by Mike Ratliff
Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish everyone with tears. (Acts 20:28-31 ESV)
True Christianity is exclusive. It is not a smorgasbord or buffet of options from which men may take what they like while rejecting the rest and still call themselves Christians. While a statement like that may not be popular in this post-modern 21st Century culture which advocates tolerance that is sort of a give and take “conversation” in which people with opposing views find a middle ground, it is still the truth. True Christianity is quite the opposite. That is not to say that many who call themselves Christians have not adopted this modus operandi, but these are what we call apostates. What is that?
Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world–the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions–is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. (1 John 2:15-17 ESV)
15μη αγαπατε τον κοσμον μηδε τα εν τω κοσμω εαν τις αγαπα τον κοσμον ουκ εστιν η αγαπη του πατρος εν αυτω 16οτι παν το εν τω κοσμω η επιθυμια της σαρκος και η επιθυμια των οφθαλμων και η αλαζονεια του βιου ουκ εστιν εκ του πατρος αλλ εκ του κοσμου εστιν 17και ο κοσμος παραγεται και η επιθυμια [αυτου] ο δε ποιων το θελημα του θεου μενει εις τον αιωνα (1 John 2:15-17 WHNU)
Not love the world but not the in the world. If some might love the world, not is the love of the father in him; because all the in the world, the desire of the flesh and the desire of the eyes and the boast of the life, no it is from the father but from the world it is. And the world leads along and the desire of it, the one but doing the will of the God stays into the age. (1 John 2:15-17 word for word translation from Koine Greek to English)
Most outlines of 1 John 2 set these three verses apart from those that follow. They are often labeled with the title “Do Not Love the World.” Then vv18-27 are grouped together with the title “Warning Concerning Antichrists” or something like that. In any case, I believe John, inspired by the Holy Spirit, was giving us a cause and effect of what marks those who appear to be true believers for awhile, but then they fall away. Some of them fall in such a way that they appear to simply change focus or ministry so that they are still professing to be Christians, but they are outside of what we call Orthodoxy. What is their motive?
The words, “Do not (μη) love (αγαπατε) the (τον) world (κοσμον)” is a command. In this passage, μη αγαπατε literally says, “Do not love something as the pattern of your life.” The verb, αγαπατε, is in present tense, imperative mood, and active voice. This is a command to do or stop doing (if preceded by μη) something that involves continuous or repeated action. The verb αγαπατε describes the direction of the will and finding one’s joy in something. John is telling us that the genuine Christian does not do this. His or her αγαπατε will be directed to God and His will as the dominating pattern in their life. While the unregenerate may be very religious, they are really serving self and what they can get out of the world, κοσμον. This word is the root of our English word cosmos. This is referring to the sum total of the material universe, the beauty in it; the sum total of persons living in the world, et cetera. Professing Christians can most certainly live their lives with this focus. This is a marker of those in whom the love (αγαπη) of the Father is not in. Notice that this is not that same word for love. The KJV often translates this word as “charity.” This benevolent love is not shown by doing what the person loved desires, but what the one who loves deems as needed by the one loved (e.g. John 3:16).
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. (1 John 2:18 ESV)
18παιδια εσχατη ωρα εστιν και καθως ηκουσατε οτι αντιχριστος ερχεται και νυν αντιχριστοι πολλοι γεγονασιν οθεν γινωσκομεν οτι εσχατη ωρα εστιν (1 John 2:18 WHNU)
Small children (παιδια), last (εσχατη) hour (ωρα) it is (εστιν), and (και) just as (καθως) you heard (ηκουσατε) that (οτι) antichrist (αντιχριστος) comes (ερχεται), and (και) now (νυν) antichrists (αντιχριστοι) many (πολλοι) have become (γεγονασιν), from where (οθεν) we know (γινωσκομεν) that (οτι) last (εσχατη) hour (ωρα) it is (εστιν). (1 John 2:18 word-for-word translation from Koine Greek to English)
The “last hour,” εσχατη ωρα, is used by John to describe the whole time between our Lord’s first and second comings. During this intervening time, John tells us plainly that the coming of many antichrists, αντιχριστοι πολλοι, will plague it. What does this mean? They will not have the love of God in them as we saw in previous passage. They will not be Christians, however, these are not people outside of the visible church, but those inside who are false. They may still be part of the visible church, but as John tells in the next verse, they have “went out from us.”
