1 John Chapter 2: Jesus our Advocate and Propitiation, Different Types of Sin, AntichristFeb 8th, 2010 | By admin | Category: 1st & 2nd & 3rd John, Verse by Verse --Studies led by Br. Frank Shallieu (Click on Book name)
1 John Chapter 2: Jesus our Advocate and Propitiation, Different Types of Sin, Antichrist
1 John 2:1 My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous:
The aged Apostle John addressed as “my little children” all of the brethren to whom this epistle was more or less initially sent out. In other words, he was not addressing just the young, the middle-aged, or the old but all. Certainly if we were 100 years old, we would have the liberty of longtime service and of addressing others in this manner. Even the Apostle Paul, who was much younger, spoke in a fatherly style on rare occasions (Gal. 4:19). The brethren would have been very amenable to John’s fatherly term of address.
The apostle continued, “These things write I unto you, that ye sin not.” On the surface, his words would seem to be needless advice because every Christian knows that the calling of God is a holy calling. It is a calling to forsake sin and to ask repentance for sin. Therefore, John’s words would seem to be not only repetitive but also unnecessary because they were so obvious. However, as already previewed, the conditions that existed at the time this epistle was written necessitated such an admonition. Not only were there Gnostics, but Corinthus, an enemy and a contemporary of John, lived in Ephesus, where this epistle was probably written.
Corinthus taught that sinning with the outer body was not that important because the inner man was what mattered. The term “Gnostics” comes from the term “knowledge.” Considering themselves intellectually superior, they felt that God looks on the heart and the spirit rather than on the deeds of life. This class felt it did not much matter how one lived as long as he believed in God and Jesus. John did not want the brethren to heed the Gnostic teachings, which belittled the walk of the Christian.
Then John added, “And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” Why did John use this phrasing? Why did he say in one breath, “Sin not,” and in the next breath, “And if any man sin”?
Comment: He was saying, “Do not sin willfully. However, if any man sins unintentionally, he has Jesus Christ as his Advocate.”
Reply: In other words, the door is open for the forgiveness of unpremeditated sin.
Comment: John was being practical. The ideal was not to sin, but since he realized that fallen men do sin, he was saying, “Do not be discouraged if you sin, for God has provided Jesus Christ the righteous as our Advocate.” For “advocate,” the NIV has “one who speaks to the Father in our defense.” The Greek word is parakletos, which Strong’s Concordance defines as “an intercessor.” An advocate is like a lawyer, whom we would take to stand alongside us at the bar of justice.
Sometimes a Christian has difficulty overcoming certain sins. Paul called this kind of sin a besetting sin, saying, “Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us” (Heb. 12:1). Daily we go to the throne of grace to get our robes cleaned and to be forgiven of any transgressions, but sometimes we have other problems that are inherent in our genes, as it were. We were born in sin and shapen in iniquity, and try as we will to walk the perfect line like Jesus, we find we have failings (Psa. 51:5). Certainly Jesus is our Advocate, our Forerunner, our Helper.
Notice the emphasis on the pronoun “we”: “We have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” This statement applies to the Christian, not to the world, because the world has not given their heart to God and accepted Jesus as their Redeemer. This epistle is addressed to Christians, whether Jew or Gentile.
1 John 2:2 And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.
Jesus “is the propitiation for our sins [the sins of his followers in the present age]: and … also for the sins of the whole world [in the next age].” Jesus Christ “taste[d] death for every man” but in due time or order (Heb. 2:9). “The man Christ Jesus … gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time” (1 Tim. 2:5,6). The due time for the Christian is now; for the world, it is the next age.
Jesus is the propitiatory lid (Greek hilasmos), the satisfaction for our sins. Verse 2 refers back to the Tabernacle of Moses where blood was sprinkled on the Mercy Seat. John was saying,
“Justice is satisfied with the blood of Jesus.” Thus Jesus is the go-between, or the means, to help us make our calling and election sure. He is our Advocate with the Father. We pray especially to the Father but through Jesus, who is there on our behalf, covering our failings with the robe of his righteousness.
1 John 2:3 And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments.
In observing the behavior of John and James Zebedee, Jesus gave them the nickname of Boanerges, meaning “The sons of thunder” (Mark 3:17). James used blunt, practical reasoning in his epistle to wake up Christians in regard to their daily conduct. John’s reasoning was very much like that of his brother, but this particular epistle was given a little different slant. James told Christians to be introspective, to examine themselves. He taught that faith is meaningless if it is not backed up with some works. Faith justifies, but works evidence one’s faith. Thus James admonished Christians to look inward, whereas John, also using practical reasoning, more or less pointed out the behavior of others. John said that when we see glaring misconduct in others, we should get a lesson on what not to do. He then told what we are to do.
John’s reasoning is beautiful. His level of thinking was not as high as that of Paul, but he was just the man for this time period in the early Church. A Christian who had not been educated and brought up in a cultural fashion to try to reason with the intellectual Gnostics on their grounds would not get anywhere. Not only would he not be able to convince them, but he would get disturbed in the process. Therefore, John advised Christians to look at the Master.
John recorded the life and sayings of Jesus in his Gospel, and those he was addressing knew he had walked and conversed with Jesus. The apostles had seen Jesus with their eyes, they had looked upon him, and they had even handled him. He was not an apparition, a vision, or a myth as the Gnostics claimed.
