So far in this letter, John has given us a reminder of the supremacy of Jesus Christ; who He is, what He is and His nature. John gave us a comparison and contrast of what the “Light” is, and who is and who is not “in the light.” Then John reminded us of who we are in Christ and how amazing that is. In the previous section, John warns us not to love this world, and now John is taking us to the front lines on a battlefield, where it becomes plain why he has taken us on this journey to show us just who we are, and just who “they” are.
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.
1 John 2:18-19
This is the first mention of the term “antichrist” in the Bible. It means someone who is against or in place of the Messiah. In these verses, John mentions twice that we are in the “last hour,” which is interesting when you consider that many will suggest today that there are more hours to come. Whoever these antichrists were, or are, they appear to have been hanging around us, and then to have gone rogue. If nothing else, in these two verses, we can be sure that these rogues were hanging around, but they were never “in the light.” Recall the descriptions of “in the light” and “in the darkness” in vv. 1:5-2:11… These characters were the ones in darkness.
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.
1 John 2:20-23
Now we have a little more information: The rogues John is talking about deny that Jesus is the Messiah. That is a bald-faced lie, and those who are in the truth would never make such an assertion, so these guys were not in the light. No person who denies that Jesus is the Messiah is in the Son, and if a person is not in the Son, they are also not in the Father: They are antichrist, and there are many of those in the world.
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.
1 John 2:24-25
These two verses are the warming: Make sure that you hang on to what you know about Jesus Christ. If you do, you will remain in Him and inherit eternal life. Do not listen to the rogues. By the way, this is why I said above that John has taken us to the front lines on a battlefield. It is a spiritual battlefield in a spiritual war, where the antichrists in our midst will attempt to pry you away from the Truth. Resist, and do not listen to their lies:
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.
1 John 2:26-27
John invokes the anointing of the indwelling Holy Spirit in urging us to remain in Christ in these verses. Consider this: Here is a warning that there are those who try to lead us astray, to turn our backs on our Lord. They are fighting against us in a spiritual war, and this can sound really scary. Oh it’s great in the movies, when their innocent victims are lured into evil by magical powers, having no way to resist. Take heart! John is pointing out to you and me that we have within us, at our disposal greater firepower by tenfold! He is the very Holy Spirit of God, the third Person of the Godhead; if we are focused on our relationship with our Lord, and we take these “battles” to Him, there isn’t even a contest, for “greater is He who is in me, than he who is in the world.”
One final thought and that’ll be it for now… You know all those stories and books and movies about evil forces that lead the righteous astray? “The Exorcist” “The Omen” etc., etc…? They really freak people out, which is why they make so much money, right? People become afraid, and being afraid becomes a distraction for some. At the same time, you have in these verses a very simple way to discern who the liars and antichrists are; a third grader can understand it. You also have a solution to defeat the lie that a third grader can understand: stand on the truth of the Word of God, and reject outright the lie.
As simple as this is, many will become so uncomfortable because of the stories and the idea of spiritual warfare, that it almost makes me wonder if these stories of myth, legend and popular fiction are actually part of the lie itself, so that we won’t fight back, and our superior firepower will never be brought to bear on our foe. Hmmm… do you think we need to have a healthy relationship with the Lord?