1 John 2:18
Little children, it is the last time: and as you have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
1 John 2:18. Little, or young, children — The former caution against the love of the world belongs chiefly to old experienced Christians, or those who have attained some considerable knowledge and experience in divine things, because they are most apt to offend in that particular; this against seducers belongs chiefly to younger Christians, who are less established, and therefore more liable to be seduced. It is the last time — Greek, εσχατη ωρα εστι, it is the last hour, namely, as some understand it, of the duration of the Jewish Church and state, a sense of the expression which is favoured by the consideration that it was the period in which our Lord had foretold the rise of many false Christs. And therefore the apostle here cautions them against such deceivers, intimating, at the same time, for their encouragement and comfort, that the power of their persecutors, the Jews, would speedily be broken. Doddridge, however, Wesley, and many others, by the last hour, or last time, here understand the last dispensation of grace. As if the apostle had said, “The last dispensation that God will ever give to the world is now promulgated, and it is no wonder if Satan endeavour, to the utmost, to adulterate a system from which his kingdom has so much to fear.” And as ye have heard that antichrist shall come Ερχκεται, cometh. “The word αντιχριστος, antichrist, is nowhere found but in John’s first and second epistle. It may have two meanings. For if the preposition αντι, in αντιχριστος, denotes in place of, the name will signify one who puts himself in the place of Christ: consequently antichrist is a false Christ. But if the preposition denotes oppositions, antichrist is one who opposeth Christ. The persons to whom this epistle was written had heard of the coming of antichrist in both senses of the name. For the first sort of antichrists were foretold by our Lord, Matthew 24:5 : Many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ, and shall deceive many. The second sort were foretold Matthew 24:11, Many false prophets will arise and deceive many. From what John hath written, 1 John 2:22 of this chapter, and chap. 1 John 4:3-4; 1 John 2:7, there is reason to think that by antichrist he meant those false prophets, or teachers, who were foretold by our Lord to rise about the time of the destruction of Jerusalem, and who were now gone abroad. Some of these denied the humanity of Jesus Christ, others of them denied his divinity; and as both sorts opposed Christ, by denying the redemption of the world through his death, it is probably of them chiefly that John speaks in his epistles. When the apostle mentions these false teachers collectively, he calls them the antichrist in the singular number, as St. Paul called the false teachers collectively, of whom he prophesied, 2 Thessalonians 2:3, the man of sin. But when John speaks of these teachers as individuals, he calls them many antichrists, in the plural number.” — Macknight. Thus also Mr. Wesley: “Under the term antichrist, or the spirit of antichrist, he includes all false teachers as enemies to the truth; yea, whatever doctrines or men are contrary to Christ. It seems to have been long after this that the name of antichrist was appropriated to that grand adversary of Christ, the man of sin, 2 Thessalonians 2:3.” Even now are there many antichrists — Many seducers revolted from Christianity, (1 John 2:19,) who were actuated by an antichristian spirit, and do secretly undermine the interest of Christ, and so make way for the grand antichrist. The preterit tense, γεγονασι, is here used to signify, not only the existence of many antichrists at that time, but also that there had been many antichrists who had gone off the stage; whereby we know that it is the last time — The last hour of the Jewish state, namely, by Christ’s prediction, Matthew 24:24.2:18-23 Every man is an antichrist, who denies the Person, or any of the offices of Christ; and in denying the Son, he denies the Father also, and has no part in his favour while he rejects his great salvation. Let this prophecy that seducers would rise in the Christian world, keep us from being seduced. The church knows not well who are its true members, and who are not, but thus true Christians were proved, and rendered more watchful and humble. True Christians are anointed ones; their names expresses this: they are anointed with grace, with gifts and spiritual privileges, by the Holy Spirit of grace. The great and most hurtful lies that the father of lies spreads in the world, usually are falsehoods and errors relating to the person of Christ. The unction from the Holy One, alone can keep us from delusions. While we judge favourably of all who trust in Christ as the Divine Saviour, and obey his word, and seek to live in union with them, let us pity and pray for those who deny the Godhead of Christ, or his atonement, and the new-creating work of the Holy Ghost. Let us protest against such antichristian doctrine, and keep from them as much as we may.Little children - See 1 John 2:1.

It is the last time - The closing period or dispensation; that dispensation in which the affairs of the world are ultimately to be wound up. The apostle does not, however, say that the end of the world would soon occur, nor does he intimate how long this dispensation would be. That period might continue through many ages or centuries, and still be the last dispensation, or that in which the affairs of the world would be finally closed. See the Isaiah 2:2 note; Acts 2:17 note; Hebrews 1:2 note. Some have supposed that the "last time" here refers to the destruction of Jerusalem, and the end of the Jewish economy; but the more natural interpretation is to refer it to the last dispensation of the world, and to suppose that the apostle meant to say that there were clear evidences that that period had arrived.

And as ye have heard that antichrist shall come - The word "antichrist" occurs in the New Testament only in these Epistles of John, 1 John 2:18, 1 John 2:22; 1 John 4:3; 2 John 1:7. The proper meaning of (ἀντί anti) in composition is:

(1) "over-against," as ἀντιτάσσειν antitassein;

(2) "contrary to," as ἀντιλέγειν antilegein;

(3) reciprocity, as ἀνταποδίδωμι antapodidōmi;

(4) "substitution," as ἀντιβασιλεύς antibasileus;

(5) the place of the king, or ἀνθύπατος anthupatos - "proconsul."

The word "antichrist," therefore, might denote anyone who either was or claimed to be in the place of Christ, or one who, for any cause, was in opposition to him. The word, further, would apply to one opposed to him, on whatever ground the opposition might be; whether it were open and avowed, or whether it were only in fact, as resulting from certain claims which were adverse to his, or which were inconsistent with his. A "vice-functionary," or an "opposing functionary," would be the idea which the word would naturally suggest. If the word stood alone, and there were nothing said further to explain its meaning, we should think, when the word "antichrist" was used, either of one who claimed to be the Christ, and who thus was a rival; or of one who stood in opposition to him on some other ground. That which constituted the characteristics of antichrist, according to John, who only has used the word, he has himself stated. 1 John 2:22, "who is a liar, but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son." 1 John 4:3, "and every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, is not of God; and this is that spirit of antichrist." 2 John 1:7, "for many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist."

From this it is clear, that John understood by the word all those that denied that Jesus is the Messiah, or that the Messiah has come in the flesh. If they held that Jesus was a deceiver, and that he was not the Christ, or if they maintained that, though Christ had come, he had not come in the flesh, that is, with a proper human nature, this showed that such persons had the spirit of antichrist. They arrayed themselves against him, and held doctrines which were in fact in entire opposition to the Son of God. It would appear then that John does not use the word in the sense which it would bear as denoting one who set up a rival claim, or who came in the place of Christ, but in the sense of those who were opposed to him by denying essential doctrines in regard to his person and advent. It is not certainly known to what persons he refers, but it would seem not improbable to Jewish adversaries, (see Suicer's Thesaur. s. voc.,) or to some forms of the Gnostic belief. See the notes at 1 John 4:2. The doctrine respecting antichrist, as stated in the New Testament, may be summed up in the following particulars:

(1) That there would be those, perhaps in considerable numbers, who would openly claim to be the Christ, or the true Messiah, Matthew 24:5, Matthew 24:24.

