Summary: The Antichrist does not appear as a man in a red suit and a pitchfork. Antichrist does not mean "against Christ" but rather "substitute christ". The false apes the real and tries to replace it.
Last week, we talked about our affections. The source of our being is not to be grounded in this world, but in God. All the things of this world are perishing, and if our hopes and desires were built on them, then our hopes would be perishing as well. Yet so many spend all of their time with worldly concerns and hardly take even a scarce thought for the eternal things and where they will spend eternity. The world often accuses the Christian of being to “heavenly minded to be any earthly good.” However, far more are “too earthly minded to be any heavenly good”.
The world is increasingly calling the Church and her Lord “irrelevant”. They tell the church that it needs to change or else become anonymous and die. And with scarcely a thought, the church has opened her Sanctuary to the world and let the world dictate all of the terms. God’s Holy Place has become a stage for worldly entertainment. Her pulpits have forsaken the preaching of God’s truth and been replaced by pop psychology and stand up comics. The whole Christian world has become a stage and taken on the spirit of Shakespeare rather than the Spirit of Christ.
We all too easily forget that the final judgment concerning relevance is God Himself. We shall all stand before God. To some He will say “Enter into the joy of the Lord” and to others “Depart from me, I never knew you”. Now if the “Depart from me” isn’t a judgment of eternal irrelevance, what is? They shot back concerning all the good works they did. Yet they are doomed to eternal irrelevance. And many of those whom they despised will be in the eternal presence of the Lord.
It’s not that Christians are too heavenly minded to be any earthy good. If they are Christ’s, they will feed the hungry, clothe the naked, exhort the weak, challenge the world to faith in Jesus, and visit the sick and the prisoners even as Christ did. But they will do these things with heaven in view and not their own egos or profit in this life. They lay their own lives down and put on Christ.
Exposition of the Text
Verse 18: It is the last hour, little children; and as you have heard, the Antichrist is coming. Even now many antichrists have already come. This is how we know it is the last hour.
We are introduced to the term “Antichrist” (Greek: ἀíôß÷ñéóôïò, an-tee-chris-tos). For all the talk about the Antichrist in the book of Revelation, this term occurs only in this book and 2 John and nowhere else in the New Testament. Because of our thoughts about the Beast in the book of Revelation and our understanding of the English preposition “anti” as meaning “against”, we fail to grasp fully who this Antichrist is. The Greek Preposition ἀíôß actually has a meaning closer to “in the place of” substitute” or “alternate”. The Greek Preposition êáôá, kah-tah, actually is closer to the idea of against. The difference is that instead of looking for a devil in a red suit and pitchfork, we need instead to look for someone who pretends to be a Messiah, an alternate savior or way of salvation. The Antichrist will pretend to be an angel of light and by it will try to deceive many. This is what Jesus Himself warned His disciples of.
Even in John’s day, there were numerous cults and religions which offered an alternate way of salvation. This led John to believe that the end was very near. Those who had left the fellowship were searching out one of these alternatives called “Gnosticism”. And today, the world is full of them too. The one thing in common they have is that they offer an alternative to God becoming flesh in Jesus Christ. Some of them would even call themselves “Christian.”
Verse 19: Out from us they went, BUT they really were not of us, for if they were from us, they would have remained with us. BUT (they left) that it might be manifested that all (of them) are not from us.
The Greek here is kind of broken, which makes a smooth translation possible without translating what the sentence means in English. The prepositional phrase ἐî ἡìῶí (ex ee-mohn) appears four times in this verse. The Greek preposition ἐê indicates the idea of origin. It also indicates a sense of belonging. An American traveling in China is still an American. But if someone came to this country but never could adjust to it and went back to his/her own country, then we could say that this person was never an American at all. They participated to some degree or other in this nation while they were here, but the fact they left indicates that they never were Americans.