The Harbinger: Fact or Fiction? |

James, David

Excerpts from the book by David James

Chapter 1 - “Introduction”

Calling America back to God is a valid message and one that needs to be proclaimed. America is clearly in trouble in many ways. Joanathan Cahn rightly points out that “Judgment isn’t ultimately about nations—but people. . . . And no one is exempt. Each must stand before Him.” He thus challenges his readers to understand that what is even more important than a nation facing temporal judgment is that those who do not turn to Christ are facing eternal judgment. Cahn is to be commended for his passion and commitment to sharing this message with as wide an audience as possible

However, because of serious flaws throughout the book, its potential dangers may outweigh the benefits. The errors may well overshadow the truth. Many of the views and ideas presented in The Harbinger have both significant exegetical and theological problems. Also, the book may leave many of its readers with serious misunderstandings about how to appropriately interpret and apply the Word of God. Another concern is that in trying to support his conclusions, Cahn appears to overstate his case, sees prophetic fulfillment where none exists, and presses details to draw parallels between historical events beyond what the facts reasonably support.

Chapter 2 - “Departure from a Biblical Hermeneutic”

In a moderated discussion on Prophecy Today with this author, Cahn affirmed his belief that Isaiah:9:10 was specifically to ancient Israel. He has also stated that the prophecy is not to, for, or about America. This would be consistent with the view of conservative scholars, who generally agree that America is not referenced or in view in any biblical passage. However, the book leaves the reader with the very distinct impression that Isaiah’s prophecy and ancient Israel are indeed connected to modern-day America in some way.

Chapter 8 - “America: A New Israel?”

. . . after having read The Harbinger, [Glenn] Beck discussed the book on his radio program. His understanding of what Cahn is saying is identical to that of Timothy Ballard (author of The Covenant: America’s Sacred and Immutable Connection to Ancient Israel)—a foundational concept in The Harbinger is that an American covenant with God exists. On his GBTV television program, Beck said the following about The Harbinger:

I find this truly amazing because this [The Harbinger] is making the case that I’ve been making on this program for a while—that we made a covenant. . . . George Washington made that covenant in a church that’s right across the street from the World Trade Center. . . . I believe that church had God’s protection on it to send us a message. . . . He was sending us a message. God always returns to the scene of the covenant. . . .

This led to Glenn Beck inviting Jonathan Cahn to personally appear on his television program on June 26 and 27 for a two-part series. As one would expect, the issue of a covenant between God and America comes up—and Cahn clearly confirms his alignment with Beck’s views about this:

[Beck at 7:49 mark] What is important to me is the point you make in the book is not just about Isaiah. What you say is, “Ancient Israel made a covenant with God. And God will always remind people of the covenant and say, ‘Help Me help you—at the place of the covenant.’”

[Cahn] “Yes.”

Chapter 9 - “Missing Critical Elements”

The New Testament makes it clear that every future judgment of God involves Jesus Christ, yet Cahn never makes that association. Every future judgment of God is in the context of Christ’s second coming, yet Cahn never mentions His return. And every future judgment of God is preparatory to the establishment of Christ’s kingdom, yet Cahn never tells the reader where this is all heading.

One almost senses that Cahn has explicitly avoided saying too much about Christ and Christians and Christianity. Trying to avoid giving the impression that this is only about religion is a good thing. But leaving out so much crucial biblical truth concerning the nature of the coming judgment is just wrong.

Chapter 10 - “The Ancient Mystery: The Nine Harbingers”

The Sixth Harbinger: The Sycamore

This is yet another forced parallel that does not withstand closer examination. First, the sycamore (fig-mulberry) of ancient Israel and the American sycamore are two completely different trees that are unrelated in any way. They are not the same species (Ficus sycomorus vs. Platanus occidentalis). They are not in the same genus (Ficus vs. Plantanus), nor even in the same family (Moraceae vs. Platanaceae). In spite of this, the author tries to make the connection on a linguistic basis. . . . 

The tree in Israel is a fruit-bearing tree, with the English translation ultimately coming from the Greek for “fig-mulberry” which is sycomoros. However, this tree is shaqam in Hebrew. So it is not legitimate to claim that this tree was a “sycamore” to the ancient Israelites, who lived long before the influence of the Greek Empire. It was a fig-mulberry—it was a shaqam to them.

In contrast, the American sycamore, as stated before, is not botanically related in any way to the fig-mulberry. There is no semantic connection. Of course, both trees carry the same name—but this is true only for English-speakers, not for Hebrew-speakers.

The Seventh Harbinger: The Erez Tree

Cahn’s reasoning reveals that he is depending on the taxonomic classification system to make his case. The taxonomic system is based on a hierarchy of seven ranks for classifying all living things on earth.

The first problem with appealing to this classification system is that it is based exclusively on evolutionary theory. In addition, as evolutionary theory evolves, so does the classification system itself, and it can change significantly over time. . . .

The Norway spruce planted at Ground Zero is biblically a different kind of tree than the cedars of Lebanon in Isaiah:9:10. Although the Bible is not a scientific textbook, it is accurate in those matters of science about which it speaks. Consequently, based on the authority of the Word of God there is no amazing coincidence. There is no match. There is no parallel. And there is no harbinger.

Chapter 12 - “The Isaiah:9:10 Effect”

Just as the theory of the nine harbingers was developed to demonstrate the connection between Isaiah:9:10 and America, the Isaiah:9:10 Effect is crucial to understanding God’s second round of warning to America.

