The Rapture is When?

A Critique of The Rapture Question Answered Plain and Simple
by Robert Van Kampen

by Darrel Cline

Problems in Chapter Three

So far in our critique, we have noted that Jesus Himself taught the psychological importance of not saying "My Lord tarries..."; that there often exists a reason in the person (a quirk of personality) for the conclusions he draws from the words of Scripture that actually contradict or twist the meaning of the very Scriptures he quotes; that there are significant problems with the notion that the Scriptures are "plain and simple"; that there are significant problems with the claim that a "face-value" hermeneutic will solve everything; that the issue of the importance of the Church having its eager expectation of the coming of the Christ replaced by the dreadful possibility of the onset of the seventieth week of Daniel is tied up with the teaching of the prophetic ministry of the two prophets of Revelation 11; and that the Scriptures do not support an arbitrary claim that the wrath of God cannot be expressed through the wrath of Satan. Now, we continue with our examination of Van Kampen's arguments in chapter three of The Rapture Question Answered.

The Citizens of the Millennial Kingdom

Recognizing that his position that the Rapture immediately precedes the Day of His Wrath, late in the seventieth week, means there will be few people left on the earth to populate the Millennial Kingdom, Van Kampen makes these amazing statements on pages 53 and 54: "The primary inhabitants of the Millennial Kingdom will be the remnant of the nation of Israel who survive the final seven-year tribulation period. There will be 144,000 Jews who become the 'firstfruits' of Israel unto Christ, saved right when the Rapture occurs sometime during the second three-and-a-half years of the tribulation period...The rest of the nation of Israel who survive this seven-year tribulation period ... will likewise become true children of God, but not until after the tribulation period is complete...". He also teaches in The Sign that the two witnesses of Revelation 11 bear witness from the middle of the seventieth week of Daniel to its end 1260 days later. Thus, the two witnesses are not only not raptured (according to Van Kampen's chronology, they are two of the elect of God prior to the Rapture), they remain on the earth while the wrath of God is being poured out.

Because this is a critical weakness to his view, Van Kampen is to be scolded just a tad for dismissing it so swiftly. The fact is that the biblical picture of the Millennial Kingdom is of a Kingdom which rules kingdoms. In other words, there are a multitude of kingdoms in existence at the beginning of the Millennium (remember the sheep nations of Matthew 25). But, according to Van Kampen, there are only primarily Israelites! His view creates this conundrum. The biblical picture is that Israel is the lead nation among many nations during the reign of Messiah; that the members of the nations stream up to Jerusalem to be taught the ways of the Great King on David's throne; and that multitudes are included beyond Israel in the salvation that results in living in the Kingdom in bodies of this flesh. But, with the purpose of the rapture of the elect to remove the saints so judgment can be poured out without it getting any "saints", there is only hopeless confusion and Van Kampen seeks to sweep it under the rug with a brief, and erroneous, claim. According to Isaiah 2:2-4 we read: "And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow into it. And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths; for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. And he shall judge among the nations..." (KJV).

The Lord Alone is Exalted?

On pages 56-57 Van Kampen attempts to make the crucial distinction upon which his view rests almost entirely: that the wrath of God is against the wicked (with no godly ones present) and that the wrath of Satan is only against the righteous children of God (with God not doing anything in wrath at this time to the wicked). He writes, "Unless you separate the wrath of God (when the Lord alone will be exalted) from the persecution associated with Antichrist (when Antichrist will exalt himself above every so-called god, demanding the worship of the world and killing those who don't comply) you have a very serious contradiction." This supposed "very serious contradiction" is more smoke and mirrors than reality.

Why do I say that? Because I looked into the context of the two statements that are supposed to create such a contradiction. Isaiah 2:17, where Van Kampen gets his "the Lord alone will be exalted" has a very specific context. In 2:11 we are also told "and the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day." What day? The answer is in 2:10. There we are told that it is the day when men seek to enter into the rocks and hide themselves in the dust, "for fear of the Lord, and for the glory of His majesty." Then, again, we are told in verse 17 that "the Lord alone will be exalted in that day." Again we ask: what day? The answer is in verse 19 where we are told that men will "go into the holes of the rocks, and into the caves of the earth, for fear of the Lord, and for the glory of His majesty." Verse 21 repeats the refrain, telling us that when the Lord arises to shake the earth, men will try to find a hiding place in the clefts of the rocks because of their fear of the Lord. Thus, the "day" when the Lord alone will be exalted is the final day of the Day of the Lord when His glory appears and men are terrified by the visual sighting of the majesty of the Lord. At that point they will attempt to hide in the rocks and caves.

