1 John 2:18-27 November 5, 2006
Believe in Jesus Christ
If you’ve been part of this series, you know that John is writing to a church that has had it’s share of troubles. There was a group that was in the church that started to believe and teach against the Christian understanding of Jesus and the Gospel. After awhile, they realized that they didn’t fit and the left the faith community – they likely left angry and did damage to the community of believers as they left.
John is writing his letter to encourage the bruised and beaten Christians who remain in the church.
Earlier in the chapter he gives the Christians 2 proofs that they are the ones who have the truth, and that the ones who left were holding to a lie. 1) you obey Jesus, 2) you love each other. In this passage he gives a third proof to the people – that they believe and teach that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.
This is what he writes – read passage
I think that there are a few things that I need to get out of the way before we get to the main point of the passage – that is John’s mention of the last hour and the Antichrist. John is just using these two ideas as a segue to talk about this conflict, so as to say “you know it’s the last hour and you’ve heard about the coming of the antichrist, well let me tell you about some antichrists…” But all the same, there is so much interest in the end times and characters from prophesy like the antichrist, that I have to speak to the issues to try to remove the distraction so we can hear what John is saying to us.
The Last Hour & the Antichrist
John writes this letter to his church about 1900 years ago, and yet he says “this is the last hour.” By this we would understand that John thought that the return of Jesus was imminent. Was he wrong?
Many bible scholars say that John is not describing the chronological time, but the era that we live in – that the time between the first coming of Christ and the second coming is the “last hour.” Although it has lasted 2,000 years, it is the last hour for this present age and the power of darkness in this age: we are on the verge of the new age of the Kingdom of God in its fullness.
Peter, writing about how long this last hour is taking says, “But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:8&9)
For John, this is evidenced by the presence of many antichrists and the understanding that the Antichrist is coming. John is talking about people who are against (anti) Jesus Christ, he is not talking about a false (pseudo) Christ. John’s point here is not to figure out who this great Antichrist is, but to make sure that we are not anti-Christ ourselves.
Many Christians spend a great deal of time, energy and ink and paper trying to figure out who the Antichrist is, and therefore when Jesus will return. Jesus himself says that
“But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come.” (Mark 13:26)
The main purpose of the end-times prophecies found in scripture is to encourage us to always be ready for Jesus’ return.
That said, John’s main point in this passage is that the community in the church can know that they are Christians because they believe in Jesus! - duh
The Antichrists vs the Christened 18-21
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.
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.
The Christians that John writes to are conflicted on many different levels. The obvious inner conflict is whether they have the truth, or whether the others have the truth. The other inner conflict is what their attitude should be to the others. They had been part of the community for years, they had been pulled away by this strange teaching they tried to pull the whole church that way, but in the end gave up and left. The Christians they left behind felt the loss of these friends. They may even said “they belonged to us and now they no longer belong to us!” as a mournful cry. John says to the Christians, that these antichrists never really belonged – if they had belonged, they would have stayed.
It may sound like circular reasoning, but I have found it to be true – that as people move away from true Christian beliefs, or as they move away from the Christian lifestyle, you don’t see them around church much. John’s Christian friends did not have to kick the antichrists out of church, they themselves realized that they didn’t belong anymore, and they self-selected out.
John’s words point to the importance of the Christian community in the early days of Christianity. Today we ask the question if someone can be a Christian and not go to church. In John’s day to be a Christian was to be part of the Christian community of faith – the two were inseparable.
John says – the antichrists never belonged – but you belong – you have been anointed by God, and you have been given the truth. John has this great play on words that doesn’t come out in the English translation – Christ is the Greek word for “anointed one.” So John says that the ones who left are anti-anointed one, and you who have stayed are anointed!
The Lie and the Truth 22-23
Who is the liar? It is whoever denies that Jesus is the Messiah. Such a person is the antichrist—denying the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also.
The reason that John calls these people antichrist is simple – that deny that Jesus is the Christ. Thus, they are “against Christ:” anti-Christ.
They likely had some ideas that would become gnosticism in later centuries – it was a belief that the spiritual was good, and material was evil – so how could the all-good Spirit God become evil fleshly human? They may have appreciated Jesus as a good teacher and miracle worker, but he could not be incarnate God in their worldview.
To say that Jesus is not divine is to kick at the very foundation of Christianity.
