1 John 2:18–27
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. They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us. But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and you all have knowledge. I write to you, not because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and because no lie is of the truth. Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also. Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you too will abide in the Son and in the Father. And this is the promise that he made to us—eternal life. I write these things to you about those who are trying to deceive you. But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie—just as it has taught you, abide in him.
I received recently in the mail a box from the Unification Church—the Moonies. It contained three video tapes and a copy of the Divine Principle and a message from Mr. Moon from prison dated 1985. They plead to be given a fair hearing.
The Message of Sun Moon
Here are some quotes taken from pages 122–144 of the message of Sun Moon from prison.
I am making a bold declaration. Jesus did not come to die. Jesus was murdered . . . The crucifixion of Jesus was a result of human faithlessness. The most egregious and destructive lack of faith was to be found in John [the Baptist]. This means that Jesus did not come to die on the cross . . .
If Jesus came to die on the cross, would he not need a man to deliver him up? You know that Judas Iscariot is the disciple who betrayed Jesus. If Jesus fulfilled God's will with his death on the cross, then Judas should be glorified as the man who made the crucifixion possible. Judas would have been aiding God's dispensation. But Jesus said of Judas, "The Son of man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed!" . . . Furthermore, if God had wanted His Son to be crucified, He did not need 4,000 years to prepare the chosen people . . .
Many people may now ask, "What about the prophecies in the Old Testament concerning the death of Jesus on the cross?" . . . We must know that there are dual lines of prophecy in the Bible. One group prophesies Jesus' rejection and death; the others, such as Isaiah, Chapters 9, 11, and 60 prophesy the glorious ministry of Jesus when the people accepted him as the Son of God . . .
Why then did God prophesy in two contradictory ways in the Bible? . . . God did not know how the people would respond to His providence for the Messiah. He had no choice but to predict two contradictory results—dual prophecies, each possibility depending on human actions . . .
Once again we find in the Bible a dual prophecy concerning the coming of the Lord of the Second Advent. Revelation 1:7 definitely prophesied the arrival of the Lord with the clouds. However, 1 Thessalonians 5:2 states: "For you yourselves know well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night." There are then two opposing prophecies . . .
I am just revealing what I know to be the truth . . . The Lord cannot appear in that kind of supernatural fashion . . . As a man he must come up from the bottom of human misery. He must come to the most miserable nation and lift the human status from the slave position, to the servant position, to the adopted child position and to the direct child position and by physically putting together the Kingdom of Heaven here on earth. That is the mission of Messiah . . .
God needs to find his perfected Adam, an Adam who instead of betraying God will become one with God. And then Adam must restore his bride in the position of Eve. Perfected Adam and perfected Eve, united together, will be able to overcome Satan and expel him from the world. In this way, the first righteous ancestors of humankind will begin a new history.
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.
How Easy It Is to Deceive
What strikes me as I read these forthright denials of historic biblical Christianity (the atoning death of Jesus for our sins, the omniscience and sovereignty of God, the second coming of the Lord in glory)—what strikes me is the ease with which many people are deceived. Two things account for this: a lack of grounding in the Word of God and a lack of life in the Holy Spirit. Or to put it another way, when people have no theological depth and no vital experience of the Holy Spirit they are sitting ducks for the deceiver and the antichrist.
1 John 2:18–27 is written to a situation like ours, and the two things John strives for is a deeper rooting in the Word of God and a deeper experience of the Spirit of God. The Word of God and the Spirit of God are our only hope for stability in a world filled with antichrists.
Therefore of all the things that could be said from this text I think we should focus on three:
- We are in the last hour of deception.
- The Word of God and the Spirit of God protect us from deception and lead us into eternal life.
- Therefore we should let the Word abide in us and we should abide in the Spirit.
1. We are in the last hour of deception.
Verse 18 begins, "Children, it is the last hour." That was 2,000 years ago. But the message of the New Testament is that when Christ came, we entered the "last days," and nobody but God knows how long they will last.
The Last Days
- Acts 2:16–17, "This is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: 'And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh.'"
- 1 Corinthians 10:11, "[The Old Testament stories] were written down for our instruction upon whom the end of the ages has come."
- Hebrews 1:1–2, "In many and various ways God spoke of old to our fathers by the prophets; but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son."
- Hebrews 9:26, "He has appeared once for all at the end of the age to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself."
- 1 Peter 1:20, "[Christ] was destined before the foundation of the world but was made manifest at the end of the times for your sake."
The Increasing Activity of the Spirit of Antichrist
From these texts the main characteristic of the last hour is that the Son of God has come and the Holy Spirit is being poured out in a new measure. But John points out another characteristic of the last hour: "You have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come; therefore we know that it is the last hour." The last hour is an hour in which the spirit of antichrist will be increasingly active.
He refers back to the words of Jesus in Matthew 24:5, 24. "For many will come in my name, saying, 'I am the Christ,' and they will lead many astray . . . For false Christs and false prophets will arise and show great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect." So John saw evidences of the last days not only in the victorious spread of the gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit, but also in the multiplication of false Christs and false prophets and deceivers in the world. And if John saw that as a sign of the end, how much more should we be alert. That's why I say, we live in the last hour of deception.
John's view of the end-times seems to be that there is a singular antichrist coming but that the spirit of antichrist is already in the world and that it produces many preliminary lesser forms of the antichrist. The essence of the antichrist spirit is to deny that Jesus was the Christ or to deny that the Christ was fully incarnate in Jesus. The spirit of antichrist does whatever it can to diminish Christ and substitute other views or other persons for the true incarnate Son of God. Consider the following texts where John refers to the antichrist (these are the only places in the whole New Testament where the term antichrist occurs).
- 1 John 2:18, "You have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come."
- 1 John 4:3, "Every spirit which does not confess Jesus is not of God. This is the spirit of antichrist, of which you heard that it was coming, and now it is in the world already."
- 2 John 7, "For many deceivers have gone out into the world, men who will not acknowledge the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh; such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist."
- 1 John 2:22, "Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son."
John is very concerned that the church be alert to what he calls "the liar" or "deceivers." Many such have gone out into the world. We live in a period of time where God in his sovereignty allows deception to spread. In 5:19 John says, "The whole world is in the power of the evil one." That is the first point: We live in the last hour of deception.
2. The Word of God and the Spirit of God protect us from deception and lead us into eternal life.
Probably the most important thing to focus on in this fairly complex passage is how the Word and the Spirit work together to guard us from deception.
Knowing Truth Is a Gift of the Spirit
The first thing to notice is that to know the truth is a gift of the Holy Spirit. Verses 20–21: "You have been anointed by the Holy One, and you all know (or you know all things). I write to you, not because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and know that no lie is of the truth."
The reason I say that to know the truth is a gift is because it depends on the anointing. Verse 20: "You have been anointed by the Holy One and you know." Or verse 27: "The anointing which you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that any one should teach you." Whatever this anointing is, it enables us to know the truth and, in some sense, removes the need for teachers.
The anointing probably refers to the coming of the Holy Spirit into our lives. Acts 10:38 says that Jesus was anointed by the Holy Spirit. And 1 John 4:13 says that God has given us of his Spirit. So the anointing referred to in verses 20 and 27 is probably the pouring of the Holy Spirit into our hearts when we are born again.
So we can go back and rephrase verse 20 like this: "You have the Holy Spirit from God in you and so you know the truth." And verse 27 would go like this: "The Holy Spirit which you received from God abides in you and so you have no need that any one should teach you. That is, you don't need these progressive prophets who claim to add new information about Christ beyond the truth you heard at the beginning."
What is plain from these two verses is that without the Holy Spirit we would not know the truth. Knowing the truth about Christ is a gift of the Holy Spirit.
How the Spirit Enables Us to Know the Truth
But now that raises the question how the Holy Spirit enables us to know the truth about Christ and so be protected from the deception of the antichrist. It is almost certain that the antichrists are claiming to have revelations from the Holy Spirit when they give their new revelation that Jesus is not really the Son of God come in the flesh.
