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 (verse 18 N.I.V.).The 'last days' of the New Testament refer to the last days of the age, and the 'last hour' must be the closing of these last days just prior to the Second Advent of Christ. John has 'the last day' seven times in the Gospel. Both Peter and Jude use similar expressions denoting the same time. In 1 Peter 1:5 we have 'the last time' (kairos eschatos), and in Jude 18, 'in the last time' (ep' eschatou chronou). This becomes a great problem to the average expositor, for nearly two thousand years have run their course and still He has not come.
The Scriptural solution is found in Acts 3:19-26, which for some reason has been passed over and ignored by the majority of Bible students. But these are some of the most important verses in the New Testament. Peter, speaking for God, while he seeks to convict the nation of Israel for their terrible sin of murdering their Messiah and Saviour, yet pronounces that even this is forgivable if they turn back to God and repent. Once this was done God would send back Jesus Christ to them, and the earthly kingdom promises so wonderfully described by all the holy prophets of the Old Testament, that great time designated as the 'restoration of all things' (verse 21), would then come to pass. That kingdom had been 'near' just recently as proclaimed by John the Baptist, the king's forerunner (Matt. 3:1,2), and followed by the Lord Himself (Matt. 4:17).
The Israel of the dispersion who lived abroad from Palestine, had the same message put to them by the apostle Paul, for all his letters written in the Acts period reveal the possibility of the Lord's early return. In 1 Corinthians 1:7 we read, 'So that ye come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ'. '... the time is short: it remaineth, that both they that have wives be as though they had none' (1 Cor. 7:29). Why? 1 Corinthians 16:22 explains, 'Maranatha' (the Lord cometh, margin).
1 Thessalonians 1:9,10 records that the Thessalonian believers were 'waiting for His Son from heaven', and Paul does not hesitate to include himself among those who are 'alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord' (1 Thess. 4:15-17). In 2 Thessalonians 1:7 Paul assured the believers that the trial and oppression they were suffering would end in rest, not at death, but at the revelation of Christ from heaven. To the Roman believers the apostle wrote, 'the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly' (Rom. 16:20), for the night was far spent, and the day was at hand (Rom. 13:12).
To this clear testimony we must add Hebrews 10:37: 'For yet a little while, and He that shall come will come, and will not tarry', and also the testimony of Peter, James and Jude: 'But the end of all things is at hand' (1 Pet. 4:7); '... the coming of the Lord draweth nigh ... the Judge standeth before the door' (James 5:7-9); 'The Lord cometh with ten thousands of His saints' (Jude 14).
All these references are taken from the Authorised Version and must be added to the apostle John's statement that it was the last hour of the dispensation. There is abundant Scriptural testimony that the promise of the Lord's early return was real that Peter gave in Acts 3:19-26, but the promise was conditional depending on the nation's repentance and turning back to God. No believer knew whether this would take place or not, but they were all exhorted to be ready for the great event of the Second Advent. Only God Himself, in His foreknowledge, knew that the repentance of Israel would not take place, but it was necessary, in His mercy, for Israel to be tested again after the Lord's earthly ministry had been given regarding the nearness of the great Messianic kingdom which all the Old Testament prophets had foretold.
We need therefore have no problems with John's statement that it was 'the last hour' when he wrote this epistle. That Antichrist would come, John's readers knew, and so late was the time that John asserted that there were many antichrists there already. It was not difficult then to believe that Satan's man who would deceive the whole world, could appear at any time.
The Lord Jesus had clearly taught that prior to His Second Advent many deceivers would come and claim to be Christ (Matt. 24:4,5,11,24), so this reinforced what John was writing. The word anti can mean substitution or opposition, and both these meanings are found in the word 'antichrist'. John is the only New Testament writer who uses this word for the great world dictator and deceiver of the end time, who is so conspicuous in the Book of The Revelation. Paul describes him as the 'man of sin' and 'son of perdition', who claims to be God (2 Thess. 2:3-10). There is only One Who can finally defeat and destroy him, that is the Lord Jesus, (2 Thess. 2:8), for he will be overwhelmed by the glory and power of the returning Christ.
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 (verse 19 N.I.V.).
The apostle now refers to some members of the Christian community who had been with them for a while, but now had left them. The community evidently stood soundly on the truth made known to them by the Holy Spirit and ministered to them by the apostle John. So to break away and spoil the unity could only mean that such were departing from the truth which they had professed to hold. John's spiritual insight could see that these people had never been really with them in doctrine, however much they had professed to receive it in the past. They were like the stony ground hearers of the parable of the sower (Matt. 13:20,21). They first of all received it gladly, but then, because they were not rooted in the truth, when trouble occurred they took offence, and gave it up. There was not that perseverance and endurance that is the outward proof of the inward reality. Continuance is the sure result of the reality of faith. Their action showed clearly that they had never soundly received God's truth, and so never really belonged to it.
