Beware of the Antichrists
1 John 2:18-23
For several hundred years the hot topic among many generations has been “who is the Antichrist?” So called Biblical prophecy experts throughout the years have uncovered “proof” as to the identity of the archenemy of Christianity. Some asserted that the antichrist is (was) Sadam Hussien. If your money was on him you lost out the day he was hung. If you are a fan of the Left Behind series the Secretary-General of the United Nations is your pick. Perhaps, the antichrist is a future president of the United States or a genetically-engineered super-human clone?
In Christian eschatology (the study of the end-times) the Antichrist has come to mean a person, likeness of a person or other object that is the personification of evil. Each generation seems to find its favorite nemesis who fits the role of antichrist: Nero, Attila the Hun, Mohammed, etc.
Apocalyptic passages are most often appealed to as proof of the Antichrist’s identity. Many mistake the Antichrist with the “man of sin” in 2 Thessalonians 2:2-4. Except this man of sin tries to show that he is God. Others claim that the Beast of Revelation 13 is the Antichrist. Certainly, there are similarities, but the two terms should not be used interchangeably. Neither can the Antichrist be identified with 666. This is the number of man, not “a” or “the” man. The number “six” means imperfect, that is, one less than seven which is perfection. Man is therefore imperfect, imperfect, imperfect.
The New Testament Greek term is a compound of anti meaning “opposed to or against” and christos means “messiah or Christ.” Therefore, the basic meaning of this noun is one who is opposed to the Christ or against Christ. The term “antichrist” would be inclusive of anyone who is against or opposed to Christ
Time of the Antichrists
When will or did the Antichrist come? An ad was sent out several years ago for a religious meeting where one of the topics was announced as: “The Antichrist Is In the World Today.” This would be of no surprise to a diligent student of the scriptures. These Antichrists have been around for nearly 2000 years. John affirmed that the Antichrist was “now already in the world” (1 Jn. 2:18). Many of them “have gone out into the world” (2 Jn. 7). If you listen to the myriad of end-time prognosticators you will learn that the Antichrist will show up to usher in the last days. Again it is written in the first epistle of John, “children, it is the last hour” (1 Jn 2:18). We are in the last days, which is, the Christian era (Heb. 1:1-2; Acts 2:16-17; 1 Jn. 4:3). The time of the end of the world can not be understood by the sign of the Antichrist’s appearing. Jesus Himself could not pinpoint a date for His return. He could not even narrow it down to the nearest century. Concerning His Second Coming Jesus affirmed to His Apostles, “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heave, but My Father only” (Mt. 24:36).
Number of the Antichrists
According the Bible how many Antichrist are there? Is Antichrist a single entity or many distinct persons? Of the five occurrences of the term: once it is in plural from (“even now many Antichrists have arisen” in 1 Jn 2:18-19) and four times it is singular in number. However, the contexts of each of these passages clearly identifies the Antichrist with plural pronouns or nouns: “they went out…if they had been..none of them” (1 Jn. 2:19); “many deceivers” (2 Jn 1:7). Apparently, “antichrist” is a more general term than modern men had been led to believe.
It is argued by some that these antichrists are mere precursors of the one true Antichrist to come in the final days. This allows false teachers to identify him and then predict the time of Christ’s return based on the assumed identity. For the past two thousand years antichrists have been showing up among the brethren with their lies.
Departure of the Antichrists
Where is the Antichrist to appear? Is it Jerusalem? Is it Washington D.C.? John said, “They went out from us” (1 Jn. 2:19). The pronoun “us” indicates faithful Christians. These Antichrist were those that had professed Christianity. Some, however, assume that these Antichrists were never really Christians because John goes on to say that they “were not of us” (1 Jn. 2:19). This does not preclude them from having legitimately been disciples at one time. After all, Judas was excluded from the apostleship having transgressed and gone “to his own place” (Acts 1:25). But at one time Judas had “obtained a part in this ministry”, that is, the apostleship with Peter and the rest (Ac. 1:17). Know this, today there are many Antichrists distressing the furtherance of the Gospel through deceptive lies against Christ.