(2) that there would be a spirit, which would manifest itself early in the church, that would strongly tend to some great apostasy under some one head or leader, or to a concentration on an individual, or a succession of individuals, who would have eminently the spirit of antichrist, though for a time the developement of that spirit would be hindered or restrained. See the notes at 2 Thessalonians 2:1-7.

(3) that this would be ultimately concentrated on a single leader - "the man of sin" - and embodied under some great apostasy, at the head of which would be that "man of sin," 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4, 2 Thessalonians 2:8-10. It is to this that Paul particularly refers, or this is the view which he took of this apostacy, and it is this which he particularly describes.

(4) that, in the meantime, and before the elements of the great apostasy should be concentrated and embodied, there might not be a few who would partake of the same general spirit, and who would be equally opposed to Christ in their doctrines and aims; that is, who would embody in themselves the essential spirit of antichrist, and by whose appearing it might be known that the last dispensation had come. It is to these that John refers, and these he found in his own age. Paul fixed the eye on future times, when the spirit of antichrist should be embodied under a distinct and mighty organization; John on his own time, and found then essentially what it had been predicted would occur in the church. He here says that they had been taught to expect that antichrist would come under the last dispensation; and it is implied that it could be ascertained that it was the last time, from the fact that the predicted opposer of Christ had come. The reference is probably to the language of the Saviour, that before the end should be, and as a sign that it was coming, many would arise claiming to be Christ, and, of course, practically denying that he was the Christ. Matthew 24:5, "many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many." Matthew 24:24, "and there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets; and they shall show great signs and wonders, insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect." This prediction it is probable the apostles had referred to wherever they had preached, so that there was a general expectation that one or more persons would appear claiming to be the Christ, or maintaining such opinions as to be inconsistent with the true doctrine that Jesus was the Messiah. Such persons, John says, had then in fact appeared, by which it could be known that they were living under the closing dispensations of the world referred to by the Saviour. Compare the notes at 2 Thessalonians 2:2-5.

continued...

18. Little children—same Greek as 1Jo 2:13; children in age. After the fathers and young men were gone, "the last time" with its "many Antichrists" was about to come suddenly on the children. "In this last hour we all even still live" [Bengel]. Each successive age has had in it some of the signs of "the last time" which precedes Christ's coming, in order to keep the Church in continual waiting for the Lord. The connection with 1Jo 2:15-17 is: There are coming those seducers who are of the world (1Jo 4:5), and would tempt you to go out from us (1Jo 2:19) and deny Christ (1Jo 2:22).

as ye have heard—from the apostles, preachers of the Gospel (for example, 2Th 2:3-10; and in the region of Ephesus, Ac 20:29, 30).

shall come—Greek, "cometh," namely, out of his own place. Antichrist is interpreted in two ways: a false Christ (Mt 24:5, 24), literally, "instead of Christ"; or an adversary of Christ, literally, "against Christ." As John never uses pseudo-Christ, or "false Christ," for Antichrist, it is plain he means an adversary of Christ, claiming to himself what belongs to Christ, and wishing to substitute himself for Christ as the supreme object of worship. He denies the Son, not merely, like the pope, acts in the name of the Son, 2Th 2:4, "Who opposeth himself (Greek, " ANTI-keimenos") [to] all that is called God," decides this. For God's great truth, "God is man," he would substitute his own lie, "man is God" [Trench].

are there—Greek, "there have begun to be"; there have arisen. These "many Antichrists" answer to "the spirit of lawlessness (Greek) doth already work." The Antichristian principle appeared then, as now, in evil men and evil teachings and writings; but still "THE Antichrist" means a hostile person, even as "THE Christ" is a personal Saviour. As "cometh" is used of Christ, so here of Antichrist, the embodiment in his own person of all the Antichristian features and spirit of those "many Antichrists" which have been, and are, his forerunners. John uses the singular of him. No other New Testament writer uses the term. He probably answers to "the little horn having the eyes of a man, and speaking great things" (Da 7:8, 20); "the man of sin, son of perdition" (2Th 2:3); "the beast ascending out of the bottomless pit" (Re 11:7; 17:8), or rather, "the false prophet," the same as "the second beast coming up out of the earth" (Re 13:11-18; 16:13).

The last time; the time here referred to seems to be the destruction of Jerusalem, and the finishing of the Jewish state, both civil and ecclesiastical. In the Greek, the last hour, the approaching period of Daniel’s seventy weeks, as Mr. Mede understands it, in his Apostacy of the Later Times. Whereas therefore it was now a known and expected thing among Christians, that the eminent

antichrist, or antichristian state, (expressly foretold, 2 Thessalonians 2:1-17), was to come, or take place; therefore the apostle says, ye, i.e. the generality of Christians,

have heard so much. So he says,

even now, as the forerunners of that eminent one,

are there many antichrists, ( foretold also by our Saviour, Matthew 24:5,24), viz. noted heretics and seducers then in being: not such falsely assuming vicarious Christs, as only pretended to do that part which the Jews expected from their Messiah, the delivering them from the Roman tyranny, and so set up to be merely civil or secular Christs, having themselves never been Christians, but such as had revolted from Christianity, and now laboured fundamentally to subvert it, denying Christ to be come in the flesh, 1Jo 2:22 2Jo 1:7; having been before professed Christians, as appears by the following words. Little children, it is the last time,.... Or hour; not of the Jewish civil and church state, for that had been at an end for some time; this epistle was written some years after the destruction of Jerusalem; nor the last hour of the Gospel dispensation, or world to come, for this was but the first age of that; and much less the last hour of time, or of the present world itself, for that has been many hundreds of years since; but the last hour of the apostolic age. All the apostles were now dead, John was the last of them; perilous times were now coming on, impostors and heretics were rising apace, against which the apostle cautions his little children; and so still he writes to them, agreeably to their age and character, who, being such, were most likely to be imposed upon by those who lie in wait to deceive.

And as ye have heard that antichrist shall come; or "is coming"; and begins to show himself in the false teachers and deceivers, who were his forerunners; and this they had heard and understood, either from the words of Christ in John 5:43; or from the account the Apostle Paul gave to the Thessalonians concerning him, 2 Thessalonians 2:3; or rather it may be from what, the apostle had said to the elders of the church at Ephesus, where the Apostle John now was, when he met them at Miletus, Acts 20:29,

even now there are many antichrists. The Syriac and Ethiopic versions read, "false Christs"; but such are not intended here, that set up for Messiahs, whom Christ foretold should arise before the destruction of Jerusalem, Matthew 24:24; for that was now over, and those false Christs had arisen and were gone: if this sense could be admitted, Bar Cocab, in Adrian's time, bids fair to be the false Christ, or Messiah, in the preceding clause, as the same versions there read; but such as were adversaries of Christ, as the Arabic version renders it, are meant, who set themselves against Christ, and were opposers of his person, incarnation, and office; who either denied that he was the Christ, or that he was come in the flesh, the truth of his incarnation, or his proper deity, or real humanity, such as Ebion, Cerinthus, and others. The apostle might well say there were many, since in his time were the followers of Simon Magus, the Menandrians, Saturnilians, Basilidians, Nicolaites, Gnostics, Carpocratians, Cerinthians, Ebionites, and Nazarenes, as reckoned up by Epiphanius. And hence we learn, that antichrist is not one single individual, but many; antichrist in the former clause is explained by antichrists in this; see 1 John 2:22; and though the popes of Rome are, by way of eminence, the antichrist that should come, and which those deceivers were the forerunners of, and paved the way for; yet they are not the only antichrists, there were others before them, and there are many now besides them.

