ISLAM: UNDERSTANDING THE MEANING OF “REVELATION” TODAY
A Presentation by Deji Yesufu on the Korede Olawoyin Facebook Program: 7th of June, 2020
A discussion on Islam is one that I am reluctant to be engaged in because my father is still a practicing Muslim. I have an uncle, who I respect a great deal, who is a practicing Muslim. And there are many other acquaintances of mine like these whom I love and respect but who are of the Islamic religion.
Muslims have been one of my greatest beneficiaries since I came to live in Ibadan. When I took up a job as an A-level teacher of Physics in 2008, with an Engineering background and no degree in Physics, my first few weeks in that school was difficult. It was an elderly Muslim man who made things especially easy for me. When I was employed in the government work I do today, the Muslim who interviewed me could have chosen to strike my name out on the basis of religion and no one would have held it against him. He didn’t. When I was arrested for protesting Suleiman Johnson in April 2017, this was the man that paid my bail money. I have found Muslims easy to deal with, as many of them are straightforward, trustworthy and dependable. Morally speaking, many Muslims are good people.
Therefore doing a discussion on them, especially centering on the veracity of their religion, is incredibly uncomfortable for me. But I owe my Lord and my Savior, Jesus Christ, a duty of stating the truth. And I know that Christ can use these feeble words of mine to minister to people who may be listening to me: Muslim or Christian. One thing I would however not be doing in this presentation is to vilify Islam or to falsely represent them. I would be examining the matter of revelation as it is found in Islam in the light of what both Christianity and Islam regards as revelation. I hope to point out the problem with the Muslim’s revelation, particularly those as received by Mohammed, which form the message of the Qu’ran. But, more importantly, I would be showing Christians what revelations truly means and why we ought to be earnest about preserving the revelation that God has given to us in the Bible.
The Oxford Dictionary of English defines “revelation” as “the divine or supernatural disclosure to humans of something relating to human existence. Revelation in essence is therefore supernatural or divine.
In the sphere of religion, divine revelation is regarded as what God revealed to one man, or to a group of men, who later broadcast this message to the world as the basis of which a religion is to be based. It is “revelation” because initially it was hidden; now it has been fully disclosed. Paul gives us hint of the nature of revelation when he wrote to the Colossians:
“Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church, of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints. To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ.” (Colossian 1:24-28).
Paul speaks of a trust, a stewardship given to him, to proclaim the gospel to the Gentiles. Prior to Paul’s ministry, the thought was that Christianity was for Jews only. But God helped Paul see that it was also for Gentiles. Paul referred to this stewardship as a mystery. A mystery is usually something that is hidden until it is revealed. And God would usually reveal this mystery to one or more men, who then reveal these things to all men. This goes on to form the basis of the revelation the religion they practice stands on.
From the beginning of time, there have only been three religions that are monotheist: they are Judaism, Christianity and Islam. All these religions claim to have come as revelations from the only true God. In fact all the three religions were not only revealed to men, they went on to become inscripturated (written down). When revelation becomes inscripturated, it takes another form. It goes from mere oral tradition to something written; and what is written is better preserved than what is passed along orally.
We know about the religion of the Jews (Judaism) and how Christianity came to take its place from the account of the Bible. In fact part of the revelation that God gave Paul was how Christianity would took the place of Judaism as the religion that God has put his mark on. You can read Galatians and Hebrews to understand this further. But, Islam makes the claim that the revelation that God gave Jesus was further perverted by his apostles and followers and so the religion that is described in the Bible is not the religion that Jesus brought (Muslims accept only the laws of Moses, Psalms of David, and the gospel: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Anything in those, however, that contradicts the Qu’ran, is rejected). Thus, God sent an angel to again reveal the truth to his Prophet Muhammed. These truths are what are revealed in the Qu’ran.
I do hope to still get to the heart of the revelation of the Qu’ran. But at this juncture, we must understand the meaning of revelation and why revelation is central to religion, and why revelation is meant to be carefully preserved. At this point, I turn again to Paul. I can freely discuss Paul with Christians. I do not have that liberty with Muslims.
