This essay will be the last that we write on this section from the pen of the apostle John.
We have noticed in the three former essays that John points out to his readers that it is the “last hour.” We have found that the last hour must be understood in the light of the Old Testament prophetical writings. It is the last hour from the vantage-point of the Seers. We have also noticed that we must remember the meaning of the term “hour” in the writings of John to see the peculiar point John is making when he speaks of the last hour. The term “hour” we saw refers to the God-appointed time when His Son will be revealed in the flesh, through suffering and death, and in his glorious resurrection. It is the hour when God himself shall be glorified in the Son and when the judgment shall come upon the earth, the “krisis” to make separation between the living and the dead. And then, thirdly, we also noticed that John points out that the coming of the Antichrist, and the going forth of many antichrists from the bosom of the church is an infallible sign that it is the last hour.
Concerning this last element, namely, the earmark of the last hour we must say just a word yet.
Writes John: “and even as ye have heard that Antichrist shall come, and now many antichrists have gone forth. Whence we know that it is the last hour.”
There is a truth of Scripture which we really meet on every page of the sacred record. It is the phenomenon that there are always so “many” that leave the bosom of the church, depart from sound doctrine and deny the very Christ of the Scriptures. And we ask: whence is this? How must that be accounted for? Is this a setting aside of the intent and purpose of God in His Son? Is this contrary to the plan and design of God? Has the word of God fallen out?
The answer to this question is clearly given us in Holy Writ.
We have but to recall the Word of God through the aged Simeon in the temple to Mary, the mother of Jesus. Remember that Simeon here was the mouthpiece of the Lord. He was a prophet. And holding the child Jesus in his arms he speaks of the “salvation prepared before the face of all the nations, a light to enlighten (by revelation) the nations, and the glory of God’s people, Israel: “And what is said besides this? This: “behold this child is set (appointed of God) for a fall and rising of many in Israel, and unto a sign that will be contradicted.” Luke 2:29-35.
It will be “many” in Israel which shall contradict this child. This is noteworthy. For do we not read in the Scriptures that “many are called but few are chosen”? And therefore the phenomenon that “many antichrists have gone forth” should not be viewed by us as if the word of God had fallen out. Rather it must be noticed that also herein not one of God’s words falls unfulfilled upon the earth.
That this child shall be “contradicted” does not simply mean that people will differ in opinion with Him (perish the thought), but it means that they will deny His very person; they will deny that He is God, the Son come into the flesh! Did the Jews and chief-priests not cry “crucify him, crucify him” when He made the good confession that He is the Son of God? Then He is declared worthy of death.
Thus only can it be understood that “many antichrists have gone forth.” (They are men and women who heard the word of God, who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come—and have fallen away! They are those who it is impossible to renew unto repentance, seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put Him to an open shame! Heb. 6:4-6. They are like the earth that having drunk in the rain bringeth forth and beareth thorns and briers, and is rejected.
Such are these antichrists!
They are liars. Intentionally and consciously they corrupt the truth being condemned of themselves. Theirs is a bitter hatred against God revealed in Christ. And in their hatred they have gone forth from the church. Up to the very moment in which John writes this is an accomplished fact. In the first century of our Christian era this was already true. And it is always the same “antichrists” who depart from sound doctrine.
And that these went forth from the church is as it should be.
Writes John in verse 18, “Now” they have gone forth.
And he adds, “Wherefore we know that it is the last hour.” The entire church has a sure evidence and earmark in this departure of these apostates. The church knows, experiences that it is the last hour. She lives through this event. She sees the date on God’s calendar. She counts and numbers her days in the light of the great plan and, purpose of God, in the light of Him who is the Alpha and the omega, the Lord God Almighty. And she is not unduly disturbed by it all. She knows God’s times and purposes and his intent in all of history. And she knows and experiences in the departure of these apostates from the faith that it is the last hour. And she is not mistaken!
She hears the Lord of glory above it all say: be still and know that I am God . . . .
