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TEXT: I John 2:18-27
SUBJECT: The Last Things #4: The Antichrist
This afternoon, with the Lord's blessing, we'll get back to our once-a-month study of Eschatology or the Doctrine of Last Things. End time prophecies have long fascinated God's People, but our interest in them has not always been good for us. If you want to study the Last Things without becoming a heretic or a fool, you must major on the majors, minor on the minors, and speculate on nothing!
Thus far, we've examined three topics: the Last Days, the Rapture, and the Tribulation. Today, we'll lave a look-see at the Antichrist--who he is, when he will come, and what to do about him.
If you listen to Christian radio or read popular books on prophecy, you might think the Antichrist is found on nearly every page of the Bible. He is Daniel's Little Horn and Ezekiel's Gog and Magog. The Antichrist is Paul's Man of Sin and the Beast of Revelation. The young Arthur W. Pink even found the Antichrist in the story of Nimrod and the Tower of Babel!
If this were true, a thousand sermons couldn't summarize the Bible's teaching on Antichrist-no less one sermon! But it's not true. In fact, the Antichrist is found in only two books of the Bible. And, to my way of thinking, no more than 21 verses are spent on him. The books are I and II John. The verses I read a few minutes ago make up nearly half of what we can know about him. We'll look at them in some detail and the other verses more quickly.
THE MAIN EXPOSITION
The Greeting, v.18a
John begins with a term of fatherly affection. "Little children" he calls them. John is no longer with them in body, but his soul is still attached to them. Just as parents love their kids, wherever they are, so the old Apostle cares about his offspring in the Lord.
The believers he's writing to are far from perfect, but John doesn't scold them. He overlooks their faults and reminds them of how much they mean to him.
The Time, v.v.18b
He's got a message for his beloved children: "it is the last hour".
He doesn't mean they're in the final sixty minutes of history, of course, but in the last age, with no ages to follow (except eternity). Because John wrote in the First Century, this means: The Last Hour (or last days or the end times) did not begin with the founding of Israel in 1948 or with any other recent event in the world or the Church. The Last Days were already underway by the time John wrote his Epistle.
This is plainly what the New Testament teaches. The opening verse of Hebrews identifies the last days with the first coming of Christ. Hebrews 9:26 says the crucifixion occurred at the end of the world. This is how John thinks of the End Times-not a few years in our lifetime or an era still future to us, but the whole time period between the First and Second Comings of Christ.
He wants his friends to know where they are on the prophetic calendar. They are at the end of it-and so are we.
The Proof, v.18c
How does he know the last hour has come? Because many antichrists have shown up. His reasoning is simple: (1) The Antichrist will come at the end of the world, (2) Antichrists have come, (3) therefore, it is the end of the world.
The Question, v.18
But wait a minute: Antichrist is singular (or one) and antichrists is plural (or more than one). The New King James Bible capitalizes the first and leaves the second in lower case letters. The editors believe The Antichrist is someone other than the antichrists who were already in the world. He's an Antichrist to come.
They're not alone. Many fine scholars and popular preachers agree with them. But I don't. I think John's readers were a little fuzzy on the coming of Antichrist and the Apostle cleared up their thinking. You can't blame them for being mudled. After all, they didn't have a complete Bible and they depended a good deal on word-of-mouth. I suspect someone heard John's teaching on Antichrist, and took it to mean one single man. But that isn't what John meant! He used the word, Antichrist, generically, as we may use the word, Man, to refer to any man or every man-and not just one man in particular.
Here's why I think this way:
To my way of thinking, this means there is no one single Antichrist, but many of them in every age! The world was full of Antichrists in the First Century and now, 2000 year later, they're still coming out of the woodwork!
The Character, vv.19-23, 26
What kind of man is the Antichrist? Or, how can you tell an antichrist when you see one?
When I was a boy, I was told to look for a great dictator with a tattoo on his hand and a scar on his head. That's what the Antichrist will look like. But John says otherwise. The Antichrist:
In summary: The Antichrist is not a dictator with a 666 on his hand or a bullet wound in his head. He's an apostate and a heretic. He used to profess his faith in Christ, but now he doesn't. But he hasn't merely gone back into the world (and others have), but he still thinks of himself as a Christian, but the Jesus he believes in and preaches is not the real Jesus-not the Christ John, Peter, and the others heard, saw, and handled.
The Response, vv.21ff.
What do we do with the Antichrist? How to you overcome his power and cunning?
In the first place, you resist the Antichrist by knowing the truth, vv.21-22,
"I have not written to you because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and that no lie is of the truth. Who is a liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist who denies the Father and the Son".
Being nice is nice, but you don't see through the Antichrist by being nice. You can spot his heresy and stand up to it only if you know the truth. You can only know the truth by reading the Bible, praying, listening to good teachers, avoiding bad teachers, thinking hard, and discussing the Word with fellow believers.
In the second place, you resist the Antichrist by focusing on the Gospel, v.24,
"Therefore let that abide in you which you heard from the beginning".
John's people began their Christian life with the Gospel. As long as it remains central to their thinking and life, they will not be drawn away into error and ruination. But that's the one thing the Antichrist can't tolerate-the Gospel! He wants to get us off on other matters, on fine points of the Law, on endless genealogies, on bizarre speculations about the Second Coming of Christ. Once he has got your mind on these things, the Gospel begins to slip away from you, and when it does, you open yourself up to heresy.
But John says let that abide in you which you heard from the beginning. And what they heard from the beginning is spelled out in the first verse of the Epistle,
"That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, which our hands have handled, concerning the word of life."
What John saw, heard, and handled, he preached to these people. And that is Christ! Stay on Christ and you'll stay off heresy.
In the third place, you resist the Antichrist by recalling the importance of doctrine, vv.23-25,
"Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father.If what you heard abides in you, you also will abide in the Son and in the Father. And this is the promise that He has promised us-eternal life".
Today, we're told it doesn't matter what you believe as long as you're sweet and sincere. But John says what you believe does matter. If you deny the doctrine of Christ, you lose God! If the Gospel abides in you, you abide in Christ and go to heaven when you die! But if the Gospel doesn't abide in you, you don't abide in Christ and won't go to heaven.
Doctrine is a matter of life and death-eternal life and death. If you believed that, you'd study, pray, and think harder than you do.
In the fourth place, you resist the Antichrist by trusting the Holy Spirit, vv.20,27,
"But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you know all things.But the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you; but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will abide in Him".
The anointing is the Holy Spirit who is given to everyone who believes in Christ. The Spirit is given to us-not only make us holy-but to make us wise and knowledgeable. His work does not make teachers unnecessary, but it gives us a healthy independence from them. Of course men help us to understand God's Word, and we should be thankful for them. But because every believer has the Spirit, he doesn't depend on any man-not the pastor, not the author, not the scholar, not the man on the radio. He can read the Bible for himself; he can think for himself; and he can know the truth for himself.
Antichrist takes people away from the Lord and the church by drawing them to himself and making them hang on his every word! But believers don't have to follow men because they have God in their souls!
To sum it up, you resist the Antichrist by knowing the truth, focusing on the Gospel, recalling the importance of doctrine, and trusting the Holy Spirit.
Remember, please: the verses are not addressed to pastors or scholars or other gifted men, but to all believers. Most people in the First Century couldn't even read and there were hardly any books to read if they could. Yet John so believed in the power of God in His people that he expected them to stand up to the Antichrist and to overcome him.
This is the main Bible passage on the Antichrist, and so we have taken a good deal of time on it. There are two other passages, however, that we touch on lightly. I cannot expound them at the moment, but I'll simply read them and we'll see what they say about the Antichrist.
The first is I John 4:1-6,
"Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world. You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world. They are of the world. Therefore, they speak as of the world, and the world hears them. We are of God. He know knows God hears us; he who is not of God does not hear us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error".
In those days, the gift of prophecy was still alive in the Church. People would speak "by the Spirit". Some, "speaking by the Spirit" would deny Christ. John says, they're speaking by the spirit all right-but it's the spirit of antichrist! The Spirit of Christ confesses the Lord Jesus as He is. The Spirit of antichrist denies the true Christ and affirms a Jesus that did not come in the flesh.
This wicked spirit was active in the First Century and giving utterance to the servants of Antichrist. They sought to draw believers away from the truth, but John says, `Compare what the prophets say to what I and the other Apostles say'. If they agree with the Apostles, they're speaking from God's Spirit; if they don't, they're speaking from the spirit of Antichrist.
John says nothing about an Antichrist coming centuries later, reviving the Roman Empire, persecuting the Jews, and so on. The Antichrist is not a dictator, but a heretic. He doesn't command armies; he misinterprets the Bible.
There is one more reference to Antichrist in the Bible, II John 7-11,
"For many deceivers have gone out into the world who do not confess Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an Antichrist. Look to yourselves, that we do not lose the things we worked for, but that we may receive a full reward. Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into your house nor greet him; for he who greets him shares in his evil deeds".
A lot of interesting things here! But, on the subject of Antichrist, it says: He is a deceiver who does not have God and we shouldn't greet him as a brother in Christ or help him in his work.
Who is the Antichrist? He is a false teacher, a man who claims to be a Christian, but denies the Jesus of the Bible and tries to get others to follow him in his heresy.
When will the Antichrist appear and how long will he be here? He came in the First Century and he will be in the world until the Lord returns in glory.
How do resist the Antichrist? By knowing, loving, and confessing the Gospel.
If this is what the Bible teaches about the Antichrist, why have we heard so many other things about him? Why do we think of him as a Great Dictator? Why did good men who studied their Bibles say Napoleon was the Antichrist? Or Kaiser Wilhelm? Or Benito Mussolini? Or Adolf Hitler? Or Josef Stalin? Maybe the Christians in Iraq think George W. Bush is the Antichrist!
Men possessed by the spirit of Antichrist don't know the truth and wouldn't preach it if they did. But what about God-fearing men? Why have they gotten it so wrong so long?
I can tell you why. They confuse words that sound alike with ideas that are alike. If the Antichrist is the enemy of God and the Man of Sin is the enemy of God and the Beast is the enemy of God and the False Prophet is the enemy of God and the Little Horn is the enemy of God then.the Antichrist, the Man of Sin, the Beast, the False Prophet, and the Little Horn are all the same man!
Who killed the Lord? Pontius Pilate, King Herod, Caiaphas, Annas, Judas Iscariot, the Roman soldiers, the Centurion, and the mob. Are Judas and Pilate the same man? Is Herod another name for Annas? They were all enemies of the Lord, but they were different persons.
A concordance is like the law, "Good, if it is used lawfully". But comparing a word in Revelation to a word in Daniel to a word in Matthew to a word in I John is no way to study the Bible or to find the truth!
Read the Bible in context, get the flow of thought, understand one passage before you go on to another. That's the way to keep your doctrine straight and your heart in the truth.
ONE LAST THING
Thank the Lord for saving you from the power and the cunning wisdom of Antichrist. You are no smarter than the Jehovah's Witness and I am no holier than the Mormon. But the Lord has delivered us from these Antichristian errors. We ought to praise Him for it.
Witness to people under the power of Antichrist. His hold on them may be tight, but God can break it. Let Him use you to do it.
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