It’s not often we consider antichrists and Christ, partly because John is the only New Testament writer to use the term antichrist.
The John who wrote this letter had walked through Judean countryside with Jesus of Nazareth. And he also knew that Jesus is the eternal Son of God. What we see in his letter is how John relates high theology about Jesus with the everyday things going on in the church he loved.
Some of those things broke his heart and some very much encouraged him. John would have been late on in life when he wrote this. It’s like a letter from a wonderful, godly uncle, to you – to do you good.
Antichrists aren’t unusual (18-21)
John, as ever, has a poetic style about him. Read 1 John 2:18. What does he mean to say “the last hour is here”?
- The timeline of the Bible has various timeframes that are really important: Creation to Noah; Noah to Abraham; Abraham to Sinai; Sinai to the end of the Old Testament.
- And once Jesus returned to heaven, we entered the “last days” – the final time before the end, when Jesus returns and makes all things new.
- John is the only New Testament writer to refer to these times as the “last hour” – but that’s where we are. Waiting.
And precisely because we’re in these times, waiting for Jesus to return, you’re to expect antichrists. The term “antichrist” is also only found in John’s letters, but the idea is also found elsewhere in the New Testament.
- Paul writes about a Man of Lawlessness in 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4.
- Jesus spoke about false “Christs” who would lead people astray (Matthew 24, Mark 13).
- Even Revelation 13’s beasts are about powerful countries, movements, religions, influences, and philosophies that will lead millions away from truth, away from Jesus.
And what do we mean by “antichrist”? There are two sides to it:
- “Anti” can mean “instead of” – a substitute, imposter – an antichrist will lead you to false belief, telling you it’s truth
- Or it can mean “against” – like antidote or antifreeze – an antichrist will lead you away from truth
So, says John, there will be people who will mislead you into error and keep you from truth – throughout the whole church era. And they will be people you know. Not beasts, but friends.
Who are the antichrists?
Who are they then? Read 1 John 2:19.
These antichrists used to be in John’s own church. He might well have eaten with them, prayed with them, loved them. But now they’ve left. We need to be careful:
- Christians move from one church to another. That’s normal as the Lord sends his people around.
- John’s not talking about denominational differences either. Some churches baptise infants and some don’t, but neither should call the other antichrist because of it!
John is talking about people who were part of the church and seemed to be Christians (would call themselves Christian), but then left the church because they believed something different.
You’ve known people like that. Maybe family members. Hard to think of them as antichrists – they’re friends. But they’ve gone away from truth to false belief and would encourage others to do the same.
And it’s heartbreaking. Is there hope for them?
- The words of 2 Peter 2 and Hebrews 6 will leave you cold. For some, they are worse at the end than they were at the beginning: It’s a wickedness to know what Jesus has done for you and then walk away disinterested.
- And yet, there’s always the adulterer David, and the spineless Peter, and the letdown John Mark – all forgiven and restored by God.
- So it’s not for us to know what will happen. You need to be wise and patient, and pray on.
But John has higher hopes for you, his reader: Read 1 John 2:20-21.
If you’re not an antichrist, or being led astray by one, it’s not because you’re especially brilliant. It’s because Jesus has given you the Holy Spirit (literally, you have anointing [the Spirit] from the Holy One [Jesus]). It’s the Spirit who led you to the truth. The truth about yourself (you’re a hopeless sinner, an offence to God) and about God (he loves you and gave his Son to save you). So come to the Son:
Christ is Glorious (22-23)
John is writing to specific people because of a specific problem. People were denying what John had said about Jesus. They were liars. Read 1 John 2:22.
We’ve noticed John’s poetic writing a few times – he weaves ideas together and keeps coming back and adding more colour. He’s building up a picture of what an antichrist would typically say, and we can add some later verses to get the wider picture:
- An antichrist is a liar (v21), and will say that Jesus is not the Christ.
- An antichrist will deny the Father and the Son (v22).
- They deny that Jesus was a human being (1 John 4:2-3) and/or that Jesus is the Son of God (1 John 4:15) or born of God (1 John 5:1)
God himself declared – in John’s own hearing, on the mount of transfiguration – “This is my beloved Son”. But God does not change. He has no potential in any way, because he is infinitely perfect in all he is, and unchangeable. So if he is a Father, then he is eternally so.
Which means the Son must also be eternally the Son. He is Son of God, of one substance with the Father.
They are spoken of as Father and Son for our benefit, that we might glimpse their relationship towards one another. The Son, eternally begotten, proceeding from the Father, is in loving, eternal subordination to the Father. Father and Son are of one mind. With the Spirit, the three are one God.
