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As Donald Trump first ran for the White House, I started wondering whether he was the antichrist. How else to explain the rapturous support of this most flagrant pagan from the supposedly most pious people in the land, but that an agent of darkness was masquerading as an angel of light? I was not alone.

It’s an old sort of speculation. Deciding that the pope fit the bill was key to Martin Luther launching what turned out to be the Protestant Reformation. The Puritans long continued in that vein, and Jonathan Edwards spoke for many when he ginned up the North American phase of the Seven Years War (“the French and Indian War,” 1756-63) to the level of Christ vs. antichrist, British Protestants vs. French Catholics. Nicely, just a dozen years later the American Patriots flipped the script and put the British on Satan’s side. It helped that the Redcoats nicely matched Roman cardinals, color-wise.

Dispensationalist Follies

In our own time, dispensational premillennialists (try rolling that off your tongue late in a 3-hour class) are the unmatched champions of the game. As their movement rose in the wake of the Civil War, Rome still fit the bill, but after 1917 the “red” Bolsheviks succeeded them. World War II brought out the numerology around 666. ‘Hitler’ contains 6 letters and so does ‘Stalin,’ but where to get that vital third to round out the mark of the beast? ‘Mussolini’ disappointed with nine, though ‘Benito’ held promise. Same with Japanese Prime Minister Hideki Tojo. Were only Pius XI still in St. Peter’s seat, but no, he had been succeeded by the extra-digited Pius XII just before the war broke out.

Never mind, changing times demand changing figures. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, New Agers got nominated, also feminists and “the homosexual agenda.” The UN still lurks in the shadows, but the EU has tended to replace it; as the latter-day successor to the Roman Empire, it falls into the crosshairs of the book of Revelation. Still, these are all amorphous and anonymous; there needs to be a mastermind. Bill Gates? George Soros? Dr. Fauci? All, sadly, 5-letter last names. Somehow Mr. Triple-6, Ronald Wilson Reagan, never came up for consideration.

It’s a non-ending and ever-fascinating quest, as evident from the immense popularity of The Late Great Planet Earth (the bestselling book of the entire 1970s) and the sixteen-volume Left Behind series, published from 1995 through 2008, the year that another 5-lettered contender was elected president.

Replacement Jesus

So, I wondered in 2016, if right-wingers could run so long with that ball, why couldn’t a closet Commie like me? Unfortunately, or otherwise, I decided Donald Trump was not the man—not because his name had the same 6/5 split as Barack Obama’s, nor because the game is so fungible, but because he doesn’t fit the actual biblical standard for the figure. That’s spelled out clearly in 2 John 7, namely, one who denies that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh. Donald Trump neither knows nor cares enough about Jesus Christ to have an opinion on the matter.

Still, he does have that messianic glow. First, he’s nearly perfect so he doesn’t have to ask God for forgiveness. Plus, he’s constantly persecuted, oppressed, lashed, crucified by the lame-stream media. But he will rise again, and once re-seated in glory at the Resolute desk in the Oval Office, will triumph over all his foes. And his followers’, as he assures them, “I am your retribution.”

Not denying Jesus but pretending to replace him—that does fit the bill. So do the now altogether too familiar marks of Trumpian character. The preening. The bullying. The self-pity and monstrous self-inflation. The pathological narcissism gobbling up all the air in the room and anyone else sharing it.

We can have some pity for the loneliness, the relentless self-doubt, that lies behind it all. And we have to salute the real genius at work as well. Trump is incomparable in his command of the media, the utter master of the camera and the tweet (the X?). He is turning his current trial for fraud (think of it—Trump on trial for fraud!) into a stage to vent his rage and berate his enemies and steal the show. He must be the center of attention, even in a negative glare. That scowl is just inescapable.

Trump’s Soul … and Ours

Still, antichrist? The more fitting title might come from Trump’s other incomparable achievement, his consummate record of lies. The Washington Post counted 30,573 of them during his term in office, and he has carried on since unabated.

