1 John 2:18-29:“Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us. But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth. I do not write to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it and because no lie comes from the truth. Who is the liar? It is whoever denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a person is the antichrist—denying the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also. As for you, see that what you have heard from the beginning remains in you. If it does, you also will remain in the Son and in the Father. And this is what he promised us—eternal life. I am writing these things to you about those who are trying to lead you astray. As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit—just as it has taught you, remain in him. And now, dear children, continue in him, so that when he appears we may be confident and unashamed before him at his coming. If you know that he is righteous, you know that everyone who does what is right has been born of him."
In comprehending this text, I would like to break the text down into two categories. There are twelve verses here, and I think they are best understood when broken down into two sections of six verses each. The first set (18-23) provides us with the admonitions of what to avoid and the second set (24-29) provides us with the conditions of how to avoid those things. Let’s first examine the admonitions set out for us verses eighteen through twenty-three. The three admonitions are: the antichrist, many antichrists, and the spirit of antichrist.
In all the admonitions given by John, there is one thing they all have in common: the same tactic and objective: the tactic is always deception and the objective is always denial that Jesus is the Christ.
With the antichrist:
Revelation 19:20 – “But the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet who had performed the signs on its behalf. With these signs he had deluded (or deceived) those who had received the mark of the beast and worshiped its image. The two of them were thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulfur.”
With many antichrists:
Matthew 7:15 – “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.”
Why do these “false prophets”, these many antichrists come?
Matthew 24:5 – “For many will come in my name, claiming, 'I am the Messiah,' and will deceive many.”
The spirit of antichrist is always deception of those who are seeking Jesus, who is the Christ. So how do we avoid these things?
I find in here three primary conditions that we must meet to steer clear of these admonitions: that is to hear from Jesus, to learn from Jesus, and to continue with Jesus. What underlies all of these things is a relationship with Jesus. How do we avoid the counterfeit – the “pseudo-Messiahs”, as the Greek calls them? We simply know the real thing! People trying to spot counterfeit money don’t study counterfeit money – they study the real bills! How do avoid becoming a victim of the spirit of antichrist? You hear from Jesus, and listen to His spirit.
Verses 24 and 25 urge us to listen to what we have heard and for that message to remain in us. If we do, we will inherit eternal life. Jesus, speaking of the Holy Spirit, says in John 16:13, “But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.” Have you been listening to the Holy Spirit as He guides you in all truth? Again – the tactics of the enemy are always the same – his spirit of antichrist will deny Christ and only speak lies for the purpose of deceiving. Listen to the Holy Spirit or else you are much more likely to be listening to the spirit of antichrist.
How do we spot the many antichrists and avoid their deception? We must learn from Jesus Christ! John tells us that his anointing teaches us all things. We must hear from the Holy Spirit, but we must also learn from Him as well. Is it possible to hear from the Holy Spirit and not to learn from Him? Scripture seems to say so, in Hebrews 3:7-8. “So, as the Holy Spirit says: "Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion, during the time of testing in the wilderness” – and what is the result of failure to listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit? – “That is why I was angry with that generation; I said, 'Their hearts are always going astray, and they have not known my ways’ (v. 10)”. Do you remember the word for “deception” referenced earlier – the very tactic of Satan? It was “to be lead aside from the right way”. This is exactly what happens we fail to learn from the Holy Spirit when we hear His voice – we make ourselves more susceptible to the many antichrists that will come and are here even now.
Lastly, how do we avoid the antichrist? We “continue in Him” – we continually hear from Him and learn from Him, and grow deeper in our relationship with Him. What is the implication in verse 28 of failing to continue in Him? It is being unsure and ashamed before Him at His return, as opposed to confident and unashamed if we continue in Him.
Imagine yourself to be one of the ones who heeds the spirit of antichrist, attaches themselves to one of the many antichrists, and then ultimately falls victim to the antichrist. Imagine standing before Jesus Christ, knowing that you let yourself be lead astray. How would you feel? I imagine I would feel extremely unsure and ashamed, at a bare minimum. Please – do not let yourself be lead astray. Commune with Jesus. Spend time with Him. Listen to His voice. Read His Word. Talk to Him in prayer. Fellowship with the Body of Christ. The tactic and goal of Satan is always the same, and the conditions to meet to avoid being lead away are to hear from Christ, listen to Him, and continue in Him – and that will never change either.
1 John 2:15-17 - “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.”
What constitutes “the world” and everything in it that we are not supposed to love? What is it that draws our attention away from God and onto ourselves and the things of this world? I would contend that the root of it all is laid out here in verse sixteen for us. These three simple things are the cause of what takes our eyes off of God and onto ourselves and the things of this world. Let’s go through them one-by-one.
The first is the lust of the flesh. The word “lust” sure carries an ugly connotation in Christian circles, and rightfully so! We so often think of this word in the context of sexual sin, but a simple word study shows us that the evil associated with this particular word goes much deeper than that. The actual definition of this word means “a desire for what is forbidden”. In what other contexts is this word used? In Romans 1, it is used to describe sexual sin. In 2 Timothy 3, this word is used to describe that which sways people and their hearts away from God. James even says, in chapter one, that once this “lust” or this “desire” conceives, that this is what results in sin. In other words, the actual manifestation of sin in one’s life has its origination in this desire for the things of this world. There are two telling statement we find in Scripture about this “lust” that touch on the subject of spiritual warfare. The first comes from Christ Himself. In John 8:44, Jesus says, “You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father's desires”. Jesus here is actually giving us the origination of this desire for the things of this world – it comes from Satan, as does all sin. Therefore, if we are seeking to serve ourselves by means of the things of this world, we are in actuality serving Satan’s agenda. However, the Christian is not to have any part of this. Paul writes to the church in Galatia, in Galatians 5:24, “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” If we are to serve Christ, we cannot do so without first crucifying our flesh and its passions and desires.
The second is the lust of the eyes. Why the differentiation between the lust of the flesh and that of the eyes? When we read of this word that is translated into English as “eyes”, it always either refers to the physical eyes or spiritual eyes (i.e. – Matthew 13:16, “Blessed are your eyes because they see…”). In fact, it is from this Greek word “ophthalmos” that we get our English word “ophthalmology”. Where does this lust begin? Think about it: what is it that makes people discontent with their own cars, houses, clothes, jewelry, etc.? It is when they see what others have. I remember hearing an interview with Bo Jackson about his youth, and how poor they were. His response was that he had no idea; he thought everyone was just as poor as they were, because poverty was all he ever saw. It is our eyes that look upon things and desire them. We are to “turn our eyes upon Jesus” and not onto ourselves and the things of this world. This is why Jesus refers to the eyes as much as He does in His earthly ministry. Here are a couple of examples:
Matthew 5:29 – “If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.”
This lust of the eyes is so often what leads people into hell, and 1 John 2:17 will highlight this fact.
Matthew 6:22-23 – “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!”
Again, Christ here highlights the fact that darkness in the body often enters in through the eyes.
The last is the pride of life. Again, this word “pride” carries with it a very negative connotation, and again, rightfully so. Do you know what the literal definition of this word “pride” is? It is “an insolent and empty assurance, which trusts in its own power and resources”. Did you catch that? It is insolent and empty – these are not good adjectives to describe someone’s life! This happens when someone begins to put their assurance in themselves, and their own power, and their own resources. This is why Jesus says, in Matthew 19:23-24, that it is hard for a rich man to enter Heaven – harder, even, than a camel getting through the eye of a needle. The more power we seek to consolidate for ourselves, and the more resources we amass for our own kingdom, the less we trust in the power, resources, and Kingdom of Jesus Christ.
Each week this blog will be updated with a word for the week from my current studies.