Man’s Enjoyment of God: Calvin’s Beatific Vision in Psychopannychia

Psychopannychia is the first theological work Calvin wrote in 1534 (although unfavorable circumstances delayed its publication until 1542), and it concerns with the state of the souls between their death and resurrection. Calvin wrote in his two prefaces, first in 1534 and then in 1536, that its design was to combat the erroneous teaching of soul’s sleep (or even its termination) until the resurrection, especially as he perceived its position strengthened by the Anabaptists. It is, however, in this work that Calvin makes two significant contributions which have been overlooked previously. First, he brings biblical exposition on the idea of beatific vision in a way that is original to him, and thus gives an affirmation to the validity of the doctrine in a Reformed fashion. Second, he skillfully demonstrates the doctrine’s usefulness in encouraging saints in the context of religious persecution. In order to discuss these contributions of Calvin in Psychopannychia, this paper will briefly discuss the immediate historical situations which played a vital role in the publication of this treatise. In this section, the present writer will seek to answer the enigmatic question of why he wrote this treatise. In the second part, this paper will present Calvin’s biblical approach to the beatific vision, especially as he saw its idea conveyed in the references to the ‘sleep’ of the soul.

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