When it comes to lying, the Bible actually has quite a bit to say, much more than a few allusions to antichrist, and its words can be pointed indeed. Take Jesus’, for instance: the devil “is a liar and the father of lies.” (John 8:44) Making Donald Trump today’s poster child for son of Satan?

Are we comfortable with that? I learned early on not to call people names and to be very hesitant about accepting extreme characterizations and blame-placing. In part because I was taught to examine such for (respectively) my own projections and self-absolutions. So also in this case. The only way to escape the thrall of Donald Trump is to see our own part in creating it. Not a sufficient step, to be sure, but a necessary one.

Trump commands the media because in the dark recesses of his soul he knows exactly what we want in ours. Those cameras keep rolling because people keep watching and will switch the channel if he’s not there. Trump speaks the rage and resentment of the blue-collar left-behinds. He breathes the disregard his rich supporters feel toward lesser mortals and the institutions that claim to aid them. He incites self-righteousness in his progressive foes, shortcutting the attention they need to pay to their own part in creating the inequality and social stigmas that roil his base. Then too, who does not want a clear-cut world of black and white? Revenge upon those who have done us wrong? A clean sweep against complexity and the rising unknown of a parlous future?

Fighting History

Donald Trump then may be neither the antichrist nor the devil incarnate but the demon of America. He shows the maturity of an eight-year-old, in his case frozen in time around 1954 when the United States stood head and shoulders above the world in GDP and military might, when suburbs sprawled and gas-guzzlers rolled and smoke-stacks belched and women were at home and Blacks still in their place. His inner third-grader screams that things are still so, or should be so, and a sizable share of the nation agrees. Those who don’t have perhaps made their own peace with the world that has evolved in the meantime, but they have not managed, or cared, to convince others of its promise.

Perhaps they can’t. Perhaps we can’t. Antichrist thinking despairs of history. Jesus’ parable in Luke 18 speaks to just such a mood. It is a story about a judge “who neither feared God nor had respect for people,” yet was pestered enough by a widow to finally give her justice. Jesus told the story, Luke tells us in verse 1, to remind us “to pray always and not to lose heart.” But then he closes it on an ominous note: “And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” (v. 8)

And so we hang, suspended between those two verses.

James Bratt

James Bratt is professor of history emeritus at Calvin College, specializing in American religious history and especially the connections between religion and politics. Starting in Fall 2016 he took a break from blogging on The Twelve to teach in China and on the Semester at Sea, which venues afforded him some welcome distance from the USA’s descent into its current mortal illness. But now he’s back in the States, looking for hope. His most recent book (which he edited and completed for the late John Woolverton) is  “A Christian and a Democrat”: Religion in the Life and Leadership of Franklin Delano Roosevelt.


  • Mark S. Hiskes says:

    Thanks for this. You name what many think about Trump and you put it into a Biblical perspective: in rejecting him as an unfit leader, we must remember the loneliness and self-doubt behind all the narcissistic bluster, his genius at manipulating the media, and our complicity in allowing him to do that. I especially appreciate the tension you name in the last paragraph: between the temptation to lose heart and to remain faithful.

    It isn’t easy to write what you have here, knowing how some might respond, but it needs to be said, and it needs to be said so Christians hear the truth again: he is an unfit leader for anyone, and much more so for Christians.

  • Daniel Meeter says:

    Another Biblical term that comes to mind is from 2 Thessalonians 2:3, the “man of lawlessness.” Of course determining just who St. Paul had in mind here is difficult. And it may be a general term. Hendrikus Berkhof writes about the perversion in culture of the fruits of the Gospel. In any case trying to understand the Trump phenomenon is hugely important, and most take spirituality into account, and your paragraph that begins, “Trump commands the media because in the dark recesses of his soul he knows exactly what we want in ours,” is most important. How are we all “men and women of lawlessness,” especially “men,” as Kristin Kobes du Mez has shown us. The temptation is to desire a new kind of legalism, in whatever form, synodical or liberal. So thank you for this, you have done no exaggeration here, only illumination.

  • Jim Brink says:

    Thank you for your wise words. The truth will set us free. What we do with it is between us and our Lord.

