It tries to fit into the genre of National Treasure and The Da Vinci Code but fails miserably in my view—and I’m hardly an admirer of The Da Vinci Code.
If there had been a clear gospel presentation, these chapters might have the basis for a good tract—but definitely not for a good fictional story.
Cahn gleans nearly all of his correlations connecting America with a prophecy made to Israel from one verse—Isaiah:9:10. To begin with, this verse applies only to the tribes of the Northern Kingdom of Israel, who, along with the Southern Kingdom of Judah, comprise God’s covenant people. All the way through TH , the United States is presented implicitly as a nation in covenant with God. No, God has only one covenant nation—the nation of Israel. This is a critical error of the book. Although that may be overlooked by someone eager to recognize the U.S. in Isaiah’s prophecy, one must read the entire context, which begins with verse 8 and runs through verse 21 of chapter 9.
Cahn flip-flops between God’s judgment and God’s warning, giving the latter more emphasis as he promotes the idea that if the U.S. will heed the warning and repent of its evil ways and turn back to God, restoration and blessing will follow. Although that principle is true for every individual who turns to Him, Cahn picked the wrong passage of Scripture as a hopeful warning for America. In fact, the entire context of Isaiah:9:8-21 is a prophecy of judgment of the most devastating kind. God declares that He will send Israel’s enemies to “devour” them (v. 12), destroying her corrupt leaders and lying prophets (vv. 15-16), and “for all this,” His anger would not subside, and in His wrath He would not show them mercy. The carnage would result in civil wars among the tribes of Israel—brother against brother—with utter destruction, starvation, cannibalism (vv. 19-20), and finally captivity by her enemy. Even so, “For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out [against Israel] still” (v. 21). No “warning” is even hinted at in these verses.
Cahn’s isolation of Isaiah:9:10 and his symbolic interpretation of that verse to make it fit the September 11, 2001, jihadist attack on the U.S. is preposterous. (It’s also very odd that nowhere in the book is Islam or the term “Muslim” mentioned.) Nevertheless, as tragic as 9/11 was, what reasonably discerning person would see this as comparable to Isaiah’s account of God’s judgment on the Northern Kingdom of Israel
Furthermore, even a cursory review of American history will bring to mind far more devastating events than 9/11, from Washington, D.C. being burned and sacked in the War of 1812, to the Civil War, to Pearl Harbor, to the debacle in Vietnam, etc. Ignoring such events, Cahn zeroes in on the devastation of “Ground Zero” as verification that God has removed His “hedge of protection” from the United States. How Cahn decides what events of contemporary history God is using for His very specific purposes is troubling. Are they Cahn’s own prophetic insights or just his speculations? If the former, he is on very tenuous ground.
For many, selectivity on Cahn’s part creates some of the most compelling assertions in the novel. Again and again, as G. Richard Fisher of Personal Freedom Outreach has noted, “Cahn is playing on the old mistake of saying [that] similarity means identity.” The nine harbingers are selectively (and erroneously) taken from Scripture and are then given life by the comparison to similar things surrounding 9/11, which are then identified with Isaiah:9:10. That’s the faulty method. Fisher explains, “Similarity is not identity. A $100 bill is similar to monopoly money, which is paper, has numbers on it, and is referred to as money.” To attempt to tie them together beyond that similarity, like paying a bill with monopoly money, will have embarrassing consequences at least.
Isaiah:9:10 cannot be identified with America and 9/11, and that’s all one has to understand in order to reject Cahn’s book. Yet, for those enamored with The Harbinger and still not convinced of its serious biblical problems, consider a few of the harbingers themselves (there’s not enough space here to evaluate all of them):
The sycamore and cedar trees are mentioned in Isaiah:9:10: “The bricks are fallen down, but we will build with hewn stones: the sycamores are cut down, but we will change them into cedars.” The passage uses sycamores as a metaphor for weaker trees being replaced by stronger, taller cedars in an act of arrogant defiance by the Israelites, who will not submit to God. Cahn points to a singular sycamore and what he refers to as a type of cedar tree (actually a Norway Spruce) that replaced it at Ground Zero as harbingers connected to Isaiah:9:10. Although there is a similarity , it takes a great deal of subjective wrangling by Cahn in his attempt to make it match Isaiah’s prophecy. The context does not allow Cahn’s claims.
