Robert Van Kampen was the inventor
of the three-quarters rapture theory in the late 1970s. According to one who
was there, he first eliminated pretribulationism and then excluded posttribulationism.
Thus, he had to come up with another view. That view is what he called the
" pre-wrath" rapture theory. That title is a misnomer, since pretribulationism
is 100% pre-wrath. If we follow consistency in labeling, Van Kampen' s view
should be called the three-quarters rapture position, since he teaches that the
church will be raptured somewhere in the middle of the last three and a half
years of the 70th week of Daniel.
Van Kampen spent a number of years
searching for an advocate of his newly developed viewpoint until he was finally
able to persuade Marvin Rosenthal to adopt and champion his new theory. I have
a friend who was interviewed extensively by Van Kampen (in the 80s) for the
pastorate of the church he attended in the Chicago area. My friend spent hours
on the phone with Van Kampen, as he tried to convince him of his strange
rapture view. In the end, my friend could not agree with Van Kampen. It was
clear that Van Kampen was searching for someone to champion his rapture position.
Rosenthal wrote a book called The Pre-Wrath Rapture of the Church, which was published by Thomas
Nelson in 1990. Later Van Kampen came out with his own book called The Sign (three editions, 1992, 1999, 2000)
from Crossway Books. He then had published The Rapture Question Answered:
Plain and Simple
(1997) with Revell.
The Three-Quarters Rapture Theory?
Van Kampen' s three-quarters rapture view is a blend of
midtribulational and posttribulational rationale. Instead of seeing the 24
terms describing the 70th week of Daniel as
denoting various characteristics of a single period, Van Kampen chops them into
compartmental segments that contain either the wrath of man and Satan or the
wrath of God. Through redefinition, Van Kampen limits the wrath of God to the
final year and three-quarters of the seven-year period and deduces that the
rapture occurs right before that time period. Van Kampen distinguishes the
rapture and the second coming with a gap of one and three-quarters years
between them. He has the church continuing through the first three-quarters of
the tribulation until the three-quarters point rapture occurs.
Van Kampen' s theory requires
several unique features concerning the church and the tribulation. First, he
chops the seventieth week of Daniel into three parts: 1) the beginning of
birth pangs (first three and a half years), 2) the great tribulation (first
half of the second half of the seven years), 3) the day of the Lord (last half
of the second half of the seven years, plus a thirty day period after the
second coming). By arbitrarily compartmentalizing the 70th week of Daniel in
this way, Van Kampen prepares the way for his view by saying that the first two
period (first three-quarters of the seven-year period) is the wrath of man and
Satan but not God' s wrath. By speculating that God' s wrath only occurs during
the last quarter of the 70th week of Daniel,
he concludes that the rapture occurs at that point and keeps the church out of
the wrath of God.
Some Reasons Why Van Kampen' s Theory Is
view of the rapture is not only built upon faulty interpretation of the Bible,
but also upon flawed data and logic. In 1990 Marvin Rosenthal released the
first published expression of the Van Kampen rapture view in all of history. I
read and detected many problems with the book. Rosenthal made the following
statement: " The Greek word thlipsis, translated tribulation
or affliction in many English
Bibles, occurs twenty times in the New Testament" (Rosenthal, Pre-Wrath, p. 103). My concordance showed that it actually
occurs 45 times. Why had he not even considered over half of the New Testament
point that Rosenthal was attempting to make when he committed such a glaring
factual error was that the word " tribulation" is never used to refer to the
first half of Daniel' s 70th week (Rosenthal, Pre-Wrath, pp. 103-08). This is not the case since Matthew
24:9 is an instance where " tribulation" (kjv
= " afflicted" ) refers to the first half of Daniel' s 70th week. Dr. John McLean
has not only overstated his case but has stated as true fact that which is
clearly false. A cursory reading of a Greek concordance reveals that the word
" tribulation" (thlipsis) is used
in prophetic contexts to refer to both the first and second halves of the
seventieth week of Daniel. Matthew 24:9, which chronologically relates to the
first half of the seventieth week as evidenced by its preceding the midpoint of
the abomination of desolation (Matt. 24:15-21) states: " Then they will deliver
you to tribulation (thlipsis), and
will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations on account of My name" (nasb). Clearly the biblical text
describes the first half of the seventieth week as a time of tribulation.
second half of the seventieth week is also described as a time of tribulation.
Second Thessalonians 1:6 uses the Greek word thlipsin while referring to the second coming of Christ
which occurs during the second half of the seventieth week of Daniel: " For
after all it is only just for God to repay with affliction (thlipsin) those who afflicted you" (nasb). Therefore, it is proper and even biblical to refer
to, and even describe, the seventieth week of Daniel as " The Tribulation," or
" A Time of Tribulation." 
Rosenthal restricts thlipsin
" tribulation" to simply trials to be experienced (Rosenthal, Pre-Wrath, p. 237), while at the same time locating such
tribulation in the first half of Daniel' s 70th week (Rosenthal, Pre-Wrath, p. 152). Like Dr. McLean and
pretribulationists, Rosenthal equates Matthew 24:9 with the fifth seal judgment
as stated in Revelation 6:9- 11. Yet if Rosenthal admits the obvious logical
conclusion- that the tribulation in Matthew 24:9 is the tribulation- then it
would provide another reason that contradicts his new view and would support
God' s Wrath
Kampen defines only the final quarter of Daniel' s 70th week as the only time of
God' s wrath. He sees the first three quarters as the wrath of man and Satan.
But does the Bible make such distinctions? It does not!