  • RZ says:

    Agreed! One thing I learned from Kristin Kobes-du Mez is that our objectivity and self-awareness diminish when we are on the beneficiary side of influence and resource. That kind of “law and order” we like. Hence the Trump phenomenon. It is easier to ignore or rationalize all the corruption, vulgarity, and threats to orderly governance when one’s own lifestyle is maintained or enhanced (temporarily, I would suggest). But the landscape is changing rapidly and partisanship is but a tribal illusion. The primary threat, even for conservatives, is no longer government over-reach, debt, taxes, or restricted “freedoms” but rather the absence of any governmental norms whatsoever. Mob-rule in government is not an experiment without consequences. Do we really think single-party rule or two-party gridlock will sustain democracy? Monarchs or czars once again?

  • George Goris Vink says:

    Thanks for solid words, solid thinking. May their truth be like a snowball, gathering more as it rolls, and eventually overcome the desirous with its basic truth, its needed revelation.

  • Rodney Haveman says:

    Thanks for this blog, but I wonder if there might be more or something different going on. In our evolutionary biology revenge is used to reduce harm, so that society knows you can’t get away with hurting people. There are consequences. In well functioning states, strong institutional laws remove the need for individual revenge, because we know justice will be served/restored. Christians add an interesting/challenging message to (certainly against individual revenge) this evolutionary biology, “Vengeance is the Lord’s,” which carries particular weight given that it was written just before or in the middle of state sanctioned violence against Jews and Christians. It seems to demand that we let revenge go. I think most of us agree with this, but it is profoundly hard to do given our evolutionary impulses.
    Why set revenge at God’s throne? For many reasons I’m sure, but one is found in research, which we intuitively know: revenge makes you feel worse in the long run.
    Why does this matter for Trump and America and us?
    So many people have been left behind in our country, abandoned, as wealthy inequality grows, income inequality grows, small towns are ravaged by pharmaceutical efforts to boost sales no matter the cost, etc. and nothing is done. No institutional laws serve/restore justice. Democracy seems to have failed a large swath of people, and then along comes a man who says, “I am your retribution! I am revenge. I’ll tear down the swamp that has failed you. I’ll tax the hedge fund dweebs. I’ll fight for the innocent unborn. I’ll build a wall to keep out those ‘rapists illegals’ that face no justice and steal your jobs. I’ll fix health care and do it with little cost.” It doesn’t seem to matter that he doesn’t mean it or he did little about it (except for SCOTUS judges and cutting legal immigration down to nothing). He said what our lizard brains wanted/needed to hear.
    As for Christians, so many of us have embraced a spirit of victimhood, that it’s impossible to manage the difficulty of fighting our evolutionary impulses, so “we” join the cry for vengeance. We find reports of church members casting aside “turn the other cheek, love your enemy … that doesn’t work today.” One wonders if it ever did relative to revenge. I think not.
    But here’s the key, none of this nonsense, none of this retribution leadership actually makes us feel better, and that might be the most dangerous point. Sin spirals us down into more and more dangerous grounds. It kills our innocence, kills our ideals, and then kills our will. I can’t help but see our innocence and ideals as a country/democracy are basically dead. I wonder if our will to survive as a democratic country has died. I think there is a way to break the spiral, but it won’t come from revenge.
    This is why Trump is so dangerous. He cultivates our basic evolutionary impulses (for his own desires), and that leaves us only feeling worse. And maybe that’s a good place to turn with your ending. We are between two points, and I wonder if we can overcome our evolutionary biology for revenge. I’m hopeful but kind of despairing … Enough of my thoughts, too much confession.

    • Henry Baron says:

      Thanks to both of you! You got us thinking with you, and we need that communication in the darkness of the valley we are presently finding ourselves in.

  • James Schaap says:

    How many books have already been written on the Orange phenom? Just imagine how many will be coming when finally he goes down, all of them, and us, trying our best to understand what happens to minds otherwise set so defiantly contrary to what the man says and does? He’s Milton’s Satan. I enjoyed every minute of your assessment, JB, but I can’t help feeling grimy, as i always do, when it’s over. Nonetheless, thanks greatly!

