Gary: Welcome to Search the Scriptures 24/7, a radio ministry of The Berean Call featuring T.A. McMahon. I’m Gary Carmichael. Thanks for joining us. In today’s program, Tom begins a two-part series with guest, author and conference speaker Greg Sheryl. Here’s TBC executive director Tom McMahon.
Tom: Thanks, Gary. My guest for today’s program and next week is Greg Sheryl. He’s a longtime writer for the apologetics publication The Quarterly Journal that is produced by Personal Freedom Outreach.
Greg, welcome to Search the Scriptures 24/7.
Greg: Thank you, Tom. Good to be here.
Tom: Greg, as you know, I want to discuss your latest article in the Journal titled “Jonathan Cahn: Man of Mystery.” And for those of our listeners not familiar with Jonathan Cahn, he’s the author of the New York Times bestseller The Harbinger, and has a new book out with the title The Mystery of Shemitah.
Now, since it should come as no surprise to those who are aware of what we’ve previously written about Cahn’s book in our own book The Harbinger: Fact or Fiction? So, as I said, it shouldn’t be a surprise that our criticism would continue. But in all that we’ve written regarding Cahn’s work, especially since they have influenced millions, and I mean millions of Christians, our purpose has been to inform Christians regarding the overriding biblical errors, the biblical errors found in his book.
As the prophet Isaiah declared: “To the law and the testimony: if they speak not according to God’s Word, it is because there is no light of truth in them.” Couple that with the admonition for believers to be like the Bereans who searched the scriptures daily to see if what they were being taught was true to God’s Word, and we have a scriptural mandate to earnestly contend for the faith, as Jude (the Book of Jude) says.
Now, Greg, is that your perspective?
Greg: It definitely is, Tom. I think—I like the name of your organization The Berean Call, because I think it exemplifies what we’re to be is like the Bereans, searching the scriptures, and ordering our lives and our doctrine according to them.
Tom: Mm-hmm. And, Greg, you’ve mentioned this before—this is not a personal thing with regard to Jonathan Cahn. When somebody writes a book—whether it’s your book, my book, you know, Dave Hunt’s books—you’re putting information out there that, as I mentioned, particularly with regard to his book, I think they’ve sold over a million copies, so that’s highly influential. And as you’ve been pointing out and I’ve said, we are obligated by the Scriptures to make sure that whatever we’re taking in, whatever we’re reading lines up with the Word of God. So a scriptural scrutiny is critically important, especially when whatever somebody’s writing influences millions of people, don’t you agree?
Greg: Yes, yes I do. And I want to just, if I may, say that I appreciate what you said about this not being a personal thing. I have no animosity in my heart toward Jonathan Cahn as a person. In fact, he seems like a personable and likable sort of man. You know, I’m sure if we were to sit down for coffee, you know, we’d probably have a good discussion about any number of things. But yes, I do agree with you. I mean, when it comes to influence, we are responsible for our influence, and, you know, there are some serious concerns about what he’s teaching and the way he’s interpreting the Scripture.
Tom: Exactly. You know, you start your article—and again, folks, this is an article out of the Personal Freedom Outreach Quarterly Journal, terrific article—but you start the article with the thought that Cahn’s The Harbinger could have had a worthwhile message of repentance. Now, who would be against that? So could you elaborate on that?
Greg: Well, that’s right, Tom, and I appreciate that. I want to say that he does have a biblical burden, I think, for seeing repentance in our nation, and I applaud that. And in your review in June 2012, you also mentioned that that was something worthwhile, and I think that’s one of the things that resonated with so many people was the fact that, yes, you know, America is in dire need of repentance. And so I think that resonated with a lot of people. It struck a responsive chord, and so that was good. And also in his—I think the second to the last chapter, if I remember correctly, he does try to call people to trust Jesus for salvation, which is also good—although I agree with David James, what he said in his book, that it wasn’t really a very clear invitation. It was…he used a lot of vague words to try to call people to repentance without… So it wasn’t a clear message. It wasn’t a clear sound. I mean, he was calling people to repentance, but exactly what he was calling on them to do was a little unclear.