For God’s purpose is worked out in this “going forth” of the antichrists. Says John in verse 19, “They went out from us for they were not of us; for if they were of us, they would have remained with us.” The word of God is not fallen out. God hath never forsaken, the people whom he foreknew. Rom. 9:6, 11:2. For it is ever of grace. There is ever a remnant according to the election of grace. Thus it was in the days of Elijah when he thinks that he alone is left. Then the answer of God to him is, “I have reserved to myself seven thousand men, who have not bowed the knee to the image of Baal.” Rom. 11:4; I Kings 19:10. For those whom God had foreordained he hath also called, and those whom he hath called he hath justified, and those whom he hath justified he hath also glorified. Rom. 8:30.
When those who go forth are antichrists then we must not desire to keep them! Not those who declare by confession and walk that they are anti-Christ. They must go forth. It is the divine intent to “manifest” them, to show them up for what they really are. They went out that it might be manifest who they are. The chaff must be separate from the wheat. When that happens it has come to the end of the season. It has become harvest time. And in this dispensation when we have the first-fruits of the full harvest, we also see the first-fruits of the final manifestation of the judgment, the “crisis” of God. That is a part of the “hour” of the Son of Man, the lasthour!
We all must be manifested before God’s throne. II Cor. 5:10.
Indirectly it is also true, when the antichrists leave, that those who are true believers are brought to manifestation. Such is the divine crisis in this last hour. Does not Paul write in I Cor. 11:19: “For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be manifest among you.”
The true believers become manifest.
They are the “little children” whose sins are forgiven for Christ’s name’s sake, and who know the Father and overcome the evil one in the battle of faith. They conquer the world. The Evil One does not lay hold on them. And since anyone in whom the seed is planted cannot “sin unto death,” they cannot belong to the numbers of those who are “antichrists.”
Had any of those who left, these antichrists, truly been of the elect number, living members of Christ by true faith, they would never have left. They would surely have remained.
But now they are simply dedicated to the negative principle that they are against. They are against all the doctrine of the Scriptures, corrupting them to their own destruction. Thus Paul warned the church of Ephesus as recorded in Acts 20:28-30: “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. For I know this that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.”
Such is ever the history of God’s church in every age.
It explains also our own recent experiences!!
There is one more thing that we must here notice.
I refer here, of course, to the fact that there is a principle of knowledge in the church. The church knows the truth. Reformed people have, “Gereformeerde voelhorens.” They have spiritual knowledge. They have the anointing of the Holy One. They have the mind of Christ.
Recently when I patiently set forth the Reformed position in the matter of the “promise” as taught in the Heidelberg Catechism, Canons of Dordt, and when I was all finished the party with whom I was speaking said: “If theologians cannot agree, how will I know.” Well, he did not stop the world and get off. He took the side of those who want a promise to all.
Now this is not what John teaches here. The “little children” have the unction of the Holy One. They are not like the natural man, the psychical man, who cannot put spiritual things with spiritual. It is revealed to the little children. They are not separated from the life of God. They are indwelt by the Spirit of the Son, the Holy One. And thus they even know the truth. And since no lie is of the truth, they very well, distinguish the error of those who deny that Jesus is the Son of God, from the truth that He indeed is the Son Who came into this world. It is true that this is all foolishness to the natural man. By his wisdom he cannot know God. But we are enlightened. We all know.
There is a difference of reading. One reading has “and ye know all things.” The other is “and ye all know.” Personally I prefer the latter reading. And “ye all” know. All the believers have the spirit and are prophets. It is the office of all believers. This does not mean that they need no instruction. But when instruction is given they know whether this is according to the rule of faith or not. The church is not an orphan. She is led into all the truth. And when those who deny the central truth in Christ speak out, they are known by all to beantichristian.
John writes them no unknown truths. He writes them because they know, and because of what they know. And they must abide in the truth. They are established in it and they must remain standing. Then they shall not be ashamed in that day.
For in this day, right now we know the time. It is the “last hour.” We will know our times. And if for us to live is Christ, the Son of God in the flesh, then death will be our gain. We shall then rejoice in the great love of God, and look for that day when we shall be like Him and see Him as He is.