The Serious Abuse of Prophecy with Dave James (Part 1)
Gary: Welcome to Search the Scriptures 24/7, a radio ministry of The Berean Call with T.A. McMahon. I’m Gary Carmichael. We’re glad you could tune in. In today’s program, Tom launches a two-part series with guest Dave James. Here’s TBC executive director, Tom McMahon.
Tom: Thanks, Gary! Today and next week, we’re going to be discussing the aftermath of two books that had an impact upon multitudes of Christians, and that impact was not good, to say the least. Both books promoted ideas that greatly distorted what the Scriptures teach, specifically regarding prophecy. And I used the term “aftermath” because the authors of both books engaged in more-than-implied date setting that failed to occur. My guest for our discussion is Dave James, who’s the author of The Harbinger: Fact or Fiction? and Biblical Guide to Shemitah and the Blood Moons. Dave, welcome back to Search the Scriptures 24/7.
Dave: Thanks, Tom! It’s great to be back with you again.
Tom: Dave, as you know, the two books that I’m referring to are Jonathan Cahn’s The Mystery of the Shemitah and Mark Biltz’s Blood Moons. Give our listeners a brief synopsis of those books; in other words, the gist of what the authors have communicated.
Dave: Sure. Well, The Mystery the Shemitah by Jonathan Cahn is rooted in one of the chapters of his bestselling book The Harbinger that came out in 2012, and the Shemitah, the word “Shemitah” is from the Hebrew word for “release,” and it had to do with the fact that at the end of every years, the Jewish people needed to release those who were in debt from those debts. And the Jewish Sabbath year was also the year in which they were not to sow or plant, but God would provide three times the normal produce in the sixth year, and so just as they had a Sabbath day once every seven days, they would have a Sabbath year once every seven years and they wouldn’t plant or harvest and at the end of the year, those in debt would be released from their debts. So that’s where the word “Shemitah” comes from.
Now, the premise of the book and the premise of The Harbinger is that America has been subjected to God’s judgment and specifically, with regard to the Shemitah, economic downturns and calamities on a regular seven-year cycle for the past century or so.
And in The Harbinger, Jonathan Cahn claimed that Isaiah:9:10 was being played out on American soil. A prophecy to the Northern kingdom of Israel, but he says that it has been replaying on American soil beginning with the terrorist attacks of 9/11.
Now, the Blood Moons book by Mark Biltz is based on the idea that God has set signs in the heavens – sun, moon, and stars – for the purposes of warning concerning judgment. And we just finished up a series of four total lunar eclipses beginning in January…I’m sorry, beginning in the spring of 2014, so on the Jewish feast day of Passover in the spring of 2014, then the Feast of Tabernacles in the Fall of 2014. Then again Passover of this year and on the Feast of Tabernacles just a few weeks ago, that there were full lunar eclipses, and since the moon turns a brownish-red color, he believes that these are - could have been, at least – a fulfillment of passages in the Bible, prophetic passages, related to the Day of the Lord and the return of the Lord, most specifically in Joel 2, Matthew 24, and Revelation 6.
Tom: Yeah. Now, Dave, we always get this question, so I need to throw it in right away. Have you had any personal interaction with the authors, and, if so, how did it turn out?
Dave: Well, I’ve had interaction with Jonathan Cahn. I had an interaction within a few weeks of his book coming out in 2012, because the week that it did come out, I did an interview concerning his book in which I criticized it, and word got to him. And so he contacted me first, and, of course, it was a public discussion because it was a publicly available material. It wasn’t like there was a private conversation, so it wasn’t a Matthew 18 situation. It was something that was already making…rising quickly on the NY Times bestseller list.
And so, he contacted me via email, and we had several email discussions, and then on April 6 of 2012, he and I did a 75-minute moderated discussion that was moderated by Jimmy DeYoung of Prophecy Today. And since then, maybe a year or a year and a half ago, I was corresponding with him again because there was someone in his church – a leader in his church was actually launching quite vicious attacks publicly against me and defending him, and I just let him know that this was not appropriate, the personal attacks that were going on.
And so he and I have had discussions and interactions. We do not agree. We did not agree. I tried to persuade him of some of the problems in his book, and he just…he chose not to agree with them, and that’s his prerogative.
As far as Mark Biltz is concerned, no, I have not had any personal interaction with him.
Tom: Again, personal interaction. I’m glad you brought up the point, because the mistake that’s usually made by those asking those questions is that they try to throw it into a Matthew 18 situation, you know: If a brother has ought against brother, but as you pointed out, Dave, no! If somebody writes a book, and even if it’s a secular book, there are people that review it, and they have their own opinions, and so on.