Now John was saying, “The proper way for followers of Jesus to walk in this life is to observe him—what he said, did, and commanded.” This type of reasoning is most effective for uneducated Christians, who are largely the ones God calls. He is looking for those who are weak, weary, and heavy-laden to draw them to Jesus (Matt. 11:28). For the most part, God calls the poor of this world—those who are poor in spirit and sometimes literally poor (Matt. 5:3).
“Hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments.” John’s practical advice was the simple thing to do—to obey Jesus’ commandments and not try to be a theologian and meet the intellectuals on their grounds.
Comment: Jesus spoke similarly in John’s Gospel. “If ye love me, keep my commandments…. He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him…. If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him…. If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love” (John 14:15,21,23; 15:10).
Reply: There is nothing wrong in studying Greek and Hebrew, but the main thing is to study God’s Word. As recorded in the Gospels, Jesus (the Son of God) certainly manifested the character of his Father in all that he did. We need a hunger for the Word of God, not a college education. There is a difference between reading and studying. Reading is more superficial and a form of hypocrisy, whereas studying is reading with intent. Today we live in a genteel society with a modicum of civilization in manners, dress, cleanliness, etc., but in John’s day, the common people were poor. They wore sandals and did not have the best in education or clothing. The behavior of others was very recognizable, for living and working together in the same small village, everyone knew everyone. People had a rapport and an intimacy that does not exist today in our artificial society. Christians may meet together on Sunday, but when they part, there is little or no contact during the week. Back there the behavior of other Christians, with their idiosyncrasies and misconduct, was easily discerned, whereas when a brother leaves a meeting today, he basically does not know anything about the others for the rest of the week. The point is that John’s writing was very meaningful to Christians in his day.
Today it is harder to live the Christian life for many reasons. Our surroundings are evil.
1 John 2:4 He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.
Comment: John seemed to be saying that profession is not enough for the Christian. Actions must accompany profession. To say, “I know Jesus,” refers to profession, but in addition, the Christian must obey Jesus’ commandments. Otherwise, he is a liar, and the truth is not in him. John used very strong words.
Christians back there were familiar with those who said they did not sin. Even today some believe that sins before consecration are all cast over the Lord’s back. However, willful sins, which are done against light, are the exception. That type of sin is different from inherited Adamic sin. Adamic weakness is one thing, whereas willful sin cannot be forgiven but must receive stripes proportionate to the level of guilt (Luke 12:47,48).
“He that saith” indicates that others were saying, “I know Jesus,” but were not keeping his commandments. Today a lot of excuses are made for sin. The general attitude is to let everyone do his own thing. At least in puritanical times, sin was not a gray area but was more stark.
Right and wrong are more difficult to discern today unless one studies God’s Word.
Comment: John’s saying, “The truth is not in him,” was not referring to factual knowledge but to the Holy Spirit of truth, the attitude with which a person evidences what is in his heart.
Reply: Yes, and there are two kinds of truth. The Gnostics thought their intellectualism was the way of truth. They felt they had the truth, but what they had was not God’s truth; it was not what Jesus taught.
Comment: In 1 John 1:8-10, the Gnostics were saying they did not sin, but they were sinning because they did not have God’s truth in them.
Reply: If we lived back in John’s day and knew that a particular individual who professed to be a Christian was constantly saying he had no sin, yet it was glaringly apparent from his outward conduct that he was grossly sinning, we would know he was a liar. In fact, the followers of Corinthus, Gnostics, and some who came into the brotherhood from pagan religions did not make distinctions with morals. Asian art, sculpture, and paintings show that lust was right in the pagan temples, where women engaged in prostitution to enrich the temple coffers. Vestal virgins were a common practice. Today we do not know what happens with brethren during the rest of the week. Who knows what is occurring on the side? Back there the brethren knew about one another’s conduct because those committing immoral practices were not ashamed. They reasoned that God looks on the heart and not on the outer man.
John kept repeating and returning to the theme of keeping God’s commandments and trying to do His will. If that attitude characterizes our desire and walk, then (1) we know that we love God and (2) God will know that we love Him. Nevertheless, we have Jesus as our Advocate with the Father when we sin unintentionally. Otherwise, we would become very discouraged in trying to walk in the Son’s footsteps. God does judge our heart in these matters, but we have to recognize that Jesus’ blood covers our sins—that he was actually made in the flesh, died on the Cross, and is the propitiation for our sins. The Gnostics rejected John’s Gospel as a part of the Word. Certain heretics back there took only what they pleased and rejected the rest of the apostles’ writings. This selectivity was promoted by higher critics.
It is phenomenal that the Epistles of John are part of Holy Writ. In fact, the very testimony of Scripture and the unity of thought bespeak Divine Providence and prove that the whole counsel of God is contained in Scripture. Back there Christians knew those who were saying, “I know Jesus,” but were not keeping his commandments. Peter and Paul identified several individuals by name, and John named Diotrephes. The simplicity of the gospel in knowing what to do by looking at Christ and following his commandments was very helpful in that intellectual society. The Greeks loved knowledge and the Jews looked for signs, but Christians are to look to God’s Word.
