Gary: Welcome to Search the Scriptures 24/7, a radio ministry of The Berean Call featuring T.A. McMahon. I’m Gary Carmichael. We’re glad you could be here. In today’s program, Tom wraps up his two-part series with guest, author and conference speaker Greg Sheryl. Here’s TBC executive director Tom McMahon.
Tom: Thanks, Gary. My guest again this week for today’s program - we had an excellent program last week; I believe some really good information was presented by Greg Sheryl. Greg’s a longtime writer for the apologetics publication The Quarterly Journal that’s produced by Personal Freedom Outreach.
Greg, welcome back to Search the Scriptures 24/7.
Greg: Thank you, Tom. Good to be here.
Tom: When we were finishing up (or winding it down) in last week’s program, the question was: “Is Jonathan Cahn a prophet?” And the point we made is that he may not believe that, and he may say that he’s not, but if you’ve seen any of his interviews, he’s almost always interviewed as a prophet: he’s America’s prophet. He’s in the promotion material, the written stuff - whether it be for his DVDs through WorldNetDaily, or if it’s…whatever it might be, usually in the promo he’s called a prophet. So as you pointed out last week, Greg, at least he doesn’t seem to be discouraging that, although he won’t admit to it.
Now, in your article, you quote statements by Cahn that more than imply that he believes that his book The Harbinger - and this is a serious problem, I believe - that The Harbinger is a message from God, and he confirms that by how God directed him to have the book published. Could you give us some of that, some of those insights?
Greg: Yes, I’ll be happy to. The way Cahn has told the story is that he was trying to - well, he says he never intended to come up with a book, and this kind of thing; and if you read what he has written about it, it looks like it was almost written in heaven - that is the impression he gives. I mean, he says he never intended to write a book; that when he sat down to write it, it flowed out as if the words had been written down beforehand. And he talks about how he was on his way - after he did write the book, he was on his way to a Promise Keepers convention. I don’t know if he was one of the speakers, but…
Tom: Probably was, mm-hmm.
Greg: Probably was, and was going to a Promise Keepers convention, and he had a layover in North Carolina. And he was seated next to - or he really believed that The Harbinger was a message from God and it needed to go forth. So he bowed his head to pray there at the airport, and when he opened his eyes, there was a stranger sitting next to him. And in one account, the stranger begins to prophesy to him and tell him that his book—that he’s going to write a book, and it’s going to be published, and this kind of thing; and sure enough, it’s almost like supernaturally his book was published. I mean, there are a few more details, but it’s like supernaturally his book was published.
But there is more than one account of the event, and there’s also more to the story about the writing of The Harbinger than appears at first blush, because Cahn originally gave the message of The Harbinger - and he says this in his book The Mystery of the Shemitah, that he originally gave it to his congregation in oral form, I mean. He preached it, because he’s the pastor there, and he preached the message - they were very enthused about it and felt like it needed to go forth. What he doesn’t tell in The Mystery of the Shemitah but what I learned in my research was that he actually wrote the book, and in a nonfiction form - and he mentions this elsewhere that he did originally write it as a nonfiction book, but he doesn’t really give a lot of the timeframe. He originally wrote the book, I think, in 2007 or 2008, and he wrote it as a nonfiction book.
Later on, he decided to convert it into a fictional format, and it was that that he produced within a four month span of time using spare moments and things to write it. And so it wasn’t quite as supernatural sounding—the production of it wasn’t quite as supernatural sounding as some of his accounts make it appear.
Tom: You know, Greg - just for clarification, folks, what we’re talking about (maybe we should have introduced this)…I should have introduced this a little - made it a little clearer, but we’re talking about Jonathan Cahn. We’re talking about an article that Greg Sheryl wrote titled “Jonathan Cahn: Man of Mystery.” But the issue is really - at least right now, the issue that we’re referring to is his book The Harbinger. So when Greg mentioned The Mystery of Shemitah, there was more information in that book related to a prior book, The Harbinger. Is that right? Do I have that right?
Greg: Yes, yes.
Greg: The Mystery of the Shemitah was based on a chapter - one of the two longest chapters, in fact - in the book The Harbinger.
Tom: Yeah, I believe it was chapter 17.
Greg: Yes, yes, you’re right.
Tom: So…look, as a writer, people can throw out terms: “Well, the book practically wrote itself.” You know, there are some times when you get into a flow - and you know this as a writer: that sometimes you may hit writer’s block, or something like that, and other times it really flows. But when you sort of push the envelope toward “This was God-inspired…” Now, we hope everything that we do as believers, you know, that we have some inspiration from the Lord, but it’s certainly not Scripture, you know? It’s not like that.
Nevertheless, when you begin to talk about how God guided and directed and so on, now it becomes - or it pushes the envelope toward “Spirit dictation,” which I know that’s not what he had in mind, but you don’t know how people understand or receive things.
