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Antichrists and Apostates - 1John 2:18-25

The people to whom John refers as antichrists are also guilty of apostasy because they went out, away from the church and the faith they once claimed to embrace. Not all antichrists are apostates, but all apostates are antichrists.

Matthew 24:3-11, 23-24; 1 John 2:18-25; 2John 1:7; 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12

Jun 01, 2014 12:00 AM

[3] As he sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” [4] And Jesus answered them, “See that no one leads you astray. [5] For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray. [6] And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars.  See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. [7] For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. [8] All these are but the beginning of the birth pains.

[9] “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name's sake. [10] And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. [11] And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray.

[23] Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. [24] For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. (Matthew 24:3-11, 23-24 ESV)

Well, today I’ve got good news and bad news for you.  First, the bad news.  If you’ve been wondering, or if you know someone who is perpetually concerned about when the Antichrist is going to show up, you and they need to know at least these three things: #1 - There’s not just one Antichrist.  There are many antichrists.  #2 - They are already here.  In fact, antichrists have been around for about 2000 years.  And #3 - Antichrists can, and often do come from Christian churches.

It is #3 that should trouble us the most.  According to the apostle John in 1 John 2, at the very least it was true in his day, and no doubt it also happens in our day, that those who are most opposed to the teachings of Christianity, those who by definition are antichrists, sometimes come from genuinely Christian churches.  That was John’s experience and no doubt that is the case in many instances today.  Those who speak most vehemently against the Gospel today are often former church members.  In other words, they have become what we refer to as apostates.

“Apostate” literally means “to stand away from”.  It is like sanctification in the opposite direction.  When God chooses to save a person, God removes that person from darkness, takes him out of the people of the world, and sets that person apart as His very own child.  By means of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, the true believer is made to stand apart from the world, to be in the world but not of the world.

The apostate is someone who appears to be one of God’s chosen ones, but defects.  He abandons ship, he deserts the flock, he denies what he once affirmed to be true.  He steps away from the church and from believers, and specifically, he denies who Jesus is.  John calls that person a liar.

But the good news is that all those whose faith is in Jesus Christ alone to save them are indeed saved by Him forever.  And the grace of God is such that even an apostate is not beyond His reach.  In fact, it can be rightly said that God has saved multitudes of former apostates.  Because He is good and kind and merciful, even to the worst of sinners.

Let’s look at our text for today.

[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. (1 John 2:18-25 ESV)

7 For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh.  Such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist. (2John 1:7 ESV)

There is this idea among many Christians today that if we could just return to the first years of the Church, if we could somehow recapture the purity and sincerity of those first century believers, everything would be great.  But as we read through the New Testament, one thing is clear: the Church of Jesus Christ has ALWAYS had problems.  Read 1 Corinthians.  Think Ananias and Sapphira.  Read any New Testament book and you will see some church problem being addressed.

John is addressing in this text the issue of apostasy.  You would think it would be impossible to depart from a church where one of the original 12 apostles was still living and preaching!  But that is not the case.  apparently there was a significant number of people who abandoned the apostle and his authoritative teaching and his church by specifically denying the deity of Jesus Christ.

People leave churches for lots of reasons.  Often times it is because of the style of worship.  Some want contemporary while others want traditional.  Then there are those who leave a church because there aren’t enough programs for their children.  Or maybe someone will leave a church because the pastor just isn’t dynamic enough or they don’t feel they are being well fed from the Scriptures.

John is not talking about that.  Those are all petty reasons for leaving a group of believers.  But most of the time, such a person will leave a church and look for another church that is a “better fit”.  However, if you are in a church that preaches and teaches and actually tries to live according to the Bible, you should thank the Lord for such a church and support it.  Stay there, love the brethren, persevere through the differences, and grow in grace together.

But John is talking about something entirely different.  When a person leaves a church because they specifically do not believe the gospel--that Jesus is the Messiah--then that is a very, very serious problem.  It is one thing to leave because you don’t like to sing “In the Garden” because it puts you and everyone around you to sleep every time you hear it.  But it is another matter entirely to say, “I do not believe in Jesus Christ.”

