The Harbinger’s Bottom Line
By Terry James
The Harbinger, a novel, meaning that it is a work of fiction, has fallen under a furor of opposition to the book, which is high on The New York Times Best-Seller list. It’s author, Jonathan Cahn, a first-time author, astonishingly has been cast by some critics into the “brute beast” heap reserved for Jude’s anti-God crowd (Jude 1:10-13).
I am astonished--not because Mr. Cahn is so castigated, but because he is categorized in such a way by a few of those I respect putting forth the particular critiques in question. I mentioned in my recent review of The Harbinger that the book is a phenomenon because it defied all odds to become a New York Times Best Seller. Those who govern such things usually have a bias against anything to do with Jesus Christ or His Name, except in cases in which He is slandered or His Name is used as profanity. Yet, these have accepted the novel and even made it one of their top-rated books. Some of the critics of whom I write–the ones attempting to cast Cahn and The Harbinger in the brute-beast mold described by Jude–comparing it to the likes of The Shack--are from the group well known as purveyors of Bible truth.
This is puzzling and quite disturbing to me, especially when Mr. Cahn is implied by some (not all) of his critics of the condemning sort to not have Jesus Christ or the gospel message of salvation anywhere in the book. Chapter twenty-one of The Harbinger has one of the strongest, Christ-centered salvation messages to be found in fiction or in nonfiction, if anyone cares to check the facts. What is most distressing is that those critics–again, among the most respected Christian apologists— would write such things, knowing they aren’t telling the truth.
They wouldn’t do this, I’m convinced. This leaves only one conclusion, in my estimation. They didn’t read the whole novel–rather skimmed it, missing this most important part of The Harbinger. This is, in my opinion, an egregious act of slothfulness, which calls for an apology, not an unsubstantiated-by-the-facts apologetic.
It might be said–and most likely was said--that the very fact that The Harbinger is accepted by the likes of the Times Best-Seller list is proof that Cahn’s book is in the camp of Jude’s brute beast sort. Oh? Really? I saw no such criticism of the LaHaye-Jenkins Left Behind series coming from these same critics. Tim and Jerry used literary device–some that certainly could have been questioned—much in the same way Jonathan Cahn uses such device in his novel.
And, the fact that it is a novel, and stated as being a novel by Cahn–even is listed as fiction in the NY Times—gives license to use such literary device. Yet, the critics in question treat The Harbinger differently than the LaHaye-Jenkins fiction series, choosing to almost seem to serve as a seminary board dissecting a doctoral dissertation on Bible exegesis.
It is NOT a doctoral dissertation. It is not a nonfiction book. It is a novel. It is a fictional account of a biblically prophetic truth, in the same way as was the Left Behind series.
Some among the critics in question use the words “fiction” and “novel” together. This shows a lack of understanding of the process of using fictional literary device. It is a redundancy of terms that anyone using such reference should make the effort to comprehend, or else just not pontificate upon the matters involved.
These critics have overanalyzed, to an unwarranted degree, this work that God is using to forewarn our nation.
What has the author written that in any way detracts from God's great purpose--to draw men, women, and children to repentance? Why won't those who consider themselves the end-all purists recognize the nuances the Lord uses to accomplish that purpose? As mentioned, the LaHaye-Jenkins Left Behind series is one such device the God of Heaven used to draw people to repentance. That series was picked apart, too, but not to the degree The Harbinger has been dissected–and, certainly not by Bible students steeped in prophecy from the Scripture who should know better.
So far, I have attempted to give a broad overview of what I believe is an injustice done to a Christian author whose book our Lord is using to accomplish things some of us –including yours truly—have not been able to accomplish with our many nonfiction volumes on eschatology. It is obvious to me that The Harbinger is reaching millions in a short time, while our multitude of books has reached millions, collectively–but over decades. I see great importance in that fact, regarding the nearness of Christ’s return.
We should be cheering God’s using this work in this way; but instead, there is division--division that is counter to God’s purpose.
I will now point to some specifics as to why the criticisms against Jonathan Cahn and The Harbinger are unjust and unwarranted. Some of the following is a mixture of my own thoughts and the words of others who agree that the assault on this novel should not stand. I won’t give attribution because I don’t feel it is necessary. Those who have weighed in want only to see that this book is allowed to accomplish what the Lord has for it to accomplish in this time so near to Christ’s calling the church into His presence.
Neither will I name names of those who have, in my opinion, been unfair and inaccurate in their condemnation. Again, I don’t think that is necessary. I apologize if the following seems disjointed in some ways, as I have tried to meld and synthesize some of the conversations and emails in which I’ve been engaged involving these matters.
Some of the critics of The Harbinger who are in question begin with an erroneous assumption about eschatology, claiming that Cahn and we can only depend on the writings of Jesus and the apostles for an accurate eschatology. This smacks of hyper-dispensationalism. The entire Bible is eschatological from Genesis through Revelation. In fact, it is very hard to get a complete, accurate picture of what Jesus and the apostles were referring to without studying the Tanach, especially the Prophets, since they are pregnant with end-times passages. If it were true, as the critics in question believe, that Isaiah 9 cannot in any way be applied to us, then we would indeed, perhaps, be luciferian, as one of the critics claims regarding the tenets of this novel.
However, when the apostle Paul said, "all Scripture is profitable," he meant ALL Scripture. Consider, for example: "For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning" (Romans 15:4). Consider also that 2 Timothy 3:16 tells us that the Scripture is inspired and "profitable." Jonathan Cahn, in The Harbinger, takes some general biblical principles and makes application of them much in the same way that some pastors have used the Song of Solomon to speak of the love relationship between Christ and the church. We all believe that God is the One who saves people, yet Paul wrote: "I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means SAVE some" (1 Corinthians 9:22, emphasis added). Are we to attribute heresy to the apostle because of this statement?