Paul the apostle was a unique apostle of Jesus Christ in that he did not meet the Lord in the flesh, but he saw our Lord on his way to Damascus; which eventually led to his conversion in Acts 9. But Paul lays out a very important warning in the Holy Writ that many Christians today overlook, but which you and I cannot afford to overlook. I would at this moment quote Paul:
“I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel – not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: if anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.” (Galatians 1:6-9).
I need to note that in all my fifteen years in the Pentecostal denomination, I never heard any preacher teach this text. Not once. I would still get to the reason why I said this, but let us return to Paul.
This letter was written by Paul to the Galatians in the year AD48. It is one of the earliest epistles of the apostles. He wrote in deep desperation. A whole region that he had brought the gospel to had become infested with another gospel. Judaizers, in the garb of Christianity, were telling the Galatians that if they were to remain saved, they needed to keep the laws of Moses. Paul had disputed these same people in Acts 15. But here they were teaching this same message to a church he had help birth. He begins the epistle with almost a curse. Saying that even if he, or any apostle, returns to Galatia, to begin to preach something other than what they were taught, let that person be accursed. He goes further: even if an angel were to reveal something other than what Paul taught them, let that angel be accursed.
I personally suspect that Paul did not think that angels will begin to bring men a new gospel; I think he wrote that statement as a hyperbole – an exaggeration of some sort. Like saying: even if heaven were to begin to say something other than what we have preached, that new message from heaven is not the gospel. Ladies and gentlemen, you might already have an incline of where I am heading. This letter to the Galatians was written in AD48. In AD 609, almost 600 years after Paul, the angel Gabriel brought the message of the Qu’ran to Mohammed. This is the reason for our discussion today. But even the story of Mohammed and Islam is only a springboard for me to further drive home a point: the meaning and relevance of revelation.
The Story of Mohammed and the Rise of Islam
This program by Korede is an apologia on Islam so it is likely that the story of Islam has been told before. But permit that I recount a few points in that story that is relevant to my presentation today.
Mohammed was born in 570. He died in 632. He was born in the city of Mecca, in present day Saudi Arabia. He had a rough childhood, having lost his father when he was just two months old and his mother when he was 6 years old. At first, he lived with his grandfather and would later go on to live with his uncle. He grew up in a relatively poor environment. Mecca of those days was a place where people worshipped idols. But the city was not immune to the influence and preaching of Christianity and Judaism, since this is the Middle East and the origin of Christianity was not far from Saudi Arabia. Not much else is known about Mohammed’s childhood as the little we know are from the hadiths and not the Qu’ran itself.
Muhammed received the first revelation on the Quran in 609 and he kept receiving those messages until his death in 632 – through a period of 23 years. The first revelation came to Muhammed in a cave on Mount Hira, near Mecca. Muslims regard the revelation of the Qu’ran as the highest miracle God (Allah) gave Muhammed. Because Muhammed was not literate and when the angel Gabriel recited these messages to him, he would himself return and give the messages orally to his followers. The key themes of the early Quranic verses included the responsibility of man towards his creator; the resurrection of the dead; God’s final judgement followed by vivid descriptions of the tortures of Hell and the pleasures of paradise; and the sign of God in all aspect of life. It also taught religious duties to be observed by Muslims. Muhammed’s immediate family was the first to regard him as a prophet (www.lumenlearning.com).
Mohammed received these messages on and on until his death in 632. Those messages were passed on to his followers orally. It should also be noted that because his message was strange to the people of Mecca, Mohammed was sent away from Mecca and he went to live in a town called Yathrib. This town would later be named Medina. Mohammed, with his rising followership and influence, would form his first theocracy in Medinna. When his following had grown, and having been attacked again by the people of Mecca, Mohammed and his followers warded off the attack and went on to attack Mecca and defeat its rulers. Soon, Mecca would come under the control of Mohammed’s theocracies. For the rest of his life, Mohammed would wage wars to spread the influence of Islam. In fact one commentator said that 150 years after his death, a third of the world had been conquered by Islam.
