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1 John 2:18 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
18 Little children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have arisen; whereby we know that it is the last hour.
Little children. This is such language as an aged apostle would be likely to use when addressing a church, and its use in this epistle may be regarded as one evidence that John had reached an advanced period of life when he wrote the epistle.
It is the last hour. John, the last surviving apostle was now about 98 years old. We have Jesus’ warning words concerning the coming wheat (sons of the kingdom) and the weeds (sons of the evil one) in Matthew 13:25, 38. Paul’s warning in Acts 20:29, “I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock.” And Paul also warned in 2 Thessalonians 2:3, 7: “For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work. Only he who now restrains [the apostles] it will do so until he is out of the way.” And the apostle Peter in 2 Peter 2:1-3 states that “there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them …” So, yes, it was “the last hour” of the apostolic period that was holding back the great apostasy and the antichrist, which was to spring forth in full bloom after the last apostle, John, died in 100 C.E. Over the next 300 years the wheat (sons of the kingdom) were being overrun by the weeds (sons of the evil one), that is apostate antichrists. Historian Will Durant states: “Celsus [second-century enemy of Christianity] himself had sarcastically observed that Christians were ‘split up into ever so many factions, each individual desiring to have his own party.’ About 187 A.D. Irenaeus listed twenty varieties of Christianity; about 384 A.D. Epiphanius counted eighty.”—The Story of Civilization: Part III—Caesar and Christ.
And just as you heard that antichrist is coming. Antichrist: (ἀντίχριστος antichristos) The term “Antichrist,” occurs in the NT five times. From those five times, we gather this entity is “against” (i.e., denies Christ) or “instead of” (i.e., false Christs) Jesus Christ. Many antichrists began back in the apostle John’s day and will continue up unto Jesus’ second coming. (1 John 2:18) The antichrist is referred to as a number of individuals taken together, i.e., collectively. (2 John 1;7) Persons who deny Jesus Christ are the antichrist. (1 John 2:22) All who deny the divinity of Jesus Christ as the One and Only Son of God are the antichrist. (1 John 2:22; John 10:36; Lu 9:35) Some antichrists are apostates who left the faith and are now in opposition to the truth. (1 John 2:18-19) Those who oppose the true followers of Jesus are the antichrist. (John 15:20-21) Antichrists are individuals or nations opposing Jesus or trying to supplant his kingly authority. – Ps. 2:2; Matt. 24:24; Rev. 17:3, 12-14; 19:11-21.
- Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son.—1 John 2:22.
- The antichrists are in opposition to Jesus Christ.—Psalm 2:1,2; Luke 11:23.
- For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the chosen ones.—Matthew 24:24.
- If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.—John 15:20.
- For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ, workers of lawlessness.—Matthew 7:22-23; 2 Corinthians 11:13.
Even now many antichrists have arisen. Many have the characteristics it was predicted that antichrists would have; as explained above, many deny that Jesus is the Messiah or deny that he has come in the flesh. If they maintained that Jesus was an impostor and not the true Messiah, or if they admitted that the Messiah had come, they affirmed that he had come in appearance only and not really come in the flesh; this was the spirit of the antichrist. John says that there were many such persons, in fact, in his time. It would seem from this that John did not refer to a single individual or to a succession of individuals who should come previous to the winding up of the affairs of the world, as Paul did (2 Thess. 2:2) but that he understood that there might be many at the same time who would evince the spirit of antichrist. Both he and Paul, however, refer to the expectation that before the coming of the Savior to judge the world, there would be prominent adversaries of the Christian religion and that the end would not come until such adversaries appeared on a grand scale. Paul goes more into detail and describes the characteristics of the great apostasy more at length (2 Thess. 2:2; 1 Tim. 4:1; 2 Tim. 3:1) John says not that the appearance of these persons indicated that the end of the world was near, but that they had such characteristics as to show that they were living in the last days. Paul so describes them to show that the end of the world was not to be immediately expected; John, without referring to that point, says that there were enough of that character to prove that the last days had come, though he does not say how long it would continue.
Whereby we know that it is the last hour. The expression “the last hour” refers to a period of time, either fairly short or unexplained length, exemplified in other writings of John. (See John 2:4; 4:21-23; 5:25, 28; 7:30; 8:20; 12:23, 27.) John did not limit the antichrist’s appearance, existence, and activity only to some future time but showed that the antichrists were present and would continue until the second coming of Christ.—1Jo 4:3.
By Edward D. Andrews and Albert Barnes