Before its destruction as a nation, ancient Israel received nine harbingers, prophetic omens of warning. The same nine harbingers are now manifesting in America with immediate ramifications for end-time prophecy.
Hidden in an ancient biblical prophecy from Isaiah, the mysteries revealed in The Harbinger are so precise that they foretold recent American events down to the exact days. The revelations are so specific that even the most hardened skeptics will find it hard to dismiss or put down. It sounds like the plot of a Hollywood thriller with one exception… IT’S REAL.1
These words grace the back cover of the bestselling book, The Harbinger, written by Jonathan Cahn. It has elicited multiple responses, both favorable and unfavorable, and has caused no small stir among Christians. Though published as a work of fiction, the author asserts that “90% of it is nonfiction.”2
This claim to the book’s accuracy is the foundation for many of the questions and concerns that have been expressed. Has Jonathan Cahn been granted revelation into long-hidden mysteries?3 Has he discovered a secret, prophetic warning to America contained within the pages of Scripture? Can this book, and the warnings that it contains, “save America” as has been suggested?4 The Christian must carefully consider the implications of these claims.
Due to the fact that multiple reviews have been written about this book, the following article will not attempt to duplicate those efforts. This also is not an exhaustive examination of every concern that may be raised with the book. Rather, the following paragraphs will address some aspects of the premise of The Harbinger based upon the author’s own claims shared during various radio and television interviews.
The Harbinger (TH) is based primarily upon the text of Isaiah 9:10:
“The bricks have fallen, but we will build with dressed stones; the sycamores have been cut down, but we will put cedars in their place.” Isaiah 9:10, ESV
While Cahn acknowledges that this original prophecy was meant for ancient Israel, he contends that it presents a parallel, or a pattern, for future nations. This pattern is called the “Isaiah 9:10 Effect”. America, says Cahn, is currently living out this pattern, which was set into motion on 9/11.
In a detailed review of the book, David James of Prophecy Today writes:
Thus, the Isaiah 9:10 Effect is presented as an inviolable principle that once set in motion, the corresponding prescribed outcome is inevitable. Furthermore, it is discussed as if it were completely biblical, yet nothing even remotely similar to this theoretical principle is mentioned or implied anywhere in the Word of God.
The bottom line is this: If a theological idea cannot be supported by the Bible, then someone simply made it up. Unfortunately, this is precisely the nature of the Isaiah 9:10 Effect—it is made up.5
James’s words are blunt, yet realistic. There is no biblical support for this principle and yet, since this is the foundation of TH, one can safely assume that the premise of the “Isaiah 9:10 Effect” falls into the 90% of the book that Cahn claims is true.
At this point it would be prudent to pause and inform the reader of some important acknowledgements that have been made by Cahn. He has clearly stated that he does not support or teach replacement theology, the idea that the Church has replaced Israel as God’s chosen people. He also has admitted that, through this book, he does not intend to imply that America is a covenant nation in the same manner that was Israel. Finally, Cahn is clear that individual repentance is necessary for one’s salvation. In other words, his call for America to wake up and repent for her national sins has no bearing upon the salvation of the individual.
It is encouraging to hear these affirmations, however it appears as though TH confuses or muddies some of these distinctions, thus raising concerns. Even Cahn’s own words in interviews simply add to the confusion, causing one to wonder if Cahn himself is aware of what in his story is fact and what is fiction.
Cahn claims that the previously unknown “Isaiah 9:10 Effect” was launched in America on 9/11. It is now on a trajectory that cannot be stopped. God has provided nine harbingers, or signs, to America, just as He did to Israel, as a means of warning her of impending judgment. Yet, if Isaiah 9:10 was written as more than just a prophetic word to Israel, but also as a warning of a pattern for future nations, where is the pattern?
The word “pattern” is defined by Merriam-Webster as a “frequent or widespread incidence.”6 Unfortunately, the “Isaiah 9:10 Effect,” if true, only has been implemented in ancient Israel and now, in America. Where, then, is the pattern? There doesn’t seem to be one.
Another concerning claim made by Cahn is the idea that, at its founding, America was dedicated to God and that God is acting in accord with this supposed commitment. Jonathan Cahn explains this further in an article appearing in the September 2011 edition of Sid Roth’s newsletter, Mishpochah:
When judgment came to Israel, the calamity returned the people’s attention to the place where the nation had been consecrated to God — the Temple Mount. God was calling the nation back to Himself. What about 9/11? Could there be, in the American calamity, as well, a mystery of return? Could there be a prophetic message hidden in the place where it happened? There is a place, where America was consecrated to God in prayer. It is also a place linked to a prophetic warning given on that same day — uttered by the nation’s first President — now coming to pass. What is that place? Ground Zero.
