Ever since the moment Satan and his demonic forces rebelled against heaven, there has been a supernatural, God-opposing, evil power throughout the universe. From its earliest chapters, the Bible shows that the Evil One and all who function in his kingdom have constantly opposed God’s plan. At the end of the age, a personality the Apostle John calls The Antichrist, will rise to the pinnacle of world leadership and will act in opposition to Christ and all who name the name of Christ.
The term antichrist occurs only in John’s letters. However, the concept of the antichrist appears repeatedly throughout Scripture. The Apostle Paul refers to him as the man of lawlessness, and in his Revelation, the Apostle John refers to him simply as The Beast. It is a compound word that transliterates the Greek word antichristos, from christos (“Christ”) and anti (“against,” or “in the place of”). The term describes anyone who opposes Christ, seeks to supplant Him, or falsely represents Him. Such opposition always offers distorted and aberrant views about the nature of Christ.
These antichrists are in the world and they represent a ‘clear and present danger’ to the church.
I. IT'S THE LAST HOUR - RECOGNIZE THERE ARE ANTICHRISTS ALL AROUND US
- “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. 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.” (1 John 2:18–19, NIV84)
- the aged Apostle John reminds his readers that they are living in the last hour or the last time
- it has been the last hour for a long tie
- the Bile pictures the entire Church Age, from the time Jesus came into the world to die on the cross and rise from the dead all the way to his Second Coming at the end of the age as the last hour
- when the Spirit of God transformed the first 120 Christians into the church on the day of Pentecost, the Apostle Peter stood up and quoted the Old Testament Prophet Joel, telling the crowd that the final hour had begun
A. A LAWLESS ONE IS COMING WHO WILL OPPOSE CHRIST
- the last hour will climax with the Second Coming of Christ, when our Savior will right every wrong and usher in God’s Kingdom on Earth
- before that climactic event, the Apostle reminds his congregation, the Antichrist is coming
- the Bible teaches that at some point in the future—perhaps our own lifetime—a person will arise who stand in opposition to Christ, and all he stands for
- in 2 Thessalonians 2:4, the Apostle Paul referred to this individual as the man of lawlessness and say that he will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God
- this person will embody every hostility toward Christ that’s ever been expressed in all of the world’s history, all in one man
- the final Antichrist will be an imposing, intimidating figure of superior intellect and oratorical skills, possessing advanced military and economic expertise, who becomes the leader of the world
- it’s tempting, of course, to speculate who the man of lawlessness might be
- throughout 2,000 years of church history Christians have nominated hundreds of men as potentially the Antichrist
- ILLUS. Just in my lifetime that list has included Pope Pious XII, John F. Kennedy, Henry Kissinger, Anwar Sadat, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, Pat Robertson, King Juan Carols of Spain, Rev. Sun Myung Moon, Mikhail Gorbachev, Ayatollah Khomeini, Al Gore, Louis Farrakhan, Prince Charles, and even Bill Gates.
- “But the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who had performed the miraculous signs on his behalf. With these signs he had deluded those who had received the mark of the beast and worshiped his image. The two of them were thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulfur.” (Revelation 19:20, NIV84)
- the Apostle John writes, even now many antichrists have come ...
- who are these antichrists?
