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This post continues a study of John’s epistles, most of which are not in the standard three-year Lectionary, which Catholic and mainline Protestant churches use in public worship.

As such, they fit into my ongoing series Forbidden Bible Verses, also essential to our understanding of Scripture.

Today’s reading is from the King James Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur (sermons from 2002, referenced below).

1 John 2:18-29

18Little 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.

 19They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.

 20But ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things.

 21I have not written unto you because ye know not the truth, but because ye know it, and that no lie is of the truth.

 22Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son.

 23Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father: he that acknowledgeth the Son hath the Father also.

 24Let that therefore abide in you, which ye have heard from the beginning. If that which ye have heard from the beginning shall remain in you, ye also shall continue in the Son, and in the Father.

 25And this is the promise that he hath promised us, even eternal life.

 26These things have I written unto you concerning them that seduce you.

 27But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him.

 28And now, little children, abide in him; that, when he shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming.

 29If ye know that he is righteous, ye know that every one that doeth righteousness is born of him.


Both Matthew Henry and John MacArthur agree that St John alludes to the prophetic Book of Daniel, specifically chapters 7, 8 and 11. John’s audience would have known the Old Testament and the prophecies associated with that book.

MacArthur also advises people to read other chapters of the New Testament with the same themes as this passage, 2 Thessalonians 2 as well as:

Matthew 24

– 2 Peter 2 (here and here)

Revelation 17

All of these concern false teachers and antichrists, greater or lesser. As believers, we are to stay close to the faith via prayer and Scripture to better discern truth from error.

In the beginning of 1 John 2, the Apostle made several statements about belief to his followers which were tailored to their level of belief.

In his sermon, ‘Christians and Antichrists, Part 1’, MacArthur says this recalls Paul’s 2 Thessalonians 2, and posits that John’s audience would have been familiar with it:

John writes his epistle in the nineties of the first century, some time in the nineties, dying I think around 96[;] he wrote his epistles as well as receive[d] his revelation at the end of his life. This then is at least 40 years after the writing of 2 Thessalonians. These are believers who very likely knew the contents of 2 Thessalonians. And in Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonians written in about 51 or 52 A.D., there is a very clear presentation of this coming antichrist though that’s not the name that’s given to him, it is clearly the one in view. 

In verse 18, John addresses his audience as ‘little children’, meaning that they are God’s adopted children through faith in Jesus Christ. ‘The last time’ refers to what we know as the End Days or the End Times, which started at the first Pentecost and will continue to Judgment Day.  As Christ said in Matthew 24, none of us knows when the end of the world will take place. However, in the meantime, antichrists will abound.

There are different types of antichrist, which means ‘one who is against Christ’:

– an atheist.

– false teachers; those who deliberately distort Christ’s being and teachings (e.g. some churchgoers, theologians and clergy) to work against Him and His glory.

– the Antichrist, whom we probably have not yet seen, whom most of the world will regard as Christ but who will be the ultimate impostor as prophesied in Revelation.

It would appear that John’s faithful already had at least one false teacher who might have persuaded some of the flock against Christian truth. The rest might have been left confused, comparing the two teachings. John consoles his flock (verse 19) by telling them not to worry: ‘they were not of us’. If they had been, he says, they would have remained with us.

Some readers might wonder why and how God could allow false teachers into the Church. However, He does it to purge Her of false teachers and false believers, leaving Her cleansed. They invariably end up leaving, often suddenly.

MacArthur illustrates this with an example from his own church:

A lady in our church … came to me after [one] service and said that she wanted to come to the knowledge of Christ. And I went off in the little side room and spent an hour with her and talked to her about Christ. And she professed to believe and embraced Jesus Christ. She stayed in our church for many, many, many, many years. She taught in our church. She served in our church. She became something of a personal missionary, endeavoring to reach out to people. She was in our church until she began to be drawn by false teachers, probably two decades in our church. Her influence was growing. It was growing not only in our church but in other churches as she was communicating her faith in Christ to women’s groups here and there. And false teachers came, got a hold of her, and she left, totally denied everything she said she had believed. And people have said to me, concerning this woman, “How could she do this?” And the answer is here. God protected not only us, but God protected His church in other places by sending along a strong enough magnet of false teaching to unmask her, lest she be responsible for leading others astray. I’ve communicated that to her on a number of occasions.

