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1st John (2011)

Antichrists, Plural

1 John  2:18-29

Lesson audio

Distinction

In dealing with today's passage, it is necessary for us to distinguish between two uses of the same word, Antichrist.

·         Most of the passages in the Bible referring to the Antichrist speak of one particular individual who is yet to come. We will examine the characteristics of this individual so that you will recognize him when he arrives.

·         The apostle John, on the other hand, speaks not only of the Antichrist but of many antichrists. We will see that the antichrists also have certain characteristics which we can recognize.

With that, we may proceed to the Scripture.

1 John 2:18-29 NIV  Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour.  (19)  They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us.  (20)  But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth.  (21)  I do not write to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it and because no lie comes from the truth.  (22)  Who is the liar? It is the man who denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a man is the antichrist—he denies the Father and the Son.  (23)  No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also.  (24)  See that what you have heard from the beginning remains in you. If it does, you also will remain in the Son and in the Father.  (25)  And this is what he promised us—even eternal life.  (26)  I am writing these things to you about those who are trying to lead you astray.  (27)  As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit—just as it has taught you, remain in him.  (28)  And now, dear children, continue in him, so that when he appears we may be confident and unashamed before him at his coming.  (29)  If you know that he is righteous, you know that everyone who does what is right has been born of him.

The Antichrist

There are a variety of views about the Antichrist. These typically relate to the major views of Revelation. We will consider the common points of these views, and in the individual distinctions.

Common Points

We begin with the points made in Daniel the 11th chapter[1]:

·         He exalts himself above every God. We might take this to mean that he denies the existence of God, or any form of religious system. More likely, it holds that he is superior to such a system. A contemporary example of this would be those individuals who believe that science explains everything, and any form of religion must fit into their particular system of science and metaphysics.

·         He says "unheard of things" about God. This could apply to any number of people today; after all, anyone with a "brilliant theory" about God can have a hearing today. Because we have rejected the concept of absolute truth, we hear all kinds of nonsense about God. So this aspect of the personality would also apply to a large number of people.

·         He honors the "God of fortresses." Perhaps we might take this to mean that he believes military power is supreme; as Mao Tse-Tung would put it, "power grows out of the barrel of a cannon."

The next major section concerning the Antichrist is found in second Thessalonians chapter 2:

·             We see him as "man of sin" also translated as "man of lawlessness." This is a man who ignores or defies the law; most probably it means one who defies what is described as the natural law. It is very common today to deny the existence of natural law; the absurdity of which is given in the fact that most of us do feel that murder is a crime. But this person would fit in very well today with the idea that each of us defines his own reality and his own morality.

·      We are told that he takes his seat in the Temple of God. This would seem to imply that at least outwardly the person is associated with the church. If you believe this person is the Pope, this is fairly obvious. As we shall see from the sequence of events coming up next, it is highly likely that he is a person in authority over the church.

·      Finally, we see that this man exalts himself to the point of being God. To the best of my knowledge, no one successfully maintains this status. A look at Revelation gives you more detail on this. The disturbing fact is this: many will trust this man as if he is God. We need to take warning about this.

Finally, we may take one point of the book of Revelation: the Antichrist comes from Rome.

Postmillennialism

The postmillennial view was very, starting in the Protestant Reformation up through the end of the 19th century and into the early 20th century. The view began in the Protestant Reformation, and because of that the Antichrist is identified with the Pope, or the papacy. The argument is about whether or not the Antichrist refers to one particular Pope, or the reverse the papacy in general. You can certainly see characteristics of the Antichrist in some of the medieval popes, continuing through the Renaissance, or you can imagine that one particularly wicked Pope will arise at the time of the end. This view is currently out of favor with most scholars, but is still held by a number of denominations.

Premillennialism

A great deal can be said about this particular theory and its view of the Antichrist, identified also with the beast of Revelation. One thing is certain, however: the Antichrist is not identified with the Pope. Premillennialism is very ecumenical (and evangelical), and such a view would naturally offend Roman Catholics. Since the rise of the Antichrist is supposed to happen after the rapture of the church, the point would seem to be one which is rather academic the most Christians.

Amillennialism

This view is the common view of most Christians of most times. Interestingly, the idea that the Holy Spirit is what holds back the Antichrist is relatively new and premillennial; the old view holds that what held back the Antichrist is nothing but the Roman Empire. Thus the prediction (by both Augustine and Chrysostom) but the Roman Empire had to fall before the Antichrist could come. The final fall of the Roman Empire occurred in 1453, with the fall of Constantinople. Other than that, nothing in particular is predicted other than what is in common with all theories.

