John proposed the second proof of salvation as seen in living by faith by holding onto the teaching of the apostles. Those who had received the truth, and warmed to the gospel, yet had fallen away as persecution became more severe, proved they had not truly put their faith in Jesus.
Stating this truth led to a discussion of the spirit of the antiChrist, which John contended was already at work. Some might surmise John had (in error) thought the end of time was already at hand. But a closer look reveals John was talking about the supernatural power behind what was happening among the assemblies—the emergence of Gnosticism, the falling away of those who had not come to faith (but appeared as though they had), and the intensified persecution.
John wrote, “it is the final hour,” but what did he mean by that? Some think John mistakenly identified his time as the return of Christ. Others contend John was referring to the end of Judaism as it was then practiced, with the temple and the sacrifices. Since John was writing to (perhaps) Jewish believers in Christ among the Diaspora, he was urging them to stay strong in the faith as the Judaism they knew was passing away.
John could also have meant the hour, or time, of grace had begun, when God would do all possible to bring restoration to as many as put their faith in Jesus, while Satan redoubled his own efforts to prevent that very thing from happening.
The Mark of the AntiChrist
Most of the time, when the apostles wrote of the antiChrist, they were pointing to an individual.
But not always.
Jesus also spoke of antiChrists, or false shepherds and false prophets, who were operating as antiChrists but not -the- prophesied lawless one. This is what John was also referring to, an antiChrist spirit.
This other spiritual movement would be fueled, essentially, by a supernatural force that was in opposition to God. It would take on many forms (as the list of cults illustrates) but there would be one unifying mark making it unmistakable from the Spirit of Christ.
Who is the liar if not the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, the one who denies the Father and the Son.
Each one who denies the Son [does not] have the Father, the one who acknowledges the Son [also] has the Father.1 John 2:22-23 (my translation)
You and I face that same kind of false teaching today from Bible scholars who may know an awful lot about the Bible but do not acknowledge Jesus as God the Son.
False teachers want to dispel what they see as the myth of salvation, the myth of Jesus as God. But the truth of the Holy Spirit’s indwelling will help those who do have the Spirit of Christ to recognize God’s voice in the apostle’s teaching, and in Jesus’ claims about Himself.
Jesus, Messiah, and God the Father are One
John made it clear to deny the Son was to deny the Father. Those who claimed they were supporting the monotheism of scripture by denying the divinity of Christ were falling prey to error. From Jesus Himself came the teaching that to reject the Son was a clear sign that person already did not know the Father. In Jesus’ own words,
- Anyone who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him. (John 5:23)
- It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me. (John 6:45)
- You know neither me nor my Father. If you knew me, you would know my Father also. (John 8:19)
- Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and now I am here. I did not come on my own, but he sent me.” (John 8:42)
- The Father and I are one. (John 10:30)
- Understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father. (John 10:38, 14:10-11, 20)
- If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him. (John 14:7)
- Whoever hates me hates my Father also. (John 15:23)
. . . that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.Jesus, praying to the Father, John 17:21-23 (NRSV)
Throughout his letter, John referred to Jesus Messiah, God the Father, and the Spirit (Who is the Holy Spirit). In this section, speaking to the second proof of salvation and also to the mark of antichrists, John leaned into the importance of understanding Jesus’ divinity, and His unity with the Father.
You heard this from the beginning, let it remain in you: if what you heard from the beginning remains in you, [then] you will remain in the Son and in the Father.
And this is the promise He Himself proclaimed to us, eternal life.
I wrote these things to you concerning the ones who mislead you.
And you, the anointing that you took hold of from Him remains in you, and you do not need [to] have someone teaching you, but rather as His anointing teaches you concerning [everything], and is true and is not a lie, and just as He taught you, you are remaining in Him.
And now, little children, remain in Him, in order that [when] He [is] made manifest we may have confidence and not be [sent] ashamed from Him upon His arrival.
If you have perceived that He is righteous, you know that everyone who does [what is] righteous has been begotten of Him.1 John 2:24-29 (my translation)
The word John used for remain is μένω | meno in Greek, the same word translated as abide in Jesus’ discourse on the vine and the branches. Stay attached to Jesus, learn from the anointing of the Spirit upon and within you, remember what you have known from the beginning, trust in the new birth, the new creation you have come to be, begotten of God, born from above.
John reassured the believers they did not need anyone to teach them what they already knew deep within themselves, that Jesus is Messiah, He is one with the Father, it is the Spirit of Christ Who lives within every believer, transforming them from mortal to immortality.
Those who deny these truths, or who teach differently, are not of the Father. They have another spirit empowering them. It is the spirit of antichrist.
[Symbol of the Trinity | Beppeveltri, CC BY-SA 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons]