Summary: We know we are Christians because we believe in Jesus Christ
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.