Book Review: The Harbinger by Jonathan Cahn
“The Harbinger” by Jonathan Cahn is a fascinating narrative regarding current events connected to a prophecy given to Israel through the prophet Isaiah. Cahn insightfully draws parallels from the prophecy of God against Israel and relates that to current day United States of America. The parallels are intriguing, the dialogue is adventurous and the ramifications are significant. The challenge is, “Can such parallels be made?”
What is a harbinger? A dictionary definition would define it as “a person who heralds another” or “something that foreshadows a future event” as in a sign. “The Harbinger” is written to foreshadow an apocalyptic event in the future of the United States of America.
The story line is built around Nouriel who is drawn into a relationship with the prophet related to the events of and following 9/11. Cahn delineates nine harbingers as signs of warning to Israel, who disregarded them to her own demise, of which also parallel to events in the United States. Significant events, down to the “exact days” describe how a potential judgment is coming upon America. Included in the analyses are quotations proclaimed by the US Senate leadership and the President himself related to the defiance of Israel against God’s wrarning. Just as Israel defied God’s warning and was destroyed, so also the US is defying God’s warning and may face coming judgment. Each of the nine seals, or harbingers, unveils a premise that if the US does not return to the Lord, it will face certain judgment. The narrative is put together like a Hollywood thriller movie exploiting the details of contemporary history.
Is it possible that Cahn could be right? The coming judgment of the US seems to be certain based on the rejection of American people toward the Lord and the downward spiral of morality. Much of the story line documentation supports the premise that America will fall to a second rate country in the near future, but I would be very cautious using a prophecy given to the nation Israel. Yet, there are several reasons why the parallels should not be made.
First, Isaiah prophesied to Israel, not America. The many specifics that Cahn sites are fascinating and should cause students of Scripture to continue research into Cahn’s primary sources and to be open to continued parallels. However, you can’t take a prophecy given to Israel and directly apply it to another nation. Could God do that? Yes. In the same way, Matthew quoted from Hosea 11:1 a prophecy that God would call Israel out of Egypt and Matthew uses that in Matthew 2:15 as an interpretation applied to Jesus “called out of Egypt.” I’m very comfortable for Matthew to do that under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, however hermeneutics (laws of interpretation) don’t allow me or anyone else to take prophecies given to Israel and directly apply them to another country. Principles in application can be applied, but caution should be exercised.
Secondly, Cahn uses 2 Chronicles 7:14 as a solution for US defiance toward God. “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 I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” This a great verse, but if America does repent, the verse cannot be used for an automatic response from God. God doesn’t promise that America will be restored to world greatness, even if the American people do repent. Second Chronicles was written regarding Isreal and is there for our learning that we might have hope in God (Rom. 15:4). If the people do repent, God in His gracious sovereignty can choose to bless the United States. God is not under obligation to remove any pending divine discipline.
Furthermore, does the Isaiah prophecy apply to other countries that have existed since the time of Jesus? Maybe Cahan would say, they did not have the foundation based on biblical truth as the United States did. That may be true, but the direct comparison of the US to Israel seems stretched.
Thirdly, too many cults have proclaimed doom (Millerites 1844; Harold Camping 1994; Pentecostal William Branham 1977; Edgar Whisenant 1988; David Koresh 1993; Jehovah Witness 1914) and applied prophecy inappropriately. A Christian today does not have authority to make predictions for a specific country, when the prophecy was given to a different country. That violates principles of a literal historico-grammatical approach to interpretation. I in no way want to imply Cahn is a cult leader or not a Christian. I am not able to find a statement of faith regarding his beliefs in Jesus Christ. He seems sincere in website information.
I would also be concerned that Cahn may hold to Replacement Theology, although he never makes an issue of that in the book. Replacement Theology says that the church replaced Israel as the people of God and Israel is no longer a factor in contemporary history. On the contrary, Israel continues to be a factor and the unconditional covenants that God made with Abraham, David and Israel in the New Covenant will be fulfilled at the Second Advent.
On the other hand, I would not blow off what Cahn is saying. The unusually specific quotations parallel to what happened with Israel are most interesting. This is a well-written, captivating and inspiring dialogue. Each chapter is filled with dialogue that reveals attention to detail and exqauisite dialogue.