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BEWARE OF FALSE PROPHETS

Read­ing Time: 13 minutes

Con­cern­ing those who have dis­guised them­selves, Jesus invites the dis­ciples not to fol­low them (Greek: mē poreuthēte opisō autōn), because they are agents of destruc­tion. They have not only come to steal. They have also come to kill and des­troy (cf. John 10:10). In oth­er words, they are agents of destruc­tion. This advice is also giv­en in Mat­thew (7:15), where Jesus warns the dis­ciples to be care­ful and be on their guard against false proph­ets (Greek: pseudo­p­rophētōn), who come to them in sheep’s cloth­ing, but inwardly are raven­ous wolves. False proph­ets are men­dacious teach­ers who hyp­not­ize and charm people by their show of piety and (pre­sumed) mira­cu­lous empower­ment while pur­su­ing their own selfish desires. They are every­where espe­cially in the Nigeri­an soci­ety and Chris­ti­an Churches. Like Jesus said, they are thieves (Greek: kleptōn) and they come to steal and feed on the sheep instead of tak­ing care of them and giv­ing their lives for the sal­va­tion of the sheep (cf. John 10:10–15). The dis­ciples should always dis­cern these ungodly people and keep away from them. They should be care­ful not to fall to their sweet tongues orches­trated won­drous works of God. They use reli­gious sym­bols as their trade­marks, mak­ing it easi­er to deceive people. They are reli­gious scam­mers. The does not abide in them.

With his answer, Jesus makes a lot of cor­rec­tions con­cern­ing the destruc­tion of Jer­u­s­alem and espe­cially, the mis­con­cep­tions as regards the end of the world. How­ever, the proph­ecy con­cern­ing the destruc­tion of the Temple was ful­filled in AD 70, when the Romans under Tit­us took Jer­u­s­alem and burned the Temple (cf. Matt 24:2). The Thes­sa­lo­ni­an Chris­ti­ans had wrong con­cep­tions of the end of the world that they became idlers, sit­ting at home wait­ing for the Par­ousia. Con­sequently, Paul urged them to go and work and to deny food to any­one who refuses to work (cf. Second Read­ing). Ser­i­ous les­son for con­tem­por­ary Christians.

Even if….

Then, he said to them, nation will rise against nation, and king­dom against king­dom; there will be great earth­quakes, and in vari­ous places fam­ines and plagues; and there will be dread­ful portents and great signs from heav­en” (Luke 21:10–11). These impost­ors who deceive people should not use the ter­rible and fright­en­ing things hap­pen­ing in vari­ous parts of the world to attract their vic­tims. Accord­ing to Jesus’ cla­ri­fic­a­tion, these things, that is, deadly wars, great earth­quakes (Greek: seis­moi megaloi); fam­ines (Greek: limoi); plagues (Greek: loimoi); ter­ri­fy­ing sights/events (Greek: phobētra); and great signs (Greek: sēmeia megala) from heav­en, do not in any way sig­ni­fy the end. They must take place but then, they are not signs of the end. Hence, false proph­ets should not threaten people with them. Even if the world exper­i­ences vari­ous nat­ur­al dis­asters, ter­ror­ism, wars, polit­ic­al unrest, reli­gious tur­bu­lence, insur­rec­tions, social dis­order, loss of cul­tur­al val­ues, mor­al dec­ad­ence, sick­ness, poverty, infra­struc­tur­al dec­ad­ence, Buha­r­ism, Boko Hara­ism, and failed gov­ernance at all levels. These are not signs of the end. These things will take place, yet, the end is not close. Even if con­tin­ents, nations, states, com­munit­ies, towns, vil­lages, fam­il­ies, friends, Church mem­bers, groups, reli­gious lead­ers des­troy, fight and kill each oth­er, the end is yet not immin­ent (cf. Luke 21:9–10). And no child of God should allow him­self or her­self to be dribbled by these god­less, sense­less and selfish indi­vidu­als who claim to be what they are not just to enrich themselves.

Nations rising against nations, earth­quake, fam­ines, plagues, ter­ri­fy­ing events and great signs from the sky are all char­ac­ter­ist­ics of the con­tem­por­ary age, and not signs of the end of time. The great signs from the sky (cf. verse 11) are signs of the com­ing of the Son of Man. It should be read in con­junc­tion with Luke 21:25–27 where Jesus reminded the dis­ciples that “there will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on earth nations will be in dis­may, per­plexed by the roar­ing of the sea and the waves. People will die of fright in anti­cip­a­tion of what is com­ing upon the world, for the powers of the heav­ens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man com­ing in a cloud with power and great glory.” Accord­ing to the same Jesus, when these things begin to hap­pen, the dis­ciples should stand firm and raise their heads because their redemp­tion is near (cf. Luke 21:28). Did Jesus show them any sign?

