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Is Billy Graham in heaven? (Updated) By Elizabeth Prata

Update: I added a link to a video and a book review. Both involve Iain Murray’s book Evangelicalism Divided: A Record of Crucial Change in the Years 1950 to 2000.

The book is a historical record of the ecumenical movement in the United States and Great Britain in the latter half of the twentieth century. In it, Murray traces the developments in the ministries of several key figures in the era, most notably Billy Graham, J.I. Packer, and John Stott. His conclusion is that because of a desire to have a place at the table of ecumenical discussion, a long series of what seemed at the time to be relatively innocuous decisions eventually blurred the bright line that marks out what it means to be a Christian.

Graham has much to do with the divide, having been an active ecumenical preacher for most of his life. Graham’s legacy impacted much of the evangelical world for half of the last century. Please read the review, the book, or watch the video. It’s highly interesting.

Book review:
Video Evangelicalism Divided

———————–original essay——————————

220px-Billy_Graham_bw_photo,_April_11,_1966Billy Graham, aged 99, has passed away. Best known for his itinerant global evangelism, his Decision Magazine, his Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, and the popular radio show Hour of Decision from 1950 to 1954, Graham spent his life preaching to the masses.

He developed mass evangelism events that came to be known as “Crusades”. His first major outdoor preaching Crusade occurred in Los Angeles in 1949, with 350,000 attending over 8 weeks. Afterward, when Singer-songwriter Stuart Hamblen announced on air that he had been converted, national newspapers and radio personalities perked up over this new fiery preacher. Newspaper Magnate William Randolph Hearst telegrammed his editors across America to “puff Graham” meaning, to write pleasant and complimentary features on Graham in order to promote him. As a result, Graham rapidly became a coast-to-coast figure. His fame and name only increased since that moment to within five years, Graham was featured on the cover of the national magazine of Time, an enormous honor for a personality in the public eye for so short a period. He retired from public Crusades in 2005.

Graham perfected the ‘aisle walk’ introduced by Charles Finney, usually to the tune of Just As I Am. At the conclusion of the music and preaching, Graham invited those who were seeking to “accept Christ” to stream down the aisles and speak to counselors in the front. There, they would receive further information or answers to their questions. Some would ‘decide’ to become Christian there on the spot.

Graham was also the author of what is now known as The Billy Graham Rule, a short version of his original Modesto Manifesto. The Manifesto was a white paper generated by Graham and his inner circle outlining a rigid set of rules to which the association would adhere as they traveled the road with the Crusade, so as to encourage accountability and limit temptation of all kinds, sexual and financial, foremost. The rules were:

  1. The Graham team would avoid any appearance of financial abuse.
  2. They would exercise extreme care to avoid the appearance of sexual impropriety.
  3. They would cooperate with any local churches that were willing to participate in a united evangelism effort.
  4. They would be honest and reliable in their publicity and reporting of results and
  5. never argue with local journalists reporting about the numbers of participants in the crusades.

Through 2016, Gallup Poll’s “Most Admired Man and Woman Poll” showed Graham with 60 appearances in the top 10, the most of anyone, with eight second-place finishes.


The above is the Billy Graham the world knows. It is the Graham most of the evangelical world knows. But the truth is available and it’s public and can be seen by those willing to look.

Mr Graham no doubt preached with fervor and intensity, at least in the early days, However soon enough, as early as 1952-54, he began to compromise his message. Some say it was even before that, when Roman Catholic Bishop Fulton Sheen took a young Graham under his wing in 1944. In 1954 Graham spoke to the Liberal Union Theological Seminary in NY, repeatedly calling his ministry “ecumenical”. By 1957 Graham’s split from conservative fundamentalist preachers was complete.

Graham believed that if a person was sincere enough, even if they didn’t know Jesus or hadn’t repented, they would go to heaven. In fact, Graham held to what is known as a “Wider Mercy” view, that God, in the end, will have a wide mercy on all, not just those who are in Christ. He stated this not only on the Hour of Power with Robert Schuller in 1997 but to Larry King in a televised interview, to McCall’s Magazine in 1978, and the BGEA affirmed this has been Graham’s belief since 1960 when he wrote about it in his own Decision Magazine. (Source). Youtube video here.

In 2005 he refused to state the Gospel clearly and affirm Jesus’ exclusivity as the Door to heaven. (source here.)

