The Rapture is When?

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

by Darrel Cline

Problems in Chapter Five Continued

After artificially creating the "parousia problem", Van Kampen goes the next step and creates another "problem". He calls this "The Day of the Lord Problem". So let's look at it.

The So-Called Day of the Lord Problem

On page 98 Van Kampen says of pretribulationism, "This position would also necessitate have two separate and distinct Days of the Lord, each of which, by definition, would have God destroying all the wicked living upon the earth at that time." This is, of course, only true if the definition of "the Day of the Lord" is restricted to a single "day". This, even according to Van Kampen, is patently not a true description. Even Van Kampen's definition of the day of the Lord includes multiple 24-hour periods following one upon another, with multiple comings and goings by the Christ. He did not indicate whether he had done his homework regarding the phrase "the great and terrible day" of the Lord to discern whether the "Day of the Lord" is an extended period and "the Great and Terrible Day of the Lord" is the final event(s). It is perfectly possible, within the framework of the words, both to understand the "parousia" to extend over time--to last as long as Jesus is, in some sense, "present"--and to also understand the claim that the day of the Lord extends over a period of time and is climaxed by the final destruction of all of the wicked so that the Kingdom can begin with only "born again" people seeing and entering that blessed hope of the Jews.

It doesn't seem to have entered into Van Kampen's mind that the "parousia" as a continuing presence IS the "day of the Lord"...the events contained in references to the "parousia" are also contained in "the day of the Lord".

Therefore, he has artificially set up a straw man and then set about to skewer it. Tilting at windmills. There is no "Day of the Lord" problem. There is just the problem of a man being too committed to a structured concept of the end times to be able to see the trees of the forest.

And Other Related "Problems"

On page 101 Van Kampen sets about to detail "other" problems. He says, first of all, that "...if one attempts to make the Olivet Discourse recorded in Matthew applicable only to Israel...then how do we interpret this same Olivet Discourse as recorded in Mark, or ... Luke?" His position is that Mark wrote for the benefit of non-Jews and Luke was written for all Gentiles. But, this, too, is an artificial straw man set up for the easily led.


Because in the discipline of biblical hermeneutics, everyone who considers the issues seriously knows that there is a fundamental distinction between "interpretation" and "application". Mark and Luke both recorded what Jesus said to the Jews of His day about the seventieth week of Daniel and neither of them tried to make their readers think they were those Jews, or that those Jews represented them. Before the Gentiles of Mark's or Luke's audiences could think in any terms of "application", they had to rightly "interpret". They would make the same mistakes of interpretation that Van Kampen has made if they simply ran from "the words" to "the plain and simple" application of those words.

Unless one understands the truth of the "words" any application will be flawed. In other words, by self-deception, Van Kampen has jumped to the notion that if Jesus' words were in any way restricted in interpretation to Jews, there is no legitimate application to non-Jews. This is foolishness and unworthy of the paper it takes to print it. It is much like saying that because I read of God's words to Abraham that he will have a son in his one hundredth year of life, there is no application to me unless I believe I will have a son in the one hundredth year of my life. This is sheer nonsense. And, besides, there is only one generation upon which the events of the parousia and the Day of the Lord will fall. Does that mean that there is no "application" to anyone who does not live in that particular generation? Think, my reader, think! Neither Mark nor Luke hedged the teaching of Jesus just because He was speaking to Israel and to the generation of Jews who would be His disciples in the day when they observe the Sabbath and see the abomination of desolation in Jerusalem. That they considered the pictures of Jesus that they were presenting as valuable to non-Jewish audiences clearly teaches an "applicability" but it is not the "applicability of assuming you are suddenly a Jew in the midst of the seventieth week of Daniel" or of assuming that what was written about Jews in the midst of that week automatically applies to non-Jews in exactly the same way! From that particularly blind argument, Van Kampen goes to yet another.

