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Scary Stories: ‘The Harbinger’ of Fake Prophecy

You can find the wildest Christian fantasies in some “nonfiction” prophecy books, like Jonathan Cahn’s “The Harbinger.”
| Nov 3, 2017 | 4 comments | Series:

I work in Christian retail. It’s nice, on the whole. People tend to be a bit more polite than they’d be in Walmart, because they think they have to be on their “church behavior.” And if I’m going to work retail, this store is definitely the way to go.

But it can get frustrating sometimes.

As a pastor’s kid, I grew up pretty well soaked in theology. While I won’t fight over every interpretation of every verse, I do care a good deal for biblical doctrine. Which makes selling some of the material that comes out of “Christian” publishing houses a bit … difficult.

And when it comes to the end times and prophecy genre–well, don’t get me wrong, I don’t pretend to understand Biblical prophecy more or better than your average Joe Christian. I have opinions, sure, but I’m pretty open-minded as far as end-time prophecy goes because the important part is what we all believe: Christ is returning, and he’s already won. The details will play out exactly as God has intended, regardless of my interpretation of Revelation, et. al.

The media marketplace has been filled with predictions of the end times literally since the invention of the printing press, but it seems like the last fifty years or so have been particularly rife with hysteria – from Edgar C. Whisenant’s infamous 88 Reasons Why the Rapture will be in 1988 to predictions made by such dubious luminaries as Pat Robinson, Lester Sumrall, Harold Camping, and John Hagee, to the Mayan calendar panic of 2012 – it’s like everyone wants a piece of the end of the world.

Now, it’s easy to look at predictions from the past and laugh, shaking our heads at people who were so foolish as to believe that the world would end in the year 500, or 1033, or 1284, or 1656 … or any number of other dates.

But it’s a bit harder for us to have the discernment to pick out these kinds of shyster prophets before hindsight kicks in. Thousands of dollars are made daily by those who peddle doom and gloom and the end of the world, and people eat it up.

The Harbinger, Jonathan CahnOne such self-proclaimed “prophet” is Jonathan Cahn, author of bestselling books The Shemitah, The Harbinger, The Book of Mysteries, and his newest, The Paradigm.

I’m going to put it as bluntly as I can, and remember that this is coming from a fairly open-minded person:

Jonathan Cahn is a false teacher and a false prophet.

Heavy accusations, maybe. What do I have to back this up?

Well, for starters, Cahn is a man of vagaries and the answering-questions-with-questions shtick better left to the History Channel’s Ancient Aliens show. He’s a prolific and popular writer reaching millions with his nonsense. He’s on every program from Glenn Beck’s to Jim Bakker’s. (This right there should be a red flag: what in the world can a Mormon, a glitzy televangelist, and a Jewish teacher agree on that should be held as doctrinal truth by Christians? … I’m not sure, but I feel like there’s a joke hiding in there somewhere.)

This is the kind of vague teaching Cahn does: His book The Mystery of the Shemitah was built on the idea of specific seven-year cycles of jubilee and judgment, and saying that there will be “a great shaking” at the end of the 2017 shemitah—probably economic, but he hedges his bets and says that it could be spiritual, which is a lot harder to prove or disprove.

And then, just in case people start pointing out that it’s November now and all his projected dates in September came and went without anything happening, he puts out this handy little caveat:

One cannot put prophetic manifestations into a box or onto a regular schedule and expect them to perform on cue. The phenomenon does not have to manifest in every cycle or with the same intensity. It may appear dormant in one cycle and manifest in the next. Nothing has to take place in this current year of the Shemitah.1

He also claims (like many of these end-time gurus) that America is some kind of second Israel, and bound and blessed by the same covenants and promises as Old Testament Israel. God has blessed this nation, yes, but to claim that America is somehow above all other nations as specially covenanted with God is ridiculous. This egotistical Americentrism is all through his works, and is both logically and biblically questionable. No Founding Father made a two-way covenant with God in the way of Abraham or Moses, and let’s not forget that the old covenant was fulfilled in Christ and a new covenant was given in his death and resurrection.

God’s word is a revelation, He doesn’t hide obscure numerical messages in it that no one else in church history has ever seen, to be discovered after 2000 years. That would negate the point of revealing Himself. To claim that there are hidden messages in seasons, stars, and ancient texts comes dangerously close to divination, something that is specifically warned against in Scripture.

Jonathan Cahn’s “prophecy” is nonsensical fluff, and his melodramatic pumping of his own press is an instant turn off. He is either sadly deluded or a canny peddler of snake-oil, egotistically Americentric and as he has predicted things that did not come to pass he can be biblically regarded as a false prophet.

“When a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word that the Lord has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously. You need not be afraid of him.”2

Jesus said, “You shall know them [false prophets] by their fruits.”3 The fruit of Jonathan Cahn is disproven and useless “prophecy,” profiting off mysticism and fear mongering, and contributing nothing of use or edification to the body of Christ.

  1.  Jonathan Cahn, Encountering the mystery of the Shemitah, Nov. 5, 2014, ChristianRetailing.com.
  2. Deut. 18:22, ESV.
  3. Matthew 7: 15-20.
LoriAnn Weldon is a voracious reader, a sporadic writer, and lover of all things fictional. Working both as a librarian in her midwestern city and as a book cover designer for Magpie Designs, LoriAnn lives with her two roommates and an uninvited ghost cat named Holy Moses.

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>>”This egotistical Americentrism is all through his works, and is both logically and biblically questionable.”

I’m feeling some kind of existential relief building from my childhood of a dad who believes this to some greater or lesser extent, with quite a few boring books about it whose arguments I can’t be bothered to remember. But then, he’s probably a product of his generation, when the Moral Majority stuff was cool.

E. Stephen Burnett

There’s a lot Christians can appreciate about America. But there’s also a lot to compare with God’s coming world, and find wanting. Christians who get too wrapped up in Christian-Americanism often struggle with this balance.

Audie Thacker

Good thoughts.

I was listening to Kahn on the radio a few evenings ago, he was on Family
Talk discussing what he wrote in The Paradigm. Truth is, he said a lot things I could to some degree agree with; for example, regarding the wrongness of abortion and gay marriage. But his attempts to tie all of that in with Ba’al worship as talked about in the Old Testament, and trying to find some kind of national pattern in that comparison, seemed very forced.

It’s simply sad that the church as a whole in the US appears so hesitant to keep anyone with a big name accountable for their teachings and claims. ”m glad you’re doing that, to some extent.

If there’s something I would have liked more of in your review of Kahn’s works, it’s that you would have shown some examples of things Kahn wrote that were off, or predictions he made that didn’t pan out. I think that would have given your rebuke and correction more weight.

Alex Mellen

LoriAnn, thank you for being outspoken and informative about this book. I had seen it in some Christian retailers and on websites and wondered if it was the real deal. I understand what you mean about doctrinal concerns about books from Christian publishers, and it’s so important to judge everything and not judge a book based on its source.