- How Nigerian pastors are misleading Christians
By Uche Chris
Current messages coming from some quarters of the church in Nigeria are troubling, not only for their malicious attacks on the billionaire businessman and philanthropist, Mr. Bill Gates, but its patent potential to mislead a whole bunch of gullible and unsuspecting Christians. It is unfortunate and unconscionable that it is Nigerian pastors that are spearheading such unwarranted and unproven allegations, especially in the name of God and the Bible. There is no other place in the whole wide world, not even in his country, the U.S. where the church is engaged in this disturbing pastime.
But my task is not about Mr. Gates; for he is able and capable of defending himself, which he has stoically done in default to the shame of his attackers. My concern is the integrity of the Bible and the motivation of the pastors. The Bible which they are seemingly defending copiously warns us to shun malicious and malevolent behaviours, capable of damaging the image and reputations of others. There is little doubt in my mind that these attacks are capriciously contrived largely for cheap popularity, attention and self-aggrandizement; and by default, for the overthrow of many faithful.
This conspiracy theory involving Bill Gates has been trending for some time, but there was little to worry about it as long as it remained outside the pulpit, and restricted to a fringe group. But what happened last Sunday raised an alarm that made this present undertaking inevitable. Pastor Chris Oyakhilome of Christ Embassy has been the champion of this End-time conspiracy theory and the return of the antichrist but it was really alone and isolated effort that failed to kindle an inferno, though the fire had continued to simmer.
However, last week a post appeared in the social media of Pastor Chris Okotie of Household of God, his neighbor, and not particularly his friend, propagating a similar message. But on Sunday, my wife after listening to his message on the radio came to me more confused than informed. Then I felt the alarm bell and red flag: Knowing Nigeria for what it is, this message is going to become the in-thing and present preoccupation of pastors in the coming days; and the danger it poses to the church in the country is real.
My wife is not a baby Christian; if she is agitated by this message, then most believers in the country are in peril of their faith, because the theory is not edifying, but creates uncertainty, fear and confusion. Every conscious Christian must realize that this is not God’s agenda for the world and that their faith and eternity is at stake. Eternity is peace to them that believe and never creates fear. Prophecy of the Bible, as the testimony of Christ, is not subject to private interpretation; and what is not expressly stated, or even implied, in the Bible cannot be of God.
When it comes to the subject of the anti-christ, the church is largely confused, as in many things about the gospel of Christ. Every conscious Christian must realize that we are in perilous times, as the Bible says, and men would be lovers of self; it is your responsibility to protect your faith from pollution and corrupt teachings.
As already stated when people begin to exercise interpretation-licence that tends to enslave people rather than save them, then we must be wary, suspicious and vigilant. What is the purpose of this present end-time theory that essentially borders on personal attacks and scriptural deception? Is Bill Gates going to change the will of God and the fulfillment of the Bible? Who is the man to fight for or against God?
There is nowhere in the Bible believers are asked or expected to play any role in the contest between Christ and Satan; it is not a physical battle but spiritual and moral. The so-called chips and number are figurative terms denoting our standing with God. Whether there is a chip or it is give to anybody is immaterial and irrelevant; according to scriptures, what matters is your righteousness and faith in Christ. For many have departed from faith and are serving their belly; they do not need the chip to go to hell.
So, the current euphoria and excitement over Bill Gates and the anti-Christ is terribly misplaced and a gross misreading of the Bible. There are two dimensions of the subject of the antichrist in the Bible – one is already present since the time of the apostles, and the one yet to come. Now deceptive attention has been focused on the one being expected; while the more perniciously dangerous that is wreaking havoc in the church is completely ignored.
The anti-Christ already in the church is represented by the multitudes of false teachings and doctrines pervading and parodying Christianity. Jesus and the apostles were more concerned with this aspect of the phenomenon and spent quite considerable time and effort dealing with it; because it is the one that poses the greatest danger to the church and should be guarded against. He said:
“Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There!’ do not believe it. For false Christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you beforehand.” (Mtt.24.23-25)
He also talked of the second dimension in this wise: “Therefore when you see the ‘abomination of desolation,’ spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place, then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains”…, which historians say actually concerned the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.
