Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time. (1 John 2:18)
Last week in our Sunday Morning Forum Class we had a discussion about the meaning of the term “last days.” This term is used several times in both Old and New Testaments but is often misunderstood. Sometimes the same concept is expressed in the way the apostle John did in 1 John 2:18 when he says “it is the last time.” Since the Bible was completed two thousand years ago, we might think the writers were referring to a far off time, perhaps to our own or some future date. However, it is clear from John’s present tense usage, “it is the last time,” that the time he was living in was also considered the last days. Hebrews 1:1-2 defines the last days as a time period inaugurated with the first advent of the Messiah. This means for these past two thousand years we have been living in the last days and will be until Christ returns to close out this period of earth’s history.
The last days are characterized as a time of growth in the kingdom of God. We will see this as we study Matthew 13 and the seven parables Jesus taught concerning the kingdom. This is a time for God’s people to witness the gospel, or as Jesus illustrates in the first parable of Matthew 13, it is a time to sow the seeds of the gospel. This is also a time of great opposition. In the second parable, Jesus describes how Satan will sow tares among the wheat. These are poisonous plants that represent the children of darkness who hate the works of Christ. Using the term “antichrists,” which is peculiar to John’s writings, John describes the character of these tares. They are “anti” meaning “against Christ.” They try to destroy the growth of the kingdom by teaching false doctrines.
Antichrists are very dangerous because the most effective work they do is when they are able to infiltrate churches with these false doctrines. These are not people that stand outside throwing stones. Rather they are people with cunning deceit that worm their way into the church and eat away at it from the inside. They represent false Christianity and their main target is Christ Himself. If they can destroy doctrines such as the deity of Christ, the penal substitutionary nature of the atonement, justification by faith alone, the inerrancy of scripture, and other essential doctrines they are successful at destroying the gospel before it can ever take root in the heart.
John and other Bible authors warn us to be on the lookout for any deviation from the truths taught by Jesus and the apostles. The theme of 1 John is the apostle’s systematic criteria for identifying those that are not true believers. If these false teachers are characteristic of the end times, then we are sure that John was not the only one living through the last days. We are in the heat of it at this moment, especially when the people of this country have become dreadfully confused about the definition of true Christianity. When Mormons are considered Christian, you know we are in trouble! We must be very diligent to “contend for the faith which was once delivered to the saints” (Jude v. 3). We are surrounded by antichrists—not my term but John’s—and a very appropriate description it is.
Pastor V. Mark Smith