3/01/21 – 1 John 2:18 – “antichrists”
The term “antichrist” in this passage can be misleading for some so we’ll look at this term in detail before moving onto the rest of the passage next time. If all Scripture is given for our benefit (2 Timothy 3:16-17), then John’s use of “antichrist” must in some way be relevant to our situation today. So what does John actually mean when he uses this term?
1 John 2:18 – Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time.
Little children – paidion (young child) Same as used for “little children” in 1 John 2:13, and could refer to the same group: immature Christians. It could, though, simply refer to people who are younger in age, seeing as John was probably old by now, but it’s more likely to refer to those who were more immature spiritually. It could refer to the readers as those who have a need to learn from the teacher (John), but then, why not use the term John has used before for this: teknion (which can also mean “little children” but more for students before the teacher.
Note that paidion is translated “children” in John 21:4-5 – 4But when the morning was now come, Jesus stood on the shore: but the disciples knew not that it was Jesus. 5Then Jesus saith unto them, Children, have ye any meat? They answered him, No.
the last – eschatos [last (in time or place, in a series, in temporal succession); the uttermost part; lowest; point of time; moment] We get our words “eschatology” and “eschatological” from this term.
time – hora (hour; time; season; the daytime; a twelfth part of the day, an hour) We get our word “hour” from this term.
the last time (used twice) – or “the last hour”, “the final hour” or “the final moment in time” or “the end-time”. There are 2 Greek words here: eschatos + hora.
Jude uses a similar phrase to describe the ungodly end-times yet to come.
Jude 1:18 – How that they told you there should be mockers in the last (eschatos) time (chronos) (or “end-times”), who should walk after their own ungodly lusts.
In biblical eschatology, our spiritual period from the time of Christ on earth, His death and resurrection, is often referred to as the final period before Christ the Messiah returns.
Hebrews 1:2a – Hath in these last (eschatos) days (hemera) (or “final days”) spoken unto us by [his] Son
That is, the last days/hour/times can refer to the period we date as A.D. or anno Domini, the year of the Lord. (Full term: “anno Domini nostri Jesu Christi”)
John says that it is the last times (“the last hour” or “the end-time”) and as they must have heard that antichrist should come (in that last hour), then the current proliferation of antichrists (“many”) in John’s time must surely demonstrate this to be the last hour. John is apparently connecting the presence of antichrist with the last “hour” of time on earth as we know it. That is, the end-times means the coming or imminent appearance of antichrist, and many antichrists already here supports this thinking.
Noting that the first “antichrist” is singular, it is possible that John is saying that the antichrist (of the Great Tribulation) is coming because these are end-times now. This, he says, is supported by many antichrists already present in the world even in John’s day. False Christs would generally appear after Christ’s time on earth, some taking advantage of Jesus saying that He would return (John 14:3; also see Acts 1:11 and Revelation 1:7). And, as the end-times approach, there would be more and more false Christs appearing (Matthew 24:21-24).
antichrist/antichrists – antichristos (the opposite of Christ the Messiah; the adversary of the Messiah) antichristos is used 5 times in the NT (4 times in 1 John and 1 time in 2 John). The term is not used anywhere else in the NT, even in Revelation.
antichrist = 1/. The great enemy of Christ expected by the early Church and historically by many branches of Christianity to rise to power in the last days before the Second Coming. 2/. One who actively denies or opposes Christianity. 3/. A false Christ. (freedictionary.com)
The antichrist is usually assumed to be the man of sin who will be used by satan to attempt to claim world dominion in the final 7-year period (often referred to as the tribulation period) before the 2nd coming of Christ the Messiah. John’s first use of “antichrist” here does appear to refer to this person. However, the coming tribulation antichrist is never directly referred to as such in the Bible. Instead he is called “that man of sin” and “the son of perdition” ……
2 Thessalonians 2:1-4 – 1Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and [by] our gathering together unto him, 2That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand. 3Let no man deceive you by any means: for [that day shall not come], except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; 4Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God.
….. and called the “beast” many times in Revelation.
But John isn’t talking about just the one antichrist though; he also uses the term “antichrists”. However, note that an antichrist could be anyone who actively opposes Christ and His teachings, or any person who sets himself up as a false Christ or Messiah. Jesus said that false Christs (plural) would arise in the end-times, especially during the Great Tribulation.
Matthew 24:21-24 – 21For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. 22And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened. 23Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here [is] Christ, or there; believe [it] not. 24For there shall arise false Christs (pseudochristos), and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if [it were] possible, they shall deceive the very elect.
