End Times Antichrists
1 John 2:18-27
October 2, 2011 | Brian Bill
I heard about a man who had a grandfather clock that went haywire and chimed fourteen times one midnight. He jumped up and said, “Wake up, Nellie, it’s later than it’s ever been before!” Brothers and sisters in Christ, it’s later than it’s ever been before because we are living in the last hour.
As we continue in our study of 1 John, God wants us to be confident in our Christianity. Using tender words once again, in verse 18, John calls his readers “Dear children” and then tells us that “this is the last hour…” The “last hour” or “last days” really refers to the time between the Ascension of Jesus into heaven and His return to earth from heaven. We are not waiting for another testament or additional revelation or another prophet because the next event to come is the return of Christ. The Bible says that the tough times we are in right now will be filled with evil that will greatly increase and intensify.
If I were to summarize this passage in one sentence it would be something like this: The advent of antichrists shows the end is near.
Let’s look at the rest of 1 John 2:18: “Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour.”
In the word antichrist, the prefix “anti” means, “in the place of,” or “in opposition to.” An antichrist is one who opposes or seeks to replace Christ and is used in three different ways in the Bible. We know we’re in the last hour by the increasing number of antichrists that have arisen.
1. The spirit of the antichrist.
Turn over to 1 John 4:3: “But every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.” Behind every false doctrine and outburst of evil is the spirit of the antichrist.
2. The Antichrist.
The Bible records over 20 different names for this “Satanic Superman.” Here just a few.
- “The Antichrist” (1 John 2:18; 1 John 4:3, 2 John 7)
- “Little horn” (Daniel 7:8)
- “Abomination that causes desolation” (Matthew 24:15)
- “The Beast” (Revelation 13:1). This title is used 36 times in Revelation.
A lot of people over the years have tried to figure out who the Antichrist might be and theories range from popes to presidents to pastors. Even though believers won’t be here when he is revealed to the world, the spirit of Antichrist is certainly present, and the person who will be the Antichrist could very well be alive right now.
3. Many antichrists have come.
John helps us see what these antichrists (with a “little a”) are up to. Here’s how I want to walk through 1 John 2:18-27. We’ll start by focusing on what antichrists do. Then we’ll establish what we have as believers. We’ll conclude with the one thing we must do.
WHAT ANTICHRISTS DO
1. They desert the church.
We see this in verse 19: “They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us.” A biblical example of one who “went out from us” would be Judas, who spent time with Jesus and His other followers for three years. Did you know that most cult leaders were once involved in a legitimate church? The apostle Paul warned about this happening in Acts 20:30: “Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them.”
2. They deny Christ.
In verse 18 we see that they are anti-Christ. In verses 22-23 we’re introduced to their error: “Who is the liar? It is the man who denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a man is the antichrist — he denies the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also.” The verb tense for “denies” means to continually and consistently deny that Jesus is the Christ.
One of the false teachers who gained some major traction was a guy named Cerinthus. He taught that the incarnation never happened and that Jesus did not die a sacrificial death on the Cross. Jude 4 says, “For certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.”
3. They deceive Christians.
Drop down to verse 26: “I am writing these things to you about those who are trying to lead you astray.” Jesus was no doubt referring to these “antichrists” when He said this in Matthew 24:4-5, 24: “Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many…For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect – if that were possible.”
So that’s what antichrist do – they desert, deny and deceive. Let’s look now at what we have.
WHAT YOU HAVE
The whole study of antichrists and error and evil can be frightening to think about. How do we know what’s true? How can we discern what is right and what is wrong?
That reminds me of the conversation that took place between a husband and a wife some time ago (when cars still had carburetors). The wife called and said, “Something’s wrong with the car.” He patiently replied, “What’s wrong with it?” She answered, “There’s water in the carburetor.” To which he responded, “Honey, you don’t have a clue what a carburetor is.” She persisted, “Trust me. There’s water in the carburetor.” Feeling like he wasn’t getting anywhere and that he needed to come and check things out in person, he asked, “So, where’s the car?” To which she said, “It’s in the swimming pool.”