1 John 2:5 But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him.
Comment: Ephesians 4:13 is a tie-in: “Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.” As we each individually draw closer to Christ, we naturally come closer to upholding the truth and to the brethren who are like-minded.
Reply: Yes, those who are similarly minded and have the same goals and intent are unified in Christ despite their diverse backgrounds.
1 John 2:6 He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked.
A person who said he was abiding in Christ ought to walk as Jesus walked. In other words, John was talking about someone who purported to be a follower of Christ. He would now start to criticize the party who made that claim.
Q: Was John still talking about the “liar” of verse 4?
A: Yes, he was talking about that group; that is, the pronoun “he” referred to whichever ones of that group were making such a statement. The individual being addressed was outside of John’s fellowship and the fellowship of the disciples John was serving.
John was saying, “He who says he abides in Jesus ought to walk in harmony with his own profession.” It is one thing to say we are a follower of Christ and to be thinking along doctrinal lines, but John said that the speaker, who thought he was walking according to Jesus’ doctrine, should look at his conduct. An individual’s conduct should be compared with Christ’s conduct and behavior—with what he exemplified in his life. One does not need a college degree to understand this common-sense line of reasoning. John would go on to explain what Jesus’ walk was like. His first point was, “Note the conduct of those who profess to be followers of Christ.”
Comment: The following poem is helpful:
I’d rather see a sermon than hear one any day;
I’d rather one should walk with me than merely show the way.
The eye’s a better pupil and more willing than the ear;
Fine counsel is confusing but example always clear.
1 John 2:7 Brethren, I write no new commandment unto you, but an old commandment which ye had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word which ye have heard from the beginning.
“Brethren, I write … an old commandment which ye had from the beginning [of Jesus’ ministry].” This new doctrine, the Christian calling, had opened up not too many years earlier when Jesus brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. Since this epistle was written around AD 90 and Jesus’ ministry began in AD 29, that was approximately 60 years previous—a short enough time for the disciples to have a fairly good comprehension of what had happened back there, especially with someone as important as Jesus.
John was saying, “I write no new commandment but an old commandment, which ye have heard from the beginning.” In criticizing those who said, “I am in Christ,” John was voicing what Jesus had taught, not something new. The brethren had been taught along this line ever since they had come into the truth, and now they were to exercise judgment based upon the principles John had faithfully been teaching them. Brethren of all age categories were being thus instructed. John’s point was, “I am not giving you a new teaching. Here is an instance where you can use your judgment to put these principles into practice.”
1 John 2:8 Again, a new commandment I write unto you, which thing is true in him and in you: because the darkness is past, and the true light now shineth.
The “true light” is Jesus—his teachings, his conduct, and his walk. The statement “the darkness is past” means that when one comes to a knowledge of the truth, he is translated out of darkness into light. There was a time when those John was addressing were not consecrated and thus were in different depths of darkness. But once they consecrated, they came into light, and the darkness was past.
“Again, a new commandment I write unto you, which thing is true in him [Jesus] and in you [those John was addressing].” Those who said they were Christians had Jesus as an example, and whatever he did was true, for he was the Son of God, the true Messiah. John was reasoning, “Jesus was true; he was the light. When you accepted him, you experienced that light. You believe in Jesus, so now that light is in you.”
John was giving a heart-to-heart pep talk to fellow consecrated brethren who had been under his influence for some time—whether in the same class in Ephesus or elsewhere, for he visited seven different ecclesias in Asia Minor regularly: Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea. The value of his instruction is that in time it became a general epistle to the believer.
1 John 2:9 He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now.
An alternate reading in some King James Bibles changes “even until now” to “even this very hour.”
Comment: The Revised Standard reads, “He who says he is in the light and hates his brother is in the darkness still.”
“He that saith he is in the light” referred to those who thought they had an insight into Jesus and his doctrines. Their attitude was, “You do not have to tell me anything, for I know as much as you do.” Actually, the implication was that they felt they knew more than the Apostle John.
They were saying, “I abide in Christ and his teachings. I have the light.” Those who made such statements were confident, but John was saying, “The light is not really intellectual knowledge but moral character deportment. One’s daily walk is as important as an intellectual understanding. It is essential to have a proper understanding of daily Christian living.”
These individuals felt they were abiding in Christ and were in the light. Intellectually they thought they knew the truth, but their walk was exactly the opposite, for they were doing their own thing. They attributed the immorality to the old creature and felt that God looked only on the new creature. John was attacking this reasoning in a very pragmatic way by calling attention to their walk.
First, they hated their brother, and this hatred was not hidden. Today the hatred is usually not seen, for the brotherhood knows very little about the personal lives of one another. Thus in our day, hatred can exist but not be evidenced, whereas in John’s day, the sins were flagrantly done. The immorality and the cursing of other individuals, telling them they were of the devil, were outwardly done. Therefore, when John said, “He that … hateth his brother,” the deeds of the individual were known. Conditions today are the opposite, where everything is subtle. We live in a veneered generation, an artificial environment, where everyone is polite.
