In the Assembly

In the New Testament, the term “antichrist” occurs only in the second and third letters of John. Moreover, the Apostle applies the plural form of the Greek noun to deceivers who were causing dissension and spreading false teachings in his congregations. The presence of “antichrists” in the Assembly constituted irrefutable evidence that the “Last Days” were underway. These troublemakers were manifestations of the “Spirit of the Antichrist,” and forerunners of the final “Antichrist” who was (and is) yet to come.

The Greek term rendered “antichrist” means “instead of Christ,” NOT “against Christ.” The force of the preposition anti is “instead of.” Certainly, the “Antichrist” is no ally of the Nazarene, but Satan’s strategy is to replace him with a “different Jesus.”

Country Church - Photo by Ruslan Valeev on Unsplash
[Photo by Ruslan Valeev on Unsplash]

Moreover, John’s reference to “
many deceivers” echoes the warning of Jesus about coming deceivers who are intent on misleading the “very elect”:

  • (2 John 7-8) – “And this is love that we should be walking according to his commandments: This is the commandment, even as you heard from the beginning that you should be walking in it. Because many deceivers have gone out into the world, they who do not confess Jesus Christ coming in flesh: This is the deceiver and the antichrist. Be taking heed to yourselves, lest you lose what things we earned.

“Beware lest anyone deceive you; for MANY will come upon my name, saying, I am the Christ, and will DECEIVE MANY… And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray… For there will arise false Christs and false prophets, and will show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.” - (Matthew 24:4-5, 11-13, 23-25).

In 1 John, the Apostle declared, “It is the Last Hour.” This refers to the same period elsewhere called the “Last Days.” Thus, the final era had commenced by the time John wrote his three epistles in the first century - (1 John 2:18-22).

The idea that believers live in the “Last Days” occurs multiple times in the New Testament, and John can point to the very deceivers in his congregations to substantiate this claim (“Even now many antichrists have come whereby we perceive that it is the last hour”) - (Matthew 24:4-5, Mark 13:5-6, Luke 21:8, 1 Timothy 4:1, 2 Timothy 3:1).

John called them “antichrists,” not because they were pagan religious teachers working outside the Assembly, but because they were false teachers active in it (“They went out from among us”). Moreover, they can be identified by their denial “that Jesus is the Christ.” THEY WERE (and are) IN THE CHURCH.

In his letters, John did not coordinate these “many antichrists” or the coming of the final “Antichrist” with the return of Jesus or other final events. His concern was with the damage such deceivers were inflicting on his congregants - (1 John 4:1-3).

THE APOSTOLIC TEACHINGS


John’s letters provide instructions on how disciples avoid deception by these “antichrists”; namely, BY ADHERING TO THE TEACHINGS OF THE APOSTLES and the believer’s knowledge of the “Son.” There is no true knowledge of God apart from Jesus, and his disciples must “test the spirits” and not take every new teaching or self-described apostle or prophet at face value - (1 John 4:1-4).

The true disciple must exercise discernment because “many false prophets” are active in and outside the Assembly, and in John’s Letter, the stress is on the term “MANY.” The activities of deceivers, false prophets, and counterfeit “Christs” have been a constant thorn in the side of the Church since its inception.

False teachers are recognizable by their denial that “Jesus Christ is come in the flesh,” meaning they reject his genuine humanity (“By this, we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error”). The “spirit” that denies this IS the “Spirit of the Antichrist,” presumably, a trait that also will characterize the final “Antichrist.”

Furthermore, THE Antichrist is “coming.” In John’s letter, this term represents the Greek verb in the progressive present verb tense. That is, it describes a process that is ongoing.

But what about the larger world outside the Church and the threat posed by this future and final “Antichrist”? In fact, the deceivers, the “antichrists,” are “of the world.” Therefore, they “speak as of the world, and the world hears them,” and the world receives their lies gladly because it is deceived. Even now, the “Spirit of the Antichrist” holds sway over all humanity apart from those men and women who belong to Jesus. The “Antichrist” will be perfectly at home among fallen humanity, and vice versa.

Country Road - Photo by Johannes Plenio on Unsplash
[Photo by Johannes Plenio on Unsplash]

In all this, John says nothing about specific “signs” that will portend the arrival of 
THE “Antichrist” or the return of Jesus “on the clouds of Heaven.” What would be the point of doing so since the “Last Hour” is already underway? His Letter’s concern is about how these deceivers impact believers, and likewise, how the Body of Christ can identify them.

This attack by deceivers has raged against believers since the beginning, and it will continue until the day the Risen Jesus arrives in power and strikes down the final great deceiver, the “Man of Lawlessness” - (2 Thessalonians 2:8-9).

Likewise, the Apostle Paul warned the Thessalonian Assembly that this “Lawless One” will only be revealed when he “seats himself IN THE SANCTUARY OF GOD,” a term he elsewhere applied to the “Body of Christ.”

If the epistles of John provide us with a reliable method for identifying the “Antichrist,” then we must look first within the Church for this creature before searching for a global political leader in the outside world as the prime candidate for this dark figure.



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