So those were some praiseworthy things about his book. But as you and David James and G. Richard Fisher of Personal Freedom Outreach, I join with you all in saying that I think there’s some substantial problems with his using Isaiah:9:10 to interpret what’s happening—what happened in the attacks in our nation on 9/11 and subsequent events in our nation.
Tom: Yeah. So here’s the problem for us, since, you know, you group Dick Fisher, myself, Dave James, and so on, and I’m sure others out there. You know, I don’t think we’re the only ones.
Greg: No, no.
Tom: If you have…for example, his end—what he wants to do is bring America back to repentance. We applaud that, but there’s a saying that the end doesn’t justify the means, and the means that we’re really concerned about is how he is bringing the idea of repentance into the picture here. And that’s…we’re going to discuss that.
Now, there are some fundamental problems—I think we need to get to it right away—some fundamental problems with Cahn’s thesis. First of all, you mentioned Isaiah:9:10—that would be the scripture verse and then those following that he addresses, that he looks to to associate what happened in the northern kingdom of Israel with what took place in New York City. Well, Isaiah:9:10—chapter 9, is it applicable to America?
Greg: No, I don’t think it is, and it’s astounding that someone would think it was, to be honest. I don’t understand that rationale, although he certainly tries to build a case for that.
Tom: Mm-hmm. Well, you know, folks, if—you need to read…again, we started off by saying you need to be a Berean; you need to apply that to Greg Sheryl and to T.A. McMahon here, okay? So what we would recommend—obviously this is recorded; you can stop it at any time if you picked it up on our website or on our app. Now, you could stop it and look at Isaiah:9:10, but then read 11-20, and you see many things. You know, this was not a warning to the northern kingdom of Israel, because that’s kind of the mentality that Cahn brings to this, that God is warning America. No, these verses in Isaiah, this is a judgment! Warnings are all over. I mean, wouldn’t you agree with that?
Greg: I would. I mean, it says that His hand is stretched out still. I mean, it’s…God’s judgment has not been satisfied. It’s unrelenting in this situation.
Tom: Right. So…okay.
Greg: No, anyway, so I agree with you. And it’s interesting, because Cahn on the one hand, he is very straightforward in acknowledging that Isaiah:9:10 was about God judging Israel. He also says that it wasn’t a prophesying about America, and he said a number of times that Israel is not America. The problem is that he seems to contradict these clear statements with other things. And David James did an excellent job in The Harbinger: Fact or Fiction? in pointing out places where Cahn has just…I mean, he so closely identifies Israel and America that it’s difficult to understand his saying that Isaiah wasn’t prophesying about America. In other words, he seems to be saying contradictory things.
Greg: And that’s—that makes it difficult for the reader, because on the one hand, Cahn in an orthodox way says, “No, Isaiah was prophesying about Israel.” But then he makes other statements that so closely identify Israel and America that it makes his denials of that worthless, or at least confusing at best.
Tom: Well, that’s a really good point, Greg. You know, he adds so much to support what he’s talking about, and with contradictory ideas in it, even though he has a clear statement here, then he controverts that a little later, and so on. So what it leads to is confusion…
Greg: Yes, I agree.
Tom: …and this is a huge problem, because there’s almost a—we’ll talk about this later—a fear factor that enters in, but it comes out of confusion.
Now, for example, one thing that’s very clear (and talk about jumping back and forth with regard to this) America having a covenant with God, or God—let’s say it the other way—God having a covenant with America. Does God have a covenant with America?
Greg: Not that we know of!
Greg: In covenants that involve God and man or God and nations, God is the one who initiates those covenants, not man.
Now, even though Cahn points out that our founding fathers might have dedicated our country to God, that doesn’t establish a covenant relationship between God and our country. Now, God might honor such a dedication, because the Scripture declares—for instance, in 1 Samuel, God says, “Those who honor me, I will honor; and those who despise me will be lightly esteemed.”
And then in Proverbs it says—Proverbs:16:34 says that “righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people.” But the Bible is very clear that it was God who initiated a covenant with Israel, first through the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and later, when God brought the children of Israel out of Egypt, out of slavery in Egypt, he made a covenant with them at Sinai. So God initiates a covenant between Himself and nations, and if He’s done that with America, He certainly hasn’t told us about it.
Greg: So He may honor a nation that tries to be godly, but that’s a far different thing than saying that He made a covenant with the nation, which God has not done with America.
