John 2:18-23 (18) Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which 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 they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us. (20) But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you know all things. (21) I have not written to you because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and that no lie is of the truth. (22) Who is a liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist who denies the Father and the Son. (23) Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father either; he who acknowledges the Son has the Father also.
John has been presenting the grounds for one’s redemptive assurance through the “test of fellowship.” Fellowship with God, fellowship with Christ the Son, and fellowship with the indwelling Holy Spirit. Now he is going on to present even the test of lateral fellowship, the fellowship with one’s spiritual body, the church community. Truly assurance concerning one’s Christian faith can be drawn from the nature of the enemies he encounters. And herein John is exposing these enemies and calling upon us also to expose them for what they are.
There is no doubt these enemies of ‘God and truth’ are dangerous and believers need to understand such and how to deal with them. To avoid spiritual deception, we must learn to discern both people and doctrine; to be aware when something “smells bad” and to confirm status before plunging forward. The way to develop such discernment is to abide in the Word and in the Spirit. This is all so important because some actions cannot be withdrawn and sometimes cannot ever be repaired.
Paul too warned us of such: “For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves. Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears.” (Acts 20:29-31) I have watched up close to folks being conned by such wolves, and lacking the spiritual discernment necessary they fell prey to made-up self-serving stories, false doctrines, and an “easy Jesus” belief system. It’s a stunning display! Encompassing ego stroking, false promises, and emotional deceptions. If it had music it would be an opera.
We all probably have a little info on this “antichrist” thing…although perhaps only from Hollywood and other such media. Back in the late 70’s there was a series of movies called “The Omen.” Scary stuff. However it only added to our already misconception that this antichrist will be this overtly terrible dude that we’ll see coming a block away. Wrong. The one antichrist will fly under the radar for many years without suspicion. And these other “little” anti-christs, will often do the same.
Note again Paul’s plea in Acts 20…these “savage wolves” will “come in amongst you.” Therefore it is safe to assume we won’t have to go looking for them in the foggy woods of Transylvania. And if they actually looked like ‘savage wolves’ no one would be fooled because no one would go anywhere near them. No, they will look normal and will appear often quite upright. Eventually however, such folks do indeed show their colors. I‘m not even personally convinced that in all cases they actually know they are a wolf! They just explain away why they, on occasion, have ‘sheep in their teeth.’ And the best cover of all is to use smoke and mirrors to point to others as guilty of doing what they themselves are in fact doing. The picture would be of an overgrown child holding a gas can and matches, with a burning village in the background pointing to someone else outside the picture frame.
Verse 18 says it is the “last time” or the “last hour” or even rendered “last days.” Such language is invariably spoken of in negative and scary terms, so much so that it seems to call for foreboding music in the background when such is verbalized. But let us remember that much is going to happen in those ‘last days’ and not all of it negative. Check out Acts 2:17… “and it shall be in the last days” God says, “that I will pour forth my spirit on all mankind.” Hmmmm. That sounds awesome huh? However there is also no doubt that things are going to get ugly too. The ‘gap’ between right and wrong…holy and unholy…faithful and wicked, will grow exponentially. It will become increasingly hard to hug the ‘middle ground.’ And that can only be a good thing!
In 2 Timothy 3 Paul says “But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power.” And how did Paul tell us to deal with these folks? March to vote the bums out of office? Write an internet blog to take them down? What? Paul says in verse 6 there “from such people turn away!” Turn away…live different…live separate…be a different kind of person. And God will deal with these that “resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, disapproved concerning the faith”…and Paul says in verse 9 there in Timothy that eventually “they will progress no further, for their folly will be manifest to all.” And we have witnessed that often and even recently, have we not?
But for sure in the last days “difficult times will come.” (2 Tim 3:1) Let us never fail to acknowledge that or we will not take our walk seriously and somehow just slide into a lifestyle that says, "Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation." (2Pe 3:4)
Warren Wiersbe : "Since the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, God is doing a "new thing" in this world. All of Old Testament history prepared the way for the work of Christ on the cross . All history since that time is merely preparation for "the end," when Jesus will come and establish His kingdom. "The last hour" began back in John's day and has been growing in intensity ever since. There were ungodly false teachers in John's day, and during the intervening centuries they have increased both in number and in influence. "The last hour" or "the last times" are phrases that describe a kind of time, not a duration of time." (Matt 24:42) “Therefore, be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming."
Several times in the New Testament we are called upon to "be alert"...to "take heed" concerning these days. Matthew 25:13, Mark 13:33, etc. Certainly this is not a time to play it loose and fast! Matt 24:11-12 tells us that “ …many false prophets will appear and will deceive many people. Sin will be rampant everywhere, and the love of many will grow cold.” We need to understand all of this to the best of our ability. While a false Christ is merely a Christ pretender, the Antichrist rather “goes against Christ by feigning support for Him and His cause, and proposing to do what he asks, while truthfully and factually denying Him.” An antichrist, then, is one who opposes Christ under the very guise of Christianity.
And to hold our ground on this matter is not easy, is it? When so many of those all around us claim the mantle of faith and yet adhere to a compromised version of Christianity, what is a person to do? How do we avoid sounding judgmental and accusatory, self-righteous even, and yet still walk according to the pages of scripture? Remember that we must be aware of the context of this passage in light of the whole of the letter thus far. We see that persons who love the world and its pursuits (1Jn 2:15-17) have placed themselves in opposition to Christ and therefore are herein called antichrists. This is not speaking of some sort of deep larger-than-life players for whom operate in world government and politics far away from us, but rather speaks of the 'back-yard' of each one of us. But it's hard to think of such a title and label up close and personal in our lives and world, isn't it?
