Opinion

Trump's Jerusalem Syndrome: Whose End of Days Messiah Does He Think He Is?

The president just gave Jerusalem to the Evangelicals for Christmas, as a capital of their very own. After all, who else but Trump could make the Apocalypse great again

U.S. President Donald Trump next to Vice President Mike Pence, after making a statement on Jerusalem in the Diplomatic Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., Dec. 6, 2017.
U.S. President Donald Trump next to Vice President Mike Pence, after making a statement on Jerusalem in the Diplomatic Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., Dec. 6, 2017. Andrew Harrer / Bloomberg

Is this the prophesied End of Days?  

For some ecstatic observers of Trump's White House declaration this week, in which the president formally recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, there is ample reason to believe that it is. 

"The prophets' words of prophecy are coming forth from the Bible and becoming facts right before our eyes," said Likud lawmaker and prominent Temple Mount movement figure Yehuda Glick, appearing on Israel Channel 10 television Wednesday evening as Israel awaited Trump's expected announcement on Jerusalem. 

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Quoting from the opening words of the book of Lamentations, in a reference to Jerusalem, Glick noted that once Jeremiah had wept, crying "How deserted lies the city, once so full of people! How like a widow is she, who once was great among the nations!" 

But the rise of the State of Israel, coupled with Trump's declaration, had now changed all that, Glick suggested: "So Mister Jeremiah, I'm sending you a WhatsApp: 'Jerusalem is no longer alone like a widow. Jerusalem is recognized as the capital of the Jewish People.'"

To be sure, Trump did little to dispel the sense that something of biblical significance was in fact taking place. The setting for his words was as scrupulously composed as a stained glass window, with Vice President Mike Pence standing, apostle-like, behind and below, gazing up at him with reverent awe, framed by Christmas accents of greenery, gold ornaments, and red ribbons.

Anshel Pfeffer and Dina Kraft deconstruct Trump's speech recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

There are large numbers of believers, in fact, who see Trump's announcement - and, in fact, Trump himself - as hastening the long-awaited coming of the Messiah. 

>> Armageddon? Bring It On: The Evangelical Force Behind Trump's Jerusalem Speech

But just whose Messiah is Trump hastening? Is it the fundamentalist Israeli vision of a return to a Jewish kingdom and priesthood reminiscent of the Old Testament? Or is it the Evangelical belief in the return of Jesus Christ and the conversion of all the Jews to born-again Christian doctrine and faith?

And, considering the unfathomable idiosyncrasies of the president's personality, isn't there every chance that we are now watching the evolution of a particularly Trumpian version of Jerusalem Syndrome - that disorder in which a recent visitor to the Holy City begins to take on the personality of a biblical figure?

The Messiah, for example.

It just could be a logical next step on Trump's path of auto-hagiography. Having already crowned himself President of all Presidents, is it too much of a stretch to imagine Donald Trump, basking as he is in the glow of an adoring Israeli press and the showers of verbal rose petals thrown his way by Benjamin Netanyahu, beginning to see himself as the King of Kings?

"When Trump promised Evangelicals that he would move the embassy to Jerusalem, it was a Christian move to stand with Israel,” Indiana Evangelical Pastor Paul Begley said earlier this year

"He knows that it is his Christian responsibility to do that. When this happens, it will make it easier for Israel to build the Third Temple, fulfilling Bible prophecy for the End of Times.”

But what would happen then? As Israelis awaited Trump's statement Wednesday evening, Israel's Channel 10 broadcast a clip entitled "Welcome to the Coming Apocalypse," in which Pastor Begley, an American flag flying behind him, spoke with such rapturous excitement that nearly kept his words from leaving his lips: 

"The Jewish People - I've been there, I'm telling ya - they believe that when the Temple's built, the Messiah will be revealed to them. And it will be. The Temple will be rebuilt, and then Yeshua [fundamentalist Christians' preferred Hebrew name of Jesus] will be revealed to the Jewish People, that he is truly their Messiah.

"And they will embrace him."

Israel Channel 10 anchor Nadav Eyal asked for a response from Likud lawmaker Yehuda Glick, an Orthodox Jew and a prominent leader of the Temple Mount movement, which seeks the rebuilding of the Third Temple. 

It's fair to assume that the last thing Glick would want to see is for Jews to convert en masse to Christianity. And yet, he clearly sees Begley - and, in particular, Donald Trump, whose inauguration Glick enthusiastically attended - as allies in bringing the Jewish Messiah Glick so fervently hopes one day to welcome.

"Paul Begley is a dear friend of mine," Glick said. "We have an excellent relationship, certainly. Just as I've said that the State of Israel is a miracle, one of the greatest of miracles, it seems to me that the fact that hundreds of millions of people, Christians, recognize Israel, is another stage in the miracle."

In many ways, in fact, Trump would probably find the role of Messiah uniquely suited to him. There are no term limits. There are no age limits. By some accounts, he could rule forever.

There would also be a certain identification with the outsize personality, appetites, and moral, well, ambiguity of the biblical David, by tradition the ancestor of the true Messiah. Already something of an ethical role model to the real-life Donald Trump, the figure of David strongly suggests that moral turpitude need be no barrier to service as an instrument of God's own will on Earth.

Already, in the wake of Trump's Jerusalem declaration there are those who are coming forward to cleanse their sins in the policies of the president.

Roy Moore, for example.

Soon after Trump's statement on Jerusalem, the alleged child molester and Alabama U.S. Senate candidate tweeted:

"I am grateful that the Trump-Pence Administration is working to restore the trust that was betrayed during the Obama era and I support their decision to officially recognize Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel, as a signal of our continued commitment to our ally."

In the end, as whose End of Days Messiah will Trump likely see himself?

The Jews, Sheldon Adelson and Benjamin Netanyahu at their head? The Evangelicals, the very base of his base?

In declaring Jerusalem Israel's capital, he's already given Adelson and Netanyahu their Hanukkah present, the legacy that so long eluded them. And, as the White House decorations suggested, this week he gave Jerusalem to the Evangelicals for Christmas, as a capital of their very own.

But chances are, in his own mind, Trump's already aiming higher. 

Let's face it. He will be the greatest savior anyone has ever seen. Who else but him, after all, could make the Apocalypse great again.