'Harbinger Man' cites 'revival' for both Christians, Jews
'True church, true believers, and Israel have never been closer'
His mother was crying. His father was bidding his son farewell, explaining they would most likely never meet again. And without another word, the young boy was put on a train in a desperate attempt to facilitate his escape from one of the most horrific tyrannies in world history.
The young man was Aarno Cahn, who would go on to become the father of Jonathan Cahn, one of the most influential Christian preachers and teachers of his generation.
And the heartstopping tale of Jonathan Cahn’s father’s escape from Nazi Germany is recounted in the remarkable new movie “The Harbinger Man,” a documentary revealing Cahn’s incredible life story.
Much of the story focuses on Cahn’s Jewish roots and how the evangelist has become one of the leading figures in the emerging reconciliation between the Christian church and the Jewish people. Cahn is uniquely placed to help lead this dramatic revolution in Christianity, as his own heritage runs deep.
It’s gaining a lot of attention already, still days before release, reaching No. 59 in documentaries at Amazon, and No. 17 among hot new documentaries.
“My father came from Germany,” Cahn explained. “His name is Aarno Cahn and Aarno is an anagram of Aaron because he was of the Aaronic line or lineage and he was named after another Aaron Cahn, which in Hebrew actually means Aaron the priest. So it was a long line.”
But for that time and place, Cahn observed, a Jewish background was almost a death warrant. His father grew up in the Weimer Republic during the 1920s. But by the time Aarno Cahn was 10 years old, the Republic was dead and Germany had a new leader – Adolf Hitler.
The rise of the Führer meant the end of Jewish life in Germany.
“It was like a noose tightening on the Jewish people in Germany,” said Cahn. “He had relatives that escaped early on and went to Israel, and they are there to this day. But as it went on, the persecution increased, and the German Jews were separated. He was taken out of school and put into a purely Jewish school.
“He had to say ‘Heil Hitler’ if he went into the post office to get a stamp and it was just increasing until 1938, until Kristallnacht, when the Nazis had a rampage, burning synagogues across Germany, destroying Jewish shops. He remembers that day, seeing all the devastation. That was a real wakeup call for the Jews of Germany that they knew there was really no way out. This was going to continue to something like the Holocaust.”
Cahn’s father was among the thousands of children who joined the desperate pilgrimage known as the Kindertransport, as German Jews fled the Fatherland for the asylum in Great Britain. The young boy said farewell to his parents and made it to England. But he wasn’t safe even there.
In a cruel twist of fate, German espionage efforts in England led the British government to arrest all Germans of certain age, including Cahn’s father. This meant the elder Cahn, a Jew who had fled his native land to escape persecution, was lumped in with Nazis and shipped to a prisoner of war camp in Canada. Even the journey by sea was hardly safe – the ship leaving just before Aarno Cahn’s sank.
However, the older Jewish refugees took care to give the younger Jews an education. And after spending some time in the POW camp, Aarno Cahn was sponsored by a Jewish family and allowed to leave the prison to go to college. Eventually, he became a chemist and ultimately immigrated to the United States to obtain his Ph.D., turning his back on Germany forever.
Cahn’s mother was also familiar with anti-Jewish persecution, as she was of Russian Jewish descent.
“The story of most Jewish people today is they are where they are because their parents or grandparents escaped there to avoid being killed. The Lord God actually says in the prophecies that you shall go from nation to nation and the sword will follow you. So that’s what happened in Russia. The policy was that the czar said we shall launch a persecution against the Jews called the pogrom, it was a war against the Jews in Russia, and their aim was, a third shall convert to Russian Orthodoxy, a third would flee the nation, and a third would be killed.”
Cahn’s grandmother’s family, caught in what Cahn wryly called a “Fiddler on the Roof” situation, immigrated to America through Ellis Island like so many at that time. The family eventually settled in Brooklyn. His mother grew up in a largely secular household which spoke Yiddish as well as English and leaned towards socialism. Like his father, Cahn’s mother became a chemist and met his father in graduate school.