Thus when John wrote, “He that saith he is in the light … hateth his brother,” the hatred was evidenced. At the time John was writing, we believe he was the apostle and messenger to the Smyrna (or second) stage of the Church. In that period, things changed, as fragments of religious history will verify. For example, letters of hate were written, animosity was verbally expressed, and there were confrontations in walk. The point is that to understand John’s epistles, we have to understand the conditions that existed among the brotherhood at that time. John was meeting strength with strength. The Apostle Paul said, “To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some” (1 Cor. 9:22). By implication then, to the strong, he was strong. John met with strength the attitude of those who walked confidently, feeling they had the intellectual supposed mystery of light while outwardly they were not obeying what Christ had said plainly in some of his sermons. Their sin and hatred were obvious, so their confidence had to be shattered by the apostle.
One’s outward conduct can belie or negate what he thinks his standing is. The life of a Christian should comport with his profession and with the walk originally exemplified in the Master himself.
1 John 2:10 He that loveth his brother abideth in the light, and there is none occasion of stumbling in him.
In verse 9, John said, “Those who openly hate their brethren betray that they are walking in darkness and not in light, as they claim.” Now he took the opposite tack and encouraged those who had love for their brethren. “He that loveth his brother abideth in the light.” John commended those who faithfully obeyed his type of apostolic teaching and thus abode in the light, the truth. Not only did they not follow the heretical teaching, but also that thinking was alien to them. They would have felt uncomfortable making open charges against the brethren and manifesting their feelings. The temptation was to render evil for evil—to revile those who reviled them, to slap those who slapped them, etc., but those whom John commended resisted the evil. After all, if Bro. A hated Bro. B and punched him, the natural reaction would be for Bro. B to punch him back. John was encouraging the ones who did not so react, for their refraining from retaliation was a good sign that they loved their brethren. They controlled themselves because they recognized that the behavior of the others was improper, and they did not want to follow a bad example.
“There is none occasion of stumbling in him.” John was saying to those who followed his counsel, “There is no occasion of stumbling in you along those lines because you are not given to the wrong behavior. Your type of behavior engenders peace.”
1 John 2:11 But he that hateth his brother is in darkness, and walketh in darkness, and knoweth not whither he goeth, because that darkness hath blinded his eyes.
“But he that hateth his brother is in darkness, and walketh in darkness.” The others did not realize the inconsistency of their conduct and their saying, “I abide in Christ.” How great was their darkness! “He that hateth his brother … knoweth not whither he goeth, because that darkness hath blinded his eyes.” There was not much hope in the rescue of such individuals, but by talking tough like this, the Apostle John helped those who were with him to see that his words were true. They could see that the conduct of the others conflicted with their profession.
In their heart, they would say, “Amen. We agree with what John is saying. He who loves his brother abides in the light, and he who hates his brother abides in darkness.”
1 John 2:12 I write unto you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for his name’s sake.
What did John mean by the clause “because your sins are forgiven you for his name’s sake”?
Comment: Because of the consistency of their walk with their profession, John was saying that their sins up to that time had been forgiven.
Reply: Yes. Their sins were forgiven for Christ’s sake, because they had made a sincere consecration. It was not that they could follow Christ perfectly but that they were trying to understand his teachings, copy his behavior, and obey his advice. Of course they knew in their heart that they were not obeying 100 percent, but John was saying, “Because you are trying and you are abiding in Christ, you are in the right path.” This type of assurance is needed from time to time because we may question ourselves: “Am I really in the truth?”
John said, “I write unto you, little children.” In this verse, the term “little children” covered all of the brethren and thus was a general term. No matter how old brethren are or how long they have been in the truth, they are all “little children.” The use of that term is different here than the way it is used in verse 13 of this same chapter. Here “children” is the Greek word teknion, which does not emphasize the age category but is a broader term such as saying “the children of Israel,” meaning the nation. In verse 13, the term “children” is the Greek word paidion, which has a limited application, for several age categories are mentioned: “fathers,” “young men,” and “little children.”
1 John 2:13 I write unto you, fathers, because ye have known him that is from the beginning. I write unto you, young men, because ye have overcome the wicked one. I write unto you, little children, because ye have known the Father.
1 John 2:14 I have written unto you, fathers, because ye have known him that is from the beginning. I have written unto you, young men, because ye are strong, and the word of God abideth in you, and ye have overcome the wicked one.
In verse 13, John mentioned three categories—”fathers,” “young men,” and “little children.” In erse 14, he repeated “fathers” and “young men.”
“I write unto you, fathers, because ye have known him that is from the beginning.” The “fathers,” the older brethren, had known Jesus “from the beginning” of his earthly ministry.
When Jesus performed miracles and gave sermons, many of those who were present were children. Thus they could testify later that they knew Jesus, but they did not necessarily know him in the sense that the apostles and the 500 knew him.
“I write unto you, young men, because ye have overcome the wicked one.” These brethren had not known Jesus personally because they were born later, but they believed what they had heard about him. They had overcome “the wicked one” in accepting the truth and consecrating. John was not saying they had finished their calling but was encouraging them.
“I write unto you, little children, because ye have known the Father.” With the little children, why did John bring in the Father, not Jesus? Parents who were convinced that Jesus was the Messiah would instruct their children and tell them about both Jesus and the Father. However, the parents would put more emphasis on the Father when the children were young because, having a natural father, they would more easily understand about the Heavenly Father.
