Recently I was asked why I found The Harbinger problematic.
The Harbinger written by Jonathan Cahn is a New York Times best seller and is accompanied by a companion DVD. The DVD is noted as “The #1 Christian Documentary of 2012”
I have reviewed the book and DVD. Here is a very short answer to the question.
Jonathan Cahn makes a compelling presentation that really gets a person’s attention. However, applying a text that directly relates to Israel, and was fulfilled historically, does not provide a solid case for application to America. He stretches and maneuvers facts to a degree that is inconsistent with good hermeneutical handling of prophecy and fulfillment.
Example: Cahn applies the Israeli declaration, “The bricks have fallen but we will rebuild with hewn stones” to the builders of the Freedom Tower in New York City. Did the builders of the Freedom Tower rebuild the Trade Towers with hewn stones or did they put a hewn stone at the ground zero location as a memorial? Suggesting this is a direct or secretive fulfillment of prophecy is a stretch at best.
Cahn claims that the first “Harbinger” is that the walls of America were breached. He said this occurred on September 11, 2001. However, this was not the first time the walls of America were breached… Are we called to believe that the former activities aimed at the destruction of America were also related to Cahn’s “secret message/interpretation” hermeneutic? If so, what did we miss in failing to interpret them correctly in the past? Why is this event “secretly hidden” in the Bible and not the others? Are there secret messages like this one for China, Russia, Canada? Why America?
I do think that the point by point “Harbingers” he points to provide an interesting pattern. It is compelling and it does get a person’s attention. However, it does not fit the kind of literal interpretive model I’m comfortable with. I do agree with him that America is in trouble and needs to repent. However, Cahn says that “II Chronicles 7:14 applies to America.” After quoting the text he said, “That is the word for America.” Although he does not deny the verses literal first reference and application, the practice of eisegesis he employs creates a dangerous hermeneutical rule that when applied to other passages can have heretical results.
Cahn suggests that if Christians in America repent of their sins then God will heal our land. This is a clever way out for him (and for others who make these kinds of claims). i.e. If Christians in America don’t repent then God is not required to heal our land. I would ask, how many Christians have to repent? All? Some? This is far too problematic to address here as it would involve considerable evaluation and examination through the lens of soteriology and eschatology. Is God holding America accountable for the sins of Christians whom Cahn claims are the “My people” of 2 Chronicles 7:14? No one would deny that Christians in America sin. However, has God decided to hold in contempt Christians He claims to have forgiven and sanctified by His grace? Is He going to Judge America because the Christians sin? Is he going to withhold Judgment on unregenerated Americans if Christians stop sinning?
It seems that Cahn is mingling a functional from of Covenant style Theology with his Dispensational views. This is a common problem in many churches today.
In short, The Harbinger is interesting, but as a theological/eschatological/soterioligical thesis it has dangerous fruit.
I have not personally met Jonathan Cahn but have been told he is a sincere man with a heart for God. It seems clear that his desire is for Americans to repent and turn to 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.” 2 Chronicles 7:14 (NKJV)
“My people” in the context of the passage refers to Israel. If we apply this principle to any other group we have problems.
If “My People” refers to Christians in America then we have to draw several conclusions.
- “My people” is the Church in America
- “…will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways…” Suggests that God’s people are engaged in pride, prayerlessness and wickedness; which may be true of some, but not all.
- “I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin.” Suggests that God will listen to Christians and forgive their sins only if they humble themselves, pray, seek His face and stop sinning in order to be forgiven. It would also suggest that the sins of Christians is not once for all forgiven but that Christians would have to continually humble themselves, pray, seek His face and stop sinning in order to be or remain forgiven.
“God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, 2 has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; 3 who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high…” (Heb 1:1–3)
- “heal their land.” Suggests that God is committed to the land of America and that He will heal the land of drought, plague and pestilence. (See 2 Chron 7:13)
Questions For Thought
- Has God ever said anywhere in the Scriptures that He is committed to America like He is to Israel?
- Has God (in the Church Age) ever healed a land because the Christians in the land stopped sinning?
- What form of healing are we referring to if not as stated in 2 Chron. 7:13? Financial? Disease? Crime?
- Is there any prophecy of Scripture that says that God will heal any land but Israel?
- Has any “group” of Christians ever stopped sinning?
- Will God heal America if all Christians stopped sinning and the unregenerated still continue sinning?
- Will all Americans ever stop sinning?
- Is God holding America accountable for the sins of Christians?
- Will this rule apply to any other country? Canada? China? Russia?
- Will it work in a city? San Francisco? Damascus?
- Will the 2 Chron. 7:14 formula work in any country (other than Israel) if God has already said that the nations will not repent?
Paul D. Van Noy, Pastor