Those counselors at the front? They included people from liberal Protestant churches, rabbis, and Catholic priests. This was because in order to obtain sponsorships, Graham had promised ‘we wouldn’t try to compete with their churches’ nor ‘to draw congregants away from their churches’. Seekers would be asked which church bus they came in on or which church they attended or which friend they came with, then shuttled to the appropriate counselor. Billy’s son Franklin works with Catholic priests in the same way at his events that he calls Festivals.

A major research project was done some years after the major crusade at Harringay, London. It found no lasting effect from the Crusade, though there had been thousands who professed Christ at that time. Belfast native Cecil Andrews of Take Heed Ministries has more in his sensitively done video, Billy Graham, the Man & His Message.

Unfortunately, Graham’s unorthodox views did not end with his denial of Jesus as exclusive way to heaven.

Graham didn’t believe that a literal fire and torment was part of hell, that the virgin birth wasn’t necessary for belief, and that Roman Catholics were brothers who differed with Protestants only in later church tradition. Graham was a Legalist who even threw his own daughter under the altar of popularity and reputation, reversed himself on AIDS, reversed himself on Mormonism (all when it as politically expedient), perfected “decisional regeneration,” believed in baptismal regeneration, thought that not everything in the Bible was literally true, said he didn’t feel called to state the dividing line between truth and false, heaven and hell (to Larry King in 1997), and more. Harry Truman called him a counterfeit in 1950. Editor-Publisher of the Sword of the Lord, John R. Rice broke with Graham in 1956.

I have many, many links and video and written newspaper proof of these assertions. They exist. I don’t present them lightly. Or you can search. One wonders how many aberrant beliefs one can hold before one is declared a false teacher.

Now to turn to Matthew 7:21-23.

Jesus said,

Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

I pray that Billy Graham had indeed repented in his youth and was truly saved. At the same time I don’t know how someone with the Holy Spirit in them could say that if you’re just sincere and know there’s a God you go to heaven, even if you don’t know Jesus. If that Matthew verse wasn’t written for someone like Billy Graham, I don’t what is. He lived a life harboring aberrant beliefs from the start, compromised the Gospel from the start, sought fame and popularity from the beginning. The world loved him. Look at these verses:

If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. (John 15:19).

I repeat, the world loved him.

Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets. (Luke 6:26).

I repeat, all the world speaks extremely well of Graham.

Should we be surprised that someone like Billy Graham could spend his life as a counterfeit? It’s possible, if you know how deep sin goes and what the Bible says about false conversions, like the Luke verse.

What I hope is that Billy Graham will be in heaven. What I fear is, that he is not.


Christian writer and Georgia teacher's aide who loves Jesus, a quiet life, art, beauty, and children.

43 thoughts on “Is Billy Graham in heaven? (Updated) By Elizabeth Prata

  1. Hi Elizabeth,
    I’m a newish reader of your blog and I think this might be my first time commenting.
    I feel compelled to do so, because my facebook news feed today has been flooded with articles praising the life of Billy Graham, and this one stood out with it’s starkly different tone. I really appreciate that you are comparing Billy Graham’s life and words against Scripture, instead of just following the crowd in their adoration.

    Personally, my own father came to put his trust in Jesus at a Billy Graham crusade when he was a young man. We have our theological disagreements, but he is a faithful believer who taught me to practice discernment from a young age.

    I was wondering if you could clarify and/or offer references for your statements in this paragraph:
    “Graham was a Legalist who even threw his own daughter under the altar of popularity and reputation, reversed himself on AIDS, reversed himself on Mormonism (all when it as politically expedient), perfected “decisional regeneration,” believed in baptismal regeneration, thought that not everything in the Bible was literally true, said he didn’t feel called to state the dividing line between truth and false, heaven and hell (to Larry King in 1997), and more. “

    I’m not sure what you meant by throwing his “daughter under the altar of popularity and reputation” or what “decisional regeneration” means or “baptismal regeneration”.

    And lastly, I just have a niggling thought that the timing of this kind of article – right when BG has died – is a little off. On the one hand, it’s a good time to do it, especially with the abundance of articles praising him that are coming out right now. If you need to warn people not to follow his teachings, now would be a good time to do it.
    But towards the end of your article, you wrote, “I pray that Billy Graham had indeed repented in his youth and was truly saved.”
    What’s the point of praying for something that has already either happened or not happened? Your prayer is not going to change anything in the past. And it kind of sounds similar to when Catholics pray for the soul of someone who has already died. Completely pointless.
    If this was your desire – that BG really would be saved and make it to heaven – why not try to personally call on him to repent, especially with him being so old and death being so near, before he died?
    I guess that’s a rhetorical question, because I know that many people probably did call him to repent throughout his life.
    I’m just pointing it out that it seems strange to say that you want someone to have really been saved and be in heaven, but you doubt it… and to wait until they die to say this.

