Billy Graham died Wednesday at the age of 99. The world renowned evangelist, who has been listed on Gallup's most admired list 61 times since 1955 — more than any other person — passed away peacefully at his home in Montreat, North Carolina, after struggling with various health problems linked to his advanced age.
In a statement to The Christian Post, Will Graham, the grandson of Billy Graham (whose full name is William Franklin Graham Jr.) and the son of Franklin Graham, said:
"My grandfather once said, 'One day you'll hear that Billy Graham has died. Don't you believe it. On that day I'll be more alive than ever before! I've just changed addresses.' My friends, today my grandfather moved from the land of the dead to the land of the living," Will Graham declared.
"We mourn that he is no longer with us physically here on earth, but we don't grieve as those who have no hope. My grandfather invested his entire life in sharing the promise of eternity through Jesus Christ, and today he had the opportunity to realize that hope himself, kneeling before his Savior and hearing the words, 'Well done, good and faithful servant.' My family appreciates your prayers now and in the days ahead."
Last week, Graham's daughter, Anne Graham Lotz, gave an update on her father's health during a conference at Moody Bible Institute.
"I'm not sure he knows that I'm here. He doesn't track like he used to, but his mind is still clear," she said.
"He can't see; he has a hard time seeing because of macular degeneration," she continued. "He's fairly deaf, I have to use a microphone and he wears a headset for me to speak to him. He's not mobile."
Since Billy Graham preached his last sermon on Nov. 7, 2013, for "My Hope America With Billy Graham," a nationwide movement to expose Americans to the message of salvation in Jesus Christ, he appeared to have let go of life and be more ready than ever to go to Heaven, his family observed.
"On November 7, he (Billy Graham) finished his race and up until that time, God had protected his health and gave him supernatural strength, and now, the only thing left is for him to come home," said Will Graham to Assist News in December 2013. "God has removed his hand of protection and old age has set in."
Meanwhile, Franklin Graham told The Christian Post that he had "never seen him (Billy Graham) this weak in all of my life, so I know he'd appreciate your prayers."
Despite his weakened state, Graham was working on a book up until the time of his death. Graham's last book was published in October 2013 and titled, The Reason for My Hope: Salvation. In total, Graham had written 32 books, including his autobiography Just As I Am (1997), Nearing Home (2011), and Angels: God's Secret Agents (1975), which sold 1 million copies within 90 days.
Billy Graham was born Nov. 7, 1918, in Charlotte, N.C., and raised on a dairy farm. He graduated from Wheaton College in Wheaton, Ill. – home of the Billy Graham Center Museum and where he met his wife, Ruth McCue Bell, the daughter of a missionary surgeon to China. They were married for over 60 years until Ruth's death in 2007.
Graham, a Southern Baptist, has preached the Gospel to more people in live audiences than anyone else in history. The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association estimates that he has preached live to nearly 215 million people in more than 185 countries and territories, and hundreds of millions of more people through television, video, film and webcasts. He has led hundreds of thousands of individuals to make personal decisions to commit their lives to Jesus Christ, according to BGEA.
He is also known as the "pastor to presidents," having met every U.S. president since World War II through Barack Obama. For his 95th birthday celebration, President Bill Clinton was among the 700 guests that included Sarah Palin, Donald Trump, Rupert Murdoch and Rick Warren. And for the dedication of the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte, N.C., in 2007, three former U.S. presidents came to share the momentous event with him: George H.W. Bush, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton.
"Every life Billy Graham ever touched – including people who never became president, never spoke at a crusade – is better because he was a good and faithful servant of the two most important commandments (to love God with all your heart and to love your neighbor as yourself)," said Clinton in his speech during the dedication ceremony on May 31, 2007.
Clinton, who has shared that he attended Graham's 1959 Little Rock, Ark., crusade, also had said during the 2007 dedication ceremony, "When he (Graham) prays with you in the Oval Office or the upstairs of the White House, you feel that he's praying for you, not the president."
For Graham's 95th birthday in 2013, several megachurch pastors gave tributes to the evangelist during interviews with The Christian Post at the Resurgence conference.
Rick Warren of Saddleback Church in Southern California and author of the bestseller The Purpose Driven Life, had told CP that Billy Graham was among his mentors.
"One of the things that a lot of people don't know about Billy Graham is that he was also an encouragers to pastors," Warren shared. "One time in Amsterdam he brought in 12,000 evangelists from all around the world. I had written a Bible study methods and Billy had brought a book for every one of those evangelists and had me come in and teach it.
"He was first and foremost an encourager," Warren remembers fondly.
Billy Graham is survived by his five children – Virginia, Anne Morrow, Ruth Bell, William Franklin, III, and Nelson Edman – 19 grandchildren and numerous great-grandchildren.