For several months now I’ve heard many Christians talking excitedly about this book entitled The Harbinger by Jonathan Cahn, a professing Messianic Jew and pastor of The Jerusalem Center, a worship center in Wayne, New Jersey.
I was looking forward to reading it myself until I heard from sources I deem reputable that it was not a sound treatment, and because I was very occupied elsewhere, I dismissed such an opportunity to have a look at it.
Then there came controversy and debate over this novel (which Cahn claims is based on factual information) on whether or not it portrays accurately issues on Israel, America, the judgments and the covenants of God, as well as other crucial matters regarding hermeneutical perspectives on the Scriptures.
So I decided to get a book about it by David James (HARBINGER: Fact or Fiction, a primary source for this article) as well as borrow a copy of the Cahn novel from a friend.
At the outset, when I first considered the premise of The Harbinger, I wondered at this idea of ‘mystery signs’ given to warn America of judgment, because as we look around at our American landscape, it would seem rather obvious that our nation in on a one way collision with calamity because we are committing every atrocity that God hates as He specifically stated in His Word.
Consider such rights and laws passed by our newly elected Federal administration and their purposes as an example of the things offensive to the LORD. God hates all sin because of His holiness and His love; His holiness because sin is high treason against the very HOLY KING of the creation and of all powers and authorities; of love because sin separates us sinners from partaking of His love for us as well as our ability in expressing our love for Him (Isaiah 59:1-3).
Why would we need such a novel of mystery to tell us what should be blatantly obvious to any Bible-reading Christian?
It reminds me of a conversation in the Shakespeare play, Hamlet, when the young Dane is approached by his colleague and friend, Horatio who is then told that the ghost of Hamlet’s father appeared to him, divulging news of his treacherous brother (Hamlet’s uncle, “an errant knave”), responsible for the death of the monarch and of his nefarious character:
“There needs no ghost to come back from the grave to tell us this!” said Horatio.
Once I read The Harbinger however, I was taken by the seemingly astounding events and remarkable ‘coincidences’ that surrounded the now infamous 9-11 and such occurrences that would seem to indicate that, like Israel of Ancient times, America is now under judgment.
If one had no subsequent knowledge regarding the things that Cahn wrote about in his book, one would be hard pressed not to come to the same conclusions as he: that mystery signs have been given to America warning her of impending doom!
Yet as I began reading the critique of this book by David James, he started to fill in missing details that shed new light on Cahn’s assertions regarding the truth of these matters.
One of the reasons why people are sworn in with an oath during examination in court is because the truth needs to be known: “the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth”.
It’s possible to tell the truth mixed with lies, and the entire matter because of this mixture may seem plausible. Likewise, one can tell the absolute truth, but omit other parts of the truth and this will alter the perception of the hearers. Cahn tells the truth in his book, but not all, and that affects the perceptions of those that read The Harbinger.
It is my hope that at the conclusion of this three part article our readers will, at the very least show caution in expressing their support of this novel or at best, understand the fallacies that Cahn builds upon in his work. While others have already presented their own views on this book like Apprising Ministries and The Berean Call (among others); having read both I shall now tackle a treatment of my own regarding this story and the supposed facts of the matter as reported by Jonathan Cahn.
So let us begin our examination . . .
A MYSTERY REVELATION –
Just about the entire premise of the book revolves around a single passage from the book of Isaiah and Cahn associates this scripture with the event of 9-11 and subsequent happenings. Here is the verse from Isaiah:
ISAIAH 9: 10
10 The bricks are fallen down, but we will build with hewn stones: the sycomores are cut down, but we will change them into cedars.
David James in his treatment, The Harbinger - Fact or Fiction (referred to for the duration of this article as TH:FF) talks about something called hermeneutics in Chapter 2:
“One serious departure from using a biblical hermeneutic is [Cahn’s] failure to mention the preceding verses in the chapter.
These verses form a critical part of the immediate context of Isaiah 9: 10 and represent one of the most important messianic kingdom passages in the entire Old Testament.
This is a significant omission when dealing with the subject of Israel’s judgment because it includes the unconditional promise that even in the face of the coming destruction; Israel’s future is still sure. Isaiah 9:1-7 guarantees that the kingdom will still be established and that the Messiah will rule from the throne of David forever. It is impossible to understand and apply Isaiah 9:10 correctly unless these verses are brought into the discussion.” (TH:FF p. 11, paragraph 2).”
