A weekday devotion from Central Presbyterian Church. Find the complete archive here.
Thursday May 7, 2020
1 John 2:18-23
Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour. 19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us. 20 But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and you all have knowledge. 21 I write to you, not because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and because no lie is of the truth. 22 Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son. 23 No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also.
In March of 2018, researchers at MIT released the results of a study on Twitter activity from 2006 to 2016 which showed that users not only spread lies six times faster than truth, but that misinformation reached 35% more people overall. Especially in time of crisis and turmoil, it seems that people are quick to believe nearly anything that they hear or read. Apparently rumors and fear mongering became such a problem in the height of the Civil War that even Abraham Lincoln felt the need to weigh in on the matter by reportedly warning “Don’t believe everything you read on the internet just because there’s a picture with a quote next to it.” All jokes aside, if it feels as if there are more dire predictions regarding the fate of the world than ever before, it’s probably not due to the fact that human nature or behavior has dramatically changed, but that thanks to the ubiquitous prevalence of the internet, anyone anywhere can share information with the masses regardless of its veracity.
The late first century church that received John’s letter also existed in a world of chaos and turmoil. Heresy and persecution were rampant, along with rumors and uncertainty regarding the emergence of the antichrist and the impending return of Jesus (see 2 Thessalonians 2 and 1 Thessalonians 4:13ff). John makes very clear here that Christians are to be concerned with the truth because they know the truth. Previously in his gospel, John quoted Jesus as saying, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” Because the believer has a relationship with Jesus, they not only know the truth, but they have access to all knowledge through Him. Therefore, in an effort to clear up some of the confusion, John sets out to make sure that the church is fully aware of the present situation.
John begins this section with the declaration that “it is the last hour.” By referencing past, present, and future events, clearly he is not talking about a literal sixty minutes, instead, John understands the last hour to be the period of time between the ascension and return of Jesus. This last hour will not only be marked by the rapid advancement of the truth of the Gospel (see Matthew 28:18 and Acts 1:8), but also the emergence of opponents to the truth. Just as one of Jesus’ own twelve disciples was revealed to be a deceptive traitor, the church would continue to discover enemies who at first appeared to belong to Jesus. The true test of faith is not found in the force of one’s initial confession, but in faithful perseverance. Walking away from Christ, and his body, was not a sign that satan had won over a true believer, but a sure sign that an imposter had infiltrated the ranks.
It is important to understand that this is not referencing a single or temporary lapse back into the snare of sin, but an overt assault against Christ and the unity of His church. The antichrist is any person who denies the truth that “Jesus is the Christ.” And while individuals may sometimes believe, as many of the Pharisees and religious leaders (including for a time the Apostle Paul), that they are serving God the Father by denying that Jesus is the Son, by denying the Son they are denying His Father as well. Just as Jesus said that He and the Father are one and the same, John reiterates that when we confess the Son we confess the Father as well. No one comes to the Father except through the Son.
Like John, we can confidently say today that we are in the last hour, not because of the spread of COVID-19, the restriction of individual liberties by the government, or even the terrifying emergence of murder hornets. Rather, we can know that the end is drawing near because Jesus has yet to return, and He promised that He will. Instead of living in fear of what MAY happen, followers of Jesus should live each day in light of what has ALREADY happened, and what they know with certainty WILL happen. Jesus has ALREADY given His life on the cross to pay for our sin, so that we might know the Truth, and the Truth will set us free. And because we know that one day soon He WILL return or call us home, we must continue to walk in the Truth and live each day as ambassadors to the Truth in the midst of the crooked and twisted generation we belong to. The Truth is that Jesus died for the sins of all who would confess their sins and believe in His name: this is the news we must most urgently share.
Prayer for Today:
Lord Jesus, You are the Truth. It is so easy for us to become trapped in a perpetual cycle of anxiety or anger over the news of what is happening in the world around us. Help us to place our hope and trust not in a politician or scientist, but in the truth of the Gospel. Embolden us to speak the truth, in love, to those who are desperately in search of a Savior. Allow us to remain calm but vigilant, eagerly awaiting the return of the King. It is in the Truth of His name that we pray, Amen.