In 1789, newly inaugurated President, George Washington, gave a prophetic warning at Federal Hall in New York City. He declared that America’s prosperity and protection were dependent upon its adherence to God. Later, the political leaders of this young nation gathered at St. Paul’s Chapel to commit the nation’s future to God’s purposes. That Chapel is located at Ground Zero and survived 9/11 virtually unscathed.7
Even if it is true that America’s leaders at that time commited “the nation’s future to God’s purposes,” where is the evidence that God acknowledged such a commitment and agreed to honor it? Cahn also seems to imply that God’s hand of protection was on this chapel on the day of 11 September 2001. St. Paul’s Chapel, where this event took place in 1789, is now part of Trinity Church, an Episcopal parish. The chapel serves not only as a place of worship but also
hosts concerts, community sing-alongs, labyrinth walks, visiting choirs, organ recitals, and other events.8
It is interesting that St. Paul’s Chapel possesses its own labyrinth, which is one method of engaging in unbiblical, mystical meditation. This church has also invited Richard Rohr, a Franciscan priest, to speak at their upcoming Trinity Institute.9 Rohr is well-known for his teaching of contemplative, mystical practices. He also has had a large influence on what has come to be known as the Emergent Church. Yet, are we to believe that God has His hand of protection on a place that promotes these practices? Such a thing seems difficult to believe.
Consistent with Cahn’s apparent belief that America has been committed “to God’s purposes” and thus consequently must share a special relationship with Him, is Cahn’s employment of the principle of the Shemitah. David James explains the history of the Shemitah:
In the Law God commanded that every seventh year Israel must allow the land to completely rest with no harvesting, reaping or any other work in the fields. In addition, all who owed money to creditors were to be released from their debts (Deut. 15:1-2). This was the Shemitah (or “release” in Hebrew).
Humanly speaking, the Shemitah should be crippling for any nation that attempted to practice it. However, Israel was not just any nation. It was the one special nation God had raised up to be His chosen people. God would demonstrate His love and faithfulness to Israel by providing enough in the sixth year to meet the nation’s needs the following year. Conversely, Israelites would demonstrate their faith in God as individuals and as a nation by obeying the command to keep the Shemitah and trusting Him for the results.10
According to James, within the pages of TH, Cahn rightly asserts that the Shemitah never was binding upon any nation other than Israel. Yet, somewhat confusingly, Cahn seems to contradict this same thought:
However, in an apparent contradiction, he also believes that hidden in the Shemitah is a mystery that is now affecting the United States—a mystery that extends to even the precise timing of events to the day. He argues that God has imposed a Shemitah upon the United States as He did when Israel had turned from Him and failed to voluntarily observe the Shemitah for centuries. In what seems to be an attempt to mitigate this contradiction, he presents the Shemitah as a principle as he did the Isaiah 9:10 Effect. Yet, as is true of the Isaiah 9:10 Effect, Scripture nowhere presents the Shemitah as either a mystery or a pattern or a universal principle connected with God’s judgment.11
In each interview considered by this writer, including his recent appearance on Glenn Beck TV, Cahn can be heard making these assertions. He also affirmed this belief in a September 2011 appearance on Sid Roth’s It’s Supernatural.
Roth himself is a Messianic Jew and has been known to have some questionable guests on his show. For example, just one week before Cahn was a guest on It’s Supernatural, Roth welcomed Surprise Sithole, who claims to be able to raise people from the dead. On 26 December 2011, Roth’s guest was Don Heist. Heist asserts that people have been healed of cancer, blindness and other ailments at the playing of his shofar. Of the shofar, Roth commented that “there is an anointing, a presence of God” upon it.12
Just as Roth eagerly confirmed these guests and many like them, so he was anxious to applaud and endorse Jonathan Cahn’s book. As the two discussed TH on the 26 September 2011 episode, the topic of the Shemitah was raised. Just as he alludes to in TH, Cahn explained that when a nation turns away from God, thus breaking the Shemitah, then it comes back to that nation as a judgment. In regard to Israel, this judgment took the form of the Babylonian exile. The exile, of course, was a judgment imposed because Israel failed to observe the Sabbath year every seven years.
Cahn seems to believe that this timeframe of seven years is standard among God’s judgment of countries that break Shemitah. For America, this judgment began with 9/11. Seven years later in 2008, notes Cahn, America experienced the “greatest stock market crash in history.” This comparison between Israel and America, however, seems to fail to prove the existence of the biblical pattern that Cahn claims exists. Again, we turn to David James for more detail:
However, this doesn’t follow “the ancient pattern.” Ancient Israel was overrun by a foreign army with everything of value either destroyed or taken. In sharp contrast, even though the U.S. and global economy has gone through a serious contraction and certainly many have been hurt, it has not been even close to the scale, relatively speaking, of the utter devastation that occurred in Israel.13
Unfortunately, it seems that to attempt to follow Cahn’s logic and validate his claims for the foundation of TH is to find oneself unraveling a large, knotted ball of secrets, mysteries and ultimately, speculation. In nearly every interview reviewed by this writer, Cahn claims that the Isaiah 9:10 Effect is a pre-determined pattern, yet his evidence fails to demonstrate it as fact.
