5 Protections from the Antichrists
Many Christians believe the Antichrist is a figure that will come in the future. Though I believe this is true, what many don’t realize is that antichrists are here in our world at work now opposing the work of Jesus Christ. Learn how to be protected from their deceptions.
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. 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. 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. 22. 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.
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. 26. I write these things to you about those who are trying to deceive you. 27. But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie—just as it has taught you, abide in him.
– 1 John 2:18-27
A Different Type of Warfare
War – what does that word make you think of?
Maybe guns, planes, bombs – death. Those are the typical images we associate with war.
But war involves a lot of other things than actual fighting. There is spying, intelligence gathering, and lots of planning. There is propaganda warfare designed to erode the support of an enemy’s citizens. There are defectors that trade sides and bring along valuable information with them.
And perhaps most fundamental to all successful warfare is the art of deceptions of various kinds to weaken the enemy, make your side appear stronger, or hide your real intentions.
When we speak of spiritual warfare, we often are not talking about physical violence but a type of war that may seem far more subtle yet just as dangerous.
In the passage before this one (1 John 2:15-17) John talked of a war within us – the deceptions that lure our hearts to love the world and not the Father. To fight back, we are to see the world for what it is – in rebellion to God and passing away – and to imitate Jesus by rejecting those sinful desires and replacing them with love for God.
In this passage we are going to look at another kind of external danger in this spiritual war that is designed to lure our hearts away from God.
Defection and Deception
This article could easily have been titled “Defection and Deception,” because those two aspects of warfare – one group leaving and defecting from Christian fellowship and then seeking to deceive those who remain and get them to also defect – is at the heart of the situation we are looking at.
If you look at v.26 in this passage, John makes it clear that he is writing “these things to you about those who are trying to deceive you.”
So who are these deceivers and what is their deception?
Two Categories of People in 1 John
1 John teaches about two groups of people – two spheres of existence – that are entirely opposed to one another in how they live, what they believe about Jesus, and in their relationship with God.
What have we learned about these two groups – or two spheres – so far in this letter?
|Sphere of God & His People (Abiders)||Sphere of the Rebellious (Deserters)|
· Eternal life
· Fellowship with apostles and teaching
· Fellowship with the Father and the Son
· Practicing the truth
· Cleansed from sin by the blood of Jesus
· Confess sin
· Know God relationally
· Keep Jesus’ commandments
· Love toward Christians
· Walk in the light/can see how to live
· Overcome the evil one
· Don’t love the world/rebellious sphere
· Lasts forever
· Eternal death
· Against the apostles’ teaching
· No fellowship with God
· Not practicing the truth
· Not cleansed from sin
· Don’t admit sin/self-deceived
· No relationship with God
· Rebel against Jesus’ commandments
· Don’t love Christians
· Walk in darkness/blinded
· Under the power of the evil one
· Love for the world/rebellious sphere
· Passing away
It’s a very stark contrast between these two groups isn’t it?
It’s important to point out that these two groups intermingle with one another on a continual basis. In fact, our passage today says that in the very congregations John was overseeing, people from these two groups attended church together.
It is the same thing today. People from these two groups are citizens of the same nations, they work together, go to school together, live in the same families, and even go to church together.
But as you probably know from your own experience, there is often conflict between members of these two groups. In America it isn’t typically conflict with guns and physical violence, but it is often the more covert type of warfare – often involving deception and temptation.
We face the same kind of conflict today where members of the sphere of the rebellious attempt to deceive believers and get them to walk away from the faith and defect to their side. Because of that, we need the same kind of protections that John tells his readers about.
So what protections against these deceivers and their deceptions does John offer his readers and to us?
There are five protections against the deceivers John mentions in this passage:
Protection #1 – Realize That You Live in the Last Days
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.
– 1 John 2:18
Twice John emphasizes that it is the last hour. This was something very important he wanted his readers to know.
So what does “the last hour” refer to?
- “last” = “eschate” from which we get the word “eschatology” or the study of the last things.
- “hour” – the word can mean several different things in Greek from a literal 60 minutes to an indeterminate time to a set appointed time for something to occur – I think the last one is the sense in which John is using it here. For instance, Jesus used this in reference to the set time of his crucifixion when he said my hour has come. (John 12:23)
The phrase “last hour” means the “final set period of time” and is equivalent to how other NT authors refer to the final period of human history when they use phrases like “last days,” “last times,” or “end of the ages” – those phrases are all basically referencing the same time period.
