Text: 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. 19 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. 20 But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and you all have knowledge. 21 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. 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. 23 No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also. 24 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. 25 And this is the promise that he made to us — eternal life. 26 I write these things to you about those who are trying to deceive you. 27 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.
Introduction: In this passage, John writes that the antichrist is coming. You know who he is, don’t you? He is referred to as “the Beast” in some of the end times passages (Revelation 13:4-6 — … they worshiped the dragon because he gave his authority to the beast; and they worshiped the beast, saying, “Who is like the beast, and who is able to wage war with him?” There was given to him a mouth speaking arrogant words and blasphemies, and authority to act for forty-two months was given to him. And he opened his mouth in blasphemies against God, to blaspheme His name and His tabernacle, that is, those who dwell in heaven). The Bible describes him as the false prophet and very evil being who will set himself up against Christ and the people of God in the last days before the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. Since the Apostle John first mentioned him, people have speculated as to his identity. According to Joe Carterwho is the editor for the Gospel Coalition, there have been seven popular figureswho people have thought to be the Antichrist. These include(1) The Pope– People like Martin Luther, John Calvin and William Tyndale and a long list of other Protestants have considered the office of the papacy to be the Antichrist. Some Protestants have even assumed that a particular Pope—from Pope Leo Xto Pope Benedict XVI—was the Antichrist; (2)Nicolae Jetty Carpathia–He is the fictional antagonist in the Left Behind book series written by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins. While no one thinks Carpathia is the actual Antichrist, he is the archetype for what many believe the Antichrist would be like: a charismatic European leader who becomes the head of a global organization (usually the United Nations); (3)Nero Caesar– Many Biblical scholars believe that the number of the beast in Revelation 13:18 is a numerical reference to Emperor Nero, whose name in Greek when transliterated into Hebrew, retains the value of 666; (4) Adolph Hitler– For obvious reasons; (5)(Tie) Henry Kissinger / Mikhail Gorbachev– During the 1970s and early 1980s, Kissinger, the Secretary of State for the Nixon and Ford Administrations, topped the “Most Likely to Be the Antichrist” lists. But he was bumped in the mid-1980s when the Russian General Secretary, Mikhail Gorbachev, arrived on the world stage. As a Soviet leader he filled many of the criteria on the Antichrist template. Many people even considered that the strange birthmark on his forehead was considered an obvious sign that Gorbachev wore the “mark of the beast”; (6)Napoleon– Tsar Alexander of Russia called Napoleon the “Anti Christ and the enemy of God” because he liberated the Jews. But it was his improbable rise to power, anti-Catholic policies, and unquenchable hunger for conquest that earned the French Emperor his place on the list; (7) (Tie) Almost every American President since FDR– With the exception of Gerald Ford,every president in the past eighty-five years has landed on the Antichrist suspect list. FDR, JFK, Nixon, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, and yes, Donald Trump have all been named by various individuals and organizations. So, who is the antichrist? Obviously, most, if not all of these, are disqualified from consideration for one of two reasons: (1) They have since died– the Antichrist will be destroyed by the Lord upon His second coming; (2)the Antichrist sets himself up to be against everything that Christ is for. While those on the list still living have done some peculiar things during their time in the limelight, none have taken this kind of position, so it’s doubtful they qualify for consideration. The truth is that we don’t know who the Antichrist is, but we can identify people that John calls antichrists. These are individuals who oppose Christ. In some cases, antichrists set themselves against Jesus in respect to His priestly office, by substituting other methods of atoning for sin and finding acceptance with God;His kingly office, by claiming authority to exact laws in His church contrary to God’s laws or to dispense with His commandments altogether; or His prophetical office, by claiming authority to add to, alter, or take away from the revelation that He has given in His holy Word. As John writes this letter to the Christians living in Asia Minor, he warns that some of their teachers were promoting false doctrines based on a secret knowledgethat only they had access to and were deserving of being labeled as ‘antichrists.’
This brings us to the third vital signthat the last living apostle provides as a means for performing a spiritual check-up on anyone who claims to be a follower of Christ. The first two are “keeping God’s commandments” and “loving your Christian brothers and sisters.” Now in our text for this morning, he gives us another way to measure one’s spiritual health – Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also. To “confess” means to agree with or to say the same thing about something. In this case, a true believer is in complete agreement with the teaching of the Apostles regarding who Jesus is and what He accomplished through His life, death and resurrection. A lot of people, as you know, can sound like they are confessing Jesus. In fact, it’s pretty obvious that at times these false teachers must have been pretty convincing in their own profession of faith. That’s why John provided his readers with three ways to identify someone who is an antichrist. He wanted to provide utter clarity on how to distinguish between a real Christian and one who was only pretending.