- some were members of the church—the ones who went out from among John’s congregation that he refers to in v. 19
B. ALL WHO OPPOSE CHRIST ARE ANTICHRISTS
- they are a precursor of the man of lawlessness who is the Antichrist
- what make this truth all the more difficult for John’s readers is that some of these antichrists were people they knew
- these are people they had worshiped God with, people they had prayed with, people they had shared the Lord’s Supper with, and people whom they had ministered together with
- the Apostle John says that the fact that they had abandoned the Christian faith reveals that they never truly were of Christ in the first place
- they may have looked like followers of Christ, and they may have talked like followers of Christ, but in actuality they were tares among the wheat and goats among the sheep
- the Apostle Peter refers to such people in a style consistent with his plain talk
- “It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them. Of them the proverbs are true: “A dog returns to its vomit,” and, “A sow that is washed goes back to her wallowing in the mud.”” (2 Peter 2:21–22, NIV84)
- nor are they referring to the believer who has stepped on a spiritual landmine and is incapacitated for a while
- they are talking about those who have abandoned Christ and the Christian community
- examine what they believe about the Christ—their Christology will always be bad
- they will deny that Jesus was a real historical figure of flesh and blood, they will deny or minimize his humanity
- “Many deceivers, who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh, have gone out into the world. Any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist.” (2 John 7, NIV84)
- “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.” (1 John 2:22, NIV84)
- “but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.” (1 John 4:3, NIV84)
- ILLUS. A modern-day example of one of these antichrists, is Dr. Bart Ehrman (born 1955). He is an New Testament scholar, and Professor of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He left the faith completely about 12 years ago. I’d like to read to you part of his explanation for doing so. “For most of my life I was a devout Christian, believing in God, trusting in Christ for salvation, knowing that God was actively involved in this world. During my young adulthood, I was an evangelical, with a firm belief in the Bible as the inspired and inerrant word of God. During those years I had fairly simple but commonly held views about how there can be so much pain and misery in the world. God had given us free will (we weren’t programmed like robots), but since we were free to do good we were also free to do evil—hence the Holocaust, the genocide in Cambodia, and so on. To be sure, this view did not explain all evil in the world, but a good deal of suffering was a mystery and in the end, God would make right all that was wrong. In my mid 20s, I left the evangelical fold, but I remained a Christian for some twenty years—a God-believing, sin-confessing, church-going Christian, who no longer held to the inerrancy of Scripture but who did believe that the Bible contained God’s word, trustworthy as the source for theological reflection. And the more I studied the Christian tradition, first as a graduate student in seminary and then as a young scholar teaching biblical studies at universities, the more sophisticated I became in my theological views and in my understanding of the world and our place in it. I [finally] came to realize that I simply no longer believed the Christian message. A large part of my movement away from the faith was driven by my concern for suffering. I simply no longer could hold to the view—which I took to be essential to Christian faith—that God was active in the world, that he answered prayer, that he intervened on behalf of his faithful, that he brought salvation in the past and that in the future, ... he would set to rights all that was wrong, that he would vindicate his name and his people and bring in a good kingdom ... “
- unfortunately , his consuming passion is now to convince others—particularly his students—that the ancient testimony to Christ that we call The Four Gospels, are not eye-witness accounts of Jesus’ life, and that they are totally unreliable documents that teach us little, if anything, about the life of Jesus
- apostasy is a continual danger to the church, and the NT contains repeated warnings against it
- “The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons.” (1 Timothy 4:1, NIV84)
- “Therefore, dear friends, since you already know this, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of lawless men and fall from your secure position.” (2 Peter 3:17, NIV84)
II. IT'S THE LAST HOUR - REMEMBER THAT GOD WILL PROTECT US FROM DECEPTION AND LEAD US INTO ETERNAL LIFE
- “But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth. 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.” (1 John 2:20–21, NIV84)
- for those who remain true to Christ, to his Gospel, and to his Church, we have two resources to help us remain faithful
- we have the Spirit of God—the Holy Spirit who indwells our lives
- we have the Word of God—the Scriptures that indwell our mind
A. THE WORD OF GOD WILL KEEP US SECURE IN THE TRUTH
- the first thing to notice is that to know the truth is a gift of the Holy Spirit
- verse 20 refers to our anointing from the Holy One
- we know that our Savior was anointed by the Holy Spirit, and the Scriptures teach that believers are anointed by the same Holy Spirit when we surrendered to Christ
- it is the Spirit of God that unites us with Christ and it is this anointing that enables us to know the truth
- this is the basis of the New Covenant
- “ ... I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest.” (Hebrews 8:10–11, NIV84)
- the Apostle John knows that his congregation have the Truth because they have much of God’s Word already
- ILLUS. Grady Nutt ( September 2, 1934–November 23, 1982) was a Southern Baptist minister, humorist, television personality, and author). He once told a story about a man who bought a new radio, brought it home, placed it on the refrigerator, plugged it in, tuned it to WSM in Nashville (home of the Grand Ole Opry), and then pulled all the knobs off! He had tuned in to the place that had all he ever wanted or expected to hear.
- John means that all the things that you should know as a child of God are potentially yours to know
- this does not mean that you have suddenly been given a Ph.D. degree in spiritual studies, and no longer need to sit under the teaching of godly men
- it does mean that by the Holy Spirit you can study the Word of God, and through prayer and reflection and experience, you can grow in faith and practice
- ILLUS. It was Pope Gregory the Great who wrote: “The Bible is like a body of water shallow enough for the Lamb to wade in, and deep enough for an elephant to swim in.”
- “Therefore, dear friends, since you already know this, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of lawless men and fall from your secure position. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.” (2 Peter 3:17–18, NIV84)
- ILLUS. Pablo Casals was a Spanish cellist and later a conductor. He is generally regarded as the pre-eminent cellist of the first half of the 20th century, and one of the greatest cellists of all time. When he reached the age of 95, a young reporter asked him: "Mr. Casals, you are 95 and the greatest cellist that ever lived. Why do you still practice six hours a day?" He responded, "Because I think I'm making progress."
