Recently, two different people asked me to read The Harbinger by Jonathan Cahn. What follows is a digest of my review. Reading the digest will give you the gist of what I think but I recommend reading the full review.
Will America suffer devastation in the not too distant future? Was 9/11 merely a warning shot, a wakeup call to a godless nation? This is what Jonathan Cahn posits in his book, The Harbinger. Although presented in story form, Cahn claims the content is real. Here’s the basic plot: a journalist named Nouriel Kaplan receives a mysterious, ancient seal in the mail. This leads to a “chance” meeting with a man in a dark overcoat. He has no name but is a prophet. This spaghetti western-ish messenger helps Nouriel decode the seal. Nine more seals come into Nouriel’s possession throughout the story. Each builds successively on the others, and Nouriel comes to understand their meaning through the prophet’s coaching. The seals culminate in a prophetic message concerning America and every person on earth.
Though not a new Israel America is following Israel’s pattern—a nation in covenant with God that turns away from God and suffers spiritual decline. Nine harbingers of judgment portended Israel’s destruction. These nine harbingers (represented by Nouriel’s nine seals) have manifested in America and warn of America’s destruction. Isaiah 9:10 is the key to the harbingers. It was penned after Assyria invaded Israel and captures the spirit of Israel’s response to God’s warning. Isaiah 9:10 reveals a nation that was defiant instead of repentant. American political leaders at all levels of government also reacted to 9/11 with a defiant spirit. Two senators even quoted Isaiah 9:10 in public addresses about 9/11. The Great Recession and global financial crisis starting in 2008 were aftershocks of 9/11. Key moments of America’s economic collapse coincided with Shemitah, a Hebrew celebration during which debts are cancelled.
So is The Harbinger true? I find Cahn’s assumptions flawed. He says America isn’t Israel but is like Israel. This allows Cahn to (unbiblically) hold America to covenant standards while maintaining America isn’t in covenant with God.
Is God working His purposes through nations and dealing with them prophetically? Scripture indicates this was an old covenant arrangement. God is dealing with the whole world through Christ. The church is the “nation” He is working through now.
Is God moving in sync with the Judaic calendar, as Cahn says about America’s financial crises? Hebrews and Colossians tell us the law (including its calendar of religious festivals) was a shadow of reality in Christ (Heb. 10:1; Col. 2:16-17). Christ is now the time and season through which God moves.
So will America be judged? Yes. But not because of a pseudo-covenant, parallels to ancient Israel, or esoteric applications of Isaiah 9:10 to current events. America, like all human governments, is part of what the Bible calls “the world” (1 John 2:15-17). The world is the socio-political expression of fallen humanity and will suffer a cataclysmic end (2 Peter 3:7, 10).
Despite these criticisms, I still found value in Cahn’s book. He calls attention to 1) the marginalizing of Christianity in America; 2) our tolerance of ungodly things like abortion, sexual immorality, greed, and materialism (pp. 20-21). Cahn ends with a classic evangelical appeal, an altar call to every reader: Whatever America’s response to the harbingers, each of us has evil within and deserves God’s judgment. Through Jesus Christ, God became human, put Himself in our place, and took His own judgment. Because of Jesus God can forgive us. No theological problems here. Just the gospel, plain and simple.
The Harbinger was an unusual read in every way. Its hybrid nature is best approached with an open-minded skepticism. Cahn’s moral concerns and gospel presentation should be taken very seriously. His conflation of Israel and America, of the old and new covenants, should be as seriously discarded. Overall, The Harbinger is like a curiosity shop—better for browsing than buying; full of things that are more fascinating than useful.