And yet there will indeed one day come THE Antichrist. While John is the only writer who uses that particular term; other terms are used in other parts of Scripture;—the Idol Shepherd, the Lawless One, the Willful King, the Son of Perdition, the Man of Sin, the False Prophet, and the one who shall come in his own name. These different terms describe the same person, the one who shall arise in the days of the great tribulation and lead guilty apostate Christendom and Judaism farther away from God than they are (even) at the present time. (HA IRONSIDE)
Steven Cole - The false teachers rise up within the church and present a system that subtly presents something instead of Jesus Christ. The false teacher may use the same label, “Jesus Christ,” but he will not be the same Jesus that is presented in the Bible. If a gullible person takes the bait, he is led farther away until finally he is in total opposition to Christ. These false teachers, whom John labels antichrists, did not carry pitchforks and wear red suits with horns and a tail, or T-shirts saying, “Warning: I am an antichrist!” Rather, they arose in the churches. Some of them may have been elders or pastors, who for a while had taught the truth. Paul warned the Ephesian elders, “from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them” (Acts 20:30). False teachers invariably adopt Christian terminology and posture themselves as being Christians, but they are not. They usually begin within the church (1Jn 2:19) and at first, their teaching is orthodox. They often have attractive personalities and they build a following of people who seem to be helped by their teaching. But, eventually, they begin subtly to veer from the truth. (Avoiding Spiritual Deception, Part 1 - 1 John 2:18-23)
1 John 2:19 "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 they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us."
This passage describes the 'sifting of the church', the separation of the genuine from the counterfeit, the professors from the possessors. In Matthew 13:25-30, Jesus tells us that the wheat and the tares "would grow together until the harvest," and the counterfeit nature of the tares will not be apparent until the final harvest.
They went out from us refers to the antichrists that John has been speaking concerning. We can gather then that these antichrists were once in fact members of the community of believers, but had now departed from it, which proved they were never genuine members of the community. John does not say these antichrists were thrown out but that they went out voluntarily. Furthermore, when they went out it was not simply a matter of leaving one church to join another. They left the church, much as Judas left the fellowship of the disciples, indicating his betrayal of Jesus and denial of the faith (Jn 13:30).
They were not really of us - The fact is, there were and are today those in the Body of Christ who absolutely look like authentic, genuine believers. Yet they have never been born of God's Spirit (Jn 3:3-5). They say the right things, pray the right words, but their heart is not changed and they are not redeemed in Christ. There are of course blatant pagans out there who make no attempt to mask their position on God, but there are also those who pass amongst us that are, bluntly said, merely religious fakers right in the midst of God's community of true believers. In passages such as Matthew 11:21-24 Jesus Himself warned that these folks who have experienced great exposure to truth and light, will suffer much greater condemnation and pain because of their denial. They will truly be "without excuse" when they stand before their Creator.
All of this is a matter of great anguish in the hearts of true believers. This is not to be an issue of spite or condemnation, but rather something that should cause all of us to weep at their loss. It is a hard thing for us that are in love with Christ, to grasp such a action. Because for so many of us, the thought of departure from Christ and the body of believers is unthinkable...impossible. For us, we have drank deeply the grace and love of God and can't imagine living apart from it. We are like Peter in John 6:68 who when he was asked by Christ if he wanted to depart also like so many had done said “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words that give eternal life." And, invariably, those that do depart try to recruit others from within the church to join them.
While such situations are painful and unpleasant, John’s words here should prepare us not to be surprised when it occurs. Many of these folks have been given the label of 'backslider' when, in reality, they never have been Christians at all. Like those that Peter speaks of, "They prove the truth of this proverb: 'A dog returns to its vomit.’ And another says, 'A washed pig returns to the mud." (2Peter 2:22). They were never actually sheep, though they were thought to be. And to treat them as if they are just backslidden can be a real disservice to them. We must be careful to never give false assurance to one is such a position. By doing so we can inadvertently...often under the worldly version of love, usher them through the gates of hell. Let our love be constant but always and forever honest.
1 John 2: 20: "But you have an anointing from the Holy One..."
What is this anointing? Nothing less than the power and infilling of the very Holy Spirit of God in possession of a life. It is impossible to believe that the Spirit of God...Creator, liberator, redeemer, and healer would be able to come inside a living being and not cause radical transformation. "But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come." (John 16:13) Thus under the power of the Spirit of God there is a new and inexplicable "knowledge" that is endued. So we could rephrase 1Jn 2:20 like this: “You have the Holy Spirit from God in you and so you know the truth.”
Later John explains in chapter 4 verse 13 that "By this we know that we abide (are at home) in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit." In His Upper Room Discourse, Jesus tells His apostles that "when I go, I will send Him (the Spirit) to you." In Acts Jesus explains that His disciples would "receive power when the Holy Spirit" had come upon them (Acts 1:8) Thus the Holy Spirit is to be our supernatural Source of power for supernatural ministry, including the discerning of good from evil as well as true from false, as in the present context of false teaching about Christ.
When Paul wrote to the saints at Rome, he said - "And concerning you, my brethren, I myself also am convinced that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able also to admonish one another. But I have written very boldly to you on some points so as to remind you again, because of the grace that was given me from God." (Ro 15:14) So just as with the believers John was writing to, the believers in Rome needed not so much to be taught new truth but to be reminded of (and to live out) old truth they had already been taught. Yes…even the hard and uncomfortable stuff.
Isn't this true with us? Even if we have walked with Jesus for a number of years? Our greatest failures are often a result of failing to remember and/or obey truths we were taught years ago! Our prayer should ever be the hymn writer's words "Prone to wander Lord I feel it, here's my heart, Lord, take and seal it, seal it for Thy courts above." Amen!