Instruction about Christ would require a more advanced explanation, bringing in his paying the Ransom, his role as the Advocate, etc. Therefore, parents would tell their young children about the invisible God, who is called “Father.” Then as the children grew and matured, they could overcome the Wicked One and consecrate.
John’s approach was father-like in this epistle: “My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not” (1 John 2:1). Being older, he adopted a paternal attitude that encompassed all of the age categories. Not only was he an apostle, but also he was like a patriarch. Thus he could take the liberty of doing what Jesus did at the Memorial in calling the apostles “little children”(John 13:33). Jesus had a long preexistence, so he was not just 33 years old at his First Advent.
Thus he addressed apostles who were older than 33 as “little children,” and they understood. Even though Jesus looked like a young man, he was much, much older. As a young man, John did not have the liberty to call others “little children,” even if he was an apostle, but when he was long in the truth, an apostle, and older, he had more of a feeling of endearment than when he was a young “son of thunder.” The paternal aspect of John came out in his elderly years, so that as an older father, as a patriarch, he addressed the “fathers,” the “young men,” and the young ones.
Q: Why were the “little children” omitted in verse 14?
A: John did not include them the second time because he was addressing only those who had consecrated: the fathers and the young men. The little children attended the meetings; they had heard the truth and were obedient to their parents, but they had not yet made a consecration. Being perhaps 10 to 15 years of age, they knew that God is love, that He is the Creator, and that Jesus is His Son.
1 John 2:15 Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
1 John 2:16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.
Verse 15 is rather nebulous. One would have to understand a little more truth in order to know what is of “the world.” However, verse 16 provides more information. John was saying, “All that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father, but is of the world.” Thus he gave practicality to the expression “love not the world.” What is the distinction between the “lust of the flesh,” the “lust of the eyes,” and the “pride of life”? All of these characteristics are commonly found among the unconsecrated, among those in the world.
1. The “lust of the flesh” would be uncontrolled appetites and passions along almost every line, including pleasure, sports, money, sex, etc.
2. The “lust of the eyes” is a comprehensive term that encompasses covetousness, envy, a desire for what others have, or a desire for wrong gain. Objects of desire or envy can be a house, a car, clothing, etc.—anything along material lines.
3. The “pride of life” is pride in any form whether along temporal or spiritual lines, the latter being the attitude that we have all truth. Those who said they were abiding in Christ and in the light were manifesting a proud disposition.
1 John 2:17 And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.
John was comparing transitory joys with eternal bliss. One who does the will of God abides forever. One who refuses to do the will of God will not abide.
1 John 2:18 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.
Here the term “little children” has a broad connotation, including all of the consecrated.
Comment: The Diaglott has, “Children! it is the last hour; and as you heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many have become Antichrists; whence we know that it is the last hour.”
The first half of verse 18 makes one statement, and the second half makes another statement. The two statements should be separated. First, John was saying, “You are familiar with what the Apostle Paul stated about the Antichrist.” As the messenger to Ephesus, the first period of the Church, he wrote, “Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God” (2 Thess. 2:3,4). The “Antichrist” Paul wrote about was the Papacy, but John was going to talk on a different subject. Therefore, he was saying, “You are all familiar with the teaching of the Antichrist, but now, to change the subject, there are other antichrists that have already come and are already in existence.”
Q: Jesus was asked, “What shall be the sign of your presence and the end of the age?” (Matt. 24:3). Part of his reply was, “There shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect”(Matt. 24:24). Does this verse have a bearing on John’s reasoning?
A: In John’s day, Bar Kochba allowed people to draw the inference that he was the Messiah. John seemed to be thinking more about Jesus’ personal life and the Sermon on the Mount, for he reasoned the same way that James did in his epistle: “Look at the Savior—how he lived, what he said, etc.” Matthew 24 becomes more significant in regard to the other antichrists, which are not the same as the Antichrist.
The “antichrists” (plural) of verse 18 were quite different from the Antichrist, especially in regard to the latter’s claim. The others diminished Christ, putting him in the background. While at one time, they may have been believers, they now began to think of themselves as having the light and being every bit as understandable as Jesus. John styled the leaders of those who left his company and were teaching destructive doctrines as “antichrists.” They felt they were walking in the light and had no sin, etc. Thus the plural “antichrists” were obvious different “Christs.” When we think of Jesus, we think of him as either a person or a title (“the Messiah”) or both. However, the Greek word “Christ” is “Messiah” in the Hebrew, so when individuals claimed to be the Messiah, they were dropping out Jesus and saying that others besides him were pioneers in new thoughts. Thus on the one hand, they diminished Christ’s role, and on the other hand, they advocated their own role as teachers.
What did Papacy do? In embracing Jesus and using his name, the system claimed to be his representative. Ostensibly Papacy did not push Jesus out of the picture, for they claimed to be his mouthpiece and called the pope “the Vicar of Christ.” In contrast, the open and obvious individuals, the other antichrists, claimed to be the Messiah themselves down through the age.
Hence John was talking about individuals who claimed not to be Christ’s representatives but to be Christ, the Messiah, the Teacher. In that way, they openly and flagrantly differed with Christ, whereas Papacy speaks with two tongues. Actually, as Christ’s representative, Papacy wants to be the teacher—the mother Church wants to teach the children. Thus Papacy is the pseudo-Christ, a diabolical representation of Christ, whereas the antichrists (plural) pushed Christ aside, feeling they were more advanced, and promoted their own thinking. Therefore, we think that John was referring to Jesus’ statement in Matthew 24:24 rather than to Paul’s statement in 2 Thessalonians 2:3,4. To reiterate, John was saying, “We all know about the coming Antichrist from what Paul said, but I am telling you now that several other antichrists are already in existence.”