B. THE SPIRIT OF GOD WILL KEEP YOU SECURE TRUTH
- the anointing of the Holy Spirit is the seal of security in the believer’s life
- “Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.” (2 Corinthians 1:21–22, NIV84)
- “And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.” (Ephesians 1:13–14, NIV84)
- virtually every sect or cult or pseudo-Christian faith claims some “special revelation” beyond the original one of the apostles, or it claims to have specially inspired prophets who give the “hidden interpretation” of the Bible
- ILLUS. Mormons, for instance, will tell you that the Bible is true, “When it is accurately translated.” And of course they are the ones who “accurately translate” it.
- unfortunately, these deceptions can sound very convincing
- “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.” (1 John 2:24, NIV84)
- John unapologetically insists that the Holy Spirit enables us to know that the truth is what was delivered to them in the preaching of the apostles
- this truth must remain in you—literally the word is abide in you
- if it does, it’s an indication that your faith is true and your eternity secure
- “ ... 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.” (1 John 2:24b-25, NIV84)
- the Holy Spirit will never expand the apostolic teaching of Christ—but only reveals what is already there
- the person who says, “I have a new revelation from God” or “I’ve discovered a new interpretation of this passage,” is a person you probably want to avoid
III. IT'S THE LAST HOUR - REMAIN IN CHRIST
- “I am writing these things to you about those who are trying to lead you astray. 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.” (1 John 2:26–27, NIV84)
- this is why every Christian needs to have a Bible and needs to have it open when it is being taught or preached
- we have to be discerners of truth
- there are those in the Body of Christ who would attempt to lead you astray
- this is why every Christian needs to choose their close friends carefully
- very nice people can be antichrists
- the antichrists of the world don’t have horns
- they don’t pull the wings off of flies
- they don’t levitate off of beds and spit pea soup
- they will, however, lead you astray—spiritually, and theologically if you are not careful
- the Apostle John says that they offer a counterfeit Gospel, a counterfeit spirituality, and a counterfeit Christ
- the verb lead astray in v. 26 is laterally the word seduce
- I think that seduce is a good word here because it applies in exactly the same way in both the physical and spiritual realms
- in other words, you lead a person to commit spiritual adultery when you lead him away from the truth
- this is why we must faithfully come together under the authority of a local congregation to worship, pray, and study the word of God
A. ABIDING IN CHRIST IS OUR FIREWALL AGAINST FALLING AWAY
- twice John uses the word "remain or abide" in these two verses, as in we must remain in Christ
- he also says, "continue in Him"
- John is calling his flock to perseverance
- others may walk away from Christ, and when it’s someone we know and love it can devastate us
- but John knows that those who ‘go out from among us’ can provide a teachable moment for us who remain
- what is the teachable moment? —you need a firewall
- ILLUS. In this Internet savvy generation the term firewall is not only common vernacular but also an essential component for the proper functioning of your personal computer. To ignore a firewall’s value, is to put your computer and its data at risk.
- simply put, a firewall is the electronic gatekeeper on your computer
- without it, you risk exposure to all kinds of evil electronic influences
- to ignore him is to put your spiritual life at risk
- without him, you risk exposure to all kinds of evil spiritual influences
- the spiritual world, like the cyberspace, is plagued with those who enjoy the electronic equivalent of the thief who comes only to steal and kill and destroy everything dear to you
- thankfully the Apostle has answered that question for us
- it is walking in the Spirit who has anointed us
- it is living in the Word that has been preached to us
- if you would abide in Jesus, take time each day to read his word, and after you read—to put yourself into living contact with the living Jesus
- yield yourself distinctly and consciously to His Spirit who indwells you
- in this way you will give Him the opportunity of taking hold of you, of drawing you up and keeping you safe in His almighty life
My heart’s desire is that each of you will exercise discernment—especially in the people you hang around with. Many of them, are of course, good, solid Christians. Some, however, are antichrists who, given the chance, will lead you astray. Don’t become good friends with them, don’t date them, and especially don’t marry them!
My heart’s desire is that each of you will abide in the Word of God and walk in the Spirit of God. I want you to love the Word, and the Jesus whom the Word reveals so that you my continue in Christ, coming week-after-week to worship in the truth, for the Lord seeks those who will worship him in Spirit and in truth.
"If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you will abide in the Son and in the Father. And this is what he has promised us, eternal life." AMEN.