1 John 2:18-23 - It Is The Last Hour
Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore 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 it might become plain that they all are not of us. But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and you all have knowledge. I write to you, not because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and because no lie is of the truth. Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also.(1 John 2:18-23)
Thursday evening I arrived home and stood on the sidewalk leading to the front door. As I stood there I admired the fact that there was not one dandelion in the yard. I was surprised because I expected to see some sticking up out of the grass. The next morning, however, I walked by the living room window and I was discouraged to find that the yard was full of bright yellow dandelions. I was so annoyed by their presence.
It seems to me that there are two ways to view dandelions in the yard. First, you can see them as weeds and try to deal with them. Secondly, you can view them as a beautiful perennial flower that grows quickly and spreads profusely.
Just like I had concluded that my yard was free of dandelions we can all too easily become convinced that there are no weeds within the church and that there are no tares among the wheat. But this is not true at all. There are many weeds and many tares among the true believers. In time, they will be revealed just as these dandelions eventually made themselves known.
Having said this, let me clarify the difference between a pagan and an apostate. A pagan is someone who has never professed Christ and who has never claimed to have a relationship with Jesus. An apostate is someone who has claimed at one time to have a relationship with Christ but then turns away and rejects the faith that was once and for all handed down to the saints. Such a person may even speak against these things.
Every church, and each person in the church, has certain beliefs that may be wrong. This week I was talking with someone and they said, “We need to major on the major things and not on the minor issues.” In other words, we better not apply a bandage to the cut on someone's finger while they are experiencing a heart attack. There are some issues that we have to get right from the beginning. There are other issues and beliefs that are corrected over time (Romans 12:2 – ‘Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.)
A believer will be teachable and will conform their beliefs to God’s word but an antichrist will not. Let me give you an example.
Consider Apollos in Acts 18:24-28. He came to Ephesus and he spoke eloquently, boldly and was scriptural about many things. But when Priscilla and Aquila heard him and realized that he was not fully accurate, they pulled him aside and explained to Him the way of God more accurately. Apollos received the instruction and his ministry greatly helped other believers. We are told, “...for he powerfully refuted the Jews in public, showing by the Scriptures that the Christ was Jesus.” (28) Apollos proved to be a true believer. The Jews who he tried to correct with Scripture and would not repent were not believers and had not received the grace of God.
This is how we ought to deal with one another in the church. None of us are always right. When it is discovered that there is an issue that does not line up with the Scriptures, another believer ought to lovingly and patiently correct and teach them with the Scriptures. Those who are teachable like Apollos will grow and be more usable. And those who are not teachable, who will not receive the teaching of the Scriptures, will become plain to everyone.
As we consider these things let’s consider 1 Thessalonians 5:12-14. Paul says, “We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the LORD and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves. And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.”
An antichrist has not received the grace of God. They reject the scriptures and the grace of God. Consider Acts 13:42-46, “As they went out, the people begged that these things might be told them the next Sabbath. And after the meeting of the synagogue broke up, many Jews and devout converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas, who, as they spoke with them, urged them to continue in the grace of God. The next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the Word of the LORD. But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and began to contradict what was spoken by Paul, reviling him. And Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly, sayings, ‘It was necessary that the word of God be spoken first to your. Since you thrust it aside and judged yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles.’”.
So let me ask a question. How are you responding to the antichrist’s who have risen up among us? Do you see them as a threat and a danger, whose false teachings are the worst threat the church faces? Or are you unconcerned, apathetic and indifferent about these things? Are you attracted to them and their teachings? Do you find that you are being drawn to the fast growth and spreading of their teachings?
The apostle John wants these believers to know the dangers. Look at 1 John 2:18, “Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour.”
John addresses these believers as ‘children’ because they need to be instructed for their own safety. John is like a parent who is instructing his children about how to cross a busy street. He says to them, this is the rush hour (‘last hour’). This is the time of day when the streets are the most dangerous. This is the time of day when you need to be the most careful, the most cautious, the most observant, be on your guard. This is the hour when there are ‘many’ subtle threats so be aware, be diligent, be observant.
The term ‘last hour’ has theological significance and it is not stressing the chronological significance. There are other terms that are used in the New Testament that speak in a similar manner to express this: last hour, last days, last times. This is the time between the death and resurrection of Christ and His second coming. Victory was achieved at Calvary but it will be fully consummated when Jesus comes again. At that time every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is LORD. We live in the last hour, the last days, the last times. Let me give you three scriptures that speak of this.
Acts 2:17 – And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh...
Hebrews 1:1-2 – Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by His Son, whom He appointed the heir of all things, through whom also He created the world.
1 Peter 1:20 – He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for your sake.
John then says, “...and as you have heard the antichrist is coming. So now many antichrists have come”.
John mentions that these Christians have already been warned that the antichrist is coming but he reminds them again here. There is much debate about when the antichrist will come and what exactly the antichrist will be, but John is clear that a sign of the antichrist’s coming is that there are already many antichrists in the world.
John will speak of these antichrists again in 1 John 4:1-3, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is already in the world.”
Notice that this teaching about the antichrist was important enough to teach young Christians right away. John mentions this in both of these texts. Therefore, it seems appropriate that we appreciate the need to be reminded of these very things. Like dandelions, you can never fully eradicate the presence of these antichrists. Their influence is always present so we need to remain vigilant. Are we seeing the threat and acting appropriately?
When I was building houses we sold a home to a young couple. They had lived there for just a few weeks when I saw her walking to our job site crying. I went out to her and she told me that she had locked herself out of the home with her little baby inside. She asked if I could somehow get the door open. I told her that I could try and as we walked I prayed that I could help. I took my license and slid it down the door frame and into the lock area and the door came open very quickly. Through the tears she smiled and said, “Wow, I guess we should have you install dead bolts! Those locks probably won’t keep us to safe.” The next day I was sent to her home to install the dead bolts. That event made her realize that she needed more security and so she paid for that to happen. Similarly, there are antichrists all around and John is continually reminding these churches of this threat so that they will be aware of the danger. Are we being diligent to secure the church? Are we being reminded enough about antichrists and the threat that is present?
The term antichrist is made up of two words. ‘Anti’ and ‘Christ’.
‘Anti’ has two meanings.
First, it can mean ‘against Christ’. They are against the Messiah and against the Anointed One – Jesus Christ.
Secondly, it can mean ‘in the place of Christ’ or ‘instead of Christ’.
The term antichrist can speak of both of these things. The one who is against Christ is seeking to replace Christ and the truth concerning Him.
In the Old Testament there were three offices in which God would anoint individuals for His service. God would anoint the king who was to rule His people. God would anoint the prophet who was to speak His word to the people. Finally, God would anoint the priest who would offer sacrifices for the sins of the people and who intercede for the people.
Jesus is the Anointed One who rules over God’s people as King. Jesus is the Anointed One who speaks for God to the people as the Prophet who was to come. And Jesus is the Anointed One who is the Great High Priest who who has offered Himself for the sins of the people and He intercedes for them as the Lamb of God who saves them from their sins.
Antichrists are those who reject all of this. They reject Jesus rule, His sacrifice, and they reject Jesus as God’s last word as the Prophet. These antichrists are against Christ they seek to replace His word with falsehood, they are usurpers of His authority, and they stand against his redemptive work by putting some sort of stumbling block in others way or by putting forward something else which cannot save in the place of Christ.
Dr. Peter Barnes says, “An antichrist is a religious teacher who proclaims a Christ who is not the Christ of the Bible. He may be a Christ who is not quite God and never quite saves, a Christ who offers health and wealth, a Christ who is repeatedly sacrificed as the Roman Catholicism teaches, or a Christ you invite into your life to make you feel good.”
This issue of antichrists and their false teachings seems daunting. It would be alarming enough that they are in the world, but John says that they are in the church. Therefore, I found it very comforting to consider one commentators thoughts about the rest of our text. He said, “God will cause these antichrists who are in the church to be exposed and eliminated from the fellowship of believers.”
This makes sense since Christ is the head of the body and He nourishes His body and protects it from such cancers. Paul says in Ephesians 5:29-30, “For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of His body.”
This is not to say that we do not have an active part to play in this as well. Paul says to the Colossians, “See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elementary spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. For in Him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in Him, who is the head of all rule and authority.” (Colossians 2:8-10)
1 John 2:19 contains 4 truths that we will quickly consider.
First, Antichrists will not abide around those who are standing in the truth. John says, “They went out from us”. These people were once among believers in the church but they did not remain. When the truth of scripture is plainly set forward they cannot bear it. Jeremiah 6:10 says, “Behold, their ears are uncircumcised, they cannot listen; behold, the word of the LORD is to them an object of scorn; they take no pleasure in it.” Yet the righteous will not respond in this way. Jeremiah 7:23 says to the righteous, “Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be my people. And walk in all the way that I command you, that it may be well with you.”
Secondly, antichrists are not of us. John says, “they were not of us”. I am sure that many of us have been shocked when some of the people we had known the longest in the church, who professed faith in God and even led in the church, walked away from Christ and no longer bore any fruit of salvation. These individuals have become like Judas or Demas. It is hard for many of us to come to the point where we will say, “they were not really of us”. Yet, we should never stop praying for them that they will hear the gospel and repent and believe with a persevering faith.
Thirdly, antichrists are seen when they do not remain in a proper relationship with those who are right with God and who love the truth. John says, “for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us”.
Fourthly, antichrists are exposed by God and it becomes plain (obvious, clear) that they did not share in the life of Christ. John says, “But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us”. The King James says, “...that they might be made manifest”. The verb ‘manifest’ is in the passive form which means that God will see to it that these antichrists are revealed and made known. This makes me think of something similar to what is described in Revelation 3:16-17, “I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. For you say, I am rich, I have prospered and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.”
One commentator said, “God is in the business of adding to the Church and He is in the business of subtracting from the Church as well.” We love it when God adds to the church (Acts 5:14); we also should be grateful when God reveals antichrists and removes them from our midst (1 Timothy 1:18-20).
In contrast to this, God gives a special anointing to His people (to true believers, to His sheep, to His children). John says in 1 John 2:20, “But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and you all have knowledge.” The anointing that we are given is the Holy Spirit who leads us into the truth of God’s Word. John 16:13, “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and He will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for He will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that He will take what is mine and declare it to you.”
In 1 John 2:21 we find that John is not writing to them because they do not know the truth, but because they do know the truth. John says, “I write to you, not because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and because no lie is of the truth.”. What a comfort it must have been for John to know this about them.
Think about those times when you can talk with genuine believers and their hearts warmly receive the truth of God’s Word. When you speak about Christ these believers smile and engage at a heart level towards Him. With everyone else there is no glimmer in the eye, no affection in the soul, no longing of the heart for Christ and His truth. But a believer receives the truth of God’s word with joy. They receive the apostolic message as the very Word of God. And from such people the gospel goes forth to the benefit of others. Consider Thessalonians 1:4-8, “For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake. And you became imitators of us and of t