The word “Antichrist” evokes imagery of the End Times, and in particular, of the Book of Revelation. It’s in Revelation where we learn about the end game of Satan, along with his unholy Trinity: the false teacher, the antichrist, and Satan himself. In 1 John, the Apostle John, wants to help his readers understand that there isn’t only the Antichrist in the future, but that there are antichrists in the world even now.
The antichrists that John speaks of in 1 John 2:22 are those that deny Jesus is the Christ. These false teachers deny the Son, and thus the Father, because of the full identity of life and purpose shared by the Father and Son (1 John 1:2; 2:23). The life shared by the Father and Son is the same life that is manifested to the people of God in Christ (1 John 1:2), proclaimed to them in the gospel (1 John 1:3), and promised to all who believe in Christ (1 John 2:25). Since Jesus is the Christ, our eternal life is sure in Him (John 3:36; 5:24; 1 John 5:11-12).
The Antichrist is a Christological Rebel
In 2 John 1:7, the Apostle says, “for many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh. Such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist.” Likewise, 1 John 4:2-3 helps us understand that only those who confess the Son (Jesus) and the Incarnation are those who come from God. Those who do not confess that Jesus is the Christ who has come in the Incarnation are antichrists. 1 John 2:22 says, “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.” In 1 John 2:18, we read, “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.”
There are only four references to the word antichrist(s) in the Bible, and I’ve just quoted all of them. The frequency of the references does not mean that it is insignificant. Nor does it mean that these antichrists will be representative of the diabolical Antichrist in Revelation 13:1-10 (or of the man of lawlessness in 2 Thessalonians 2:3).
Standing Fast for the Deity of Christ
From Cerinthus in the 2nd century to Joseph Smith in the 19th century, and from the earliest Arians to Jehovah Witnesses today, Christians face challenges to the deity of Jesus from all sides. Christians should not be offended to see these significant religions under the antichrist categories or say that the fight is with them. Our real spiritual battle is not with flesh and blood, and people are not opponents to be won against. Instead, we preach the gospel faithfully from the Word and make disciples of all the nations. We also contend for the faith, that has been once and for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3), by speaking the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15).
First John teaches that there will be those who fall away from the faith and abandon orthodoxy. Such people are those who have made empty professions of faith and who never possessed true, saving faith. Those born of the Lord by the Holy Spirit will by grace persevere (Philippians 1:6). First John 2:19 applies to all who deny the faith and exit the local church fellowship. It is the leaving of the false teachers, however, that prompted John’s writing of this particular verse. The false teachers were counted as those many antichrists that will come (1 John 2:18). While we await the day of the final Antichrist, we have lesser antichrists who will come beforehand and who are here even now. Those antichrists are liars. Thankfully, those who possess eternal life (and therefore the Holy Spirit) through Christ Jesus are able to recognize the spirit of antichrist when it is present. As 1 John 2:22 teaches, it is the one who denies Jesus is the Christ that is a liar and an antichrist.
In this denial of the faith is not only a denial of Jesus the Messiah, but of the Incarnation. The Incarnation is critical to biblical orthodoxy and an important way Christians can be assured of salvation (1 John 1:1-4). The false teachers John is countering accepted the view of Cerinthus, who called Jesus the Christ, but denied the apostolic definition of the title. Instead of seeing the Christ as the eternal Son of God, who became Incarnate, followers of Cerinthus were convinced Jesus was a mere man, His entire life only possessing the spirit of Christ.
Responding to Challenges to the Deity of Christ Today
Muslims today call Jesus the Christ, but deny the Incarnation. First John 2:23 teaches that to call Jesus “the Christ” means we must accept the apostolic testimony about His person. To fail to accept this testimony about His person is to reject the work of Christ.
Many today sing praises to the Lord Jesus, but deny critical biblical truths about His person and work, including the deity of Christ and His substitutionary work. When Christians confess biblical truth, we are affirming that the Messiah is no mere man but the Incarnate Son of God.
The Apostle John Aims to Aid Christian’s Assurance
John wrote 1 John towards the end of the first century to help his audience (and Christians today) to be assured of their salvation. False teachers had come into the church and tried to tempt genuine Christians to abandon the faith (1 John 2:19). These teachers had caused some to doubt their faith, so John aims to correct the errors of these teachers by giving three tests to determine the authenticity of our faith. These tests are belief in the Incarnation, expressions of holy living, and love for God and one another (1 John 1:1-5). Now, if someone denies that Jesus is the Son of God become Incarnate, then they have the spirit of the antichrist (1 John 2:18-25).
Christians are those who walk in the light, not in the darkness. This “walking in the light” is not perfectionism, but instead means they have their hearts set on obedience to the gospel. Such Christians eagerly admit their sin when they learn of it and flee to Christ for forgiveness (1 John 1:5-26). Genuine Christians love God rather than the world and love their fellow brothers and sisters (1 John 2:7-17).
Holiness as a Mark of Those Who Are Born Again
In 1 John 2:28-29, the Apostle gives the mark of the holiness of those who are born again. In verse 28, John teaches (for the second time in his letter) that his readers (both then and now) must abide in Jesus. To abide in the Lord Jesus, according to 1 John 2:28, refers to the practice of personal righteousness (1 John 2:29). The foundation of this is found in verse 27, which emphasizes the fact that to abide in Christ is to believe apostolic doctrine. Biblical doctrine informs right living, and right living corroborates with biblical doctrine (1 John 1:6).
The personal righteousness John is speaking of assures the people of God of their salvation because it reflects the character of God the Father. In 1 John 2:29, the author uses “him”, which is a reference to God the Father. It is only those who practice righteousness that have been born of God. Just as children resemble their parents, so too will there be a resemblance between the Heavenly Father and His children.
John helps readers understand that Christians will not be ashamed at the Second Coming if they abide in Christ (1 John 2:28). Our efforts do not get us into heaven, but they do reflect that we have been born of God. Furthermore, they give confidence to Christians knowing they are in Him and He in them. If you are not confident today of the final judgment, ask yourself if you neglect the righteousness of God. If so, repent and endeavor to walk in holiness, just as God is holy.
Dave Jenkins is happily married to his wife, Sarah. He is a writer, editor, and speaker living in beautiful Southern Oregon. Dave is a lover of Christ, His people, the Church, and sound theology. He serves as the Executive Director of Servants of Grace Ministries, the Executive Editor of Theology for Life Magazine, the Host and Producer of Equipping You in Grace Podcast, and is a contributor to and producer of Contending for the Word. He is the author of The Word Explored: The Problem of Biblical Illiteracy and What To Do About It (House to House, 2021), The Word Matters: Defending Biblical Authority Against the Spirit of the Age (G3 Press, 2022), and Contentment: The Journey of a Lifetime (Theology for Life, 2024). You can find him on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube, or read his newsletter. Dave loves to spend time with his wife, going to movies, eating at a nice restaurant, or going out for a round of golf with a good friend. He is also a voracious reader, in particular of Reformed theology, and the Puritans. You will often find him when he’s not busy with ministry reading a pile of the latest books from a wide variety of Christian publishers. Dave received his M.A.R. and M.Div through Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary.