“Messianic rabbi” Jonathan Cahn’s books about prophecy and the End Times are filled with biblical and historical numerology, but he has botched both math and history in his efforts to lend symbolic weight and spiritual significance to the date of “The Return,” the preelection politics-and-prayer rally he and other religious-right leaders are planning to hold on the National Mall later this year
Cahn and other rally promoters have repeatedly described the Sept. 26 event as falling 40 days before the 2020 election and on the 400th anniversary of the sailing of the Mayflower. Neither is true.
Let’s take the easy one first. The 2020 presidential election will take place on Nov. 3, which is 38 days from Sept. 26. So why call it 40? Because 40 is a symbolic number in the Bible. There are many biblical stories that include 40-day periods, including the 40 days and nights of rain in Noah’s flood and the 40 days that Satan tempted Jesus in the desert. Jesus resisted Satan’s offers, but Cahn could apparently not resist the temptation to fudge the math around “The Return.”
What about the Mayflower? Cahn made the 400th anniversary claim in his “prophetic announcement” video about “The Return” in March. He repeated it last week in Charisma, writing, “The Return is centered around a major event on Sept. 26 in Washington, D.C.—40 days before the presidential election and on the 400th anniversary of the sailing of the Mayflower.” This week a press release promoting the event repeated the claim using the same language.
The Mayflower connection is important to Christian nationalists, because they cite the Mayflower Compact signed by the ship’s adult male passengers as the source of a national covenant they claim the United States has with God to promote Christianity. Cahn referred to this connection in the launch video: “This will take place not only 40 days before the presidential election, but also on the 400th anniversary of the sailing of the Mayflower, in the days of America’s founding and dedication to God.”
In reality, at the time the Mayflower sailed from England, the country was using the Julian calendar, under which the sailing date was Sept. 6. England shifted from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar in the 1750s. Under the Gregorian calendar—the same one in use today—the sailing date was Sept. 16, 1620. Under either calendar, this Sept. 26 will not be “the 400th anniversary of the sailing of the Mayflower,” as Cahn has repeatedly asserted.
Under most circumstances, the exact dates might not matter that much—September is, after all, the month of the Mayflower anniversary. And the election will fall about 40 days after “The Return.” But that’s not what Cahn has said. And exact dates are at the core of Cahn’s numerological shtick.
Cahn’s books are grounded in a “paradigm” he says he has discovered in the Bible, numerical patterns that he claims foretold events in the history of the U.S.—from Mark Twain’s travels to Harry Truman’s presidency to the death of Clinton White House aide Vince Foster to Donald Trump’s birth and election and his decision to move the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem. In Cahn’s telling, the Bible predicts modern-day events in Israel and the U.S. down to the exact date.
Emphasizing the symbolic importance of these anniversaries, an online event to promote “The Return” was hosted by POTUS Shield founder and former Trump campaign adviser Frank Amedia on April 29, the anniversary of a 1607 landing by colonists in Cape Henry, Virginia, and a date also touted by Christian nationalists. During that webcast, Cahn described April 29 as the day “America was first dedicated to God.” And he claimed that God had responded to a prayer event 40 years earlier by intervening in history to put Ronald Reagan in the White House.
Cahn’s most recent book, “The Oracle,” supposedly unveils “they mystery behind everything” and “the master blueprint of the End Times”—the “mystery of return.” Like Cahn’s other books, “The Oracle” was classified as fiction on the best-seller lists, but Cahn and his supporters insist that its teachings are “absolutely real.”
When it comes to Trump, Cahn and other religious-right leaders have frequently discerned a divine hand behind his election. Trump is “part of the mystery,” says Cahn, who told Charisma podcaster Steve Green that Trump “is fulfilling a purpose and a purpose that’s beyond anything he probably ever imagined.”
“This year, 2020, is crucial as it leads to a presidential election in which the stakes are higher and the necessity of prayer more critical than ever before,” Cahn said in his video announcing “The Return.”
Beyond the election, he said, if America as a nation fails to repent, it cannot experience revival, making “The Return” a chance to “permanently seal our course” for good or bad.
Cahn also claims there spiritual importance to the date of “The Return” falling within “The Days of Awe,” between the Jewish holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, which are also known as the days of repentance, a period that falls between Sept. 18 and Sept. 28 this year.
The urgent need for national repentance is a central theme of Cahn’s writings. He says that the U.S. briefly turned toward God after the 9/11 attacks but that there has never been the kind of national repentance needed for true revival. He and his fellow promoters of “The Return” believe that must change on Sept. 26, or America will be in even bigger trouble.
According to Cahn, there is a “biblical template” in which a nation is warned of coming judgment and given time to repent and “return” or face calamity. “We have a window of time, and the purpose of that window is to return and for revival,” Cahn said in a promotional video. “Without that return, America will be lost.” More specifically, he said, “if America continues on its present course, that window will come to an end and there will come a flood that will begin the end of religious freedom, even usher in persecution and seal America’s fall.”
Some Christian apologetics websites have challenged Cahn’s biblical exegesis and numerology, but his success at selling books has won him high-profile promoters, including religious-right media figures Jim Bakker, James Dobson, Sid Roth, Glenn Beck, Eric Metaxas, as well as the Christian Broadcasting Network—and, of course, Charisma, which publishes his books and shares in the profits generated by Cahn and other “prophets.” Cahn and Charisma add drama to his book releases by claiming that spiritual warfare attacks have taken place around the publication of his books.
Among those helping Cahn promote “The Return” are Focus on the Family founder James Dobson, broadcasters Pat and Gordon Robertson and Marcus Lamb, anti-abortion activist Alveda King, former Rep. Michele Bachmann, anti-LGBTQ activist Harry Jackson, and Billy Graham’s daughter Anne Graham Lotz.