Wrath in Zephaniah
1:14- 18 heaps together a cluster of terms that characterize the future Day of
the Lord. Verse 14 labels this time as " the great day of the Lord" and " the
day of the Lord." Then verse 15- 18 describe this time with the following
descriptions: " that day is a day of wrath," " a day of trouble and distress,"
" a day of wasteness and desolation," " a day of darkness and gloominess," " a day
of clouds and thick darkness," " a day of the trumpet and alarm," " I will bring
distress upon men," and " the day of the Lord' s wrath." The context supports
the notion that all these descriptives apply to the Day of the Lord. Such
biblical usage does not allow an interpreter to chop the Day of the Lord into
compartmental segments as Van Kampen insists. The text plainly says that the
Day of the Lord is a time of both tribulation and God' s wrath. All of the many
descriptives in this passage provide a characterization of the Day of the Lord
that applies to the entire seven-year period. The Zephaniah passage clearly
contradicts the basis upon which Van Kampen attempts to build his recently
developed theory. Zephaniah is not alone in providing an obstacle to the Van
Wrath in Revelation
6:1- 17 records the six seal judgments, which are the first reported judgments
of the tribulation. Revelation 6 and the seal judgments also contradict the
Van Kampen formulation since the Bible describes all six judgments as " . . .
the wrath of the Lamb: For the great day of his wrath is come . . ." (Rev.
6:16c- 17a). Even though Van Kampen cannot recognize God' s wrath, the
unbelievers at the beginning of the seven-year tribulation will be able to.
Revelation 5 reveals that only the Lamb (Christ) was qualified to open the
seals that would begin the first judgments of the tribulation. As we connect
the dots of Revelation 5 and 6, there is no basis for saying that the events of
the seal judgments are somehow disconnected from Scripture' s characterization
as God' s wrath. The following observations about the seal judgments support
such a connection:
The Lamb is the Individual Who breaks, and thus initiates, all six of the seals
(Revelation 6:1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 12) clearly indicating that He (God) is the source
of the events or wrath. These are explicit references to the wrath of God, not
the wrath of man or Satan as taught by Van Kampen.
One quarter of the earth' s population is killed (Rev. 6:8).
The fifth seal reveals that multitudes of Christian martyrs are slain as a
result of seal activity, which has to be considered the wrath of the Lamb. God
allows this to occur when the Lamb breaks the seal in this part of the seal
At the end of the six seal judgments an assessment is given as follows: " Fall
on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from
the wrath of the Lamb: For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall
be able to stand?" (Rev. 6:16- 17). " Him that sitteth on the throne" is God the
Father as indicated in chapter 4, thus it is clearly God' s wrath. It is also
the Lamb' s wrath (Christ). The passage clearly says " the great day of his
wrath is come," meaning that all six of the seal judgments are classified as
God' s wrath.
Kampen attempts to say that the events of the seal judgments are not really
" God' s" wrath, but the wrath of man. Rosenthal declares, " The word wrath
occurs eight times in the book of Revelation. All eight occurrences follow the
opening of the sixth seal. The word wrath is never used in connection with the
first five seals" (Rosenthal, Pre-Wrath, p. 176). Rosenthal neglects to tell his readers that Revelation
6:16- 17 is a summary statement of all the previous seal judgments. In spite of
the Van Kampen claim to follow the plain interpretation of the text (Van
Kampen, Rapture Question, p.
23- 24.), I believe that Revelation 6:16- 17 relates to all six seal judgments
for the following reasons: First, Revelation 6:15- 17 is an overall report of
the human response to God' s judgment as administered through all six seal
judgments. A similar evaluation is recorded after the trumpet judgments in
Revelation 9:20- 21. This argues in favor of associating this report with the preceding
the controlling verb in verse 17, " is come" (lthen), " is aorist indicative, referring to a previous
arrival of the wrath, not something that is about to take place" 
Rosenthal' s attempt to say that this verb is a future aorist (Rosenthal, Pre-Wrath, pp. 166-67), cannot be supported by the context.
Such contextual support is necessary to adopt his unusual use of the aorist
indicative. Further, if a future look were intended by the verb then John most
likely would have used the future tense. Such stress and strain in biblical
interpretation demonstrates the forced notion that Van Kampen' s new invention
is not the product of sound biblical exegesis.
Revelation 5 narrates a heavenly scene of Christ pictured as a slain, but
victorious Lamb. The Lamb is pictured as worthy to open the seals on a scroll,
which result in judgment- the judgment described in the succeeding chapter as
the seal judgments. In chapter 6, each one of the seal judgments commences as
a result of the Lamb' s breaking of each seal (Revelation 6:1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 12).
Since all six seal judgments begin the same way, with the breaking of the seal
by the Lamb, one should not be at all surprised that Revelation 6:16- 17
summarizes all six judgments as " the wrath of the Lamb," and " the great day of
his wrath." This cannot be the wrath of man or Satan.
above information provides ample biblical proof that all six seal judgments are
the wrath of God (Lamb). Since all six seal judgments are designated in Scripture
as God' s wrath it means that the entire 70th week of Daniel is called the wrath
of God in Revelation 6. Therefore, this passage does not support the Van
Kampen interpretation. Since the church is promised deliverance from the wrath
of God (Rom. 5:9, 1 Thess. 1:10, 5:9, and Rev. 3:10), it is clear in light of
Revelation 6 that the church will be raptured before the seventieth week of
above points are just a few of the errors that can be noted about Van Kampen' s
theory. As he demonstrates in his writings, if one errs at this crucial point
then it paves the way for faulty conclusions. It should be clear that Van
Kampen must resort to strained characterizations of things like the day of the
Lord, the tribulation, and the scope of God' s wrath in order to first avoid
pretribulationism and then to support his new rapture view. Bible believing
Christians should continue to draw strength and hope from the fact that our
Lord could rapture His church at any moment. We will not be left standing when
our Lord moves history to the point of the commencement of the seven-year