Wednesday, 1 April 2020
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. 1 John 2:18
John has been speaking of the things of the world, a system ruled by the devil. With that in mind, he now enters into a new aspect of this doctrine, beginning with, “Little children.” Here, as in verse 2:13, he uses the word paidia for “little children.”
It is not the other word, teknia, which he uses as a term of endearment. Thus, this is indicating their immaturity in the doctrine he is going to talk about and explain – that of the antichrist and the last times. He says, “it is the last hour.” It is a term used only here in the New Testament, and it doesn’t contain a definite article in the Greek. Therefore, this may indicate that he didn’t believe Christ’s return would be soon, but it is rather a general statement about the entire church age – something that is of indeterminate length.
This is supported by the statement of Jesus at the ascension when the apostles asked if He was going to restore the kingdom to Israel at that time. His answer indicated that they needed to get about the work of the gospel and not worry about what was under the Father’s authority, but it also indicates that his recipients knew the Antichrist was coming. As John says, “and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming.”
This term “anti” can mean someone standing openly against Jesus (the Christ) or someone who is attempting to be a substitute for Him – something more subtle and befitting the pattern of the workings of the devil. The latter is more likely, especially when we see Paul’s description of him in 2 Thessalonians 2:9, 10 –
“The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, 10 and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved.”
Elsewhere, Jesus spoke of false Christs (Greek: pseudochristos). Like a false prophet, these are people attempt to fill an office without denying what the office stands for. Thus, a false Christ will attempt to fulfill the qualifications of the Christ. However, such a false prophet understands the meaning of “Messiah” or “Christ.”
On the other hand, an antichrist (or the Antichrist) may be someone who not only claims to be the Christ, and who claims he is the embodiment of Christ – including the office and teachings – but he does so while denying the truth of what the office represents. He stands in complete opposition to it. With this marked distinction made, Vincent’s word studies describes the “last hour” by saying –
“The dominant sense of the expression last days, in the New Testament, is that of a period of suffering and struggle preceding a divine victory. See Acts 2:17; James 5:3; 1 Peter 1:20. Hence the phrase here does not refer to the end of the world, but to the period preceding a crisis in the advance of Christ’s kingdom, a changeful and troublous period, marked by the appearance of ‘many antichrists.’”
The time for the final Antichrist is coming, but John says that the truth is that “even now many antichrists have come.” To understand what this means, one must go forward to verse 2:22 where John explicitly states, “Who is a liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist who denies the Father and the Son.”
It is the denial of the relationship between the Father and the Son – meaning that Christ is of God and thus is God – that defines what is antichrist. Even at the time of John, antichrists had arisen. They denied the Father/Son relationship, and thus they stood in opposition to Christ, the only begotten Son of God. As this attitude had already infected the world at John’s time, he then explains the significance of that truth by saying, “by which we know that it is the last hour.”
The “last hour” of the church is that hour which is marked by this challenge of holding to the truth of who Christ is. As John already acknowledged it as the last hour, the thought of every moment being challenged by this aberrant doctrine is a moment that must be engaged by the church and spoken against. When the church stops challenging the doctrine of the antichrist (through negligence or because of the rapture), the field will be ripe for the final Antichrist to step forward and begin his unholy ministry.
Life application: John takes time to note that the world was already influenced by the power of “many antichrists.” These are people who deny the workings of Jesus Christ, God’s Messiah, the Son of God. Any tenet which diminishes His work, or His deity, falls under the category of “antichrist.” To deny the Son of God wasn’t possible until He was manifest in the flesh. Since that time, Satan has come to dismiss the work Christ Jesus wrought on behalf of the world. This will continue to increase until the rapture of the church. At that time, Satan’s work will climax in the person of the Antichrist himself.
Heavenly Father, you sent Your Son, our Lord Jesus, to show us the way to You. Keep us from the deceitful lies of Satan, and protect us from the spirit of the Antichrist which is intended to diminish Jesus’ work and misdirect our faith in Him. Prompt us to fix our eyes on Jesus, because nothing else will do. Only in Christ Jesus can our souls be satisfied. Amen.