By Obinna Akukwe
It has been a confusing time for many Nigerian Christians over the genuineness of the crowd claiming to be Bishops, Pastors, Apostles, Primates, Prophets, Rev Fathers and all who claim to have been called by God to minister spiritual food to his people. The mainstream Catholic, Protestant and Pentecostal churches have always viewed with suspicion the activities of religious leaders like Olumba Olumba Obu (who claimed to be the holy spirit); Eddy Nawgu (who was butchered by Bakassi boys); Rev King (currently in a Nigerian prison for setting a female church member ablaze) ; Prophet T.B. Joshua was initially blacklisted as a false prophet since 2001 by the leadership of Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN) under Bishop Mike Okonkwo and Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor. Reports got to the PFN that Rev Chris Oyakhilome have been secretly fraternizing with T.B Joshua and was eventually seen on Television holding anointing service with T.B. Joshua at the latter’s Synagogue Church of All Nations, they called him for clarifications and when he failed to respond, they warned PFN members to beware of the antics of the duo. However, some church members of Olumba Olumba Obu, Eddy Nawgu, Rev King, T.B. Joshua and Chris Oyakhilome claimed that they received some form of relief from financial pressure, sicknesses and depression as a result of the prophesies, revelations, literature materials, holy oil, holy water and spiritual materials from these pastors.
The history of false prophets is as old as Christianity. The first named false prophet in Church history was Simon Magnus. This man was actually converted by Philip according to Acts chapter 8 vs 9-22 and when Apostle Peter and John came to Samaria to pray for the Holy Spirit on the new converts, this sorcerer turned Christian offered to buy the impartation for money and was rebuked by Peter. Simon converted to Christianity and was later to introduce all manners of false doctrines which he backed up with miracles to the consternation of the Apostles. He was seen as the father of heresies in the Church. When Simon died around 61 AD, Menander continued as his successor till 111AD.
Iraneus, Bishop of Lyonnais, and disciple of Polycarp who was tutored by Apostle John, had to confront a certain Marcus around 135-178 AD. This Marcus was performing some miracles, prophecies and causing a lot of people to commit sexual sin. He drew a lot of followership and caused confusion in the early church that Iraneus had to intervene by writing to religious faithful to beware of the magical antics of Marcus. This earned Iraneus the historical tag of Defender of the Faith.
Many Christians who had the privilege of dying and coming back to life like the celebrated case of John Chiedozie who died for some days and miraculously came back to life in the early eighties and Daniel Ekechukwu who was officially certified dead for 42 hours by a medical doctor and came back to life on Sunday, December 2nd 2001 between 3.30-5pm during the Crusade of German Evangelist, Reinhard Bonnke at Grace of God Mission, Onitsha had tales of seeing disobedient Christians in hell fire. The accounts of these two pastors corroborated the reality of heavenly bliss and a burning hell where even some pastors and disobedient Christians were languishing. Daniel Ekechukwu said he saw a pastor who told him that he was in hell for stealing church money.
A disobedient Christian is one who wilfully disobeys the commandments of God. A Christian who sleeps with church members, seduces pastors and snatches people’s husband is a disobedient Christian (1 Cor 6 vs 18). One who deliberately lies, slanders and bears false witness is a disobedient Christian. A Christian who visits necromancers, astrologers, native doctors, palm readers, sorcerers and diviners to gain promotion in office, contracts or political appointments is a disobedient Christians.(Deuteronomy chapter 18 vs 9-12). A prayerless and wordless Christian (one without sufficient knowledge of the Bible) is a disobedient Christian because by his laxity and weakness, the devil will strike and turn him into an experiment, bringing shame to the name of God.