The Last Days
Sometimes we think of the “last days” as some period that is future to us now but that really isn’t the way the Bible typically uses the phrase.
For instance, consider 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.
– Hebrews 1:1–2
The writer of Hebrews makes it clear that when Jesus came to earth, it was already the period of the “last days.” Here are some other references that say the same thing:
1 Peter 1:20 – He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you
Hebrews 9:26 – But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.
1 Corinthians 10:11 – Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come.
So John wants his readers, and us, to know that we are all living in the last days.
Why is this important to know? Well, the Bible says that the period of the last days will be marked by certain characteristics:
Positively, the last days are the time when:
- God speaks through His Son – Heb. 1:1-2
- Time of forgiveness of sins – Heb. 9:26
- Holy Spirit being poured out, prophecy, dreams, visions, and signs – Acts 2:17-21
Negatively, the last days are also a time marked by:
- People becoming more and more morally bankrupt, some will have an appearance of godliness that isn’t real and will attempt to deceive others – 2 Tim. 3:1
- Some will depart from the faith and devote themselves to deceitful spirits and the teachings of demons – 1 Tim. 4:1
- Jesus warned there will be natural disasters, persecution against Christians, lawlessness will be increased, deceivers will come claiming to be from Christ and even claim that they ARE Christ, and that many will fall away from the faith. – Matt. 24:1-14
We need to know the characteristics of the era that we live in so we are not caught off guard and can be aware of the dangers and deceptions that will occur.
The Dangers of Hidden Warfare
Imagine what would happen if one country was conducting covert warfare against another but the target country was unaware of what was happening? Imagine the kind of damage that could be done.
- Important military secrets could be stolen to be copied or greatly enhance enemy counter measures
- Spies could be recruited to send valuable intel to the enemy
- Infrastructure could be hacked and secret viruses could be put in place ready to cause mayhem at just the right time
- Propaganda could be spread through the populace to erode support for the target government
You can see that if a government isn’t aware of these covert attacks, a lot of damage can be done by a weaker nation without ever firing a single weapon.
The same kinds of things happen in the spiritual realm.
- Christians can be tempted to grow in their love for sin and in turn weaken their love for God
- Churches can slowly become theologically undermined by false teachings designed to corrupt belief
- Wolves can sneak into churches to disrupt the fellowship and draw people away from the faith
This is not hypothetical. This is happening right now and has been happening since the 1st century. We need to be on our guard by understanding the characteristics of the age in which we live. The more you are aware, the more you can resist these efforts to weaken your faith and weaken the integrity and fellowship of our church and the gospel.
So that is John’s first protection – realize that you live in the last days.
Protection #2 – Recognize the Defectors for What They Are
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.
– 1 John 2:19
John may have shocked his readers by telling them the true nature of the people who have left their fellowship.
Let’s go back to our covert warfare analogy again.
The real trouble with spies and defectors in warfare is when they remain undetected isn’t it? When you don’t recognize them for what they are, they can continue to do damage until they are discovered and dealt with.
John says “we’ve discovered who they are and we know how to deal with them.” One of those ways is to recognize 3 things about those that left their fellowship – (1) they are not of us, (2) they are liars, and (3) they are antichrists.
“Not of us”
- To use the terminology we’ve been using, saying the deserters are “not of us” is simply saying they are not a part of our sphere. Even though we once thought they were, because they attended our churches, by leaving their true nature is revealed.
- John is not saying they left and are attending another Christian church. These deserters have completely left the fellowship of ALL Christians and their doing so uncovers who they really are.
Have you ever had someone in your life where you thought they were a certain kind of person but over time, their actions revealed what kind of person they really were?
Maybe you placed great trust in this person and when they did things that were wrong, you gave them the benefit of the doubt – maybe for years, decades even. But then maybe you finally got to the point where – based on their actions over time, or maybe one really significant bad thing they did – your thinking about them changed radically. They were no longer the good person you thought they were. You got to really know them and their actions revealed what a rotten person they really were.
Here John says that the act of leaving the fellowship was one thing that revealed what these people really were. He says, “they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.”
In other words, their desertion made it obvious – completely clear – which sphere they really belonged to.
But it wasn’t just their act of leaving that revealed who they were, but also what they were saying about Jesus.
John also calls them liars for good reason:
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.
– 1 John 2:22
Of all the lies someone could tell, this has to be close to the worst. Why? Because what someone believes about Jesus affects their eternal destiny.
