Heaven and hell are in the news again, thanks pretty much to one North Carolina family:
- Billy Graham will offer a message about heaven in a new film set to air in November, when the Charlotte-born evangelist turns 96. The never-before-seen footage was filmed at his Montreat home last year. His thoughts about the hereafter will be part of a DVD called “My Hope 2014 with Billy Graham.”
- Graham's daughter, Anne Graham Lotz, a Raleigh-based evangelist, has just released an updated version of her 2001 book, “Heaven: My Father’s House.”
- And Franklin Graham, head of the Charlotte-based Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, begins his article in the current edition of BGEA's Decision magazine this way: “Heaven is not for cowards!”
- That brings us to hell: The cover of the July/August edition of Decision features a picture of what looks like a sea of lava and this headline: “COWARDS Destined For The Lake of Fire.”
- Speaking of hell, there’s no word about Billy Graham's next book, which – as we reported in March – will be about hell. “He’s not able to work on it,” Franklin Graham told me then. “But he gave us the outlines of what he wanted.”
Last November, on his 95 birthday, Billy Graham talked about the cross of Jesus in a DVD called “My Hope 2013 with Billy Graham.” It was aired on FOX News, at Graham's celebrity-studded birthday party at the Grove Park Inn in Asheville, and in homes and churches around the country.
In the free-of-charge sequel, which will also be used as an evangelizing tool, the elder Graham will talk about heaven.
“Because he will turn 96 on November 7, his thoughts are constantly on Heaven,” Franklin Graham wrote recently. “And we have captured these in a video. ... It’s a powerful evangelistic film that weaves this new message from my father around several real-life stories of how the Gospel changes hearts.”
There’s a full-page ad for “My Hope 2014 with Billy Graham” in that current edition of “Decision.”
Several pages later, there’s an article by Anne Graham Lotz that cites biblical quotes about heaven.
“I’ve been thinking a lot about Heaven lately,” she writes. “My father seems to be in transition from his home here to our Father’s house. … My mother has already gone on ahead.”
And the edition’s cover article is Franklin Graham's, about the fate he says is waiting for cowards.
His magazine piece is based on a controversial speech he gave in May at a Washington gathering of the Family Research Council.
In his remarks, he referred to a passage in the New Testament’s Book of Revelation that lists eight groups of people that will end up “in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone.”
Leading the list: cowards – a group, Graham suggested, that includes Christians who don’t speak out against abortion and homosexuality.
-- Tim Funk