The situation can be shown another way. Satan’s first method for opposing Christianity was to be an adversary. Part of the message to the church of Smyrna, of which John was the messenger, was, “Behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life” (Rev. 2:10). Thus it was not until Pergamos, the third period of the Church, that Satan became a “Christian,” an “angel of light.” After John’s day, he adopted a different technique.
Satan could not beat Christianity through opposition, so he joined it. In AD 314, Constantine, the pagan emperor, said that Christianity was a viable religion, as well as the pantheon of pagan gods. A few years later he adopted Christianity and made it his banner.
At first, in an effort to draw people away from Christ, the Adversary was anti or “against” Christ, not pseudo or “instead of” Christ. (Pagans and Muslims fall under the “anti” category.)
With the departure being very apparent, John was warning about “antichrists,” who obviously differed from Christ. In contrast, the Adversary joined Christianity through Papacy and became the head of both the Roman Empire and the nominal Church. After a while, Papacy’s attitude in anything pertaining to religious matters was, “We are supreme, and no one can question us.
Let the state run by itself. We will do the blessing.” Thus Papacy adopted the Christian religion but was really a false or pseudo-Christ, whereas the others were obviously against Christ.
We believe that John was referring to Matthew 24:24 when he wrote, “It is the last time.” Jesus predicted that after his death, different false Christs would arise (see also Matthew 24:11). John was not referring to the Antichrist, who would appear as a great enemy, especially at the end of the age, but was talking about precursors. In using the term “antichrists” (plural), he was giving a precursory warning. The Apostle Paul spoke about the time being short, yet almost 2,000 years have elapsed since his statement (1 Cor. 7:29). He also said, “The God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly” (Rom. 16:20). And the Apostle Peter said, “But the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer” (1 Pet. 4:7). Because of such Scriptures, the Lord’s people all down the age thought the time was at hand in their day. The phrase “at hand” means “right at the door.”
Paul could use this terminology because he was so zealous that he considered his whole life as nothing. His attitude was, “I would rather be with the Lord than to remain down here.” He was ready to die at any time, as long as he would be with the Lord, and he urged the brethren accordingly.
1 John 2:19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.
“They [the antichrists] went out from us.” Of those who went out, some were leaders, and some were followers. For example, if an ecclesia has divided thinking, usually certain individuals are ringleaders who agitate the issue, and others follow. Therefore, when the split comes, the ones who were more pronounced in voicing their differences leave, and others who agreed with them follow them out.
Thus the primary agitators—the teachers, or leaders, whom John was speaking of—drew out disciples with them when they left. The followers agreed with the reasoning of the ones who started the exodus from the truth movement back there. “For if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.”
Today it is not unpopular to be a Christian. One can be a Baptist, a Catholic, an Adventist, or whatever without antagonism, but back in John’s day, there was antagonism because, for instance, Julius Caesar used the title “Savior.” The Pergamos period of the Church was the rise of Papacy, and Thyatira was its peak. Protestantism developed in Sardis and Philadelphia.
John continued to use simple talk, which is the best type of talk, rather than to enter a theological argument. It was very obvious that this antichrist element left. The Adversary took a lesson from the situation and then began to use John’s type of reasoning against true Christians, calling them Protestants, schismatics, etc. The Catholic Church hierarchy said that everyone who left them was a heretic. Therefore, in order to understand why John wrote as he did, we need to understand the very different conditions in his day. Today everything is “love.” Any discussion in which one tries to differentiate or to be exclusive is considered wrong, but Christ’s religion is a religion of separateness from the world. In the Gospel Age, it is a religion of exclusion, for there are terms for being recognized as a Christian. We would be doing someone more harm than good to recognize him as a Christian if he had not made a consecration. With conditions being different today, Paul’s reasoning is more apropos now than John’s reasoning, whereas John’s reasoning was more apropos at the time he wrote his epistles. However, John’s reasoning is still helpful today to a smaller segment or spectrum of society, while Paul’s writings address a larger spectrum of delusion in our day. The reverse was true in the past. Back there the segment John dealt with was bigger, and the spectrum Paul addressed was smaller. In other words, the Word of God through both John and Paul is efficacious for us today but in a different proportion.
1 John 2:20 But ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things.
Right away, we know the last part of verse 20 is a wrong translation because we do not “know all things.” As Paul said, “We see through a glass, darkly” (1 Cor. 13:12). The Revised Standard and other versions render verse 20 better. “But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and you all know [it]”; that is, “You all know that you have an unction from the Holy One.”
“But ye have an unction [an anointing] from the Holy One [the Father].” In the type, the anointing was done with oil, which is a lubricant. There is no friction with oil. Verse 19 called attention to the fact that the others were troublemakers. They were slanderers, they belittled Christ’s role, and they got heady and high-minded. This type of thinking was Hellenistic. In this period of the early Church, pagan philosophy was a great trial to the brethren. Pergamos and Thyatira were another situation.
