March 2012
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  • The Epistles of John: Living in Truth and Love. 1 John 2:18b-19

    Week 22: Mar 4, 2012

    We left off last time in the middle of John’s discussion of his opponents and what was meant by his use of the term “the last hour.”

    Study

    e. Their Position (2:18-27)

    i. Antichrists a sign of the time (2:18-19)

    18 – Little children, it is the last hour. Just as you heard that an antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have appeared. This is how we know it is the last hour.

    Just as you heard that an antichrist is coming,

    – The word Antichrist is a source of great confusion. The problem is not in translating from Greek to English as antichrist is simply a transliteration of ἀντίχριστος (antichristos). The problem is in translating from the 1st century to the 21st. John is the only one to use this term in the New Testament. Jesus warned about False Christs (ψευδόχριστοι – Mk 13:22; Mt 24:24) and he spoke of the abomination of desolation (Mk 13:14). Paul warned about the the man of lawlessness (ὁ ἄνθρωπος τῆς ἀνομίας — 2 THess 2:3). It is also possible that the Book of Revelations had already been written with its references to the Beast and/or False Prophet (Rev 13:19-20). Whatever the reference, John is referring to an antichrist that will to come at some time in the future.

    so now many antichrists have appeared.

    – Just as there will be an Antichrist, now there are many antichrists. The view is that these will be lesser ones leading up to the real antichrist. They share the same spirit and these antichrists will be the precursor to the real thing. But this is where the problem begins. Over the last 2000 years we have added a lot of baggage to the term antichrist, particularly once Hollywood jumped and made movies like The Omen. But little if any of this was in John’s mind or the mind of his readers. So we must try to understand the term as John intended, which refers to those against or opposed to Christ.

    This is how we know it is the last hour.

    – It is the presences of the antichrists that tells us we are in the last hour. Returning to last week’s question about the meaning of “the last hour” we can note the following:

    • It cannot be the very last hour, because then it would be the real antichrist instead of the precursors.
    • The presents of the antichrists must be exclusive of the time period “the last hour.”

    Given this, what makes these unbelievers different from the unbelievers in other times? There have always been unbelievers that have denied and/or rebelled against God. But unlike others, these unbelievers claim to be followers of Christ, when in reality they oppose him and in that they corrupt the faith. The “last hour” then is that period of time where some unbelievers will cloak there unbelief by claiming to be true followers or Christ.

    Looking at the options from last week, John it would seem, meant either Option A (that age from the ministry of Christ to the Second Coming) or possibly C (referring more the quality of the age rather than the time period). It is important to note that John is not talking about WHEN the second coming will happen, he is talking about the period of deception leading up to it and he is point out that this period had already started.

    i. They Left us (2:19-20)

    19 – They left us, but they were not part of us, for if they had been part of us, they would have stayed with us. Their leaving made it clear that none of them was really part of us.

    They left us

    – John’s readers have known who he was talking about from the very beginning, now we find out. The Greek is ambiguous (ἐξ ἡμῶν ἐξῆλθαν) . This could refer to origin – us being the place they were from, or it could refer to membership –they had belonged to us. But either way this was a church split. They were once a part of the church but they left.

    First century churches were normally small and close so the split certainly involved friends, and very likely family members. This was the event that sparked the letter, and it helps us to understand the context that stood behind the it. These people has been in the middle of this so there was no need for John to have mentioned this at the beginning of the letter. They already knew exactly what was going on.

    – It is important to note that they were not thrown out, they left. While disputes and disagreements were common in the early church people did not leave the faith. For example, in Gal 2:11 Paul wrote about his disagreement with Peter. But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly wrong. In Act 15:39 the disagreement between Paul and Barnabus was so sharp that they parted ways. Barnabas took Mark and sailed to Cyprus. Yet while they parted ways, neither left the faith. In Rom 14: 13 Paul gives the following instruction to those who were in disagreement Therefore, let’s no longer criticize each other. The disputes in Romans 14 were over questions that still arise in the church today such as what day to meet, and what you can eat and drink. It is interesting that Paul did not seek to settle these issues, but instead told us not to be critical of those who make different choice than we do.

    But in the chruch John was writting to, there was something far more fundamental than a dispute over which day we should worship on. These people departed over core doctrine—They had left the faith. But this immediately raises the question that if Christians can abandon their faith, what does that say about eternal security?

    they were not part of us

    – John address the issue by refuting the premise, they did none loose their salvation because never were in the faith. He does this by first making a claim, and then gives a logical argument to support it.

    – Technically his argument is a hypothetical syllogism of the form Modus Tollens. This is a deductive argument, which means if the premises are true, the conclusion is guaranteed. If we put it into classical form:

    If they had been part of us, then they would have stayed with us.
    They did not stay with us.�
    Therefore they were not part of us.

    Questions and Discussion

    The discussion this week centered a lot on the term antichrist and how applicable it is to groups like the Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons. Here we much be careful. As John intended the term, i.e., referring to those who claim to be follows of Christ when they really oppose him, the term would be accurate. However, that is not the common meaning of the term today. To say that Mormons and Jehovah’s witnesses are antichrists would really be inaccurate without a lot of qualifications about exactly what is meant by the term. It may be accurate in the way that John used the term, but it would not be accurate given the modern understanding.

    If you have question or comments about the class, feel free to send me an email at elgin@hushbeck.com and be sure to put “Epistles of John” in the header.

    See here for references and more background on the class.

    Scripture taken from the Holy Bible: International Standard Version®. Copyright © 1996-2008 by The ISV Foundation. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED INTERNATIONALLY. Used by permission. www.isv.org

    Note: Some places I have modify the text from the ISV version. Passages that I have modified have been noted with and * by the verse number and the ISV text is included in a footnote.

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