Have you ever thought about that? Just how dangerous false teaching about Jesus really is?
John mentions two things here that the deserters were lying about. They were denying that Jesus was the Christ and they were denying the Father and the Son.
What does this mean?
“Jesus is the Christ”
“Christ” is from the Greek word “Christos” meaning “anointed one” – a concept we are going to revisit in a bit.
Anointing was done for various reasons in the Old Testament but one of the major reasons was to mark someone for special service to God. So we read about prophets, priests, and kings being anointed with oil as a visual sign of their service.
Jesus was not anointed with oil but instead was visibly anointed with God’s Holy Spirit at His baptism. He was set apart to be the promised Jewish Messiah, the one who would fulfill OT prophecy and save people from their sins and become their king.
The deserters were denying that Jesus was this promised Jewish Messiah. They were saying he had no anointing from God to fulfill that role.
If that weren’t bad enough, the deserters were also denying the Fatherhood and Sonship of God John says. They were essentially denying that God is a Trinity – existing in three persons, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Now I normally avoid arguments from silence but this is worth exploring for a minute. Notice what John is not saying. He isn’t saying the deserters don’t believe in God. He isn’t saying they don’t believe in Jesus. He is saying they are denying certain things about Jesus and God – things that happen to be essential for salvation. That’s what makes their lie so insidious and destructive.
Maybe they believed Jesus was a good teacher, perhaps even a miracle worker. Maybe they affirmed that there is only one God. I don’t know but I do know those beliefs are not enough to save you. They are not enough to put you in the sphere of God and in relationship with Him.
You must believe certain things Jesus said about Himself in order to be saved and these deceivers were not only denying those very things but trying to get Christians to deny them as well and join them in their apostasy.
Not only were they making a shipwreck of their supposed former faith, they were trying to get the people they used to fellowship with to follow in their disastrous rebellion against Christ.
This leads John to say the final thing about who the deceivers are – they are “antichrists.”
Now you probably don’t go around labeling people or religious groups “antichrists” do you. We tend to only use the term “Antichrist” to refer to an especially evil person who will be empowered by Satan and deceive the whole world right before Jesus returns. At least that is my current understanding of the “Antichrist.”
But John says right at the start of our passage that even though “antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come.” At the end of the first century, antichrists had already arrived. In fact, some of them used to be in church sitting alongside and worshiping with the Christians John is writing to.
This idea that there is an Antichrist that is coming, but that antichristian forces are already at work is affirmed elsewhere in Scripture.
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 in the world already.
– 1 John 4:3
Paul, in 2 Thess. 2:3, says there is a man of lawlessness coming that will oppose every object of worship and set himself up as God. And then a few verses later, Paul says, “for the mystery of lawlessness is already at work.”
The point is that even if the Antichrist is future, the spirit of the antichrist, and many “little a” antichrists, are already operative and both covertly and overtly opposing the work of Christ in the world.
What are some examples of antichrists in our world today?
Basically every non-Christian religion:
- Islam – the Koran teaches Jesus was no more than a messenger who told people to worship Allah and all those who say he is the Son of God are cursed.
- Mormons and Jehovah’s witnesses – believe Jesus is the Son of God but that he was created. So this is part of the deception – they confess that Jesus is the Son but they don’t mean the same thing we do. For them, Jesus is not equal with the Father.
- Buddhists don’t even believe in a personal God.
- Hindus are all over the place and it is hard to nail down how many gods they actually believe in depending on what Hindu tradition you refer to. At any rate, they certainly aren’t Trinitarian.
- Unitarianism – don’t believe God is a Trinity so they would deny the Father and the Son.
- Judaism – Jews believe Jesus was a false Messiah and certainly not the Son of God so they are firmly in the antichrist camp.
- Secularists and anyone else who believed Jesus was only a good teacher, or didn’t exist at all, are also antichrist by John’s definition.
So if you think about, antichrists are everywhere aren’t they? If someone doesn’t believe that Jesus was the Messiah and the Son of God – according to the Bible’s definitions of those terms and not some redefinition stunt that the Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses pull to try to appear “Christian” – you are an antichrist.
Now, am I being an extremist or a jerk by labeling so many people as antichrists? No, I am simply using God’s own definition in His Word of what an antichrist is and applying it to modern belief systems.
Why am I doing this? Because I am doing the same thing John was doing for his readers – trying to get them to recognize the antichrist forces for what they really are.
