“I am the chosen one,” Donald Trump told reporters on Wednesday. He looked up to the heavens as he said this, CNBC reports, so perhaps he truly believes that God anointed him to win a trade war with China, which he also started. This analysis is supported by two uniquely cursed presidential tweets, which he unleashed before he spoke to reporters. In them, he quoted remarks by conservative commentator Wayne Allyn Root, who has assigned Trump a lofty and troubling designation.
People had questions.
So could Trump be the Antichrist? Look, anything is possible. I will tell you what my father once told me. Satan walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. (For the record, I don’t recommend saying this to a child, especially not after she tells you that she had a dream about a witch who eats people.) The point is that Satan is devious, and his works can be found anywhere. Trump could indeed be his agent, and that would make him an antichrist, if not the Antichrist.
The distinction is relevant. As Hannah Gais pointed out in the Outline last year, the term initially identified “those who refused to confess Christ’s presence on Earth or his divinity.” But the eschatology popular with many conservative Evangelicals holds that there is one Antichrist, who will bring about Armageddon. Biblical literalists of a certain stripe have long speculated that a president would make an ideal Antichrist, though this interpretation is not universal. The Left Behind series, which terrorized Christian youth groups in the late 1990s and early 2000s, gives us an Antichrist from Romania, who exists thanks to genetic experimentation by a Satanic cult.
But I digress. Real Revelations heads know that the Antichrist doesn’t just appear by surprise. There are signs. So let’s go through the checklist:
I don’t want to wade into eschatological debates. I would prefer to forget they exist. So I will only say that many (but certainly not all!) Evangelicals believe that God will take them into heaven before the Antichrist comes to power and instigates the Tribulation. Christians would vanish, “like a thief in the night,” as the verse goes, leaving their clothes and their apostate relatives behind. God thus spares them the thrilling horrors of the Antichrist, and they get to watch the show from above, as they lounge about in celestial glory. Until Pat Robertson ascends to his McMansion in the sky, there’s not much to worry about.
Does Trump meet the Rapture criterion? No.
The Antichrist Is a Charismatic, Attractive, and Widely Popular Diplomat
The Antichrist is a diplomat! He has to unite the nations of the world so he can carry out his nefarious schemes. You can’t just waltz into the Third Temple and desecrate it without public support; that’s the sort of thing that would otherwise start a war. Because the Antichrist has to create a new world order, it is generally assumed that he will be intelligent and charismatic. David Jeremiah, who pastors the ominously named Shadow Mountain Community Church and serves on Trump’s Evangelical advisory board, explained on his blog: “The combination of his magnetic personality, speaking ability, and extreme good looks will make him virtually irresistible to the masses.”
I will not touch the subject of Trump’s beauty. However, I will admit that Trump has charisma of a sort. He is a professional entertainer, and he became president, so some people are clearly persuaded by his rhetoric. Trump is widely unpopular both at home and abroad. And as for his intelligence? Well,
Does Trump meet the diplomat criteria? No.
Everything Is Supposed to Get a Lot More Chaotic
The world is a disaster. But the kind of people who take the Book of Revelation very, very literally tend to believe that things will get much worse before the Antichrist shows up and promises stability. There will be natural disasters, and plagues, and war. While climate change contributes to natural disasters, the world is not necessarily more violent than it has been at any previous point in human history. Trump, meanwhile, beats the war drums with Iran and denies climate change altogether.
Does Trump meet the instability criterion? Let’s say the results are mixed.
Christians Are Supposed to Be Persecuted
The time before the reign of the Antichrist is not a great one for Christians. The church will gradually become less influential and the world’s governments will persecute believers. Though Christians do indeed experience oppression in some nations, that’s not the case in the U.S. or in much of the world. Trump may not be the most devout, but he’s surrounded himself with people whose religious credentials are unimpeachable. It is a great time to be a Christian in the U.S., with one notable exception: We cage plenty of Christians in disease-ridden conditions at the border for reasons that have nothing to do with their faith.
Does Trump meet the anti-Christianity criterion? Yes, but only when the Christians are brown.
So the bulk of the evidence seems to suggest that Trump is not the Antichrist.
Okay, But What If Trump Really Is the Great Beast, the Little Horn, and the Son of Perdition?
It’s not too late to convert. Or you could take the more exciting route, and refuse because you want to see what the Tribulation is like. I wouldn’t blame you! There will be locusts and plagues and rivers of blood. The Four Horseman will be there, and so will the Whore of Babylon. The Antichrist is going to behead a ton of people. Wormwood will fall into the sea and turn a third of the waters bitter. In other words, party time. The Evangelicalism of my childhood (which taught premillennial dispensationalism, if you must know) held that you can still convert during or directly after the Tribulation. You’d still get to go to Heaven, and in a badass kind of way. Great news all around!