Here’s the deal. We don’t have to understand all the intricacies of systematic theology or go to seminary to know when something’s all wet. God has given us three truth detectors in this passage.
- You have the anointing. We see this in verse 20 and in verse 27: “But you have an anointing from the Holy One… As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you…that anointing is real, not counterfeit…” This anointing is from the holy one and is in the present tense which means we have it constantly. Notice also that it’s “in you,” not with or around or on.
In the Old Testament, priests, prophets and kings were often anointed with oil for a special task or to set them apart. This anointing represented the Holy Spirit as seen in 1 Samuel 16:13: “So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers, and from that day on the Spirit of the Lord came upon David in power.”
if you’re saved, you’re anointed
In the New Testament, the Holy Spirit is given to all believers at conversion as stated in Galatians 4:6: “Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, ‘Abba, Father.’” There are a lot of strange and unbiblical uses of the word anointing today but here’s what I want you to lock in on – if you’re saved, you’re anointed. It’s not some special or extra blessing, reserved only for some special people. I get this from 2 Corinthians 1:21-22: “Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.” In short, anointing is not a special power; it’s a Person.
- You have the truth. We see this in the last part of verse 20 and in verse 21: “…and all of you know the truth. I do not write to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it and because no lie comes from the truth.” Have you heard the popular, yet syrupy saying that goes like this: “It’s doesn’t matter what you believe as long as you’re sincere”? There is such a thing as absolute truth and it does matter what you believe. You can be sincere and be sincerely wrong. Real deal believers know the truth.
- You have the teaching. Look at verse 27: “…and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit – just as it has taught you…” Cults require that members listen only to their leader or teacher. The Holy Spirit’s job is to guide believers into all the truth and to teach us what God has revealed. John 14:26: “But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.”
Let me just say that John is not saying that teachers aren’t important. One reason he wrote his letters was to do some teaching. Plus, we know the gift of teaching according to Ephesians 4:11 was given to “prepare God’s people for works of service…”
Here’s the deal. False teachers used two special words to describe those who had a special relationship with God – knowledge and anointing. According to them, the enlightened elite had something special going on. Do you see how these verses addressed this error? They claimed they had a special anointing which gave them special knowledge. John says that all true Christians know God and have received the anointing of the Holy Spirit through faith in Christ. Period. Case closed.
We’ve seen what antichrists do and what we have. Let’s look now at what we must do.
WHAT YOU MUST DO
A.W. Tozer has written: “Each generation of Christians must look to its beliefs. While truth itself is unchanging, the minds of men are porous vessels out of which truth can leak and into which error may seep to dilute the truth they contain. The human heart is heretical by nature and runs to error as naturally as a garden to weeds…The unattended garden will soon be overrun with weeds; the heart that fails to cultivate truth and root out error will shortly be a theological wilderness…”
We need to stay in the Bible and let the Bible stay in us.
We’re to reject anything antichrist or antichristian and there’s one thing we’re called to do. It’s summed up in one word: Remain. We see this in verses 24-25, 27: “See that what you have heard from the beginning remains in you. If it does, you also will remain in the Son and in the Father. And this is what he promised us – even eternal life…Remain in him.” This word, also translated as “abide,” is used more than 20 times in 1 John. We need to stay in the Bible and let the Bible stay in us. We’re to reject what is false and remain in that which is true.
I came across an article on Crosswalk.com by a woman named Julie Barrier entitled, “Coming Back from a Cult.” I want to read part of it because it just may apply to some of us today.
“How could I be so blind? Why did I not see the signs? Everyone around me knew I was in over my head, and they were plotting an intervention. Cults are insidious – even for long-time followers of Christ. I was a happy, albeit complacent churchgoer from the get-go. I started chucking graham crackers at the nursery ladies before I could talk. We never missed a Sunday…We had our own pew and everything. God help the poor visitor who sat in our spot! I invited Jesus into my heart at the ripe old age of six.
