When I first saw a short interview with Jonathan Cahn, I was intrigued at the points he presented. The video was compelling. He spoke of a series of nine signs, which he believed had taken place in America beginning with the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
Many have tried to insert a greater significance to the attacks on this day, trying to make sense out of such a ruthless act. Are there not other events in American history that are equally, if not more, as devastating as 9/11 (i.e., the Revolutionary war, the Civil War, or Pearl Harbor and WW2) Why are these not found to have biblical significance? Certainly, they brought more death and destruction than 9/11. (What of the 1929 crash?) Must we find America in the Bible? A country that has no mention in the Bible but may be indirectly mentioned or referred to with others (i.e., possibly implied, not by name, in Ez.38:13).
Then I further learned it was not just a video, but a book, subtitled An ancient mystery that holds the secret of Americas future. And it is called fiction, which means an invented story. “What you are about to read is presented in the form of a story, but what is contained within the story is real” (p. v.)
Let me quote what is said on the book:
The book traces a series of detailed parallels between what has happened in the United States since the 2001 terrorist attacks—including the economic collapse—and Israel’s history after it turned away from God. Told in fictional narrative, the book unfolds how nine signs concealed in recent events reveal God’s progressive judgment.
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.
If one is going to state Isaiah 9:10 contains an ancient mystery that holds the secret of America’s future, then it cannot be a fiction. If it is being presented as a fiction story when in fact it is directly connected to Scripture as a prophecy of judgment upon a nation, then one is denigrating the intent, diminishing its impact to actually have the result that it is supposed to carry. Is the demise of America now a story to entertain?
The DVD became a big seller on the faith chart at Amazon.com… premiered at No. 1 on Amazon’s New Release among several end time scenario books (published by FrontLine, an imprint of Charisma House). It hit the New York Times best-seller list within days of its release. It is also in the top 10 most popular documentaries of any kind.
It’s no secret that there is as much misunderstanding as there is controversy surrounding this book. It does matter how one communicates what he or she has drawn from the Scripture so there will be a minimum of misunderstanding to readers. One of the ways we show maturity is when there is a disagreement, we discern the matter together; it is discussed and looked at by the Bible, determining what is accurate so we are not going by just our own opinion. Needless to say, there are a lot of opinions, pro and con – our discernment must be accurate. There are legitimate concerns here on the interpretation and application of Scripture.
One of the problems is the subjective nature of a story; are people reading into the book something Jonathan Cahn may not be saying? Cahn has not claimed to be a prophet yet he affirms his message is prophetic, from the Scripture.
All this reminds me of a book that made a huge impact when I first became a Christian, This Present Darkness, a book by Frank Peretti, who wrote a thriller on the behind-the-scenes world of Spiritual warfare. People began taking the book as actual instructions from the Bible.
The context of Isaiah 9:8-21 is important, for it is a prophecy of judgment. It begins with:
“The LORD sent a word against Jacob, and it has fallen on Israel.” God declares that He will send Israel’s enemies, the Syrians and the Philistines, to “devour” them (v. 12) V.13: “For the people do not turn to Him who strikes them, nor do they seek the LORD of hosts.” V. 15-16: “The elder and honorable, he is the head; the prophet who teaches lies, he is the tail.” God says he will destroy the head and the tail; who are the corrupt leaders and lying prophets. “For the leaders of this people cause them to err, and those who are led by them are destroyed.”
This will result in civil wars among the tribes of Israel, brother against brother, bringing destruction, starvation, and even cannibalism (vv. 19-20). His anger would not subside, and in His wrath, He would not show them mercy. It ends with v.21: “Manasseh shall devour Ephraim, and Ephraim Manasseh; together they shall be against Judah. For all this His anger is not turned away, but His hand is stretched out still.”
We read in Cahn’s book that the nine “harbingers” in the Isa. 9 passage would take place if Israel did not heed the warnings. These were real, and they did take place. The question is: Does God always give the same pattern signs before judgment? Is he doing this to the United States of America today? Cahn says this is a call to national repentance as it was for Israel. Here is the first problem and probably the basis for this whole matter. This is not a “warning” for repentance but a prophecy of judgment. Can it be extracted and specifically applied to America when it was fulfilled by Israel? To apply this to America is to more than overstate it. Similarities at one (or a few) point[s] is not sameness. Can we say that America is making the same mistakes Israel made? Yes, in various ways; but to make a direct correlation to the Scripture (Isa.9:10) is not possible; they can only be examples in principle.
I don’t think it is necessary to go into detail on all points if we understand how prophecy is applied. The literal biblical text is the history of Israel in the 8th century B.C.- it is not current events. If Cahn is correct in these signs (harbingers) of Isaiah, the judgment has come on America; it as certain as night follows day, as it was to Israel at that time.
Having said this, I think we can all agree that America is seeing judgment in a number of ways, but to say they correspond exactly to Israel’s judgment or it is a text about America is a stretch. Hunger, unemployment, rise of prices, lack of rain can be signs that judgment is occurring, especially when they are all happening within the same time period.
I can agree with the intent of The Harbinger, which is to call America to repentance for the abandoning of our so-called foundations on which the country was built and her turning away from God. But we have to understand a number of things to have the right premise. Israel was a theocracy, America was not. Even if one believes America is a Christian nation, America was not (nor is now) a Christian nation in the way Israel was a nation under YHWH.