He claims that because Matthew is the only Gospel to make any reference to the Church, that fact validates his sheer unproven and textually contradicted claim that the referents in the Olivet Discourse are not seventieth week Jews, but future founders of the Church. This argument completely fails because it invalidates the meaning of the words found in the Olivet Discourse which not once mentions either the Church (by specific term) or any conception that bears its likeness (by conceptual description).

The references to the Church in Matthew are, like every other word in Matthew, to be interpreted in their own context. The word translated "church" (ekklesia) is not only used in the New Testament to refer to what we call the Church. Stephen used the word in Acts 7:38 when he said, "...this is he that was in the church in the wilderness with the angel which spake to him in the mount Sina, and with our fathers: who received the lively oracles to give unto us..." If Jesus' words to His Jewish audience in Matthew 18 are to be taken in any "face-value" sense, they HAD to have meaning for that non-Church audience. So, telling them to "tell it to the church" did NOT mean the post-resurrection, post-ascension, post-Pentecost Church, but DID mean the ekklesia of which the Jews who were listening to Him were a part, particularly their own particular "assemblies" of synagogues. Just leave the words in their own context and you won't have any problem with understanding -- unless you have an axe to grind.

The final sentence of this "other problems" section, found on page 102, again highlights Van Kampen's misunderstanding of both Matthew and the process of interpretation unto application. He writes, "How is it then that one decides to throw out the Olivet Discourse, making it applicable only to Israel, when everything taught in the larger context of this discourse pertains directly to the church?" There is not a single serious pretribulationist that "throws out the Olivet Discourse". It is crucial to our understanding of our Lord and our understanding of His plan to bring about His Kingdom. The statement is misleading. There is a clear demarcation between correct interpretation, in which one takes all of the details of the text in its historical context and seeks their meaning, and application, in which one takes the correctly deduced meaning and seeks for some implication for the reader's life and practice. The blurring of this line leads to all kinds of interpretational blunders and false applications -- like trying to make the hope of Israel and the Church the same thing.

So, there are, indeed, "other problems" but they are Van Kampen's and they arise from his "plain and simple" hermeneutic in which he dismisses words if they get in the way of his desired "applications". There is NO legitimate application of anything in the Bible if it is based upon a faulty interpretation of the words of the Bible. Interpretation MUST be first; application must follow and be true to Truth.

And Then "The Greatest Hurdle of All"

On page 102, Van Kampen, in his now recognizable "alarmist" style (making every issue a "major" hurdle) writes, "But the greatest hurdle one must cross is found in the last two verses of the final chapter of that gospel, often referred to as the Great Commission." He goes on to explain that we must take the "all" in Christ's commission to mean everything Matthew recorded. He goes further to say that we must take the "all" to mean everything that Jesus taught in all four of the gospels. He then goes even further to make a case that we are to teach "all" that Jesus taught. With this most of us agree. But we disagree as to specifics because Van Kampen refuses to teach "all" that Jesus taught. For example, he refuses to teach the "Church" to observe the Sabbath, but it is clear that the very disciples that He was addressing in the Olivet Discourse were specifically taught to pray that their flight would not be on the Sabbath. He refuses to teach the "Church" that Jesus expects it to move to Jerusalem so that it can be there to witness the abomination of desolation and so that it can flee to the mountains of Judea when they do witness it. Why? Because he knows better. He just wants us to buy his "plain and simple" construct of end time events and overlook the details that do not fit, just as he has done. The fact that Van Kampen has conveniently overlooked is that there are two different groups of the future disciples of Jesus and that each group needs to understand what He expects of them. There is the future group that will constitute His "Church", and there is the future group that will constitute His "seventieth week disciples who will be Sabbath observers and witnesses in Jerusalem of the abomination of desolation." He tries to make the two groups one, but he cannot overcome the insurmountable problems of forcing the church to adopt the Sabbath and move to Jerusalem during the seventieth week. This fact of two groups, of which the disciples are representative at different points in Jesus' instruction (made clear by the terms He uses in His addresses to them), confuses the issues and makes Van Kampen's arguments fail miserably.