After his death, and in one of the wars that his followers, who knew the Qu’ran at heart, had been engaged in, quite a number of these people were killed at battle. It then occurred to the leaders of the then Muslim religion that if their religion was going to be preserved, there was the need to write down these revelations which only a few people knew at that time. The Qu’ran is about a third of the New Testament, so it is quite common for Muslims to memorize it. After an extensive period of gathering, and ensuring the veracity of the messages, the Qu’ran was compiled into written form in one piece. This is how the Muslims received the revelation of the Qu’ran as we have it today.
The Veracity of Revelation
In a recent debate that I watched of James R. White and a Muslim scholar on the veracity of the Qu’ran and the Bible, Dr. White made it clear to the Muslim man that the Qu’ran was written and transmitted in a controlled environment. But the Bible was written and transmitted in a free environment. He was pointing at the reason why he believes the Bible was true and the Qu’ran was not. White could take that position because he was engaging in an inter-faith dialogue. But as Christians, you and I can tell where the Qu’ran came from: Galatians 1:6-9.
This leads me to one thing: the veracity of revelation. As Christians, have we ever wondered how we got our Bibles? Because when you engage a Muslim scholar, they will tell you that the Qu’ran was better preserved than the Bible. And indeed they are right. But when you follow the history of how the Bible and the revelation it contains, was preserved, you will agree that the Bible is true. There are such things are textual variants of the Bible and how these ancient texts all add up to give us the Bible we have today. But let me give you a quick summary of how the revelation of the Bible came to be.
In the days of Jesus, the Greek Septuagint already existed. It was a translation of the Jewish Old Testament to Greek. It was carried out by 70 scholars in a University in Alexander, Egypt, around 250BC. That is why it is called the Septuagint (70). This was the scriptures that Jesus and his apostles quoted from. It is interesting that Jesus was not concerned about the mode of transmission of the Jewish text; he simply quoted the available versions. These give us a clear truth: Christ trusted the preservation of the text of revelation which God did providentially in those days. It means that if Jesus were to live in our day, he would quote from the Bible versions available today.
After our Lord had risen and his apostles began to minister, as we see in Luke’s opening in Luke and Acts, the apostles began to write about the life of Christ. Four accounts are preserved for us today: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Not only these, the apostles wrote epistles that were passed around from churches to churches (Colossians 4:16). Peter would even endorse Paul’s writing as scripture (2 Peter 3:16). The last apostle, John, died around AD90. By the second century, Christians began to see the need to gather up the scriptures into one text. By the middle of the second century, we already had the Bible: The 39 books of the Old Testament and the 27 books of the New Testament. James White says that the text that was originally compiled in the second century was what the councils were using in the fourth century, and they are the 66 books we have in our Bible today. God providentially preserved the revelation of the Bible through “free agencies”. But the Qu’ran was preserved through controlled mean – in the words of James White.
The trouble today is that one of these revelations, Bible or Qu’ran, is wrong because their messages are diametrically opposed to each other. For me, it is not difficult to know which one is wrong: Galatians 1:6-9. Paul had long predicted that an angel would come and reveal a new religion. And that religion would be an accursed religion.
Having told the story of Mohammed let me quickly tell you two more stories which you, as Christians are more familiar with, and will understand. My intention is to further help you understand the meaning of revelation and then point at the dangers of continued revelations.
My first story is the story of Joseph Ayo Babalola. Babalola was born on April 25th, 1904. He was raised in an Anglican home. He began to work at the Public Works Department in Osogbo around 1925. Ayodeji Abodunde, in his book “Heritage of Faith: History of Christianity in Nigeria” concludes the story:
“From September 25th, 1928, (Ayo Babalola) began having a strange experience which kept him awake for almost a week. Throughout the week, an unsual joy filled his soul, and he found himself bubbling with a new kind of energy. During this week, he read through the entire Psalms (he had elementary education). This heightened state of mind continued until October 9, when he had another strange experience. At about 12pm, when he had finished working, he heard a loud voice speaking to him: ‘Joseph, Joseph, Joseph, leave this job otherwise you will die this year.’… Two days later, he heard the voice at the same rate… While he was asleep that night, an angel came into his room and told him to put off the light. After he had done this, an almost other-worldly brightness shone all over the room, which the angel told him signified the presence of Jesus Christ. The angel then told him that Jesus Christ would give him a message which he (Babalola) was to preach to many villages and towns…”
This was the beginning of Babalola’s ministry. The question that I want to ask you, my readers is: why would Christians regard this experience of Babalola as true but hold those of Mohammed as spurious? Did Babalola work miracles to prove his revelations? So did Mohammed. I go to my next story. Benson Idahosa. Still quoting Abodunde:
“Around 1968, Idahosa had a visitation from God where he heard these words: ‘I have called you that you might take the gospel around the world in my name… Preach the gospel and I will confirm my word with signs following.’ The room seemed charged with the presence of God as Idahosa fell to his knees beside his bed and cried to God saying, ‘Lord, wherever you say go, I will go, whatever you say do, I am going to do’. He prayed through the night, renewing his vows to God and interceding for people who were yet to hear the message of salvation. The next night, he had another visionary experience, in which he was told he had been called to fulfil a special assignment.”