And then, because he does say clearly, and you pointed out in your article, that God guided and directed every step of the way. You pointed out that this guy that prophesied over Jonathan Cahn said, “You’re going to publish a book and it’s going to sell umpteen copies,” and so on. Now, here’s the problem I have with that: because if you - as you’ve done in your article, you track what Cahn is saying, and then look at it and see: “Wait a minute, he said this over here and he says this there. It doesn’t seem to compute to spiritual guidance.” It may not be that. But, Greg, here’s my concern: now, who published…because he says clearly that God guided him to the publisher. Is that correct?
Greg: He definitely gives that impression that it’s - the man who prophesied over him was named Hubey Synn (and not spelled S-i-n. I think it was S-y-n-n or something like that). But anyway, Hubey Synn was obviously a charismatic believer, and Hubey Synn prophesied over him, and he then received - Hubey Synn knew Steve Strang, who was the publisher at Charisma, and he put Cahn in touch with Strang. I think Strang called him, if I remember correctly.
Tom: Right, I think that’s what you wrote. But here’s my problem: now, if God is going to guide Jonathan Cahn, who tries to clarify, “No, he’s not a prophet, but he’s a watchman.” Well, what’s the watchman to do? He’s to - if you see the evil coming, you are to point that out to people so that their blood is not on your head. So I think a watchman is a good term, but it involves discernment.
Tom: Now, if you have, supposedly, this book being guided by God to be published by Charisma…Greg, I’ve got some huge problems with that, because if you look at what - for the 36 years that Charisma has been in business, you’d be hard pressed to find anything that would not be in error, biblical error! Certainly all the word-faith, the prosperity teachers, the New Apostolic Reformation, all of these errors that are huge within the church come out of Charisma publishing.
You know, as a matter of fact, when there were some discernment ministries - which they called themselves, and I think rightly so - but they got on board with Jonathan Cahn, and my question to them was, “How can you do that? Because you would never get on board with some of these other word-faith prosperity teachers, New Apostolic Reformation, new prophets and apostles and so on.” And that’s what, for almost 35 years, that’s made up most of the propaganda machine (my term) that came out of Charisma.
So, you know, how does that work? God is going to guide him to work through this organization to get a book out? It doesn’t seem reasonable to me.
Greg: Well, I understand. I mean, I know - I don’t think I would want Charisma publishing one of my books…
Tom: Well, they couldn’t do it…
Greg: …not that I’ve written any - well, I have written one, but I mean, they would not be my publisher of choice.
Tom: Yeah. And, you see, out of that came the promotion of the book, and who did Charisma turn to to get Jonathan Cahn on board with…again, the Pat Robertsons, the Sid Roths, the Jim Bakkers - I mean, we could go on and on…the prophecy programs that are hardly biblical prophecy. So, you know, again, it just doesn’t compute with regard to God guiding him, and that’s my point here.
Greg: Yes, yes, I hear you. And I wouldn’t go as far as you would - I mean, I know you said on the last broadcast that you thought he was a false prophet, or you…
Tom: I better qualify that, right.
Greg: …hinted that he might be a false prophet. I wouldn’t go that far, I just think he’s bringing confusion by some of the things he’s saying, and his method of biblical interpretation.
Tom: Yeah, so again, and you remember last week that I qualified it by saying, at least from my definition, if you are going to distort, corrupt, abuse prophecy, which I believe he has - and you know, we published a book, The Harbinger: Fact or Fiction? authored by Dave James. So there is so much abuse and distortion of prophecy that, at least in that context, he’s a false prophet.
But let’s take this to the next level: I also mentioned that most of his so-called prophecy - you know, we used the term “retro-prophet” - in other words, he wasn’t hearing from God as to what was going to happen, he was looking back on events and saying, “Oh, this was of God, that was of God, this was of God,” and so on. It’s kind of like a Monday armchair quarterback going back over the game and analyzing it and so on. Well, I suppose you could do that, but not in terms of - that’s not biblical prophecy, okay? That’s selective ideas to put God into his own context of how God worked through these things, which is - you know, we don’t believe it’s true.
Now, let’s take it to the book that followed The Harbinger, and that is The Mystery of Shemitah. Now, Shemitah, again, a term in the Hebrew spelled S-h-e-m-i-t-a-h, or at least that’s the way phonetically you can understand it. But as you pointed out, Cahn is enamored with mysteries.
Greg: Oh, yes.
Tom: Obviously using the term “mystery” in a book title, it makes good marketing sense, but is the term “mystery” as Cahn promotes it true to the biblical meaning?