Whereby we know that it is the last time; the pure apostolic age was now going off, with the doctrines, discipline, and worship of it, which was easy to be discerned by the multitude of antichrists which now appeared; and it may well be thought to be the last time, or near the end of things with us, since almost every heresy is revived among us.

{16} {n} Little children, {17} it is the last time: {18} and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time.

(16) Now, he turns himself to little children, which nonetheless are well instructed in the sum of religion, and wills them by various reasons to shake off laziness, which is too familiar with that age.

(n) He uses this word Little not because he speaks to children, but to allure them the more by using such sweet words.

(17) First, because the last time is at hand, so that the matter suffers no delay.

(18) Secondly, because antichrists, that is, such as fall from God, are already come, even as they heard that they would come. And it was necessary to warn that careless and fearless age of the danger.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
1 John 2:18. The appearance of the ἀντίχριστοι shows that the last hour has come.

παιδία] not an address to the children (see on 1 John 2:12-14), but to all readers.[154]

ἐσχάτη ὥρα ἐστί] ἐσχάτη ὥρα may be the whole Christian era from the incarnation of Christ to His second advent. In the O. T. prophecy the appearance of the Messiah was promised בְּאַחֲרִית הַיָמִים (Isaiah 2:2; Hosea 3:5; Micah 4:1, LXX.: ἘΝ ΤΑῖς ἘΣΧΆΤΑΙς ἩΜΈΡΑΙς; comp. also Acts 2:16). Hence arose among the Jews the distinction of the two eras: עוֹלָם הַוֶּה (ΑἸῺΝ ΟὟΤΟς) and עוֹלָם הַבָּא (ΑἸῺΝ ΜΈΛΛΩΝ), the former the time up to the appearance of the Messiah, the latter embracing the Messianic time itself.

In the N. T. are found, partly the former idea that Christ has appeared in the last time (Hebrews 1:1; 1 Peter 1:20), partly also the distinction of these two periods, but in this way, that the αἰὼν οὗτος does not close with the first appearance of Christ, but only with his Parousia, which coincides with the ΣΥΝΤΈΛΕΙΑ ΤΟῦ ΑἸῶΝΟς; comp. Mark 10:30; Luke 20:34-35; Ephesians 1:21.

Inasmuch as the period which begins with the birth of Christ is now the last preceding the ΣΥΝΤΈΛΕΙΑ, it may be described by the expression ἘΣΧΆΤΗ ὭΡΑ, as Calvin says: ultimum tempus, in quo sic complentur omnia, ut nihil supersit praeter ultimam Christi revelationem. This view is the customary one with the older commentators; Semler agrees with it, but the context is opposed to it; on the one hand, it results from 1 John 2:8; 1 John 2:17 that the apostle is writing with a presentiment of the Parousia of Christ; and, on the other hand, the conclusion of this verse: ὍΘΕΝ Κ.Τ.Λ., shows that the apostle cannot here mean the whole period extending from the first appearance of Christ to His second coming, but only a distinct time in it, namely, the time immediately preceding its termination; in favour of this also is the usus loquendi of the N. T.; comp. 2 Timothy 3:1; Jam 5:3; 1 Peter 1:5; 2 Peter 3:3; along with which it is to be observed that, especially in the Gospel of John, the day of judgment is called ἡ ἡμέρα ἐσχάτη. Lücke, Neander, Baumgarten-Crusius, Gerlach, Erdmann, Myrberg, Ebrard, etc., have therefore rightly interpreted the expression as a description of this time. The hesitation to admit that the apostle was mistaken in his expectation of the nearness of the advent, has given rise to many a false interpretation. Socinus and Grotius think that ἐσχάτη ὥρα is the time immediately preceding the destruction of Jerusalem; this view approximates to that of Düsterdieck, according to which the last time before the commencement of the ΚΡΊΣΙς is meant, which had its beginning at the destruction of Jerusalem. But the scruple is not overcome by this, for chap. 1 John 2:28 shows that John regarded the ΠΑΡΟΥΣΊΑ of the Lord as near, and not as distant, just as the other apostles, and especially also Paul, according to 1 Thessalonians 4:15, in view of which even Düsterdieck finds himself compelled to admit this; Besser urges the want of the article, and translates: “a last time,” i.e. the time before a special revelation of the judicial glory of Christ, in which the last hour before the universal final judgment is prefigured; but it is well known that the article is often wanting just with ideas which are definite in themselves; to which it may be added that the idea of such a succession of different epochs, which are to be regarded as special revelations of the judicial power of Christ, is nowhere found expressed in the N. T.[155] Oecumenius regarded it as likely that ἐσχάτη here is used = ΧΕΙΡΊΣΤΗ; this explanation is found in Schoettgen (tempora periculosa, pessima et abjectissima), Carpzov, and others (similarly Paulus: it is a late, i.e. dark, and ever growing worse, time); whereas the distinction between these ideas is perfectly clear from 2 Timothy 3:1 : ἐν ἐσχάταις ἡμέραις ἐνστήσονται καιροὶ χαλεποί[156].The result of an impartial exegesis therefore remains, that—as the other apostles

John also expected that the advent of the Lord would soon take place.[157] It was only when the first generation of believers was already dead, without that expectation having been fulfilled, that in the consciousness of Christians the period till the coming of the Lord extended to an indefinitely distant limit, without, however, extinguishing the hope of His speedy advent; comp. 2 Peter 3:4 ff.; but that later still the time which began with the appearance of false teachers was regarded as the last, is proved by Ignatius, ep. ad Eph. c. xi.

καὶ καθὼς ἠκούσατε κ.τ.λ.] With the observation that it is the last time the apostle connects the other, that in accordance with what his readers have heard, that the ἀντίχριστος would come, many ἀντίχριστοι have already come. Bengel supplies before καθώς: “et ita est,” and after καί: “adeo” (et ita est, sicut audistis, nempe antichristum venire: atque adeo jam multi, etc.); these supplements are, however, unnecessary, for the καί before νῦν is not the simple copula, but serves to mark the appearance of the ἀντίχριστοι as a fact corresponding to the καθὼς ἠκούσατε κ.τ.λ.: “as ye have heard, etc., so, accordingly, many ἀντίχριστοι are even now actually appearing.”[158] καθὼς ἠκούσατε, namely, by the apostolic declaration, which had been communicated to his readers (comp. 1 John 2:7; 1 John 2:24) either by John, or even earlier, by Paul especially, according to Semler by Jewish teachers, who were spreading false rumours of the end of the world (!). ὅτι () ἀντίχριστος ἔρχεται καὶ κ.τ.λ.] The present ἔρχεται is put for the future; it marks what is still future as a certainly occurring event; Ebrard incorrectly translates ἔρχεται by “is to come;” even in the passages cited by him: chap. 1 John 4:3; Matthew 11:3; Gospel of John 16:13; Revelation 1:8 (why not 1 John 1:4?), ἔρχεσθαι does not express simply the idea of the future; besides, Ebrard interprets correctly: “will one day appear.”

The prophecy that before Christ comes (hence before His Parousia) Antichrist will come, accordingly formed a part of the apostolic preaching, although it is not contained in the last discourses of Christ that have been handed down to us, for the ψευδοπροφῆται and the ψευδόχριστοι, whose appearance Christ foretells, are not to be identified with the ἀντίχριστος.

