Well, in the last few years, the prophet has become notorious for prophecies related to politicians or football (what Americans call “soccer”). The internet is awash with news items claiming that “sources” have told them that the prophet has predicted the death of a president or the final score sheet of a pending football match. Hence, in the streets of Africa, TB Joshua has become the latest wonder-boy. Everyone is talking about him.
For instance, “sources” said that TB Joshua predicted that the Zambian national football team would lift the prestigious AFCON Cup early this year. In fact, the “sources” also said he predicted Didier Drogba’s heart-rending penalty miss—which could have buried the hopes of the entire nation of Zambia. So, even if you did not know TB Joshua prior to Zambia’s recent win, his name was added to our staple diet from that point onwards.
Being a pastor in Africa, I have been asked again and again by people in the streets what I make of all this. Thankfully, my own church members know better. However, I engage in a lot of one-on-one and door-to-door evangelism, and this is one of those questions I get asked very often. It is obvious that TB Joshua and his predictions are on the minds of many Zambians (and Africans). Let me make just two comments about all this.
The first comment I want to make is that many of the stories doing their rounds about TB Joshua’s feats amount to fictitious stories that are unverified. They get passed on from one hearer to another and grow larger and larger until they become “real”. They can best be included in the folklores that made up so much of African traditional stories, like the stories of the beautiful women that once used to walk dry out of the river at full moon to mesmerise village men and disappear back into the water!
It is the same with the prophecy of Chelsea winning the Champions League Cup. I have searched the Internet looking for a clip where TB Joshua is saying in clear words that Chelsea would win the Cup but all I have found are statements that “sources” have said it. Here is a man who runs a TV network for 24 hours a day, and yet the one piece of information that is the hype of today cannot be found! In fact, what I seem to find are statements made just before the match claiming that he did not say anything of the kind. Perhaps someone can send me a YouTube link where he said it—and said it clearly.
I am reminded of the many claims to healings that are made by “anointed” Charismatic preachers. Every week, there are tens of thousands of miracle services conducted across the country and the continent. When I say that these are just publicity and fundraising gimmicks, sincere Christians are often horrified at my saying so. When I then ask them to give me the name and address of one person whom they know who was once blind but now sees, or was a cripple (on a wheelchair or on crutches) who now walks, or was deaf and dumb but now speaks, they suddenly sober up and admit that they do not know anyone. “Sources” have told them of many people who have been healed.
I once participated in a live radio programme on the subject of miraculous healing. There were two other participants—a Roman Catholic Priest and a Charismatic pastor. I made it clear that the claims being made by “anointed” Charismatic preachers were false. The Roman Catholic priest was neither here nor there, but the Charismatic pastor insisted that these miracles were happening everywhere everyday. He even lost his temper over my claims. In order to prove my contention, I asked on the live radio programme that anyone who had been blind, deaf, dumb, or crippled and had now been healed should phone it. Like Elijah of old, I kept asking for a solid two hours. We got a lot of phone calls arguing for or against claims of miraculous healing, but not a single person called to testify that they themselves had been miraculously healed—for two solid hours. The Charismatic pastor finally commented, “Perhaps they are just shy!”
My second comment is that there is such a thing as demonic predictions. So, we should never conclude that persons who can foretell events are de facto God’s anointed servants; which is the extrapolation I seem to be hearing about “Prophet” TB Joshua.
Perhaps the clearest example of a person who had such demonic powers in the New Testament is found in Acts 16. The Bible says, “As we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a slave girl who had a spirit of divination and brought her owners much gain by fortune-telling. She followed Paul and us, crying out, ‘These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation.’ And this she kept doing for many days. Paul, having become greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, ‘I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.’ And it came out that very hour. But when her owners saw that their hope of gain was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace before the rulers” (Acts 16:16-19).
Fortune-telling abilities have been with mankind for a very long time. They are a form of prophecy because they foretell the future, but they are not from God. In fact, in the Old Testament, God commanded that fortune-tellers must be stoned (Exodus 22:18). God expressly forbade enquiring from them about the unknown (Lev.19:31, Deut. 18:14).
So, how can one know if a self-proclaimed prophet today is from God? (My confessional position is that the extra-ordinary gifts of the Holy Spirit—including prophecy—ceased long ago. However, since this is not the confessional standard of many readers of this blog, I will use another argument). God’s test, given to the people of Israel in the Old Testament, was based on the prophet’s teaching about God himself and his way of salvation. If the prophet’s predictions were true but his teaching was heretical, it meant that God was testing the people to see if they were really committed to him (Deut. 13:1-3). In other words, is “Prophet” TB Joshua preaching the true gospel of salvation?
Here is something else worth noticing. In the Bible, prophets were prophesying about future events related to the consequences of the obedience or disobedience of God’s people. The prophecies were, therefore, meant to bring God’s people back to himself in repentance and faith, or to encourage them to remain faithful to God in dark times. They were not simply telling football teams whether they would win or lose a football match. Imagine Elijah, or Isaiah, or Jeremiah, or Daniel telling us who was to win some match in the great games of their day. Come on; give me a break! That is totally preposterous!