After nearly a century of living and preaching the Bible’s gospel message, Christian evangelist William Franklin “Billy” Graham (@BillyGraham and @BGEA) died today at his home in the mountains of North Carolina. He was 99.
Mr. Graham preached the gospel to more people in live audiences than anyone else in history—nearly 215 million people in more than 185 countries and territories—through various meetings, including Mission World and Global Mission. Hundreds of millions more have been reached through television, video, film, and webcasts.
In answering a question posed by Bible Gateway, The Billy Graham Library (@TheBGLibrary) said Mr. Graham did not officially share what his favorite Bible translation was, but “we know that he typically used the King James Version when preaching, the New International Version in his writings, and The Living Bible for personal devotions.
“One of Mr. Graham’s favorite verses was Philippians 1:6, ‘Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.’”
“My favorite verse of Scripture was taught to me by my mother when I was just a little boy: ‘For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.’
“This is the one Scripture that I always preach on in a crusade, usually on the opening night. I suppose it is the most familiar passage in the Bible. It has only twenty-five words in the English translation of it, but it is the gospel in a nutshell. Someone has called it a miniature Bible. The word “whosoever” in this verse means the whole world. Whatever the color of a person’s skin, whatever language he speaks, God loves him and God is willing to save him. To me that is marvelous. It also says that life doesn’t begin when you die, it begins here and now.”
Toward the end of his life, his son, Franklin Graham, said in a Facebook post (Oct. 10, 2017) that Billy Graham selected Galatians 6:14 as his life’s verse: “But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world” (KJV).
According to news reports, a Bible was placed inside Billy Graham’s simple pine plywood casket prior to its closing.
Before his death, Billy Graham stipulated the following to be on his grave marker:
NOVEMBER 7, 1918 – FEBRUARY 21, 2018
PREACHER OF THE GOSPEL OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST
In an interview with US News and World Report in 1988, Billy Graham was asked what his favorite Bible story or passage was.
“Well, of course, if you are in the New Testament, I would say the Gospels. The Gospel of John is what I have preached the most because it is filled with stories. You know Jesus taught by using stories and I like to use stories to illustrate what I am saying. The fifteenth chapter of Luke, which is the story of the prodigal son. The love of the father. How God loves us no matter what we do, where we go, how we live, He loves us. And I can’t get over the love and mercy and grace of God. Every day I marvel at it, that God could love me, Billy Graham, with all my failures and weaknesses.
“Then in the Old Testament, the Psalms. One half of all the quotes that Jesus made from the Old Testament came from the book of Psalms, because the psalmist lived every experience that we live. He was up one day and down the next. He had every kind of thought. Then he would talk to God about it.”
According to the Library, “Mr. Graham went on to share how he and his late wife Ruth would read five chapters of Psalms and one chapter of Proverbs a day. He explained that Psalms teaches you how to get along with God and Proverbs teaches you how to get along with man.”
Mr. Graham fervently believed in the power of the Bible’s message to transform lives. In the article he wrote for Christianity Today, “Biblical Authority in Evangelism,” he said, “I had many doubts about the Bible. Now I see Scripture as a flame that melts away unbelief.”
Throughout his life, Billy Graham said no other book is as important as the Bible and Christians need to make an effort to understand it. He suggested that a first-time reader not start with Genesis, but rather with one of the Gospels in the New Testament, adding that he often recommended the Gospel of John, “because the Gospels tell us about Jesus Christ—his life, his ministry, and especially his death and resurrection. All the Old Testament points forward to Christ, and he is the center of the Bible’s message. Put Christ at the center of your life, and once you do, you’ll understand the rest of the Bible more clearly.”