So, you make something public – everybody has the right to either agree with the book or disagree with the book, criticize the book however they want. But it’s not a personal issue, because, as you said, this was a public promotion of the views that Mark Biltz has, the public promotion of the views that Jonathan Cahn has. And we, as believers, we’re to be Bereans. We’re to – if you want to read the book, fine, but now let’s hold it up to the Scriptures to see if these things are so according to the Word of God.
So, it’s different that way, isn’t it?
Dave: Well, yeah, it definitely is. You know, Matthew 18 says if a brother sins against you, go to him, and if he listens you’ve won him, and if he doesn’t listen take two or three witnesses. So the presumption there in Matthew 18 is that it’s a private issue, and if it’s resolved between the two of you, it never sees the light of day – it’s never made public.
But in the case of The Harbinger and Blood Moons and other books like this, it’s put out in the public market place for public consumption. So if it’s out there for public consumption, then it’s definitely out there for public critique, and that’s what is done all the time. I never suspected that somebody – or others might think that somehow I was violating biblical principle by critiquing it publicly because everybody, every author, and every publisher knows that when their work is put out there, there are going to be people examining it. Some are going to agree and some are going to disagree. And beyond that, this is not something that was just done in a limited setting like in a Sunday school class. This was something that was rapidly gaining an audience of tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, and now over two million people have read the book The Harbinger. Many, many have read The Mystery of the Shemitah. They’ve seen the Isaiah:9:10 Judgment, which is about it. It’s become a whole cottage industry. So there are some people out there critiquing it, and then to be called to account on the basis of Matthew 18 is a complete distortion and misuse of that passage.
Tom: Dave, for those Christians who haven’t either read Cahn’s book or Biltz’s book, what would you say…again, this is your perspective – but, folks, I have to tell you this: Dave’s not shooting from the hip here. He put time and energy, research - as you heard earlier, he tried to address these issues personally with Jonathan Cahn at least. So this isn’t a small thing.
But, Dave, those – from your perspective, what most concerns you biblically about these books?
Dave: Well, there are a number of things. The short answer is they’re unbiblical. The little bit longer answer is, for example, concerning The Harbinger and The Mystery of the Shemitah, is their complete mishandling of scripturer. For one thing, in the book The Harbinger, he takes Isaiah:9:10 out its context. Isaiah:9:10 talks about the fact that “the bricks have fallen but we’ll rebuild with hewn stone; the sycamores have been cut down, but we will replace them with cedars.” Which was simply an act of defiance by the people of Israel in the face of the clear…the fact that God was judging the nation and was about to judge the nation at the hands of the Assyrians. But prior to that, that chapter in Isaiah, which is not mentioned or referred to at all in Jonathan Cahn’s book, is one of the most significant Messianic Kingdom passages in the entire Old Testament! It talks about…this is the chapter where it says that “A Son will be born, a Child will be given. His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” It says that “He will sit on the throne of his father David and he’ll have an everlasting kingdom.” But The Harbinger leaves Israel under judgment in the dustbin of history never to mention that there’s actually a restoration coming!
So it’s one of the most egregious examples of prophetic – a supposed prophetic - work that you can possibly imagine! And then when you talk about The Mystery of the Shemitah, the Shemitah, the Jewish Sabbath year, was given exclusively and specifically to the nation of Israel as part of the Law of Moses, and there’s no indication that there’s some sort of “Shemitah principle” that is somehow woven into the fabric of history that affects all the nations of the world and most specifically the United States. It was only for the nation of Israel.
And even when Israel was in the depths of pagan idolatry, they…there’s no indication that God even judged them on a seven-year cycle, let alone another nation.
Dave: And then, when you talk about the Blood Moons, the fact is that those passages, those prophetic passages, talk about supernatural events, not natural events like lunar eclipses. And Genesis:1:14, which says, “The sun, moon, stars are given for signs and seasons,” that’s for setting up a calendar, not setting up for a sign of judgment. So, it just goes on and on and on.
Tom: Yeah, you know, Dave, as you’re pointing out, we could go on and on and on about the errors in this book, but the bottom line, as you pointed out, this is so erroneous with regard to what the Scriptures teach. For example, you mentioned just ahead of Isaiah:9:10, which is his pivotal scripture, you have Isaiah… the verses that precede that, that you articulated. What about – not just 9:10, - eleven, 9:11, 9:12, 9:13, 9:14, 9:15? You go through all those verses, and you say, “Wait a minute! Did any of these things happen to the United States?” How can anybody in their right mind – I probably shouldn’t say that, but it’s so outrageous that I’m thinking None of these other things took place as you continue to read through Isaiah, the rest of those verses! It’s just…it can’t be applied. Not only that, but it is not a warning to the Northern kingdom of Israel – it is a judgment, pure and simple!
