Introducing Eschatology in the African Context Vol. I

Authors: Frederick Mawusi Amevenku & Isaac Boaheng
ISBN 978 – 9988 – 3 – 1864 – 2
Published:  24th June, 2021.

Death and its aftermath, the end of the world and what happens thereafter are subjects of ultimate concern for everyone. Almost all religions have something to say about what lies in the future. As society becomes more concerned with the future of the world, the study of the Christian doctrine of future things (Eschatology) becomes increasingly pertinent. From the biblical perspective, Eschatology must both trigger fear and panic in unbelievers because of God’s impending judgment and motivate believers to be resilient in their faith because of the divine glory and rewards that await them. Eschatology should, therefore, not frighten but comfort believers. Unfortunately, for some decades now, most (academic and non-academic) eschatological discourses (in Africa and elsewhere) have tended to overemphasize end-time cataclysmic events such as torment, hardship, famine, and bloodshed, causing fear and panic among Christians instead of giving them hope. The main purpose of Introducing Eschatology in the African Context (consisting of two volumes) is to offer contemporary Christians a balanced biblical and theological view of Christian Eschatology from an African perspective, to empower believers to be faithful to Christ at all times (even in their trials and sufferings). It is also to call the attention of unbelievers to the divine judgment that awaits them so that they may be encouraged to respond to the call to repent and be saved.

This volume, consisting of eight chapters, begins with a chapter on the scope of Eschatology. The first chapter gives a socio-cultural framework within which the book is located. It highlights African perspectives on future things to show how African Christians might make sense of Biblical Eschatology based on their own socio-cultural and religious worldviews. It also serves as a background against which Western Christian concepts of eschatology may be evaluated. Chapter two explores the meaning and scope of the subject of Eschatology. In chapter three, the book considers various principles required to interpret biblical texts related to the subject of Eschatology. The fourth chapter is a historical survey of eschatological discourses that have taken place in the Church from the patristic era down to the twenty-first century. By reviewing how different people (at different places and at different times) have responded to questions pertaining to the future, the chapter not only serves to guard contemporary Christians against eschatological heresies but also seeks to foster the right beliefs in readers. Chapter five examines the subject of “The Kingdom of God” as both a present reality and a future expectation. The in-breaking of the Kingdom of God into human history goes back to Christ’s First Advent but its full consummation will take place during the Second Advent.

The reality of death, the biblical view of death, the importance of death in the life of the believer and the right Christian attitude towards one’s own death and the deaths of others are some of the key issues considered in chapter six. Chapter six serves as a foundation for discussing the controversial doctrine of the immortality of the soul/spirit in chapter seven. The major contention in chapter seven is that the human soul is in no way intrinsically immortal; the human spirit continues to live after death because God, who breathed the spirit into humanity, is immortal. Chapter eight discusses how the doctrine of the intermediate state has been developed through various epochs of Church history. We reject the extremes of preterism (which claims that resurrection, occurs immediately at death and hence there is no such thing as an intermediate state) and “soul sleep” (which holds that the dead are unconscious between death and resurrection), and adopt the position that after death, the spirit lives consciously and temporarily, separated from its body, awaiting its reunion at the resurrection at Christ’s return.

Each chapter is organised into various sub-themes with summaries and conclusions at the end. There are questions at the end of each chapter to offer the reader the opportunity to have a deeper reflection on major issues discussed. Universities, Seminaries and Bible Schools can use this book for undergraduate and postgraduate courses in Eschatology. The approach used makes the book relevant for scholars as well as non-scholars who desire to know God’s plan for the future of the universe and relate it to their context.

Rev. Dr. Frederick Mawusi Amevenku (PhD)
Senior Lecturer in New Testament Studies & Director of Graduate Studies
Trinity Theological Seminary, Ghana
Rev. Isaac Boaheng (PhD Candidate)
Research Fellow
University of the Free State, South Africa
June, 2021

Frederick Mawusi Amevenku is an ordained Minister of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church,Ghana. He is a Senior Lecturer in New Testament and Biblical Hermeneutics at the Trinity Theological Seminary, Legon in Accra, Ghana. He holds a PhD from Stellenbosch University (Western Cape), South Africa. Mawusi also holds BD and MTh degrees from Trinity Theological Seminary, Legon; LLB and MPhil degrees from the University of Ghana, Legon and Dip. Ed and B.Ed degrees from the University of Cape Coast, Ghana. He has served as District Pastor twice in the Evangelical Presbyterian Church Ghana. He edited A Handbook for Presbyters (2016), Co-authored Tithing in the Christian Church (2018) and edited Topics in Discipleship Series (2019). Mawusi has published many articles in refereed journals and contributed chapters to a few books in the areas of New Testament Studies, Mother Tongue Theologising and Biblical Interpretation. Mawusi is married to Dzifa and they live together with their son Elorm.