The problem I see is that the book directly links the Isaiah Scripture to America’s history. Without going into all the quotes and problems that many other commentators have already given, let me present a few that are significant:
The Prophet: “But there was one other—a civilization also conceived and dedicated to the will of God from its conception . . . America. In fact, those who laid its foundations . . .”
Noriel Kaplan: “The Founding Fathers.”
The Prophet: “No, long before the Founding Fathers. Those who laid America’s foundations saw it as the new Israel, an Israel of the New World. And as it was with ancient Israel, they saw it as in covenant with God.”
No doubt, Cahn is referring to the Pilgrims and is presenting the idea to the reader that America’s founders and early leaders established the nation to be in a covenant relationship with God like ancient Israel. While they may have thought this, it is God Who initiated a covenant relationship with only one nation. It is through Abraham he established covenant. Israel is unique as far as mankind’s history goes.This part of Cahn’s story of America being the New Israel does bring more confusion than clarity about Israel, the nation from Abraham.
There are principles that can be applied in both blessing and judgment, and there are patterns in prophecy that are exhibited until its ultimate fulfillment. Paul says the Old Testament is the believer’s example.
Is America following the same patterns that have exact results that happened to Israel or following principles presented in the Bible? Throughout The Harbinger, we find that these are not parallels but a direct correlation, based on what is clearly stated in the book by the main characters. Here are a few examples:
Ana Goren asks: “How could an ancient mystery have anything to do with September 11?”
Nouriel Kaplan: “An ancient mystery behind everything from 9/11 to the economy . . . to the housing boom . . . to the war in Iraq . . . to the collapse of Wall Street. Everything in precise detail” (p.3).
The Prophet: “The Assyrians are the fathers of terrorism, and those who mercilessly plotted out the calamity on 9/11 were their spiritual children, another link in the mystery joining America to ancient Israel”(p.3).
Kaplan: “Some link between this city and the ancient vow,” I said. “Somehow Isaiah 9:10 has to be connected to Washington DC.”(p.61)
The Prophet: “Solomon was the king of Israel. Washington was the first president of the United States. There was something in the linking of ancient Israel and America, as with all the other mysteries.”(p.109)
Solomon was appointed King, Washington was elected, hardly a good correlation. To see the inauguration of George Washington in New York City as a “consecration” of America to God in the same manner as Solomon’s consecration of the Temple in Jerusalem is not a good way to connect this event to the Scripture. This is linking the dots when there are none to link.
There are certain scriptures we will not fully understand until the end (Dan. 12:8-9). But can Isaiah 9:10 be a prophetic judgment on the United States when 2 Peter 1:20: “knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation.” To correlate current events directly to the Isaiah 9:10 prophesy is dubious. There are always principles that can be applied in both blessing and judgment, and there are specific patterns in prophecy that are exhibited in history until its ultimate fulfillment. Paul says the Old Testament is a believer’s example. If one does certain things wrong, we can see the outcome because it is written in Scripture with Israel in the past. Similarities found in prophecy are not sameness. If Cahn were contrasting pattern and applying it’s eschatological manner for America, it would be valid. If the prophecies to Israel are directly applied to America, not just in application but exegetically, then it is invalid. This is not an accurate hermeneutic.
God made no covenant with America as he did with Israel. How does a country repent when the majority of leaders of that country are not just irreligious but anti God and anti Israel (yes this does come into the picture because of Joel 3; should not America repent of forcing Israel to give up land?)? Any covenant found in America is between the Church and Jesus Christ (i.e., those who were saved by his gospel and enter into the New covenant by faith).
Let us apply a principle of Isa. 9: “For the leaders of this people cause them to err, and those who are led by them are destroyed.”
After 9/11, instead of true repentance, ecumenical interfaith was instigated by the spirit of American patriotism. Many Christian leaders joined in prayer with leaders of all faiths to console our nation. How would this repentance be done with so many different religions involved? Do we tell everyone to turn to their God (as Glenn Beck seems to do in his patriotic meetings)? Are these same leaders going to lead us to repentance? Humbling oneself and turning to the true God is more difficult than ever in our day. Maybe if these leaders took more time giving the gospel, America would not be in the spiritual state she’s in.
God has given us the signs in His Word:
Mark 13:12-13: “Now brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death.” And you will be hated by all men for My name’s sake.”
Jesus said the last days would be like the days of Noah, where they would be filled with violence. So is it really necessary to find signs as mystery into the Scripture?
2 Tim. 3:1-5: “But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!”
These are the signs to look for in any country, not just America. If you want to know where America is – this is the indication, just like any other country. Yet it says to us as individuals “For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; (Lk.12:48)
Luke 11:29-30: Jesus said to those gathered, “This is an evil generation. It seeks a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah the prophet. “For as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so also the Son of Man will be to this generation.”
The sign of the resurrection is the harbinger to all people, to all generations subsequent, to repent and believe in the Only True God, Who became man and rose from the dead. As Paul summed it up to the philosophers of his day on Mars Hill where they practiced religious pluralism in Acts 17:30-31: “Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.” (also 2 Pet.2:9)