So, the question remains, “Where does the concept of the Isaiah:9:10 Effect come from?” It doesn’t come from the text itself, nor from the immediate context. Neither is anything remotely similar to The Isaiah:9:10 Effect mentioned or implied anywhere else in Scripture. . . . Cahn presents the Isaiah:9:10 Effect as if it were an inviolable scriptural principle—that once it is set in motion, the corresponding prescribed outcome is inevitable.

Chapter 14 - “The Shemitah”

All credit and debt from 2001 to 2008 had “in effect, been canceled?” There were certainly a lot of losses experienced by both creditors and investors, but nowhere close to all debt was wiped away. Just the simple fact that many people ended up upside down on their mortgages as the housing market collapsed and many lost their homes because of foreclosures clearly demonstrates this. . . . If debt had been wiped away, these people could have kept their homes and owed nothing.

Another crucial issue that could be easy to miss is the fact that the author has just redefined the Shemitah itself. The biblical Shemitah involved the cancellation of all debt owed to creditors. However, Cahn has completely redefined it, with no scriptural support whatsoever, to include the wiping out of savings and investments. This is more than misleading.

And the speculation does not end there. Cahn goes so far as to argue that God was imposing a global Shemitah made up of countless smaller ones all over the world. . . . This is so far beyond the realm of reasonable logic, so thoroughly contradicted by historical facts, and so completely devoid of any biblical support that it simply requires no rebuttal other than to say, “It did not happen.”

Chapter 15 - “A King and a President”

As previously noted, Nouriel Kaplan, the journalist, has a dream about the dedication of the temple in Jerusalem under King Solomon (chapter 19). Although the author has said that this dream is simply part of the fictional storyline, the idea of connecting Solomon and George Washington is clearly far more than just a surprising plot-twist.

Furthermore. Cahn goes well beyond just connecting them in some vague sort of way—King Solomon actually transforms into George Washington on the Temple Mount. . . . Although preceded by kings Saul and David, it was Solomon who built and dedicated the temple. This finalized the establishment of Israel as a nation because it was then that God came to dwell among His people once again—not in a temporary tent but in a permanent structure. So, too, the inauguration of George Washington finalized the establishment of the United States as a nation.

Chapter 16 - “Preparing for Eternity”

Not once does the author ever mention the idea of “placing one’s faith in Christ” or “believing in Christ” or “trusting in Christ” for one’s salvation. In fact, quite inexplicably, the words faith and trust never appear in relation to salvation or the gospel anywhere in The Harbinger.

Unfortunately the gospel is almost completely obscured in the midst of the many words, while the few words and phrases that could have made the gospel very clear are missing. Because of these and other crucial elements of the gospel that are also missing, a genuine concern is whether anyone who does not already understand the gospel could even be saved by reading The Harbinger.

*    *    *

Although Cahn refers to the Cross at Ground Zero three times in one paragraph, he never makes any connection between it and the Cross upon which Jesus was crucified. He makes no other mention of the Cross anywhere in the book. It is never once clearly stated that Jesus died on the Cross, shedding His blood for the remission of our sins.

Paul makes it clear in 1 Corinthians:15:1-6 that Jesus’ resurrection is an essential component of the gospel, and in Romans:10:9-11 he states that one must believe in His resurrection to be saved....However there is not the slightest mention of the resurrection of Jesus Christ anywhere in The Harbinger. How could this be?

Chapter 17 - “The Tenth Seal”

The following quote is from an article titled “Kabbalah and Jewish Mysticism” on the Judaism 101 website.

Mysticism and mystical experiences have been a part of Judaism since the earliest days. The Torah contains many stories of mystical experiences, from visitations by angels to prophetic dreams and visions. The Talmud considers the existence of the soul and when it becomes attached to the body. Jewish tradition tells that the souls of all Jews were in existence at the time of the Giving of the Torah and were present at the time and agreed to the Covenant. There are many stories of places similar to Christian heaven and purgatory, of wandering souls and reincarnation. The Talmud contains vague hints of a mystical school of thought that was taught only to the most advanced students and was not committed to writing.

Intentional or otherwise, Jonathan Cahn’s approach to explaining the ancient mystery hidden in Isaiah:9:10 seems eerily close to the above description. Even if he does not personally subscribe to classic Jewish mysticism, as a messianic rabbi he certainly seems to have created his own form.

Chapter 18 - “Final Thoughts”

Jonathan Cahn’s intention is for The Harbinger to be a powerful wakeup call for America—a call to repent from her rapid descent into the depths of sin and turn to God as her only hope of avoiding His imminent judgment. . . . Cahn has grabbed the attention of millions—and he has struck a nerve. For those who have taken this idea seriously, we can praise and thank the Lord for His gracious loving-kindness.

In the final analysis . . . The Harbinger’s phenomenal success is the result of a tragedy whose magnitude can be measured  in many ways. It can be measured in terms of dollars and hundreds of thousands of copies that have been sold . . . or in terms of its long-held position near the top of the theology category on . . . or in terms of the millions of television viewers and radio listeners who have been dramatically influenced through the interviews Cahn has given.

The real tragedy is what ultimately allowed this to happen. A growing segment of the evangelical church seems to be losing its way regarding discernment. We have become far too dependent on what others are writing when it comes to our own understanding of the Word of God. We’re letting others do the “heavy lifting” while we sit, watch, listen, and atrophy.

Like a beautiful piece of furniture that appears to be handcrafted from the finest oak but really has only the very thinnest of oak veneers, The Harbinger has only a veneer that gives it the appearance of being biblical. How could so many believers be deceived by this? Is it because the church has largely abdicated its responsibility to examine and test a matter in light of Scripture?