For examples, take the following. In Matthew 10:6-7 Matthew records that Jesus told His "disciples" to "go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel". To whom was He speaking? His disciples. Are we to obey that in our preaching today? Of course not. How do we know? Because it is clear that when Jesus gave that instruction, He was addressing His disciples "as themselves at the time when they were under His tutelage." Later, that restriction would be rescinded. In the Olivet Discourse, Jesus was addressing His disciples. But, who were they? Were they "themselves" so that they should expect to be living in Jerusalem when the abomination came? History says no. Were they "future founders of the Church"? History says they could be because that is one of the options of history. But, were they "representatives of the Jewish believers in Messiah during the seventieth week"? History also leaves this option open, but it doesn't tell us. But Jesus does.

He says He is speaking to the disciples, not as future founders of the Church, but as representatives of their own people during the days when Messianic believers will be living in Jerusalem, observing the Sabbath, and witnessing the setting up of the abomination of desolation. Van Kampen is fond of saying "there it is, plain and simple", so I will mimic him: what does the text "say"? Plain and simple? Jesus' disciples did not always represent themselves as themselves. Sometimes they represented their own people in the days of the future, and sometimes they represented the Church that was to come. How do we tell which is which? Just look at the details of the text. Just don't get so committed to forcing a view that you cannot see the details anymore.

In the Great Commission, who were the disciples? They were "themselves", but they were also "representatives of those who would go beyond their reach in making disciples of all of the nations". This is not hard. All we have to do is two things: first, we make no assumptions of the text that it does not lead us to make, and second, we deal with the details.

So, the greatest hurdle of all turns out to be a small puddle. The rest of his "greatest hurdle of all" material on page 104 is nothing but a brow-beating diatribe against all who disagree with him designed to intimidate into silence. But it is based on a very flawed foundation and fails like most brow-beatings do.

Then, on page 105, he makes the fatal blunder (hermeneutically fatal, not physically so) of not recognizing that the Great Commission was given by Christ after His crucifixion. What is important about this? This: in Matthew 24, Jesus' words about the "end of the age" were spoken immediately after the expiration of the sixty-ninth week of Daniel and they addressed the events that were to transpire during the seventieth week. The seventieth week constituted the "age" of God's dealings with Israel. The sixty-ninth week expired just a day or so before Jesus gave the Olivet Discourse. The seventieth did not follow on its heels. Thus, the "ages" changed. The prophecy of Daniel's seventieth week was upon Daniel's people, the nation of Israel. The "age" during which the disciples were to make disciples was the new age of the Church. Thus, to make disciples unto the end of the age was NOT unto the end of the seventieth week. Rather, it was unto the end of the age of the Church.

Plain and simple! It's amazing what sticking with the content of the context will do for clarity. It's also amazing how quickly one who doesn't do that moves into diatribe and threatening.

The Final Contradiction

On page 108, Van Kampen urges his readers to compare Scripture with Scripture and says, "...if you do this carefully, without preconceived assumptions or biases, you can come to only one conclusion..." This is hypocrisy (a charge I dislike making, but feel that it is necessary at this point). Van Kampen has already spent over 100 pages trying to bias us as readers and has even threatened us (on page 104) with dire consequences if we disagree with him. Then he has the blind arrogance to tell us that "if we are unbiased" we will come to the conclusions he has come to. Never mind that he doesn't do the details justice; never mind that his hermeneutic is blatantly flawed; never mind that he himself was leaning toward post-tribulationism before he even began his "concordance" study (this is a pre-admitted bias that automatically answers the question of why he is so antagonistic toward pretribulationists); never mind that no one ever has an unbiased mind beyond initial childbirth; and never mind that fruitful disciples have had good reasons for rejecting Van Kampen's version of the organization of the materials of the Word of God for a long time. Van Kampen's materials are so compromised by this arrogance that it makes responding to his writings a chore because he doesn't seem interested in making an appealing case for consideration, he seems only interested in trying to force us to feel stupid and incompetent if we don't agree with his "plain and simple" conclusions.

Previous ChapterReturn to Contents PageNext Chapter

Back to Pastor's Study