In our last study, we saw Van Kampen's contradiction of Jesus' teaching regarding Revelation 3:10. He posits the claim that Jesus promised to deliver the faithful during the time of Great Tribulation at the same time quoting Jesus' clear statement that many of the faithful were going to be put to death during the Great Tribulation. You can't have it both ways. Either Jesus is going to "deliver us from the hour" or He is going to "turn us over to the hour". I prefer to think that Van Kampen is the one who is confused.
Now we come to his treatment of Matthew 24:36-41. This text is the fairly familiar statement by Jesus that in that day,
...two shall be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left...two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left.
In this text, he addresses the meaning of the word "paralambano" which the translators translated "taken" in Matthew 24:40 and 41. It is his claim, based upon the way the word "paralambano" is used in the New Testament that it "means to intimately receive someone to oneself" (page 181). Here, again, Van Kampen fails to tell us the whole truth as indicated by the use of the word in the New Testament. The word paralambano is used 50 times in the New Testament. It is used in a variety of contexts. For instance, it is the word used in Matthew 4:5 and 8 to refer to the devil's "taking" of Jesus up into the Holy City to the pinnacle of the temple and to the devil's "taking" of Jesus up into an exceeding high mountain. These two references alone blow away any built-in idea of "intimacy" or any built-in idea of loving intent. It is also used in Matthew 27:27 to tell us that "the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the common hall and gathered unto him the whole band of soldiers" (KJV) so they could mock and scourge Him. Clearly the word does not, of itself, carry the idea of intimate reception. Context is what adds notions of intimacy or takes them away. Another example is found in the apparently parallel passage of Luke 17:34-37. There Jesus says "...one shall be taken, and the other left..." and the disciples ask "Where, Lord?" and He replies "Wheresoever the body [probably should be read as 'carcass'] is, thither will the eagles [probably should be read as 'vultures'] be gathered together" (KJV). Therefore, Jesus did not select a word that, of itself, denotes intimacy or loving intent. He simply selected a word that communicated His meaning in His particular contexts.
If Van Kampen had done his homework and just pulled a Greek dictionary off the shelf, he would have discovered that "paralambano" is used in a multitude of ways that include "taking something by force" as well as "taking prisoner" (see Liddell and Scott, page 1315). So much for another poorly done "concordance study"!
How, then, should we take the Matthean passage? Well, we have three options. We can do as Van Kampen has done and simply read a doctrine of a late seventieth week rapture into the text and then "find" it there. Or we can import an apparently parallel passage from Luke 17 into Matthew 24 and consider the words of Jesus to Nicodemus that no one can either see or enter the Kingdom of God as requiring a selective "gathering" of all unbelievers at the end of the seventieth week in order to "cast them into outer darkness and feed their bodies to the vultures" (a kind of rapture in reverse with a gathering of the bodies to where the vultures are gathering). Or we can stay with the context of Matthew 24:31 and Jesus' promise to the nation of Israel that He will gather them from "one end of the heavens to the other" to the land and see 24:40-41 as a particularized explanation of the "how" of the fulfillment of that promise. Obviously, if Jesus had what Luke recorded in mind, the "taking" of the one in the field would have to be judgmental (just as the immediate context of the reference to Noah implies), and, just as obviously, if Jesus had Matthew 24:31 in mind, the "taking" would be unto blessing ... and these two possibilities are widely divergent. In any case, His use of paralambano has no contextual connection whatsoever to a doctrine of "rapture" and no amount of true "comparing Scripture with Scripture" will create a valid contextual linkage. Van Kampen's method of comparing Scripture with Scripture has turned out to be less a true comparison of Scripture with Scripture and more a reading of a preconceived idea into Scripture wherever any possible crack is made available. At any rate, another poorly done word study will not settle the issue; only the context can do that. There is nothing in the way the word is used to point us to a late seventieth week rapture.