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. (1 John 2:19 ESV)
19εξ ημων εξηλθαν αλλ ουκ ησαν εξ ημων ει γαρ εξ ημων ησαν μεμενηκεισαν αν μεθ ημων αλλ ινα φανερωθωσιν οτι ουκ εισιν παντες εξ ημων (1 John 2:19 WHNU)
From (εξ) us (ημων) they have gone out (εξηλθαν) but (αλλ) not (ουκ) they were (ησαν) from (εξ) us (ημων) if (ει) for (γαρ) from (εξ) us (ημων) they were, (ησαν) they had stayed (μεμενηκεισαν) – (αν) with (μεθ) us; (ημων) but (αλλ) that (ινα) they might be demonstrated (φανερωθωσιν) that (οτι) not (ουκ) they are (εισιν) all (παντες) from (εξ) us (ημων). (1 John 2:19 word-for-word translation from Koine Greek to English)
My 1560 Geneva Bible has a note for this verse that says, “Which seemed to have bene of our number, because for a time they occupied a place in the Church.” I kept some of the original spelling. The statement that “they have gone out” is the translation of the word εξηλθαν. This word literally means “to depart” or “to escape.” This verb is in aorist tense, indicative mood, and active voice. All this means is that these who εξηλθαν from within fellowship in the body of Christ did so in a one time, explicit act. However, this does not mean that they became professing pagans or atheists, but the context of this passage tells us the ones John is talking about have become false teachers in the visible church. Their arising among the believers is their departing from orthodoxy into apostasy. As they lead people away from belief in Christ, they reveal that they are αντιχριστοι. These oppose the word of the gospel. Their rejection of the good, solid doctrines of the Church given to us by Christ and His Apostles is rejected for a more “man-friendly,” politically correct, seeker-sensitive, or Church growth paradigm.
The book of 1 John was obviously written to encourage the brethren who persevered in the midst of attacks from the many forms of Gnosticism that had begun to arise at the end of the 1st Century. It is full of statements about the deity of Christ and how those who deny it are apostates and antichrists. They also deny the resurrection. Think in our time of the postmodern nonsense of relativism and how its infiltration into the Church has created Emergent Christianity, which is not Christian at all, any more than Gnosticism was. Genuine Christianity is precise and not open to interpretation. Truth is fixed. It is not moldable around whatever forms of Christianity people want. Our Lord set the pattern for us to follow in this. He confronted error face-to-face and would never compromise on any of God’s truth. False teachers were called such. However, all who came to Him in brokenness, humility, and repentance were loved, accepted, and saved.
My brethren, we do not know when the end of this age is coming. However, the truth is under attack, as it always has been by God’s enemies. We are the Christians in our time who must respond. We must pray for one another. We must encourage each other. We must examine ourselves. We must be discipled and learn to be living sacrifices who love not the world, but seek for continual transformation through mind renewal as God grows us unto Christlikeness. This is running the race God has set before us with our eyes firmly fixed on Christ. Let us not be discouraged as Rob Bell and his ilk attempt to lead so many away from truth into a religion that sees no absolutes, therefore, no firm foundation. Brian McLaren may think there can be Hindus who remain in their religion while being followers of Jesus, but he is an αντιχριστος and so we must turn from him and those like him who are trying to deceive. We must pray for those who are being lied to by these men that God will draw them back to the truth. God’s will be done.
Soli Deo Gloria!