The fact that “they went out” does not absolute demand a physical departure. The context will support the idea of not abiding in or remaining in the truth. It is their apostasy for the apostolic teachings which demonstrate they are not in fellowship with the brethren This would be true even if they were still physically attending the same local congregation. It is the antichrists’ departure from the faith they contrast with those who have still abide in the Word.
Protection from the Antichrists
John is warning Christians of his day of the current danger posed by those who were antichrists. Today, many have gone out into this world and present just as much a danger to the children of God as they did in the first century. How shall Christians protect themselves from the antichrists?
The early Christians had a defense against the antichrist. John said, “But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you know all things” (1 Jn. 2:20). This anointing helped them to know the truth and taught them and abided in the truth (1 Jn. 2:21,27). Perhaps, this is referring to the miraculous gift which enabled early Christian to discern the “spirits” (1 Cor. 12:10). We have the ability to test the spirits (1 Jn. 4:1) by comparing them to the revealed Word of God through His apostles and prophets whose writings were guided by the Holy Spirit. The majority view is an anointing with the Holy Spirit. However, this passage does not mention the Holy Spirit and thus is most likely is referring to the transforming power of the Word they learned from the beginning. It is the indwelling of the Word.
The practice of anointing kings, priests, and prophets in the Old Testament showed they were set apart unto the work of God. Perhaps John is using “anointing” which is chrisma in the Greek as a play on the word antichristos. Thus showing those who are denying Christ and not abiding in Him are against those with this anointing in the Word Though many antichrists have gone out into the world, the “little children” are christs in this world. True Christians are anointed, but they are not antichrists.
Through this anointing the faithful Christians “know all things.” Some see here a reference to John 14:16,17; 15:26; 16:13. However, the context of these promises will cleary identify the apostles as the intended recipients, not all Christians. Instead the phrase “know all things” is reference to the all-sufficiency of the Gospel which contains all the truth they need to be protected from the false doctrines of the antichrists. The information revealed by John and the apostles about Christ is enough for support their continued faith in Him at the Son of God who came in the flesh to die for their sins and to resurrect to provide us forgiveness and eternal life..
Another protection afforded to all Christians was to abide in the teachings of Christ (1 Jn. 4:6; 2 Jn. 9). Abiding in Christ meant keeping His commandments and being faithful to His teaching (1 Jn. 2:24). By abiding in Him “we may have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His coming” (1 Jn. 2:28).
John appears to overstate the obvious when he says, “no lie is of the truth” (2:21c). Truth is absolute. In no way can two opposite beliefs be equally true. Truth is incompatible with the lies of the antichrists..
False Teaching of the Antichrists
All antichrists are lairs (1 Jn. 2:22) because they deny the truth about Christ being the Messiah, being the Son of God, and coming in the flesh. All liars will have their part in the lake of fire (Rev. 21:8).
The specific false teaching or lie is by “he who denies that Jesus is the Christ” (2:22a). Many in the New Testament have made such a denial. Saul of Tarsus was one before his conversion. The Jews who crucified Jesus were of this same attitude. The exact specifics of this denial is not known. Perhaps they were denying His deity, being the Messiah of prophecy, His sinlessness, His miracles, His death, burial, and resurrection, his Lordship, and atoning blood, His second coming, etc.
The antichrists’ denial of the Son is equal to the denial of the Father. “He is antichrist who denies the Father and the Son” (2:22b). No one can have God and not have the Son. (John 14:6). Jesus had clearly stated “I and my Father are one” (John 10:30). Jesus also said, “All things have been delivered to Me by My Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father. Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him” (Mt. 11:27).
No one can therefore claim to have faith in God the Father while denying Christ. The converse is true, “he who acknowledges the Son has the Father also” (2:23b).
– Daniel R. Vess