Apostle Paul.
Providentially, just as Billy Graham was rising to international prominence in 1947 and the Gospel was spreading among the Gentile nations, the tiny, new State of Israel was reborn, following a vote in the United Nations in 1947 that was realized on May 14, 1948. This incredible relationship between the Church and Israel would be at the heart of what was happening in the world during the entire time of Billy Graham's ministry growth and development. The connections here are simply amazing and carry astonishing prophetic significance for every person in the world regarding the Lord's redeeming purposes at the close of the age.
In looking back today, Billy Graham's life and legacy were truly a gift to us all. His steadfast focus on the Lord's saving purposes in the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ never wavered. Billy was able to fulfill his calling from Heaven without scandal that seems to be so common in this hour. Billy Graham's life and ministry has been a prophetic witness to the entire world for those that are listening. As Anne Graham Lotz passionately reminded the world at her father's funeral, "Jesus is coming." Let's be ready Church for that great future and let's share the Good News with everyone we can in this amazing hour of history.