Biblical hermeneutics has to deal with how to interpret the Bible and there are generally two methods; the one is a very liberal, allegorical method which assumes the weight of interpretation on the subjective perceptions of the interpreter. The second method is a very conservative, literal, grammatical, historical approach which relies on the objective observance to what the text literally says in its original language and its historical context.
The first method asks, “What does this passage mean to me?”
The second method asks, “What does this passage mean to God and the author whom God inspired to write this?”
Isaiah 9:10 refers specifically to the northern kingdom of Israel in the eighth century B.C. and not to any other nation at any other time (Even J. Cahn agreed with this in a moderated discussion with David James on the radio program Prophecy Today), including America.
Yet even though Cahn agreed with this assertion on the program, the book nevertheless intimates that this passage has in some mysterious way, a connection to America and forebodes of judgment. Cahn further stated that Isaiah 9: 10-11 reflects a pattern (or “template”) of God’s judgment and uses nine theoretical harbingers which purportedly coincide with recent historical events, beginning with the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11th 2001.
The idea of a biblical “template for God’s judgment” exists no where in all of Scripture; it is a theoretical idea of Cahn’s alone. Isaiah gives no indication by the Spirit of the LORD that this is such a template, nor does this theory have precedent or repeated use of such a template. A straightforward reading of Isaiah chapter 9 would not elicit such an idea.
Granted, that there are such passages in Scripture that have a deeper meaning or a more fuller revelation, but this is clearly revealed only when Scripture in later passages or books make such deeper or fuller revelation manifest – and does not rely on extra-biblical authors such as Cahn to reveal these things, but this is what he asserts in his novel:
“[The Prophet} “In the wake of their calamity, the leaders of ancient Israel proclaimed, ‘We will rebuild’ – the first sign of defiance. If the mystery holds and has now applied to America, we would expect to hear the same vow, the same three words, in the wake of 9/11, now proclaimed by American leaders.”
[Kaplan] “And did it happen? Did they say it?”
[The Prophet] “Yes. They said it.”
_ _ _
[Goren] “How could an ancient mystery possibly have anything to do with Sept. 11th?”
[Kaplan] “An ancient mystery behind everything from 9/11 to the economy…to the housing boom…to the war in Iraq…to the collapse of Wall Street. Everything in precise detail.”
What mystery revelation can be revealed from Isaiah 9: 10 that can’t be understood from the plain reading of the text? And if it cannot be revealed by simply reading the Scripture, such understanding must come from an outside source, namely the interpretive exposition of Jonathan Cahn (or commentaries that are referred to in the novel as having revelatory value), which is a form of eisegesis or “reading a meaning into the text, independent of the text itself”.
Could the revelation of this mystery be imparted to Mr. Cahn by God? Would not this then mean that Mr. Cahn holds the office of a prophet? This is something that he would neither affirm nor deny when asked by inquirers.
SIGNS, PROPHECIES and THEIR CONNECTIONS –
The author of The Harbinger appears to make the assertion that the prophecy of Isaiah 9: 10 was delivered to Israel specifically, but that it’s not necessarily delivered exclusively to Israel, but this assertion he has attempted to clarify by saying that while it’s a prophecy for Israel, the passage is more of a ‘sign’ to America.
If one examines the various signs given in the Scripture however, they are always associated with the prophetic. Some prophecies have no signs included with them, but all signs of judgment are associated with prophecies of judgment such as:
ISAIAH 7: 14
14 Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.
MATTHEW 24: 29-30
29 Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken:
30 And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory (See also Matt. 12: 36-41; 16: 2-4; Acts 2: 22; Heb. 2: 4).
David James comments:
“Just as the first coming of Christ was a sign to Israel, His second coming will be a sign to everyone that the prophecies of God’s judgment are being fulfilled. As immeasurably significant as Christ’s return will be, if it would not also fulfill prophecies of judgment, no one could know that it was a sign of judgment.”
Any sign given by God in the Scriptures dealt with judgment, and all such signs are always associated with prophecy. So for Mr. Cahn to state that Isaiah 9:10 was a prophecy to Israel, but only a sign to America cannot make his case because you can’t have a sign (given to any nation) without a prophecy with which its associated and such a prophecy that deals particularly with judgment.
