Summary: 1) The Characteristics of Antichrists (1 John 2:18–19, 22–23, 26), 2) The Characteristics of Christians (1 John 2:20–21, 24–25, 27)
If you listen or watch what is claimed to be Christian TV or radio, some of the (false) teachers openly espouse gross Christological heresies. You can see bizarre blasphemies like the teaching of Creflo Dollar that Jesus did not come to earth as God in human flesh (Creflo Dollar, “Jesus’ Growth into Sonship,” audio, December 8, 2002)., others, like Kenneth Copeland: deny Jesus ever claimed to be God, (Kenneth Copeland, cited in Jones and Woodbridge, Health, Wealth, & Happiness, 70).) or others like Benny Hinn assert Christ took on Satan’s sinful nature on the cross, ((Kenneth Copeland, “What Happened from the Cross to the Throne,” 1990, audiotape #02-0017, side 2).) Perhaps you heard Kenneth Hagin claiming Christ died spiritually in hell after He died physically on the cross. (cited in Jones and Woodbridge, Health, Wealth, & Happiness, 70). ) Finally, you may have heard the twisted words of Kenneth Copeland where he paraphrased Jesus’ as saying: “Don’t be disturbed when people accuse you of thinking you are God. . . . They crucified Me for claiming I was God. I didn’t claim that I was God; I just claimed that I walked with Him and that He was in Me (Kenneth Copeland, “Take Time to Pray,” Believer’s Voice of Victory 15, no. 2 (February 1987): 9.)To any true believer, the rank arrogance and gross falsehood inherent in such statements sends shivers down the spine. Only the spirit of antichrist would inspire that kind of blatantly unbiblical teaching. (MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2013). Strange fire: the danger of offending the holy spirit with counterfeit worship. Nashville: Thomas Nelson.).
Though the term antichrist occurs only in John’s letters, the concept it expresses appears repeatedly throughout Scripture (cf. Dan. 7:7f.; 9:26–27; 11:36–39; Matt. 24:15; Mark 13:6; 2 Thess. 2:3, 8; Rev. 11:7; 13:1–10, 18; 17:1–18). It is a compound word that transliterates the Greek word antichristos, from christos (“Christ”) and anti (“against,” or “in the place of”). The term denotes anyone who opposes Christ, seeks to supplant Him (Matt. 24:24; Mark 13:21–22), or falsely represents Him. Such opposition always offers distorted and aberrant views about the nature of Christ (cf. 2 John 7); Through the centuries, there has been much study and speculation, by both scholars and lay persons, concerning who this final Antichrist will be. People have proposed numerous historical figures, including Nero and other Roman emperors, Muhammad, various popes, Napoleon Bonaparte, Benito Mussolini, and Adolf Hitler. Such ill-advised speculation has always proved futile. When the apostle John wrote 1 John, he said many antichrists had already arisen in the brief sixty years since Pentecost, and countless more have plagued the church until now.
Herein lies our dilemma. There is so much false teaching about, if we are not careful we can assimilate error. Likewise, unless we check what we hear, and read against scripture, we can internalize error that can confuse us, worry us or cause us to act in a destructive manner. Such action is dangerous to us, potentially destructive to others, misrepresenting and dishonoring God. We need clear tests in order to check what we think and hear.
In 1 John 2:18-27, John reiterates his earlier doctrinal tests (the proper assessment of people’s sinfulness and the correct evaluation of Christ’s nature as the God-man) and moral tests (love for Christ and others, and obedience to the Word). The purpose of these tests, as stated by John in 5:13, was to help his readers assess their true standing before God—whether or not they were saved. The apostle understood that a wrong view of Christ, if not repented of and corrected, would lead to eternal damnation (cf. John 8:24). Such terrifying consequences make the issue black and white, which is why John presented it with such directness: 1) false professors of the faith deny the truth about Christ, revealing themselves to be antichrists (1 John 2:18–19, 22–23, 26); 2) true professors, on the other hand, affirm—along with the other marks—the truth about Christ, revealing themselves to be genuine children of God (1 John 2:20–21, 24–25, 27).
1) The Characteristics of Antichrists (1 John 2:18–19, 22–23, 26)
1 John 2:18–19, 22–23, 26
The combination of deceptive hypocrisy and demonic heresies made the antichrist teachers doubly dangerous as they intentionally tried to creep into the church unnoticed, before hatching their destructive schemes (cf. Jude 4). In order to warn his readers, John began this section with a brief introduction of the antichrists followed by a description of their characteristics.
a) The Introduction of Antichrists (1 John 2:18)
1 John 2:18 18 Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour. (ESV)
John addressed his readers again as children (paidia; cf. 2:13), identifying them as those who belonged to the family of God, and those whom their Father desired to warn that there was impending danger. It is essential that Christians, especially those who are less spiritually mature and hence most vulnerable, understand the serious threat that antichrists pose. Therefore, these little children here indicate the first degree of spiritual experience which we have seen in verses 12–14: the fathers at the top, then the young men, and then the little babies. The little babies haven’t grown up yet. They are passing through this world, and the chances are that they have been tripped up by one of these three things which John has just mentioned (McGee, J. V. (1991). Thru the Bible commentary: The Epistles (1 John) (electronic ed., Vol. 56, p. 61). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.).