According to the view which has prevailed from antiquity, the ἀντίχριστος and the πολλοὶ ἀντίχριστοι are to be distinguished in this way, that the latter are only the πρόδρομοι of the former, in which for the first time the antichristian spirit which already animates them will be revealed in his full perfection and energy; Bengel, deviating from this, takes the expression ἀντίχριστος as a collective idea: ubi Joh. antichristum, vel spiritum antichristi, vel deceptorem et antichristum dicit, sub singulari numero, omnes mendaces et veritatis inimicos innuit. Antichristus pro antichristianismo, sive doctrina, et multitudine hominum Christo contraria dicitur; with this interpretation Lange, Baumgarten-Crusius, Besser, and Myrberg agree. But neither here nor in 1 John 4:1 ff. does John say that Antichrist has already come; here he merely indicates the fact that πολλοὶ ἀντίχριστοι γεγόνασιν as corresponding to the announcement of the coming of Antichrist, and in the other passage it is merely stated that many ψευδοπροφῆται are gone out into the world, and that the πνεῦμα of Antichrist is already in the world. In the passage 2 John 1:7, “it is true that the explanatory clause οὗτός ἐστιν ὁ πλάνος καὶ ὁ ἀντίχριστος refers so directly to the preceding πολλοὶ πλάνοι,” that it appears that “the identity is thereby indicated” (1st ed.); but this direct connection may, no doubt, be explained in this way, that he who speaks through the many is, according to John, no other than the one Antichrist; and even though John “neither describes the ἀντίχριστοι as the πρόδρομοι, nor the ἀντίχριστος as the one in whom the principle that animates them is concentrated in highest potency,” it is to be remembered that John is speaking of the Antichrist here, not in doctrinal aspect, but only in order to show by the heretics, whom he calls ἀντίχριστοι, that the πνεῦμα of Antichrist is already ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ.[159] The name ἀντίχριστος is not found in the Scriptures outside of the First and Second Epistles of John; only in the later ecclesiastical literature does it appear frequently.

That the prefixed ἀντι does not express the substitutionary reference (as in ἀντιβασιλεύς), but the reference of antagonism, is with justice now commonly recognised; but the prevailing translation: “enemy of Christ,” is grammatically inaccurate, as in substantive compounds formed with ἀντι (in the antagonistic sense) the substantive is an object which by ἀντι is described as standing in opposition to an object of the same kind. Thus, an ἀντιφιλόσοφος is not an “opponent of philosophy” (Ebrard), or of philosophers, but a philosopher who is opposed to other philosophers, a hostile philosopher; comp. ἀντιμαχητής, ἀντιπαλαιστής, ἀντίπολις, ἀντίῤῥησις, ἀντίῤῥοια κ.τ.λ.[160] Accordingly, ὁ ἀντίχριστος does not mean generally: the enemy of Christ, but the “opposition Christ,” i.e. that enemy of Christ who, under the false pretence of being the real Christ, seeks to destroy the work of Christ.[161] Almost all commentators have correctly supposed that John understands by this enemy the same as Paul speaks of in 2 Thessalonians 2:3; the features which appear in the description of the Apostle Paul and in the statements of John correspond too closely to permit of this being doubted; according to both, his appearance in the Church is preceded by a falling away (John says in 1 John 2:19 of the antichrists: ἘΞ ἩΜῶΝ ἘΞῆΛΘΟΝ; Paul in 1 John 2:3 speaks of an ἈΠΟΣΤΑΣΊΑ connected with his ἈΠΟΚΆΛΥΨΙς); both ascribe to him a God-opposing, wicked nature (Paul calls him Ὁ ἌΝΘΡΩΠΟς Τῆς ἉΜΑΡΤΊΑς, Ὁ ἌΝΟΜΟς; John puts the ΠΝΕῦΜΑ ΤΟῦ ἈΝΤΙΧΡΊΣΤΟΥ in antithesis to the ΠΝΕῦΜΑ ΤΟῦ ΘΕΟῦ, and says of the antichrists who are animated by the former, that they are ἘΚ ΤΟῦ ΚΌΣΜΟΥ); both characterize him as a liar, who seeks to establish the lie against the truth; according to both, he appears in the last time before the Parousia of Christ; even the names correspond with each other, for even though the name ἈΝΤΊΧΡΙΣΤΟς contains an important feature which is not expressed in the name Ὁ ἈΝΤΙΚΕΊΜΕΝΟς, yet this very feature comes out so distinctly in the Pauline description, that it is clear how suitable John’s appellation of that enemy is; when, namely, Paul describes him as the ἌΝΘΡΩΠΟς Τῆς ἉΜΑΡΤΊΑς, and afterwards says of him that he ἈΠΟΔΕΊΚΝΥΣΙ ἙΑΥΤΌΝ, ὍΤΙ ἘΣΤῚ ΘΕΌς, this points to the fact that he will represent himself as the incarnate God,—and this is just what is indicated in the name ἀντίχριστος.

[154] For the contrary, Ebrard appeals to the peculiarly childlike character of this section; but plainly this bears no other character than the whole Epistle, of which Ebrard himself says that it could only be understood by adults.

[155] Braune, who speaks of Calvin’s view and that of Besser as “worthy of notice,” expresses himself somewhat vaguely when he says: “The expression ἐσχάτη ὥρα is to be taken prophetically, eschatologically, and has a value connected with the history of the kingdom, even a historical reference to the Parousia of Christ, as the beginning of the second era of the world, but no chronological reference to the date of the commencement of this Paronsia.” Clearly a quite arbitrary assertion.

[156] Peculiar, but artificial, is Bengel’s interpretation, which, moreover, rests on the false opinion that the children are here specially addressed: ultima, non respectu omnium mundi temporum sed in antitheto puerulorum ad patres et ad juvenes. Tres omnino horae erant, quarum una post aliam et inchoavit, et conjunetim continuato cursu ad finem se inclinavit. Patrum itemque juvenum hora statim absoluta fuit. Hinc puerulis Johannes dicit: ultima hora est. Hac ultima hora nos etiamnum vivimus omnes.

[157] In opposition to the “prejudice” that the apostles regarded the advent as so near, Sander thinks that they could not possibly have imagined that “all the great changes, transformations, and developments,” to which 2 Thessalonians 3:3, Romans 11:25-26, Luke 21:24-26 allude, could be accomplished within a generation. But could not important events take place within a comparatively short period? As it was not the business of the apostles to foresee the course of history, it cannot be any reproach on them if they cherished the hope that the longed-for coming of the Lord would soon occur, especially as they formed out of this hope no peculiar doctrine, and did not venture to determine the time and the hour. The certainly extravagant assertion of Ebrard, that it would have been contrary to the order of God’s economy of revelation if John, at the time when he wrote his Epistle, had not expected the second advent of Christ in the near future, rests entirely on Ebrard’s views of the Apocalypse, from the visions of which, according to him, it could only be clear to the apostle for the first time that the ἔρχομαι of the Gospel of John 21:22 is to be understood of the coming of the Lord in a vision.

[158] Düsterdieck: “With the expectation ἕτι ὁ ἀντιχρ. ἔρχ., founded on the apostolic teaching, corresponds the fact already begun: ἀντιχρ. πολλοὶ γεγόνασιν.”

