Book Review: “The Harbinger” by Jonathan Cahn (2012)

The Ancient Mystery that holds the Secret of America’s Future

“There’s a message from Scripture now given and speaking to America. The message is a prophetic word of warning, sent to a nation that once knew God, and appointed to be given and to speak at this particular time–the time when a nation is standing in danger of judgment.” (Cahn, 121)

“Holy conspiracy theories, Batman!” A cheap introduction, I realize, but this time Robin means it literally. Here in Harbinger, author and teacher Jonathan Cahn delivers a powerful interpretation of Old Testament prophecy that could help put America’s recent trials and calamities into a more “holy” perspective. I say “could,” because I know nothing of Cahn beyond what’s reported in the book. His rendering of prophecy and “revealing of mysteries” strays a bit from traditional hermeneutics, and must therefore be taken with a full Tbs. of salt.

Cahn’s fictionalized account relays the story of a journalist’s encounters with a mysterious Prophet who, through a series of nine clay seals, helps interpret American headlines through the filter of Old Testament passages. Although these passages were originally written to and for the nation of Israel, their application to the United States is, in his interpretation, unmistakable. Israel’s cry of defiance in Isaiah 9:10 to not repent in the face of calamity, but rather to rebuild in their own power, was repeated in America through her leadership in the days and years following 9/11.

My reaction to this book comes in two forms: both delight in its format and confusion in its claims. First of all, I love that Cahn turned what seems to be a series of sermons or teachings into a fast-paced novel. Who would have thought that such a format could work? The only book that seems to have accomplished such a task so well, at least in my memory, was Charles Sheldon’s In His Steps. Because Cahn has transformed a sermon outline into a fictionalized conversation, he’s really accomplished the rare feat of both pleasing his followers and silencing his opponents. Whenever opposition arises, hoping to discredit his teachings, he could simply respond that his entire premise is fiction.

Secondly, while I admit what I just wrote regarding Cahn’s “fiction,” I am still a bit confused as to why prophecy must play such a major role in his message, outside that it helps build his fictional plot. The ties drawn between Israel’s literal cry of defiance and America’s literal echo of defiance are truly fascinating, but apart from the role they play in this novel, they are no less coincidental than the ties between Abraham Lincoln and JFK. Jonathan Cahn is a teacher whose teachings “are known for their prophetic significance and their revealing of deep mysteries of God’s Word” (back cover), assuring me that his fictional prophecy is in reality his own true beliefs. This confuses me, because the truths of Old Testament prophecy which relate to any individual or nation in any age following do not necessitate their being “prophetic” in the future-telling sense of the word. Simple biblical hermaneutics can render the principles of Old Testament prophecy, making them applicable to any individual or nation in any age. Second Chronicles 7:14 is a perfect case in point: this is a principle to be followed by the believers of any nation, a divine promise to be fulfilled by God at any time, not a prophecy for Israel and for America alone.

Cahn’s discussion of 2 Chronicles 7:14 is actually spot-on, if only he didn’t treat it as virtually useless for those outside Israel and the United States:
“[Believers] need first to repent…from their apathy, from their complacency, their compromises with darkness, their omissions, their serving of other gods, their sins committed in secret, their withholding of life, and their failure to fulfill their call…to be the light of the world.” (223-224)
Understood to go along with such repentance is that those same believers also humble themselves, pray, and seek God’s face, for only then will God forgive their national sin and heal their land. This is a powerful call to the United States, a nation once founded on godly principles but which now vilifies righteousness and embraces evil. But so is it a powerful call to Great Britain, to Somolia, to Mexico, and to China. If the believers of any nation will humble themselves and pray and seek God’s face and repent from their national sins, then God has promised to hear it all and to forgive their sins and to heal their land. This is not forth-tellingly prophetic, it is simply divinely promised.

One final thought regarding this book deals with the “Gospel” at the end of the book. While Jesus is named, and while the principles of his coming are referenced, the Gospel plan of salvation is blatantly absent. At a moment in the novel when Cahn could have shared it all, he instead skipped it all, detailing Nouriel’s conversion with only:
“I had to get my life right with God.”
“And did you?”
“Yes.” (238)
An evangelist he must not be, because this exchange certainly is not driving people to the arms of Christ, the Savior of mankind!

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. It was an exciting read, albeit 99% conversation, and I would agree with its “page-turner” description. The principles of national sin and the need for national repentance are real. I recommend this book to those who like a good mystery or “holy conspiracy theories” and are concerned about the spiritual state of their nation. I know that I am, and my thoughts have certainly been provoked by Harbinger.

©2014 E.T.

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