The False One(s!)
In his first epistle, John declares it is the Last Hour, a period elsewhere in the New Testament called the “Last Days.” As evidence of this, he points to the presence of false teachers who are disrupting the congregations under his care. These deceivers are the products and instruments of the “Spirit of Antichrist” that is active already in the world, and these very same men are forerunners of the final “Antichrist” who is yet to come.
The idea that believers are in the “Last Days” occurs multiple times in the New Testament. This period is the final stage of history that commenced with the death, resurrection, and exaltation of Jesus, and the outpouring of the Spirit on the Day of Pentecost.
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- (1 John 2:18-22) – “Little children! It is the last hour. And just as you heard that an antichrist is coming, even now, many antichrists have come, whereby we perceive that it is the last hour… Who is THE FALSE ONE, save he that denies that Jesus is the Christ? The same is the Antichrist, he that denies the Father and the Son.”
To substantiate his claim, John only needed to mention the false teachers who were peddling their lies in the Assembly of God. Jesus himself warned his followers that “many deceivers” and “false prophets” would come and “deceive many,” including the “very elect.”
Thus, the activity of false teachers in the church is irrefutable evidence that the final period of this present age is underway. It will end inevitably with the return of the “Son of Man on the clouds of Heaven” when he comes to gather and reward his “elect,” but also to judge and destroy his enemies - (Matthew 24:4-5, 25:31-46, Mark 13:5-6, Luke 21:8, 1 Timothy 4:1, 2 Timothy 3:1).
John called these deceivers “antichrists,” and he used the plural number when doing so. They were not proponents of pagan religious ideas from outside the congregation, but false teachers who were propagating false doctrines in the Assembly (“They went out from among us”). Moreover, they were identifiable by their denial “that Jesus is the Christ.”
John confirmed that a final “Antichrist” would come, though he provided almost no information about this figure. By applying the terms “antichrists” and the “spirit of Antichrist” to the false teachers in his congregations, he associated them with this end-time figure. Like the final incarnation of the “Antichrist,” the false teachers who were disrupting the Church were also “FALSE ONES”; that is to say, liars.
In his Letter, John did not directly connect the activities of these false teachers with any expected final events or “signs of the times.” His immediate concern was the damage being inflicted on the Assembly, though their very presence demonstrated that the “Last Days” were in process and the “Spirit of Antichrist” was at work in the world already - (1 John 4:1-3).
His second epistle is more personal and quite brief. It does not discuss the return of Jesus, but his concern was with the dissension in the Assembly that was being sown by false teachers, especially their denial of the genuine humanity of Jesus. Their destructive efforts demonstrated again that the “Last Days” had arrived - (2 John 7-8).
ABIDE IN JESUS
As before, John linked these deceivers to the coming “Antichrist.” His reference to “many deceivers” echoed the words of Jesus in his final Discourse given on the Mount of Olives, especially his warning about coming deceivers:
- (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 many… And many false prophets will arise and deceive many… For there will arise false Christs and false prophets, and they will show great signs and wonders; to deceive, if possible, even the elect.”
Considering the present conflicts in John’s congregations, as well as what was (and is) coming, believers must “abide” in Jesus so that “when he is manifested, we may have boldness and not be shamed away from him at his arrival.” This was (and is) a summons to holy living – “purifying oneself” - especially considering the future arrival of Jesus - (1 John 2:28–3:3).
By “abiding” in him, the disciple prepares for the final day and immunizes himself from the wiles of the Devil and his earthly agents, especially the many “antichrists” running rampant in the assemblies of God.
In the passage, the Greek term rendered “manifested” translates the verb phaneroō - “manifest, appear, make known, become visible.” The Apostle Peter applied the same verb to the coming of Jesus in his first Letter, as did Paul when writing to the Colossians - (1 Peter 5:2-4, Colossians 3:4).
The English term “arrival” in verse 28 translates the Greek noun ‘parousia’, which denotes the actual arrival of someone. This is the only instance in his letters where John uses the term. It occurs in Matthew’s version of the ‘Olivet Discourse’ when Jesus applied it to his future “arrival” - (Matthew 24:3, 24:27, 24:37-39).
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The world does not understand Jesus, and therefore, it does not understand those who belong to him. For now, his disciples look no different than other human beings, though their conduct may strike many as nonconformist, even subversive.
However, despite appearances, believers are the “children of God,” and when Jesus is “manifested,” they will be transformed and appear for all to see “like him.” Moreover, they will see him “just as he is.” Those with this hope “purify themselves” in preparation for that day - (1 John 3:1, Hebrews 9:28).
Regardless of how far along we are in this final period, “the Last Days,” the return of Jesus remains certain. The Apostle’s concern was (and is) with how believers live in the interim between their present and the arrival of Jesus “on the clouds.” The very fact that “many antichrists” are present means that sooner or later the ultimate and final Antichrist will appear on the scene. By “abiding in Jesus,” his disciples prepare themselves to resist that figure’s deceptions and to remain holy before the Lord.