Billy Graham dies aged 99: Tributes pour in for 'the most important evangelist since the Apostle Paul'

Tributes to Billy Graham are pouring in today after the evangelist died at the age of 99.

'The GREAT Billy Graham is dead. There was nobody like him! He will be missed by Christians and all religions. A very special man,' wrote US President Donald Trump.

Mike Pence, the evangelical Vice President, said: 'Karen and I were saddened to learn of the passing of one of the greatest Americans of the century, Reverend Billy Graham. We send our deepest condolences to the Graham family.

'Billy Graham's ministry for the gospel of Jesus Christ and his matchless voice changed the lives of millions. We mourn his passing but I know with absolute certainty that today he heard those words, "well done good and faithful servant." Thank you Billy Graham. God bless you.'

Billy Graham(Facebook/Billy Graham)

After some delay, Graham's prominent son Franklin wrote on Twitter this afternoon: 'My father...was once asked, "Where is Heaven?" He said, "Heaven is where Jesus is and I am going to Him soon!" This morning, he departed this world into eternal life in Heaven, prepared by the Lord Jesus Christ—the Savior of the world—whom he proclaimed for 80 years.'

The former president Jimmy Carter said: 'Tirelessly spreading a message of fellowship and hope, he shaped the spiritual lives of tens of millions of people worldwide. Broad-minded, forgiving, and humble in his treatment of others, he exemplified the life of Jesus Christ by constantly reaching out for opportunities to serve. He had an enormous influence on my own spiritual life, and I was pleased to count Rev. Graham among my advisers and friends.' 

The Rev Jesse Jackson said of Graham simply: 'He became the Pope of the evangelical movement.'

And the Rev Dr Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, said: 'Today, the most influential evangelist in modern history, Rev Billy Graham, stepped into the corridors of eternity. He preached the Gospel, lived with integrity and changed the world. I will never stop being grateful for the impact he has had on my life. May his death, as in life, point all people to the cross of Jesus Christ and His glorious Gospel.'

In Britain meanwhile, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby said the worldwide church owed Graham an 'inexpressible' debt.

'Dr Billy Graham stood as an exemplar to generation upon generation of modern Christians. When it comes to a living and lasting influence upon the worldwide church he can have few equals: for he introduced person after person to Jesus Christ. There are countless numbers who began their journey of faith because of Dr Graham.

'The debt owed by the global church to him is immeasurable and inexpressible. Personally I am profoundly grateful to God for the life and ministry of this good and faithful servant of the gospel; by his example he challenged all Christians to imitate how he lived and what he did.

'He was one who met presidents and preachers, monarchs and musicians, the poor and the rich, the young and the old, face to face. Yet now he is face to face with Jesus Christ, his saviour and ours. It is the meeting he has been looking forward to for the whole of his life.'

Russell Moore, the respected president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, said: 'Billy Graham was, in my view, the most important evangelist since the Apostle Paul. He preached Christ, not himself, not politics, not prosperity...he carried unimpeachable personal integrity.'

Martin Luther King Jr. and Billy Graham considered themselves as very good friends.(PHOTO: Billy Graham Evangelistic Association)

Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the Catholic archbishop of New York said: 'As anyone growing up in the 1950s and 1960s can tell you, it was hard not to notice and be impressed by the Reverend Billy Graham. There was no question that the Dolans were a Catholic family, firm in our faith, but in our household there was always respect and admiration for Billy Graham and the work he was doing to bring people to God.'

Mike Huckabee, former Republican governor of Arkansas and former presidential candidate, said simply that Graham was the 'greatest man of our time'.

The British Mother's Union said on Twitter that Graham was 'a man of great faith, wisdom and humility' adding: 'May he rest in peace and rise in glory.'  

Graham's friend, the TV celebrity Kathie Lee Gifford also paid tribute to Graham, minutes after learning the news.

'I think the value of a life is if you can look back and say you impacted one person's life for eternity - how awesome is that? Well, Billy can look back on his life and be absolutely assured that he has impacted millions of lives for eternity,' Gifford said in a tribute to Graham.

'The thing that I adored most about him is that he remained the most humble and giant of a man you would ever, ever, ever want to meet. He had this incredible, loving presence of a person for the masses, but then when you were one-on-one with him, you were the only person in the room. Rarely do people have both of those gifts.' 

She also spoke about her reaction upon learning the news, saying: 'I immediately put up my hands and said, thank you, Lord, thank you. He has been lingering and languishing.'

William Martin, the author of A Prophet With Honour: The Billy Graham Story, said: 'He was probably the dominant religious leader of his era. No more than one or two popes, perhaps one or two other people, came close to what he achieved.'

And the conservative columnist Todd Starnes told Fox News: 'I can only imagine the scene in heaven this morning, all those tens of thousands of people who came to know Christ at those crusades over the years welcoming Billy Graham home. What an amazing morning that is.'

The British evangelical Pete Greig said of Graham on Twitter: 'He was my hero. But now, as we bid farewell to a statesman and a Father, heaven welcomes home a servant and a son.'

And Canon J John, the British evangelist, paid tribute, saying: 'In the book of Acts the apostle Paul is quoted as saying that King David "served God's purpose in his own generation" (Acts 13:36 NIV). The same can indeed be said of Billy Graham. We should not seek to imitate him (the world has changed beyond recognition since he began his ministry) but we should be inspired by him. This side of Christ's return the church will always need leaders and evangelists like Billy Graham.'