“Ye have an unction.” The others were thorns, thistles, and briers—they hated brethren and they said so. By looking at fragments of the early fathers, we find quotations of what other individuals said about some of the brethren. A number of the remarks were very bad. John had the correct perspective in calling them “liars” because Jesus was the Christ, the Anointed, not the others. John had a right to say they were going out of the truth. They thought they were walking in light, but they were walking in darkness. Those who held to Jesus and the blood of the Cross were walking in light. The Greeks also did not like the idea of a vicarious sacrifice, for they liked to reason along philosophical lines.
“But ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know [it].” John was saying, “The teachings of Jesus Christ are unctuous—they are blessed, they are upbuilding, they are encouraging, and they are sympathetic.” The Greeks emphasized sophistry and wisdom, but Jesus said, “Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted” (Matt. 5:4). To these others, mourning was a sign that one was a babe in understanding. They taught that the Christian should never mourn. Jesus also said, “Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth” (Matt. 5:5). The others were not meek, as their writings show—in fact, their characters were the antithesis of meekness. When we read all the “blesseds” of Matthew 5:3-11 and Luke 6:20-22, we see that the very class Jesus deals with lead a wholly different type of life. They are humble, honest, open-minded, meek, and teachable; they are not fractious. The others were stern and stoic. For example, they did not visit brethren in prison. Their attitude was that brethren would not have been imprisoned if they had done the right thing. Because they openly voiced these attitudes, it was easy for the true Christian to identify the enemy. Today that is not true, for everyone is lovely, as it were. In John’s day, wrongdoing was very conspicuous, and it was completely different from what Jesus taught, as John emphasized in saying, “Go back to the beginning and look at Jesus. What he said, what he did, and how he behaved are your example.” It was obvious that the others were not in sympathy with that type of doctrine.
Comment: Not only the action of leaving but also the lifestyle and attitude of those individuals, the antichrists, became manifest.
1 John 2:21 I have not written unto you because ye know not the truth, but because ye know it, and that no lie is of the truth.
John was saying, “I have written unto you because you know the truth, and no lie is of the truth.” The real reason John was writing is that “no lie is of the truth.”
1 John 2:22 Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son.
In verse 21, John used the word “lie”; in verse 22, he used “liar” and “antichrist.” The only place in the New Testament where the word “antichrist(s)” is specifically stated is in John’s epistles.
With strong language, he accused the others—those promoting dangerous doctrines—of being liars and of being antichrists.
Denying the Father and the Son ties in with the latter part of verse 21: “No lie is of the truth.” What is this lie? It is the denial that Jesus is the Christ, and that lie is a denial of the Father and the Son.
A little review, which will be an oversimplification, is in order. Three theories were rampant at this time: those of (1) the followers of Corinthus, (2) Gnosticism, and (3) Docetism. We believe one reason why this epistle was written later is that these theories, or doctrines, entered the Church after the preaching of Peter and Paul; that is, the doctrines were identified more with the second century, but they had little beginnings at the end of the first century and when John wrote his epistles around AD 90. The very fact John argued against doctrines the apostles Paul and Peter had not specially addressed shows that those teachings were now prevalent.
For now, we will just consider Corinthus, who was in Ephesus, his headquarters, at the same time John was there. Thus two strong individuals with opposing doctrines were in the same city. Corinthus taught that only the human Jesus suffered on the Cross and that the whole story of the gospel, which John referred to, was a fable and hence was untrue (1 John 1:1-3).
Corinthus was not denying that Jesus died on the Cross, but he was saying that Jesus’ death did not have the significance that John and others attached to it.
John said, “No lie is of the truth” (verse 21). To prove Jesus was a real person, he mentioned, “We have seen [Jesus] with our eyes,” “we have looked upon [him],” “we have heard [him],” and “our hands have handled [him],” but those statements did not fully answer the followers of Corinthus. They felt that Jesus did not have a preexistence—that he did not come down from above and become a human. Stated another way, they did not believe that the human Jesus Christ was previously the Logos in heaven. This erroneous teaching was one of the doctrines of antichrist.
The four Gospels recorded what Jesus said and did, whereas John, in his epistle, was not quoting what Jesus said but talked about Jesus and his life. John took the liberty of addressing Jesus as the “Son of God,” not the “Son of man” (1 John 3:8; 4:15; 5:5,10,12,13,20). Actually, Jesus was both, but the followers of Corinthus did not believe in the preexistence of Christ and thought he was only a man. In using the term “Son of God,” John was emphasizing the preexistence of Jesus.
Unitarians believe that the man Christ Jesus existed as a historical figure and that he died for his convictions. They admire him as a way-shower, as a pioneer, but not as a Redeemer who satisfies sins. The teachings of Corinthus were very similar. He believed that the man Christ Jesus lived and that he died. After all, Corinthus lived near the time of that well-known historical event. However, he and his followers were saying that everything else that the four Gospels said about Jesus was fiction.
Here, then, was a situation where each side accused the other. They were saying that John was a liar, and he was calling them liars. Also, John emphasized love of the brethren, but he certainly did not love the proponents of the heretical doctrines. He called them liars and antichrists. How would one resolve this situation and decide who was right? That very point is what John’s epistle was all about. Fortunately, one thing greatly in John’s favor was that at the time he wrote this epistle, some were still living—and were with John—who had known Jesus and had followed him back in Israel.
