1 John 2:18-28

This Bible Study was led by Larry Reynolds in the  Spring of 2008.

Denton, TX

The Conflict of Faith and Falsehood – 1 John 2:18-28


            One of the great themes of the Bible is the on-going spiritual conflict which permeates the creation.  Ultimately, it is the conflict between God and Satan.  In the Scripture this conflict is described in various ways—light verses darkness, good verses evil, truth verses falsehood, etc.  Paul often referred to this conflict in his writings.  In Ephesians 6:12 he explains, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.”  And because we are all caught up in this great spiritual conflict, Paul urges us in Ephesians 6:13 to “…take up the full armor of God, that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.”  Then, in the well-known verses that follow, he describes the spiritual armor God has provided us for this battle:  “Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with the truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming missiles of the evil one.  And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” (Ephesians 6:14-17)

            The section of 1 John at which we are going to look in this session focuses on the conflict between the forces of God and the forces of evil.  At the very outset of this study I want to make sure you do not misunderstand what the Bible teaches about this conflict.  There is an ancient philosophy known as dualism.  Dualism says that in our universe are two powers—one evil and the other good.  And, according to dualism, these powers are equally balanced.  One will never prevail over the other.  They are locked in eternal conflict, but neither can ever win.  That is not what the Bible teaches about the great spiritual battle in which we are engaged.  The biblical message is that the forces of God have already prevailed.  The key battle in that victory took place at the cross.  Colossians 2:15 tells us that through the cross “He (meaning God) … disarmed the rulers and authorities, He (again meaning God) made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him (meaning Jesus).” 

            In 1 John, John stresses that God has already won the victory over evil and that we are not at the mercy of the evil forces of our world.  In 1 John 4:4 he says, “You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.”  And then in 1 John 5:4 he says, “For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.”  And so as we come to focus on 1 John 2:18-28 which emphasizes the great spiritual battle in which we are engaged, we need to do so remembering that the outcome of the battle has already been decided.  We are on the winning side.

            Like most sections of 1 John, this section is very difficult to outline.  The main theme is rather obvious—the conflict between those who confess Christ and those who deny Christ.  Interspersed throughout this passage are three sub-themes of this main them.  They are:

·        The last hour (v.18a)

·        The many antichrists (vv.18b-19, 22-23, 26)

·        The believer’s security (vv. 20-21, 24-25, 27-28)

We are going to explore those three sub-themes in this session.


The last hour – 1 John 2:18a – “Children, it is the last hour…”

“children” – A term of affection suggesting John’s fatherly concern for his readers.  The use of this term may be an attempt to get their attention about the very serious topic about to be discussed.

“it is the last hour…” – This phrase is the topic of much debate.  The phrase has been interpreted in three ways:

1.      Some say the phrase “last hour” is a reference to the period of time immediately before the end of the world.  Taken that way, John would have been saying, “History is about to end.  The final judgment is near.  The world, as we know it, is about to come to an end.” 

In support of this view:  This is the most natural interpretation of the meaning of the words.  It also fits the context well, especially the statement about “…the world passing away…” in the preceding verse.

In opposition of this view:  John would have obviously been mistaken.  The world did not end in the 1st century.  It has continued on for 2000 years.  Also, it is not likely John would have claimed knowledge that even Jesus said He did not have. (cf. Mark 13:32)

2.      Some say the phrase “last hour” is a reference to the entire Christian era.  Taken that way, John would have been saying, “We have entered the final stage of history, the time between the first and second comings of Christ.”

In support of this view:  Other New Testament passages use similar language to refer to the period of time that began with the coming of Christ.  The “last days” are all those days between the time Christ came as the suffering Savior and the time Christ will return to as the “King of kings and Lord of lords.”

In opposition to this view:  In this passage John seems to be stressing the presence of “antichrists” as evidence of “the last hour” rather than the presence of Christ.  The new age was created by the advent of Christ, not by the appearance of antichrists.

3.      Some say the phrase “last hour” is merely a reference to a time of crisis and has nothing to do with the chronology of history.  Taken that way, John would have been saying, “We live in a difficult time.”

In support of this view:  The definite article “the” does not appear in the Greek text.  The phrase can be interpreted “a last hour” meaning one among many possible last hours.

In opposition of this view:  This makes too much of the absence of the definite article.  The definiteness of nouns in Greek is not dependent upon the definite article.  Nearly all translations interpret the phrase as the last hour.”

I think the most logical interpretation of “the last hour” is that John was saying Christians live in the final era of history.  In this final era, God has revealed Himself once and for all in the person of Jesus.


The many antichrists – 1 John 2:18b-19, 22-23, 26 – “…and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have arisen; 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, in order that it might be shown that they all are not of us … Who is the liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ?  This is the antichrist, the one who denies the Father and the Son.  Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father; the one who confesses the Son has the Father also …These things I have written to you concerning those who are trying to deceive you.”    John is the only NT writer who uses the term “antichrist.”  And John uses the word only in the books of 1 & 2 John.  The word literally means one who stands against Christ or who stands in the place of Christ.  In Christian theology the concept of antichrist is used in two ways:

·        Some use the word to refer to one personal embodiment of evil to be revealed at the end of the age.  (cf.2 Thess.2:1-4)  That may have been what John meant in the phrase “…you heard that antichrist is coming…” in v.18.

