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Thursday, July 14, 2011

Ethiopia in Prophecy Part I - Africa, The Bible, And The Church

Introduction

With the recent emergence of South Sudan as an independent nation (a cause I have personally advocated for years, I must add), it brought to mind the importance of the African Christian heritage that is often underdocumented and misunderstood due in large part to liberal theologies, Islamization, and Arabization (the last go hand-in-hand).   The primary emphasis of this two-part study is on Ethiopia and the Biblical Ark of the Covenant, and its prophetic role in the future.   However, I want to first give a background as to Africa's Christian past, which is actually a rich heritage that needs to be given more attention.

I.   Biblical References to Ethiopia

Although the primary Scriptural background of this study will actually focus on Isaiah 18, there are deep Scriptural roots and a number of references to this unique nation in the Bible, and they can be found in both the Old and New Testaments.  Therefore, I am going to now take some of these passages and briefly discuss them.

A.  Genesis 2:13

One of the earliest Biblical references to Ethiopia involves the Garden of Eden from the very beginning, as it is included in the traditional boundaries of this location at the very outset.  The River Gishon in the passage, for instance, is cited by the Church Fathers and believed by traditional scholarship to be a reference to the Nile.  An aspect of this refers to an "opening in the earth" which I believe could be a reference to the Rift Valley, and the same reference actually says the Gishon (Nile) encircles Ethiopia, and geographically this has some merit, as the Rift Valley/Nile and the Arabian Sea do surround the area.  An interesting side note to this is that some Church Fathers gave an allegorical symbolism to the Nile as the figure of chastity (Andrew Louth, ed.  Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture Vol. I - Genesis 1-11 {Downer's Grove, IL:  Intervarsity, 2001} p. 57).  The chastity part has a spiritual significance too, as it could possibly symbolize the faithfulness of the Ethiopians over the centuries to the Judeo-Christian tradition and the one true God, a fact that actually dates back until at least the time of King Solomon.  However, that could be over-reaching a bit, so we will leave that for now.

Bottom line is, the Garden of Eden was actually a massive geographical region, as it pretty much encompassed everything between the Nile Valley and the Ganges River in India, and this would have definitely included Ethiopia in the equation.   Other factors, since as the antediluvian positioning of continents, etc., may have factors involved as well in this hypothesis, but that is the focus of a whole other study.

B.  Daniel 7:8

This familiar passage in Daniel talks about the "plucking up" of three "horns" (meaning in this context kings) by the "little horn" (generally agreed by most scholarship to be a symbol of the Antichrist).  What this traditionally can be interpreted as is this - the Antichrist comes to power and subjects most of the world to his rule, but three nations resist this control and rise up against him unsuccessfully.   St. Jerome interprets this verse as identifying with Egypt, the Africans (alluding to the old Roman province of Africa, centered around Carthage in what is today Tunisia), and Abyssinia (Ethiopia) (Desmond Birch.  Trial, Tribulation, and Triumph.  {Santa Barbara, CA:  Queenship Publishing, 1996} p. 483).  Note that all three of these "horns" are in Africa, and all three have one thing in common - they were all fertile strongholds of Christianity with a deep and rich tradition.   With the exception of North Africa, which until fairly recently was predominantly Islamic and Arabized, these areas to this day still have a significant Christian presence.   The Berbers, who are the true natives of North Africa, have in recent years experienced a renaissance of their culture and heritage, and as a result a growing population of Christians (some miraculously converted through personal visions of Jesus coming to them Himself with the Gospel message) is being re-established among them.   Even the name "Berber" is perjorative, as most of these people identify themselves by the term Amazigh.  Remember, the ancient Amazigh Christians, centered around the ancient see of Carthage, were the same people that had among their native sons such great champions of the faith as St. Augustine, St. Ambrose, Tertullian, and other major Church Fathers and saints.  Most of the dumbed-down "churchianity" of today ignores this fact, as the general belief is that somehow these great soldiers of the faith were all transplanted Romans or something.   That ignorance is the height of bigotry, as it denies the true diversity of the Christian Church, which encompasses all cultures and has from the beginning.  Read the New Testament, people - the Church of Acts 2 has at least 14 different nationalities represented at the first Day of Pentecost!!  Racism and ethnocentrism have no place in the Body of Christ, and its origins are demonic - yet, it has infected the thinking of the Church for decades, especially among American Evangelicals and Catholics (a lapsed Catholic I talked to, as a matter of fact, failed to comprehend that Jesus was born an observant Jew, as all he saw all his life were those stupid pictures of some blonde, blue-eyed, bearded hippie wimp, which by the way is not the Jesus I know!).  Anyway, forgive my soapboxing, but it is important to remember that Christ died for all people, and that fact is included in the constitution of the early Church as well.

Conclusion - The ABC's of the African Church

Based on Daniel 8, it is concluded then that the "three horns" refer to three African nations, which we call the ABC's:

1.  Abyssinia - This is a generic term for Ethiopia and the surrounding regions, and in modern geography it includes also I believe the South Sudanese and Eritreans.  It is here we will pick up with in Part II of this study.

2.  Berbers - Although I personally prefer the correct term Amazigh, the remnant of Christians among these people, I believe, will grow into a strong church as they rediscover their roots.

3.  Copts - The native Christian Egyptians, who are actually prophetically referred to in Isaiah 19:23-25, which also is the whole focus of another study.  Sufficive to say, these are the blood descendants of the pharaonic Egyptians, and are not Arabs, as most of the ignorant American public seems to think.

This concludes my introductory part of this study, so we will move on in the next section to the specific study of Ethiopia in prophecy.