Another harbinger of warning to America is referred to as “The Tower.” Cahn seems hard pressed to make a biblical connection to a tower other than a vague reference that the main character makes when he’s asked how he would know what the Tower of Babel looked like. He replies, “I don’t, but I’ve seen pictures of it.” That inane statement aside, Babel was not a Jewish tower. Nevertheless, Cahn finds a Jewish tower that he believes fits. But he had to go to the Septuagint, the translation of the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek, for help. Isaiah:9:10 in the Greek is translated thus: “The bricks are fallen down, but come, let us hew stones, and cut down sycamores and cedars, and let us build for ourselves a tower. ” So, he has his “tower,” but not without an inherent problem for “harbingers six and seven.” Those harbingers are dependent upon a cedar replacing a sycamore tree. The Greek translation says “sycamores and cedars” are “cut down”; the Hebrew says that sycamores (plural) will be changed with cedars (plural). It would seem that Cahn can’t have both his “Septuagint” tower and his “Hebrew” replacement cedar (singular). They contradict one another. [For further explanation, refer to the TBC Extra page in this issue.]
There are numerous other problems with the harbingers, even though they are constructed subjectively and selectively by Cahn. Granted, the author does raise an intriguing date phenomenon related to the economic misfortunes connected with 9/11 when he attempts to link the Jewish shemitah , the Torah law of letting the land lie fallow and the forgiving of debts in the seventh year of a seven-year cycle, as a warning to the U.S. No matter what one conjectures regarding the significance of a stock market crash occurring on the first day of shemitah, the shemitah itself has no bearing on anyone or anything other than the nation of Israel. It has never applied to the Gentile nations, either in actual practice or figuratively in Scripture. To superimpose a connection with America is just that—a superimposition.
Another imposition from Cahn’s imagination is his suggestion that the inauguration of George Washington in New York City was a “consecration” of America to God similar to Solomon’s consecration of the Temple in Jerusalem. To even compare the two verges on blasphemy, especially because history reveals that much Masonic ritual was involved, as well as the “works-salvation” doctrine of Masonry contained in Washington’s speech. It was more suitable to the god of the Masonic Lodge, the Great Architect of the Universe, than to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—the God of the Bible.
Part of the dilemma in criticizing The Harbinger is that if the foundational error in it is not acknowledged (that America has some sort of covenant with God, and that there is a direct biblical correlation between Israel and the U.S. in the events of 9/11 and following), that opens the door for the acceptance of the book’s many fallacious ideas. This creates a perception of “credibility” simply by entering into a dispute over them. Even so, because most of them are so obviously wrong, pointing any one of them out to someone enthralled with the book may still be helpful. Some of these things are addressed in other parts of this newsletter and will be touched on in our future issues as questions arise.
One final thought—we all know the saying, “You shouldn’t judge a book by its cover,” and that’s a reasonable statement. But I like to check out book covers to see who’s endorsing them. That’s hardly a failsafe practice, but it can put me on “discernment alert” if it raises red flags. In the case of The Harbinger , a big red flag went up regarding the publisher. Though the cover says “Front Line,” it’s actually an imprint title of Charisma Media/Charisma House Book Group, the publisher of Charisma magazine. For those not familiar with Charisma , there is no other publication that has supported and promoted more of the unbiblical Word/Faith teachers, the “wealth and health” preachers, the Kingdom/Dominionists, the Apostles and Prophets of the New Apostolic Reformation, the so-called spirit revivals of the Toronto Airport Vineyard, the Brownsville Revival, the Lakeland Revivals, the Latter Rain/Manifest Sons of God, and so forth. There is some irony in the fact that in chapter 9 of Isaiah, TH ’s key biblical chapter, God brings down His judgment upon Israel because of “lying prophets.”