    Anyway, I hope that you take this comment as I intend it – with gentleness and love. And thank you again for the work you do in calling believers to discernment.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hi, and thanks for your readership and comment. Decisional regeneration, is a belief that man’s decision to believe in Christ is what regenerates him, instead of God’s effectual calling. In other words, though we are dead in sins, picture Lazarus deciding to emerge from the tomb on his own without the call of Christ first. More here

      Baptismal regeneration is the belief that when one is baptized, even an infant, the holy waters are what regenerates you. Catholics believe this, and Graham did too. More here

      I am needing to leave for work shortly and the answer about his daughter is longer so I’ll comment again later this evening., but as for asking him to repent, and pray for him, I did that before he passed in a previous article that explored his beliefs and warned the brethren. This isn’t the first time writing about him. As for the timing, I deliberated whether to write, but I did decide that with attention focused on him so highly that now would be a good time to pose these questions. Thanks again and I hope this helped.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Seriously serving, this is the information about his daughter.

        “Graham and his associates also charted a careful, if rather unusual strategy to ensure the evangelist would not be tainted by the suspicion of sexual impropriety. From that point on, Graham would not to travel, meet, or dine alone with any woman other than is wife Ruth — even his very own daughters when they came of age. Graham tells the story of when he was walking along a quiet street with his 18-year-old daughter: the next day, the local paper printed the story that Graham was “again” seen with a beautiful, young woman, insinuating that Graham’s sexual exploits were beginning to be a problem. Graham says of the issue, “There is always the chance of misunderstanding. I remember walking down the street in New York with my beautiful blond daughter, Bunny. I was holding her hand. I heard somebody behind us say, ‘There goes Billy Graham with one of those blond girls.’”27 In a 1988 Christianity Today article, Graham is quoted as saying, “I’m sure I’ve been tempted, especially in my younger years. But there has never been anything close to an incident. I took precautions. From the earliest days I’ve never had a meal alone with a woman other than Ruth, not even in a restaurant. I’ve never ridden in an automobile alone with a woman.”

        Source from Harold L. Myra, “William Franklin Graham: Seventy Exceptional Years,” Christianity Today (18 November 1988) and!etd.send_file?accession=bgsu1212785421&disposition=inline

        The Billy graham Rule, from the primary documents I’ve read, and credible secondary documents, was formulated for the express reason of protecting their reputation. Reporters were asking questions about where the money went, adn mindful of the hugely impactful book about a hypcritical andcharlatan itinerant evangelist published inthe late 1920s, Elmer gantry, Graham decided to formulate these rules. Reporters were also asking about the numbers of attendees, and some skirmishes were made regarding women and hotel rooms. (Allegations only, I am sure Graham did not sin in this direction)

        None of the documents I read said that they created the rule in order to honor God. Only to protect personal reputation. Sacrificing one’s own daughter so that one can be seen to be a pure man, in my view violates Eph 6:4, or at the very least is heartless and craven.

        Liked by 2 people

    2. I acknowledge I did not agree with everything Billy Graham said or did, just as I, and many others, did not agree with many things that Charles Finney, called the “Father of Modern Evangelism” today, but even Rev. Asahel Nettleton, under whose preaching during the Second Great Awakening in New England many thousands were soundly and biblically converted (permanent , lasting conversions, not spurious or counterfeit conversions) and who strongly disapproved of Finney’s “new measures type of evangelism in the 1830s (i.e. anxious seat, later altar call), did not insinuate, or even think, that his contemporary Charles Finney was not genuinely converted. I don’t care if it is Justin Peters or who it is; I strongly object to this kind of post, especially on the occasion of Dr. Graham’s passing.


      1. To what do you object, specifically? I used scripture. I’ll also include the Galatian 1:8 scripture that pronounces anathema for anyone who peaches a different gospel.

        Would you be willing to clarify your objections in light of the scriptures used and the evidence provided and speak specifically to what you disagree?

        Liked by 4 people

    3. It is very simple. Graham was sponsored Behind the scenes by the Church of Rome to promote Arminianism. Arminianism is an enemy to Reformed Theology. Ether man makes his eternal destiny by his own choice, ( Arminianism) or God decides who His children will be ( Reformed.)

      Liked by 2 people

      1. That for fifty years of public ministry he held to and taught a false Gospel? That he partnered with Rome and blurred the lines of what a Christian is? That because of this, he ipacted the evangelical world in a negative way? That it’s a lesson in discernment and tragedy and to be vigilant? That not even one who is popular should escape scrutiny? That his very popularity was a clue the world loved him, and note what the scripture says about the world loving its own? Maybe those things?