  • Keith Mannes says:

    Thank you. I trust your knowledge and wisdom, and appreciate your humor.

  • Jim says:

    Thanks to everyone for their responses. Yes, trust in our institutions is close to rock bottom, I think since the financial crisis of 2008, when Wall Street escaped unscathed from the calamity they had induced and Main Street was abandoned. This put paid to the neo-liberal regime in power ever since Reagan, which not only trusted the market in all things–those left aside be damned–but, just as fatefully, deemed political participation, citizenship, to be a consumer activity. With that double whammy, any sense of common cause or shared identity was lost. We’re now scrounging through the ruins with wolves and hyenas on the prowl all around.

    Rodney, you did not go on too long at all and your points are well taken. I think they add a layer above, or underneath, what I was trying to say. Your description of vengeance is the obverse of what I’ve lately been taught as forgiveness–not ok-ing what was done to you but sacrificing your own desire for revenge and assigning judgment to God. A difficult hill to climb, yes, but one that the faith commands us to try. But in the long run actually a more profitable way, as you say, because revenge does leave us unsatisfied and hungry for more. One reason, I think that (wannabe) dictators always up the ante of compliance/demands upon their followers.

    Don’t know if our plight arises from evolution or from the particularities of US history (maybe some overlap there?), but the collapse of substantial Christian witness against the spirit of the age with the proffered hope of something better beyond it is very saddening for those of us who once envisioned a better way.

    • Cynthia Gibbs says:

      I appreciate your commentary more than I can say. I have been searching for understanding of the current situation. In 1 John 2:18 it says “…..many antichrists have come”. While Trump may not be “The” antichrist, he may be “an” antichrist. Thank you for bringing this craziness in focus.

      • Bill Prange says:

        I know this thread is long dead, but it remains quite relevant. I was toying with this thought, too, and was disappointed to learn that he doesn’t fit into that pigeonhole. However, it did suggest an idea for a bumper sticker:

        Jesus Christ is the AntiTrump

  • RZ says:

    If I may, yet….. I am profoundly in agreement with a comment you make that might be ovwrlooked here. ” deemed political participation, citizenship, to be a consumer activity.” Reagan leveraged this skillfully, but so did the ” moral majority” movement, irreparably clouding Christian witness and allowing Christians to abandon discernment. The platform issues, with abortion at the top of the list, have become commodities to be leveraged and traded for political gain. Their trade values supercede all nuance, education, and constructive negotiation. Similarly , this consumerism clouds the values of civility and ethics. The end justifies the means, apparently.

  • Rachel Wilson says:

    I don’t and never have and never will follow politics. Especially corrupt politics. But YESSS he is the antichrist. Mother from the age of 18 and religiously ever voting sessions since the been a straight ticket voter….until Trump! My mom used to be able to sit at any opposite party’s table and have a civil and passionate conversation about there runners. NOW dare say something about Trump. Even in a joking manner and it is almost fight word. She has lost life long friend ships because of her love for Trump. I have spoken too far far less amount of ppl who dislike Trump than “LOVE” him. He’s hated only on media outlets that are controlled by corrupt elites. I am telling u more ppl like than dislike. They put an “Oswald” in office after Trump to do a complete mess of our country. Now next presidential election he will serve our country again. A REBIRTH aka reincarnation. Even if it is decided that he is ineligible to be on the voters ballot, HE CAN STILL BE WRITTEN IN.All because our country in despair. Our country is evil. It is driven by money hungry dishonest humanoids. He’s going to be praised for he shall be the one who shall MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN. And I know almost zilch about politics. The higher energy I am connected to told me the truth.

