Now, I know what you may be thinking. I have been after our 45th president tooth and claw for many weeks now, using the Bible as a mirror of his thoughts and actions in as many and varied ways as I can. I will be honest: I am quite astonished how many parts of the scriptures have been illuminative of The Donald’s egregious, incompetent actions in the four months after his surprising and appalling election. If I sound anxious and fearful about that election, it is because I am both anxious and fearful, not to mention disgusted and horrified, among many other negative adjectives, too numerous to list. His most recent foray into dangerous waters—the apparent revelation of state secrets to the Russians—merely adds to the astonishing and nefarious activities of this singularly childish man.
But, you may say, surely he (John, me) is not going to use the book of Revelation to hold the mirror up to Trump. Surely he is not going to compare the president to the Great Dragon, or to one or the other of the beasts. Surely, he is not going to claim that The Donald is the devil or one of his nasty minions? Well, John answers, he is and he isn’t. I do not think the Donald Trump is the Ancient Dragon himself, come again to the earth to rip and tear his way through the human and animal communities, “because he knows his time is short.” I very much believe, however, along with John the Revelator, that this president, along with all world leaders who fancy themselves infinitely powerful and the last word in this world, is in fact another of the beasts whom John has promised will appear again and again until the very end of all things. Like the Whack-a-Mole at the state fair, beasts are forever popping up; you whack one down, and another inevitably emerges from another hole to menace the world.
But that other John has good news for all of us; it is the greatest news any of us can hear at this very tenuous and dreadful time. All the beasts eventually lose. The depredations of Donald Trump, just like all those whose goals are self-serving or designed for the few and not for all God’s people, will end, and God will win. In fact, that is the simple theme of the entire book—God wins. Now John is nobody’s fool; he is not saying that the winning will be easy or that there will not be struggle and pain along the way. But, as the famous line from Martin Luther King, Jr. has it, “The arc of the universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” That sums up Revelation very well indeed.
Donald Trump is in the process of trying to reverse nearly every good thing that previous presidents have tried to do, from the Affordable Care Act to the movements toward improving the environment to freedom and equality for the LGBTQ community to a host of other good actions for vast majorities of our citizens. He may well effect some of these reversals, but, it is to be hoped, his reach will be short, his tiny hands cuffed by other branches of our government. Still, those of us who find his actions disgusting, his rhetoric childish, his lies incomprehensible, will need to stand against these actions as strongly and steadfastly as we can. Like those in the late first century CE, we must not allow ourselves to be marked by the beast, that is to become complicit with Trump’s attempts to serve the wealthy—his own kind—while denying his own promises to aid the entire populace. Those who are marked by the beast run the risk of living on the wrong side of history, the side not blessed by God, the God who finally controls the world’s destiny.
The negative side of revelation is often accented in commentary, how Dragon and Beasts overpower the world, if only for a time, bringing about vast destruction and causing pain untold. However, I wish to focus this mirror article on the wonderful surprises at the end of the story, surprises that may even include Mr. Trump and in a good way.What is often missed in readings of this fantastic and elusive book is its quite astonishing and unexpected ending. Just before that ending, in chapters 16-20, the earth is cleansed of the Dragon and his various beasts, who are in effect the kings of earth, those who have wrought such havoc on God’s people and planet. After the Dragon, who is in fact Satan, the great deceiver in thin disguise, has been chained in the great pit for 1000 years, and then allowed to run amok again for a brief time (Rev. 20:1-10), finally is “thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever” (Rev. 20:10). All that occurs after the kings and merchants of the earth have witnessed the collapse of their economic empires in the great conflagrations of chapter 18. The result of this collapse is the weeping and mourning of the earth’s economic tycoons, “since no one buys their cargo anymore” (Rev. 18:11), and their vast wealth dries up. (Is it not a wonder that mountebanks who tout the book of Revelation as some sort of clever predictor of the world’s future, and who make wads of cash on misleading their flocks about it, conveniently avoid the obvious economic and social import of the book, an import that clearly includes the destruction of their own religious empires?)
Now many assume that when the heavenly city shows up in chapter 21 that only the godly, the martyrs, and the faithful will find their ways into that lovely and eternal place. But they have not read John carefully enough. Note Rev. 21:23: “And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it (unlike Gen. 1 where sun and moon are needed to light day and night), for the glory of God is its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it.” What!? These are the same kings of the earth who were last seen weeping and wailing at the end of the economic system that had given them power and riches. But now, in the heavenly city, the New Jerusalem “come down out of heaven from God” (Rev. 21:10), these kings themselves are seen streaming into the city, bringing their glory in, no longer the glory of power and wealth but the glory offered to them by God, a glory God offers to all, king and pauper alike.
One more observation. The verb used in Rev. 21:10 is a Greek continuous present, which means that the New Jerusalem is always coming down out of heaven, during every hour of every day. It is descending even now as I write and as you read. Thus, as Donald Trump plows his repulsive ways through the world, at the same time the New Jerusalem is descending out of heaven, offering a clear alternative to his rapacious activities. And we, those of us who find his leadership odious in full measure, must admit that when the vision of the New Jerusalem becomes the final reality, as John insists that it will, even The Donald will wend his way into the city, trailing not his wealth, not his power, but cleansed by the glory of God. Once I can admit that there is a place in the city for Donald Trump, I may need to temper somewhat my assaults on him. However, his ways are not God’s ways, nor are my ways God’s ways, and we both are in need of correction, bathed in the light of God’s glory.
We must never forget that “trouble don’t last always,” as the old spiritual has it, and that Trump and his latest bestial manifestations are not the final word in our world. Far from it! God wins, and all of us, even Donald Trump, can find our way into God’s city.