This is actually borne out by Revelation 6:12-17, but Van Kampen cannot get over his insistence that this has to be at the beginning of the Day of the Lord rather than at the end, so he refuses to see it. The sixth seal of the "judgment" of the Lion of Judah (Van Kampen's description) is identified as an event in which the heaven departs as a scroll (permitting men to see the heavenly Throne and the Lamb), every mountain and island is moved out of its place, and every man, who is terrified by the vision of the One sitting upon His throne in obvious anger, seeks to find a hiding place. These are not the results of a pre-wrath event; they are the final culmination of the Day of Wrath when the demarcation between Heaven and earth is broken down and men can see into the place where God sits upon His throne.

The reason Van Kampen has made this blunder is that he has not sufficiently dealt with the nature of the Seals on the Scroll. Rather than taking them as descriptions of the period known as the seventieth week of Daniel, he takes them as chronological events which follow one upon the other. In point of fact, however, the four horsemen characterize the entire period in which conflict and war, famine and death are the first four characteristics of the period. The fifth seal presents a multitude of martyrs, which indicates that the period will be justified by the reality that the wicked have filled history with the persecution of believers (not that at some point in time a whole host of martyrs will be killed, but that martyrs have been, and will be, created regularly throughout the period of man's wickedness upon the earth). And the sixth seal presents the final culmination of the period when God will roll up the atmospheric heaven so that men can actually see the glory of His majesty as Isaiah predicted. So, the first six seals are descriptions of the major characteristics of the period. The sixth one stands as a statement of where the whole thing will end: on the day when the majesty of His glory is revealed from heaven and men scurry to find a hiding place!

Thus, the Antichrist can seek to exalt himself for the entire duration of his 42 month reign, but will be brought to humiliation when the Lord reveals Himself from heaven. Thus, there is only an imaginary "contradiction", and there is nothing real here upon which to base the demand that we make a clear distinction between the wrath of Satan and the wrath of God in terms of timing.

Now let's be clear. The claim that the wrath of Satan sponsors the persecution of the righteous is correct as far as it goes [Satan's dominion on the earth is not going to be a picnic for the wicked that live here!]. The claim that the wrath of God sponsors the judgments upon the wicked is also correct as far as it goes [sometimes the righteous get swept up in the judgment of God as did Daniel and his friends in the days of the Babylonian invasion]. But, the claim that the two are not going on simultaneously is only rooted in the misunderstanding of Isaiah 2:11 and 17 and the seals of Revelation 6. The self-exaltation of the Antichrist will go on until Revelation 19:20, and the sole exaltation of God will not happen until the final day of His wrath when He arises, parts the heavens as a scroll, and descends to bring the mystery of iniquity to an end. My basis for the claim that Antichrist will exalt himself until Revelation 19:20 is Revelation 19:19 where he is marshaling his armies to make war against the descending Christ. If this isn't arrogant self-exaltation of himself against the God of gods, what is? And my basis for the sole exaltation of God on the same day is rooted in verse 20, because it is at this point that God's superiority to the self-deified man is finally recognized without contradiction. To think and teach that the Antichrist will suddenly stop exalting himself after the rapture has occurred is to completely misunderstand the man and his ego-mania, and to think that the people on the earth are suddenly not going to be loyal to him anymore because the Christians are all suddenly gone is to also misunderstand human depravity.

Putting the Elect of God on the Receiving End of His Wrath?

Continuing with his misunderstanding, Van Kampen tries to prejudice the case on page 57 by asking, "Do we dare put the elect of God, whether they live before or after the beginning of the seven-year-tribulation period, on the receiving end of His great wrath?" I hope you can see how prejudicial this question is! I hope you can also see that the doctrine of the Rapture, no matter when it occurs, doesn't help Van Kampen's position.

How so?

Van Kampen has already admitted that the 144,000 will be on the earth when the Lord's wrath is poured out. He has already admitted that there will be Jews saved after the beginning of the Day of the Lord. And, as we pointed out earlier, it is his position that the two witnesses are here on the earth during the Day of the Lord. So, whether he likes it or not, there are elect men on the earth while the Lord is pouring out His wrath upon the earth. That they are not the objects of God's wrath goes without saying, but that they are present while it is being poured out has already been admitted (p. 54). Their presence means they will suffer at least some of the consequences of the expression of wrath even though it is not meant for them. So the entire argument is in danger of going up in smoke!

