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It has been quite some time since we were in 1 John. In fact it was on Nov. 7, 2010. Since then, we’ve had a lot of things happen so let me put us back in a 1 John mind set. This is John’s first letter to the church and really needs to be studied alongside John’s gospel. This letter lays the foundation for Christian character. Throughout this letter he points to the idea that conduct means more than words.
As Christians, we need to line up our behavior with the Bible. We can’t just claim to be a Christian yet live a life that is contrary to the teachings of Scripture; that are contrary to the example of Christ. Last time we were in 1 John, we saw the dangers of the world. The lust of the flesh, the eyes, and the boastful pride of life. If you love the world, the love of God isn’t in you. This morning John introduces us to a concept that people really don’t want to acknowledge.
1 John 2:18-19 says, “Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that bantichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have appeared; from this we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, bso that 1it would be shown that they all are not of us.”
People have been looking for the end times really since time began. In this passage John focuses on what he calls, “The last hour.” There are many hours mentioned in the Bible. Some mean a specific point in time: There is the 3rd, 6th, and 9th hours of Matt. 20. The 3rd hour is mentioned in Mark 15 when Jesus was crucified. Then darkness fell across the land from the 6th to the 9th hour. There is the 10th hour of John, Chapter 1. There is the 11th hour of Matt 20:9 which has come to mean the last possible opportunity. In Jo. 11:9 Jesus asked, “Are there not twelve hours in the day?”
Hour can also be used in more of a general sense of time. The hour has come in Mark 14. In Jo. 2:4, Jesus told Mary, “Woman, what does that have to do with us? My hour has not yet come.” So you need to evaluate the context to understand what the hour refers to. John is talking about the last hour as a period of indefinite time. He reminds the church that they heard that anti-Christ was coming. They heard about it from the apostles, from preachers of the Gospel, from other Christians. It is the last hour. How do we know? John tells us, “Even now many antichrists have appeared; from this we know that it is the last hour.”
Who are the anti-Christs? Asking the who, what, where, why, when, and how questions are very important when reading and studying Scripture. Take a look at v. 19. The pronouns they and us appear 11 times in this verse. They refers to the anti-Christs and us refers to John and who he is writing to – the church. Anti-Christ comes from the Greek word antichristos and is used only by John although the idea of being against Christ is prevalent throughout Scripture. So are these anti-Christs still around today and if so, how can we spot them? To be clear, John is not referring to the Anti-Christ that will come on the scene just before Jesus’ return to earth. This idea of anti-Christ is anything that is opposed to Christ. John is certainly referring to the Gnostics that represent a false Gospel. They deny the deity of Christ, the incarnation of Christ, the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ and therefore preach and adhere to a false Gospel. Contextually, that’s who John is talking about, but there is a present day application. There is a plethora of false teaching today. It is probable that many people reading this could give me an example of false teaching. Some of the more dangerous false teaching includes: Jesus is just one of many ways to get to heaven. There is no literal heaven and no literal hell. The Word of God is a great history book but it’s not all true. Islam is a peaceful religion. Any my favorite and I think John’s favorite too: it doesn’t matter how I live as long as I have made a profession of faith.
To be true to the Scripture, John is talking about when to cut the ties. When is it right to go your separate way, when is it right to cut off rather than compromise. There are several fundamental doctrines that are not up for discussion. I believe that Jesus Christ is God incarnate, fully God and fully man, one Person in two natures. Jesus – Israel’s promised Messiah was conceived through the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. He lived a sinless life, was crucified under Pontius Pilate, arose bodily from the dead, ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father as our High Priest and Advocate. I believe that Jesus Christ, as our representative and substitute, shed His blood on the cross as the perfect, all-sufficient sacrifice for our sins. His atoning death and victorious resurrection constitute the only ground for salvation. I will not bend, I will not budge, I will not break, and I will not change from that fundamental truth.
These people John refer to left the church of their own accord. If they were really part of the church, they never would have left, but the fact remains that they did leave the church which proves they were never really part of the church. This is not a circular argument. Someone that wants nothing to do with Christ, wants nothing to do with His bride, wants nothing to do with prayer, or Bible study, or devotion to God, or with other Christians and experiences no conviction from the Holy Spirit is not part of us and never was. If you are truly a Christian, you will never leave the church. I’m not talking about changing churches, I’m talking about walking away. John is convinced and so am I, that if you have an authentic relationship with Christ, you have a life long relationship with His church. His church in the universal sense, but also in the local sense. Some would argue that it is not necessary to be a part of a local assembly; that you don’t need to be part of a church to be a good Christian. I don’t see that in Scripture. The church exists for the benefit of God’s people. For encouragement, for teaching and instruction. The church’s leaders serve as examples. We have the spiritual gift of apostle – church planter. We have the spiritual gift of pastor – teacher. In fact spiritual gifts are given for the common good of the body of Christ.
The church also exists to accomplish the mandate to make disciples of all nations and teach people to observe the commandments of God. No one is called to be a lone ranger. It’s not spiritually healthy or beneficial. So why do people walk away? Why do people that were raised in church walk away when they grow up? There are many reasons, but I think the main one is few godly people take the time to really disciple others. We all know them, we see them every day. People that claim to be a Christian, but they have left the church and want nothing to do with the church of Jesus. The reality and the painful truth is that it is likely these people have never had a relationship with Christ.
We’ll look more at this idea next week.