The Spirit of Antichrist
Topic: 1 John Passage: 1 John 2:18–2:27
By This We Know Love
Grace Community Church
Feb 11, 2018
The Spirit of Antichrist
1 John 2:18-27
John’s purpose in this passage isn’t to get into a deep teaching about the last days and the antichrist, his concern is what’s going on in the churches that he shepherds, and to warn them about the many little antichrists in their midst, but since he bases his warning on the last days and the coming antichrist, it’s worth taking a couple minutes to become familiar with what he’s talking about. When I was 14 years old my dad and I were living on a sailboat and he began to get interested in biblical prophecy and one day he brought home a book called “The Late, Great, Planet Earth” by Hal Lindsey and I started reading it and became fascinated with biblical prophecies about the end times. One end time prophecy that fired up the imagination was this mysterious and shadowy person that the Bible calls the antichrist, or the “man of lawlessness” or “the beast”. Just as God’s redemptive plan hits its highest point in the coming of one man, Jesus, the Chosen One, the Messiah, the Anointed One, God’s Son, in the same way, Satan’s diabolical schemes will hit their lowest point in the coming of a man who will be as filled with Satan, whose soul will be a closer reflection of Satan’s person and character than any human being who has ever lived. Just as Jesus was God’s Perfect Man, the antichrist will be Satan’s perfectly wicked man. The word “anti” means two things: opposed to, and instead of. Both are true of the antichrist in that this man will be against Christ and offered as a devilish substitute for Christ. The world will marvel at the antichrist’s power and worship him and his false prophet, and some believe he will even have a counterfeit resurrection as he is healed of a near-fatal head wound, causing the world to be amazed at him all the more. He won’t look like some demon possessed maniac, more than likely he will be charming and charismatic, and will offer the world the peace and security it will desperately want. He will offer the world the counterfeit to Jesus’ true perfect reign and lordship over the earth. The antichrist will be against Jesus and instead of Jesus.
Through the centuries people have wondered and speculated about the identity of the antichrist. There were those in the 1st century who thought Nero was the antichrist because of his persecution of Christians. In the 13th century, Frederick II of Prussia was branded the Antichrist by Pope Gregory IX because he kept fighting with the Catholic popes. In the 1940’s many were convinced – with good reason – that Adolf Hitler was the antichrist. Others thought Josef Stalin fit the description In more recent times, many prominent world leaders have been proposed as the antichrist: John F Kennedy (he did suffer a fatal head wound but obviously he wasn’t healed), Henry Kissinger, Ronald Reagan (it helped that his full name, Ronald Wilson Reagon were three names of six letters each: 666), Mikhail Gorbachev, the leader of the Soviet Union in the late 1980’s (had the mark of the beast on his forehead – he’s still alive today but at 87 years old, probably too old to be the antichrist), George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and more recently, Alexis Tsipras, the young, charismatic leader who seemed to come out of nowhere to become the prime minister of Greece in 2015 has been speculated to be the antichrist.
Since those days in the 70’s I’ve come to learn that it’s not healthy to speculate about the date of Jesus’ return, the identity of the antichrist, or when the world is going to end. But that doesn’t mean that we don’t know or care about what the bible says about these subjects or think they’re irrelevent to our daily lives cause it is important that believers are informed and, as Jesus said, watching and ready! Some generation – maybe our generation – will see the antichrist. We shouldn’t be focused on him, but we should be watching and biblically informed.
The last hour and the coming antichrist
It is the last hour and as you have heard that antichrist is coming…
What does John mean “it is the last hour”? Last week I mentioned that we all have a clock ticking down our brief days on this earth, but there is a bigger clock ticking down the days of the world as we know it. There are three major historical periods outlined in the Bible. The first period is the period before the flood (pre-diluvian). We might think this period of time is extremely short because it happens in the 6th chapter of the first book of the Bible (Genesis), but the fact is there were almost 1700 years of human history before the flood. The period after the flood (post-diluvian) was another 2300 years or so until Christ came. When Christ came, the “last days” clock began ticking. The Apostles John, Paul and Peter knew they were living in the last days. We are in the last days. If it was the last hour for John (and he might well have thought that Jesus’ return was imminent), how much more is the clock that much closer to ticking the last hour now?