Van Kampen, on page 182, writes "Another Greek word that cries out to be understood in it proper sense is perileipomenoi, for it, too, confirms the teaching of Christ that the elect of God who [sic] He will rescue from Antichrist's persecution can only be the church..." This word is used in I Thessalonians 4:15 and 17. In both verses it is translated "remain". In both verses it is a complimentary participle that further elucidates the meaning of another participle translated "we which are alive". Van Kampen posits the notion that to say "we which are alive and remain" is redundant. Therefore, he translates it "surviving" and plugs it into his construct of a believer in the period of the Great Tribulation who is both alive and "surviving". Again, however, he is simply importing his construct into the passage and not drawing the meaning of the passage out of the text in its legitimate context. In the context the problem Paul addresses is the possibility of physical death having some kind of degenerative impact upon the glory of the promise of the Rapture. His statement is that the dead are not losers in any sense because they will actually be raised and go first. That is the context of his statement, "...then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them..." (4:17; KJV). There is nothing redundant to Paul's emphasis upon the fact that to be "left over" from the process of death to be "alive" when the Rapture occurs is to be "second" in the process of being caught up to be with Jesus. The context is dealing with "surviving" death, not the imported notion of surviving the Antichrist's persecution. So much for a participle "crying out to be understood in its proper sense!" Proper sense comes from the context of the text, not the imported theology that is contradictory at the outset. Van Kampen's view is that Jesus promised to deliver the elect from the Antichrist's persecution while at the same time declaring that "they will kill you".
Next, on page 183, Van Kampen writes, "There is one other Greek word that we need to look at before we finish this chapter. In its own subtle way, this special word demands (emphasis by the author) that the Olivet Discourse is speaking of the rapture of the saints, not the battle of Armageddon..." This word is "episunago" and it is used in Matthew 24:31 in the phrase "He will send forth His angels...and they will gather together (emphasis by the author) [episunago] His elect from...one end of the sky to the other".
Van Kampen makes the rather incredible claim that "episunago" means "a gathering together in an upward direction, or 'a taking up and bringing together'" (page 184). He makes this claim in the face of Matthew 23:37 where Jesus said of Jerusalem, "...how often would I have gathered [episunago} thy children together, even as a hen gathereth [episunago] her chickens under her wings..." (KJV). He makes this claim in spite of Mark's statement in Mark 1:33 that "all the city was gathered together [episunago] at the door" (KJV). He makes this claim in spite of Luke's statement in Luke 12:1 that "In the mean time, when there were gathered together [episunago] an innumerable multitude of people..." (KJV). NONE of these texts support the "root fallacy" [claiming that a word means something because of its roots: "epi" plus "sun" plus "ago"] of Van Kampen's notion that the addition of "epi" to "sunago" adds the idea of "direction upward" to the verb. I think he may have made this unsubstantiated claim because Deuteronomy 30:4 (the text Jesus probably had in mind when He made the statement about His angels gathering Israel to the land) uses the word "sunago" and Van Kampen wanted to distance himself from that reality by hiding behind the preposition "epi", but, of course, only he can tell us the real reason he made this claim against all use-evidence in the New Testament.
There is one thing in this chapter by Van Kampen with which I heartily agree: his exhortation to "Be a Berean!" If you are, you will examine every claim men subject you to and you will be able to look for yourself to see if what they write is true.
Van Kampen's final chapter, "What's the Big Deal?" adds nothing to his biblical arguments. It does point out his sheer hypocrisy though. How so? In the opening paragraph he quotes the biblical admonition "...and don't associate with those who do!" as applying to anyone who distorts Christ's teaching about the timing of the Rapture. Then, on page 192 he asks,
Why are people fired from pulpit ministries, mission agencies, and other parachurch organizations over this very matter? Why do those who do not hold to the pretribulation position face expulsion by denominations that claim to use the same hermeneutic as we do? Do those who begin to question the pretribulation timing of the Rapture suddenly become heretics because they refuse to blame God for the worst persecution that His elect will ever have to endure since the beginning of time?
Van Kampen wants it both ways. He wants "pre-wrathers" to be able to hold on to their positions in churches, mission agencies, and other ministries while teaching a view that is contrary to that which is accepted as true, while counseling us to withdraw from anyone who doesn't teach the pre-wrath view! The knife cuts both ways. Such hypocrisy is as blatant as the exegesis is garbled. If you are going to counsel withdrawal from those who disagree with you in terms of your view of the timing of the Rapture, at least be man enough to take it when your view causes people to withdraw from you!
Perhaps it would do us some good to go back to Van Kampen's exegesis of Paul's instruction regarding those from whom we are to withdraw and make sure that the timing of the Rapture is sufficient cause!