We do not have the space of time but I could refer you to visions by people like David Oyedepo, E. A. Adeboye, Daniel Olukoya, Chris Oyakhilome, and many other pastors of our day. The question that you should ask is this: how are these revelations any different from those of Mohammed? These people lead/led successful ministries; so did Mohammed. They worked miracles; so did Mohammed. Do we realize that the surest way to bring forth a cult and false theology to our day is to simply tell people that we had seen a vision, we have heard a voice from God; or, in short, we have received a new supernatural experience to back up our ministry. And note that the problem is not whether or not someone had a real vision; Paul is saying in essence that you do not need a vision to enter into ministry. The moment you begin to employ one, you are putting yourself in danger of making up a cult or a false religion.
I began this discussion by stating that in all my fifteen years of being in Pentecostal churches, I never heard anyone teach Galatians 1:6-9. Pentecostals cannot teach that scripture because, just like Mohammed and Islam, Pentecostals are the most guilty of bringing continued revelation to our day and time. Every cult and false religion has been birth by men who claim to have received new revelations from God. We must beware of this.
C. H. Spurgeon Said
“Honor the Spirit of God as you would honor Jesus Christ if He were present. If Jesus Christ were dwelling in your house, you would not ignore Him. You would not go about your businesses as if He were not there. Do not ignore the presence of the Holy Spirit in your soul. To Him pay your constant adorations, reverence the august guest who has been pleased to make your body his sacred abode. Love Him, obey Him, worship Him.
“Take care never to impute the vain imaginings of your fancy to Him. I have seen the Spirit of God shamefully dishonored by persons—I hope they were insane—who have said they have had this and that revealed to them.
“There has not, for some years, passed over my head a single week in which I have not been pestered with the revelations of hypocrites or maniacs. Semi-lunatics are very fond of coming with messages from the Lord to me, and it may save them some trouble if I tell them once and for all that I will have none of their stupid messengers.
“Never dreamed that events are revealed to you by heaven, or you may come to be like those idiots who dare impute their blatant follies to the Holy Spirit. If you feel your tongue itch to talk nonsense, trace it to the devil, not to the Spirit of God. Whatever is to be revealed by the Spirit to any of us is in the Word of God already.
“He adds nothing to the Bible and never will. Let persons who have revelations of this, that and the other go to bed and wake up in their senses. I only wish they would follow the advice and no longer insult the Holy Spirit by laying their nonsense at His door.”
By now, I hope you all would have gotten my definition of revelation. As we earlier defined it, revelation is a divine or supernatural disclosure to men. As far as Christianity is concerned, and if the gospel that was given to us will be preserved, revelations are the words of God given to us in the Bible: Genesis to Revelation. Any other “divine revelation” should be regarded as spurious.
Our calling as Christians is to submit ourselves to the word of God, scriptures, and allow it dictate the direction of our life and ministry. God has spoken sufficiently in scriptures (2 Timothy 3:15-16). God is not speaking anywhere else. To be open to “God told me” today is the surest way to deception, fraud and heresies. And the greatest case in point in history is Islam: particularly the story Mohammed and the way and manner he received a new revelation that perverts the Christian gospel and is leading many to an eternity without God and without Christ. If today you believe in any kind of continued revelation, you stand the danger on going on the same path of error and perdition.
- Deji Yesufu,
Ibadan, June 4, 2020.