However Mr. Cahn believes that God revealed that Isaiah’s words were given as a sign to warn America of impending doom, and carries with it prophetic power:
[Kaplan] “So if that word should be manifested in America, it becomes a harbinger of America’s future?”
[The Prophet] “A harbinger” he answered, “and more than one.”
[Kaplain] “the Nine Harbingers.”
[The Prophet] “Yes. The Nine Harbingers – each one joined to the ancient prophecy, each one joined to this word, and each one carrying a revelation. If these harbingers of Israel’s judgment should now reappear, along with this prophetic word then the nation in which they reappear is in danger.”
[Kaplan] “And you’re saying that they have reappeared.”
[The Prophet] “Yes.”
If these harbingers are each “carrying a revelation” then these harbingers are not only signs, but prophecies, and once the prophecy is fulfilled that would be a sign that it was truly a prophecy from God. To maintain that this was a prophecy to ancient Israel, but only signs to America then is meaningless as well as misleading.
Another point must be made: in any and all cases when the LORD God is pronouncing judgment, either upon Israel or any Gentile nation, such prophecy that would warn of the impending judgment was not only clear, but entirely clear so as to avoid any misunderstandings.
Never in all the pages of Scripture did the LORD pronounce judgment, but couched in mysterious riddles or coincidental events that must be uncovered and related by someone with gifted insight that would then make such pronounced judgments clear to a people.
Look at the prophetic judgments as given by Isaiah, Jeremiah, Amos or even someone like Jonah and one will understand clearly what the LORD God was intending for His message:
ISAIAH 34: 1-5
Come near, ye nations, to hear; and hearken, ye people: let the earth hear, and all that is therein; the world, and all things that come forth of it.
2 For the indignation of the LORD is upon all nations, and his fury upon all their armies: he hath utterly destroyed them, he hath delivered them to the slaughter.
3 Their slain also shall be cast out, and their stink shall come up out of their carcases, and the mountains shall be melted with their blood.
4 And all the host of heaven shall be dissolved, and the heavens shall be rolled together as a scroll: and all their host shall fall down, as the leaf falleth off from the vine, and as a falling fig from the fig tree.
5 For my sword shall be bathed in heaven: behold, it shall come down upon Idumea, and upon the people of my curse, to judgment.
The word of the LORD came also unto me, saying,
2 Thou shalt not take thee a wife, neither shalt thou have sons or daughters in this place.
3 For thus saith the LORD concerning the sons and concerning the daughters that are born in this place, and concerning their mothers that bare them, and concerning their fathers that begat them in this land;
4 They shall die of grievous deaths; they shall not be lamented; neither shall they be buried; but they shall be as dung upon the face of the earth: and they shall be consumed by the sword, and by famine; and their carcases shall be meat for the fowls of heaven, and for the beasts of the earth.
AMOS 1: 1-5
The words of Amos, who was among the herdmen of Tekoa, which he saw concerning Israel in the days of Uzziah king of Judah, and in the days of Jeroboam the son of Joash king of Israel, two years before the earthquake.
2 And he said, The LORD will roar from Zion, and utter his voice from Jerusalem; and the habitations of the shepherds shall mourn, and the top of Carmel shall wither.
3 Thus saith the LORD; For three transgressions of Damascus, and for four, I will not turn away the punishment thereof; because they have threshed Gilead with threshing instruments of iron:
4 But I will send a fire into the house of Hazael, which shall devour the palaces of Benhadad.
5 I will break also the bar of Damascus, and cut off the inhabitant from the plain of Aven, and him that holdeth the sceptre from the house of Eden: and the people of Syria shall go into captivity unto Kir, saith the LORD.
JONAH 3: 4-5
4 And Jonah began to enter into the city a day's journey, and he cried, and said, Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown.
5 So the people of Nineveh believed God, and proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even to the least of them.
All too often Israel ignored or even rejected the word of the LORD from the prophets, but the message was nevertheless quite clear; and in Jonah’s case, the word was clearly understood by the brutal and war-like Assyrians and they responded with repentance!
If in fact therefore The Harbinger speaks of impending judgment on America, it would be a prophetic word, and the LORD God has never in all the pages of Scripture brought a prophet to Israel or any other nation with a message couched in obscure and 'hidden' meaning.
Examination of the prophets words (such as the quotes above) reveals the truth of this.
This concludes part one of this message, and part two and three will be forthcoming. Until then, may the LORD continually bless you saints - WAY TOO MUCH!