A Critique of The Harbinger

This Week’s Feature Article by Jack Kelley

“The bricks have fallen down, but we will rebuild with hewn stones; the sycamores are cut down, but we will replace them with cedars.” (Isaiah 9:10 NKJV)

It’s fair to say I was a skeptic when I picked up a copy of The Harbinger, by Jonathan Cahn. I decided to read the book only because I had received several questions about it. But I soon discovered that the author makes a stunning case for a connection between the judgment of the northern Kingdom by the Assyrians in 722 BC and the judgment of America, underway since 9-11.

The way leaders of both countries responded to a limited judgment with defiance and resolve but no repentance was way beyond coincidence. And by responding with the very same words that Isaiah attributed to Israel (Isaiah 9:10), America’s leaders left no doubt in my mind that the judgments we’ve suffered are warnings from God and they didn’t grasp the meaning of Isaiah’s words even though they repeated them over and over again.

I was tracking beautifully with the author’s interpretation of our recent history and literally couldn’t put the book down as long as he was comparing Israel’s history with ours.

Then What Happened?

“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 will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:13-14).

But when he used the above passage to justify his claim that America could experience a different outcome from the Northern Kingdom’s, he lost me. In my mind the book was instantly downgraded to another work of fiction, although with convincing historical and spiritual analysis. I had a hard time getting through the last few chapters, because they were just a human opinion based on an incorrect interpretation of 2 chronicles 7:14. At its end the book had become just as vague and fanciful as it had been precise and direct at the beginning.

If the author is correct in his assertion that as far as God is concerned political leaders officially speak for their country, then America is not the country of “my people who are called by my name” to whom 2 Chronicles 7:14 is addressed. At a press conference in Turkey in April of 2009 President Obama said that America is not a Christian nation. He was repeating something he’d been saying since 2007. When asked to clarify this he once said, “What I mean is America is not just a Christian nation. We are also a Jewish nation, a Muslim nation, a Buddhist nation, a Hindu nation, and a nation of nonbelievers.”

That statement doesn’t make sense. A nation may count among its residents people of many faiths, but it can’t be a nation of all of them. Such a nation could only be a nation of no official faith. And that’s what America is, we’re a nation of no official faith. (I sometimes wonder how it makes Christians from other countries feel when American Christians act as if they think America and the Church are one and the same.)

It’s true there are a lot of Christians in America. But we all belong to the Church and the Church has no national homeland, not in America and not anywhere else. The Church comes from every nation on Earth but our citizenship is in Heaven (Phil. 3:20) and that’s where our home is. American believers are not called to repent and save America any more than believers who live in other countries are called to repent and save theirs. No matter what country we live in we’re supposed to be like Abraham, strangers in a foreign land looking forward to the city whose architect and builder is God (Hebr. 11:9-10).

Israel was a nation officially in a covenant relationship with God whose eternal destiny is to live with Him in the land He gave them here on Earth (Ezekiel 43:7). After King Solomon’s death the nation was divided, both physically and spiritually. The Northern Kingdom didn’t just split from the South, they also split from God. The Levitical Priests were expelled, and the faithful from all of the northern tribes fled to the south with them (2 Chron. 11:16). Only the unbelievers remained in the North. A new priesthood was formed and altars were erected to pagan gods. Failing to win the Northern Kingdom back, the Lord sent the Assyrians to warn them. They refused to heed the warnings and were ultimately conquered.

Even though our relationship with Him was different from theirs, America officially renounced God just as the Northern Kingdom had. Now God is judging America, and the only way for Americans to escape the coming judgment is to flee with the Church, like the believing Israelites fled with the priests. (To his credit the author did provide a moving set of instructions on how to become part of the Church.)

Once the Lord takes us home, what’s left of America will be destroyed for failing to heed God’s warnings just as the Northern Kingdom was destroyed. The dual purpose of the Great Tribulation is clearly explained in Jeremiah 30:11. The first is to completely destroy all the nations among which the Jews have been scattered, and the second is to discipline Israel in preparation for the coming Kingdom Age. If you’re looking for a Bible verse that refers to America in the end times, look at the first part of Jeremiah 30:11.

