The Spirit of Antichrist: 1 John 2:18-23
“Little children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they were not of us, for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us, but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us. But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you know all things. I have not written to you because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and that no lie is of the truth. Who is a liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist who denies the Father and the Son. Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father either; he who acknowledges the Son has the Father also” (1 John 2:18-23).
With a term of endearment towards his audience, the aged John now proceeds to warn them and also future readers of this letter about a problem that was real in his day (2:15), that of behaviors and statements that were blatantly defiant towards the words and direction of the Lord Jesus Christ and the examples set forth by His apostles and their successors. These carried the message of salvation to the new generation that was growing up without the direct influence of the men who had spent their time with the Lord Jesus, who preached the truths of the gospel message, and who now lie in their respective graves, the victims of martyrdom for His sake as He promised in His teachings so long ago.
Now John is literally the “last man standing” who was an actual eyewitness to the life and ministry of the Lord. The brethren who had seem Him after His resurrection according to 1 Corinthians 15 were now down to maybe a handful of witnesses, if any were left at all. It was now getting easy for groups like the Gnostics and other heretics to get a grasp on the younger believers and sway them away from the doctrines of the true faith.
John knew that he could not afford to simply set back and trust his pupils to carry on the task. Even at his great age, he is still in the thick of spiritual battle, not afraid of anything the world, the flesh, or the devil might throw at him. Even if he was now known as “the apostle of love” by his peers, there was probably enough of his “son of thunder” personality at times to hope that the LORD would rain fire on His enemies and be done with it. No real child of God who is serious about his or her faith desires to “retire” from life, not when there are still some souls to be won; and that is how John saw himself as the years proceeded, and even more so now.
It was the Lord Jesus who told His disciples on Mount Olivet that one of the signs of the end times was the rise of false Christs (Matthew 24:5; Mark 13:6; Luke 21:8). These individuals were making themselves known to the discerning mind of John, and he now refers to them as antichrists. They are the representation of the one who will come upon the earth as the ultimate false messiah, who will be the tool of the devil to control this world and bring about the rebellion that he hopes will dethrone God once and for all.
What the devil and those who follow him are hoping for is the ultimate pipe dream. What we are experiencing now, especially in the United States, is an increasing hostility towards faith and Christianity in general. Many Americans are deliberately choosing to deny God and live a life steeped in unbelief, with the idea of being their own masters. The truth is that the unregenerate population of not just America, but the world as a whole wishes that they had the power to get rid of God; thus, they are playing right into the hands of a malevolent being that is only too happy to be thought of as a mere symbol of evil or the figment of a religious writer’s imagination.
The tragedy of the situation is that these individuals will be subject to the delusion that God Himself will place upon the world (2 Thessalonians 2:11-12), allowing them to openly welcome the man who will rule the world as Satan’s representative, the one referred to in Scripture as “the Beast” (Revelation 13:1-10). These people who will come under the influence of the Beast will gladly assist in the murder of those left behind after the event of the Rapture (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18) and who come to Christ amidst severe persecution.
When John becomes a prisoner of the Emperor of Rome on the island of Patmos later, he will be given the divine vision of the last days before the return of the Lord Jesus Christ to rule and reign, and bring evil to a stop forever (Revelation 19:11-21; 20:11-15).
In this letter that we are examining, John uses the term antichrist five times (2:18, 22; 4:3; 2 John 7) and describes those who have this rebellious spirit in the following manner: They refuse to obey apostolic authority (2:19). In John’s day, this referred to those who had associated themselves with the apostles and other Christians, but they had gone out on their own and were no longer in fellowship. They were “not all of us.” This rebellious attitude and evil inclination of false believers is also mentioned in Chapter 4, verse 3-6.
What about the antichrist spirit in our day?
There are tares in the church who behave as if they were believers, but at a certain point, their true nature comes out and they reject any biblical and godly authority. An example would be of someone who studies but does not believe what Scripture says and teaches, citing that the Bible “contains errors,” and “the ancient manuscripts have errors in copying,” and because of this we don’t know what the original authors wrote or taught.
As an example, this is the thesis of Bible scholar Dr. Bart Ehrman, who claimed at one time to be a Christian, but the more he studied the ancient manuscripts that make up the New Testament, the more skeptical he became of their content and ended up not believing in anything. He writes about this in his book Misquoting Jesus (2005). I propose that Dr. Ehrman did not so much as “lose his faith,” but never really had true faith in Christ in the first place. (We need to pray that the LORD will open his eyes before it is too late.)
There are many professors and teachers like him who have made a career out of studying the Bible from a skeptical perspective, and are not ashamed to admit it. These people could rightly be defined as “antichrists.” Those who give “lip service” to God on Sundays in order to appear “godly” are also good examples and may be the ones who sit by you in the pews when they decide to come.
Further examples of the “antichrist” spirit today is the increasing acceptance of political philosophies that center on the here and now with the objective of getting control of the state and turning it into a type of dictatorship that controls every aspect of life. The younger generation in this country is fascinated by the lure of socialism and its promise of “free stuff” for everyone, bringing about a sense of entitlement and loss of individuality and motive to better oneself. They will accept the offer of comfort at the cost of freedom and liberty.
A study taken by pollsters indicates that the younger generation in this country is less religious and less patriotic than ever before, and that’s what the politicians and those in what is referred to as the “deep state” want in terms of total control of mind, body, and soul. A lot of the blame for this is the failure of the church of Jesus Christ to teach the essentials of the faith and why it is the truth. We now have people engaged in the discipline of Christian apologetics, making a case for the claims of Christianity; but I wonder sometimes if it is a case of too little, too late.
The genesis of what John saw as a representation of the “Antichrist” spirit in his day was the growth and acceptance of the teachings of the Gnostics, who believed and taught that the Lord Jesus was someone who appeared to have flesh, and who possessed the “Christ” spirit that dwelt with Him while on Earth, and left Him at the moment of the crucifixion to die as a mere man. This thinking was based on the belief that while the spirit was good, the flesh was evil, which was based on representations of Greek philosophy and thought. It was a blatant denial of Jesus coming in the flesh. They denied the concept of Father and Son as part of the Godhead.
A modern example of this type of thinking is within the teachings of Islam concerning Jesus. The Muslims believe that Jesus was a prophet of God (second only to Muhammed). He is referred to in the Koran as “the Messiah,” “the word of God,” a miracle worker, virgin-born, and will return to Earth. However, the Koran denies the divinity of Jesus and the atonement for sins on the cross. The Koran declares that “Allah had no son.” Despite what they and some Christian leaders proclaim, Allah is not the God of the Bible, but is the name of a moon god worshipped by certain Arab tribes before the arrival of Mohammed and Islam in the seventh century A.D.
This was also the conclusion of historian Will Durant, who wrote the multi-volume Story of Civilization and, in particular, the volume on medieval history entitled The Age of Faith (1943). There have been recent volumes written about Mohammed and his true nature as well. However, a lot of this has been hushed up by the politically correct mindset and media.
Any denial of the divine nature of the Lord Jesus Christ, whether it be from secular or religious sources, is displaying the spirit of Antichrist. This way of thinking and living has been around since the first century, but is now making headway at a rapid pace in this day and age; and you have to be willfully blind and naïve to deny this obvious fact. What we are to do as the remnant body of Christ before He returns is to affirm the truth of the Word and believe its claims of inerrancy and sufficiency, to rely upon the direction of the Holy Spirit to speak the truth, and to look up, be watching, for our redemption is drawing near.
We shall venture forth to Chapter 3 next time.