[159] Weiss justly maintains, against Frommann and Reuss, according to whom John has spiritualized or confused the dogma of Antichrist, that he in no way denies the reality of the Antichrist, although Weiss thinks that John regards the prophecy of the Antichrist as fulfilled in this, that the spirit of Antichrist has come into the world, and in the false teachers is denying the fundamentals of Christian truth.

[160] From this it is clear that the rule laid down by Lücke, that “the word compounded with ἀντι is the object of the opposition,” can by no means hold good for all compounds with ἀντι, inasmuch as the examples adduced by Lücke: ἀντίῤῥιον ἄκρον, ἀντιβόρειος, ἁντήλιος, ἀντίθυρος, are not substantives; and, in the second place, ἀντι does not express in them the idea of hostile antagonism.

[161] While Brückner agrees with the explanation given here, it is opposed by Braune; but he does not pay attention to the grammatical vindication. Besides, it is to be observed that the more particular definition of “false pretence” does not lie in the word itself, but certainly in the fact, since there is only one Christ; it is different in the case of the word ἀντιφιλόσοφος.

REMARK.

On the various views of the Antichrist, see Lünemann on 1 John 2:18-29. A Warning against Heretical Teaching. “Little ones, it is the last hour; and, as ye heard that Antichrist is coming, even now have many antichrists arisen; whence we recognise that it is the last hour. From our company they went out, but they were not of our company; for, if they had been of our company, they would have abode in our fellowship; but the purpose of it was that it may be manifested that they all are not of our company. And ye have a chrism from the Holy One, and ye all know. I did not write to you because ye did not know the Truth, but because ye know it and because every lie is not of the Truth. Who is the liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? This is the Antichrist—he that denieth the Father and the Son. Every one that denieth the Son neither hath he the Father; he that confesseth the Son hath the Father also. As for you, that which ye heard from the beginning, let it abide in you. If that abide in you which ye heard from the beginning, ye also in the Son and in the Father will abide. And this is the promise which He Himself promised us—the Life, the Eternal Life. These things I wrote to you regarding them that would lead you astray. And as for you, the chrism which ye received from Him abideth in you, and ye have no need that any one should teach you; but, as His chrism is teaching you regarding all things, and is true and is not a lie, and even as it taught you, abide in Him. And now, little children, abide in Him, that, if He be manifested, we may have boldness and not be shamed away from Him at His advent. If ye know that He is righteous, recognise that every one also that doeth righteousness hath been begotten of Him.”

A heresy had arisen in the bosom of the Church (see Introd. pp. 156 f.). It was a fatal heresy, a denial of the possibility of the Incarnation, and therefore of the relation of fatherhood and sonship between God and man. St. John’s emphatic condemnation of it was justified, but his apprehension was groundless. He shared the prevailing expectation of the imminence of the Second Advent (cf. 1 Corinthians 10:11; 1 Corinthians 15:51; Php 4:5; 1 Thessalonians 4:15 sqq.; Hebrews 10:25; Jam 5:8; 1 Peter 4:7; Revelation 1:1; Revelation 1:3; Revelation 3:11; Revelation 22:7; Revelation 22:10; Revelation 22:12; Revelation 22:20), and saw in the heresy an evidence that the end was at hand. It was rather an evidence that the Gospel was winning its way. The era of simple and unquestioning faith in the apostolic testimony was past, and men were beginning to enquire and reason. A heresy has the same use in theology as a mistaken hypothesis in science: it provokes thought and leads to a deeper understanding. What seemed to the Apostle the pangs of dissolution were in reality “growing pains”.18–26. The Persons to be Avoided;—Antichrists

18. Little children] Or, Little ones. It is difficult to see anything in this section specially suitable to children: indeed the very reverse is rather the case. The same word (παιδία) is used here as in 1 John 2:14 and John 21:5. S. John’s readers in general are addressed, irrespective of age. Both his Epistle and Gospel are written for adults and for well-instructed Christians.

it is the last time] More literally, it is the last hour; possibly, but not probably, it is a last hour. The omission of the definite article is quite intelligible and not unusual: the idea is sufficiently definite without it, for there can be only one last hour. Similarly (Judges 18) we have ‘in (the) last time there shall be mockers walking after their own ungodly lusts’: and (Acts 1:8; Acts 13:47) ‘unto (the) uttermost part of the earth’. A great deal has been written upon this text in order to avoid a very plain but unwelcome conclusion, that by the ‘last hour’ S. John means the time immediately preceding the return of Christ to judge the world. Hundreds of years have passed away since S. John wrote these words, and the Lord is not yet come. Rather, therefore, than admit an interpretation which seemed to charge the Apostle with a serious error, commentators have suggested all kinds of explanations as substitutes for the obvious one. The following considerations place S. John’s meaning beyond all reasonable doubt.

1. He has just been stating that the world is on the wane and that its dissolution has already begun. 2. He has just declared that the obedient Christian shall abide ‘unto the age’ of Christ’s kingdom of glory. 3. He goes on to give as a proof that it is the ‘last hour’, that many Antichrists have already arisen; it being the common belief of Christians that Antichrist would immediately precede the return of Christ. 4. ‘The last day’ is a phrase peculiar to S. John (John 6:39-40; John 6:44; John 6:54; John 11:24; John 12:48), and invariably means the end of the world, not the Christian dispensation. 5. Analogous phrases in other parts of N.T. point in the same direction: ‘In the last days grievous times shall come’ (2 Timothy 3:1); ‘Ye are guarded through faith unto a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time’ (1 Peter 1:5); ‘In the last days mockers shall come with mockery’ (2 Peter 3:3). These and other passages shew that by ‘the last days’, ‘last time’, ‘last hour’, and the like, Christian writers did not mean the whole time between the first and second coming of Christ, but only the concluding portion of it. 6. We find similar language with similar meaning in the sub-apostolic age. Thus Ignatius (Eph. XI.) writes; “These are the last times. Henceforth let us be reverent; let us fear the longsuffering of God, lest it turn into a judgment against us. For either let us fear the wrath which is to come, or let us love the grace which now is.”

Of other interpretations of ‘the last hour’ the most noteworthy are these. (1) The Christian dispensation, which we have every reason to believe is the last. This is the sense in which S. John’s words are true; but this is plainly not his meaning. The appearance of Christ, not of Antichrist, proves that the Christian dispensation is come. (2) A very grievous time, tempora periculosa pessima et abjectissima. This is quite against usage whether in classical or N.T. Greek: comp. 2 Timothy 3:1. The classical phrase, ‘to suffer the last things’, i.e. ‘to suffer extremities’ (τὰ ἔσχατα παθεῖν), supplies no analogy: here the notion of ‘grievous’ comes from the verb. (3) The eve of the destruction of Jerusalem. How could the appearance of Antichrist prove that this had arrived? And Jerusalem had perished at least a dozen years before the probable date of this Epistle. (4) The eve of S. John’s own death. Antichrists could be no sign of that.

