The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, were a wake-up call from God, says the Rev. Billy Graham’s daughter, Anne Graham Lotz.
She recalls how she was at home by herself on the day of the terrorist attack. “My daughter called and told me to turn on the TV. A plane had hit one of the towers. I thought it was a little Piper Cub. But then I turned on the TV just as the second airliner hit. It was horrible.
“I watched,” she recalls. “As the first tower came down – then the second, God woke me up and set my heart on fire.”
The attacks were meant to be a wake-up call to all Christians to start a revival within the church, she says. She remembers how September 11 personally transformed her own faith and instilled in her a passion to share her convictions with others.
“On that day, God woke me up and set my heart on fire to tell other people the glorious good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
“It made me more focused. As I watched the towers fall, I thought I was watching 50,000 people die, but many people had gotten out. It was less than 3,000, but it was still shattering. I asked myself how many were not ready to step into eternity. I remember that very day sharing the Gospel with strangers. I came out bolder. It was a time not to be silent.
“I still have that,” she says. “I still don’t want anybody to die without Jesus.
“It is time for the church to look up, look within ourselves, stop blaming other people. The church is sleeping.
“As a country we have pushed God farther and farther out of our government, businesses, marketplace and schools. It’s time to repent and invite Him back.
“We may very well be living in the most strategic and critical generation since the first coming of Jesus Christ to Earth,” she says. “But people in general are oblivious to what time it is! We are fanatical about sports, we are consumed with eating and exercise and entertainment, we mob the shopping malls, we are preoccupied with the lifestyles of the rich and famous, and we zealously pursue greater heights on the corporate ladder.
“We fight over the style of church music, argue over political candidates, dream of bigger houses and cars and portfolios – totally unaware that we are all living on the brink of what?
“We are living on the brink of radical inside-out, upside-down, never-be-the-same-again change! We are teetering on the edge of a giant abyss where time stops and eternity begins, yet we live our lives as though this life is all there is or ever will be.
“God allowed September 11 and used it. If we don’t wake up, what is going to come next?
“This is a wake-up call for you! America, are you listening?”
She realizes such words may spark criticism, even derision.
“You know, everybody wants to be accepted,” she says. “But that’s not why I do what I do. Even when Jesus stepped out into public ministry, people loved Him, and then turned on Him. I want to speak the truth in love – to be as clear and simple as I can be.
“I really don’t live my life for other people’s approval. I feel compelled to do this. I believe that the primary problem in America is not economic or healthcare reform, I believe the primary problem is that we need to get right with God.
“In the message that I have given ever since September 11, I tell how God showed me the sin in my life. He revealed it to me as I spent seven days on my face. It was one of the hardest things I ever went through.
“I emerged with a freshness in my ministry and my presentation – to tell other people that God has given us hope even on September 11 – the most horrific of days.
“In a world where political correctness seems to deny truth, where moral relativism seems to deny standards, and where religious pluralism seems to deny God, it’s vital to know what we believe and why we believe it.”
Ten years later, she still feels a special urgency, she says. September 11 was just the beginning.
“Just as human history had a beginning, the Bible makes it very clear that it also has an end. People are not cosmic accidents wandering through time and space. Our existence has a purpose that is forever entwined with the God who created us for Himself,” she says – and mankind’s time on earth is coming to an end.
“Within my lifetime, I have seen the fulfillment of every sign Jesus gave His disciples 2,000 years ago,” she says. “Not only have I seen the signs, but I have observed the local, national and global ‘birth pains’ increase in astonishing frequency and intensity.”
She says those signs point to Jesus’ imminent return. He could return at any moment. What should we expect?
She cites two signs that tell her that time is short. One is the rebirth of the nation of Israel. She says she was born the same month and year that the Jewish nation “reclaimed their land, their language and their place among the nations. The Bible says that the generation which sees that will be the last.
“Then Jesus said we would see a second sign,” she says, “worldwide evangelism. This is the first time in human history that the Gospel is being preached throughout the entire world.”
Then, she says, there are the natural disasters that seem to be unfolding with increasing regularity.
“When we see these disasters happening, God has told us exactly what we are to do – we are to cry out to Him. And He will use us to make a difference to our generation.”
She writes in her new book Expecting to See Jesus: A Wake-Up Call for God’s People, that the signs will be like childbirth.
“Jesus said they would be like a birthing,” she says. “When I gave birth, the contractions were five minutes apart, then two, then one after the other. Now, we see disasters happening more and more frequently and they are record-breaking.
“Today’s record breaks last week’s record – droughts, fires, earthquakes, tornados, hurricanes, snowstorms – and not just in America, but in England, Australia, Somalia all around the globe, such as the earthquake and tsunami in Japan. They are birth pains. They are happening now.”
What should we expect?
“I believe that Jesus’ return will cover at least seven years. I am not that dogmatic about how long it will be since the Scriptures are not that clear. I believe at one time, Christ will take the faithful.”
The Rapture? As in the Left Behind books and movies?
“The word ‘rapture’ isn’t in the Bible,” she notes. “But I believe that we Christians will not have to live through the worst. Jesus will have taken us to heaven.”
That will get people’s attention – as millions vanish or rise to meet Jesus in the sky. Then what happens when the Christians are gone?
“That triggers all sorts of things, such as worldwide revival,” she says.
But, if all the Christians are gone, who will preach?
“There won’t be anybody,” she admits. However, a great deal of Christian literature will be left behind. “They will learn from what we leave them. I realized some time ago that God was calling me to write down things for the generation after me, when there are no teachers, no preachers.”
That’s why in her books, she says, she tries to write so anybody can grasp the message – just as her father, Billy Graham, did throughout his years of ministry.
“Daddy took the Gospel and made it so simple that anybody could understand it –and it had a huge impact,” she says. “It is a simple message that we are sinners and if we turn to Him, we can be born again.”
But why is she so convinced that Jesus is coming – and very soon?
“My faith is not based on my hopeful thinking, not on dreams and wishes and feelings, not on hearsay or doom, not on gloomy economic forecasts, not on the dramatic political, social, cultural, medical, environmental and moral cataclysmic changes taking place in our world today – not on environmental disasters of biblical proportion like Hurricane Katrina. I base my deep inner conviction on what the Bible says.”
What will happen during the final seven years of life on earth?
She says there will be “three and a half years of bad things – man doing bad things to man. Then the last three and half years, God’s wrath will be unleashed upon the earth.
“I do not believe God would put His people through that,” she says – hence her conviction that the Christians will already have been taken into heaven.
So, her message “is one of hope, that we do not have to go through that. We can escape both judgment for our sins and the eternal consequences of it – as well as the period of His wrath upon the world.”
“The signs that Jesus said would characterize the last generation were given to His disciples who recorded them in the Bible,” she says. “Jesus said these signs would be like birth pains that increase in frequency and in intensity.
“These are now taking place all around us. While we have always experienced wars, famines, earthquakes, and the persecution of God’s people, these signs are occurring much more frequently and with record-breaking intensity.
“The biblical signs and the news headlines are coming together in a dramatically sobering way, giving every indication that it’s five minutes to midnight on the time clock of history, and yet so many people are sleeping!
“The attack on September 11 was a wake-up call for the nation, as well as the church.
“Yet, ten years later we’re still sleeping!”