That's why 4:1 warns the church not to believe every spirit, but to "test the spirits to see whether they are of God; for many false prophets have gone out into the world." So the antichrists are saying, "Right on! Knowledge is a gift of the Spirit. And we have the Spirit and can tell you some crucial information that you have been missing about Christ."
That is what Sun Moon claims. It is what virtually every sect or cult does. It claims some special revelation beyond the original one of the apostles, or it claims to have specially inspired prophets who give the hidden interpretation of the Bible. So what does John mean? How does the anointing of the Spirit enable the saints to know the truth and protect them from deception?
Verse 24 is the key. What it shows is that the truth which the Holy Spirit enables us to know is a truth that is delivered in the preaching of the apostles. "Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you will abide in the Son and in the Father." Twice in that verse John stresses that the truth that should remain in them is truth that came to them through the ear at the beginning of their Christian walk: "what you heard from the beginning . . . what you heard from the beginning!" This was the preaching of the apostles.
So John is not saying that the anointing of the Spirit enables us to know the truth of Christ by giving additional information beyond what they heard from the beginning. On the contrary John is intent on telling them they have enough revelation in what they heard from the beginning. He does not want to set them off in pursuit of something new. Remember 2:7, "Beloved, I am writing you no new commandment, but an old commandment which you had from the beginning; the old commandment is the word which you have heard." In other words John makes effort to avoid the saying that what the church needs is new revelation. It does not. It needs to let the original apostolic teaching about Christ abide in them.
The Word Tests the Spirit
2 John 9 warns about the danger of progressiveness and newness in the doctrine of Christ: "Any one who goes ahead [progresses] and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God; he who abides in the doctrine has both the Father and the Son." So the opposite of abiding in what you have heard from the beginning is to "go ahead" to new revelations and secret knowledge offered by Mohammed and Charles Russell and Joseph Smith and Mary Baker Eddy and Jim Jones and Sun Moon and an ever larger stream of antichrists in this last hour of deception.
The Holy Spirit does not expand the apostolic teaching of Christ. On the contrary, the Word tests the Spirit. 1 John 4:2 says, "By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit which confesses that Jesus has come in the flesh is of God." The Spirit agrees with the apostolic doctrine or it is not the Spirit of God. This is why we reject the teaching of Mr. Moon. Not because we can boast of different revelations from the Spirit, but because his claim does not square with the faith once for all delivered to the saints in the teaching of the apostles.
So the work of the Holy Spirit is not to take us beyond the teaching of the apostles. It is to help us accept and abide in that teaching. It helps us grow in our understanding of that teaching. It strengthens our power to practice that teaching. It increases our confidence in the truth of that teaching. But it does not change the teaching. It does not expand on the teaching.
Which leads us to our concluding admonition and third main point:
3. Therefore we should let the Word abide in us and we should abide in the Spirit.
In this long text there are only two imperatives. One is in verse 24: "Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you." And the other is in verse 27 at the end: "As his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie, just as it has taught you, abide in him."
Let the Word abide in you!
Abide in the Spirit!
I can't help but recall a similar pair of admonitions in Paul's letters:
- Colossians 3:16, "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, as you . . . sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs with thankfulness in your hearts to God."
- Ephesians 5:18–19, "Be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart, always and for everything giving thanks."
"Let the word dwell in you!" is like John's "Let the word abide in you!"
"Be filled with the Spirit!" is like John's "Abide in the Spirit!"
This will be my prayer for all of you as Noël and I minister in Liberia and Cameroon for the next six weeks—that the Word abide in you and that you abide in the Spirit. That you love the Word, and continue to come Sunday after to worship in the truth. That you be filled with the anointing of God and continue to come Sunday after Sunday to worship in the Spirit. For the Lord seeks those who will worship him in Spirit and in truth.
Guard yourselves from the deceiver and the antichrist. Love the Word, live in the Word, pray the Word, memorize the Word. And before every sentence lay yourself wide open to whatever the Spirit wants to do with you by the Word.
"If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you will abide in the Son and in the Father. And this is what he has promised us, eternal life." AMEN.