1 John 2:18-23
Little children, it is the last time: and as you have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists…
It is a dangerous voyage which every Christian sails upon the sea of life. Sunken rocks, deceitful currents, and boisterous winds endanger his brittle bark. He needs constantly to beware that he makes not shipwreck of his faith. Here we are called to consider the danger arising from the seduction of false teachers. In the early Church these were the source of constant disquietude. Nor is it otherwise yet. It is melancholy to observe how little they are feared. Many trifle with them.
1. The apostle addresses himself to believers under the title of "little children." There is a peculiar propriety in using such language to those who are warned. Little children need to be warned. They are ignorant and unsuspecting, because they are inexperienced. When they are tempted they possess little power of resistance. And once betrayed they have neither the skill nor the power to deliver themselves out of the evils into which they have been betrayed. It is to be lamented that in all these respects many Christians bear a strong resemblance to little children.
2. To these the apostle says, "It is the last time," and this is an appropriate introduction to the warning he was about to give them. The meaning of the phrase will be seen by citing the parallel passage in Hebrews 1:1. The last time is therefore the day of Christ. It is the age of Christianity. And there are two views in which it may be appropriately so denominated. It is the last economy viewed in its historical relation to those which have preceded it. And it may be called so also in relation to the future. There will be no other economy. "Then cometh the end, when Christ shall have delivered up the kingdom to God the Father." It is a high privilege that we live under an economy which is the completion, the perfection of all that went before it. But we must not forget we shall have no higher privileges than those which we now enjoy. If we are not saved by means of those we have we must perish.
3. Thus introduced, the apostle begins to announce his warning, "Ye have heard that antichrist shall come." The very name is sufficient to awaken deep concern. We are at once given to understand that we must see a grand opponent to Him whom we delight to honour, and in whom is all our confidence. For His sake and our own, such an announcement should awaken our timely fear. As for Him, we cannot doubt his ability to overcome every enemy. But we may well fear for ourselves.
4. The apostle, however, comes closer to the case of those little children whom he addressed, and says, "Even now are there many antichrists." Observe the distinction between this statement and the former one. The former is a prophecy, the latter is a fact. Antichrist shall come, but he has not yet been revealed. Time will be required for his development. But there are other forms of evil and other seducers who exist now. You are not to imagine that you are safe because the great antichrist has not yet appeared. The leaven was working which would in time corrupt the mass of professors, so insidious and dangerous is error; and so necessary it is to watch its first rise and destroy it at the bud. In our own day we may well cry with the apostles, "There are many antichrists." And who or what are they? They are all persons and things that are opposed to Christ and His people and His cause. And how can they be enumerated? Infidelity is antichrist, and pours contempt upon the truth. The scoffer is antichrist, and scorns the truth. All ungodly men are antichrists, and while they resist the truth themselves they tempt others to deny it. All errorists are antichrists, and obscure and oppose the truth.
5. The apostle applies this announcement of many antichrists to a practical use, saying in the next clause, "Whereby we know that it is the last time." The words amount to a declaration that this mighty host with all their enmity to the truth should be a marked and prominent feature in the Christian era. Christianity is the best economy, and therefore it is the most hated and opposed by the wicked one.
6. We should beware that we are not found among these antichrists. And for our warning and guidance a description of them is given in the 19th verse — "they went out from us." Once they belonged to the Church of Christ. They apostatised from the faith and practice of the gospel. "But they were not of us," adds the apostle. They never were. "They are not all Israel that are of Israel." They may have professed the faith, but in reality they had never embraced it. "For," says he, "had they been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us." This is certain. The nature of the Divine life makes it so. "The just shall live by faith." The apostle concludes, "But they went out, that they might be made manifest they were not all of us." On the whole, it was better they departed. It was better for themselves, that they may not be deceived by a name, but be led to penitence. It was better for others, that they might not be a burthen and hindrance to those with whom they were associated. And it was better for the cause of religion, that it might not be scandalised by their inconsistencies.
(James Morgan, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time.