What About Them?

Things were different in the Southern Kingdom, even though they were in the process of abandoning God as well. On the Eve of their conquest by the Babylonians 120 years after the Northern Kingdom ceased to exist, God had Jeremiah tell the exiles from the Southern Kingdom:

“When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my gracious promise to bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. (Jeremiah 29:10-11)

By no stretch of the imagination can this promise apply to any one but the Jews in exile in Babylon in the 6th century BC. Such a promise was never given to the Northern Kingdom, nor has one been given to America.

After the 70 years were over, God brought the Jews who were willing to return back to the Promised Land, just like He said He would. But this was not the fulfillment of 2 Chronicles 7:14 either. The 70 year period of the captivity had been predetermined by God and at its end He brought them back like He said. 2 Chronicles 7:14 will be fulfilled when the Jewish leadership invokes the promise of Hosea 6:1-2 and petitions the Lord’s return to save them.

When Will That Be?

When Israel’s rejection of Jesus as their Messiah was complete, He finally left them alone. It had been 40 days since He provided the unmistakable sign they had asked for (the sign of Jonah, Matt. 12:39) to prove He was who He claimed to be. 40 being the number of testing, their time of testing had expired and they had failed. In Hosea 5:15 the prophet had Him saying,

“Then I will go back to my place until they admit their guilt. And they will seek my face; in their misery they will earnestly seek me.”

When the judgments of the Great Tribulation are at their worst, Israel will officially petition the Lord’s return.

“Come, let us return to the LORD. He has torn us to pieces but he will heal us; he has injured us but he will bind up our wounds. After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will restore us, that we may live in his presence” (Hosea 6:1-2).

When they do, the Lord will pour out His Spirit of Grace and Supplication. Their eyes will be opened and they will look upon Him who they have pierced and they will mourn for Him as one mourns for an only child. (Zechariah 12:10). Some scholars have suggested that Isaiah 53 will be their official prayer of confession.

On the day the Lord returns He will be King of the whole Earth. On that day there will be one Lord and His name the only name (Zech. 14:9). Then Judah will be inhabited forever and Jerusalem through all generations. Their blood guilt which I have not pardoned, I will pardon. The Lord dwells in Zion (Joel 3:20-21). 2 Chronicles 7:14 will finally be fulfilled.

On three separate occasions just before the Southern Kingdom was conquered by the Babylonians, God told Jeremiah to stop praying for the Jews because He wasn’t listening any more (Jeremiah 7:16, 11:14. 14:11). I believe America may also have reached that point with Him. It’s clear that America’s unbelievers don’t want the Church to save them, and the only believers still fighting for America’s future are the ones who don’t understand what’s ahead for the Church.

In summary, it’s not the Church’s job to save America. Our job is to store up treasure in Heaven by helping those who can no longer help themselves on Earth. In this way we show forth the light and love of the Lord in this dark and dying place. Selah

Grace Thru Faith

The Harbinger

19 responses

  1. …and the only believers still fighting for America’s future are the ones who don’t understand what’s ahead for the Church.

    Not necessarily true. We do not know when we will be raptured from earth. We should continue to fight for America’s future since we know that this nation is a gift from God of which we should be as good of stewards as we can be. America’s future is our children’s temporal earthly inheritance where the Gospel may freely be shared until the day that blessed activity ends. And it will one day. But let us not be caught by God in apathy for the sake of lost souls in our nation. It is these lost souls throughout our history that have been the chief reason for the state America is in now. As long as we journey here as pilgrims we must be good stewards as well as good news sharers with a depraved world.

    Just a note: I believe Mr. Kelley may have had those who believe in the Replacement Theology/Kingdom Now doctrine in mind with this gentle reprimand.


    1. This will clear up what Mr. Kelley’s intent was in what he said:

      Q. In your article, “A Critique Of The Harbinger” you wrote: “It’s clear that America’s unbelievers don’t want the Church to save them, and the only believers still fighting for America’s future are the ones who don’t understand what’s ahead for the Church.”

      I know you didn’t say that we shouldn’t go vote, but the second part of that sentence is exactly why it seems utterly pointless to participate in any future elections. Should we go through the motions these days by voting? I suppose we should for no other reason than because we don’t need to roll over like whipped dogs and give up. Trouble is that the choices with any chance of winning tend to be between the greater and the lesser of two evils.

      A. No , I’m not saying we shouldn’t vote. Voting is a civic responsibility. What I’m saying is there’s no way Christians can save America, nor are we called to do so. And as you said, even if we were there’s no candidate calling for a national repentance. Besides, let’s think about this for a minute. Repent means to change our mind about something. In the Bible it’s most often used in connection with our need for a Savior. As Christians we we’ve already done that, and since we have, God considers us to be righteous because of our faith (Romans 3:21-22). Our sins have already been forgiven (Colossians 2:13-14).

      Israel was in a relationship with God that required obedience to His Law before He could forgive their sins and heal their land (2 Chronicles 7:14). The work God requires of the Church is to believe in the One He sent (John 6:28-29) so He could take us to be with Him in His Father’s house (John 14:2-3). Certainly our behavior could improve substantially, but belief is the basis of our relationship with the Lord.

      More on the Harbinger


  2. A lot in Mr Kelleys article depends on definitions. Ex: defining “saving America”. Who is America? The people that make up the nation or the physical country that has a “systemmatic order” of it’s own? Jesus saves people. His mission, if I may use that word, through the Holy Spirit is for this nation as well as any: 1) the church to be the very presence of Who He is lived out in an intimate, holy, faith working by love relationship , embedded and founded on the love of God being received and given which causes the words of Jesus to thus ring true: “you are the light of the world; the salt of the earth!” In other words, bring salvation to the lost of America. That God clearly brought this country into existence for many reasons is very clear. America, which was given much, is now being judged accordingly. But, God is judging all nations in relation to that which was given them by Him in past times (and only He knows what all that entails-missionaries rejected; miraculous salvations that led to the preaching of the Gospel spurned. This has taken place in every country to some degree!) Gods heart is to save the people of America, not the “system order” called America. His heart is for the church in America to repent of taking Him and making Him out to be a god of convenience, Americanized for our own little individual “personal Lord and Savior” Christianity in which we control the relationship which is devoid of any type of power to deliver from sin and has aided in America becoming what it is today- a rebellious idolatrous nation. Jesus is not mine or yours “personal Lord and Savior”. He’s the savior of the world!!! For God so loved the WORLD Jesus Himself states. If we could get that, we’d move away from this selfish Christistianity that amounts to idolatry! Should we vote? Yes as your conscience leads. We are citizens of heaven and yet we function in the order of this nation. Perhaps the question should be, “what are we looking for from our elected leaders?” I’m afraid that because of the church here in America’s lukewarm heart to Jesus that we’re replacing salvation by repentance through faith in Jesus for salvation by elected official (s) morality! Jesus is not only judging America. He’s judging those of us who are called by His Name as well as those of us who claim Him! His judgement is always mercy for the righteous!!


    1. Well said, Ricky Drake. I fear that the Church takes what is meant for the nation of Israel to mean it for them as the spiritual Israel when it should not be so. As John MacArthur once said, and I paraphrase, “The Church wants the blessings that God promises to physical Israel but they overlook the curses.” I think that is where Jack Kelley goes with his critique in using the scripture of 2 Chronicles 7:13-14.

      Should the Church repent of her ways? Ofcourse! But I do not think that will turn God’s favor on us as a nation necessarily. The time is coming shortly when all nations will be judged accordingly in this earthly history. Judgement of individuals shall come in the next life, for good or for bad.

      Thanks very much for your comment!


      1. 2 Ch 7:14: If My people read the context there would be less presumption

        I have written on the misapplication of 2 Ch 7:14 before, but when I see a whole local Baptist conference trying to apply this verse to the Church in America I think it is the duty of those who know better to correct that false presumption.

        Sometimes Christians will use a few words of scripture or a verse or even a passage to support a position but then if you check out their position against what the scripture actually says you see that either they never read the context or they do not have understanding of the passage. Therefore they misapply it.

