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A compelling narrative, slick marketing and a sense of foreboding from readers has catapulted “The Harbinger” to record sales figures since its January release.
The book, which highlights parallels between judgments that befell ancient Israel and events that have rocked the United States, has reminded some observers of the phenomenal performance of the Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins collaboration on the “Left Behind” series, launched by Tyndale House in 1995.
According to the staff at Charisma House Book Group, Jonathan Cahn’s book has sold a stunning 600,000 copies and is already in its 14th printing. Among the author’s glittering accomplishments:
38 weeks on New York Times best-sellers list (currently No. 6, its highest point yet)
37 weeks on Publishers Weekly Best-sellers list (trade paper category)
36 weeks on USA Today’s Top 150 Books
No. 1 fiction title on Christian Booksellers Associations list
Amazon overall top 100 books for over 250 consecutive days
Additionally, “The Harbinger” has elicited over 800 customer reviews on Amazon.com.
The remarkable success of this title has caught Cahn off-guard.
“‘The Harbinger’ is the revealing of an ancient mystery that lies behind everything from 9/11 to the collapse of the American economy,” he explained. “The way it came to me was not ordinary. It was as if I was being led at every step as the mystery unfolded and grew larger and larger. I don’t believe I came up with anything. So I never doubted that the book would go forth and the message would spread. What surprised me was how quickly it happened. On the very first week of its release, ‘The Harbinger’ became a New York Times bestseller. It has outlasted Hollywood blockbusters and the works of world famous authors. There’s nothing natural about it.”
Joseph Farah has also been amazed by the message of the book and film: “‘The Isaiah 9:10 Judgment’ has been the No. 1 faith film in America ever since its release in March – more than half a year ago,” said Farah, editor and chief executive officer of WND and the producer of the film based on “The Harbinger.” “I expect to have 100,000 in the marketplace in October. It’s a phenomenon itself. But, without question, the demand for the documentary is based on the popularity of the book.”
“I knew ‘The Harbinger’ was going to be huge long before its release,” said Farah. “That’s why we began working on the documentary version immediately. This message hit me right between the eyes, and I knew it would be the biggest Christian book of 2012, which it clearly has become.”
For a Messianic rabbi from Wayne, N.J., Cahn is not used to the spotlight.
“I’ve been amazed at the spread of the message of ‘The Harbinger,’” Cahn said. “I’ve been stopped by airport security by officials who recognized me or had heard of the book. A day doesn’t go by where we don’t receive reports from around the nation from people’s whose lives have been changed by the book or the movie, or churches that have shown the DVD or taught the mysteries in the book, or calls and movements of prayer and repentance spurred by the message.”
“The Harbinger” has also generated considerable controversy, pitting ministry leaders against one another, many for the first time. In particular, infighting among Bible prophecy proponents has been at times fierce.
Jan Markell, president of Olive Tree Ministries, has never seen anything like it.
“[Critics] have fought both the message and the messenger of ‘The Harbinger’ for months,” Markell said. “They discounted the message because they didn’t like certain things about the messenger: his publisher, who he associates with, what platforms he is on, etc. One critic called a message about repentance and salvation ‘witchcraft.’ I have never seen Christianity so missing the mark in 35 years of ministry.”
Thomas Ice, executive director of the Pre-Trib Research Center, sees it differently: “The question that any Bible-believing Christian should ask about ‘The Harbinger’ is as follows: ‘Is this really a true message or revelation from God?’”
Ice clarifies his strong feelings about the book: “What bothers me the most about this book is that Cahn, who appears to be a strongly committed Christian and zealous in his work for the Lord, is not zealous to protect and rightly handle the Scriptures. How can anyone take a passage that is clearly addressed to Israel (Isa. 9:10) and one that has already been fulfilled in history for Israel and say that it also applies in some way to America? There is only a single meaning to any passage in the entire canon of Scripture. Yet, Rabbi Cahn claims that Isaiah 9:10 also is a prophecy about contemporary America. He admits that it was fulfilled in the past in relation to the Northern Kingdom by the invasion of the Assyrians. But it is also a prophecy relating to contemporary America as a mystery that needs to be uncovered. Cahn claims that when the mystery is unraveled, the same pattern of judgment that happened two and a half thousand years ago will be repeated upon America.”
Whatever the controversies raging among scholars and ministry leaders, the reading public apparently can’t get enough of “The Harbinger.”