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. 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. (1 John 2:18-19)
These days, any kind of teaching about the coming anti-Christ is very popular. But less than 60 years after the cross John was already writing about the spirit of anti-Christ being evidenced in the false teaching that would later come to be known as “gnosticism”. The fact that those false teachers had come from among believers gave them a certain credibility in the growing church, but in John’s view the error of their doctrine proved that they had never been true believers. “For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us” (1 John 2:19)
We’ll explore the power of that observation in a minute. But first let’s review the basics of gnosticism as it was being presented in John’s time. In essence gnosticism held that all spirit was good and all flesh was evil. They further believed that good and evil cannot exist together, so neither can spirit and flesh. Therefore God, being Spirit, could not dwell in Jesus, with His body of flesh. Jesus, being a man and therefore evil, couldn’t have been sinless, so He couldn’t have qualified to be our redeemer. Because of this, they claimed, the path to salvation was not through His death on the cross, but through the progressive attainment of secret spiritual knowledge (Greek: gnosis). This same idea permeates Freemasonry, Scientology and the New Age religions, demonstrating that gnosticism in various forms is still around today.
Now back to John’s amazing declaration. “For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us.” If these proponents of gnosticism had truly received the Gospel in their hearts, they wouldn’t have begun propagating false doctrine. Their belief in the truth would have prevented this. The fact that they were teaching lies proves that they had never believed the truth.
Think about that. The fact that they were teaching lies proves that they never believed the truth. Ever hear a speaker who sounded so good and was so persuasive, but put forth a view that you knew to be at odds with Scripture? I’m not talking about ancillary things like how old we’ll be in Heaven, or what the Millennium will be like on Earth, but basic components of the Gospel.
Let’s take the Doctrine of Grace for example. “For it is by grace you have been saved through faith – and this not from yourselves it is the gift of God – not by works so that no one can boast” (Ephe. 2:8-9).
According to the way I read 1 John 2:18-19, any teacher who denies that salvation is by grace alone is teaching a lie. If he says we have to do more than believe and receive in order to qualify for eternal life it means the truth is not in him. Remember, grace plus work is no longer grace.
Can You Believe That?
And what about those who believe the false teaching? “But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth” (1 John 2:20). Here John explained that just as those who have the truth in their hearts would be constrained from teaching lies, so also we who believe the truth will be constrained from believing those lies. Those who claim to be Christian but then join a religion that rejects the truth in favor of lies, demonstrate that they never really believed the truth in the first place.
“The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders, and in every sort of evil that deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved.” (2 Thes. 2:9-10)
The implication here is that those who are perishing knew the truth but refused to believe it. Their unbelief was willful and intentional. Many scholars believe these people will not get a second chance to believe the truth after the rapture but will be deceived by the false teaching of the anti-Christ and will perish.
“For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers who say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths (mythology).” (2 Tim. 4:3-4) Again, the notion here is of willful and intentional rejection of the truth in favor of more palatable lies. I’m convinced John was of the opinion that the people Paul was writing about here didn’t just stray away, they never believed in the first place.
A Tale Of Two Gates
In Matt. 7:13-14 Jesus said, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”
Some religions promote a way of salvation based on works. Others try to combine grace and works. They may claim to be Christian or they may claim a different God. But they are all on the broad road heading for the wide gate. The small gate is labeled “grace” and the narrow road is called faith alone.
This is what led Jesus to issue the warning that not everyone who calls Him “Lord” will enter the Kingdom. Even if they drive out demons and perform miracles in His name, He will deny ever knowing them (Matt. 7:21-23). They’re on the broad road.
He said only those who do the will of the Father in Heaven will enter the Kingdom. And what is the will of the Father? Listen to the Lord’s own words.
“All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:37-40
Our Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in Him shall have eternal life. It’s the shepherd’s job to keep the sheep, and it can never be said that the Good Shepherd saved us but then couldn’t keep us. If we present ourselves to the Father as sinners in need of a Savior, and ask that the death of His Son be considered as payment in full for our sins, the Father will place us under the protective care of His Son and no power in Heaven or on Earth can ever can ever steal us away. If we happen to wander off for some reason, He will track us down and bring us back because it’s the Father’s will that the Son should lose none of us.
As I understand 1 John 2:18-19 then, believing that trusting in Jesus alone can’t save us is evidence of the spirit of anti-Christ. If someone thinks they have to do even part of the work, or that even though He did save them He could subsequently lose them, that’s the spirit of anti-Christ. Those who believe these things may have come from among us, but they never really belonged to us.