        Pastors and teachers usually have formal training. They should have been taught proper exegesis so when 2 Ch 7:14 is submitted to a whole local conference as an application for the American Church to practice it leaves me scratching my head and writing articles like this one.

        Also, if church leaders are going to make 2 Ch 7:14 an application for Christians in America, then really carry out what it says. Don’t make some pretense that your church is complying with 2 Ch 7:14 through a few minutes of prayer.


  3. Let me also say that to not correlate Gods prophetic words to Israel by the prophets in the OT with His church today is missing Him in a great way! And when He Himself spoke. He’s the Eternal God. Every word He’s spoken or speaks is eternal! When He’s speaking to “Zion”, “Israel”, He’s speaking to His church today as well! Israel was the model of a people “called out” which means a church. We should look at Gods dealings with Israel and heed Paul’s words in 1 Cor 10.


    1. As types and shadows, yes, you are correct in what you say, so as to serve as our warning.


      1. …and, as Paul said, our instruction. :smile:


  4. Jack Kelley writes:
    If you’re looking for a Bible verse that refers to America in the end times, look at the first part of Jeremiah 30:11-

    I am with you and will save you,’ declares the LORD. ‘Though I completely destroy all the nations among which I scatter you, I will not completely destroy you. I will discipline you but only with justice; I will not let you go entirely unpunished.’

    I can only see this to mean Israel and the Jews. But, like Mr. Kelley, many are able to see it to mean America. However, if he were to say the Church in America, then I can see what he means but only in this much of the scripture-

    I am with you and will save you,’ declares the LORD.


  5. http://resource.prophecytoday.com/2012/04/special-interview-with-author-of.html

    Dr. Jimmy DeYoung moderates a discussion between David James and Pastor Jonathan Cahn, author of “The Harbinger”.


  6. http://www.crossroad.to/articles2/2012/James/harbinger.htm

    Vital Insights into The Harbinger

    A response to What’s Wrong with The Harbinger’s “Ancient Mystery”?

    By Jeremy James ~ April 27, 2012


    1. The book’s strength lies in the truth of its central message, namely, that the US has wandered far from God, and unless a sizeable number of professing Christians repent, a truly devastating judgment will come upon her. The problem with this, of course, is that a strong central message induces the reader to believe all sorts of ancillary stuff which has no real Biblical validity. There are no prophets today bringing new truths. The LORD has told us what’s coming in his Holy Word. The selective application of isolated prophetic verses to specific historical events, such as 9/11, is very dangerous. Once the reader takes the ‘leap’ and accepts the association, he or she is hooked. After that all kinds of additional assertions can be made which go uncontested because the reader has ‘bought’ the thesis.


    2. After all, we are talking about a nation that murders around a million unborn children every year for the sake of convenience, and yet most born-again Christian pastors across America remain silent in the matter. If the Lord heard the voice of the blood of Abel crying to him from the ground, how truly terrifying must be the voice of the blood of the 50 million or more children slaughtered since 1973. If that thought alone does not bring people to repentance, I don’t think the fate of a sycamore tree on Wall Street is going to make any difference.


  7. http://www.thebereancall.org/content/harbinger-matter-critical-discernment

    The clarion call of The Harbinger , which seems to be quite sincere and is one with which all Christians might agree, is that the American people must repent of their evil ways and turn to God in truth. Amen to that! The major problem, however, is the way that the fictional story attempts to encourage such repentance. It declares that God has sent signs—nine harbingers—to the United States as a wake-up call that the country might take heed, repent, and thus ward off His impending judgment. If Cahn is mistaken about the harbingers and multitudes believe what he asserts, then he has led them astray. That is a serious issue and would identify him as a false teacher. Teaching God’s people wrongly carries a “greater condemnation” (James:3:1).


  8. http://www.bibleprophecyblog.com/2012/07/critical-look-at-harbinger.html#

    Amazingly, the Jewish Christian Rabbi, Jonathan Cahn is advocating a form of replacement theology by presenting America as “a new Israel.” Israel and Israel alone is the Lord’s only covenant nation.


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