The Bible uses a number of terms to describe those who teach heresies.
1/. False teachers (pseudodidaskalos) 2 Peter 2:1 – But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers (pseudodidaskalos) among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. (where didaskalos = “teacher” and pseudo = “false”)
False teachers are those who teach as ones who belong to the church, yet teach false doctrines. The legalistic Jews of Galatia demanding circumcision for the Gentile Christians would be an example of false teachers. They were probably members of the church and were also probably accepted as Christians. They might not necessarily have openly opposed Christ Himself and so may not have been included in the term “antichrists”.
A teacher was supposed to know the Scriptures and to interpret them correctly. He didn’t necessarily invent new Scripture but simply gave his opinion of Scripture as it already existed. A false teacher misinterpreted Scripture to produce false doctrines. It is unlikely that John was referring to false teachers as antichrists.
2/. False prophets (pseudoprophetes) Matthew 24:11 – And many false prophets (pseudoprophetes) shall rise, and shall deceive many. (where prophetes = “prophet”)
A prophet was someone who spoke on behalf of God. They were required to speak God’s word to the people. We think of a prophet foretelling the future, yet a prophet didn’t always tell the future but could also tell the people what they needed to know of God’s will at that time. Prophecy wasn’t always to do with the future but could also deal with the present.
A prophet was supposed to have a revelation from God that wasn’t necessarily already in their Scripture. The Bible was the result of prophecy (God speaking to man through His mouthpieces, or the Holy Spirit moving people to write). 2 Peter 1:21 – For the prophecy (propheteia) came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake [as they were] moved by the Holy Ghost.
A false prophet therefore claimed to have been given a special revelation from God but in actual fact had not! The test for a prophet was that if the prophecy were true, the prophet was likewise true, but if the prophecy were false, then the prophet himself was likewise false, and was to be put to death.
Deuteronomy 18:20-22 – 20But the prophet, which shall presume to speak a word in my name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or that shall speak in the name of other gods, even that prophet shall die. 21And if thou say in thine heart, How shall we know the word which the Lord hath not spoken? 22When a prophet speaketh in the name of the Lord, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that [is] the thing which the Lord hath not spoken, [but] the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously: thou shalt not be afraid of him.
A false prophet spoke lies that opposed God’s truth. He claimed a revelation that was not from God (while claiming that it was indeed God’s word). He was not just misinterpreting Scripture to support a false doctrine, but was inventing false Scripture to support his lies. In doing so (in NT times), he would have opposed the revelation that Jesus brought to mankind, and therefore would have opposed Jesus Himself. As such, he has to be considered as a person who was opposed to Christ and therefore an antichrist.
There are many false prophets in the church today. I have heard some get up and “prophesy” that there will be a great movement of the Spirit bringing a great revival in the days ahead. They usually base it upon verses that teach of early and latter rain (James 5:7; Deuteronomy 11:14) where the latter rain is said to refer to this outpouring of the Spirit before the end.
Many have even said it will happen within a certain time frame in the near future. This particular prophecy referring to a great outpouring of the Spirit in the end-times is fairly common in pentecostal doctrine. Apart from the fact that the Bible actually teaches a falling away (apostasia = apostasy) before the antichrist of the Great Tribulation will be revealed (see 2 Thessalonians 2:3), this false prophecy has to deny any prophecy to do with God’s judgments on the earth during the 7 years immediately prior to the second coming of Christ the Messiah. It also denies any truth in Israel returning as a nation to God during that final 7-year period, and instead prophesies that the church itself will be blessed with world-wide revival which then culminates in Christ’s return to reign a thousand years with the revived and purified church. (Israel usually fails to get a mention in this alleged “revelation” supposedly from God.)
A major evidence used by churches to demonstrate the alleged “truth” of this last-days outpouring of the Spirit is the abundance of spiritual manifestations (such as tongues, slaying in the spirit, “miraculous healing as demanded by their “prophets”, “holy” laughter, etc) in churches.
John warned them about such false prophets and their false spirits.
1 John 4:1 – Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets (pseudoprophetes) are gone out into the world.
The truth of any prophecy must be assessed ultimately by whether or not it comes to pass as prophesied. Over the years there has not been one of these prophecies of the great outpouring of the Spirit fulfilled as they have claimed. And, those who prophesy occurrences which do not come to pass are false prophets. Those who preach such “revelations” may be antichrists opposing the actual return of Christ Himself to reign in Jerusalem with His people, Israel (who will return to God as His people only after the church has been “raptured” from the earth).
Of course, there are many who blindly believe their leaders and their “prophecies” and parrot them off without ever realising that they are not scriptural. Such people are not necessarily antichrists. Many of these may merely be enthusiastic yet misled Christians who should not preach false prophecies made by false prophets whom John would describe as antichrists. Such naïve people who parrot off the false revelations of their leaders may not be intending to oppose the true revelation of Christ and therefore are not likely to be antichrists. However, they should be very careful to discern the lies of these false prophets.
There are others who deliberately teach lies as truth and directly oppose the Scriptures. For example, Ellen White was declared the prophetess of the SDAs, yet many of her “prophecies” (revelations) are false, even opposing the gospel of Christ. The SDA gospel is obedience to the law without which salvation is impossible; this is truly false prophecy and therefore Ellen White has to be declared in opposition to Christ, and therefore an antichrist. John may have been talking about some such as Ellen White who used false prophecy to usurp Christ’s position as the spiritual head of the Church. In the SDA church Ellen White’s prophecies overrule scriptural truth.
3/. False Christs (pseudochristos) Mark 13:22 – For false Christs (pseudochristos) and false prophets shall rise, and shall shew signs and wonders, to seduce, if [it were] possible, even the elect.
These are those who actually declare their new revelation (from their “god”, no doubt, but claimed to be from the one true God) to be the replacement or updated version of the revelation of Christ. Such false prophets effectively declare (either implicitly or explicitly) their revelation to be superior to that of Christ. Just as Christ’s priesthood of the new covenant (after the order of Melchizedek) was better than the priesthood of the old Aaronic covenant (see the epistle to the Hebrews), the new “revelation” of these false prophets is “better” than the revelation of Jesus Christ. Some actually declare themselves to be the Christ (thereby teaching or implying that the Christ of the Bible was a false Christ). Others declare themselves to be the new Christ, or even the returned Christ. John certainly would have included false Christs as “antichrists”.
4/. False Messiahs While “false Messiahs” is not a NT term, it is possible that John was thinking of such as well when he used the term antichrists. A false Messiah is one who claims to be the redeemer of his people, whether they be Israel, the Church, or even a cult group. John would have also included false Messiahs as “antichrists”.
“many antichrists” here in 1 John could simply refer to those who would oppose Christ and His teachings. John may have had the Gnostic Nicolaitans in mind when he used this term, people who opposed and even replaced the true gospel and teachings of Jesus Christ, thus “antichrist”. Such people often claimed to be true followers of Christ, yet taught lies that would ensnare their followers.
Some of them taught that Jesus only rose in spirit and not in the flesh (JWs teach this heresy today.) This gave rise to John’s following warnings further on in 1 John, and again in 2 John.
1 John 4:3 – And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that [spirit] of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world.
2 John 1:7 – For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist.
There were also those who accepted that God the Father was indeed God but denied godhood to the Son and the Holy Spirit (a heresy that such as unitarians – Eg JWs – teach today). Those who denied the godhood of Christ were declared by John to be antichrists.
1 John 2:22 – Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son.
Of course, “many antichrists” (1 John 2:18) could refer to those who claimed to be their Messiah, spiritual leaders who promised to lead their followers into enlightenment. (Such “enlightenment” is usually associated with the teachings of the satanic New Age and the occult, or Hindu and Buddhist belief systems which gave rise to much of the Gnostic teachings. One only has to look at a multitude of websites today to see a plethora of false teachings out there, pushed by those who boldly claim that they are the only true way of “salvation” or “enlightenment” or “transcendence” or whatever term they use to describe their personal “nirvana”, “utopia” or “Shangri-la”.
Helen Blavatsky (who declared herself to be a spirit medium) was one such person who promised her followers such enlightenment through her Theosophical Society which she co-founded in 1875.
“theosophy” means “divine wisdom” or “the wisdom of God”. Theosophy was an esoteric belief system which permitted lesser followers to have less wisdom, and non-members a lack of true wisdom or higher knowledge. Only those initiated into the Theosophical Society could know the wisdom of God (or of the gods). This has been the lie of satan throughout the ages, and Blavatsky’s god was not the true God, however, but satan, the master of esoteric belief systems. Esoteric knowledge is a tool used by satan to control his slaves.
Some examples of antichrists and their belief systems.
Anyone who claimed to be the Messiah before the end came with the second coming of Christ would be a false Christ. Even in John’s day there were those who claimed to be God’s appointed messenger or even the Christ or Messiah. For example, there was a Samaritan false Christ named Dositheos (1st century AD), a Samaritan. He was a Mandaeanist. Encyclopedia Britannica says: “Mandaeanism, (from Mandaean mandayya, “having knowledge”), ancient Middle Eastern religion still surviving in Iraq and Khuzistan (southwest Iran). The religion is usually treated as a Gnostic sect; it resembles Manichaeism in some respects.” It is generally accepted that it probably commenced in the 1st century AD and that Dositheos may have been a founder. Note that Augustine (whom Calvin revered) belonged to the similar Manichean Gnostic sect.
Dositheos taught that he was the promised Messiah (using Deuteronomy 18:15) and is said to have known John the Baptist. One of the important Mandaean texts was “The Book of John” which was about John the Baptist. “The Mandaeans viewed Jesus as a false messiah but revered John the Baptist, who performed miracles of healing through baptism, which the Mandaeans viewed as a magical process giving immortality, purification, and physical health.” (Britannica)
John the Baptist is often claimed by false religions to be superior to Christ Himself.
Dositheos is also said to have been involved with Simon Magus (Acts 8:9-24), possibly as a teacher or a rival. Simon Magus may have been a false Christ.
“Simon Magus, also known as Simon the Sorcerer or Simon the Magician, was a religious figure whose confrontation with Peter is recorded in Acts 8:9–24. The act of simony, or paying for position and influence in the church, is named after Simon.
According to Acts, Simon was a Samaritan magus or religious figure of the 1st century AD and a convert to Christianity, baptised by Philip the Evangelist.” (Wikipedia)
Note that the Mormon belief system is based upon the revelation that Joseph Smith claims was written on golden plates that he “discovered” with the help of the angel Moroni, and interpreted using special glasses that no-one else was able to use. Smith’s “translation” of these plates was allegedly recorded in the book of Mormon.
In 1829 Smith was supposedly given authority to act as God’s Aaronic priest by John the Baptist laying hands on him. Afterwards, James, Peter and John appeared and gave him the authority of a priest of Melchizedek. With this priestly authority, Smith founded the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Fayette, New York State on 6 April 1830. Thus the Mormon church is based upon an alleged new revelation from God (via Joseph Smith) which effectively overrules the revelation of Jesus Christ.
In the past 60 years the number of people claiming to be God, Christ, Messiah etc has increased exponentially. This includes such as Jim Jones who, on 18th November, 1978, after promising utopia for his followers and proclaiming himself to be their messiah, led more than 900 to commit suicide at Jonestown, Guyana. Adolph Hitler developed a Messiah complex for himself as the one who would lead the world into a new age of ethnic cleansing; Hitler was a major hero of Jones.
Another “messiah” (Applewhite) led his followers (of Heaven’s Gate) into suicide on 26th March 1997. The 39 bodies were found lying dead in their beds near San Diego, California. They all had a $5 note, several quarters, and a tube of lip balm in their pockets and a packed suitcase, and had believed that they were to go through heaven’s gate via the Hale-Bopp comet. Of course they had to take poison and die in order to be “saved”. Their beliefs have been described as Gnostic inspired Sci-fi Millenarianism. It is quite interesting that so many of these false belief systems, such as Gnostics and the Mandaeans, were based on the attainment of a higher knowledge in order to achieve a type of godhood (transcendence).
In fact, so much of false religion is based upon the temptation to know the forbidden knowledge. This goes right back to Adam and Eve who were seduced by the promise to know the things that only God was permitted to know. Much of this “knowledge” is also only promised to those who “belong” or are initiated into the secrets of the knowledge system. This is described as esoteric knowledge; esoteric knowledge is a hallmark of satanic belief systems.