“I cruised along with nominal commitment and blithe ignorance of Scripture despite the concerted efforts of my pastors to pound basic theology into my thick little noggin…I kept my nose clean, lived under the radar and followed the rules…I know I loved Jesus, but we were distant acquaintances – I always held Him at arm’s length…
Later, when she was older, she writes: “I found the guy. Brother Smith (not his real name) pastored a wildly demonstrative congregation, and people prophesied over me twice a week. I didn’t need to listen to God any more, my fellow Christians told me exactly what to do (and what not to do)…But after a very long time of praying, wise counsel and patience from Roger [her husband], I began to see clearly. I had been duped. I was in a cult (even though it had all the trappings of a great church). The god Brother Smith was preaching was not the God of the Bible. He was a demanding, accusing condemning taskmaster who was perpetually disappointed with me (who does that sound like?). I was living a life of legalism and asceticism, and I felt trapped. Because of my faulty view of God, I didn’t think He would hear or answer my prayers.
“I learned a thing or two from my encounter with a false teacher…
- Beware of the “wolf” in sheep’s clothing who tells you he is the only one who hears from God.
- God promises to lead you when you are His child. It’s the Holy Spirit’s job to guide you into all truth.
- Carefully evaluate the view of God that is being taught. Is it based on Scripture?
- Every cult (and every world religion) is based upon human effort rather than the grace of God and the sacrifice of Christ.”
David Wells has written: “The fundamental problem in the evangelical world today is that God rests too inconsequentially upon the church. His truth is too distant, his grace is too ordinary, his judgment is too benign, his gospel is too easy, and his Christ is too common.”
Friends, because it’s later than it’s ever been, it’s imperative that we stay close to Christ. We’re responsible to make sure that we remain and we do that by allowing, as Colossians 3:16 says to, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly…”
Let’s come back to that which we know to be true. As a way to affirm our faith, I want us to focus on four different statements of faith.
- The main truths of the Reformation.
- Scripture alone
- Christ alone
- Grace alone
- Faith alone
- To God alone be the glory
- The Nicene Creed. Most of the creeds were hammered out as a way to deal with false doctrine. Let’s say this together as a statement of our belief.
‘We believe in one God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible. And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, Very God of Very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father by whom all things were made; who for us men, and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary, and was made man, and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate. He suffered and was buried, and the third day he rose again according to the Scriptures, and ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of the Father. And he shall come again with glory to judge both the quick and the dead, whose kingdom shall have no end.
‘And we believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of Life, who proceedeth from the Father and the Son, who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified, who spoke by the prophets. And we believe one holy [universal] and apostolic Church. We acknowledge one baptism…And we look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.”
- The Lord’s Prayer. Let’s pray this slowly as a way to prepare ourselves for the celebration of communion.
“Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.”
- A reading from 1 Corinthians 11:23-29.
“For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, ‘This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.’ For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup.”
There are lots of things competing for our allegiance and that’s why we must keep coming back to the Cross of Christ. Let’s do that right now as we remember what He did for us…because it’s later than it’s ever been before.
Questions for Further Study
- How do you feel when you hear people talking about the “end of the world”? Do you get excited or scared? Or do you just roll your eyes? Discuss.
- Why does John use the phrase “last hour” twice in 2:18? What evidence can you point to that we are living in the last hour?
- In what sense have “many antichrists” already come? Discuss how this relates to “the antichrist” that is coming?
- How can we recognize false teachers according to 2:19 and 2:22-23? Why do you think these kinds of teachers are so appealing today? See 2 Timothy 4:3-4.
- Circle the number of times the word “truth” is used in this passage. Why is truth such a big deal to John?
- Do you agree that it is impossible to “have” or “know” the Father if someone disbelieves in the Son? Incorporate 2:23 into your answer (see also 1 John 4:9-10, 14-15; 5:11-12).
- Why is it so important to “remain” in Christ (see 2:19, 24, 27)? Consider John 15:1-8 in your answer.
- How consistent are you in staying close to Jesus? What have you discovered as some ways to stay connected to Christ?
- How does the inner anointing of the Holy Spirit teach us (2:27)? Why is it also important to be taught the truths from the Bible?
- Think through how best to live these truths out as a family. How can you emphasize the importance of avoiding false teaching? Give examples.