The Bible Monthly vol 1
The Apostle John is the only Scriptural writer who mentions the Antichrist under this descriptive title. In his Epistles he makes definite reference (1) to the Antichrist himself as a great and evil Personage who would appear in the world; and (2) to many antichrists who even at that period were active, having sprung up among the saints, and then gone out from them into the world.
There are three passages in the Epistles (1 John ii. 18, 19, 22; iv. 3; 2 John 7). The first of these passages reads as follows, in the Revised Version : "Little children, it is the last hour : and as ye heard that antichrist cometh, even now have there arisen many antichrists; whereby ye know it is the last hour. 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 they might be made manifest how that they all are not of us " (verses 18, 19).
THE LAST HOUR.
(1) We observe that the apostle calls the time at which he was writing, the "last hour." Moreover, he says that because many antichrists have arisen "we know it is the last hour." From these words we gather that the "last hour " was to be marked by the existence and activity of the spirit of antichrist, displaying itself in many persons who would eventually dissociate themselves from the Christian community to which they never possessed the right to belong.
Such persons existed in the apostle's day, and from that day to this, persons of similar evil tendencies have arisen in Christendom, whereby we know it is still the " last hour." The term "hour " signifies in this connection, not so much a certain defined and comparatively brief duration of time, but an extended era characterised by some particular feature.
This usage is found elsewhere in the writings of John. Thus, the hour for the worship of the Father in spirit and in truth began in the Lord's day and still continues (John iv. 23). Again, our Lord spoke of (a) the hour for quickening dead souls, and (b) the hour for quickening dead bodies. He said, "The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God; and they that hear shall live "; and again, "The hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear His voice, and shall come forth " (John v. 25, 28, 29). Thus, the hour (a) of divine quickening by the word of life has extended from the days of the Gospels until the present; and the hour (b) in which the Son of man will summon the dead from their graves will extend from the first resurrection until the second, an interval of not less than a thousand years (Rev. xx. 5, 12, 13).
Analogous to the hour of worship in spirit and the hour of quickening the dead in John's Gospel, we have in his Epistle the last hour, or the hour of antichrist. From the first, many antichrists were in the world. At its close, a person will arise who will be pre-eminentl y full of the spirit of antichrist, and who, because of his consummate evil abilities in destroying the testimony to God and Christ in the earth, is described as THE ANTICHRIST.
(2) Those to whom the apostle wrote had heard that an evil and apostate person was to come, whom he names as the Antichrist. What is the special significance of this term? Is he so called because he will personate Christ, and thus be a pretender? Or is he so called because he opposes Christ and His interests, and is therefore His antagonist ? In other words, will the Antichrist use his evil power in the way of deceit, or of violence?
Some students of Scripture maintain that he will be an impostor, and others that he will be an enemy. Let us seek to ascertain what light Scripture throws upon the matter, and we shall find a measure of truth in both views, even as Satan is an "angel of light " to deceive, and also a "roaring lion " to terrify and devour.
It is clear that impostors will arise who will claim the very highest credentials. The Lord Himself warned His disciples that impersonations of the Messiah would arise before the end of the age. He said to them, "Many shall come in My name, saying, I am the Christ, and shall deceive many "; and again, "There shall arise false Christs and false prophets " (Matt. xxiv. 5, 24; Mark xiii. 22). Clearly, then, false Christs are to appear, who will claim to be the anointed of the Lord. But such a pretension is one liable to mislead Jewish disciples rather than those whose faith is in a heavenly Christ. And the context shows that the Lord's words are addressed particularly to those whose hearts are set upon the Hope of Israel. But while the false Christ says, "I am the Christ," and claims to be the Sent One of God, the Antichrist will come to the Jews not in the name of the Lord, but in his own name (John v. 43). In this respect Antichrist will be in contrast rather than in imitation of the One who came in His Father's name.