Greg: No, I have several problems with, or at least observations about, Cahn’s use of the term “mystery.” It seems to be his favorite word. Second-favorite word might be “ancient.” I, in my article, I mention that I didn’t - I did a rough count of the times he used the word “mystery” in his latest book, and I counted about 236 times - as I say, this is a rough count. I’m sure I may have missed some, or I may have added some, but not much. I mean, there were at least 236 times according to my rough count, and the book is only 276 pages, so it’s approaching once a page! It’s approaching that figure, and then as I say, he used the word “ancient,” I think, about a hundred times that I counted. And so he frequently uses the word “mystery,” whether it’s in his first book The Harbinger, or in this latest book.
Now, he did write a book in between - all three of these books are derivatives of his first book - I mean, well, The Harbinger, but then the other two books are really derivatives. The second book was kind of an explanation and elaboration on what he was saying in his first book, and then The Mystery of the Shemitah was an expansion of what he was saying in his chapter in The Harbinger on the Shemitah. But he uses, if you look at titles…for instance, you mentioned WND—what is that, WorldNewsDaily?
Greg: WorldNetDaily, okay. Thank you. He - they carry a number of his teachings, and, I mean, you just look at them and just about so many of them have the word “mystery” in them: The Mystery of the Yoma (I don’t even know what a yoma is), but The Mystery of Hanukkah, the mystery of this, the mystery of that…it’s like, come on, you know? All these mysteries.
So you use a word like that so much, it loses…it loses its intended meaning, and you asked me if it’s true the intended biblical meaning, and no, it’s not. There are certain things in the Bible that are denominated “mysteries.” The word “mystery” in Greek—well, it’s used…the word “mystery” is only used in the Old Testament. The word is raz - I don’t know if I’m pronouncing that correctly, but raz, and it’s…it’s only used in the Book of Daniel.
Then you come to the New Testament and the word is mysterium - it’s used 28 times, three times in the gospels. It’s the same - it’s the parallel account in all three gospels, but it’s used three times in the gospels, it’s used four times in Revelation, and the other 21 times it’s used in Paul’s letters. And it normally refers to something that had been unrevealed, but is now revealed. So it’s not talking about something - biblically, a mystery is kind of, as one source I consulted said, an “open secret.” It used to be a secret, but it’s no longer a secret, because in Christ, and through the gospel, these things have been revealed. So it’s not true to the biblical meaning.
There are certain things that we call “mysteries” such as the mystery of the Trinity, or the mystery of the incarnation, and these things really are mysteries in the sense that we can’t fully understand them.
Greg: We know what they are. We know that the Trinity is one God in three persons. We know that the incarnation is God taking on flesh in the Person of Jesus - God, the God-Man, Jesus. But these are mysteries - not that we don’t know what they are, but in the sense that we can’t understand them with our finite minds. We can’t fully comprehend them.
But Cahn is using the word “mystery” about just about everything in the Bible, and that just turns the Bible into a book of mysteries, and that’s not what the Bible is primarily.
Tom: Mm-hmm. See, we have a - as you pointed out - as a finite being, there are things that are going to be incomprehensible to us, because they’re way beyond our capacity, and so on. But they’re not mysteries in the marketing sense. But you have - you know, in his promotion of that idea with all the ways that he uses it, it’s attractive, because everybody loves a mystery. “Oh, this guy has some insights that we don’t have! Wow, he’s going to explain it to us!” Again, that’s a huge, huge problem.
Now, related to the term Shemitah, I think that’s an example. You point out very clearly: Why does he use that term? Here it is, a Hebrew term, but you say, “Why didn’t he use the English equivalent, which is ‘sabbatical year?’” Well, one has mystery to it, because we don’t know - you know, many of us don’t know Hebrew, but we do…we can understand a sabbatical year, but it’s not quite as exciting.
Greg: Yes, exactly. You have a wonderful point. I mean, there’s nothing mysterious about the sabbatical year, as it’s not a major biblical doctrine; it’s not even a minor biblical doctrine. And yet to see the size of Cahn’s book, you would think that this must be some, you know, major teaching in Scripture when it’s not.
Tom: Mm-hmm. Well, it brings up two questions: Did God give the commandment - the Shemitah, the sabbatical year - did he give it to any nation besides Israel?
Greg: No, he did not.
Tom: Mm-hmm. And the other question is, you know, Christ is the fulfillment of the law. Is Israel keeping that law today?
Greg: Actually, they do keep it in a limited way in Israel. For instance, it’s not required to observe the Shemitah in Israel, but I guess maybe orthodox Jews do it, I’m not sure. Some Jews do it in Israel. They let their land lie fallow, and sometimes they have a way to kind of get around the commandment not to work the land. What they will do is they will sell the land temporarily to non-Jews for the Shemitah, for the period of the Shemitah, so that they don’t work the land; but the land doesn’t necessarily lie fallow, it’s just that non…it’s just that Gentiles can work the land for them. And so there is a limited application of the Shemitah today in Israel, but it’s non-binding. I mean, in other words, the government, the Israeli government doesn’t…
Tom: Right. But you don’t play fast and loose with the law. You know, you err in one aspect of it and you’ve missed the whole law.
