Authentic Christians, apostates, and antichrists

by Mike Ratliff

28 Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. 29 I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; 30 and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them. 31 Therefore be on the alert, remembering that night and day for a period of three years I did not cease to admonish each one with tears. (Acts 20:28-31 NASB)

True, genuine, authentic 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, politically correct, 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. Authentic Christianity is quite the opposite. That is not to say that many who call themselves Christians have not colored their own personal theology with post modern presuppositions, but these are what we call apostates. What is that?

15 Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. 17 The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever. (1 John 2:15-17 NASB)

15 Μὴ ἀγαπᾶτε τὸν κόσμον μηδὲ τὰ ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ. ἐάν τις ἀγαπᾷ τὸν κόσμον, οὐκ ἔστιν ἡ ἀγάπη τοῦ πατρὸς ἐν αὐτῷ· 16 ὅτι πᾶν τὸ ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ, ἡ ἐπιθυμία τῆς σαρκὸς καὶ ἡ ἐπιθυμία τῶν ὀφθαλμῶν καὶ ἡ ἀλαζονεία τοῦ βίου, οὐκ ἔστιν ἐκ τοῦ πατρὸς ἀλλʼ ἐκ τοῦ κόσμου ἐστίν. 17 καὶ ὁ κόσμος παράγεται καὶ ἡ ἐπιθυμία αὐτοῦ, ὁ δὲ ποιῶν τὸ θέλημα τοῦ θεοῦ μένει εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα. (1 John 2:15-17 NA28)

15 Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him; 16 because all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of eyes and the pride about this life’s possessions is not of the Father, but is of the world. 17 And the world is passing away along with its lusts, but the one doing the will of God remains into the age. (1 John 2:15-17 translated from the NA28 Greek text)

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 some call Orthodoxy and what I call here Authenticity. What is their motive?

The words, “Do not (μὴ) love (ἀγαπᾶτε) the (τὸν) world (κόσμον)” is a command. In this passage, μὴ ἀγαπᾶτε literally says, “Do not love something as the pattern of your life.” The verb, ἀγαπᾶτε, is in present tense, imperative mood, and active voice. This is a command to do or stop doing (if preceded by μὴ) something that involves continuous or repeated action. The verb ἀγαπᾶτε 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 ἀγαπᾶτε 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, κόσμον. 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 (ἀγάπη) 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).

18 Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have appeared; from this we know that it is the last hour. (1 John 2:18 NASB)


18 Παιδία, ἐσχάτη ὥρα ἐστίν, καὶ καθὼς ἠκούσατε ὅτι ἀντίχριστος ἔρχεται, καὶ νῦν ἀντίχριστοι πολλοὶ γεγόνασιν, ὅθεν γινώσκομεν ὅτι ἐσχάτη ὥρα ἐστίν. (1 John 2:18 NA28)

18 Children, it is the last hour; and as you heard that an antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, from which we know that the it is the last hour. (1 John 2:18 translated from the NA28 Greek text)

The “last hour,” ἐσχάτη ὥρα, 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, ἀντίχριστοι πολλοὶ, 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.”

19 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, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us. (1 John 2:19 NASB)


19 ἐξ ἡμῶν ἐξῆλθαν ἀλλʼ οὐκ ἦσαν ἐξ ἡμῶν· εἰ γὰρ ἐξ ἡμῶν ἦσαν, μεμενήκεισαν ἂν μεθʼ ἡμῶν· ἀλλʼ ἵνα φανερωθῶσιν ὅτι οὐκ εἰσὶν πάντες ἐξ ἡμῶν. (1 John 2:19 NA28)

19 They departed from among us, but they were not of us; if they were of use, they would have remained with us; but they went out that it may be manifest that they are not all of us. (1 John 2:19 translated from the NA28 Greek text)

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 departed” is the translation of the word ἐξῆλθαν. 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 ἐξῆλθαν 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 or authenticity 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 or Muslims or Buddhists 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!