Contrary sign

But before all this occurs, they will arrest you and per­se­cute you; they will hand you over to syn­agogues and pris­ons, and you will be brought before kings and gov­ernors because of my name” (Luke 21:12). To the request for sign regard­ing the destruc­tion of the Temple, Jesus gave con­trary signs to the dis­ciples and invari­ably, to Chris­ti­ans. Before the things lis­ted in Luke 21:9–11, (which are not signs of the end, but which impost­ors and false proph­ets use to entice the people), could take place, some­thing else must hap­pen. The dis­ciples will have to be mocked, per­se­cuted, tor­tured and will even be betrayed and hated by their own fam­ily mem­bers and friends (cf. Luke 21:12–18). This is what the dis­ciples should pre­pare them­selves for, and not wast­ing their time listen­ing to false proph­ets who stick to the unpleas­ant facts (earth­quake, wars, hun­ger, etc.) to deceive people and take advant­age of their weak­ness and ignorance.

The dis­ciples and believ­ers should see their mal­treat­ment as an oppor­tun­ity to bear wit­ness to the Gos­pel (cf. Luke 21:13). Per­sever­ance in the face of per­se­cu­tions, betray­als and hatred is what will earn the dis­ciples and Chris­ti­ans sal­va­tion. The Greek term hypomonē means patience, endur­ance, forti­tude, stead­fast­ness, per­sever­ance. It is a vir­tue, which the dis­ciples and Chris­ti­ans should acquire. Instead of wast­ing the time of sal­va­tion (kairos) listen­ing to the ungodly whose interest is solely to enrich them­selves, pre­tend­ing to be speak­ing and oper­at­ing in the name of Jesus, the dis­ciples should per­severe. The innu­mer­able dif­fi­culties encountered in pro­claim­ing and wit­ness­ing to the Gos­pel, should not dis­cour­age them. They must insist, res­ist the tempta­tion of giv­ing up, and they must be stead­fast. This is the only way to sal­va­tion. They should not even think of defend­ing them­selves before their per­se­cutors and accusers because Jesus will take care of that (cf. Luke 21:14–15).

The Nigerian context

To end the reflec­tion on a Gos­pel pas­sage like this without com­ment­ing on the Nigeri­an situ­ation would be a gross over­sight. Here in Niger­ia, pro­fes­sion­al proph­ecy is a very luc­rat­ive busi­ness. And much cap­it­al is not needed to begin this com­merce. Almost every corner of Nigeri­an cit­ies, towns and vil­lages are filled with busi­ness centres dis­guised as Churches and pray­er houses. You find every­where the so-called heal­ing min­is­tries, heal­ing centres, solu­tion centres, mir­acle centres, adul­ter­a­tion grounds, coun­selling houses, spir­itu­al uplift­ing centres, and oth­ers. There are also mobile proph­ets and preach­ers, who with their cars and buses (some on foot) move from one street to anoth­er, from one square to anoth­er, all in the name of bring­ing the Gos­pel to every corner. Even in the mar­ket places, preach­ers now rent shops where in place of goods, you find speak­ers, micro­phones, a copy of warn-out bible, a huge col­lec­tion box, and oth­er elec­tron­ic gad­gets used for the spread­ing of the gos­pel of prosperity.

Someone vis­it­ing Niger­ia for the first time will def­in­itely clas­si­fy Niger­ia and Nigeri­ans as a highly reli­gious and godly people. But after wit­ness­ing the high level of cor­rup­tion, selfish­ness, wicked­ness, and evil in a coun­try where you fine Churches at every nook and cranny, you can­not but ques­tion the authen­ti­city of these so-called Churches and their rais­on d’etre. Almost every­one is eager to become a prophet/prophetess and mes­si­ah for the people, prom­ising everything even the unima­gin­able. Most of them brain­wash people (their vic­tims) who come to them; sub­ject them to psy­cho­lo­gic­al tor­ture and do so many dirty things to them (espe­cially to women) all in the name of find­ing solu­tions to their unpleas­ant life situ­ations. Unfor­tu­nately, these things have become nor­mal and nat­ur­al­ized in the life of the people, to the extent that almost nobody ques­tions them.

Unfor­tu­nately, major­ity of Nigeri­ans have ignored and con­tin­ue to ignore Jesus’ warn­ing not to listen to these fraud­sters and not to fol­low them. Most of these false proph­ets and proph­et­esses build man­sions and uni­ver­sit­ies with the money (offer­tory) stolen from the poor people they claim they want to help. But the fees are so high that only the elite can send their chil­dren to these schools and uni­ver­sit­ies. Their factor­ies, banks and hos­pit­als are filled with work­ers who are under­paid and treated without respect and dig­nity. Yet, people are so blind that they can­not see. Jesus insists: Do not join these people and do not allow your­self to be deceived. Again, do not believe every spir­it, but test the spir­its to see wheth­er they are from God; because many false proph­ets are cur­rently roar­ing like lions in Niger­ia, look­ing for someone to devour (cf. 1John 4:1). Do not be their vic­tim. An Igbo pro­verb has it that onye aghọg­buru ka-agbara (if you are deceived, then you are the loser). So, be warned! A word is enough for the wise.

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