  • Brooke says:

    Interesting, but I still believe he is. You write:
    “That’s spelled out clearly in 2 John 7, namely, one who denies that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh. Donald Trump neither knows nor cares enough about Jesus Christ to have an opinion on the matter.”
    But the verse is: 7 Many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh; any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist!
    I’ve never heard him confess Jesus came in the flesh. Why I agree he probably cares less, openly denying and never confessing are 2 different things to me.
    I almost fell for Trump, even worse I almost fell for the QAnon stuff. Thank God I prayed about it and begged God to tell me if any of it were true. I awoke the next morning (after a nightmare I don’t want to go in to)with the knowledge Trump is the antichrist. I’ve never thought I had a dream from God before. I’ve never even had a prayer so urgently answered. I guess we will find out. I realize this could sound crazy to some, but I feel like those who pray for truth might find it. Love, Brooke in TN

    • Wondering Wonder says:

      I have had the “feeling” he was the antichrist from the beginning. I am still self doubting my assessment even after all this time but something deep within keeps saying he is an antichrist. Whether he turns out to be THE antichrist or a antichrist one thing is for certain many of his characteristics would make a perfect Antichrist including the whole deceiving the elite. I sit back and wonder why can’t Christians see what I am seeing? I don’t have an answer for that except supernatural deception. If anything he is definitely the “demon” of America because he has brought out the darkness in this country and made it where the darkness is marching under the banner of light.

  • Stafford says:

    It is important to have this discussion, regardless of anyone’s ultimate conclusions about Trump being the antichrist in some conclusive biblical sense. What is undeniably true is that Trump has become a major cult figure who has captured the uncritical loyalty of many conservative evangelicals, many of whom see him as commissioned by God to save America. This is a spell that, if possible, needs to be broken.

    The perceived decay of the contemporary world inevitably invites End Times discussions. So the Revelations context will be operative no matter how the discussions are framed. Consideration of Trump’s warped religious role in the End Times context thus cannot be avoided, or if it is avoided, in so doing he has effectively been awarded a free pass as to the potential theological implications of his role.

    It is better to deal with Trump directly than skirt around the edges. So, “Is Trump the antichrist?” becomes a valid and necessary public question. But it can and should be raised in a manner of open inquiry, without bias toward any particular outcome. If MAGA evangelicals can be drawn into a fair-minded discussion, perhaps some of them will begin work their way through the maze.

  • Gregory Shively says:

    Trump’s grandfather came from Germany and changed his last name – from DRUMPH to Trump – 6 letters!

  • ron c says:

    2 Thessalonians is a good scripture, as well as 2 Timothy, and what people fail to forget is that in the end times the so-called church will be in apostasy and that the Evangelicals of today are not Christian (Gal 5:22-25), I believe it is, you will know them by their fruits. The apostate church will be deceived by the Anti-Christ and will be a cult of brainwashed followers. Anybody that is truly saved and truly Christian, understands that Christ is seated in the heavenlies, and that try Christians realize that Satan is in control on earth, that he controls all the world governments, including the USA, and that we are to be separate from the world as Paul preached. Trump also lies and is arrogant and represents all of the sins that God despises, so for people to worship him and call themselves Christian, reveals the state of the church. Lukewarm as it says in Revelation and “God will spit that church out of his mouth”!!!

  • Anne says:

    I very well thought out article. I tend to consider Putin as being the anti-Christ and Trump the beast. And perhaps Xi represents the dragon. This era is certainly like nothing we nor our parents, grandparents, or great grandparents ever lived through. I know they had hardships, but not non-stop chaos and a constant firehose of lies. I do believe 45 is the fullness of Satan come to the earth in the flesh. It is pathetic and grotesque to witness.
    I am not sure why people think he is a Christ figure. It’s a time when we wonder if we are crazy, or are they crazy. God will judge.

  • Kathryn says:

    There has never been question in my mind that he IS the antichrist. He swooned the American people, caused and insurrection, brought in Casinos, lied about every aspect of his life, has called himself the messiah and through it all, is about to be voted back in as our 47th president. What individual in history would ever be voted into our number 1 seat with the track record he holds? I’ve tried to express my feelings but people (Christians and non-Christians alike) are so snowed over that I come out the crazy one. All we hear is how much better things were when he was president. Well first of all, that was BEFORE Covid and EVERYTHING was better before it hit. Second of all, of course the devil will try to win the people over to gain their trust. Sadly, the people can’t read the writing on the wall of how he lacks morals, cannot put together a political or realistic statement that makes ANY sense and does not hold one ounce of credibility or compassion.