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve heard much of this and I’ve seen the video of him talking about God’s wider mercy(sad), but you need to show all sources to prove your assertions. You can’t just say it, then say you have the evidence but not show it. Your credibility is at stake and most of all representing Christ. It’s more work but must be done for anyone to take these assertions seriously.


    1. Hi Joe, You’re right. I’d said in the body of the essay “I have many, many links and video and written newspaper proof of these assertions. They exist.” Or you can search. I’ll be happy to provide to you evidence on request. What assertions would you specifically would you like to see evidence for?

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Via Babylon Bee:

    DALLAS, TX—Upon the news of Billy Graham’s passing at age 99 Wednesday morning, local man John Everly took the opportunity to criticize the man’s preaching, theology, and methodology. Everly has not shared the good news of Jesus Christ with a single person in his entire life, multiple sources confirmed.

    In a lengthy blog post “hot off the presses” Wednesday, the man was able to point out forty-seven different flaws with Graham’s delivery, calling the famous preacher’s messages “shallow,” “man-centered,” and “wishy-washy,” while he himself had never even attempted to bring a single person to Christ.

    Also concerning to the blogger were two or three specific sentences uttered by Graham in the sixty years his words were being recorded, for which Every refused to offer Graham the benefit of the doubt, despite the late evangelist’s lifetime of preaching the gospel to live audiences of more than 200 million people.

    At publishing time, sources had confirmed that both of Everly’s parents and all four of his grandparents had been converted to Christ at a Billy Graham crusade.


    1. TIME magazine for 10/27/61 printed the following quote by Dr. Billy Graham: “I still have some personal problems in the matter of infant baptism, but all of my children with the exception of the youngest were baptized as infants. I do believe that something happens at the baptism of an infant, particularly if the parents are Christians . . . I believe that a miracle can happen in these children so that they are regenerated, that is, made Christian through infant baptism.”

      There are other examples where he is on record of admiring the Catholic practice and musing that perhaps there is something to baptismal regeneration. Mr Graham had a habit of speaking things in interviews, and then when pushback came, reversed himself, or spoke otherwise. He did it on AIDS issue, and other issues, such as Baptismal Rgeneration. So perhaps I am not so off?


      1. Your source is a Times magazine article from 1961. My theology certainly has developed since 1961.. wait, I wasn’t even born in 1961. It is better for objective scholarship to go with what his/her subjects current beliefs are and note that the person has said these things in the past rather than make a fact claim as you did in your opening article “believed in baptismal regeneration.” Your research though noteworthy, does not support your claims hence your premise falls far short of being scholarly. I think we have to be very careful about kicking people out of the kingdom. Concerned about some things he said and taught yes, yet Is our Lord not able to make a man stand despite his errors? If the complete absence of any theological inconsistency’s and even aberrations were the criterion for heaven nobody would be there. I sure hope the Lord is gracious to us all with our blind spots at our evaluation.

        As a Calvinist I believe Billy Graham had some profound weaknesses, but he had the gospel right (unless you believe Arminian views of salvation prohibit you from having the gospel, If you believe that then there are bigger concerns than this post) and he preached the gospel for more years than I’ve been alive. Countless people have been saved through his crusades and are bearing fruit today. He was an evangelist not a scholar. I am thankful that the Lord used Him to bring men to Himself. Whether or not he will be in heaven, I don’t know. Then again, I don’t know if my own wife will be there though she professes and bears fruit. Whether or not one holds fast to the gospel, bears fruit and maintains sound and consistent character as the pattern of their lives ought to be the manner by which we judge such things. Blessings.. Shane

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Hi Mr Shane,

        Thank you for your lengthy reply and the information.

        Please note that the article to which I referred is not the SOLE source for my statement. Also please note that one can defend, piece by piece, the various aberrant beliefs Mr Graham held, but the sum total simply does not match with scripture.

        As far as changing views over time, I agree, some do develop a deeper understanding of the scriptures. Sadly, Mr Graham didn’t. He acknowledged his lack of theological training and mourned that he never had memorized scripture. He is however, on the record for having his view that Jesus is not the only to heaven from 1960 to 2005. Another example:

        “I used to play God, but I can’t do that anymore. I used to believe that pagans in far-off countries were lost – were going to hell – if they did not have the gospel of Jesus Christ preached to them. I no longer believe that. I believe that there are other ways of recognizing the existence of God – through nature, for instance – and plenty of other opportunities, therefore, of saying “yes” to God” McCall’s Magazine 1978

        No one who denies the Son has the Father. 1 John 2:23a

        Thanks for the link to the Lawson essay, but I’d rather check out the scriptures. The above is pretty clear.

