First Glance: 2 John

John the Evangelist by Guidi Reni

John the Evangelist by Guidi Reni

Many deceivers who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh have gone out into the world. Any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist. (2 John 7)

Growing up, I had always been taught to envision the Antichrist as a proper noun. It was capitalized for a reason. A large, scary, end-times figure who would pit his strength against the returning Christ and be vanquished. It was cataclysmic and scary. Every once in a while, I’d hear wonderings about whether the antichrist was on the move or had been born yet or some such thing. I realize, looking back, that my notion of the Antichrist was more influenced by popular Christian fiction than it was by God’s word.

While undoubtably, the Beast in the book of Revelation (often confused for the Antichrist) would be an antichrist figure. The Beast rages against Christ and so would be ‘anti’-Christ in the most obvious sense of the world. However, the Apocalypse of John never uses the word antichrist and never refers to any character in its vision as the Antichrist with a capital A or even as being ‘antichrist’ in a small ‘a’ sense. Only four times in the New Testament does the word ‘antichrist’ appear. All of them are in the first two letters of John – one of which is in our passage for this Sunday.

What we notice when looking at the instances of ‘antichrist’ in the Bible is that the main focus is not on the time of Christ’s return, but on the present. The antichrist is not a singular apocalyptic figure, but describes a type of resistance to the gospel. In fact, 1 John 2 speaks of multiple antichrists, some of which have already come. Both 1 John and 2 John use ‘the antichrist’ to describe someone who denies Jesus as the Christ, fully God and fully human.

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. (1 John 2:22)

…every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. And this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming; and now it is already in the world. (1 John 4:3)

Many deceivers who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh have gone out into the world. Any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist. (2 John 7)

To deny the messiah-ship, the Christhood, the full humanity of the Son of God, is to deny Christ – to be ‘anti’-Christ. The biblical description of the antichrist spirit is both smaller and, I believe, more dangerous than the vision I grew up with. The threat of the antichrist is not some evil, future figure, but any spirit which resists saying that Jesus Christ came in the flesh.

So, has the antichrist come? Yes, the spirit that resists Christ come in the flesh was present even in the time of the Apostles. Does that mean we should begin hunting for antichrists and start labeling all those who disagree with us as antichrists? No (sorry, Luther). Instead of working to resist people, I think the proper response is for the church to more wholeheartedly confess Christ come in the flesh. The way to resist the antichristian spirit is to confess the faith of the church.

Undoubtably, one could think of many other people who might deny Christ’s humanity and messiahship, but I want us to take a sharp look at ourselves. Where might I fall prey to denying Christ’s humanity and messiahship by the way that I live? Even if I believe in my heart that Jesus is the Christ, does my life say something different? When I ignore the Jewishness of Jesus or belittle the Old Testament, am I saying that Jesus is not really the Messiah that was promised in the Old Testament to the Jewish people? When I firmly argue that Jesus was God, but waffle when asked if Jesus grew in self-understanding, am I denying the full humanity of Jesus?

My hope is not that we would fear and grow anxious about whether we daily deny Christ, but that we would be driven even more to Christ, who has conquered sin, death, and every power, spirit, and principality which might rise against him. My hope is that we would not fear some future Antichrist, but strive daily to cling to Christ himself and resist any antichristian spirit in our own lives and hearts.

Little children, you are from God, and have conquered them; for the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. (1 John 4:4)

How do you understand the New Testament teaching on the antichrist? 

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2 thoughts on “First Glance: 2 John

  1. In 2 Tess 2:7 the bible talks about the “man of lawlessness” in the same way his power is already at work. maybe there is more then one name for the same antichrist power. what helps me is Romans 8: “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

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    • I think you are right that there may be more than one name for the same spiritual power in the New Testament. I think treating it as a spiritual power/principality or as a disposition of being ‘against Christ’ (coming in the flesh) is a more biblical way to understand it than as a single, individual, future figure.

      It is a supreme comfort that Christ is stronger than all other powers and that nothing will separate us from his love. Amen!

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