In listening to Cahn, it doesn’t take long to hear his genuine concern for the state of America, and his passion to relay what he believes to be a prophetic message to the nation. Yet, this passion and concern means nothing when Scripture is mishandled in order to communicate it.
It is difficult to argue the impending judgment of this nation. In fact, this may be taken one step further to say that America already is under judgment. To make this statement, one need not look to a prophetic passage designed for Israel, and one need not even declare America to be or to have ever been “dedicated,” “committed” or in covenant with God. One need only look to Romans 1. If ever there was a pattern for the judgment of a nation, this opening chapter of Paul’s great epistle is it.
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.
Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.
For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.
And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.
Rom. 1:18–32, ESV
Preaching about this passage in 2006, Dr. John MacArthur noted:
The wrath of God is already operating in our culture. And God has abandoned our society on a wide scale and let our society go the way it chooses to go without restraint. But God has abandoned our society because our society has first abandoned God. There is no surer and no sadder evidence of a corrupted, wicked abandoned society than when that society will not tolerate anger against sin. Our society won’t tolerate anger against sin. Our society feeds on sin and wants no one to deny it its iniquities. And so, here we are under the wrath of God’s abandonment. It isn’t like it once was. Restraining grace has been pulled back and this society gets more immoral, more homosexual and more depraved every day. And why? I’m going to show you a sequence starting in verse 18 that has led us to this. The major reason is summed up in one statement. “We suppress the truth.”14
This is why the focus of the Christian ought not to be on secrets and mysteries and “waking up” to save or even to warn America, unless that warning is to individuals and their need to repent and place their trust in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.
There will come a day when America ceases to exist as a nation. On that day it will not matter how many years passed between 9/11 and one of many stock market crashes. It will not matter that a mere building, even a chapel, survived calamity. On that day all that will matter is each man or woman’s relationship with Christ. Those who have been reconciled by His blood will enter eternity with Him, and those who have not been saved will enter into eternal condemnation. To his credit, Cahn acknowledges this, as David James points out:
Jonathan Cahn wrote The Harbinger to call America to repent and turn to God, as well as to warn the nation that it is in danger of coming under the judgment of God if it fails to do so. This is a legitimate and very important message. He also rightly recognizes that the danger faced by the nation is ultimately a personal spiritual matter for each American.15
Patriotism does not have to be sinful, so long as one’s focus ever remains on Christ. When that gaze is distracted for even a moment by temporal matters, then one finds oneself walking a precarious line. This appears to be where the problem lies with The Harbinger and the foundation upon which its story was built. It distracts the reader not only from a right understanding of what should be the focus of the Christian, but it also distracts from a proper understanding and handling of God’s Word, a diversion which could prove exceedingly dangerous.
This article was not written as a means of attack against Jonathan Cahn or his work. Rather, it was written out of concern for those who may be swept up into the exhilaration of being enlightened of newly discovered mysteries. It was written out of concern for those whose focus may be lifted off of Christ, and instead placed upon “harbingers”. It was written as a plea for readers to remember that all things must be tested against Scripture.
The Harbinger: Prophetic Fact or Fickle Fiction? Apprising Ministries
A Commentary on The Harbinger Sola Sisters
The Harbinger: Fact or Fiction? Prophecy Today
The Harbinger by Dr. Gary Gilley
The Harbinger: A Review and Commentary by Pastor Larry DeBruyn
- Jonathan Cahn, The Harbinger (Charisma Media: 2011). ↩
- Understanding the Times,21 April 2012, 4:45. ↩
- Understanding the Times, Web Bonus, 21 April 2012, 18:35. ↩
- Understanding the Times, Web Bonus, 21 April 2012, 27:28. ↩
- David James, The Harbinger: Fact or Fiction?. ↩
- Merriam-Webster Dictionary, accessed 11 June 2012. ↩
- Jonathan Cahn, Mishpochah, September 2011. ↩
- St. Paul’s Chapel, “About Us,” accessed 27 June 2012, http://www.trinitywallstreet.org/congregation/spc/about. ↩
- “Trinity Institute: Themes & Speakers,” accessed 27 June 2012, http://www.trinitywallstreet.org/faith/institute/2012/speakers/rohr. ↩
- David James, The Harbinger: Fact or Fiction?. ↩
- David James, The Harbinger: Fact or Fiction?. ↩
- It’s Supernatural, 26 Dec. 2011. ↩
- David James, The Harbinger: Fact or Fiction? ↩
- John MacArthur, When God Abandons a Nation, 20 August 2006. ↩
- David James, The Harbinger: Fact or Fiction? ↩