Whoops It is an unfortunate fact therefore that the number of candidates for the Antichrist is quite large. Here's a partial list of those who have been nominated:

Hitler

Kissinger

Gorbachev

Nero

John Paul II

Bill Clinton

Bill Gates

Antiochus Epiphanes

Charlemagne

Napoleon

F D Roosevelt

Mussolini

Franco

J F Kennedy

King Juan Carlos

Reagan

Saddam Hussein

Rev. Moon

Yasser Arafat

Louis Farrakhan

Karl Hapsburg ( a dentist in Austria)

Mickey Mouse

Barney the Dinosaur

 

The reader will no doubt think of other possibilities. Eventually, if we think of enough of them, one of us is bound to be right.

Lowercase antichrists

John the apostle is the only one who mentions these people. Please remember that John is the last of the apostles; much of his writing occurs after all the other apostles are dead — long enough in the history of the church for antichrists to arise. It is therefore not surprising that he is the only one.

How to Know Them

There are three primary characteristics of these people that you need to know:

·         First, he tells us that they "went out from us." These are not people on the outside the church telling us that were wrong; these are people who have left the faith, having been part of us, and have now formed their own new version of Christianity (or what ever else they call it.)

·         Second, he tells us that they "run ahead." This simply means that the true Christian knows where doctrine stops, as well as what it says. It's an important point. Lots of us know that the faith is inspired by God; we believe it; therefore everything we believe is inspired by God. I leave the logical fallacy to the reader; but if you push long enough you will eventually get the point where all that stuff you about Christianity is now false in light of your new, brilliant logic.

·         Most important, they want to suck you into their falsehood. These are not people who are content with their own thought; somehow they validate themselves with the number of people they can convert from Christianity to their way of believing. It is therefore important that we know how their doctrine varies from the truth.

Doctrine

So what is it that they teach, then?

·         First, they deny that Jesus is the Christ. That is to say, they deny that Jesus of Nazareth is the long promised Messiah of the Jews. That carries with it a number of implications. One of the most important is that he cannot be the atonement if he is not the Messiah. If there is no atonement, then why would one believe in the resurrection? I hope you can see how absolutely critical to the faith this concept is.

·         Second, they deny the Son. This, John tells us, means that they deny the Father too. In short, by denying the divinity of Jesus of Nazareth they implicitly deny the divinity of God. By this definition, Mormons are antichrists.

·         Third, they deny that Jesus has come in the flesh. That means they deny the humanity of Christ.

I hope you can see that these are three of the most important doctrines of the church. They go to the very core of the faith. So we are not talking about typical dispute at an elder's meeting over the importance and meaning of Second Hezekiah.

What Shall We Do?

All this may seem to be very interesting — and in fact it forms the basis for in great deal of Christian literature arguing about things — but we must come back to the practical question: what are we in supposed to do about all this? After all, this is of academic interest (particularly if you are a premillennialist), but not much more. Just what an individual Christian is supposed to do about the Antichrist doesn't seem to be specified. But the much more common problem of one of the antichrists is given some thought here.

Know the Truth

Before you can know what to do, you have to know when you really have the problem.

·         First, you do know the truth. You have been taught what is true. So don't go back to the beginning and see if you really want to re-examine all of Christianity all over again, just because somebody on the outside is yelling that you got it wrong. If you want to argue about infant baptism, fine with me. But the doctrine that the antichrists deny is not up for negotiation.

·         Second, distinguish between what is important and what is absolutely vital. It is perfectly acceptable to have a reasoned, polite debate over doctrine. Doctrine is important. The core of the faith is absolutely vital. So be polite, know what you're talking about, and know when your opponent is not one of the antichrists.

Just a word of advice on this: remember the submarine principle — if you get a ping on the right and ping on the left, you're probably going down the center of the shipping lane.

Obedience

The very best way to avoid the antichrists is by obedience. If you are walking in the light, the path is plain. So how do we do this?

·         May I give you Saint Augustine's dictum? "Love God, and do as you please." Those who know the teacher will know well how much he loves his wife. If you have that kind of love, it is a pleasure and a joy to do the kinds of things that she wants to do. It works the same way with God. If you love him, you will do what he wants to do. Following his will is obedience.

·         It should not be necessary to point this out, but obedience is a practice — not a theory. If you are not doing obedience, you are not obedient.

·         Remember that there is a cycle of sin, confession, repentance and restoration. Use those steps to continue to walk in the light.

Intolerance

John tells us not to associate with these people.[2]  That’s intolerant, right? Right.

·         Remember that these people will pose as true (but “enlightened”) Christians trying to correct your ignorant, primitive beliefs.  They will look good – and they will be lying.

·         If you welcome them socially, John says, you share in their wickedness.  How is this?  You lend your good name to their deception in the name of being hospitable. 

Know your enemy!


[1] Daniel 11:36-45

[2] Second John 1:10-11

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