Had they been securely built on foundation truth, they would have endured the tests when they came. Thus their unstable condition was manifested by their action. The apostle Paul deals with a similar condition in 1 Corinthians 11:19, and we quote from the A.V. here:
For there must be also heresies (differences) among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you.
Division among the people of God is not a good thing, for unity is strength, and the unity of the Spirit we are commanded to guard (Eph. 4:1-3). Satan knows this to be true and so has always done his utmost to divide the people of God. But Paul writes here that sometimes a division is allowed by God because it results in sorting out the true from the false, and those who are really sound and true are made manifest. Those who turn away from the truth of God can never be a strength to those who remain faithful.
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 (verses 20,21).
The N.I.V. has a footnote here which says some manuscripts read 'and you know all things'. The A.V. and R.V. are based on this reading. Does Scripture back this up by stating that the truth is sometimes ministered by God the Holy Spirit without being channelled through human beings? In 1 Corinthians 12:7-11 we have a diversity of miraculous gifts given by the Holy Spirit for the spreading of God's kingdom purposes. This was based on the gospel of grace as revealed in Romans, and the various miraculous evidential gifts enumerated in that chapter. To this Hebrews 2:1-4 agrees:
Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip. For if the word spoken by angels was stedfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompence of reward; how shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard Him; God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to His own will? (A.V.).
1 Corinthians 12:8 informs us that heavenly knowledge was one of the gifts, and those who received it were not dependent on human ministry, but were in a position to pass such knowledge on to others. This being so we see no Scriptural reason to deviate from the A.V. and R.V. here.
John goes on to say that it is because of this full knowledge that he is writing to them (verse 20) and from this they know that no lie comes from the truth. The apostle is greatly concerned about the spread of false teaching at this time which came from those whom he designated as 'many antichrists'.
Who is the liar? It is the man who denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a man is the antichrist -- he denies the Father and the Son. No-one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also (verses 22,23 N.I.V.)
Against these lies, those to whom John is writing are armed by the gift of the Spirit's knowledge, and He is the Spirit of truth Who guides into all the truth (John 14:17; 15:26; 16:13), so there is no place here for Satan's lie to take hold. This antichristian lie went to the foundation of things, for it touched the Godhead and the deity of Christ. This has been going on all down this Christian era and is just as real today. There are many professing Christian leaders who deny the deity of Christ and other absolutely fundamental doctrines on which salvation rests, and in fact the whole mighty purpose of God which is revealed in the holy Scriptures. In John's day the gnostic teaching of Cerinthus was leading people astray. He taught that the Lord only became the Christ after His anointing by the Spirit at His baptism, and it left Him at calvary, so only in His earthly ministry was He the Christ, the anointed one of God. Apart from this He was just a man.
Outwardly these heretics may not have denied the Father, but in view of the fact that they denied the Son, they automatically denied the Father, as John in his Gospel makes abundantly clear. For the Lord Jesus manifested the Father completely, so much so that He could say, 'he that hath seen Me hath seen the Father' (John 14:9; and note verse 7, also 8:19). Our only approach to the Father is by the Son (John 14:6), and so united were they, that to deny the Son denied the Father at the same time. When one realizes this, one can see how John's statements of God's truth showed up this antichristian doctrine with its falsity.
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 -- even eternal life (verses 24,25).
The apostle now reminds them that belief in the truth of God is of little avail unless it is held tenaciously. Endurance is faithful adherence to the truth which shows the reality of faith. The wondrous promises of God which are found in all their fulness in Christ, will be enjoyed and never have an end, for resurrection life means eternal life. John reminds his readers that this is one of God's great promises to the believer (verse 25), and is the only occurrence of epaggelia (promise) in John's writings.
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 (verses 26,27).
The apostle John, as a guardian of those under his care, warns them against the false gnostic teaching that would lead them into error. At the same time he reminds them of the teaching of the great Revealer of truth, the Holy Spirit, which if held tenaciously, would prevent this, and so they could 'abide' or 'remain' in Christ where salvation had placed them and thus be perfectly safe.
And now, dear children, continue in Him, so that when He appears we may be confident and unashamed before Him at His coming. If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone who does what is right has been born of Him (verses 28,29).
Not only this, but those who do this, can be confident before Him when He comes back again. The 'if' does not mean uncertainty, but is the equivalent of 'when'. God's children will meet the returning Christ either with joy or with shame. With joy, if they have been consistently faithful to Him and His claims, but shame will be experienced by those who have not put Him first in their lives or have wandered away from Him and the truth.
2 Timothy 2:15 shows how we can meet Him unashamed, namely by carefully and faithfully handling His Word of truth, and not confusing His purposes of grace relating to heaven and earth which are contained therein. Such will be 'unashamed'. There is a likeness in the family of God to Himself. As the Father is righteous, His children will practise righteousness, thus showing that they have been born of Him (verse 29).