In American pop culture there is a lot made of the antichrist. In fact, Tim LaHaye (with Jerry B. Jenkins) has made quite the career out of sensationalizing the person the apostle John was talking about in 1 & 2 John. For many people, Antichrist is a shadowy political figure who rises out of the European Union who will come to power, make a treaty with Israel and the Jews, and then proceed to violate the treaty with war with and slaughter of the Jews. This is nothing short of gross misinterpretation of John and down-right Scrip-torture. It is egregious error. So who did John have in mind when he wrote about “antichrists” (note the plural) who were already in the world of the 1st century? Let’s look at 1 John 2.18-27.
18 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.
Children—different word from 2.1 (see also 2.12, 13b). Aged John’s affectionate salutation.
The last hour—actually, no definite article in Greek. Simply “a last hour.” This denotes to me that John is describing some critical period of time, not the “last days” of humanity. This does not refer to the end of the world, but to the time prior to the advancement of the kingdom of Christ which would be a troublesome and perilous time marked by “antichrists.”
Antichrist—means one who stands in place of (substitution) or one who stands against (opposition) Christ. Jesus Himself warned of this thing (see Matt 24.24), imposters and imposers. John says they are coming (lit. “comes,” present tense”).
Now many antichrists have come—Perf. Tense; they have come and remain with us. The present reality in John’s day (1st century) is that antichirsts (pl.) were there and were opposing the faith, the faithful, and the Christ. An antichrist is one who promotes antichristian doctrine.
We know that is a last hour—based on the foregoing fact that many antichrists are present.
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.
They went out from us— “They” are the antichrists of v.18. “Us” could mean the apostolic college. However, in context, “us” seems to be the body of believers collectively.
But they were not of us— “from us” and “of us” are identical in the Greek. John is clarifying that although these antichrists may have come from the congregation of believers, they were not of the same spirit or life as believers.
That is might become plain—the antichrist makes it plain he is not of the faith by departing from the faith. It is unmistakable. Their darkness is exposed.
20 But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and you all have knowledge.
But you have an anointing—these Christians had an anointing. What is this anointing? See special studies. There is a play on words in the Greek: if the false teachers are anti-christoi, the true believers are christoi, anointed ones who followed Gods anointed.
By the Holy One—who is this? Holy Spirit? No. Jesus? Yes (see Psa 16.10; Isa 12.6; 54.5; Mark 1.12; John 6.69; Acts 3.14. Jesus is the Holy One who anointed these Christians.
You all know or you know all things—there is some debate about this (Gk. Pantes v. panta). The evidence (though not overwhelming) seems to point to the former. And kept in context, John wants these Christians to know they are of God and not of the world/antichrist. Hence, because they all know they have an anointing, they know they are “of us.” Compare the all of v.19 with “you all” is this verse; as if John is trying to assure them. “The meaning cannot be that they knew all things pertaining to history, to science, to literature and to arts.” (Barnes)
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.
I write—lit. I wrote (aorist). Epistolary aorist, “I have written” meaning this epistle.
Not because you do not know the truth—this knowledge came from the anointing they had. Truth had been taught and confirmed by the apostles. By the anointing, the first century church preserved the truth in the local body.
You know it—”know” – perf. Tense; they knew and continue to know the truth. They continue to know and expose error because of the anointing.
No lie is of the truth—they have an absolute and final knowledge of the truth. The lie would be what the antichrist brings in.
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.
Who is the liar—lies find their origin in the father of lies, Satan (see John 8.44).
He who denies Jesus is the Christ—here is a monstrous lie. The truth is that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God who came in the flesh. The liar has perverted truth with a lie.
He who denies the Father and the Son—this denial is antichristian in origin. Denial is a refusal to agree with or follow some principle or truth. A refusal to accept Jesus as Christ is a denial of Jesus, but also a denial of the Father who has given his testimony concerning Jesus.
23 No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also.
No one who denies the Son has the Father—the one making it his habitual practice to refuse to acknowledge the Son (Jesus) as the Christ (cf. v.22) has God the Father abiding in them or with them.
Whoever confesses the Son has the Father—the one speaking the same word about the Son (Jesus) as the Christ (cf. Mt. 16.16) has God the Father abiding in and with them.
What grand assurance to these Christians and to us today who make the good confession!
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.
What you heard from the beginning—You is emphatic in the Greek. This first sentence is imperative. What had they heard? The apostolic doctrine—God is light, eternal life found in Jesus the Christ, Jesus is the Son of God, love one another
If…then you will abide in the Son and the Father—you remain in them, their care, their protection from the evil one (cf. 5.18). Otherwise, you will wander off into error and darkness being deceived by the liar.
25 And this is the promise that he made to us—eternal life.
The promise…eternal life—Who made the promise? God? Christ? Yes! Those who abide in the apostolic teaching have eternal life and fellowship with God. The faithfulness of God is the basis of this promise for us; He’s made promises before and kept them (Lk 24.49; Acts 1.4; 2.1)
26 I write these things to you about those who are trying to deceive you.
I write these things… These Christians have the anointing but are assailed by “every wind of doctrine.” They hear these new teachings and doubts begin to arise, perhaps even some have left the faith. John knows there are deceivers/liars/antichrists who are perverting the doctrine and so he writes what he writes about the anointing and Christ because of these deceivers and to assure these Christians they have everything they need (v.27).
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 anointing…abides in you—they’ve got it. It is present reality that they have the complete teaching of Christ and need no other instruction from these false Christs/antichrists. This is the Holy Spirit in them which teaches them. Hence, by the Spirit they can test the spirits to see if they are from God (1 John 4.1).
You have no need that anyone should teach you—Then why the epistle? V.26, deceivers were afoot. They did not, though, need the Gnostic teachers.
As his anointing teaches you about everything—this anointing keeps on teaching (present tense) all things pertaining to salvation. Again, not the combustion engine here, but salvific matters. It has taught them and continues to teach them what they need for salvation.
It is true, and is no lie—as opposed to the false teachers, the Gnostics running around with their special revelation.
Abide in him—here is the message from the beginning that was taught them by the word of God and the anointing of the Holy Spirit on apostles, prophets, teachers, etc.