By Dr. Robert R. Seyda


CHAPTER TWO (Lesson LIII) 06/04/21

2:18 My dear children, the end is near! You have heard that the enemy of the Anointed One is coming. And now, many enemies of the Anointed One are already here. So, we know that the end must be near.

Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) points out that the Apostle John had another event in mind. That is when Jesus returns to finish the work He started here on earth. It will mean the end of the devil’s attacks against His saints and the beginning of the end of the devil’s reign. The question is, how are we to prepare for this visit at the most unexpected time? John says that we need to keep an eye on the spirit of the antichrist.

The antichrist’s main aim will be to drive a wedge into the family of God to divide them before conquering them. But Jesus made it clear that those who remain faithful will be the ones who triumph.[1] There are many false teachers, says Edwards, that serve as forerunners of the antichrist.[2] The signal of it being the last days will be their captivation of the church to disregard the rising persecution against them by the world. “Love will prevail,” they say. But remember this, God’s love did not prevail until His Son died on the Cross.

French theologian Theodore Beza’s (1519-1605) account of a critical and historical controversy in Calvin’s life left a permanent impression on history. It details Cardinal Jacopo Sadoleto’s (1477-1547) inquisition to put down the reformation. Calvin defended himself and told the interrogators: “I am not convinced that I was rebelling against the Church. I was at war with its leaders. The Son of God and the Apostles forewarned me that people would occupy these positions with whom I could never agree. The Anointed One said through His Word that these people would present themselves as pastors, but were fake sheep and false prophets.” Furthermore, said Calvin, “the Anointed One ordered me to remain alert. So, am I supposed to support them? The Apostles declared that there would be no enemies of the Church more vicious than these insiders who would cover themselves with priest’s robes.”[3] [4]

James Macknight (1721-1800) describes the “antichrist” in two ways: First, someone who attempts to put themselves in the place of the Anointed One. That means they are a “false christ.” Second, someone who is in opposition to the Anointed One. It seems clear that the Apostle John is using the words “antichrist” in both senses here in this epistle, the only place in the Final Covenant where the term occurs. But it is not new; Jesus also foretold this “antichrist” would come.[5] But the thing that focuses on their identity is what John says later in verse nineteen: “They went away from us.”[6] It could mean that they forsook the community, or they abandoned the fundamental doctrines of the faith.

Samuel E. Pierce (1746-1829) gives us a complete description of the word “antichrist” and to whom it applies. He says that the Apostle John reminds the saints of what they heard concerning the antichrist, his coming and that he was almost here. His forerunners having given sufficient evidence of this. And as you have heard that antichrist will come, even now are there many antichrists. Under this heading will be expressed what we should understand about the antichrist. The term “antichrist” includes all the heretics and false teachers. Many may think of him as one individual, yet in and with him are all his lookalikes.[7]

Richard Rothe (1799-1867) notes that dividing earth’s history into BC and AD did not start with Christians. The Jews already divided the duration of the earth’s existence into two specific periods or eons separated by the Messiah’s coming. They referred to the past as before He came and the future after He comes. When He came, the Jews expected Him to redeem His people and judge the Gentile nations and begin His reign on earth. It is no wonder that this same expectation is part of Christian theology. One significant difference is that the redemption of His people and the world’s judging would have a long interval in between.

Nevertheless, both Jews and Christians are awaiting the Messiah. For the Jews, it will be for the first time, and for Christians, the second time.  I heard a humorous story about a Messianic Rabbi who said the Messiah, Jesus, had come and a Jewish Rabbi who could not agree the Messiah had come but was yet to come. After years of friendly debate, one day, the Messianic Rabbi said to his Jewish friend, “When your Messiah comes, ask him if this is his first time or second time?” The Apostle may not have had this in mind when he spoke of it being the last hour, but the Apostle Peter reckoned it this way: “One day with the Lord is as a thousand years on earth.”[8]

But there is another factor, says Rothe. The last hour will involve the spirit of the antichrist. John said that the idea of being an anti-Christian was already in the world in his day. Another warning received is that this anti-Christian attitude would begin inside the congregation. Surprisingly, it would come from those claiming to be part of the body of the Anointed One.[9] Opposing the Anointed One is not enough; they also are against His kingdom.[10]