        Liked by 2 people

  4. Billy Graham seemed to have changed his views about the “wider mercy” of God. In his last published video, Message to America, Graham states clearly that Jesus and His work on the cross is the only way to the Father. Statement at 6:07 in video…


    1. Yes he did publish that. He held to the inclusivism or wider mercy view since 1960. He stated it on the record many times. At the end, he published that one video which contradicted his former stances he’d held over 50 years. One would hope he corrected himself, though he never did publicly repent of stating his aberrant gospel to millions on interview shows or in writing, something a minister would certainly hasten to do. For me, given his lifetime of compromise for the sake of reputation and expediency, I tend to believe that this video was just another handy reversal done for legacy purposes. He’s reversed himself several times on different issues, including the whole Gospel itself. (in 2005 I believe). In my view, it’s too little, toolate.


  5. I’ve enjoyed reading your article, and thank you for it. As for whether Mr Graham is in heaven, the answer has to be ‘no’ because in order to be with Jesus now he’d have to be alive. The correct understanding of the word ‘dead’ is paramount in our salvation because of Romans 10:9 which indicates that ‘if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved’. If we believe that we are not dead but instead carry on living somewhere else then we cannot believe this verse. Believing that people are now alive in heaven implies that the judgement has already taken place, yet 2 Tim 4:1 says ‘the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom’. This shows that Jesus will (in future) judge (not happened yet) the living and the dead (both still on earth) at His appearing (leaves heaven to perform this task as neither living nor dead are there). The idea of an immortal soul isn’t based on the Bible, rather it came from Greek origins, as explained in this article:

    The resurrection, when we leave our earthly graves (just as Jesus did at his resurrection) is still to come.



    1. People who die, or “fall asleep” as in biblical vernacular, are alive. they are souls in Christ and with Christ waiting for the resurrection when we receive our final glorified bodies. I’d refer to the New Testament rather than the Jewish encyclopedia for this, because, well, we have a new testament. A new covenant.

      “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. 22If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. 23I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better Phil 1:21-23

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Having watched Graham’s crusades since 1972 and attending one in 1998, I’ve witnessed him preach wider mercy AND the exclusivity of the cross in the same sermon. He rationalized that wider mercy was only for those who never heard the Gospel.

    In 1972, I volunteered as a follow-up counselor after a crusade, They made me refer a girl to a local Catholic church. That felt wrong, but as a young Christian I lacked discernment. May God forgive me. Graham preached a compromised gospel.

    Liked by 3 people

  7. Let’s not forget that Mr Graham held his aberrant view of the Gospel since 1960 when he wrote about it in Decision Magazine. I mentioned the Schuller interview above, that was 1997. The following quote is from 1978 in a lengthy feature article from McCall’s Magazine:

    “I used to believe that pagans in far-off countries were lost–were going to hell–if they did not have the Gospel of Jesus Christ preached to them. I no longer believe that. I believe that there are other ways of recognizing the existence of God–through nature, for instance–and plenty of other opportunities, therefore, of saying ‘yes’ to God” (“I Cant’ Play God Any More,” McCall’s, Jan. 1978, p. 156).

    “I’ve found that my beliefs are essentially the same as those of orthodox Roman Catholics, for instance….We only differ on some matters of later church tradition” (ibid., p. 158).

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Oh thank youm, thank you! I became aware of the book Murray wrote on the subject and the lengthy 9Marks review of it. I read the review and I was going to add the link to this essay in an update, but now I can add this too! Thanks!


  8. Thanks. It took a lot of courage to post this at a time when many will criticize you for it. Whether God redeemed Billy Graham of course is not the point. The point is that there are many things he is being lauded for which are just not laudable because they aren’t the way we are told to do things in the Scripture.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. You’re welcome. Seriously, if all people wrote about him was “God used the preaching of BG to save me, or my grandpa or whatever” no one would be batting an eye.

    But people are justifying his entire method and theology based on the fact that he reached a lot of people with the message. That sends the wrong message to men like myself about the goal of preaching.

    Almost every response I hear from a BG advocate is “well this good thing happened in my life so don’t say anything bad about him, plus he just died.” That’s not how to form a biblical argument. Jesus and his truth are worth advocating for every moment, even when a likable man has passed away.

    Liked by 2 people

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