Dave: Yes, that’s exactly right, and, you know, we talk about the surrounding context, but if you look at Isaiah:9:10 itself, even…you know, he says there are nine harbingers. There aren’t nine harbingers. Anybody will search high and low to find nine harbingers, or omens, in that passage. And then, he even goes - one of the worst examples of biblical cherry-picking that I’ve ever seen has to do with the fact where…he makes one of the harbingers have to do with the towers because of the Twin Towers in New York City that fell on 9/11. Well, if you look at your English translation of the Bible, there are no English translations that have “tower” in them. So where did he get “tower”? Well, he got it from the Septuagent, which is the Greek translation of an Old Testament manuscript that we don’t have. And he…so, he goes to that and appeals to it, but then the interesting thing is, if you stay in the Septuagent, you’ve got to choose one or the other - it actually says that Israel…the Septuagent says that it’s Israel who cut down the cedars. So it wipes out two of his other harbingers. So he just randomly sets this up to make it say what he wants to say.
Tom: You know, Dave – and again, talking about Cahn and his two books, at first he says, “Well, no, no, this was just a (The Harbinger, in particular)…it’s just a fiction book” and he felt entitled to write it using that mode, and then saying, “Come on, it’s just fiction.” However, when somebody says that – you know, I was a screenwriter in Hollywood for a while, so, I mean, I have an opinion about good fiction, bad fiction, and my first review of the book was that it was a really bad fictional novel. Well, you know, some disagreed with me, but we’re all entitled to our opinions.
On the other hand, Cahn went way beyond simply writing a fictional book, didn’t he?
Dave: Well, he absolutely did! You know, I deal with the issue of Christian fiction in a course I teach on current theological issues, and how Christians think about Christian fiction, and one of the things I point out is you either have – when you talk about Christian fiction, you either have fictional theology, which is by definition heresy. Or you have theological fiction, meaning that fiction is simply a vehicle to communicate what they believe to be doctrinal and biblical truth. And, in fact, on one radio program that I have even on my computer to this day that I recorded, that he says that The Harbinger is 90 percent fact! And beyond that, formerly WorldNetDaily, WND, produced a film called The Isaiah:9:10 Judgment, which takes all of that “90 percent fact” and puts it into a documentary form. So it strips out the fiction part of it, and the message is exactly the same. There’s nothing changed about what he’s trying to convey.
And in literally hundreds of interviews over the past almost four years now, he has stated the same thing over and over, that he believes these things are fact. So, just because it was put in a fictional framework, he’s still trying to convey what he believes to be absolute truth.
Tom: Dave, I know you’ve mentioned this before when we’ve had discussions: The Mystery of Shemitah? Now, in the first part of our session today, you just laid out what Shemitah – is it a mystery? I mean, what’s with the “mystery” issue? You laid it out very simply: this has to do with Sabbath keeping, right?
Dave: Well, that’s true, and I point this out in my book that there’s nothing mysterious about it. God…the problem is not what’s a mystery. The problem is what God laid out so specifically for the nation of Israel and what He specifically did not lay out for any other nation but Israel. So there is no mystery.
And the real problem here in this whole thing is that, you know, this is sort of Jonathan Cahn’s trademark – that he is a revealer of mysteries. He positions himself as a revealer of mysteries. This is…you can see this through dozens of titles of his sermons that he does, and even some DVDs are now available. He’s continually positioning himself, saying “the mystery of this,” or “the mystery of that,” and the idea is that here you have a Messianic Jew who is supposedly revealing mysteries that no Christian, no Bible scholar, no theologian has seen for 2,000 years, but now he is revealing them. And when you talk about Isaiah:9:10, why did he reveal it eleven years after the fact? You know, why did that come out? There’re just so many problems, and this “mystery” issue is one of the big ones.
Tom: Yeah, but “mystery” also in the sense that the Bible is not that complicated. God lays out things very simply, very clear. Dave, at least speaking for myself, if He didn’t so that, I couldn’t understand it, even with the power of the Holy Spirit. But no, that’s God’s M.O. That’s the way He goes about things. Things are very simple, very clear. Not that there aren’t some incomprehensible things about the character of God that we need to grow in and mature in, and maybe for all eternity, because we’re finite and God’s infinite. You know, we can’t handle those things.
But coming back to “mystery”: What he’s done, in my view, he has mystified, made confusing, by…you know, you used the term “cherry picking” – for those people who don’t understand that term, it just means he’s very selective in what he uses. He’ll select this, he’ll select that, for his own purposes, and so on (talking about Jonathan Cahn). But the confusion – you talk to anybody about his books, even his biggest fans, and they can’t explain what he’s talking about. I mean, honestly, I’ve had those conversations with people.
