Let the Word Speak!

Appendix B

Appendix B: Robert Van Kampen’s The Sign
Modern Thought vs. Ancient Literature

Robert Van Kampen tells his readers he researched his book The Sign for eight years on the premise that all the apocalyptic literature in the Bible could be successfully weaved together into one common story line. What he presents is a fascinating, well-documented, but lengthy work presenting a time line of the last years on earth.

He writes that he was motivated to write his book The Sign because he believes that all Christians must be familiar with the prophesies of the end times so they are prepared to serve Christ when the Tribulation starts. He has a burden for unknowledgeable Christians who he believes will have to suffer during the Tribulation because they do not know the prophesies and will be confused by Satan and his servant, the Antichrist.

I do not have the criticisms of Van Kampen’s work that I have of Lindsey’s book. However, I do have two serious disagreements with the book The Sign. The first disagreement is a point in common with Apocalypse Code; I believe the prophetic literature in the Bible must be understood in the context of the people to which it was written, so mixing prophetic literature from Exodus, Daniel, and Revelation must not be done without discussing the different conditions of the early Israelite nation, the Israelites coming out of exile in Babylon, and the early Christian church.

My second disagreement is much more serious than the first. Van Kampen’s philosophy for Bible study is that “all Scripture is to be taken in its customary, natural, and normal sense (i.e., literally).” I agree with Van Kampen’s philosophy until he equates “normal” with “literal.” By applying twentieth century rules for “customary, natural, and normal,” he insists on using a thought process that was foreign, alien, and very unnatural to the early Christians to whom John wrote. None of them would have considered Revelation to be “literal,” nor would they have interpreted the book as a linear, chronological foretelling of future events. Ironically, the conflict between a twentieth-century time line and first-century cyclical thought can be seen in how Van Kampen’s scripture references must jump forward and backward throughout the book of Revelation to meet his time line.

As such, I do not accept Van Kampen’s motivation that we must understand the literal meaning of the prophets to serve God at the end time. I object to the distortion of the cyclical nature of Biblical writings that occurs when it is interpreted through strict linear thinking. Thus, I simply cannot accept Van Kampen’s conclusions about how the last days will be.

However, because the book is so carefully researched, I found value in studying the book to improve my familiarity with apocalyptic writings and to challenge my own beliefs and interpretations. The book also presents many of the first century concepts in the context of our age, which has helped me understand the emotional response that John’s readers must have felt to Revelation. For those reasons, I have chosen to summarize the book in this appendix.

Time line

Van Kampen writes that only one remaining event must take place, the establishment of the “eighth” kingdom, before the Tribulation will begin. He believes this could start at any time.

Daniel 9:24-27 lists seventy time periods (”weeks”) of seven years each remaining until the end time. This time line spells out events like the rebuilding of the Jerusalem temple and the birth of Christ. The first 69 “weeks” have taken place, and we are living in a long gap preceding the seventieth week. Van Kampen matches this 70th week to the reign of the Antichrist. Daniel 12:11-12 also describes this last “week,” with a key point midway through the week (after 3 1/2 years) marked by the Abomination of Desolation — desecrating the Temple.

The Antichrist

The descriptions of the empires to follow Babylon given in Daniel in the interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream match with the descriptions of the beast empires of Revelation 17:10-12, with the difference that Revelation adds an empire during the dispersion of Israel, which Van Kampen interprets to be Hitler’s Third Reich.

The final “beast” empire, led by the Antichrist, is a union of ten nations (ten toes, ten horns), but with the Antichrist combining three of these ten nations to start his reign. Van Kampen deduces the makeup of these ten nations by references to the previous “beast” empires, the Genesis 10 list of descendants of Noah, and scriptures in Daniel chapters 2 and 7 and Ezekiel chapter 38. From this compendium, he concludes that the three kingdoms to be united under the Antichrist must be from eastern Europe and the former U.S.S.R., with the other seven allies being Iran, Iraq, Greece, Ethiopia, Libya, the Ukraine, and Turkey.

From Isaiah 28:15-19, Van Kampen believes that Israel will sign a peace treaty with the Antichrist at the start of his reign without realizing who he really is. This will be a disruptive era, with false messiahs (the first seal), wars (the second seal) and famines (the third seal) foretold in Revelation. After 3 1/2 years have passed, 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4 foretells that the Antichrist will reveal his true identity, take over Jerusalem and the Temple, and declare that he should be worshipped by all the world.

Revelation 13:3 indicates that the Antichrist revealed will be one of the kings of one of the previous seven “beast” empires, killed with a head wound, but back to life again. Based on the necessary Germanic or Roman lineage, and based on how instantly recognizable this true identity is to the entire world, Van Kampen believes this will be Adolf Hitler.

During the time between the Abomination and the Rapture, the Antichrist will require everyone that buys or sells anything to have the Mark of the Beast, which Van Kampen says could be a bar code, based on the Greek wording. There will be a second beast, an “Enforcer,” who requires everyone to worship the Antichrist. Everyone will make an image of the Antichrist, and the Enforcer will cause these images to be inhabited by demons that talk and cause those that don’t worship the Antichrist to be killed.

God’s Intervention

Those who have a strong Christianity will have been warned by God of the true identity of the Antichrist at the start of his reign, and they will have removed themselves from society and hidden away to wait for the Rapture. Some strong believers will instead answer the call to be witnesses and martyrs to confront the Antichrist and call others to follow God.

At the time of the Abomination, God will send three angels to warn the entire earth of the falsehood of the Antichrist. God will also raise Elijah and Moses from the dead as two witnesses to proclaim God’s truth and cause havoc with the followers of the Antichrist. (See Revelation 11:3-6 and Malachi 3:1 and 4:5.)

The Second Coming

Before the end of the seven-year reign of the Antichrist, Jesus will come back to earth with amazing signs in the sky (Joel 2:10, 30-31) so that everyone on earth will know that He has returned. Christians will rejoice at His coming, but the rest of the world will be afraid — but still not accept Jesus as Lord (Luke 21:25-28). The dead in Christ will rise first, followed by Christians still alive, and be taken into heaven.

At this point, the Jews that did not take on the Mark of the Beast but have not become Christians will be marked by angels for protection, just prior to the seven trumpets of God’s wrath against the unrepentant, sinful world (Malachi 3:1-3). In retaliation, the Antichrist will kill Elijah and Moses, but after 3 1/2 days, Christ will bring them back to life and send them to heaven (Revelation 11:7-11).

At the seventh trumpet, Christ and his followers, the newly believing Jews, will occupy Mt. Zion, just to the north of Jerusalem, and the seven bowls of God’s wrath will be quickly poured out, destroying the old world. Christ will defeat Satan and his forces in the battle of Armageddon, and Satan will be captured, bound and sealed in the pit for the thousand year reign of Christ on earth (Revelation 19:19-21). A new Jerusalem will come down from heaven to be the capital city of Christ’s kingdom. At the end of the thousand year reign, Satan will be permanently banished to Hell.

After the defeat of Satan will be the marriage feast of Christ and his Church, all the believers through the ages.

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