The pretender departs from the fellowship(1 John 2:18-19 — 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). When a sinner places his trust in Jesus, he immediately becomes a forever member of the family of God and a part of His body (1 Corinthians 10:17 – We who are many are one body). Theologians refer to this as the universal churchmade up of all true believers for all time. There is also the local churchmade up of Christians living in close proximity to one another at the same time who meet for worship, service to the Lord and to do all they can to glorify God and advance His kingdom by loving others to Christ. While the universal church has no imposters in it, the local church often does. And one of the best ways to identify pretenders is by their inability to remain within the local assembly. Now, I’m not saying that a true Christian will never leave one church to begin attending another. There are many legitimate reasons to do so, as well as a few illegitimate reasons. But it seems clear that a Christian will always find a group of believers to identify with. Here’s the reason why: The word “fellowship” means to have something in common. When people are genuine followers of Jesus they share the most important thing together … their faith and trust in the Lord of the universe to save them from the penalty, power and (someday) the presence of sin. This common bond glues them to other believers and one of the most important expressions of this bond is their faithful participation in the local church. Whereas those who are merely pretending, who are imposters, have no special allegiance to the local church. That’s what John was pointing out when he said of the false teachers, “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.” If you ever take the time to investigate the cults, you will quickly discover that most were begun by people who were acquainted with the local church, but chose to leave to promote their own version of the truth. NOT SO, HOWEVER, WITH REAL CHRISTIANS. WE LOVE THE ASSEMBLY OF BELIEVERS AND TOLERATE ITS SHORT-COMINGS BECAUSE WE KNOW IT IS THE VISIBLE PRESENCE OF JESUS CHRIST IN THIS WORLD.
The pretender denies the truth about Jesus(But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and you all have knowledge. 21 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. 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. 23 No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also. 24 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. 25 And this is the promise that he made to us — eternal life). The most important question in all of Christianity is – Who is Jesus? John has already provided us with an answer by declaring that He is the Son of God who took on flesh and bone to save human beings from the wrath of God aimed directly at our sinful rebellion. The readers of this letter knew this about Jesus and were confessing the truth about Him as they were taught it by the apostles. They had received and believed the witness of those who heard, saw and touched our Lord during His earthly ministry. But the false teachers were unwilling to confess everything that John and the other apostles taught about Jesus. Specifically, they struggled with the idea that He was the Christ of God who came to deliver His people from slavery to sin. As proponents of an early form of Gnosticism, they believed that Jesus was a mere human being who was indwelt by the Christ at His baptism. Then later, just before the crucifixion, He left Jesus alone to suffer and die on the cross. Don’t miss how dangerous this teaching is to the Christian faith, especially concerning our salvation. If the Son of God did not die on the cross, then a sinful man did And while it is impossible for death to keep its hold on God’s Son – the Christ, it is the normal outcome for those who have inherited Adam’s sin nature with all its eternal consequences (Romans 5:12 — …sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned). The teaching of these pretenders was denying an essential truth upon which our salvation depends. That’s why John called them “liars and antichrists.” They were contradicting the apostles’ teaching they had received from the Lord and passed on to the church as the basis for inheriting eternal life. Illustration: Denying truth will always get you in trouble. A truck driver was driving along on the freeway. A sign came up that read, “LOW BRIDGE AHEAD – Vehicles only 13’ 9” high and less may proceed”. Even though his truck was 14’ high, he decided to give it a go. Before he knew it, his truck was stuck under the bridge. Cars were backed up for miles.
Finally, a police car pulled up. The cop got out of his car and walked around to the truck driver, put his hands on his hips and said, “Got your truck stuck, huh?” The frustrated truck driver responded, “No, I was delivering this bridge and ran out of gas.” It never pays to ignore the truth. In the 1stcentury, some false teachers did it and found themselves stuck in their lie – that Jesus was not the Christ.
The pretender tries to deceive the faithful(I write these things to you about those who are trying to deceive you. 27 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). The Bible warns us in 1 Timothy 4:1-2that in “later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such teachings,” says Paul, “come through hypocritical liars.” We should not be caught unaware by the lies that are increasingly taught about the Christian faith. Only a foolish person would accept anything someone teaches in the name of Christ without checking it out in the Bible first. It was said of the Bereans, “They were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true” (Acts 17:11). THE BEST WAY TO IDENTIFY A COUNTERFEIT IS TO KNOW THE REAL THING SO WELL, THAT ANY DEVIATION WILL BE IMMEDIATELY OBVIOIUS.
· How do real Christians persevere in the faith?They cling to the fellowship. Note what John says about true believers … they would have continued with us. Genuine believers are not the kind who pack it in and abandon the church as soon as things get difficult. They have faith to trust that God is working in and through His people and that the local church is the hub of His activity. And so, they remain and persevere. In the Parable of the Sower, Jesus mentioned a group of people represented by some seed that was sown in rocky places. It sprouted up quickly, but because it had no root, withered and died in the heat of the sun. This seed is just like the false teachers John was dealing with. They seemingly embraced the Christian life with joy, but were quick to leave it as soon as they were exposed to the light of God’s Word.
· What do real Christians believe about Jesus?They confess He is the Christ. The apostle recognized that (anyone is a) liar who denies that Jesus is the Christ…Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also. To say that Jesus is the Christ is to agree that He is the anointed one of God who was prophesied by the prophets (Isaiah and Daniel). He is the same person as “the seed of the woman” (Genesis 3:15), “the seed of Abraham” (Genesis 22:18), the “Prophet like Moses raised up by God” (Deuteronomy 18:15), “the priest after the order of Melchizedek” (Psalm 110:4), “the rod out of the stem of Jesse” (Isaiah 11:1,10), the “Immanuel,” (Isaiah 7:14) etc. He is and never has been merely a man. He is the unique God man who came to save His people from their sins.
· How do real Christians avoid being deceived? They continue in the truth. Look at the last part of verse 27: But as His anointing teaches you about everything…abide in Him. The anointing of which John writes is either the Word of God or the Spirit of God. It makes sense to me that the term would refer to both since we know that the sword of the Spirit is the Word of God. It is by rightly dividing the Word by the power of the Spirit that Christians keep from being deceived by others.
Conclusion: REAL CHRISTIANS CLING TO THE FELLOWSHIP, CONFESS THAT JESUS IS THE CHRIST AND CONTINUE IN THE TRUTH. A cover story for The Economist, an international magazine, was entitled “Yes, I’d lie to you: The post-truth world.” The article analyzed the dishonesty that’s wreaking havoc in politics, journalism, social media, and many other areas of our common life. One expert quoted in the article said, “Right now, it pays to be outrageous, but not to be truthful.” The article also highlighted one of the most effective ways to tell lies—by hiding the truth in a glut of information. China’s authorities, for instance, do not try to censor everything they do not like on social media, but often flood the networks with distracting information. Similarly, in post-coup Turkey, the number of dubious posts and tweets has increased sharply so that even their own countrymen have great difficulty discerning what is true. In America, we simply call it “fake news.” And by the way, this is a charge levied at both sides of the political spectrum. In fact, it has been used so frequently that PolitiFact, a Pulitzer-prize, fact-checking website, named “fake news” as the 2016 Lie of the Year. It’s interesting to me that when you read about who the media believes is most to blame for these outrageous lies purported as truth, it is not the politicians or social media. It is normal everyday people like you and me. They put the onus for getting rid of fake news on us, the public. It is up to us to “wade through the mess of the modern media landscape which, now more than ever, is full of trap doors and mazes without exits” (The Center for Digital Ethics and Policy – Benjamin van Loon — March 8, 2017). This is one time when I would agree with them. Lies are always going to be a part of our landscape so long as Satan, the Father of Lies, plays such a key role as the god of this age. Unless we do the hard work of fact-checking and then champion truth to everyone else, we will rightfully receive at least some of the blame for buying into and spreading deception. That’s why Christians are expected to know the truth and share it with others. Sadly, however, we’ve become glutted with falsehood and truth, good and bad doctrine, good advice and bad advice, just as believers in Asia Minor in the 1stcentury experienced. We desperately need the truth. And that comes to everyone of us through the Word of God and by the Spirit of God.