Trump and the antichrist (sounding the last trump?)

When I wrote my e-book Seeing Through Smoke in 2019, it was because I saw the increasing waves of deception in public life, and the role of propaganda in effecting them. Seeking to tie this into a Christian worldview, I mused (without pretending to be prophetic) that the final deception foretold both by Jesus in the Olivet discourse, and by Paul in 2 Thessalonians 2, could only realistically envelop the world now that the tools of mass-manipulation have been perfected, and the Internet and social media have made instant communication possible around the globe.

At that time, I counted as factors against our days being this climax of history (a) the relatively quiet state of Israel, militating against an Armageddon-type battle involving that nation (rather than the worldwide church, which is rather scattered for that kind of event), and (b) the lack of any obvious candidate for a personal antichrist figure. Note in passing that I’m fully aware that the “spirit of antichrist” has been abroad since NT times, as 1 John testifies, but a final individual pseudo-Christ seems to be what the New Testament predicts.

As of last year, though, Israel is anything but quiet, and the apocalyptic aspect is not just the onset of another middle-east conflict, but the exponential rise in open antisemitism worldwide, and the political isolation of Israel by its allies as well as its enemies. We’ll leave that situation open for now, whilst keeping a weather eye on it.

But Paul’s “man of lawlessness” is still notable by his absence, “opposing and exalting himself over everything that is called God or is worshipped, so that he sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God.” The preterists, so far, have the field to themselves in identifying this guy as the Emperor Vespasian, who destroyed Jerusalem in 70AD, but mainstream eschatology places antichrist at the very end of history. And so far, at least, such a figure of evil seems still to be waiting in the wings.

Not all agree he is absent, however. One current candidate for the “lawless one” leads the field, and it’s not Vladimir Putin, Xi Jinping, Klaus Schwab (retired) or even Ayatollah Khamenei. The man the soothsayers love to hate is, of course, Donald J. Trump. Even before I wrote Seeing through Smoke, when I still participated at the BioLogos forum, one of the somewhat progressive Evangelicals there, replying to something positive I said about Trump, told me angrily that Trump was the antichrist. And he meant it. I’m quite certain that this chap was suffering from Trump Derangement Syndrome even before the term was in common use. Most of the “educated” Christians at BioLogos were dyed-in-the-wool Democrats, and the Obama-Clinton propaganda of Trump the Russian agent, Trump the vassal of China and Korea, Trump the sexual pervert, Trump the anti-scientist anti-environmentalist, and so on, were in full swing. How could this embodiment of all evil not be the antichrist, to a Democrat?

All those stories have now proven to have been dumped on Trump by evil forces we have slowly come to understand better (unless we are Democrats or Guardian readers). They tend to confirm my impression, as I learned more about the President, that he was a rough diamond, a Heracles seeking to hose out the Augean stables of Washington, or perhaps more accurately King Jehu, a man of questionable ethics and spirituality who, nevertheless, was God’s man to cleanse Israel of its idolatrous ruling class.

It still seems unlikely, to me, that as and when antichrist appears he will be opposed chiefly by the most evil billionaire globalists in the world. Trump has shown no signs of being a globalist, nor a warmonger (least of all against Israel), nor to set himself in the place of God. His greatest real moral failure appears to be vanity, which too many people have wrongly equated with narcissism. Pretty well all who have worked with him agree that he is a listener and negotiator, not a manipulator, and his motivation is a patriotic aim outside himself – even though he openly refers to his own prowess more than is modest. I think it was C. S. Lewis who pointed out that vanity is the least reprehensible form of pride – Satan’s pride is the destructive kind that is happy to disguise itself as an angel of light as long as power and destruction results.

The next accusation I heard about Trump as antichrist was just last week, and on totally different grounds from my BioLogos interlocutor. One of the commenters at The Daily Sceptic was convinced that Trump’s present legal difficulties are all a complicated part of the world conspiracy. Being the tool of the Illuminati, he would wriggle free unharmed and gain popular support for his antichrist agenda.

Now, I’ve come to have sympathy with the “world conspiracy” mindset. I recently came across a letter I wrote to Clifford Hill in 2001, pouring scorn on an editorial in Prophecy Today about the plot to take over the world by the Illuminati/Bilderbergers/Freemasons/Catholics, and pointing out that the story originated in antisemitic rumour-mongering about a Jewish plan to rule the world. My sceptical confidence has been considerably weakened by the realisation (partly documented in my e-book) that conspiracy theories are nowadays just the news six months in advance. So it is easy to understand how one can become convinced that everyone is part of the conspiracy, and that the evil masterminds are infallible in their labyrinthine plotting.

But even Satan himself doesn’t know the future, and human villains – even if operating in secret concert from vast resources – invariably mess up. And so, for example, I find it easier to believe that Klaus Schwab was bluffing or wrongfooted to say that Putin is his WEF puppet, than that the whole Ukraine War, the economic meltdown of the West, the Russian Orthodox revival and the demise of globalisation are all a Cunning Plan of Eastern and Western conspirators. Likewise, the deep state’s concerted efforts to destroy Trump, if he is actually their leader, is too convoluted for me to accept readily. It seems to me a lot more likely that he is what it says on the tin – a man willing to risk even his life (remember Jack and Bobby Kennedy?) to win back his nation for ordinary people.