Apostle John addressed the same issue thus: “Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us.
“Who is a liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist who denies the Father and the Son. Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father either; he who acknowledges the Son has the Father also.” 1 John 2:18-24
Again he says: “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God…We are of God. He who knows God hears us; he who is not of God does not hear us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error”. John 4:1-6
But Paul focused mainly on the second one, the man of iniquity: “Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as though the day of Christ had come. Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God…
“The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this reason God will send them strong delusion; that they should believe the lie; that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.”
“Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle”. 2 Thess. 2:1-12
The Book of Revelation, being referred to as the basis for the theory surprising does not mention the word antichrist. All that is against Christ are represented by three figures:
“And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs coming out of the mouth of the dragon, out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet. For they are spirits of demons, performing signs, which go out to the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty…
“Here is wisdom. Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man: His number is 666.” Rev 16:13-18. (Controversy over the number 666 has not been settled and nobody has the understanding yet; but this I would say: The answer is in the Bible and any revelation that is not expressly validated by the Bible is fallacious. I will say more about this in subsequent articles).
Also the chip, like the Mark and Number of the Beast are just figurative imageries that depict attitudinal and behavioural positions of Christians in relation to the antichrist doctrines of the false prophets. As Paul said of Demas, who has loved this present world and forsaken him, most Christians are shifting their base from the faith they once confessed due to the allure of the world. It is not about the chip but our faith in Christ.
From the foregoing, certain indicators emerge: First, the coming of the antichrist is the work of Satan, not of man (2 Thes. 3.29). Second, both antichrists will actually manifest first in the church, not in the secular world as Daniel and Jesus taught. Third, his coming will be characterized by deception and lies to delude many in the church. Some are already predicting the second coming of Christ, which Christ said not even himself knew the time.
Fourth, God’s vengeance for the end time is on those who do not obey the gospel of Christ, and “who shall be punished with everlasting destruction in the presence of the Lord”… (2 Thess. 1.7-9. This is the meaning of the lawless one, translated as an antichrist.
Fifth, only those who are steadfast in the truth of the gospel based on righteousness and the tradition of the apostles will escape, not those without the chips. Finally, the false prophets, the beast and the dragon are all antichrist spirits manifesting differently in the same way as the trinity of God. False prophets are antichrist; they are purveyors of supra scriptural prophecies and doctrines intended to put themselves above the scripture. They are having a field day in our time.
All accepted historical opinions on the Bible agree that personal and supra scriptural interpretations and revelations should be taken with a pinch of salt and largely universally unacceptable because they are subject more often than not to errors. Most of what has been accepted as canons in the Bible were outcomes of Church council conferences of all leaders in world Christendom then, who subjected them to strict biblical scrutiny and approved. Such is no longer possible today with the cacophony of voices.
Bible interpreters are enjoined to be humble and accept their fallibility because the time of the inerrancy of interpretations has long passed since the first century and no man can claim to be perfect in understanding the scriptures. Our standard compass for understanding the Bible is the Bible. If it is not there, receive with caution.
I am aware everybody has an opinion about everything in Nigeria. But this is a serious matter and if you don’t know what the facts are do not muddle the water. This is about the life and faith of people, and the future of Christianity, and should not be toyed with. I am a Bible scholar and can say with every sense of modesty that I have studied it more than an average preacher; I am also an ordained pastor. At present, I am doing a book on a similar subject. So I know what I am talking about because we are all going to give an account of our works and words if you truly believe.
For the sake of your eternity and peace of mind, stay with what you know and can prove in the Bible; and forget all the hair-splitting interpretations that do not engender for righteousness, hope, and love which are the only requirements to escape the antichrist and for eternity. Stay blessed!