On the other hand, the Apostle John shows that the Anti-christ is an antagonist to the truth, and therefore to Christ, who is the Truth. He writes, "I have not written unto you because ye know not the truth, but because ye know it, and because no lie is of the truth. Who is the liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, even he that denieth the Father and the Son " (1 John ii. 21, 22). This passage declares plainly the character of the Antichrist. He will deny (a) that Jesus is the Christ, and (b) both the Father and the Son. This twofold denial is subversive of all New Testament revelation.
The spirit of self-will that dared to set aside all the truth that came by Jesus Christ was incipiently at work in the apostolic age. It was even then denied that Jesus was the Christ in whom the promises made to the Jews were fulfilled, and also that the revelation of the Father was made by the Son, This enmity to revealed truth, which has been smouldering for so many centuries, will finally break out in an unparalleled degree, finding its fullest expression in the Antichrist.
As the great enemy of Christ, therefore, this coming person will deny the Father and the Son, and also Jesus, the humbled Messiah, come in flesh (1 John iv. 3; 2 John 7). He is an active resister and destroyer of the truth as it is in Jesus and, indeed, of all the truth revealed through the New Testament apostles and prophets.
It would seem, therefore, that violent animosity to the truth is the predominating feature of the Antichrist as presented by John, although dissimulation is not absent from his character, for in the second Epistle he is called the deceiver (misleader) and the Antichrist (2 John 7).
(3) We see from John's Epistles that many antichrists had come even in apostolic times. These persons were at first within the circle of the fellowship of the family of God. Yet they "were not of us," the apostle wrote, but they were wolves in sheep's clothing. They went out from among the believers, making it clear by their departure that they did not belong to Christ.
It is important to note the distinction the apostle makes between the antichrist who is to come and the many antichrists who had then come. The latter were among those apostates who in the early days departed from the faith (1Tim. iv. 1). Similar secessions from the company of the faithful have continually occurred from the first century unto the present. They arise from that latent spirit of rebellion against God and His authority which is within man, and which declares itself at intervals, though until now it has in the main been held in check. When no longer restrained, however, that spirit will reach its climax of development, and find its suited leader in the great arch-enemy on earth of Christ—the Antichrist. And the warning of the Apostle John, "This is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard it should come; and even now already is it in the world " (1 John iv., 3), confirms this view.
DENIAL OF CHRISTIANITY.
The person called Antichrist is spoken of in Scripture by other names, as (D. V.) we may see in future papers, and his evil activities will be spread in many directions. But John associates this name with his audacious and blasphemous denials of the fundamental truths of Christianity.
Think of the awful condition of human affairs when a mighty leader arises who by his personal influence and example will sway the great masses of men into an open renunciation of the Father, of the Son, and of Jesus. Christ come in the flesh. These are peculiarly the truths brought out in the New Testament. The unity of the Godhead is the prominent theme of the Old, but the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit is the mark of the teaching and the preaching authorised by our Lord (Matt. 19, 20). In the coming day they will be abandoned.
"Who is a liar but he that denies that Jesus is the Christ? " says the apostle. But those that receive not the love of the truth that they may be saved will believe that lie and be judged accordingly (2 Thess. 9-12). The spirit of false hood as to Christ and His person is abroad even now. We need to beware and remember that no lie is of the truth. The truth delivers and saves; the lie deceives and damns.
Some have thought that the Pope of Rome is Antichrist. But while Popery is antichristian, inasmuch as it impugns the Mediatorship of Christ by interposing the Virgin Mary and the saints, the Pope does not deny the Father nor the Son. Moreover he acknowledges that Jesus of Nazareth presented Himself to the Jews as their true Messiah, as He was. And as these are the special marks whereby Antichrist is to be known, the Pope of Rome cannot be identified as this prophetic personage.
While believers of to-day may rest assured that they will be removed before the appearance of Antichrist himself, we do well to guard against the evil principle of which he will be the personification. " Every spirit which confesses not Jesus is not of God." He who came in flesh was the Saviour, as well as God's Christ or Anointed One. We are to resist with our might all evil teaching that detracts from the glory of the Incarnate Son of God.