It’s really easy in our pluralistic society to avoid this kind of labeling in order to succumb to the pressure to “Coexist” with people of different beliefs. Though we are to try to be at peace with all people as much as we can we still need to see the spirit of the antichrist at work everywhere in our world so that we aren’t deceived.
Let’s think about the popular term “open mindedness” for a minute.
I think the only reason why people tell you to have an open mind is so that you let go of the things you believe and they can persuade you to believe what they believe. The “open mindedness” ruse is just another deception and unfortunately a lot of people fall for it.
It just so happens that holding fast to your Christian faith isn’t going to win you a lot of friends these days. That’s OK because it didn’t have a lot of faithful friends either.
Additionally, we need to be teaching these things to our children lest they go away to college or get out on their own and the antichristian poison and propaganda of our culture seeps into them and they don’t know how to combat it.
To conclude this point, in order to fight the deception, you need to be aware of what is going on and not walk through life with your eyes closed and pretend it isn’t there.
Now that I have painted a rather bleak picture of the current condition of our culture, let’s turn to some of John’s more encouraging points of how to be protected from the antichrists all around us.
Protection #3 – Hold On to the Truth About Jesus
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.
– 1 John 2:24
This a really simple protection that John mentions. John says, just continue believing what I and the other Apostles told you about Jesus because it is the truth.
Remember how John opened this letter:
That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.
– 1 John 1:1-3
John’s job as an Apostle commissioned by Christ is to testify to what he has seen and heard about Jesus so that others may also believe. And John promises that those who do believe will have fellowship with them and with the Father and the Son.
The word “abide” simply means to “remain” or “continue in the state that you are in.” In other words, John’s readers, and us, are to hold fast to the truth of the gospel and persevere in light of any and every temptation that tries to pull us away from that truth.
The promise for those who let the gospel abide in them is that they will abide in the Father and the Son also. How do we have a real, spiritual relationship with God? It is simply faith in the true gospel of Jesus Christ.
If you look at Christian churches all across America, you can see what happens when churches neglect or compromise on the gospel. They either get sidetracked into all kinds of weirdness or wolves come in with false teaching. You look at the mainline denominations in America and false teaching and substitutions for the gospel and gospel ministry have wrecked havoc. You don’t want to go down that path – ever!
So how do we apply this?
- We need to keep preaching the truth of who Jesus and never move away from the truths of the pure gospel. Even if you have heard it a thousand times you need to keep hearing it! Satan is not sitting idly by. He would love nothing more than to destroy our Christian witness in this city.
- You really need to learn the gospel yourself so you can teach it to others, especially your children. I hate to say this but I think our members here aren’t very strong in being able to communicate the gospel.
Brothers and sisters I urge you – you need to be able to teach others.
We are called to love others and what better way to love someone than to be able to articulate the truth of who Jesus is and what he did so they can be saved?
For you warriors out there who want to fight for Christ and His kingdom, our enemy hates nothing more than the preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The preaching of the gospel is the means God uses to raid the kingdom of Satan and bring people over into His kingdom. It’s exciting work to be a part of.
So learn the gospel, cling to it, grow in the depths of your understanding of who Jesus is and what He has done – not just for the benefit of your own faith but for the benefit of others you can share it with.
Protection #4 – Be Encouraged by the Power of the Holy Spirit Within You
Twice in this passage John talks about an anointing and you may have wondered what that was.
1 John 2:20 — “But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and you all have knowledge.
1 John 2:27 — “But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie—just as it has taught you, abide in him.”
It is hard to tell what the anointing is just by reading this passage but thankfully we can understand it by going to other passages in Scripture. But first I’ll just tell you it is the person and work of the Holy Spirit within believers.
The Anointing is the Holy Spirit
Follow my thinking here for a moment because there are some really neat connections going on between Jesus being the Christ, us being anointed, and the antichrists.
- Jesus is the “Christ” which means anointed one
- Jesus was anointed by the Holy Spirit
“you yourselves know what happened throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee after the baptism that John proclaimed: how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.”
– Acts 10:37-38
- John the Baptist said that although he baptized with water, Jesus would baptize with the Holy Spirit
- Jesus promised that he would send the Holy Spirit after he left and that the Spirit would testify about Him
“But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me.
– John 15:26
So to repeat – Jesus is anointed with the Spirit, He promises to send the Spirit to believers when He leaves, He says the Spirit will testify about Him.