Tom: Yeah. See, again, the confusion here is, you know, when somebody says something that looks like it’s either biblical or wonderful in terms of directing prayer or whatever it might be toward God, we evangelicals tend to read between the lines. But you have, which is related to Cahn’s book, you have George Washington, okay, with his hand on the Masonic Bible, giving a prayer there. Or you go back to the Puritans or the pilgrims, and they believed that America was the new Israel! So there’s at least a sense of replacement theology. So, you know, to build on that, that God—even to move it toward a covenant, I mean, it’s ridiculous. I mean, it’s not good.
Greg: Well now, I wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s replacement theology in—for a couple of reasons: one is because traditionally, replacement theology has to do with the church replacing Israel, and Cahn is very emphatic that he doesn’t believe that; and the other thing is that he would not say that America has replaced Israel, but what he might—what is very unclear is whether he so parallels America and Israel that America becomes almost a parallel Israel.
Tom: Mm-hmm. Well, you know, Greg, I agree with you. The reason I brought that up is because it’s just the idea that if something looks like—and of course, we were talking about covenant—if something sort of senses that, you know, God has a special place in His heart for America because of what George Washington did or because of what the pilgrims did and so on, that was that point. But I agree. I know that, you know, it’s a misunderstanding to think that Jonathan Cahn is into replacement theology. We’ve never accused him of that, but there can be confusion when you start mixing these ideas related to a covenant, and that’s the point. God does not have a covenant relationship with America.
Greg: Right, right, and I agree with you. God does not have a covenant relationship with America.
Tom: Now, related to a kind of confusion that’s overwhelmed by selective points, Cahn lists nine harbingers that he declares are signs from God demonstrating His warnings—he uses that term—to the US, and that the US needs to repent (we’ve been over that) so that God can bring blessings rather than judgment upon America. So, you know, you don’t have to give us point for point, but in general, what’s your perspective on these selective—and I use that term pointedly—selective harbingers?
Greg: Yes, and I agree, he selectively cites Harbingers…there were—I think there’s several curious things about the harbingers that he selected: one goes no further than the title of the book The Harbinger. He—in the book…well, first of all, he seems in the book to use the word “harbinger” as a synonym, a virtual synonym, for warning signs. But if you look in the dictionary, the word “harbinger” is actually a neutral term. It simply means a forerunner of something, or something that foreshadows something to come. I could say, “When my alarm went off this morning, it was the harbinger of a new day for me.” So it need not be—have a negative connotation such as Cahn gives it.
And another thing is the fact that he titled his book The Harbinger. There were nine of them in the book—which harbinger is he referring to, or is he referring to any of them? And a more appropriate title, you would think, would be The Harbingers, since there are nine of them.
Greg: Additionally, it appeared to me—and I invite the listeners to think about this—but it appeared to me that for some reason that I’m unaware of, he was trying to come up with the number nine for the number of harbingers. Now, I don’t know why, and I could even be mistaken about this, but the one reason I say this is that the first two harbingers (what he calls harbingers) that he designates are the breach and the terrorist. But they’re not actually even mentioned in Isaiah:9:10, they’re actually part of a historical setting that he gives for Isaiah:9:10. But they’re not actually in the passage.
And also, I noticed that his eighth and ninth harbingers, the utterance and the prophecy, seem so similar that I don’t know why he separates them into two harbingers unless for some reason he was trying to come up with the number nine.
Now, this is just how it seemed to me: I mentioned in the article that there was a book, and this may be—this is speculation on my part, I confess; it may not be true—but in 1993, there was a New Age book called The Celestine Prophecy written by James Redfield, I believe his name was, and he in that book posits nine insights that were part of an ancient Peruvian manuscript; and like Cahn’s Harbinger, it was fictional, but it was intended to portray what—some things the author felt were true. And I don’t know if Cahn’s ever even read that book, but it just seemed curious to me, and there were nine insights. And in The Harbinger there were nine harbingers, and I don’t know if there’s any relationship there or not.