In verse 20, John’s words ‘unction from the Holy One’ refer to the presence of the Holy Spirit in the minds and hearts of his believers. In other words, ‘Don’t forget the divine grace working through you to give you discernment in these matters’.  ‘Know all things’ refers to understanding the Truth of God through His Son.

Matthew Henry explains:

True Christians are anointed ones, their name intimates as much. They are anointed with the oil of grace, with gifts and spiritual endowments, by the Spirit of grace. They are anointed into a similitude of their Lord’s offices, as subordinate prophets, priests, and kings, unto God. The Holy Spirit is compared to oil, as well as to fire and water; and the communication of his salvific grace is our anointing.

John expands on this in verse 21, essentially reminding them that they have this understanding of Truth and that a false teaching — ‘lie’ — is incompatible with it.

In ‘Christians and Antichrists – Part 2’, MacArthur says (emphases mine):

Watch yourselves … Anybody who buys into the lies about Christ does not abide in the teaching of Christ, that is to say everything that Christ is and taught, the true Christ, the true gospel … doesn’t have God. When somebody leaves this church, I don’t care how long they’ve been here, to go into a false religion, they never were saved, they don’t have God. They may affirm the deity of Christ, but deny the gospel of Christ. If you add all this together, you must affirm that Jesus is who He is, the anointed Messiah of God, that He is the Son of the Father, that is God, one with God, that He is God in human flesh, that is He is the God/Man perfectly human, perfectly divine. And here you must affirm not only who He is but what He taught…the gospel.

And that means all of the Gospel, not just our favourite verses.

John refers back to verse 18 (verse 22): anyone who denies Jesus as Christ the Lord and denies the relationship of God the Father with God the Son is an antichrist.  How many people today call themselves Christian but say ‘I believe in God’ and never say ‘I believe in Christ’?

In verse 23, John says that anyone who says he believes in God but not Christ denies God. On the other hand, whoever believes in Christ believes in God as well.

This is why doctrine and confessions of faith are so important. Some denominations are in the dark about passing basic Christian teachings to their congregants, viewing it as ‘divisive’. For people who are in this situation, I would advise them to read about the subject in depth. For Catholics, a good catechism is in order. For Protestants, the Lutheran Book of Concord or the Presbyterian Westminster Confession of Faith. Those will explain what you need to know as Christian fundamentals. They are not short volumes, but you will gain much by reading them.

Henry observes:

As there is an intimate relation between the Father and the Son, so there is an inviolable union in the doctrine, knowledge, and interests of both; so that he who has the knowledge of, and right to, the Son, has the knowledge of, and right to, the Father also. Those that adhere to the Christian revelation hold the light and benefit of natural religion withal.

John exhorts his listeners to abide by the truth of the teachings they first heard as converts (verse 24) and not to stray from them. They cannot lose their relationship with Christ and, by extension God, if they stay close to true Christian teaching.

He emphasises this by saying that God has promised us eternal life through a belief in His Son (verse 25); it’s a certainty.

He concludes his message about antichrists in verse 26, advising them not to be ‘seduced’ or confused by them.  Sometimes we think it’s easy, but those following developments in today’s churches will know that many seductive takes on Christianity abound: legalism, male (or racial) supremacy, Purpose Driven thinking, the social gospel and liberation theology, to name a few. They can be conservative or left-wing. All of them have persuasive theories and fancy names.  They are the subject of numerous books and sermons. They’re the latest thing. Clergy say, ‘Well, we’re adopting this teaching now. Our old doctrine and church directives weren’t as fully developed as this new take on theology.’ Often, the result is a dilution of the Gospel resulting in a weakening of people’s faith and understanding — perhaps denial — of the Holy Trinity. A simple illustration of this fallacy is the popular saying ‘Deeds not creeds’. Yet, what we believe (creed) is paramount to our salvation as is what we believe to be the source of our works (deeds).  May grace abound so that we know what we believe and why we believe it.

In verse 27, John reassures his faithful that they have learned the truth and that it abides in them, therefore, as the saying goes — accept no imitations. God’s grace and the Holy Spirit are working in and through them.  Believing the truth will preserve them in Christ forever, therefore, let us not embarrass ourselves before Him by following another gospel (verse 28).

He concludes (verse 29) by saying that if we know the truth of the Gospel, we know the righteousness of Christ and can therefore recognise that righteousness in those who truly believe.

Next week: 1 John 3:9-13

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