A common feature of all false Messiahs and false Christs is that they claim to be the only reliable source of the higher knowledge necessary for true salvation. This is similar to a major criterion of all cults whereby they teach that there is no salvation outside their belief system. Thus they claim exclusivity of salvation. While the Bible clearly teaches that Christ is the only way to God the Father (John 14:6), false Messiahs and false Christs (and cults) teach that they are the only way to God (but really their god who is satan). They all claim that only they (and none others) have access to the necessary (higher) knowledge that others outside their group cannot have. And, so that the more common members of a group may be kept in their places, only those who are higher up in the group may have access to the higher knowledge. Ultimately, only those who lead the group (generally the false Messiah or false Christ) may have access to the complete (or highest) knowledge available. This type of knowledge is described as “esoteric”. Esoteric knowledge is used to control the behaviour of lesser members of a group and to prevent non-members from proving them wrong. That is, in order to win the debate, a cult member only has to claim that he or she is in possession of special knowledge that only those initiated into the belief system may know. Such “special and exclusive” knowledge is often used to make cult members “superior” to all non-members, a type of knowledge “elite”. (It is worth noting that “election”, “elect”, “elite” and “eligible” all derive from the same word.)
thefreedictionary.com describes “esoteric” as “restricted to or intended for an enlightened or initiated minority” The catholic church is a very good example of esoteric knowledge. For many hundreds of years it restricted its major learnings to the initiated priesthood; no-one else was permitted to read the Bible for themselves. Another example of esoteric knowledge is found in freemasonry which permits knowledge to incrementally increase as a member progresses up through the degrees.
Benjamin Crème is another modern antichrist, preaching a coming false Christ/Messiah. “He asserted that the second coming, prophesied by many religions, would come in the form of Maitreya, the World Teacher. Maitreya is the name Buddhists use for the future Buddha, but Creme claimed that Maitreya is the teacher that all religions point towards and hope for. Other names for him, according to Creme, are the Christ, the Imam Mahdi, Krishna, and the Messiah. Creme claimed Maitreya is the "Avatar for the Aquarian Age", is omniscient and omnipresent.” (Wikipedia)
Ann Lee was another false Messiah/false Christ who considered that she was Christ’s female equivalent.
“Ann Lee (29 February 1736 – 8 September 1784), commonly known as Mother Ann Lee, was the founding leader of the United Society of Believers in Christ's Second Appearing, or the Shakers. …. They worshiped by ecstatic dancing or "shaking", which resulted in them being dubbed the Shakers.”
(The Shakers were originally known as the Shaking Quakers.)
She “thought she "embodied all the perfections of God" in female form and considered herself to be Christ’s female counterpart in 1772.” (Wikipedia)
As can be seen, many false Christs/Messiahs are associated with Gnostic-type beliefs which focus upon the gaining of true or complete (or higher) knowledge in order to gain salvation. Gnosticism (which taught that the soul can transcend material existence by means of esoteric knowledge) is largely derived from Hindu and Buddhist beliefs which play a large part in many of these false messiah religions. Many teach physical death as merely the doorway to the eternal enlightenment, an idea associated with reincarnation in a better world. It is this forbidden knowledge (without which one may not be saved) that is only permitted to the initiated member that entices so strongly.
Another well-known modern false Christ/Messiah was “Sun Myung Moon (1920–2012), founder and leader of the Unification Church established in Seoul, South Korea, who considered himself the Second Coming of Christ, but not Jesus himself. Although it is generally believed by Unification Church members ("Moonies") that he was the Messiah and the Second Coming of Christ and was anointed to fulfill Jesus' unfinished mission.” (Wikipedia)
And the list just goes on and on, every one of them claiming revelation from God that no-one else may have access to except through them. They are the false Christs and Messiahs of the world, leading their followers to hell. They are antichrists. Jesus may have had these in mind when He said that as the Great Tribulation approached, false Christs would arise. He also said that these false Christs might even deceive the very elect with signs and wonders (Matthew 24:24) which suggests that their actions would appear miraculous to their followers, and that even God’s elect (genuine Christians) might think that such a false movement or religious group could be of God because of its spiritual manifestations. Keep in mind that satan and his demons are quite capable of producing spiritual manifestations that seem miraculous to man. Much of what is claimed as works of the Holy Spirit in pentecostal churches is actually the work of evil spirits. It is blasphemy to ascribe rude and crude activities (such as evidenced in the Toronto “Blessing”) to the Holy Spirit.
Many churches claim to have biblical doctrines, yet the Bible does not support them. Just because verses are quoted doesn’t mean that those verses are actually relevant. Quite often you may be left wondering just what the quoted verses have to do with the actual doctrine claimed. If the quoted verses do not seem to be saying what the church doctrine claims, then you should suspect that the verse is a smoke-screen covering up the truth with lies.
Therefore always check all things against the truth of the Bible (Acts 17:11).
Do not accept anything blindly; test all things (1 Thessalonians 5:21).
Be a good student of the Bible. 2 Timothy 2:15 – Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.