Robert Van Kampen’s contributions to eschatology in general will remain uncertain for years to come. As with many others in the past, the value of his work in this area reveals itself only with the passing of time. History will evaluate Van Kampen’s role. His book, The Sign, has and will continue to have an impact on laypeople who take time to study the Scriptures for themselves. Yet, it has already been clearly proven that Van Kampen’s decision to presume the identity of Antichrist (without proof) has significantly hurt the adoption of the PreWrath position among many who follow Jesus Christ. The most critical point is that the identity of Antichrist is not an essential pillar of the PreWrath position.
Having worked very closely with Bob Van Kampen, I know what he was willing to die for and what he was not willing to die for with regard to the PreWrath position. On many occasions during our discussions, he would state as a matter of fact, “I would die for that.” Regarding his view about who the Antichrist might prove to be, he was not willing to die for his position. By taking the position he did, he violated one of his own tenets. Bob regularly insisted that one should avoid sensationalism. Yet, to insist that Adolf Hitler will be the Antichrist is decidedly sensational. The idea is fanciful, causing many to have a real problem with the position. The case that Van Kampen built for this position is circumstantial at best. While there have been many who have offered speculation about the identity of Antichrist, it is best to leave the matter as the Bible teaches it. We know what Antichrist will do, but we do not know his identity.
In The Sign, Van Kampen argues that Scripture outlines five critical criteria that help identify Antichrist:
- He must have been a leader of a former beast empire (Rev. 13:3; 17:11)….
- He must have died by a “wound of the sword” (Rev. 13:14)….
- He will be from “the land of Magog” (Ezek. 38:2)….
- He will be a notorious anti-Semite….
- He will be immediately recognized….(See The Sign, Undated Edition, page 224.
The case that Van Kampen makes to support his conclusion deserves a very careful analysis. His first point that Antichrist must have been a leader of a former beast empire is correct. Revelation 17:11 specifically says, “As for the beast that was and is not, it is an eighth.” Few will argue with the point of this passage. However, the question is worthy of great debate as to whether Hitler meets this criterion. Van Kampen insists that he does.
There is no biblical basis for the position that Germany and the evil perpetrated against the Jewish people during World War II was the work of a beast empire. Van Kampen’s case is substantially weak. He argues that Nazi Germany (the Third Reich) was the seventh beast empire, which fits between the Roman Empire and the eighth beast empire that will rule on the earth during Daniel’s final week. Van Kampen argues that there is a gap between the legs of iron and the ten toes of iron and clay in the statute presented in Daniel 2. Van Kampen insists that the legs of iron in Daniel’s prophecy do not extend all the way down the leg to the feet. In Van Kampen’s diagram of the prophecy in Daniel 2, the distance between the knees and the ankles was not included in Daniel’s original prophecy. Van Kampen is then able to insert the events of World War II into Daniel’s statute. Van Kampen’s whole line of reasoning stands or falls on the notion that when the Hebrew writers refer to the “leg,” they do not refer to the entire leg from the knee to the ankles. Notice our diagram. Van Kampen would argue that the “legs of iron” only extends to the knees. From the knees to the ankles covers the period connected with World War II.
In Daniel’s description of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, he writes, “The head of this image was of fine gold.” The statute had “chest and arms of silver.” The statute had “its middle and thighs of bronze.” The statute had “legs of iron.” The statue had “its feet partly of iron and partly of clay.” So Daniel describes what he saw, as follows:
Head – Gold
Chest and Arms – Silver
Middle and Thighs – Bronze
Legs – Iron
Feet – Iron and Clay
For Van Kampen’s theory to work there must be a gap between the legs and the feet. Yet, Daniel’s depiction of the statue is very detailed. How far down the trunk of the body, did Daniel intend for the word “thigh” to cover? Unfortunately, this term only occurs once in the Old Testament. However, it is plural, which suggest that there is more than one of them. Therefore, this term must refer to some aspect of the upper legs. The Hebrew term for “leg,” refers to the lower leg (the calf) i.e. “the part of the human body between the knee and ankle.” Therefore, middle, thighs, and legs taken together extend from the hips to the ankles. This would seemingly make Van Kampen’s conclusion untenable.
Antichrist must have died by a “wound of the sword,” is Van Kampen’s second criterion. In The Sign, Van Kampen writes, “Neither Nero nor Hitler died literally by the sword.” (The Sign, Updated Edition, page 224). Thus, by his own admission, Van Kampen recognizes that this detail does not fit Hitler as a possible candidate for Antichrist.
How the beast dies is a very important point in the book of Revelation. The wound is critical. It establishes the uniqueness of Antichrist. He received a wound by a sword that took his life yet he lives and the wound is evident. The text goes out of it way to make the point and thus we should take it literally. This point alone makes Hitler’s candidacy untenable, since he shot himself with a gun in his right temple.
The third of Van Kampen’s criteria concerns the birthplace of Antichrist. Van Kampen insists that Antichrist will be from the land of Magog. He goes to great length to prove that Ezekiel 38-39 detail the career of Antichrist. Thus, Van Kampen’s arguments stand or fall with his interpretation of Ezekiel 38-39. Is Gog the Antichrist? I am 99.9 percent certain he is not.
Revelation 19:20 states, “These two (Antichrist and the false prophet) were thrown alive into the lake of fire that burns with sulfur.” Thus, Antichrist will not die. The text is very clear. On the other hand, Gog of Magog dies in the land of Israel. Ezekiel 39:10 states, “On that day I will give to Gog a place for burial in Israel…for there Gog and all his multitude will be buried. It will be called the Valley of Hamon-gog.” Earlier, Ezekiel informs his readers that Gog “will fall on the mountains of Israel.” There is no uncertainty about the death of Gog. Therefore, it is clear that Gog and Antichrist cannot be the same individual. One dies and the other one does not.
It is Van Kampen’s belief that Antichrist will be a notorious anti-Semite. While this may be true in some sense, the ultimate hatred of Satan and his Antichrist is focused upon God the Father and his Son Jesus Christ. He will hate those who believe and trust in God. It is only in this sense that the Jews will experience persecution by Antichrist. While Hitler hated the Jewish people, there is no sense in which he saw his fight primarily focused against God almighty.
Van Kampen’s final point that Antichrist will be immediately recognized by the world is true. However, the reason Antichrist will be so recognizable to the world is not that he is Hitler, but because of his recent death and “resurrection.” It is our conviction that Antichrist will live, die, and live again during Daniel’s final week.
The career of Antichrist is not clear. In Revelation 11:7, we are told, “the beast that rises from the bottomless pit will make war on [the two witnesses] and conquer and kill them”. This obviously requires that his rise precedes the midpoint of Daniel’s final week. It is our conviction that Antichrist begins his career in connection with Daniel’s final week as a man empowered by Satan. Near the midpoint, Antichrist will be killed. Satan will raise the body of Antichrist with another spirit. That spirit will be distinct from the first. He will move against Jerusalem and proclaim himself as God. These matters we shall look at in out next article.
 Swanson, J. (1997). Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains: Aramaic (Old Testament). Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc.