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. 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. 20 But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and you all have knowledge. 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. 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. 23 No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also. 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. 25 And this is the promise that he made to us—eternal life.
26 I write these things to you about those who are trying to deceive you. 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. 1 John 2:18=27
I hope this week’s devotion finds you warm in the midst of all this…winter. I remember the ice storms that hit Mississippi in 1994 and Christmas 1998. I remember that it was cold – and sometimes dark. And I also remember that everything eventually thawed out and got back to whatever normal is. In the midst of ever-changing weather patterns and virtual work and school, I am thankful for the Word of God that will remain forever (Isaiah 40:8) and that the God it proclaims will never change (James 1:17).
The Word of God contains everything that can be known about God. It is “breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). It discerns “the thoughts and intentions of the heart”, laying our motivations and the truth of our allegiances – everything we may want to hide from Him – bare before God (Hebrews 4:12-13). And it is in the Word that we find Life and salvation (Psalm 119:25, Ephesians 2:4-5, John 3:16-17, Romans 10:17).
This week’s passage draws on all of that. It is in this section that John begins to discuss the issues that were plaguing his original audience and their churches, and it is easily seen that the same issues attack us and our churches today. To study this, we are going to break the passage up into three parts and study them over the coming weeks: 1) the difference between the Church and its attackers (vv. 18-21), 2) the qualities and effects of the attack (vv. 22-23), and 3) the protection that those in Christ already possess to stand against the attacks (vv. 24-27).
In today’s section, we see that John uses specific language to describe the Church. He calls them “children” (v. 18) – used other places in 1 John as a term of love – to remind of the fact that they have been adopted through salvation into the family of God (Galatians 4:5, Titus 3:6, Romans 8:15). He describes them as having continued in faith to the end (v. 19). He reminds them that they have been “anointed by the Holy One” and possess “knowledge” that comes from Him through His Spirit (v. 20). And, finally, he reminds them of what he has already said in this letter about the truth and what it means to walk in it (v. 21).
On the other hand, he describes those who attack the Church as antichrists. I want to briefly pause here and talk about the word antichrist. It is one of the few words that, rather than translating, just has English letters replace the original Greek ones (ἀντίχριστος – antichristos – antichrist). It literally means “against Christ” or “in place of Christ”. It shows up in the Old Testament (Daniel 7-8; 9:26-27; 11; Zechariah 11:16-17) and the New (1 John 2:18, 22; 4:3; 2 John 7; cf. Matthew 24:15-25; 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12; Revelation 6:2; 16:13; 19:20).
Several of the references listed above refer to the Antichrist who, based on the prophecies of Daniel, will be a “human leader, satanically energized, who will come to Jerusalem, enforce his will, exalt himself above all other people and gods, and wreak havoc and slaughter”. While the Antichrist is a real figure prophesied in Scripture, we should note that 1) King Jesus’ victory has already been recorded (Revelation 19), and 2) he is not who John is talking about here.
The antichrists that John talks about here are those whose message is anti-Christ and anti-gospel. These are figures who come into the church and distort the gospel from within. They are pretenders. They make believe that they are part of the church and seek to tear it down from the inside. They are similar to the “false christs” and “false prophets” that Jesus warned about in Matthew 24:24 and Mark 13:22. Their goal is to use any means at their disposal, even demonic “signs and wonders”, to “lead astray” as many as they can – if possible, even those who are saved and know the truth. The specific message of the antichrists attacking the church in 1 John was related to denying that “Jesus is the Christ” (v. 22); they were preaching and proclaiming a different/false gospel.
Rather than trying to explain the true gospel to you in my own words, let me show you a primary difference between those who seek to glorify God through His gospel and those who seek to distort it. The gospel does not require explanation since it is shown plainly in Scripture:
- For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures…. (1 Corinthians 15:3-4)
- For our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21)
- But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to His own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3:4-6)
- Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to His great mercy, He has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. (1 Peter 1:3-5)
That should be a quality of all preachers/gospel teachers who say that they are “rightly handling the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15) – they must actually present the Word and use it in the correct context.
John emphasizes twice in v. 19 that these antichrists “went out from us” because “they were not of us” to make it “plain that they all are not of us”. The antiChrist nature of the antichrist’s gospel cannot abide in the Church. And their leaving – either by their own choice or by being removed – shows that they are not of us. This is important to understand because it helps us see that we can know we are in Christ – that we are His.
We looked a few weeks ago at the importance of understanding that “if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (ch. 2:1). That shows that we do not look to be sinless and perfect to show we are saved because it is not possible. We look to Christ, “the propitiation of our sins”, for salvation (ch. 2:2). We look to what He did and trust in that rather than our own actions. It is important that we grasp this truth in order to move on here. Salvation comes from Christ and His grace, “not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).
When it says that the antichrists left because they were not of us, John emphasizes the eternal nature of salvation – those who are saved by Christ will continue in Him to the end. He, in describing how those who are “not of us” leave the church, emphasizes the same thing that Paul does in Philippians 1:6: “And I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ”. If God has saved you, you are saved. He will not quit on His children nor forsake them (Hebrews 13:5). But those who masquerade as “church members” while not being a part or member of the body of Christ will eventually be exposed. Rather than worrying over this or allowing our natural doubts to bloom into fear, let us take hold of the advice that Paul gave to the church in Philippi – to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling”, making sure that it is “God who works in you” and not you working to earn salvation by your own actions (Philippians 2:12-13). The language in this verse is interesting and fits perfectly with the context of 1 John 2:18-21.
The word translated “work out” here does not mean that we make our salvation happen or earn it somehow. It was a word that would have been familiar to farmers of the period, similar to our word “cultivate”. In this case, God has planted the seed of His gospel in our hearts and is growing it up in us to bear fruit (John 15:4, Colossians 1:10). He has done all the work in our salvation; we merely continue in that beautifully simple command and invitation from Jesus that is the same for us as it was for Peter, John, and their brothers all those years ago: “Follow me” (Matthew 4:19-21). And, despite the false teaching of the antichrists around us, we – like sheep – know the voice of the Good Shepherd (John 10:14-16).
It has been my hope that this study of 1 John could be a tool to help you better understand the Word of God so that you can know Him better. But some passages are just plain meaty and need to be chewed and chewed until the bites can be swallowed. Know that you are prayed for and loved and that – should you want to talk about anything you read here or need specific prayer – you can always feel free to reach out and contact me.
 John MacArthur, “Antichrists and Christians”, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: 1-3 John (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2007), 96.
 The issue of the eternal nature of salvation (sometimes called the perseverance of the saints or, too simply, once-saved-always-saved) is debated by some. Rather than debate that here, I have compiled a list of Scriptures that deal with it in the “Bible Study Notes” section of the website.