Further, a chief element of the criticism I’ve read is that Cahn equates America to Israel in the matter of covenants made with and promises given the Jewish people.
The author brings out points of connection between the U.S. and Israel of old that simply are unmistakable linkages--not to God's covenant promises, but to the nation Israel as a prototype of how He must deal with sin in a corporate way.
Wasn't Nineveh given a chance to repent--and did so, thus sparing that corporate city-state? Why should America be immune from such restoration, if it is offered? And surely, it is offered. Isn't God (Jesus who is God) the same yesterday, today, and forever? Isn't He unchanging, with no shadow of turning?
One critic assumes that Cahn totally disregards the book of Revelation or does not believe in it because he never quoted it. That is ridiculous, since the subject was not the entire tome of eschatology, but a specific event, 9/11, and the aftermath of it. Cahn would have had to write an encyclopedia to meet this critic’s standard (something that even these critics have not done). Our salvation is not based on pre-trib, mid-trib, or post-trib eschatology, but on Jesus' finished work on the Cross and our belief in His literal return to establish His kingdom.
The critic in question accused Cahn of being an occultist, and then assumes that the author is saying that a real prophet actually visited Cahn and then tries to prove that the visitor could not have been a prophet because he seems to always be in the right places or appear mysteriously. Jonathan made it very clear that he was taking literary license to create the story. There was no prophet who in actuality visited him and gave him seals. The characters were fictional. The events and the Scripture were factual. He made that clear in interviews. That is part of why it can be said with a high degree of assurance that the critic in this case did not read the book objectively or do much other research.
And then there is biblical evidence for people showing up suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, to give a prophetic word, then disappear like described in 8:38-39 when the Holy Spirit snatched Philip from the Ethiopian eunuch. Was Philip an occultist practicing astral projection? Of course not. Did not the Lord tell Ananias to go to Paul and give him specific directions as to where to find him? Do you not think Paul was a little freaked by having a stranger suddenly appear at his dwelling, lay hands on him, give him a message, and then restore his sight?
The critic in this case then accuses Cahn of subscribing to replacement theology, but again shows no evidence. One brother in Christ who wrote me said: “I have known, studied with, and read the works of many Messianic Rabbis from Michael Brown to Arnold Fruchtenbaum to Kurt Schneider to many others. I have never found one yet that teaches 'Replacement Theology.' Though I could be wrong, they would be rarer than hen’s teeth. Messianics despise 'Replacement Theology' more than we do. Not only is it unbiblical, it is repugnant to them since it was the primary motivation that justified almost two millennia of inquisitions, torture, pogroms, and genocide of their people. Jonathan and I discussed this during a long phone call. He rejects replacement theology. First [this critic] makes the statement that he can prove this, then backtracks and says he cannot.”
The writer of the email then says the following: “[The critic,] in [a] radio broadcast, suggests that Cahn is a Kabbalist. Again no evidence--and ridiculous. Messianics reject the Kabbala[h] as occultist. Only the most radical Orthodox, like the Hassidim or Haredim, practices Kab[b]ala[h]. Neither do they believe in the authority of the Talmud, only Biblical Judaism. This shows [the critic’s] total ignorance of what Messianics believe.
"[The critic] then alludes to the idea that Cahn may be a Preterist or Dominionist, but again admits that he has no evidence to back it up. I have never met a Messianic that holds to Preterism or Dominionism. Those beliefs are Gentile in origin. All of them that I have read, and I have studied many, were all Pre-Millennial and Pre-Trib, Like Prasch and Fruchtenbaum. Even Sid Roth, who I do not advocate, prefers the Pre-Trib view but admits he is not dogmatic about it.”
Examining the bottom-line results of any endeavor intended to produce something worthwhile is the way to gauge success.The Harbinger is a work, I’m convinced, thoroughly meant by its author to produce repentance. This is in alignment with God’s grand purpose throughout His Holy Word, the Bible. So, let’s look at The Harbinger’s bottom line.
It has attained best-seller status on the most exclusive list of the book marketing industry. It is there against all odds--despite the world’s hatred for Jesus Christ and His one-Way only exclusivity in the matter of salvation and eternal life. The gospel (as given in chapter twenty-one of the book) is now in the hands of literally millions of people who likely would not get the message through books such as mine and those of the critics who have come down so hard on this novel. So many will read novels, who would never pick up a book of nonfiction in the Bible prophecy genre.
The Harbinger uses Scripture–even if through literary license—to call people to salvation and America to repentance. Again, it makes linkage to Israel and the U.S. in ways that cannot be denied by anyone with half a brain to see things from the recent historical perspective. America has been so intricately linked to the Jewish state in its modern incarnation that the supernatural elements of the relationship can be denied only by those who deliberately wish to rewrite history. The prophetic import of the 9/11 event, with Cahn’s putting facts together–again, using novelistic, scripturally suggested ties in the matter of calling those who will listen to repentance—is something that anyone who truly reads this book can’t help but see clearly. The key is that you must actually read it to understand what the Lord is saying through this story.
Being on guard against deception and false prophecy is a God-ordained directive–especially for these troubling days in which we find ourselves. We are all called to be watchmen and Bereans. However, the bottom line–the question, "What is a work doing for the great cause of Christ?,"—must be at the heart of that watchfulness. I implore my fellow watchmen on the wall: Save the blowing of the sirens of forewarning for activities that are truly against God’s program for His human creation. Please do not render ill thought-out criticism that is counter to our Lord’s purposes.
To do otherwise than remain faithful to accurate, just, and fair examination of such works as The Harbinger is to engage in ministry that is putting out a noneffectual, "little boy who cried wolf" message to a world already headed for destruction because of unbelief.