It is admitted even by some of those who reject the obvious interpretation that “the Apostles expected a speedy appearing or manifestation of Jesus as the Judge of their nation and of all nations” (Maurice): which is to admit the whole difficulty of the rejected explanation. Only gradually was the vision of the Apostles cleared to see the true nature of the spiritual kingdom which Christ had founded on earth and left in their charge. Even Pentecost did not at once give them perfect insight. Being under the guidance of the Holy Spirit they could not teach what was untrue: but, like the Prophets before them, they sometimes uttered words which were true in a sense far higher than that which was present to their own minds. In this higher sense S. John’s words here are true. Like others, he was wrong in supposing ‘that the kingdom of God was immediately to appear’ (Luke 19:11), for ‘it was not for them to know times or seasons which the Father hath set within His own authority’ (Acts 1:7). He was right in declaring that, the Messiah having come, it was the ‘last hour’. No event in the world’s history can ever equal the coming of Christ until He comes again. The epoch of Christianity, therefore, is rightly called the ‘last hour’, although it has lasted nearly two thousand years. What is that compared with the many thousands of years since the creation of man, and the limitless geological periods which preceded the creation of man? What again in the eyes of Him in whose sight ‘a thousand years are but yesterday?’

“It may be remarked that the only point on which we can certainly say that the Apostles were in error, and led others into error, is in their expectation of the immediate coming of Christ; and this is the very point which our Saviour says (Mark 13:32) is known only to the Father” (Jelf).

as ye have heard that Antichrist shall come] Better, even as ye heard that Antichrist cometh: the first verb is aorist, not perfect; the second present, not future; and the conjunction is of the same strong form as in 1 John 2:6. This seems to be a case in which the aorist should be retained in English (see on 1 John 2:11). As in 1 John 2:7, the reference is probably to a definite point in their instruction in the faith: and ‘cometh’ should be retained in order to bring out the analogy between the Christ and the Antichrist. The one was hoped for, and the other dreaded, with equal certainty; and hence each might be spoken of as ‘He that cometh’. ‘Art Thou He that cometh?’ (Matthew 11:3; Luke 19:20). Comp. Mark 8:38; Mark 11:9; John 4:25; John 6:14; John 11:27, &c. &c. And as to the coming of Antichrists the N. T. seems to be as explicit as the O. T. with regard to the coming of Christ. ‘Many shall come in My name, saying I am the Christ; and shall lead many astray … There shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; so as to lead astray, if possible even the elect’ (Matthew 24:5; Matthew 24:24). Comp. Mark 13:22-23; Acts 20:29; 2 Timothy 3:1; 2 Peter 2:1; and especially 2 Thessalonians 2:3, which like the passage before us seems to point to one distinct person or power as the one Antichrist, whose spirit animates all antichristian teachers.

The term ‘Antichrist’ in Scripture occurs only in the First and Second Epistles of S. John (1 John 2:18; 1 John 2:22, 1 John 4:3; 2 John 1:7). The earliest instance of its use outside Scripture is in S. Polycarp (Ep. ad Phil, VII.), in a passage which shews that this disciple of S. John (a.d. 140–155) knew our Epistle: see on 1 John 4:3. The term does not mean merely a mock Christ or false Christ, for which the N.T. term is ‘pseudo-Christ’ (Matthew 24:24; Mark 13:22). Nor does it mean simply an opponent of Christ, for which we should probably have ‘enemy of Christ’, like ‘enemy of the Cross of Christ’ (Php 3:18) and ‘enemy of God’ (James 4:4). But it includes both these ideas of counterfeiting and opposing; it means an opposition Christ or rival Christ; just as we call a rival Pope an ‘antipope’. The Antichrist is, therefore, a usurper, who under false pretences assumes a position which does not belong to him, and who opposes the rightful owner. The idea of opposition is the predominant one.

It is not easy to determine whether the Antichrist of S. John is personal or not. But the discussion of this question is too long for a note: see Appendix B.

even now are there many Antichrists] Better, as R.V., even now have there arisen many Antichrists: the Christ was from all eternity (1 John 1:1), the Antichrist and his company arose in time; they are come into being. We have a similar contrast in the Gospel: ‘In the beginning was the Word’; but ‘There arose a man, sent from God, whose name was John’ (John 1:1; John 1:6). These ‘many Antichrists’ are probably to be regarded as at once forerunners of the Antichrist and evidence that his spirit is already at work in the world: the one fact shews that he is not far distant, the other that in a sense he is already here. In either case we have proof that the return of Christ, which is to be heralded by the appearance of Antichrist, is near.

whereby we know that it is the last time] Or, whence we come to know that it is the last hour: as in 1 John 2:3; 1 John 2:5 the verb indicates acquisition of and progress in knowledge. ‘Whence’ in the sense of ‘from which data, from which premises’ hardly occurs elsewhere in N.T. except perhaps in the Epistle to the Hebrews (1 John 2:17, John 7:25, John 8:3), where the same Greek word (ὅθεν) is uniformly rendered ‘wherefore’ in both A.V. and R.V.

It is difficult to see what S. John could have meant by this, if by the ‘last hour’ he understood the Christian dispensation as a whole and not the concluding portion of it (comp. 2 Timothy 3:1). The multitude of false teachers who were spreading the great lie (1 John 2:22) that Jesus is not the Christ, were evidence, not of the existence of Christianity, but of antichristianity. Nor could evidence of the former be needed by S. John’s readers. They did not need to be convinced either that the Gospel dispensation had begun, or that it was the last in the history of the Divine Revelation. The Montanist theory that a further dispensation of the Spirit, distinct from that of the Son, was to follow and supersede the Gospel, as the Gospel had superseded Judaism, the dispensation of the Father, was a belief of later growth. (For an account of this theory as elaborated by Joachim of Flora [fl. a.d. 1180–90] see Döllinger’s Prophecies and the Prophetic Spirit in the Christian Era, pp. 114–119.) In the Apostolic age the tendency was all the other way;—to believe that the period since the coming of Christ was not only the last in the world’s history, but would be very brief. It was thought that some of the generation then existing might live to see the end (1 Thessalonians 4:15-16; 1 Corinthians 15:51-52).

B. Antichrist

In the notes on 1 John 2:18 it has been pointed out that the term ‘Antichrist’ is in N. T. peculiar to the Epistles of S. John (1 John 2:18; 1 John 2:22; 1 John 4:3; 2 John 1:7), and that in meaning it seems to combine the ideas of a mock Christ and an opponent of Christ, but that the latter idea is the prominent one. The false claims of a rival Christ are more or less included in the signification; but the predominant notion is that of hostility.

It remains to say something on two other points of interest. I. Is the Antichrist of S. John a person or a tendency, an individual man or a principle? II. Is the Antichrist of S. John identical with the great adversary spoken of by S. Paul in 2 Thessalonians 2? The answer to the one question will to a certain extent depend upon the answer to the other.

I. It will be observed that S. John introduces the term ‘Antichrist,’ as he introduces the term ‘Logos’ (1 John 1:1; John 1:1), without any explanation. He expressly states that it is one with which his readers are familiar; ‘even as ye heard that Antichrist cometh.’ Certainly this, the first introduction of the name, looks like an allusion to a person. All the more so when we remember that the Christ was ‘He that cometh’ (Matthew 11:3; Luke 19:20). Both Christ and Antichrist had been the subject of prophecy, and therefore each might be spoken of as ‘He that cometh.’ But it is by no means conclusive. We may understand ‘Antichrist’ to mean an impersonal power, or principle, or tendency, exhibiting itself in the words and conduct of individuals, without doing violence to the passage. In the one case the ‘many antichrists’ will be forerunners of the great personal opponent; in the other the antichristian spirit which they exhibit may be regarded as Antichrist. But the balance of probability seems to be in favour of the view that the Antichrist, of which S. John’s readers had heard as certain to come shortly before the end of the world, is a person.