First, who believes that the Antichrist will not seek to persecute the 144,000 and the rest of Israel who come to faith during the Day of the Lord? Especially since he has the audacity to marshal his armies to wage war against the descending Christ at the end? That the 144,000 are sealed does not mean that they will not be the objects of this ego-maniac's wrath--it only means that he will not be successful in his campaign against them.

Second, it really makes no difference whether you have one saint or 144,000 saints or 144,000 plus a saved third of the nation of Israel on the earth during the Day of the Lord; if there is one saint present you have the wrath of God being poured out while there are saints present and subject to the consequences [who believes that when the waters are turned to blood that the "elect" won't smell the stench and be otherwise affected by that?].

Therefore, to attempt to argue that God must remove all of the godly before He can pour out His wrath is to attempt too much, especially since it is already admitted that there will be thousands and thousands of godly (elect) ones present during that time.

So, the whole scenario is in danger of collapse because it is built on a faulty thesis: that God cannot pour out His wrath if there are any "elect" present. For Van Kampen to admit the presence of saved people during the Day of the Lord and then to write, "That promise [God's children will not see the wrath of God] applies to all the elect of God, not just to those who are living before the final seven-year tribulation period!" is amazing, besides being illogical and unconvincing. Are the 144,000 not "elected"? Are the remnant of Israel who are saved not "elected'? What is this double-speak?

The Rapture Initiates God's Wrath?

On pages 58-64 Van Kampen compounds his errors with more and more misleading statements built upon faulty logic and misinterpretation of the "plain and simple" Scriptures. He begins by claiming that Jesus taught the Rapture would initiate the Day of the Lord in Luke 17:22, 26-30. Then, he goes on to explain that this "destroys" the pretribulational rapture position because it is built upon the concept of imminence.

But does it?

If Luke 17 was dealing with the Rapture, Van Kampen would have an argument of sorts, but he has not demonstrated that Luke 17 is dealing with the Rapture. He simply assumes that the phrase "on the day that the Son of Man is revealed" is dealing with the Rapture and, then, ipso facto, he finds the Rapture being declared to be on the same day that the judgment of God begins upon the earth. This is like finding an Easter egg that you yourself have hidden and acting surprised that you found it! You did not come upon the egg because it was always there; you came upon it because you put it there!

Unless Van Kampen can show that the phrase in Luke 17 ("...the day the Son of Man is revealed...") is Rapture truth, the most we can say is that he found what he assumed he would find. He claims on page 59 that he will give this proof in the next chapter, so we will wait for it there.

Summary

In chapter 3, Van Kampen sets forth four foundational basics. When investigated, three of the four can not support the edifice that he wants to build. The first one is that the wrath of God is limited to the specific time referred to as "the Day of the Lord". This has not been established, and is complicated by the fact that sometimes the phrase "the Day of the Lord" refers to a period of many days and sometimes it refers to the final day of Christ's descent with the hosts of heaven (Revelation 19).

The second one, however, is that sign of the Day of the Lord is recorded in Revelation 6:16-17. This one is compromised by the fact that the sixth seal (Revelation 6:12-17) contains both the beginning and the end of the Day of the Lord. It begins with the sign of the sun being darkened and the moon being turned to blood (which Joel 2:31 said would precede the Day of the Lord) and it ends with the men of earth trying to escape from the majestic glory of a visibly angry Christ Who is unveiled by the departure of the heavens as a scroll (which Isaiah 34:4 in context puts at the slaughter of the nations by God at the end of the period). The reason for this confusion by Van Kampen is that he mis-assigns the significance of the seals to individual, chronologically sequential events rather than what they are: descriptions of the seventieth week of Daniel.

The third one is that the wrath of Satan cannot be exercised within the same time frame as the wrath of God. This is compromised by the illogic of saying that all of God's elect have the promise that they will not see His wrath while simultaneously teaching that the 144,000 elect and the elect remainder of Israel will be upon the earth during the Day of the Lord. It is further compromised by the reality that multitudes from the nations are presented as participants in the Kingdom after the Messiah's coming.

And the fourth is that the Rapture initiates God's Wrath--on the same day. This one is compromised by the circularity of assuming the Rapture is what is meant by the phrase "the day that the Son of Man is revealed", and then finding that "the day the Son of Man is revealed" initiates the destruction of the Day of the Lord. It is further compromised by the unproven assumption that the revelation of the Son of Man is not at the end of the time period.

So, do these arguments have no merit? Let us investigate the "proof" as it comes up in the next chapters.

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