by Mike Ratliff
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)
The rage right now in the church visible is what is called Christian Universalism. This is the theology of Rob Bell as revealed in his book Love Wins. Of course he plays his usual game of never being doctrinally definite about anything so it is impossible to pin him down to anything, but as this fellow says, Rob Bell is a Universalist. He should know because he is as well. I was at a second-hand bookstore about a month ago or so looking for a Greek-English Lexicon. Before I went to where the really special books were I decided to look first in the “Christian” book section, hoping that, perhaps, some seminary dropout had sold his Mounce Greek reference books and I would be the first to pounce on them. But, instead, I encountered two women excitedly talking about a book one of them had pulled from that stack by Rob Bell titled Velvet Elvis. One of the women was trying to convince the other how special it was and why she should buy it. I did not mean to listen, but I kept waiting for some sort of sound Biblical or Orthodox Christian reason that the other woman should buy that book. All I heard was that it was “really cool” and made the first woman feel “special.” I just shook my head, walked over to the reference section, and found a great buy on a 1999 edition from Oxford Press of Liddell & Scott’s Greek-English Lexicon for $12.00. I think I got a better deal.
From the same bookstore about a year ago or so, I found a book by F.F. Bruce on the Epistles of John. I have used it for a few posts here. In this post we will be focusing primarily on 1 John 2:18-19 and I intend to use it again. From this study I pray that you will see that there are now many antichrists in the world today and that what makes someone like Rob Bell or anyone else who is an enemy of the cross an antichrist is one who is a human representative of the “evil one” and they do his bidding instead of God’s will. Let’s look at John’s evidence.
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. 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 2:18-19 ESV)
18 Παιδία, ἐσχάτη ὥρα ἐστίν, καὶ καθὼς ἠκούσατε ὅτι ἀντίχριστος ἔρχεται, καὶ νῦν ἀντίχριστοι πολλοὶ γεγόνασιν, ὅθεν γινώσκομεν ὅτι ἐσχάτη ὥρα ἐστίν. 19 ἐξ ἡμῶν ἐξῆλθαν ἀλλ᾽ οὐκ ἦσαν ἐξ ἡμῶν· εἰ γὰρ ἐξ ἡμῶν ἦσαν, μεμενήκεισαν ἂν μεθ᾽ ἡμῶν· ἀλλ᾽ ἵνα φανερωθῶσιν ὅτι οὐκ εἰσὶν πάντες ἐξ ἡμῶν. (1 John 2:18-19 NA27)
The first word in the Greek text is the noun παιδια, which is the plural, vocative of παιδίον or paidion, which means “little children,” but in a sense it is like me as a loving grandfather speaking to my grandson. The term ἐσχάτη ὥρα, which the ESV translates as “last hour,” has been interpreted by some to be the same as “last days,” but John is probably referring to the same thing Peter was referring to in 1 Peter 1:5, “who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” The words “last time” are the Greek words, “καιρῷ ἐσχάτῳ,” at which the final salvation is to be revealed. What John understood and we must as well, in the Christian era, it is always five minutes to midnight. There will be times, as today, when the coming of Christ seems imminent, then there are other times when God grants a reprieve such as The Great Awakening in the 18th Century. In any case, we must be ever vigilant knowing that there are antichrists attacking the Church, the Gospel, the cross of Christ, the Doctrines of the Church, everything that makes up what we call our Orthodox Christian Faith, but first and foremost, they attack the Word of God as His truth for they know that if taken seriously, they are in deep trouble because it reveals that what they are doing is unbiblical, and not of God, and they are, therefore, antichrists.
Also, let us never forget that antichrists not only attack from outside the church, as in cults like the Mormons, but also from within. These seducers are the most dangerous. These are false christs and false prophets (Mark 13:22). These are the deceivers as John calls them in 2 John 7. These antichrists subvert the apostolic teaching.
In v19 we have a test. This test is not very popular with the non-Lordship people, but as we see here, it is entirely Biblical. What does John say? These people were once part of the visible church but they were false believers. If they had been real believers they would have remained and continued. They would have persevered. However, they did not do that. Instead, they went out. Why? They went out that it might become plain that they are not of us. How much more clearly can we state this? This is the test of perseverance. This is steadfast persistence in the way of God, without turning aside from it. Think of the Christian Universalists desiring to do away with the doctrine of Hell as eternal. Why do they want to do that? Their God is all Love with no wrath. His Love overrules His judgment, wrath, and Holiness. Their god is a man-made god of their own imagination that was created to make men happy, but he is not real. All these people are doing is teaching a false gospel that does not save while leading people to destruction saying that the Gospel does not matter.
I pray that you got the sense of what John is telling us in this passage. The Church, in a sense, has always been in these last days awaiting Christ’s return. We are always 5 minutes from midnight it seems. Sometimes, it seems He is right at the door like right now. We don’t know when that will be; all we can do is be prepared. We must be diligent in our discernment and steadfast perseverance. One of the things that I thank God for as I observe so many tumbling into apostasy is how He is upholding me, keeping me from following them. I know that I stand firm because He upholds me and that there is no way that I could do this in my own strength or resolve.
The fact that the church is continually under attack from these antichrists and supposedly solid “christian” leaders who suddenly turn from the faith and apostatize means that it is the last hour. We saw what that means. Let us obey our Lord in remaining faithful.
Soli Deo Gloria!