Such is not the case with the other three passages in which the term occurs. ‘Who is the liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? This is the Antichrist, even he that denieth the Father and the Son’ (1 John 2:22). There were many who denied that Jesus is the Christ and thereby denied not only the Son but the Father of whom the Son is the revelation and representative. Therefore once more we have many antichrists, each one of whom may be spoken of as ‘the Antichrist,’ inasmuch as he exhibits the antichristian characteristics. No doubt this does not exclude the idea of a person who should have these characteristics in the highest possible degree, and who had not yet appeared. But this passage taken by itself would hardly suggest such a person.

So also with the third passage in the First Epistle. ‘Every spirit which confesseth not Jesus is not of God: and this is the (spirit) of the Antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it cometh, and now is in the world already’ (1 John 4:3). Here it is no longer ‘the Antichrist’ that is spoken of, but ‘the spirit of the Antichrist.’ This is evidently a principle; which again does not exclude, though it would not necessarily suggest or imply, the idea of a person who would embody this antichristian spirit of denial.

The passage in the Second Epistle is similar to the second passage in the First Epistle. ‘Many deceivers are gone forth into the world, even they that confess not Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the Antichrist’ (1 John 2:7). Here again we have many who exhibit the characteristics of Antichrist. Each one of them, and also the spirit which animates them, may be spoken of as ‘the Antichrist;’ the further idea of an individual who shall exhibit this spirit in an extraordinary manner being neither necessarily excluded, nor necessarily implied.

The first of the four passages, therefore, will have to interpret the other three. And as the interpretation of that passage cannot be determined beyond dispute, we must be content to admit that the question as to whether the Antichrist of S. John is personal or not cannot be answered with certainty. The probability seems to be in favour of an affirmative answer. In the passage which introduces the subject (1 John 2:18) the Antichrist, of which the Apostle’s little children had heard as coming, appears to be a person of whom the ‘many antichrists’ with their lying doctrine are the heralds and already existing representatives. And it may well be that, having introduced the term with the personal signification familiar to his readers, the Apostle goes on to make other uses of it; in order to warn them that, although the personal Antichrist has not yet come, yet his spirit and doctrine are already at work in the world.

Nevertheless, we must allow that, if we confine our attention to the passages of S. John in which the term occurs, the balance in favour of the view that he looked to the coming of a personal Antichrist is far from conclusive. This balance, however, whatever its amount, is considerably augmented when we take a wider range and consider—(a) The origin of the doctrine which the Apostle says that his readers had already heard respecting Antichrist; (b) The treatment of the question by those who followed S. John as teachers in the Church; (c) Other passages in the N. T. which seem to bear upon the question. The discussion of this third point is placed last because it involves the second question to be investigated in this Appendix;—Is the Antichrist of S. John identical with S. Paul’s ‘man of sin.’

(a) There can be little doubt that the origin of the primitive doctrine respecting Antichrist is the Book of Daniel, to which our Lord Himself had drawn attention in speaking of the ‘abomination of desolation’ (Matthew 24:15; Daniel 9:27; Daniel 12:11). The causing the daily sacrifice to cease, which was one great element of this desolation, at once brings these passages into connexion with the ‘little horn’ of 1 John 2:18. Παιδία, little children) See on 1 John 2:12. The doctrine respecting antichrist is not beyond the capacity of a more tender age: 2 John 1:7, note. Whence also the eleventh Catechesis, or Lecture to beginners, of Cyril treats of antichrist.—ἐσχάτη, the last) not with respect to all times of the world, but in the antithesis of children to fathers and to young men.[4]—καὶ καθὼς, and even as) and it is so, even as ye have heard, namely, that antichrist comes; and, indeed, already there are many, etc. There is a similar ellipsis, 1 John 2:27, note.—ἠκούσατε, ye have heard) ch. 1 John 4:3.—ὅτι, that) The particle is not redundant. The language is more distinct by the use of ὅτι, that, appended to it.—ὁ ἀντίχριστος, antichrist) The Spirit had predicted the falling away of many from the truth of Christ Jesus the Son of God; but John does not use the word antichrist in the singular number except in the 1st Epistle, 1 John 2:18; 1 John 2:22, 1 John 4:3, in the 2d Epistle 1 John 2:7 : he does not introduce it at all in the 3d Epistle, in his Gospel, or in the Apocalypse; nor does any other writer of the New Testament use it. Whether the phraseology of the apostles or the language of the faithful led to the introduction of that word, John, about to cut off [guard against] the errors which might arise, wishes mention to be made not only of antichrist, but also of antichrists: and when he speaks of antichrist, or the spirit of antichrist, or a deceiver and antichrist, though he speaks in the singular number, he designs to point out all who are deceivers and enemies of the truth. The faithful had heard that the spirit of antichrist, and antichrist himself, should come. John acknowledges that, and adds, that the spirit of antichrist is now already in the world, that now there had arisen many antichrists. And as Christ is sometimes spoken of for Christianity, so antichrist is spoken of for antichristianity, or the doctrine and multitude of men opposed to Christ. There is in particular one remarkable adversary, who is called the Horn speaking great things, Daniel 7:8; Daniel 7:20; the man of sin, etc., 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4; a beast ascending out of the bottomless pit, Revelation 11:7; Revelation 17:8; but he indeed appears to be called by the same name of antichrist, rather in accordance with ecclesiastical usage, ancient and modern, than in accordance with the sense of the apostle. Comp. H. More’s Synopsis of Prophecy, Book 1st, Ch. i. 4. John so admits that antichrist even then was come, as to teach, that not one only, but many antichrists had come; a matter which he considers of greater consequence and more disastrous. The whole class of those, who have any good or evil disposition, is often expressed in the singular number with the article. Ὁ ἀγαθὸς ἄνθρωπος, the good man [every man that is good], etc. Matthew 12:35; Matthew 18:17; 1 Peter 4:18; Titus 2:8; John 10:10; John 10:12; and so everywhere, especially in Proverbs, also 1 John 4:2-3; 1 John 4:6. Thus ὁ ψεύστης, ὁ πλάνος, ὁ ἀντίχριστος, the liar, the deceiver, antichrist, ch. 1 John 2:22; 2 John 1:7. Therefore antichrist, or antichristianity, has propagated itself from the close of John’s life through the whole course of ages, and still remains until that great adversary arises.—ἔρχεται) comes, from another place. The antithesis is, “Many antichrists have arisen,” viz. from us, 1 John 2:19. Comp. Acts 20:29-30.—καὶ νῦν) καὶ, and: νῦν, Lat. hodie, to-day, Germ, würklich, actually. This is opposed to mere previous hearing [of antichrists].—ὅθενἐστὶν, whenceit is) Hence the necessity of the admonition follows.

