Summary: One sign of the last days is the number of "believers" who defect from the faith.
Through-out this letter, John refers lovingly to his audience as "little children." This book records the loving teaching of a father in the faith to those who were his children in the faith. One of the things that children need to learn as they grow up is how to tell time. John sought to teach his spiritual children how to tell time. ln 1 John 2:18, he wrote, "Little children, it is the last time."
There's a sense in which the last time began in the days of John and has been growing in intensity until now. We've been in the last time since the time of our Lord's first advent. The Bible indicates that toward the close of the age there will be latter days of increased difficulty and turmoil, In 2 Timothy 3:1, the Bible says, "This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come."
A farmer who went to bed one night had something go wrong with the grandfather clock. At midnight, it went off fourteen times! He jumped up and said to his wife, "Get up Nellie, it's later than it's ever been before!" I think John would say the same thing of our day should he be alive now. It's later than it's ever been before!
The Bible says that among the many things will characterize the last days will be the fact that some who profess faith in Christ will turn from the faith they profess. Jesus spoke in the parable of the wheat and the tares (Matthew 13:24-30) of the fact that there'll be those who truly possess salvation and those who merely profess salvation. John says that as we progress toward the end of this present age, we will see more and more, a separation between those who are truly saved and those who are not. Notice the sharp distinction between "they" and "us." John is talking about those who go away and those who remain. Three crucial things are said here about these "unbelieving believers."
1. They Deny The Christ - vs. 18; 22-23
John says that one day, the ultimate manifestation of rebellion against God in human form, the Antichrist, will appear. Paul spoke of this (2 Thessalonians 2:3-12), as did Jesus (Matthew 24:15). But even though he may not yet be on the world scene, John clearly tells us the spirit of Antichrist is already at work (vs. 22-23).
What's the spirit of Antichrist? Refusal to acknowledge Jesus as the Christ, the Messiah, the One and Only way of eternal salvation.
Since such an opinion prevails in society (and always will until Jesus comes), we shouldn't be surprised that some who deny Jesus as being the One and Only way of eternal salvation have found their way into the membership of our churches. How does this happen?
A. We make false assumptions -
It's never safe to assume! Especially about another's salvation! Churches have assumed that folks coming from another church have a proper understanding of salvation, when such may not be the case!
B. We don't preach repentance -
In Mark 1:15, we read the first recorded words of Jesus: "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe the Gospel." To repent means to "turn around." If one is to be saved, he or she must turn around from trusting in self and living for sin, to trusting in and living for the Savior. But in too many churches, preaching has become positive to the point of excluding the need to acknowledge one's sin and repent. Consequently we have people come into the membership who are not truly saved!
"The scriptural emphasis is 'repent and believe.' First, there has to be repentance, then belief. But much modern evangelism stresses the fact that 'all you have to do is believe!' with no reference to repentance. This one-sided appeal may be made in honest ignorance, or it may be made to make it attractive, thereby to increase the number of those coming forward. But if there is no repentance then my involvement with the Lord is: Jesus ALSO. I add him to the other sources of excitement in my life. I go on a Jesus high. But if there is this act of repentance, then it is not Jesus ALSO, but Jesus ONLY!" (No Shining Splendor, John E. Hunter)
C. We have become "practicing universalists" -
We say we believe people without Jesus are eternally lost, but statistics reveal 95% of us have never led another person to Jesus!
The prevailing practice of believers today reveals that the prevailing perspective among them is that people don't really need Jesus as Savior! When this is the case, then it creates an atmosphere within the church which allows people to become members without our making too much of a "big deal" about their salvation, and as a result, many slip in who aren't really saved!