So, “The Mystery” of Shemitah? No! It’s Sabbath keeping, given unto Israel, specifically, but now he’s turned it into a mystery that’s mystifying a lot of people out there. And I think that’s a really bad thing.
Dave: Yes, I would agree, and actually, Mark Biltz has almost…has built on this idea – as you mentioned Sabbath keeping, he is a part of the Hebrew Roots movement, and they’re the ones who are trying to bring Christianity back under the Jewish law and Hebrew customs, and one of the things that he repeats over and over, both in his book and on countless interviews, is that Christians need to get back onto God’s calendar, meaning that we need to be observing the Sabbath day each week, we need to be observing the Jewish feasts as Christians, and we need to…by extension, that would mean observing the Jewish Sabbath year itself. So there is this merging that’s going on, and they’re actually bouncing back and forth off each other a lot now.
Tom: Dave, the concern that I have, and that you have, which is why we put so much time and energy in on this, is how it’s misleading so many people out there. We’re going to get to implied, or more-than-implied date setting, on both the part of Biltz and Jonathan Cahn. But just as an example of the confusion that’s been created and mystification, to use that term, Cahn gives a boatload of alleged economic facts and dates related to his conclusions. Well, you’ve been through all these things. Do they stand up to scrutiny?
Dave: Well, no, they actually don’t. You can look at it from a number of different perspectives. One, if you chart the economic growth of the stock market, for example, the US economy over the last 100 years, and then you note the downturns, the downturns are actually just blips on the radar screen. The overall trajectory is overwhelmingly upward. And so to suggest that God has been judging the nation such that it gets wiped out economically every seven years is just factually not true at all. It’s demonstrably not true. Another thing is, with reference to all these statistics and facts that he puts out, he documents very, very little. I think there’s only three or four out of the dozens and dozens of fact claims that he makes. There are only three or four where he documents his source. And we have no idea where he’s getting his information – or the average reader would not get any idea. Actually, I started doing some searches on some of the phrases in his book to try to find out what his source documents were, and what I come up with is, there’s some almost word-for-word documentation that comes straight out of Wikipedia and on multiple occasions.
Another thing that I found was, I found a chart that I think that he has based his graphs on. He has seventeen graphs in his book, and I think I found the chart that it’s based on after a lot of research. And what I did was I compared his charts to that original chart, and his charts in his book have no vertical scale. Now, anybody who knows anything about graphs knows that a graph means nothing without a vertical scale, because you can stretch it or contract it to make it say whatever you want. And what I found was when I laid his graphs over the top of that bigger… the longer term graph, it definitely had been stretched. So not only is there a lack of documentation, not only is there a lack of facts, there’s actually what seems to be a manipulation of the data in order to make his case appear far stronger than it actually is.
Tom: And, Dave, the question that greatly concerns us – why this program at this particular time? This isn’t just for our readers’ interest. This is all moving in a direction, and for the last year at least, maybe a little longer, this has been pointing to an economic crash – the worst in the history of the world, if you listen to Biltz, if you listen to some of Cahn, whether they’re on with Jim Bakker or Sid Roth, or whoever they’re promoting their books with, and those dates, whether they be implied – I think it’s more than implied, especially when you have people supporting them, backing it up with survival food, with all kinds of things, which is what we’re going to address in our next session.
The dates – Dave, we’ve got less than a minute here, but the dates – last month, this is October 14, but September was a major date in which these things were supposed to come together, and the results were not to be good not just for the US but for the world. So, it pointed a certain direction, and it’s had some aftermath, which is what we’re going to talk about next week.
Dave, want to make one last point about that?
Dave: Well, you’re exactly right. As we get into it, we’ll see that nothing did happen on September 13 and 14; nothing did happen on the 28th, which was the last lunar eclipse, and we’ll certainly have plenty to talk about next week as far as their saying that they weren’t date setting. They actually were.
Tom: Yeah. My guest has been Dave James. He’s written a couple of books about the issue of The Harbinger, about the Blood Moons. We’re greatly concerned about this, folks. We want to encourage people to be Bereans, no matter who comes along - if it’s what we say or what anybody else says, we need to search the Scriptures to see if these things are so. So, look forward to our program next week.
Dave: Thanks so much, Tom.
Gary: You’ve been listening to Search the Scriptures 24/7, featuring T.A. McMahon, a radio ministry of The Berean Call. We offer a wide variety of resources to help you in your study of God’s Word. For a complete list of materials and a free subscription to our monthly newsletter, contact us at PO Box 7019, Bend, OR 97708; call us at 800-937-6638; or visit our website at thebereancall.org. I’m Gary Carmichael. Thanks for tuning in. And you’re invited back again next week. Until then, we encourage you to search the Scriptures 24/7.