And what is truly troubling is that in John’s situation, these people had presumably heard apostolic teaching and preaching of the gospel.  They had sat under John’s teaching directly, in person, or at the very least, by means of letters like this one.  They had been subjected to first person, eye witness testimony concerning who Jesus Christ is, what He did upon the cross, and His resurrection from the dead.  John himself had taught them these things.  And they said,

“No.  We don’t believe it.  We said we believed, but we don’t.  Jesus is not the Messiah.  He is not the Son of God.  We do not believe that, and we are leaving.”

They denied that God had come in the flesh.  They denied that Jesus was the Messiah sent by God from heaven.  And in denying the Son, they deny the Father who sent Him.

But someone will say, “Well, they have a right to their own opinion, don’t they?”  The identity of Jesus Christ is not a matter of opinion.  It is not theoretical.  It doesn’t matter what you think, or what I think, or what anyone’s opinion is concerning the identity of Jesus Christ.  The fact is He is God.  He is the Messiah.  He did rise from the dead.  He did ascend to Heaven.  He is sitting at the right hand of God the Father.

Anyone who denies this is not merely sharing a differing opinion, a different point of view which carries just as much weight as anyone else’s opinion.  Nor is such a person simply wrong or mistaken.  John says the person who intentionally denies the fact that Jesus is God is a liar.  What that person says is not true.  Therefore he is deceived and a deceiver and a liar.

Beloved, the deity of Jesus is not a theory.  It is fact, it is true, it is attested to by numerous eye witnesses that Jesus Christ is everything the Scriptures say He is.  Those who speak to the contrary are liars.  They are by definition, the antichrist.  And they are many.  They are of the world.  They are unbelievers.  And those who leave a church over this issue are apostate.

The bright spot in the scenario that John paints for us here is that the antichrists LEAVE the church.  While on the one hand, that is a sad thing, it is certainly a good thing that they do not remain.  But how can they?  How is it possible that such people who deny Christ could stay in a gospel teaching church?  Well, that can only happen when the church decides to accommodate them.  Through worldly thinking, is at that point that an entire church becomes apostate.  That church has now abandoned the faith for the sake of “love” and “tolerance” and being “open minded”.  And for the sake of making the mortgage payment on the church building.

Beloved, if we preach sound doctrine, if we determine to remain faithful to teach the deity of Jesus Christ and the exclusivity of the Gospel message--there will be those who will not want to stay in such a church environment.  They will either try to influence the church to come around to their aberrant views, they will attempt to infect the church with false teaching, or they will leave.  And that is the challenge for true churches everywhere in the world until the day Christ returns.

John says all those who deny Jesus and the Father are antichrist.  However, there is one referred to in Scripture who is described in such terms as to earn him the title of THE Antichrist, even though that title is not explicitly given to him in the Bible.  The Apostle Paul says this to the church at Thessalonica:

2 Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we ask you, brothers, 2 not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by a spirit or a spoken word, or a letter seeming to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come.

3 Let no one deceive you in any way.  For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, 4 who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God. 5 Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things? 6 And you know what is restraining him now so that he may be revealed in his time. 7 For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work.  Only he who now restrains it will do so until he is out of the way. 8 And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will kill with the breath of his mouth and bring to nothing by the appearance of his coming. 9 The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, 10 and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. 11 Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, 12 in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness. (2 Thessalonians 2:1-12 ESV)

So just prior to the coming of the Lord Jesus, “the lawless one”, “the man of lawlessness” will be revealed who proclaims “himself to be God”.  He will be the leader of the final “rebellion” against God.  By means of “false signs and wonders” he will deceive all those who “refused to love the truth and so be saved”.  That final deceiver of multitudes who works in cooperation with, and by the power of Satan, justly deserves the title, The Antichrist.

There will be antichrists and apostates until the Lord returns for us.  But notice, the day of the Lord WILL come, and He is coming for us.  Not for them.  There are those two groups of people in the world: For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. But it isn’t possible!  Jesus is coming for His own.  That is the good news!



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