The first identity of these false prophets is over emphasis on prosperity. The Bible says in 3 John 1 vs 2 ‘’ beloved I wish above all things that you prosper and be in health, even as your soul prospers’’ This scripture posits that both soul prosperity ( repentance, salvation and sanctification) should be given the same attention as health and financial prosperity. Matthew 6 vs 33 says ‘’ but seek ye first the kingdom of God and its righteousness, and all other things shall be added unto you’’ this signifies that as the church member seeks constant repentance and sanctification (righteousness) God will equally include all other things, prosperity, health, breakthrough in a measure that will not be injurious to the soul of his child. Therefore a pastor who lays much emphasis on financial prosperity while abandoning spiritual prosperity is a false prophet. That was part of the heresies of Simon Magnus during the era of the early church.
A major fallacy from these false prophets is the theory of Once Saved, Always Saved. This theory posits that once a Christian is saved (born again) the person is always saved no matter the atrocities of the person. This fallacy is inconsistent with the scriptures. Judas Iscariot, one of the 12 Apostles, was once saved but lost his salvation due to greed and was called the son of perdition. (John 17 vs 12). Apostle Paul said in Philipians 2 vs 12 to ‘’…. work out our salvation with fear and trembling’’ and he also added in Romans 6 vs 1 ‘’ what shall we say then, shall we continue in sin so that grace may abound, God forbid. How shall we, that have died to sin, live any longer therein’’. Therefore, a pastor who teaches such is a false prophet, encouraging iniquity and leading his flock to hell.
Another fallacy is one of God’s Unending Mercy. God is both a Merciful God and a Consuming Fire. The same God that forgave King David his sins was the same that ensured that all the punishment He prescribed for David for committing adultery with Bathsheba and murdering her husband, Uriah, came to pass despite being a man after God’s heart. (2 Samuel 12vs 1-18). David lost four sons, including Amnon, Absalom and Adonijah as a result of the curse. Absalom killed Amnon for raping the young sister, Absalom plotted a coup against his father, David, dying in the process, while Solomon killed Adonijah . These false prophets give a one sided analogy of David’s forgivingness from God, without adding that David served out his full sentence, thereby encouraging sin in the church.
Another fallacy is the use of tithes and offerings to bribe God. The Bible enjoins us to pay tithes and offerings for the upkeep of the work of God but not from stolen funds. A Christian who steals government funds meant for development and provision of essential social amenities have already contributed to hardship in the society. He cannot bribe God by donating a part of the cursed money to the pastor as tithe, offering or seed. God rejected the offerings of Cain in Genesis 1 vs 4-5 , therefore God does not receive offerings obtained by looting national treasury. These false prophets propelled by greed will be glad to receive stolen money in the name of God without the consent of God.
Jesus Christ said that ‘’ and there shall arise false christs and false prophets and shall shew great signs and wonders ; in so much as it is possible, to deceive the very elect..’’ (Matthew 24vs 24) Therefore miracle is not the only proof of genuineness of a religious leader. Revelation chapter 16 vs 13 describing the prowess of satanic miracles says ‘’ and I saw three unclean spirits come out of the mouth of the dragon, and of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet . ’’ For they are the spirits of the devil, working miracles ….’’ The devil can do miracles too especially Marine spirits who can give a relief from one side and add a problem from another side. The False Prophet will use miracles to give credence to the Anti-Christ including calling down fire from heaven.(Rev 13vs 13). Paul had to strike a certain false prophet by name BarJesus with blindness for obstructing him while preaching to theRoman proconsul Sergio Paulus. (Acts 13vs 6-12). Bible history had shown that the prophets of Baal were in the habit of calling down fire from heaven until the battle of Mount Carmel where their god could not perform on the all important day.
The early church were brought up with mindset of cross checking every new teaching to ensure that it is in tandem with the scriptures. These false prophets elevate their views above the teachings of the scriptures. The Berean Christians were called noble because they searched the scriptures to see whether the teachings of Paul were according to the Old Testament (Acts 17 vs 11). Therefore every Christian have a noble duty to prayerfully evaluate the theories of his Pastor, Bishop, General Overseer with the teachings of the Bible to avoid a situation whereby according to Jesus Christ in Matthew 15 vs 13-14, a blind man is leading a blind man and all fall into a pit.