The Word became flesh
The Father didn’t become a Father at Bethlehem, or Nazareth. He is eternally so, and Jesus the eternal Son. The Son took on human flesh, and died as an atoning sacrifice for the sins of his people. And he now reigns, exalted in the heavens, High Priest and Advocate for all his people – representing us before the Father. He is the only mediator between God and humanity, precisely because he is both God and man himself.
The Son is the only communication and representation of the Father to the church, to you. You could never, ever know or approach the Father except through Christ his Son, your High Priest and Advocate.
So read 1 John 2:23.
Antichrists – or the spirit of the antichrist in society – will lead you away from Jesus, away from the Son of God, the only means any of us has to the glory of God given to us freely. If you want to see a glimpse of the glory of God, you look to Jesus:
- His glory is in the astonishing act of self-humiliation, to leave heaven’s splendour to take on human flesh & bone
- His glory is seen in his atoning sacrifice born out of his love for you, and in his exaltation at his return to heaven!
- It will be fully revealed when he returns (or calls us) and we see his glory by sight – we see by faith until then.
- The Son glorifies the Father, and you will glorify him too in a life of obedience, walking in the light, in love.
We can see two examples of antichrist attack on the glory of Christ today – one direct, one indirect, both “Christian”:
Example 1 of the spirit of antichrist – Jehovah’s witnesses
First, Jehovah’s witnesses call themselves Christian but, on the strength of 1 John 2, you’d be more accurate to call them antichrist.
- They say Jesus is a created being like the rest of us. Exalted and special, but not co-equal with the Father.
- If you ever get in a discussion with a JW, home in on this point as quickly as you can: Jesus is the eternal Son of God, deity, eternally co-equal with the Father.
Example 2 of the spirit of antichrist – denying the Son’s loving submission to the Father
A second example of antichrist thinking has crept into the church between the lines, in the cracks, just out of sight for most people – swept up in the ordination of women and promotion of same-sex relationships within the church.
- In saying that the Son of God is co-equal with the Father (ontologically identical), it’s remarkable to say that the Son is in eternal submission to the Father.
- That means that submission doesn’t imply inferiority, nor does headship imply superiority – they remain equal.
- In fact, both Father and Son are glorified in their “other person-ness” in submission and headship. It’s beautiful.
- Biblically, this is how to regard Christ and his church, and husbands and wives, and it impacts women’s authority within churches.
In order to justify same-sex relationships and the ordination of women, part of the debate has centred on undermining the eternal submission of the Son of God to the Father. This robs him of glory and identity; it’s false.
Please hear me clearly: I’m not suggesting that women priests and pastors are antichrists. But I am saying that the spirit of the antichrist is found wherever the identity and glory of Christ is eroded, however good the motives of a person may seem.
We must not deny the Father and Son, by denying the “Father-ness” and “Son-ness” of their glorious relationship.
Remain in him (24-27)
Read 1 John 2:24. The truth must remain in you. God incarnate (in flesh) came to save you. You’re saved by faith in him, in his work. As you remain in that, you remain in the Son, and in the Father.
You remain in his heart, in his will, in his thoughts. You remain in the eternal life he gives you.
Read 1 John 2:25.
So to remain in his truth is to remain in the Father and the Son. That means life with him now and forever, in fellowship with God and his people. You experience that every time you pray, read his word, gather with his people – any time, and any where you spend time with God.
So John explains that he’s writing all this because he knows there will always be antichrists and they will always want to deceive you: Read 1 John 2:26-27.
Antichrists will always lead you from truth to lies. But you have the Holy Sprit of God in you, sent by Jesus. The Spirit moves you, and teaches you. He will only teach truth; he can’t contradict his word, the Bible.
Objective truth + subjective experience
So you have an objective truth to trust (the Bible) and a subjective experience of God in you (the Holy Spirit). Both work together to remind you and convince you of the truth; your living experience of the living God within you. Father, Son and Spirit worked as One to save you and will keep you in life. The Spirit mediates Christ to you, and Christ leads you to the Father. That happens now, all the time, and especially as you pray.
When you see him you will experience him forever – in all his astonishing glory. You can get a taste of that today – but only if you regard him as he truly is and remain in Christ: Christ as he was revealed to you, eternally Son of God, who took on actual flesh to be a human to die in your place. Jesus, eternally God with Us, mighty to save, the shade at your right hand, always ready to say “Fear not”.
When you see Jesus in some measure at he truly is, by faith, in his incarnation, cross, exaltation, glorified and ready to return – then (and only then) can you know and see the Father, as the Son reveals him to you.
Do not let anyone rob you of that sight with a sub-standard Jesus made in our own image.
Remain in him.