Isaac Boaheng holds a Master of Divinity Degree from the Trinity Theological Seminary. He is an ordained minister of the Methodist Church Ghana and a Translator with the Bible Society of Ghana. Some of his recent publications include: A Study of Amos and Hosea: Implications for African Public Theology (2020); Is the Bible Really the Word of God (2019) and Basic Biblical Hebrew (2019). Isaac has research interest in Public Theology, Biblical Studies, and African Christianity. He is married to Gloria and they are blessed with Christian, Benedict and Julia.

Some Preliminary Observations  –  1
Interpreting Time and Eschatology: African Perspective  –  2
African Anthropology  –  4
Life in African Thought  –  5
Death in African Thought  –  6
Immortality of the Soul/Spirit  –  9
The Hereafter in African Thought  –  10
Reincarnation  –  14
Conclusion   –  16
Review Exercise  –  16

Eschatology Explained  –  18
Eschatology: A Neglected Discipline  –  19
Categories of Eschatology  –  21
Approaches to the Study of Eschatology  –  22
Relationship Between Eschatology and Soteriology  –  23
Basic Guiding Principles for the Study of Eschatology  –  24
Why Study Eschatology  –  25
Reasons for the Rise in the Study of Eschatology in Recent Times  –  27
The Holy Spirit and Eschatology  –  28
Conclusion  –  31
Review Exercise  –  31

Four Major Views about New Testament Prophetic Literature   –  32
Literal Interpretation of the Bible  –  33
Allegorical Interpretation of the Bible  –  36
Weaknesses of Allegorical Interpretations  –  36
Foundational Principles for the Interpretation of Prophetic Literature  –  37
Interpreting Symbols   –  40
Interpreting Types  –  41
Conclusion  –  43
Review Exercise  –  43

The Apostolic/Patristic Era  –  44
The Medieval Era (A. D. 430 – 1500)  –  49
The Reformation Era (A. D. 1500 – 1650)  –  55
The Modern Era (A. D. 1650 – Present)
Millennial Debates of the 18th and 19th Centuries  –  57
Liberal Approach to Eschatology: Modernized Eschatology  –  58
Demodernised Eschatology  –  59
Realised Eschatology  –  60
Transcendental Eschatology  –  62
Existential Eschatology  –  63
Politicised Eschatology (Theology of Hope)  –  65
Conclusion  –  69
Review Exercise  –  70

Kingdom of God in Old Testament   –  71
The Kingdom of God in the Inter-Testamental Period   –  74
Kingdom of God in the New Testament  –  75
Gospel Passages Showing the Parallel Use of
“The Kingdom of Heaven” and “The Kingdom of God” in Matthew Mark and Luke  –  76
The History of Interpretation of the Kingdom  –  78
The Kingdom as both Eternal and Existing in History  –  86
John the Baptist and the Kingdom of God  –  86
The Kingdom as Present and Future  –  88
The Church and the Kingdom of God  –  92
African Kingship and the Kingdom of God  –  94
Conclusion  –  96
Review Exercise  –  97

Meaning of “Death”  –  98
Origin of Physical Death: Natural or Unnatural?  –  100
The Nature of Physical Death  –  103
The Abolition of Death’s Penalty  – 104
Why Must Believers Still Die?  –  105
A Christian Attitude towards the Event of Death  –  108
Eschatological ideas in African Funeral Rites  –  109
Eschatological Thoughts in Selected African Dirges  –  110
Eschatological Ideas in African Widowhood Rites  –  116
Conclusion  –  118
Review Exercise  –  119

Historical Development of the Doctrine of the Immortality of the Soul/Spirit  –  121
The soul/spirit in Greek Thought  –  121
The Soul in Jewish/Old Testament Thought  –  123
The Soul in Christian Thought  –  124
Meaning of the Term “Immortality”  –  127
The Philosophical Arguments for Immortality  –  128
Does the Bible teach Immortality of the Human Souls?  –  129
African Christianity and the Immortality of the Soul  –  133
Conclusion  –  134
Review Exercise   –  134

Intermediate State Defined  –  136
The Doctrine of the Intermediate State in the History of the Church  –  137
What the Bible teaches about the Intermediate State  –  141
Soul Sleep  –  148
Instantaneous Resurrection  –  149
Roman Catholic Theology of the Intermediate State  –  149
Limbus Partum   –  149
Limbus Infantum  –  150
Purgatory  –  150
Scriptural Basis for the Doctrine of a Purgatory  –  153
A Protestant Response to Catholic Arguments for Purgatory  –  154
Afterlife and Intermediate State in Ancient Greek Thought  –  156
The Intermediate State from the African perspective  –  158
Conclusion  –  159
Review Exercise  –  159

Concluding Remarks  –  161

Amevenku, F.M. and Boaheng, I.  Introducing Eschatology in the African Context Vol. I. (Accra: Noyam Publishers, 2021).