Tom: Well, you know, Greg, one thing we could say is that, as you’ve pointed out, your article is [Jonathan Cahn: Man of Mystery]. He loves mysteries. I mean, so many things that he’s written—the mystery of this, the mystery of that, and so on. We could go down a list of numerous things. Well, within the realm of mystery, within the realm of “prophecy,” nine is a huge number. Napoleon Hill had his counselors—he had nine counselors. These were entities that he communed with. The Archon…you know, you can go through literature and find this to be a popular number with regard to mysteries and prophecies, things that haven’t been revealed yet, or secret things, esoteric kind of issues, and so on. So, you know, at least we could say that.
Greg: Right. Now, I don’t think Cahn is a New Ager. I want to be clear about that.
Tom: No, no, we’re not saying that…
Greg: And his book is certainly not a New Age book, but what you’re saying is very interesting. And as I say, it struck me that I was familiar—I knew of The Celestine Prophecy and its nine insights, but I didn’t know the things you’re saying. So that makes—gives more weight.
Tom: You know, and again, if somebody is trying to put their book in a certain realm, all we’re saying here is that would be an item to use, because historically it’s been used throughout literature.
Greg, Cahn is promoted quite heavily as America’s prophet, both by the Charisma publishers, WorldNetDaily, which produced his DVD, and you have TV hosts such as Sid Roth and Pat Robertson and Jim Bakker, and even conservative evangelical Dave Reagan, whose Lamplighter Magazine declared him on its cover of the magazine “An End Time Prophet to America.” So, you know, with the few minutes we have left here, what’s your take on that? Do you believe that Cahn is a prophet?
Greg: No, but there are a couple of things I would say about that: one is that he says that he doesn’t apply the title to himself; he considers himself a watchman, but, I mean, Ezekiel was a prophet and he was a watchman. And the other thing is he doesn’t discourage people from calling him a prophet, and to me that’s problematic.
Tom: Mm-hmm. Yeah.
Greg: But Jesus said something very interesting about prophets. He said that “a prophet is not without honor except in his own country,” and Cahn has gotten a lot of honor in this country from the book The Harbinger. So I think that is not typical of the way God’s prophets were received in their country. So I don’t consider Jonathan Cahn a prophet, and as I say, I think it’s problematic that he doesn’t—I think he should discourage people from using that about him.
Tom: You see, Greg, you’ve seen interviews with him, whether he’s on with Jim Bakker, Sid Roth, Pat Robertson, whoever he may be on the program, they throw that term out back and forth, you know. Cahn was referring to Jim Bakker as a prophet, and of course Jim Bakker referring back to him as a prophet. And then you have…
Greg: Mutual admiration society.
Tom: Exactly. And then you have the material that goes out—with his DVDs, they throw that term up, whether it’s a marketing idea, or whatever; the point is, there it is, black and white. And why somebody like Dave Reagan, conservative evangelical, would put him on the cover of his magazine and call him an “end time prophet to America” (no question mark there, okay, just an end time prophet to America) is a concern.
Now, we’re going to pick up with this next week. But, you know, the thing that I want to mention, because we’re going to talk about The Mystery of Shemitah, his latest book, we have a term—we didn’t make it up—but in a sense, he’s a “retro-prophet.” With regard to The Harbinger, he’s not looking ahead so much as to what’s coming in the future as he’s identifying what he believes God has done with 9/11. And then—you know, so it’s retro in the sense that he’s saying, “Well, here’s how God did this, and here’s how He did this,” when God never said ahead of time this is what He was going to do. So retro-prophet in any case.
But the other thing that concerns me is that when you take prophecy like Isaiah:9:10—not just Isaiah:9:10, but all the verses that follow, and now you misapply them; you take prophecy and apply it to something that’s not substantial, it’s not valid with regard to the Scripture—well, now you have abused prophecy. So in a sense, and I’ll probably take some heat for this, but in a sense, he’s a false prophet by misapplying biblical prophecy.
So with that, folks, we’re going to pick up with this next week, the Lord willing. And, Greg, thank you for being with us, and we look forward to the program next week.
Greg: Well, thank you for having me, Tom. I look forward to it.
Gary: You’ve been listening to Search the Scriptures 24/7 with 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, Oregon 97708. Call us at 800-937-6638, or visit our website at thebereancall.org. I’m Gary Carmichael. We’re glad you could join us, and we hope you can be here again next week. Until then, we encourage you to Search the Scriptures 24/7.