The Last Hour

The presence of false teachers in the church demonstrates that we are in the “last days,” and the “last hour” is almost upon us

Clocks - Photo by Andrew Seaman on Unsplash
In his first letter, John declares it is 
the last hour,” the period elsewhere called the “last days.” As evidence of his claim, he points to the false teachers that are wreaking havoc among the churches, all products of the “spirit of antichrist” that already is active in the world, and each a forerunner of the coming and final “Antichrist.” - [Clocks - Photo by Andrew Seaman on Unsplash]

The idea that the church is in the “last days” occurs multiple times in the New Testament. The final stage of history began following the death, resurrection, and exaltation of Jesus.
  • (1 John 2:18-22) – “Little children! It is the last hour. And just as you heard that an antichrist is coming, even now, many antichrists have come, whereby we perceive that it is the last hour… Who is the false one, save he that denies that Jesus is the Christ? The same is the Antichrist, he that denies the Father and the Son.

MANY DECEIVERS

To substantiate this idea to his readers, John points to the very deceivers that have appeared in their congregations. Jesus himself warned his disciples that “many deceivers” and “false prophets” would come and “deceive many,” including the “very elect.”

Thus, the activity of false teachers in the church is irrefutable proof that the final period of this fallen age is underway. It will end inevitably with the return of the “Son of Man on the clouds” in great power and glory, and in the destruction of all his enemies - (Matthew 24:4-5, Mark 13:5-6, Luke 21:8, 1 Timothy 4:1, 2 Timothy 3:1).

ANTICHRISTS

John calls the deceivers “antichrists.” They are not proponents of pagan religious ideas from without the church, but false teachers active within it (“They went out from among us”). And he identifies them by their denial “that Jesus is the Christ.”

The Apostle does not attempt to coordinate them or the coming of the “antichrist” with the return of Jesus or other final events.  His concern is with the present damage being inflicted on his congregations, though their very presence demonstrates the “last days” are here - (1 John 4:1-3).

The Apostle’s second letter is more personal and quite brief. It does not discuss the return of Jesus, but its key concern is the dissension being caused by false teachers, especially their denial of Christ’s genuine humanity. And once again, the activities of deceivers in the church show that the “last days” have arrived.
  • (2 John 7-8) – “This is the commandment, even as you heard from the beginning that therein you should be walking. Because many deceivers have gone out into the world, they who do not confess Jesus Christ coming in flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist. Beware lest you lose what things we have wrought, but a full reward you may duly receive.

ABIDE IN JESUS

And again, John links these deceivers to the “Antichrist.” His reference to “many deceivers” echoes the words of Jesus from his discourse on the Mount of Olives, especially his warning about coming deceivers:
  • (Matthew 24:4-5, 11-13, 23-25) – “And answering, Jesus said to them: Beware lest anyone deceive you; for many will come upon my name, saying: I am the Christ, and will deceive manyAnd many false prophets will arise and deceive many… For there will arise false Christs and false prophets, and they will show great signs and wonders; to deceive, if possible, even the elect.

Considering the present conflicts in the church, as well as what is coming, believers must “abide” in Jesus so that “when he is manifested, we may have boldness and not be shamed away from him at his arrival.”
  • (1 John 2:28–3:3) - “And now, dear children, abide in him, in order that if he is made manifest, we may have boldness and not be shamed away from him by his arrival... Beloved! Now are we children of God, and not yet has it been made manifest what we shall be. We know that if it should be made manifest, shall we be like him because we shall see him just as he is. And whosoever has this hope is purifying himself, just as He is pure.”

This is a call to holy living, especially because of the inevitable coming of Jesus and the expected rewards that he will bring with him. By “abiding” in Christ, disciples prepare for the final day and immunize themselves from the wiles of the Devil and his earthly agents, in this case, false teachers, the many “antichrists.”

Twilight Photo by Anthony DELANOIX on Unsplash
[Photo by Anthony DELANOIX on Unsplash]

The Greek term rendered “
manifested” translates the verb phaneroō - “manifest, appear, make known, become visible.”  The Apostle Peter applied the same verb to the coming of Jesus in his first letter, as did Paul when writing to the Colossians - (1 Peter 5:2-4, Colossians 3:4).

HIS ARRIVAL

Arrival” in verse 28 translates the Greek noun ‘parousia’, which denotes the actual arrival of someone, not the process of his coming. This is the only instance in his letters where John uses the term. It occurs in Matthew’s version of the ‘Olivet Discourse’ when Jesus applied it to his future “arrival” - (Matthew 24:3, 24:27, 24:37-39).

The world did not understand Jesus, and therefore, it does not understand those who belong to him. For now, Christians look no different than other human beings, though their conduct may strike many as nonconformist, even antisocial.

But despite present appearances, believers are the very “children of God.” And when Jesus is “manifested,” they will be transformed to become “like him,” and they will see him “just as he is.” Those with this hope “purify themselves” in preparation for that day.

Believers must “abide in Jesus” so they will be able to stand in “boldness” rather than shame at his “arrival.” They are the “children of God,” and consequently, they constitute a people distinct from the rest of the world. This reality will become clear to all men when Jesus is “manifested,” therefore, it behooves them now to live pure and holy lives.

John does not provide us with details about future events and the “coming” of Jesus.  However, the terms he uses for Christ’s coming, and his concepts correspond to what Jesus and the other apostles taught about the future.

Regardless of how far along we are “in the last days,” the return of Jesus is certain. The apostle’s concern is with how believers live in the present in consideration of this future reality and the “lateness of the hour.” And the very fact that “many antichrists” are present in the church means sooner or later the ultimate Antichrist will appear.



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