    It’s interesting. I know people don’t like reliance on Nostradamus prophecy but I was recently watching a special wherein he foretold of “3” antichrists, each worse than the one before. It was thought Napoleon was the first, Hitler the second and the 3rd would bring about the tribulation. The 3rd was worst of all and would hail himself as the messiah. There was a connection to the word “Mayben” but when the episode was recorded, theologians could not determine a connection of that word or name to any existing leader. That name DOES connect to Trump and the connection is interesting. My only recommendation is for all of us to pray to God for strength and look to the Heavens as I believe when he comes back into power it will be with a vengeance. I am not a conspiracy theorist or even heavy into politics but am a Christian who believes in the word of God and that the signs are all here. We are told to “be ready” and to “look to the Heavens for our sign” which in my opinion is now.

  • Kathryn says:

    I believe my post is still under review but I had a misspell on word which I wrote Mayben as an identifier per Nostradamus. The word was actually “Mabus”. The word was associated to devastation of man and animals. I encourage you to search how Trump is associated to this name.

  • Graham says:

    John 8:44 talks about Satan being a liar , and the father of lies. One of the extraordinary charateristics of Trump is his capacity to create new lies, on almost anything and everything, without any evidence at all. “A father of lies”. His lies create a new narrative about everything. I have no doubt Trump is an antichrist, but not sure if he is the antichrist.
    I have found this discussion most helpful as i have been privately wresting with this issue from New Zealand with little knowledge of whether others were being led in the same way.

  • I wrote a Book about the former President.Donald Trump Servant of Jesus Christ or…of satan?Have we been deceived?Judge for yourself!

  • Emmie says:

    Since this article was written there has been more information coming to light about DJT. His name alone Donald John (Johann in German) Drumpf (his great great great grandfather changed their last name to Trump) He checks all the boxes and world events are adding up to Gog Magog in the middle east as I write this. I still have this horrible feeling that he is THE AC and really hope I am wrong. Thank you for your insight.

  • Dawn Marie says:

    The day he said in an interview that he doesn’t ask to be forgiven was a huge red flag for me as a Christian, then after that the reporter asked him to share his favorite Bible verse or verses and he said he wouldn’t say because they’re personal to him, another huge red flag.
    As Christians, we are supposed to give prophecies/testimony/witness but Donald Drumph(6)
    wants to keep his private?
    He doesn’t even go to church and that was blatantly obvious to any Christian that knows 2 Corinthians isn’t Two Corinthians…as Drumph read.
    He is the great deceiver. Son of Satan.

  • Chris Burgess says:

    Thanks for your words of wisdom Proffesor Bratt.

    In my own search for truth in the mix of yet another chaotic election year I have asked myself this same question today, is Donald Trump the Antichrist. On September 15th, 2020 Trump signed the Abraham Accords with Israel along with other nations that have joined. Many accolades and support has come Trumps way since that signing of the Accords by the Jewish community from a silver commemorative temple coin with Trumps face to new train stop near the temple mount named after him. Other commemorative items such as a menorah to a crown have been given to trump by the Jewish community. On March the 15th was the 3-1/2 year mark from that signing of those Accords. Now we come to the cross roads of the Red Heifer’ ready in Jerusalem awaiting sacrifice for the Jews to rebuild the 3rd temple. Will this Passover and our Easter weekend of 2024 take place and then stopped by Trump to fulfill the Daniel 9:27 prophecy as it states from the KJV,

    “And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make desolate, even until the consummation, and the determined shall be poured upon desolate.”

    We shall see… Thanks again!

  • Steve says:

    Mephistopheles better describes trump.

    You Christian’s think all the same Christ was white.
    Spelling Xmas is taboo when X is chi in Greek alphabet links to Christ. P is rho put them together means crucifixion.

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