But a third more worrying, and far less paranoid and better evidenced, possibility exists, and was communicated to me by someone who told me that Trump is a personal friend of Bill Johnson, the pastor of Bethel Redding Church. I can’t directly confirm that, but it is undoubted that his main spiritual adviser has been another New Apostolic Reformation leader, Paula White-Cain, to whom he reached out during his presidency, having heard her sermons online. It is claimed that she led him to Christ, which in the light of what I have been writing here about the NAR, is not necessarily to be taken at face value. Other NAR people helped rally Evangelicals around Trump during his last campaign: Lance Wellnau wrote a book, God’s Chaos Candidate, and Dutch Sheets (yes, that is his real name!) engaged in a “prayer and prophecy” tour in Trump’s support. Needless to say, the prophecies turned out wrong, which is normal in the Charismatic Movement generally.

Now, it is not unreasonable for Trump to enlist the Christian community in his election campaign, as it is ordinary Christians who are both most threatened by the radical progressive left, and who see most clearly the damage it is doing both to America and the world. And sad to say, it is not unreasonable either for him to have taken the NAR as both representative of Evangelical views, and motivated to promote them, for after all, Bethel, Elevation, Jesus Culture and Vineyard dominate the music that most Evangelicals sing in church now. If we have not seen through the hyper-charismatics, why should Trump be expected to?

The problem is that Paula White-Cain, like Bill Johnson and the other NAR “apostles,” embraces what is called the “7-M (or Seven Mountains) Mandate.” On the face of it, this appears to be a legitimate expression of the Church Militant, like the “Wedge Document” of the Intelligent Design Movement that sought to break the artificial bond between science and naturalistic materialism. Those who follow the seven mountain mandate believe that the church must take control of the seven major spheres of influence in society for the glory of Christ:

1) Education
2) Religion
3) Family
4) Business
5) Government/Military
6) Arts/Entertainment
7) Media

And that would be fine if we were simply talking about the struggle of competing ideologies in the marketplace of ideas. But as John Collins, a defector from William Branham’s Message cult that originated the 7-M idea, has researched (see here and in many excellent YouTube clips) that is not what we are talking about. Branham’s ideas developed from a number of clandestine political movements, disguised in religious dress, ultimately deriving from antisemitic and anti-black British Israelism. The Ku Klux Klan was a direct influence on The Message, through a movement called “Christian Identity.” The long and the short of it is that the long-term plan was that Branham’s cult would usher in the return of Christ by taking political control of America and the world, which would necessarily involve active violence against those under God’s curse, such as the black people believed to be descended from Ham, and the Jews. Without that takeover of the world, he said, Christ simply cannot return.

The reality of the genuinely violent tendency in this teaching is demonstrated by the end of two offspring from Branham’s doctrine: Jim Jones of the People’s Temple, whose members committed mass suicide in 1978, and Paul Schäfer’s Colonia Dignidad in Chile, which became a torture centre and disposal facility for dictator Augusto Pinochet.

This madness would be history, Branham’s cult being now just a fringe group of sects, were it not for the fact that the NAR regards Branham as a precursor and champion of their own movement, and so might be expected to share a similar understanding of the 7-M Mandate. Many of you will already have seen, as we have locally, how NAR-linked groups seek to infiltrate churches to capture them for the apostolic oversight of Bill Johnson or other “apostles” of the movement. NAR music has the same aim. These guys mean business, and have the money and deluded adherents to further it, even if they do not have the Spirit they claim to excel in.

My original informant tells me that some in the NAR are saying that Trump, when elected, will receive a special anointing as a successor to King David. That may well be as much bluster as Klaus Schwab’s claiming Putin for his own. But if (unlike Putin, it seems) Trump were to buy into the dangerous postmillennial theology of the New Apostolic Reformation (for example, if he really does attribute his salvation, and his high vocation, to Paula White-Cain), then we might see a very dangerous, not to say apocalyptic, situation.

A president of the United States who saw himself as the sole means by which Christ can return might prove very dangerous indeed. It is not even beyond the bounds of possibility for such a figure to begin to see himself as God incarnate, for even William Branham did that before his death. He, however, did not control the world’s largest armed forces. NAR is also the inheritor of the Manifest Sons of God Movement – which claims to achieve just what it says on the tin.

All this, though, hinges on a re-elected Donald Trump (to adapt the words of Jude 11) “taking the way of White-Cain.” My gut feeling is that Trump is too independent and canny to fall into that trap. He may be vain, but he lacks the megalomania of Charismatic cult leaders past and present. And it has been noted that, when announcing his run for the coming election, no religious leaders – and particularly his reputed “spiritual advisers” – were present. Without Trump becoming a willing head of a totalitarian and anti-Christian version of 7-M (and thus automatically a paid-up antichrist), NAR activists might well be ring-leaders in unpleasant violence, as Antifa are for the left, but few American Christians are going to abandon their genuine faith, and their respect for the US constitution, to join them.

Nevertheless, it is a situation to take seriously, and to watch – though not, I should add, through the eyes of our mainstream media, which would be likely to proclaim “Antichrist arrives” as soon as Donald J. Trump was elected to his second term.

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About Jon Garvey

Training in medicine (which was my career), social psychology and theology. Interests in most things, but especially the science-faith interface. The rest of my time, though, is spent writing, playing and recording music.
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