·        However the thrust of this passage is not on an antichrist that will come on the future.  John says in v.18 that “…many antichrists have arisen…”  In that statement and in the explanation that follows, John is referring to the false teachers who were contradicting the basic truths about Christ proclaimed by the Apostles and who were threatening the fellowship and fabric of the young church.

Three things are said in this passage about the antichrists:

1.      Their relationship to the people of God (v.19)

“They went out from us…” – Indicates that at one time they claimed to be Christians.

“…they were not really of us…” – They were not genuine believers.  While they may have had an outward membership in the fellowship, they were not true believers.

“...for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us…” – Their failure to persevere was evidence of the fact that their faith was not genuine.

“…in order that it might be shown that they all are not of us…” – Their departure was part of the divine plan to reveal their true nature.  Their lack of kinship with God’s people always existed, but their separation brought it to light.

2.      Their distinctive beliefs (vv.22-23) – Everything was at stake in John’s conflict with the antichrists because their teaching was a repudiation of the very heart of the gospel.

“…the liar…” (v.22) – A very strong phrase meaning arch liar or liar of all liars.  If this person is not a liar, then there are no liars!

“…the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ…” (v.22) – This refers to the distinction that some of the false teachers were making between Jesus the man and the Divine Christ.  They said that Jesus was merely a man, marked by all the imperfections of humanity.  The Christ spirit descended on him at baptism and withdrew from him before death.  Therefore, Jesus and Christ are not identical.  This kind of heretical thinking involves two serious theological errors:

(1)   Denying that Jesus is the Christ results in a denial of the Father-Son relationship within the Godhead – “…the one who denies the Father and the Son…” (v.22) Affirming Jesus as the Christ is the same as affirming that He is the eternal Son of God.

(2)   Denying that Jesus is the Christ is to deprive oneself of relationship with God the Father – “Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father; the one who confesses the Son has the Father also.” (v.23) This is true because Christ is the One who reveals the Father (cf. Matthew 11:27) and who provides access to the Father (cf. John 14:6).  The only was to have the Father is by confessing (acknowledging, accepting Him) Jesus as the Son of God.  This is the opposite of denying which means to reject or disown.

3.   Their evil purpose (v.26) – Their intent was to deceive or seduce the people of God from the truth.  “…trying to deceive…” is in the present tense indicating this was a continuing activity.  It was the occupation of John’s opponents.  “Trying” indicates they were not completely successful in their attempt to deceive the true believers.


The believer’s security - 1 John 2:20-21, 24-25, 27-28 – “But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you all know.  I have not written to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it, and because no lie is of the truth … As for you, let that abide in you which you heard from the beginning.  If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, you also will abide in the Son and in the Father.  And this is the promise which He Himself made to us; eternal life … And as for you, the anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him.  And now little children, abide in Him, so that when He appears, we may have confidence and not shrink away from Him in shame at His coming.”  These verses spell out three building blocks upon which a believer’s security rests..

1.      Our security rests upon the anointing we have in the Holy Spirit (vv.20-21, 27a)

“but you” (v.20) and “as for you” (v.27a) are emphatic and are intended to emphasize the difference between John’s readers and the false teachers.

“anointing” (v.20, 27a) is borrowed from the vocabulary of the false teachers who claimed to have received a special anointing of truth when they were initiated into their secret cults.  In contrast, God’s people have a true anointing from the Holy Spirit who abides in them from the time of their conversion.

“abides” (v.27a) carries the idea of remaining, resting, or staying.  The believers anointing by the Holy Spirit is not a temporary thing.  It is a permanent condition.

“you all know” (v.20) – Knowledge of the truth is not the prerogative of a few select people.  It is available to all believers.  The variant reading “you know all things” does not mean that believers are omniscient but that they have all the knowledge necessary for salvation.

Verse 21 expresses John’s confidence in his readers.  Their knowledge of the truth gives John confidence that they will understand and make proper use of his instruction.

“you have no need for anyone to teach you” (v.27a) – This does not mean that human teachers are useless.  It does mean that Christians aren’t ultimately or completely dependent on them.  The immediate idea may be that John’s readers had no need for the false teachers who had infiltrated the church.

2.      Our security rests upon our adherence to the Christian message (vv.24-25)

“As for you, let that abide in you which you have heard from the beginning.” (v.24) – Whatever others may do, you let the gospel of Jesus Christ have a permanent place in your life, let it always be in your thoughts, and let it continue to live in your heart.

“eternal life” (v.25) – In the biblical sense, eternal life is more than life which lasts forever.  It is a quality of life in relationship with God which begins in this life and extends into eternity.  It’s another way of describing abiding in the Son and the Father.

3.      Our security rests upon our union with Christ (27b-28) – The key expression in these verses in “abide in Him” found in v.27b and v.28.  “Abide” is one of John’s favorite words, used 23 times in 1 John.  It means to cling tenaciously to Him and to draw strength from Him.  To abide in Christ means to live in relationship with or union with Christ.

“when He appears … at His coming…” (v.28) – Both phrases refer to Christ’s return to the world.

“we may have confidence” (v.28) – The word means freedom of speech.  It was used to describe the freedom intimate friends have to unburden their hearts to each other.  The word carries the idea of boldness and courage.  It is used three other times in 1 John (cf. 3:21; 4:17; 5:14)

“shame” (v.28) – The opposite of confidence.  A feeling of guilt and disgrace.