Charisma has over the years featured many who fit that description. That doesn’t automatically throw TH into a bin of rotten apples, but it should at least cause one to examine its fruit very carefully. Jesus said, “A corrupt tree [cannot] bring forth good fruit” and “by their fruits ye shall know them.”
These are days of rampant and beguiling apostasy. We need, therefore, to test all things by the Scriptures so that we do not “slip” away from God’s truth (Hebrews:2:1).
We also need to pray for and encourage our brothers and sisters in Christ that we all might be biblically discerning regarding the latest agenda, movement, trend, or popular book that is adversely influencing multitudes in the body of Christ. TBC[/QUOTE]
Folks, 2 Chronicles is not for America, we do not have a covenant with the Lord as Israel does. 2 Chronicles 7:14 - Prayer for America?
In addition, the stuff about the tree and whatever else is just nonsense. I'm staring at a tree in my yard right now, it doesn't mean my property is related to 9/11 and a curse of God.[/COLOR]
A Critique Of The Harbinger
A Critique by Jack Kelley
"The bricks have fallen down, but we will rebuild with hewn stones; the sycamores are cut down, but we will replace them with cedars.” (Isaiah 9:10 NKJV)
It’s fair to say I was a skeptic when I picked up a copy of The Harbinger, by Jonathan Cahn. I decided to read the book only because I had received several questions about it. But I soon discovered that the author makes a stunning case for a connection between the judgment of the northern Kingdom by the Assyrians in 722 BC and the judgment of America, underway since 9-11.
The way leaders of both countries responded to a limited judgment with defiance and resolve but no repentance was way beyond coincidence. And by responding with the very same words that Isaiah attributed to Israel (Isaiah 9:10), America’s leaders left no doubt in my mind that the judgments we’ve suffered are warnings from God and they didn’t grasp the meaning of Isaiah’s words even though they repeated them over and over again.
I was tracking beautifully with the author’s interpretation of our recent history and literally couldn’t put the book down as long as he was comparing Israel’s history with ours.
Then What Happened?
“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land” 2ronicles 7:13-14).
But when he used the above passage to justify his claim that America could experience a different outcome from the Northern Kingdom’s, he lost me. In my mind the book was instantly downgraded to another work of fiction, although with convincing historical and spiritual analysis. I had a hard time getting through the last few chapters, because they were just a human opinion based on an incorrect interpretation of 2 chronicles 7:14. At its end the book had become just as vague and fanciful as it had been precise and direct at the beginning.
If the author is correct in his assertion that as far as God is concerned political leaders officially speak for their country, then America is not the country of “my people who are called by my name” to whom 2 Chronicles 7:14 is addressed. At a press conference in Turkey in April of 2009 President Obama said that America is not a Christian nation. He was repeating something he’d been saying since 2007. When asked to clarify this he once said, “What I mean is America is not just a Christian nation. We are also a Jewish nation, a Muslim nation, a Buddhist nation, a Hindu nation, and a nation of nonbelievers.”
That statement doesn’t make sense. A nation may count among its residents people of many faiths, but it can’t be a nation of all of them. Such a nation could only be a nation of no official faith. And that’s what America is, we’re a nation of no official faith. (I sometimes wonder how it makes Christians from other countries feel when American Christians act as if they think America and the Church are one and the same.)
It’s true there are a lot of Christians in America. But we all belong to the Church and the Church has no national homeland, not in America and not anywhere else. The Church comes from every nation on Earth but our citizenship is in Heaven (Phil. 3:20) and that’s where our home is. American believers are not called to repent and save our country any more than believers who live in other countries are called to repent and save theirs. No matter what country we live in we’re supposed to be like Abraham, strangers in a foreign land looking forward to the city whose architect and builder is God (Hebr. 11:9-10).
