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Beware! Beware! Beware!

1 John 2:18-27

Jim Davis

This week I was reading an article entitled, "Jesus At 2000" in the December 1999 issue of Time Magazine. Time Magazine wrote a brief summary statement about the article. It says:

"The novelist Reynolds Price surveys current archaeological evidence and, combining that with biblical scholarship and his own literary imagination, crafts a new Gospel that illuminates cryptic passages in the traditional narrative."

Much of what Price says contradicts the biblical accounts as he spins his own literary imagination into the story. When it says that he “illuminates cryptic passages,” it means that he takes the difficult passages and puts his own spin on them.

He grossly contradicts what the inspired writers reveal to us. Which will our age believe? People with literary imagination or the inspired apostles. Just a couple of weeks ago a religious article appeared in the St. Petersburg Times. It sought to rewrite the account of Judas' betrayal of Jesus Christ. Which account will our age believe?

Peter speaks of these individuals.

2 Peter 3:15-16
Bear in mind that our Lord's patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction. (NIV)

John has a name for these kind of teachers, "Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. (1 John 2:18 NIV)

There are those who say they believe in Jesus, but it is not biblical belief. The word "anti" means against. If you are anti guns, you are against guns. If you are anti Christ, you are against what Christ taught. There is nothing mysterious about antichrist, they are simply individual's who are against the Christ of Scripture. They seek to redefine his life according to their own mindset. There have always been antichrist and there will always be antichrist seeking to deny what Christ taught.

Matthew 7:15-23
"Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them. "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!' (NIV)

Matthew 10:16
I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. (NIV)

There is one resounding message that runs through the warnings against false prophets. They are deceitful!

2 Corinthians 11:13-15
For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve. (NIV)

Sincerity Is Not Enough

Some say, "It doesn't make any difference what you believe as long as you are sincere." In fact this is the philosophy of the majority today. I think it is a philosophy that is just accepted without thinking it through. Will sincerity change a lie into the truth? If it will then we ought to be able to apply this principle to other areas of life.

We need to be sincere, but we also need to be right. If a doctor prescribes the wrong medicine for a patient, will the wrong medicine bring healing to the patient? What if the patient dies? The patient is sincerely following the doctor's orders, but his orders are wrong. Sincerity will not make the wrong medicine right. It takes more than sincerity to make something true.

Sincerity is certainly a virtue. There is nothing worse than knowing and believing the truth and being insincere about practicing the truth. However, we must build our lives around truth.

John has been warning us about the conflict between light and darkness. Now he is warning us about truth and error, which is another aspect of light and darkness. Those who love darkness love lies and those who love light love the truth.

John 3:19-21
This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God." (NIV)

The spirit of the antichrist is behind every false doctrine. We are living in a time of crisis when people prefer darkness to light and we must beware.  Satan has always been busy substituting the counterfeit for the real thing.

1 Timothy 4:1-4
The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron. They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth. For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving . . .. (NIV)

The term "antichrist " is used only in John's writings. (1 John 2:18, 22: 4:3; and 2 John 7) John describes three aspects of the antichrist. First, it is a spirit in the hearts of men that denies Christ. Secondly, it describes those who embody this spirit. Third, it describes those who will head up the final rebellion against God and his Christ.

There are two forces at work in our world today. Truth is working through God's Holy Spirit and evil is working through the energies of Satan. One says, "It doesn't make any difference what you believe, as long as your are honest and sincere." The others say, "Truth must guide all our efforts in honesty and sincerity."

Recognizing the Antichrist

1 John 2:18-19
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. (NIV)

John gives us some marks to help us distinguish the antichrist from those who teach the truth. One mark is that they usually leave the fellowship of true Christians to form a fellowship of their own. They come to lead Christians away to develop a fellowship of their own.

Acts 20:28-31
Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears. (NIV)

Jeremiah was crying out against those leading God's people astray.

Jeremiah 23:1-2
"Woe to the shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep of my pasture!" declares the LORD. Therefore this is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says to the shepherds who tend my people: "Because you have scattered my flock and driven them away and have not bestowed care on them, I will bestow punishment on you for the evil you have done," declares the LORD. (NIV)

It is dangerous when people leave the fellowship of God's people. Some wander from church to church seemingly afraid to claim any church as their home while discouraging as many as they can along the way. It is dangerous. I have seen families' trying to figure out the church a person belongs when they die. They have floated around for years and end up without the fellowship of Christians. This is scary.

This is not to say that staying in a church implies we are saved. If you investigate the history of cults and antichristian movements, you will discover that most of these movements began in church. David Koresh, Jim Jones, Heaven's Gate, etc.

The members of those groups began following human leaders.

Another mark of the antichrist is that they deny the faith. John tells us that the one who denies Jesus is the Christ is the antichrist. He also denies the Father and the Son.

1 John 2:20-23
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. (NIV)

Most false teachers claim that they have some special unction or anointing, which gives them special insight into the knowledge of God. They have been illuminated and they are on a little higher plain than the rest of us.

However, all true Christians have received the Spirit of God. This qualifies us to recognize truth from error and to walk in light as we shun the darkness. We have the Spirit of Christ. (Romans 8:9)

Not everyone who teaches and preaches the Bible teaches the truth. Not everyone who teaches that there are false prophets is teaching the truth. This is why John warns us to test what others are saying by the Word of God.

1 John 4:1-6
Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world. You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we recognize the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood. (NIV)

It takes more than identifying who Christ is to be a Christian. The demons recognized who Jesus was, but they were lost. (Mark 1:24) The demons believe and tremble. (James 2:19)

A person is not saved because he/she believes in a church creed. Many churches develop their own creeds apart from God. However, churches can't save you. Christ can save you. Christ is the savior of the church. (Ephesians 5:25)

An evangelist was talking to a man about his soul. He asked the man, "Sir, what do you believe?"

The man responded, "I believe what my church believes."

Then the evangelist asks him, "What does your church believe?"

The man replied, "My church believes the same thing I believe."

So the preacher asks, "And what do both of you believe?"

The man replied, "We both believe the same thing!" This was the only response the evangelist could get.

We are saved through believing in Christ. Many say, "I believe in God, but I do not believe in Christ." They want to be in fellowship with us although they do not believe in Christ. You can't have the Father without the Son, because in a true sense both are one. (John 10:30)

We must try the spirits to see if they are from God. You test them by what you know the Bible plainly teaches. We must allow the word to abide in us (2:24), as we seek to abide in Christ.

1 John 2:27
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. (NIV)

The third mark of an antichrist is they will seek to deceive the faithful. Deception is the hallmark of a false teacher. Biblical terms for false are wolves in sheep's clothing and angels of light. These terms define a deceitful spirit. Satan's work is a counterfeit. The counterfeit is designed to look like the real thing. They can make another gospel sound like the real thing. (Galatians 1:6-12) A counterfeit gospel produces counterfeit Christians opposed to Christ.

Jesus portrays God sowing the good seed of his kingdom and Satan comes along and sows tares. (Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43) The two kinds of plants look so much alike that the servants could not tell the difference until harvest time. We must grow in discernment so that we can recognize the counterfeit.

How can we know the true children of God? We know them because they seek to do what is right because Christ was righteous. Those born of God seek to abide in his word and do what is right.


The soul purpose of John's writing is to warn us about those who seek to lead us astray. They seek to trade darkness for light and light for darkness.

1 John 2:26
I am writing these things to you about those who are trying to lead you astray. (NIV)

We must remain faithful to the truth as we allow the truth to abide in us and guide our daily walk. We must walk in the light as he is in the light. We must not ever think that there is absolutely no error in our ways, but we must strive to walk in the light of God's truth as we recognize and confess the darkness that overshadows us.


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