The Jews always taught: at the Messiah’s coming, the world would be in a mess. There would be moral corruption and hatred, even within families. Likewise, Jesus warned of the same thing at the time of His return.[11] And the Apostle Paul elaborated on it further.[12] Therefore, we can see the need for brotherly and sisterly love to be strong because Jesus also warned believers about those turbulent times and said that the love of many would grow cold.[13] Still, those who endure to the end will be saved for eternity when He returns.[14]

Frederic Maurice (1805-1872) assures us that God controls His world. He formed it and marked it satisfactory. God’s agape-love, of which the Apostle John speaks, includes every feral, fish, fowl, and flower. But it is primarily directed towards that creature who has willfully strayed and brought disorder to God’s world – humanity. If we don’t understand this, says Maurice, we will not grasp John’s entire message. And how did this disorder occur? It came when humans began to form and sculpt objects for worship and made them into gods. 

Says Maurice, humans did this to see their reflection in the world they wanted and became so enamored that they clung to their idols. It thrives on the belief that the earth is the center of the universe and humanity is the center of the world. Not only that, but this multiplied into each person having their little world. These became miserable centers and began to clash with other small worlds around them. Some even claimed that their worlds were more prominent and essential than others. Pretty soon, they became so dissatisfied that they desired to escape their world. This selfish love is the counterfeit of the self-sacrificing love of the Anointed One. All these disorders, says the Apostle John, spring from not having the agape-love we all should have – the children, young adults, and elders. The heavenly Father’s love must prevail over all this, or it will not only drive His love out of our tiny individual world, but the world at large.[15]

In Heinrich Meyer’s (1800-1873) commentary on this verse, we find this remark: “Those who truly belong to the Church, namely the Body of the Anointed One, never leaves it; they who do leave prove they did not belong in the first place.” Now, Meyer was not talking about one church but God’s universal Church. In expressing such confidence, says Meyer, John felt he was preserving the love of the Lord and the faithfulness of those He saved.

However, how do we reconcile this with what the writer of Hebrews said, asks Meyer? “For it is impossible to bring back to repentance those who were once enlightened – those who have experienced the good things of heaven and shared in the Holy Spirit.”[16] It looks like the writer of Hebrews is talking about believers who were once part of the Body of the Anointed One. Meyers feels that John would not argue this point and accept the fact that this could happen. However, John would insist that no matter how long it took them to fall away, they never wholeheartedly entered into the fellowship of the Lord despite the fact His love touched them. The critical factor is this; they never wholly severed their ties to the world.[17]

In Johann Huther’s (1807- 1880) commentary, we read that the one circumstance that the Apostle John urges believers to abide in the Anointed One shows that he would not deny the possibility of their falling away. He agrees with Meyer that those who never completely broke with the world.[18] Huther then goes on to say that once John mentions the substance of this divine commandment to love, he then describes the necessity to put it into practice. It, says Huther, is the mark whereby Christians know that God is within them.[19]

[1] Ibid. 24:13

[2] Edwards, Jonathan, The Works of, Vol. 6, Notes on the Bible, pp. 1058, 1173, 1179

[3] See Matthew 7:15; Acts of the Apostles 20:29; 2 Pet. 2:1; 1 John 2:18

[4] Calvin and Sadoleto, The Vindication of the Reformation (1539), History of the Christian Church by Philip Schaff, Vol. 8, The Swiss Reformation, p. 345

[5] Matthew 24:11

[6] Macknight, James: First Epistle of John, op. cit., pp. 52-53

[7] Pierce, S. E., An Exposition of the Firsts Epistle General of John, op. cit., Vol. 1, p. 206

[8] 2 Peter 3:8

[9] Matthew 17:15

[10] Rothe, Richard: The Expository Times, op. cit., August 1892, p. 505

[11] Ibid. 24:36-44

[12] 2 Timothy 3:1-17

[13] Matthew 24:12

[14] Matthew 24:4-14

[15] Maurice, F. D., The Epistles of St. John, op. cit., pp. 121-122

[16] Hebrews 6:4

[17] Meyer, Heinrich: Critical Commentary, op. cit., pp. 532-533

[18] Johann Huther: Handbook on Epistles of John, op. cit., pp. 356-357

[19] Ibid. p. 419

About drbob76

Retired missionary, pastor, seminary professor, Board Certified Chaplain and American Cancer Society Hope Lodge Director.
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