What John is warning us here of, is that, while there will only be one “the antichrist” the spirit of antichrist is actively at work in many people. Hitler wasn’t the antichrist, but he was an antichrist. Not the antichrist, but an antichrist. Nero was too. John F. Kennedy, Gorbachev, Kissinger, Reagan, Bush, and Obama, not so much!
Antichrists will come from within the church
The greatest danger to the church isn’t going to come from the outside, it’s going to come from the inside.
19 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.
These are teachers who got their start in the church. They looked like they were one of us, just as Judas looked like all the other disciples, until he went out to betray Jesus. These false teachers know the Christian lingo and Christian doctrines so they can pick it apart and argue against it and distort it more effectively than someone not familiar with the faith can. Paul warned the Ephesian elders of the same danger coming from within the church in Acts 20:
9 I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock;30 and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them.
The church needs to be alert and vigilant because it is from within the church that wolves who twist God’s word to draw people away from the church to follow them will arise.
By the way, there is a case for eternal security in this verse. For if they had been of us (that is, genuine believers), they would have continued with us. If someone falls away from Christ, if someone denies the faith they once accepted, if someone leaves the church to peddle heresy, they may have looked like a genuine disciple of Christ at one time (like Judas did) but they were not. If they had been, John says, they would have continued with us in the truth.
Jesus said something similar in John 10:27
27My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29My Father, who has given them to me,a is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. 30I and the Father are one.”
A lot more could be said about that, but John is saying the greatest danger – the antichrists that will rise up – will rise up from within the church. The second thing he says is that they will always, in one way or another, deny Christ.
Antichrists will deny Christ
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.23 No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also. 1 John 2:22-23
It doesn’t matter how they deny Christ. Some will be really obvious in their denial of Christ and others will be really subtle and clever. The most dangerous antichrists are the ones who are incredibly charismatic and convincing as they deny Christ in ways that sounds as though they are honoring and following him. Often by presenting clever alternative messages about who Jesus is and what he came to do:
Jesus was a god-man who came to show us how to tap in our divinity. That doesn’t seem to deny Jesus, it acknowledges that he is divine and – bonus! - it offers us a path to divinity too. That appeals to our pride.
Jesus didn’t die to pay for our sins; he died as a revolutionary martyr to give us an example to follow.
Jesus was a good, moral teacher, a prophet who was ahead of his time. He never meant to be thought of as God. It was his followers who felt it necessary to mythologize him into a divine being.
There are a thousand ways that denying Christ can look. Legalism denies Christ and the free gift of salvation given by grace through faith, and turns Christianity into a way of earning salvation by keeping certain religious do’s and don’ts. John makes it real simple: anyone who denies Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God come in the flesh to save us, is a liar and an antichrist. John goes further: no one who denies the Son has the Father. You can’t deny Jesus and have God the Father. If someone exalts God but diminishes Jesus, they have neither. Jehovah’s Witnesses are a prime example of this: they exalt Jehovah (God the Father) but diminish Jesus to a created being. John warns them, they have neither Father or Son.
But the ability to discern truth from deception isn’t an information thing, it’s a spiritual thing.
True believers can discern truth from error by the Holy Spirit and the word of God
20 But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and you all have knowledge. 21 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.
23Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also. 24 Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you too will abide in the Son and in the Father. 25 And this is the promise that he made to us—eternal life. 2:20-21,23-25
When John says that we have been anointed by the Holy One, he’s talking about the Holy Spirit working within us to direct us away from lies and towards the truth of God’s word. The Holy Spirit always works in conjunction with the word of God. Jesus said of the Holy Spirit,
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. John 16:13
But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have told you. John 14:26
As we abide in the Spirit and in the Word, we will be able to discern error and heresy no matter how well produced it is, or how charismatic the teacher is. Alarms will go off about the teaching or about the spirit of the teacher or both. The scriptures give us objective, biblical truth to measure teachings by, the Spirit points us to that truth, anchors us in that truth, and I think, sets off alarm bells when something is off with a teacher’s doctrine and/or character.
When I was in Bible school we’d have a different teacher come in and spend a week teaching us at the main sessions. One week the teacher was an older guy in his late 50’s or early 60’s (that was older to me back then) and I first met him in the school’s cafeteria. And I immediately got a creepy feeling about him. There was something about how he was interacting with us, especially the girls, that just hit me as being off. I hate to put it this way, but he seemed slightly sleazy. I didn’t trust him.
But, then we went into the session and to my surprise, I actually enjoyed his teaching. To say he was a straight shooter would be an understatement. All week long he shared very strong opinions in a really strong – even harsh - way and hit believers between the eyes who weren’t towing the line or were compromising in any way. I thought he was just being a straight shooter and found it refreshing – and oddly entertaining. He mentioned high profile people by name – I remember he had really harsh things to say about Amy Grant (who was probably the best known Christian artist at that time and was really struggling in her Christian walk and witness) and he used a lot of mocking sarcasm in his messages. Most of the Bible school students I talked to didn’t really care for him, and one classmate said she felt like he was an angry man, but I defended him, telling her that I just thought he was telling it like it is.
But later I began to reassess his teaching. He was charismatic and his sarcasm was funny at times, but his teaching lacked grace. It promoted self-righteousness. It condemned people easily. It set out legalistic rules that you’d better follow or you’re not a Christian. At the time I wasn’t evaluating his teaching by the word of God and the message of grace, whereas my friends were being more biblically discerning.
But I think the Holy Spirit might have been giving me discernment about his character right there at the first moment in the cafeteria. I can’t say for sure without getting to know him as a person better, but I think at the least he was an angry man, and my first impression was that something was off. Again, we can’t base everything off of first impressions, but the Holy Spirit will give us discernment and set off alarm bells if a person’s teaching, or a person’s character, or both is off.
The Holy Spirit and the word of God combine to give children of God discernment of truth from error. John is warning these believers as a pastor, and as a father in the faith (children), abide in God’s word, read it, study it, memorize it, so that it lives in your heart and the Holy Spirit will guide you into all truth and away from all error. Don’t get Jesus fatigue, don’t go looking for something deeper than Jesus, don’t depart from the simple truths of the gospel. Don’t let anything move you away from a fierce loyalty to the Person of Jesus Christ.
He’s the Son of God, who came to earth as a man. He lived a perfect life, obeying his Father perfectly and reflecting the heart of God to us perfectly. When we see Jesus we see the Father. Then, in perfect submission to his Father, and out of the highest kind of love for us, Jesus willingly gave his life and died on the cross. There on the cross God the Father poured out His ferocious wrath for our sin on His Son as if that sin had all been committed by Jesus. God exhausted all His wrath on Jesus as the perfect sacrifice so that for all who believe in Jesus there is no wrath left. Jesus said, “it is finished”. There was nothing left to do to save us from our sin.
Then, as clear evidence that God was pleased with Jesus’ atonement, on the third day, God raised His Son up from the dead. The resurrection is God’s amen to all His Son did and accomplished.
All that Christ did to save us is appropriated in our lives when we come to him in faith and believe in him, he promises to save us and give us eternal life. This is the promise that he made to us – eternal life. (vs. 25). Not based on what we do, but based entirely on what Jesus did. And Jesus gave us the Holy Spirit who takes up residence within us at the moment we believe and He, the Third Person of the Trinity, empowers us to love and obey God and guides us into all truth.
Ask band to come up.
Love Jesus! Love him! If someone comes along and tries to convince you to depart from Jesus, or even the Jesus presented in the Bible for a different Jesus, reject their teaching! Don’t try to be polite, don’t try to be open-minded, don’t entertain their teaching for a minute! Reject it and run!
Jesus said, 14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. John 10:14-15 and 4 “When [the shepherd] has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. 5 A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.”
Jesus Christ is our Good Shepherd and if we belong to him, we will recognize his voice and follow him, and we will recognize any voice that doesn’t belong to him and won’t follow it. Love Jesus, listen for Jesus’ voice in the word of God and by the Holy Spirit within, and cling to his truth and don’t let it go for anything in all the world.