If Jesus is not the divine Son of God, His death is meaningless to us – it was just another case of the authorities killing another radical teacher. But if he is God on the cross, then our creator who we offended is taking the payment of our offence on himself so that we might be reconciled to him. To remove Jesus’ divinity is to remove the power of the cross and the resurrection and Christians just become lost people doing our best to follow a great man.
But Jesus is the divine Son of God, and his death on the cross has an impact on our life even 2000 years later. He has paid for reconciliation between us and the Father, so that if we put our lives in Jesus’ life it is like we have died to our old life and been raised up again into new life in barrier free relationship with the Father.
John was dealing with a group of people who we call pre-Gnostics who denied Jesus’ divinity, today we have a raft of neo-Gnostics who deny Jesus divinity, or that he even existed. Most of the people that you meet on the street who wonder if there ever was a Jesus, or that Jesus existed only as a wise teacher are people on a journey of faith, and we hope that their wonderings someday find the truth about Jesus. But others, like Tom Harpur and Dan Brown who write books that purposefully lead people away from the true Christ, John would call antichrists! These are not just knew ideas that people are throwing into the religion game that we play, they are ideas that will lead people away from the salvation that is available through Jesus Christ.
I think that in the evangelical church, our difficulty is not believing that Jesus is the Christ, but that the Christ is Jesus. We have created a Christ in our minds and faith that may or may not look anything like the Jesus of the Scripture. Particularly, down in the States during election time, you would think that Jesus’ main teaching was on lower taxes, less government and punishing criminals! Jesus was and is political, but he cannot be co-opted to be the mascot of any political party. The Christ is Jesus – Read your Bible! Get to know him, let the word shape you.
How Not to be AntiChrist 24-27
24 As for you, 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—eternal life.
We have two things that will keep us from being led astray into the teaching of the antichrists – The Word & The Spirit
When you hear someone come and say that we’ve been getting it completely wrong about Jesus for the past 2,000 years, you have to be skeptical. It is not that God will not show us new things, our that we will get a deeper understanding of the implications of the Gospel, but the basic truth of the Gospel will not Change -
Jesus came to earth as the divine Son of God, fully God, fully Human, he lived among us and taught us the way to life, and he died to pay for our sins so that we might step into this eternal life that he taught us about, he rose from the dead to demonstrate the new life that he has given us. This is the good news that we have heard from the beginning – hold tightly to it – read the Gospels and the rest of the New testament so that when someone comes and attacks this original message, you can keep the message remains in you.
Everything that we believe, teach and ac6t on must fit into the original message that we find in scripture – we must be people of the Word.
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.
The night that Jesus was betrayed, he promised us that we would not be left alone in our search for the truth and quest to stay close to Jesus.
When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father—the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father—he will testify about me. And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning. All this I have told you so that you will not fall away.
… But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you." - John 15:26-16:1, 16:12-15
What an amazing thing! God has not just said to us – here is a book and a bunch of good teachers, do your best. He actually comes and lives within us and speaks the truth to us! If we are fallowing the Spirit, we do not have to worry about being drawn away from the truth – He constantly glorifies the Son in our hearts who in turn glorifies the father. When we hear the gospel message of God’s love and Christ’s payment for our sin, the Spirit says “Yes, that’s it!” when we hear crazy things like Jesus is just a concept, or he is just a man, the Spirit says “whoa, hold on there, that is not the Son that I am one with!”
The Spirit is God’s seal on us that keeps us with Him for all eternity.
And the Spirit is in us and among us as a community of faith as well, so we can lead each other into all truth as the Spirit works in us.
We do not have to worry about receiving the Spirit – when we place our lives in Christ, we die with him on the Cross, and he raises us up and breathes the new life of the Spirit into our Spirit. You cannot be a Christian without receiving the Holy Spirit. We only need to learn to live in his fullness and filling, and to remain in him.
If you ever have times like the church that John writes to, when you worry that you might be led astray, or that you are not sure that you have the truth – do these two things that John says will keep us in Christ – See that what you received from the beginning remains in you – read the Bible, study it, meditate on it, listen to good teaching about it, apply it. – learn to listen to the Spirit, recognize his voice in your heart. The best way to do this is to pray that he will fill you up with his presence – we all have the Spirit, but we do not all have his fullness – if you are filled with the Spirit, it is hard not to recognize his voice.
Offer prayer for the filling of the Spirit
Alpha retreat – this Saturday.