[4] There were three hours or seasons in all, of which the one both began after the other, and conjointly with continuous career inclined towards the end. The hour of the fathers and also of the youths was immediately completed. Hence it is to the little children that John says, “It is the last hour.” In this the last hour we all even still live.—V. g.Verse 18. - Children παιδία here must apply to all those addressed in the Epistle; and this helps to fix the meaning in verse 13. It is the last hour. What does this mean? There is scarcely room for doubt. The perishableness of the world has suggested the thought of its end, and St. John goes on to warn his readers that this thought is full of meaning to them; for they may recognize the time in which they are living as the last hour by the many antichrists that have arisen. "The last hour" can only mean the last hour before the second coming of Christ. Nothing but the unwillingness of Christians to admit that an apostle, and especially the Apostle St. John, could seem to be much in error about the nearness of the day of judgment, could have raised a question about language so plain. All explanations about its signifying the Christian dispensation, or the nearness of St. John's death, or the nearness of the destruction of Jerusalem, must be firmly set aside. How could the rising of antichrists show that the Christian dispensation had begun? It was Christ, not antichrist, that showed that? What had antichrists to do with St. John's death? or with the fall of Jerusalem, which, moreover, had fallen many years before this Epistle was written? Just as the apostles, even after the Resurrection (Acts 1:6), remained grossly ignorant of the nature of Christ's kingdom on earth, so to the last they remained ignorant of its duration. The primitive Church had not yet found its true perspective, and, in common with all Christians of the first age, the apostles believed that Christ would return soon, possibly within the lifetime of some then living. "Yea, I come quickly" (Revelation 22:20) was by them understood in the most literal sense of ταχύ. But it will not surprise those who remember Christ's very strong declaration (Mark 13:32), to find even an apostle in ignorance as to the time of the second advent of Christ. But it may very reasonably and reverently be asked, What becomes of the inspiration of Scripture if an inspired writer tells the Church that the end of the world is near, when it is not near? The question of inspiration must follow that of interpretation, not lead it. Let us patiently examine the facts, and then try to frame a theory of inspiration that will cover them; not first frame our theory, and then force the facts to agree with it. But the question in its proper place requires an answer. The Old Testament prophets were often guided to utter language the Divine meaning of which they did not themselves understand. They uttered the words in one sense, and the words were true in a far higher sense, of which they scarcely dreamed. The same thing is true of the New Testament prophets, though in a less degree, because the gift of Pentecost had given them powers of insight which their predecessors had not possessed. The present text seems to be an illustration of this truth. We can hardly doubt that, in saying, "it is the last hour," St. John means to imply that within a few years, or possibly even less time, Christ will return to judgment. In this sense the statement is not true. But it may also mean that the last period in the world's history has begun; and in this sense we have good reason for believing that the statement is true. "That one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day" is not rhetoric, but sober fact. By the Divine standard times are measured, not according to their duration, but their importance; it is their meaning, not their extent, which gives them value. What are all the measureless prehistoric aeons of the material universe compared with the time since the creation of rational life? What are the thousands of years covered by the Old Testament compared with the portion of a century covered by the New? The great crisis in the history of the world, constituted by the life and death of Christ, will never be equaled until he comes again. When he ascended to heaven the last hour sounded. There may follow a silence (as it seemed to St. John) about the space of half an hour, but (as human experience may prove) of half a thousand centuries. Yet the duration of the period, as measured by man, will not alter its essential characteristics; it was, is, and will still remain, "the last hour." Even as ye heard (when ye were instructed in the faith) that antichrist cometh (is destined to come). Antichrist in this also is assimilated to the Christ; he is ὁ ἐρχόμενος. This was the teaching of the gospel (Matthew 24:5, 11, 23-26; Mark 13:22, 23; comp. Acts 20:29; 2 Timothy 3:1; 2 Peter 2:1). What does St. John mean by ἀντίχριστος? The four passages (1 John 2:18, 22; 1 John 4:3; 2 John 1:7) in which he uses the term do not enable us to answer the question with certainty. The predominant idea is that of opposition to Christ, and rivalry of Christ, rather than merely of counterfeiting Christ. If ἀντίχριστος were formed on the analogy of ἀντιβασιλεύς and ἀνθύπατος, it would mean "vice-Christ, vicar of Christ." It is, however, analogous to ἀντίθεος ἀντιφιλόσοφος and the Greek for a counterfeit Christ is ψευδόχριστος (Matthew 24:24). But we are left in doubt whether this rival of Christ is a principle or a person. None of the four passages is decisive. Here we are not sure whether the arising of many antichrists proves that the spirit of antichrist is already in the world, or that by them the way is fully prepared for the one personal antichrist. Either the existence of the antichristian character, or the approach of the antichrist, is given as evidence that the day of the Lord is at hand. The latter is the more probable. A great personal opponent to the personal Christ seems to be indicated both by St. John and St. Paul (2 Thessalonians 2:1-8). The Jews expected a personal opponent of the Messiah to precede the Messiah - Armillus, Gog, Antiochus Epiphanes, and the like (Ezekiel 38:39; Daniel 7:25; Daniel 8:25; Daniel 11:36); and Christians from the earliest times have expected a similar prelude to the return of the Messiah. The term ἀντίχριστος is absolutely peculiar to St. John in the New Testament. By the ἀντίχριστοι πολλοί he probably means those early heretical teachers, who in various ways denied the Incarnation, and were thus forerunners of the antichrist - the Nicolaitanes, Simon Magus, Cerinthus, Diotrephes, Hymenaeus, and Philetus. Besides these there are practical antichrists. "Let us mark, not the tongue but the deeds. For if all be asked, all with one mouth confess that Jesus is the Christ. Let the tongue keep silent awhile: ask the life. If the Scripture itself shall tell us that denial is a thing done not only with the tongue, but also with deeds, then assuredly we find many antichrists if deeds are to be questioned, not only do we find many antichrists gone out, but many not yet manifest, who have not gone out at all" (St. Augustine). Little children (παιδία)

See on 1 John 2:13.

The last hour (ἐσχάτη ὥρα)

The phrase only here in the New Testament. On John's use of ὥρα hour, as marking a critical season, see John 2:4; John 4:21, John 4:23; John 5:25, John 5:28; John 7:30; John 8:20; John 11:23, John 11:27; John 16:2, John 16:4, John 16:25, John 16:32. The dominant sense of the expression last days, in the New Testament, is that of a period of suffering and struggle preceding a divine victory. See Acts 2:17; James 5:3; 1 Peter 1:20. Hence the phrase here does not refer to the end of the world, but to the period preceding a crisis in the advance of Christ's kingdom, a changeful and troublous period, marked by the appearance of "many antichrists."

Antichrist

Peculiar to John in the New Testament. The absence of the article shows its currency as a proper name. It may mean one who stands against Christ, or one who stands instead of Christ; just as ἀντιστράτηγος may mean either one who stands in the place of a στρατηγός praetor, a propraetor (see Introd. to Luke, vol. 1, p. 246, and note on Acts 16:20), or an opposing general. John never uses the word ψευδόχριστος false Christ (Matthew 24:24; Mark 13:22). While the false Christ is merely a pretender to the Messianic office, the Antichrist "assails Christ by proposing to do or to preserve what he did, while denying Him." Antichrist, then, is one who opposes Christ in the guise of Christ. Westcott's remark is very important, that John's sense of Antichrist is determined by the full Christian conception of Christ, and not by the Jewish conception of the promised Savior.

Cometh (ἔρχεται)

The prophetic present, equivalent to is about to come. The same term is used of Christ (John 14:3; John 21:22; Revelation 22:20).

Are there (γεγόνασιν)

Rev., more correctly, have there arisen.

Whereby (ὅθεν)

Lit., whence. Only here in John. It is found in Matthew and Luke, and frequently in Hebrews, and not elsewhere.

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