Like his parents, Cahn was raised in an ethnically Jewish environment which nonetheless remained largely secular in outlook.
“I grew up in this home that was Reformed Jewish, they weren’t religious,” Cahn said of his parents. “They never really spoke about their faith or anything about it. A scientific, secular outlook, kind of agnostic or between agnostic or atheist. But my father would always go to synagogue for the High Holy Days like many Jewish people. He would bring me to Yom Kippur, Rosh Hashanah, and we had Passover meals and Chanukah, which was our Christmas, that’s what it became.”
Cahn recounted, “I was brought up with Jewish culture and I was sent to Hebrew school.”
He was taught about the prophets, the God of the Bible, and the God of Israel. However, seeing no evidence of God “moving” in his life, he declared himself an atheist at eight years of age, sparking conflict at school and arguments with teachers and classmates.
Eventually, in Cahn’s words, he “lost faith in atheism” when he became a teenager, beginning a long period of seeking as Cahn eagerly read books on science, religion and even the occult. Throughout all of this, he found there was only one belief forbidden to him if he was to continue to call himself a Jew.
“You can believe in everything except Jesus,” said Cahn. He observed Jews can be atheist, Buddhist or adherents of just about any other lifestyle or creed but “if you believe in this Jewish Rabbi, you’re not Jewish.”
Eventually, Cahn started reading “The Late Great Planet Earth” by Hal Lindsey, which detailed the fulfillment of many of the prophecies of the Bible, especially those concerning the return of the state of Israel.
Cahn continued his investigation of Christianity, finding it logically impossible to deny the truth. He eventually dedicated his life to the Lord after surviving a near death experience.
But as he recounts in “The Harbinger Man,” becoming saved presented Cahn with a new obstacle – telling his parents.
He told his parents he was attending a Christian event in Washington, D.C., and received “dead silence” as a response.
“You ok?” he asked his father. “I’m catatonic,” was the reply.
“They weren’t thrilled,” Cahn deadpans, recalling the incident. “Jewish people are raised that the one thing you can never do is follow Jesus.”
However, not least because of Cahn’s own efforts, that is beginning to change.
“The Bible says that in the last days, He will gather back His people, the Jewish people, to Israel and it talks about the Jewish people coming back to him, turning back,” Cahn explained. “And of course, Messiah, Jesus, said He would not return until His people came back to Him.”
Now, thousands of years after Christianity began as an outgrowth of Judaism, Cahn believes more Jews than ever “are coming to faith in Jesus than at any other time since the Book of Acts.”
What’s more, Cahn said, this is taking place at the same time the Christian church is becoming more aware of its own Jewish roots.
“There’s this whole revival going on, it’s kind of like a coming home, and at the same time in the church, the other side of the coin, the church more and more, is returning to its Jewish roots. The closeness between the true church, true believers, and Israel has never been closer. If you looked back to the Middle Ages, they would be light years apart, one would be persecuting the other. Now they are together.”
Cahn believes this process is all part of God’s plan.
“At the very beginning of the age, everything was together,” Cahn said. “If you came to the Lord in the first century, everything would have a Jewish flavor. It would be natural. And so that’s the way it was, but then came this division, and that division was between the church and Israel as well as between the Jewish people and their Messiah, this wall of separation, where the church became more and more estranged from its roots.”
Now, said Cahn, “the wall is beginning to collapse.”
He is hopeful because “Jewish people are beginning to come to the Messiah and the church is beginning to return to Israel. Basically restoring those things that had been cut off.”
Cahn argues this all is part of the concept of Teshuvah, often translated as “repentance” but which can also mean “return.” He believes as one age ends, the Jewish people are returning to their Messiah and the church is rediscovering its Jewish roots, bringing an end to an entire historical cycle.
Looking back over his own life and his own family’s journey, Cahn can’t help but see all of this as part of a larger pattern. In his words, “These are the days of Teshuvah.”