WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

by Dr. Robert R Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER FOUR (Lesson XX) 02/11/22

4:3 If someone claims to be a prophet and does not acknowledge the truth about Jesus, that person is not from God. Such a person has the spirit of the Antichrist, which you heard is coming into the world and indeed is already here.

Tertullian has one more thing to say. Up to the present moment, they have not, tribe by tribe, beat their chests in repentance, looking on Him whom they pierced.[1] No one has as yet been carried away like Elijah;[2] no one has as yet escaped from Antichrist;[3] no one has as yet had to lament the downfall of Babylon.[4] However, no one has risen from being spiritually dead except some heretics. Although our Lord rose from death, His spiritual body – the Church, is still susceptible to heretic fevers and ulcers; He did put His enemies under His feet, yet His Church has to struggle with the powers of the world. As a matter of fact, He is already King while His Church owes to Cæsar the things which are Cæsar’s.[5] [6]

The Bishop of Carthage, Cyprian (200-258), wrote a treatise against the doubting Jews in his day. He began by saying, “Although from the beginning He [Jesus] had been the Son of God, yet He had to be born again according to the flesh.” Cyprian then quotes King David’s Psalm: “The king proclaims the Lord’s decree: ‘The Lord said to me, ‘You are my son.  Today I have become your Father.  Only ask, and I will give you the nations as your inheritance the whole earth as your possession.’”[7] Also, according to Luke: “When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice, she exclaimed: ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored that the mother of my Lord should come to me?’”[8] Also, the Apostle Paul stated: “But when the set time had fully come, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under the law.”[9] Now the Apostle John declares that: “Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus the Anointed One has come in the flesh is from God,but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. It is the spirit of the antichrist.[10]

As we can see, the point Cyprian is making is that when Jesus was with the Father, He was God’s only Son, and when He was born in the flesh through Mary, it was His second birth as the begotten Son of God. Therefore, while Jesus was the Son of God before coming to earth, He became the only Son born of a woman at His birth in Bethlehem. So it may be that what Cyprian was talking about is that it took two steps for Jesus, the Son of God in heaven, to become the begotten son of man on earth.[11]

Didymus the Blind (313-398) gives us the view of the antichrist in the fourth century. He says that if someone claims to have God’s Spirit and attempts to separate the son of man from the Son of God, who thinks that the Word was never incarnated and cannot be human, or states that everything Jesus did in the flesh is a fantasy, that spirit is not from God.

But someone will say that many heretics accept the incarnation, the Montanists,[12] for instance. The answer to them is that just as no one says that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit, the Montanists (and the religious cults of today) do not accept all the implications of incarnational belief. Those who say that Jesus is Lord but do not follow His commandments do not have the Holy Spirit. Although they honor Him with their lips, their hearts are far from Him.[13] [14]

Bede the Venerable (672-735) interprets what he feels John is saying here: John is talking here about people who deny the divinity of the Anointed One or who say that he did not have a human soul or did not take on human flesh. But the person who misinterprets the commands and sayings of Jesus perversely also denies Him. So, too, does the person who upsets the unity of the church, which Jesus came to gather to Himself. The antichrist will arrive on the eve of Judgment Day. He will be a man born in the world but much more wicked than others, in fact, the very son of rebellion. Unfortunately, this antichrist spirit is already in the world. It dwells in the minds of those who reject the Anointed One either in word or deed, to the point there is no longer any hope of salvation for them.[15]

The spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus as the Messiah is what John calls the spirit of antichrist.  There is a great debate over John’s use of the phrase “antichrist.”  Some believe he referred to a movement opposed to Jesus of Nazareth being called the Son of man, the Messiah.  But others think that this is the designation of an individual.  It originates in Jewish theology that mentions this person as an opponent to the Messiah.  Even Jewish scholars point to the Apostle Paul’s writings where the apostle says that this “Man of Evil” (also known as the Son of Perdition or Man of Lawlessness) will appear, “…the one who belongs to hell. He will stand against and put himself above everything people worship or think is worthy of worship. He will even go into God’s Temple and sit there, claiming that he is God.”[16]

Walter Hilton (1340-1396) tells us that the best way to test the spirits is by the Apostle John’s test in verse three. Every spirit that tried to dismantle the human Jesus from the superhuman Jesus attempted to convince everyone that He was not from God. These words may be understood or misunderstood in many ways. Nevertheless, we may appreciate them to fasten Jesus to a person’s soul, bringing good will and a great desire to have Him and spiritually see Him in His glory. The greater this desire is, the faster is Jesus knit to the soul, and the less this desire is to become unattached to Him. So, what spirit tries to lessen this desire and draw away from one’s steadfast look at Jesus the Anointed One and from the growing desire to be with Him? Therefore, such a spirit will detach Jesus from the soul and not be from God but the enemy’s work. But if a mood, feeling, or revelation increases this desire, knitting the knots of love and devotion faster to Jesus, opening the eye of the soul into spiritual knowing more clearly, and making it more humble in itself, this spirit is of God.