But this is a point I want to make, because, as I’ve said, we’ve talked about Jonathan Cahn being a retro-prophet with regard to The Harbinger - in other words, looking back and selectively saying things…“This is what God did,” and so on. And he really tries to avoid the idea of setting dates or looking forward to something that is going to happen.
Now, he can say that, but when you look at what’s written on his book, whether it on the covers or whatever, he’s - The Mystery of Shemitah (that’s the book I’m talking about), he is in the foretelling business in a way, sort of.
Now, let me just read some of these things that are written on his book. Point one: “Could there be an ancient phenomenon lying beneath some of the most critical events of modern times? Could this phenomenon be operating behind some of the most dramatic and monumental collapses of Wall Street and the global economy? Could this phenomenon underlie some of the most colossal events of modern times?” And it just goes on and on. “What does the future hold for the world?”
So he sets the reader up with this, but then, you know, the reason I said “sort of” is because this is fear-mongering kinds of things if you don’t give specifics. You know, again, this is not only date setting, but these are issues that are coming up. But if they don’t come to pass, he’s sort of equivocated. So when he’s pressed on, his response usually is, “Well, maybe it could happen, or maybe not.” So much for all the fright hype that sells his books! I mean, I think it’s really wrong, dead wrong.
Greg: Right. Well, it certainly builds anticipation for what could occur. It’s like he’s almost saying something.
Greg: He’s not coming right out and saying it, but he’s almost saying something, and…
Tom: I know, but you see, my point there, Greg, is this is why I wrote the article about the fear mongering that’s involved in this, because he’s equivocating all of this, yet some people latch onto what they’re concerned about. People have sold their homes, they’ve moved away, they’ve stored survival food, they’ve done all of this kinds of stuff, and it’s really based on him equivocating, “Oh, well, no…” As he says, “Maybe. It could happen, or maybe it won’t happen.” Well, then what’s the point?
Greg: Right. Well, I think the point is that if it happens, it makes him look really good, and if it doesn’t happen, he can say, “Well, I didn’t say it would happen.” So it’s like he has himself covered either way. And, I mean, in one sense it’s good that he isn’t coming out and saying something’s going to happen. But on the other hand, as I say, it does make him look good if something happens, and as I say, he’s got himself covered if it doesn’t. But…
Tom: Yeah, but the losers here are those elderly who buy into this out of fear. You know, they shouldn’t have fear anyway.
But we’re out of time for this session, but since Jonathan Cahn and others - you know, you can’t get away from the fact that they’re winning multitudes of Christians over to their false interpretations of Scripture.
So what’s your counsel, Greg, in the short time that we have left? What do you recommend to our readers so that they’re not susceptible to this?
Greg: Thank you, Tom, because one of the best things that I can apply to this is something that was said, actually, by Gordon Fee, who is a Pentecostal New Testament scholar. In his book, along with Douglas Stewart, How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth, he says this - he says: “Let it be said at the outset and repeated throughout that the aim of good interpretation is not uniqueness. One is not trying to discover what no one else has ever seen before. Interpretation that aims at or thrives on uniqueness can usually be attributed to pride, an attempt to out-clever the rest of the world, a false understanding of spirituality wherein the Bible is full of deep truths waiting to be mined by the spiritually sensitive person with special insight, or vested interests - that is, the need to support a theological bias, especially in dealing with texts that seem to go against that bias.” And then he says this: “Unique interpretations are usually wrong. This is not to say that the correct understanding of a text may not often seem unique to someone who hears it for the first time, but it is to say that uniqueness is not the aim of our task. The aim of good interpretation is simple: to get at the plain meaning of the text, and the most important ingredient one brings to that task is enlightened common sense. The test of good interpretation is that it makes good sense of the text. Correct interpretation, therefore, brings relief to the mind as well as a prick or prod to the heart.” And that’s what he says, and I think it’s right.
Tom: And I couldn’t agree more with that. That’s…and that’s our encouragement, folks: you’ve got to be Bereans, you’ve got to check people out, you’ve got to check out what they say. As Isaiah wrote: “To the law and the testimony: if they speak not according to God’s Word…” well, especially with regard to a particular issue, there may not be a light in them.
Greg, it’s been a joy having you on.
Greg: Well, thank you, Tom. I appreciate your inviting me.
Tom: I do appreciate your writing. So God bless you, brother, and thanks for being with us.
Greg: Well, thank you, Tom. Thank you so much for having me. I appreciate 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. Thanks for tuning in, and we hope you can join us again next week. Until then, we encourage you to Search the Scriptures 24/7.