Israel was a nation officially in a covenant relationship with God whose eternal destiny is to live with Him in the land He gave them here on Earth (Ezekiel 43:7). After King Solomon’s death the nation was divided, both physically and spiritually. The Northern Kingdom didn’t just split from the South, they also split from God. The Levitical Priests were expelled, and the faithful from all of the northern tribes fled to the south with them (2 Chron. 11:16). Only the unbelievers remained in the North. A new priesthood was formed and altars were erected to pagan gods. Failing to win the Northern Kingdom back, the Lord sent the Assyrians to warn them. They refused to heed the warnings and were ultimately conquered.
Even though our relationship with Him was different from theirs, America officially renounced God just as the Northern Kingdom had. Now God is judging America, and the only way for Americans to escape the coming judgment is to flee with the Church, like the believing Israelites fled with the priests. (To his credit the author did provide a moving set of instructions on how to become part of the Church.)
Once the Lord takes us home, what’s left of America will be destroyed for failing to heed God’s warnings just as the Northern Kingdom was destroyed. The dual purpose of the Great Tribulation is clearly explained in Jeremiah 30:11. The first is to completely destroy all the nations among which the Jews have been scattered, and the second is to discipline Israel in preparation for the coming Kingdom Age. If you’re looking for a Bible verse that refers to America in the end times, look at the first part of Jeremiah 30:11.
What About Them?
Things were different in the Southern Kingdom, even though they were in the process of abandoning God as well. On the Eve of their conquest by the Babylonians 120 years after the Northern Kingdom ceased to exist, God had Jeremiah tell the exiles from the Southern Kingdom:
“When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my gracious promise to bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." (Jeremiah 29:10-11)
By no stretch of the imagination can this promise apply to any one but the Jews in exile in Babylon in the 6th century BC. Such a promise was never given to the Northern Kingdom, nor has one been given to America.
After the 70 years were over, God brought the Jews who were willing to return back to the Promised Land, just like He said He would. But this was not the fulfillment of 2 Chronicles 7:14 either. The 70 year period of the captivity had been predetermined by God and at its end He brought them back like He said. 2 Chronicles 7:14 will be fulfilled when the Jewish leadership invokes the promise of Hosea 6:1-2 and petitions the Lord’s return to save them.
When Will That Be?
When Israel’s rejection of Jesus as their Messiah was complete, He finally left them alone. It had been 40 days since He provided the unmistakable sign they had asked for (the sign of Jonah, Matt. 12:39) to prove He was who He claimed to be. 40 being the number of testing, their time of testing had expired and they had failed. In Hosea 5:15 the prophet had Him saying,
“Then I will go back to my place until they admit their guilt. And they will seek my face; in their misery they will earnestly seek me.”
When the judgments of the Great Tribulation are at their worst, Israel will officially petition the Lord’s return.
“Come, let us return to the LORD. He has torn us to pieces but he will heal us; he has injured us but he will bind up our wounds. After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will restore us, that we may live in his presence” (Hosea 6:1-2).
When they do, the Lord will pour out His Spirit of Grace and Supplication. Their eyes will be opened and they will look upon Him who they have pierced and they will mourn for Him as one mourns for an only child. (Zechariah 12:10). Some scholars have suggested that Isaiah 53 will be their official prayer of confession.
On the day the Lord returns He will be King of the whole Earth. On that day there will be one Lord and His name the only name (Zech. 14:9). Then Judah will be inhabited forever and Jerusalem through all generations. Their blood guilt which I have not pardoned, I will pardon. The Lord dwells in Zion (Joel 3:20-21). 2 Chronicles 7:14 will finally be fulfilled.
On three separate occasions just before the Southern Kingdom was conquered by the Babylonians, God told Jeremiah to stop praying for the Jews because He wasn’t listening any more (Jeremiah 7:16, 11:14. 14:11). I believe America may also have reached that point with Him. It’s clear that America’s unbelievers don’t want the Church to save them, and the only believers still fighting for America’s future are the ones who don’t understand what’s ahead for the Church.
In summary, it’s not the Church’s job to save America. Our job is to store up treasure in Heaven by helping those who can no longer help themselves on Earth. In this way we show forth the light and love of the Lord in this dark and dying place. Selah 01-28-12