Jewish scholars believe that Paul’s reference to the Temple is significant because, since 70 AD, there has been no Temple.[17] When Paul says: “Then that Man of Evil will appear, whom the Lord will kill with the breath that comes from His mouth. The Lord will come in a way that everyone will see, and that will be the end of the Man of Evil.[18] Jewish scholars believe Paul bases this on Isaiah 11:4, which is taken as a reference to the Messiah, as interpreted in the Targum, Torah’s official eastern (Babylonian) targum (Aramaic translation).

However, its early origins may have been in the West. Scholars attribute its authorship to Aquila of Pontius or Aquila of Sinope (modern Sinop in Turkey), better known as Onkelos, a Roman who became a famous convert to Judaism in Tannaic times (c.35–120 AD).[19]  Thus the Jewish mind believes this individual was present during the era leading up to the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD.  However, Paul puts this in the future after the Messiah returns.

John Calvin (1509-1564) finds that what the Apostle John added here rendered the impostures trying to lead us away from the Anointed One even more detestable. Back in John’s Day, the doctrine respecting the kingdom of Antichrist was already well known, warning the faithful of the future scattering of the Church so that they might exercise watchfulness. Therefore, it was only fitting that they dreaded the name “antichrist” as dishonorable and threatening. The Apostle John now says that all those who depreciated the Anointed One were members of that evil empire.

And John also said that the spirit of antichrist would come and that it was already active in the world, but in a different sense. He means that it was already in the world because it concealed its injustice. However, notes Calvin, the antichrist’s spirit, has not yet undermined God’s truth with counterfeit dogmas, nor has superstition prevailed in corrupting the worship of God. Thus, the world has not yet unfaithfully departed from the Anointed One. Furthermore, in opposition to the kingdom of the Anointed One, Satan’s dictatorship has not yet openly exalted itself.[20] But, says John, it is on its way.[21] But today, we testify that the spirit of antichrist is now openly promoting itself and has commenced its war against Christianity.

James Arminius (1560-1609) comments on the Apostle John’s examining the spirits. He concludes that although the inward witness of the Holy Spirit is known to whom it is communicated, and since there is a mutual relationship between the accuracy of the testifier and the truth, an examination may be instituted respecting the testimony itself. Arminius feels that such scrutiny of witnesses is far from being injurious or displeasing to the Holy Spirit, that by this method, a witnesses’ reliability is more highly noticeable. Thus, the Apostle John commanded us to “try the spirits whether they be of God” and has added a specimen of such a “trial.”[22] It will therefore be as easy to discredit the person who falsely boasts of having the internal testimony of the Holy Spirit as to be able to destroy that religion to which they profess themselves to be devoted.[23]

John Trapp (1601-1669), in response to the Apostle John’s mention of antichrist, makes the point that he is not called an Atheist, nor an Antitheist, but Antichrist, in opposition to the Anointed One. His opposition is not against the Anointed One’s nature or person, but His unction and function.[24]


[1] Zechariah 12:10; cf. John 19:37

[2] Malachi 4:5

[3] 1 John 4:3

[4] Revelation 18:2

[5] Matthew 22:21

[6] Tertullian: On the Resurrection of the Flesh, Ch. XXII

[7] Psalm 2:7-8

[8] Luke 1:41-43

[9] Galatians 4:2-3

[10] 1 John 4:2-3

[11] Cyprian Three Books of Testimonies Against the Jews, Treatise XII, Testimonies, Bk 2, ⁋8, p. 1062

[12] Montanism, is a heretical movement founded by the prophet Montanus that arose in the Christian church in Phrygia, Asia Minor, in the 2nd century. Subsequently it flourished in the West, principally in Carthage under the leadership of Tertullian in the 3rd century. The Montanists were alleged to have believed in the power of apostles and prophets to forgive sins. Adherents also believed that martyrs and confessors also possessed this power.

[13] Matthew 15:8; cf. Isaiah 29:13

[14] Didymus, (Bray Ed.), James, 1-2 Peter, 1-3 John, Jude, op. cit., loc. cit.

[15] Bede the Venerable, Ancient Christian Commentary, Vol. XI, Bray, G. (Ed.), James, 1-2 Peter, 1-3 John

[16] 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4

[17] They point back to Daniel 7:25; 9:27; 11:36; Isaiah 14:13; Ezekiel 28:2, 14; and 1 Maccabees 14:14.

[18] Ibid. 2:8

[19] Tannaim is plural for Tanna “repeaters” or “teachers” who were the rabbinic sages whose views are recorded in the Mishnah, from approximately 10–220 AD.

[20] Calvin is describing conditions during the 1500’s in Europe

[21] Calvin, John: Commentary on the Catholic Epistles, op. cit., loc. cit.

[22] 1 John 4:1, 2

[23] Arminius, James: Disputations on some of the Principal Subjects of the Christian Religion, Disputation 1.19, p. 358

[24] Trapp, John: op. cit., p. 476

About drbob76

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