14 November 2022

In the Church


John labels false teachers in the church as antichrists, and their deceptive teachings confirm that the last days have commenced.
 
Wolves - Photo by Tom Pottiger on Unsplash
The term “antichrist” occurs only in the letters of John, and he applies the plural noun to deceivers that are causing dissension in his congregations. Their very presence constitutes irrefutable evidence that the “last days” have commenced. These troublemakers are “antichrists” and forerunners of the “Antichrist” who is to come - [Photo by Tom Pottiger on Unsplash].

The Greek term rendered “antichrist” means “instead of Christ,” NOT “against Christ.” The force of the preposition anti is “instead of.” Certainly, the “antichrist” is no ally of Christ, but his strategy is to replace him with a “different Jesus.”

  • (2 John 7-8) – “And this is love that we should be walking according to his commandments: This is the commandment, even as you heard from the beginning that you should be walking in it. Because many deceivers have gone out into the world, they who do not confess Jesus Christ coming in flesh: This is the deceiver and the antichrist. Be taking heed to yourselves, lest you lose what things we earned.

John’s reference to “many deceivers” echoes the warning of Jesus about coming deceivers who are intent on misleading the “very elect”:

  • (Matthew 24:4-5, 11-13, 23-25) – “And answering, Jesus said to them, Beware lest anyone deceive you; for many will come upon my name, saying, I am the Christ, and will deceive manyAnd many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because iniquity will be multiplied, the love of the many will wax cold. But he that endures to the end, the same will be saved…Then if anyone say to you, ‘Behold, here is the Christ,’ or ‘There’; believe it not. For there will arise false Christs, and false prophets, and will show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.

THE LAST HOUR


In his first epistle, John declares that “it is the last hour,” the same period elsewhere called the “last days.” Thus, the final era is underway even as John is writing his letters in the first century - (1 John 2:18-22).

The idea that disciples of Jesus live in the “last days” occurs multiple times in the New Testament, and John can point to the deceivers in his churches to substantiate his claim (“Even now many antichrists have come whereby we perceive that it is the last hour”) - (Matthew 24:4-5, Mark 13:5-6, Luke 21:8, 1 Timothy 4:1, 2 Timothy 3:1).

He calls them “antichrists.” They are not pagan counterfeits from without the church, but false teachers active within it (“They went out from among us”). And they can be identified by their denial “that Jesus is the Christ.”

In his letters, John does not coordinate the “antichrists” or the coming of the final “antichrist” with the return of Jesus or other final events.  His concern is with the damage they were inflicting on the church - (1 John 4:1-3).

THE APOSTOLIC TEACHINGS


John’s letters provide instructions on how disciples avoid deception by these “antichrists”; namely, BY ADHERING TO THE TEACHINGS OF THE APOSTLES and the believer’s knowledge of the “Son.”

There is no true knowledge of God apart from Jesus. Moreover, the disciples must “test the spirits” and not take every new teaching or self-described apostle or prophet at face value - (1 John 4:1-4).

The disciple of Christ must exercise discernment because “many false prophets” have arrived, and in John’s letter, the stress is on “MANY.” The activities of deceivers and “antichrists” have been a constant problem in the church.

These deceivers are recognizable by their denial that “Jesus Christ is come in the flesh.” This means they reject his genuine humanity (“By this, we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error”). The “spirit” that denies this IS the “spirit of the antichrist,” presumably, a trait that also will characterize THE “Antichrist.”

AN INTERNAL PROBLEM


And THE Antichrist is “coming.” In John’s letter, this term represents the Greek verb in the progressive present verb tense. That is, it describes a process that is underway.


Church Pews - Photo by Nico Smit on Unsplash
[Photo by Nico Smit on Unsplash]


What about the larger world and the threat posed by this coming “Antichrist”? In fact, the deceivers, the “antichrists,” are “of the world.” Therefore, they “speak as of the world, and the world hears them.” The world receives their lies gladly because it already is under deception; even now, the “spirit of antichrist” holds sway in the world.

In all this, John says nothing about specific “signs” that will portend the arrival of THE “Antichrist” or the “last hour.” And what would be the point of doing so if the “last hour” is already underway? His concerns are how these deceivers are impacting believers and how the church can identify them.

This conflict has raged within the church since its inception, a flood of deceivers and deceptions far too numerous to list. And this battle will continue to rage until the very day the Risen Jesus arrives in all his glory to strike down the final deceiver, the “man of lawlessness” - (2 Thessalonians 2:8-9).

And Paul warned the Thessalonians that the “man of lawless” will only be revealed when he “seats himself IN THE SANCTUARY OF GOD,” a term he elsewhere only applies to the church.

If the letters of John provide us with a reliable method for identifying the “Antichrist,” and with a biblical precedent, then we must look first in our own midst for this creature before pointing to any global political leader outside the church as the prime candidate for this dark figure.



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