So what does this have to do with our passage?
- John says that the anointing provides “knowledge” and “teaches them all things” so that they don’t need to be taught. Now John isn’t saying the Holy Spirit downloads every fact in the world into our heads. In the context, he is talking about the truth about Jesus.
- The anointing of the Holy Spirit is simply the testimony about the truth of who Jesus is that Jesus Himself promises.
- When God gives you the Holy Spirit, one of the first things the Spirit does is to open your heart and make you spiritually alive to believe the truth about Jesus (the gospel) so you can be saved.
- Now the Spirit doesn’t leave but stays with us and continues to assure our hearts that the truth about Jesus that we learned is true.
- And think about it – isn’t this the perfect weapon against the deception of the antichrists? This is God Himself, residing inside our hearts, always with us, teaching us and holding us in His truth by His power. No antichrist can conquer that powerful ministry!
That is why John has already said a couple times in his letter that his readers have “overcome the evil one” and that the “word of God abides in them.”
And later on at the end of the letter John makes this amazing statement concerning the attacks of the antichrists:
“Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.”
– 1 John 4:4
Isn’t that amazing? There is no power in the world that can overcome the power of the Holy Spirit at work inside the Christian.
Satan is the father of lies and from the very beginning of time he has been fighting against God’s people with deception. But unlike in the Garden of Eden when Satan had a victory through his lies, he will not win in deceiving God’s elect. Why? Not because Christians are strong in our own strength, but because we have the power of God within us.
Now that should be really, really encouraging. You may feel that sometimes your faith is weak but remember, always remember, the power of the Holy Spirit at work within you to fight off the lies of the antichrists.
He is always here. He will never leave us or forsake us.
Protection #5 – Be Motivated by the Promise of Eternal Life
“And this is the promise that he made to us—eternal life.”
– 1 John 2:25
This statement seems a little out of place in this passage but if you read the entire letter of 1st John, you will notice that eternal life is all over the place, even in the opening couple verses of the letter.
So what does John mean by “eternal life.”
First, he says that eternal life is actually Jesus
“the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us”
– 1 John 1:2
Later in chapter 5, he says it again a little differently:
“And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.”
– 1 John 5:11
Eternal life is actually the life that God has in Himself. But the good news is that God actually shares His life with His children, those who are united to Christ by faith.
This eternal life is something believers start to partake in now but will come to its fullest in the life to come as we spend eternity with God.
How is this a protection against the antichrists and their deception?
If you want to have eternal life, you can’t move away from the gospel of Jesus Christ. Eternal life can be found nowhere else than in faith and union with Christ by the Holy Spirit. All these false teachers who are saying you can gain eternal life some other way are lying.
Positively, God wants His children to know that enduring the trials and temptations in this world because of faith in Christ will not be in vain. This life may get hard but there is something more and so much better coming – eternal life with the Father and the Son.
So this promise of eternal life functions as both a warning and an encouragement:
- If you turn away from Christ, you won’t have eternal life
- If you stick with Christ through faith, you will have eternal life
Let’s go back to our warfare analogy for a moment. If you were on the battlefield and told you are on the winning team and you are going to prevail, no matter how hard things got, would that encourage you? Would that keep you from defecting to the losing team?
So much of fighting is about courage and perseverance in the face of opposition. It is easy to give up when things get hard. It is easy to want to switch sides if you think the other side is more powerful and going to win. That is why psychological operations are an important part of warfare. If you can get some of the enemy to quit fighting, so much the better for you.
And it is the same with us spiritually. Satan and all those in rebellion with him want you to quit fighting and just join there side. Its easier. You can do what you want. You can be god of your own life.
But God warns us – that path leads to eternal death.
There is a great spiritual war going on. The spheres are at war – the sphere of God and his people and the sphere of the rebellious.
But we can be protected if:
- Realize you live in the last days – things will get hard, people will turn away from the faith, people will become more evil, and our faith will be attacked in numerous ways.
- Recognize the deceivers for what they are – they are not of us, they are liars, they are antichrists
- Hold on to the truth about Jesus – never let go of the gospel
- Be encouraged by the power of the Holy Spirit within you – he will empower you to stay faithful as he teaches and assures you of the truth about Jesus
- Be motivated by the promise of eternal life
I hope your faith is strengthened by God’s Word today and that you will persevere until the end because there is something amazing waiting for you if you do – eternal life with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
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