An eerie parallel is beginning to emerge between the newly elected American President and the Fourth Century emperor of Rome. If it continues on course, it does not bode well for either the body of Messiah or Israel.
Constantine, as we know, was the one who looked like the most powerful friend Christianity ever had. But in fact he was the one who became its greatest betrayer, sending the faith spiraling into apostasy for centuries afterwards.
Before he became emperor, Christians were suffering terribly under the Roman emperors. Rome was a pagan polytheistic empire, but Christianity had no idol, sacrificing priesthood, temple or holy day. So its followers were considered atheists by Roman standards and persecuted accordingly.
Constantine changed all that after supposedly seeing a vision which he attributed to the Christian God, which led him to achieve a decisive military victory. He then promoted Christianity to become the dominant religion of the Empire as a way to unify his realm. Christians even started to believe he was bringing in the Kingdom of God, completing the work Yeshua had begun.
Trump’s rise to the American throne of power also comes at a time when Christian civilization is under serious attack.
Radical Islam has been unleashing its demonic hatred against Christians all over the world (as well as against Jews and other minorities.) At the same time secular humanism has all but dethroned Biblical beliefs in the West.
However, Trump’s stunning victory has brought new hope that both of these satanic onslaughts can be rolled back. And that decades of declining Biblical values can be restored through political power. Which of course, they can’t. Nevertheless, he is being heralded as the new champion of the faith, though the genuineness of his faith, like Constantine’s, is questionable.
Which brings me to this most foreboding parallel.
When both men came to power they were faced with a divisive situation that was rattling the well-being of their respective worlds. For Constantine it was a theological debate over the deity of Jesus. For Trump it is the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.
We know how Constantine dealt with his problem. He convened an ecumenical council at Nicea in 325 AD, requesting the attendance of Christian leaders from all across the Empire. He promised to act simply as a referee between the warring theological factions. But that’s not how it went down.
History records he oversaw the council dressed in purple, seated on a gold chair and looking like “a heavenly messenger of God covered with gold and gems” (Glory to God In the Highest, Joel Hemphill, pg.414). With his imposing royal presence, he pressured the council to adopt a theological solution that all Christendom had to abide by under a threat of death. As the American Academic Encyclopedia reports. “…it was the first time he had used the imperial office to impose a settlement.”
The rest, of course, is history. By creating a Christian theocracy with state-enforced doctrines, the world and the church were fused. It took the American Revolution, over 1400 years later, to free believers from this ungodly marriage.
I do not think it unreasonable to suggest that Constantine, like Antiochus IV, is a prefigurement of Antichrist. The only difference between the two was that Antiochus tried to eradicate Israel’s Old Covenant testimony of the Living God from the outside. While Constantine, corrupted Israel’s New Covenant message of salvation from the inside.
If Haman doesn’t get the job done, Satan always has a Judas waiting in the wings.
But the question before us today is, how will President Trump deal with his “divisive situation?” Clearly he seems eager to try and negotiate a peaceful settlement between Israel and the Palestinians. Like Constantine, he says he doesn’t want to impose a solution on the parties but simply mediate the dispute. But will he?
He already seems to be backing away from his unmitigated support for Israel by giving the Palestinians an important seat at the table. And he seems to be waffling on campaign promises to move the American Embassy to Jerusalem, give wholehearted support for settlement growth in Judea and Samaria and abandon the failed Two-State proposal.
Equally troubling was his warming to Jordan and Egypt’s efforts to recycle the Arab Peace Initiative. That proposal would divide Jerusalem, bring millions of so-called Palestinian refugees into Israel and convert Israel’s heartland into the Palestinian State. A non-starter for Israel.
Given the late hour in which we live, if Trump tries to force Israel to accept a Palestinian State with Eastern Jerusalem as its capital, I’d say we could be looking at the one who Constantine and Antiochus foreshadowed.
But, you might ask, how can that happen without a Jewish temple in place? Didn’t Paul tell us we’ll know him when he “takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God?” (2 Thess. 2:3,4). We just need to see that Paul’s words can, and I believe should, be understood symbolically. After all, there was no seat in the temple that I know of other than the Mercy Seat. And if he sat there, he wouldn’t live long.
As an example of symbolic fulfillment, just look at Constantine. Didn’t he take his seat in the temple of God – the church – displaying himself as God?
As for Yeshua’s warning about “the abomination of desolation standing in the holy place,” didn’t Matthew add – “let the reader understand?” (Matt. 24:15). What if after concluding a historic peace treaty in Israel his Number Two set up his image on the Temple Mount? Anything is possible.
Whether Trump turns out to be Daniel’s “horn which had eyes and a mouth uttering great boasts” (Dan. 7:21) or not, this much is clear. The Jews missed out on Yeshua’s first coming because they weren’t ready. They had relied too heavily on preconceived ideas. Let’s not make the same mistake this time concerning his second coming.
Brian Hennessy is the author of Valley of the Steeples