Traditionally, John was now in Ephesus in Asia Minor. External evidence seems to support that he wrote the epistle while he was the apostle in Ephesus, and although it was not addressed to the churches in Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos, etc., he was basically writing to those under his influence in Asia Minor. The epistle had to be written after Paul’s decease because he had founded the church of Ephesus, and when he was there, he was the apostle, not John. And what did Paul do in his absence from Ephesus? He appointed Timothy to help the brethren.
Thus John was not there up to AD 66. He went to Ephesus as a result of the pogrom in Jerusalem in AD 70 when Vespasian and Titus came down. John fled to Asia Minor in accordance with Jesus’ instruction to depart when they saw Jerusalem encompassed with armies (Luke 21:20,21). Thus John’s coming at a later stage is another indication that the epistle was written after AD 70.
How did one tell which side was the liar? The “fathers” knew and could testify that John was telling the truth about Jesus and that the facts of Jesus’ life as recorded in the four Gospels were bona fide. Right away it could be seen who was doing the lying. Thus, when John made the statements in his epistle, those living back there knew what the problem was—and we have to realize the situation in order to get the gist of John’s words. They knew that Jesus professed to have existed with the Father, for he had said, “Before Abraham was, I am” (John 8:58). He also said, “The Son of man came … to give his life a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:28). In other words, he had a previous existence, was made flesh, and eventually died on the Cross. The “fathers” knew that the followers of Corinthus were lying.
John then used another line of reasoning: “Now that you see they are lying, this has a bearing.” In a trial today, crimes a person committed prior to the current crime are considered irrelevant, for such knowledge would prejudice the judgment of the jury. However, there are times when previous behavior should prejudice the case—for example, if one is found to be a habitual, chronic liar. The veracity of the defendant’s statements would then be questionable.
To deny Jesus was also to deny the One he said was his Father, who had sent him. Jesus came down to earth as a human for a purpose. To think of him as just a normal human would not bring much conviction, but to know about his miraculous birth in fulfillment of prophecy gave much stronger significance to the fact of his being a historical figure. Thus John was now identifying who was doing the lying and being antichrist.
1 John 2:23 Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father: [but] he that acknowledgeth the Son hath the Father also.
The last part of verse 23, “[but] he that acknowledgeth the Son hath the Father also,” is italicized in the King James Version, indicating it was supplied by the translators. However, the wording conforms to the apostle’s reasoning. Later on, John made a statement that is practically the same.
“Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father.” We know about the Father through the Son. When Jesus professed to be the Son of God, the chief priests and officers said he was a blasphemer because he made himself like God (John 19:7). In other words, the scribes and Pharisees knew that the term “Son of God” meant he was previously with the Father, and even to be the Son of God was blasphemy to them.
In three or four others places in this epistle, we try to give a background in order to see the power in John’s logic. The power is not perceived by simply reading the epistle without knowing this history. Sometimes a little history is helpful, as in the study of chronology. Approximately one third of the Bible is history, one third is prophecy, and one third is doctrine, character development, and commandments. History includes the reigns of all the kings of Israel and Judah.
Comment: If we think in terms of Papacy as the Antichrist, the heretical doctrines in John’s day were the seeds of the doctrine of the Trinity, which denies the separate and distinct personalities of the Father and the Son.
Reply: The unusual thing is that Catholics see Corinthus, the Gnostics, and the Docetists as heretics, yet everything these doctrines promulgated back there is blended together and taught by the Catholic Church today. The system has the seeds of that thinking: God Incarnate, God the Son, etc.
1 John 2:24 Let that therefore abide in you, which ye have heard from the beginning. If that which ye have heard from the beginning shall remain in you, ye also shall continue in the Son, and in the Father.
“Let that therefore abide in you, which ye have heard from the beginning [of Jesus’ ministry and the gospel].” Also, what they had heard from John and the other apostles—their testimony about Jesus’ ministry—was true.
Q: Is the implication also here that what they had “heard from the beginning” was fundamental truth? They had learned basic truth right in the beginning and were not to go away from it.
A: The Hellenist Jews were very influential in Asia Minor, for the cities there were under the Greek influence more than the Roman. The Greeks, who were known as teachers, were wonderful orators and very fluent speakers. For that reason, John was fearful the brethren might get mesmerized in listening to them and thus be gradually led astray, or seduced, so that they would forget what they had learned. Therefore, John kept hammering on the basic truths, which they had heard from the beginning.
“If that which ye have heard from the beginning shall remain in you, ye also shall continue in the Son, and in the Father.” In addition, they would have the joy which the message of truth brought.
1 John 2:25 And this is the promise that he hath promised us, even eternal life.
John frequently used the term “eternal life” in his Gospel and his first epistle, and he quoted certain isolated statements of Jesus that attracted him—but why? Paul held out the chief prize of the high calling, not spirit life in the Great Company. He urged brethren to run as if only one person would win the prize, whereas John came down to the level of “eternal life” because of the time frame in which he lived. He encouraged the brethren that if they remained and abode in the doctrine of Christ, they were guaranteed eternal life, not the high calling. That should have been enough common sense to say that, without question, it is worthwhile for the Christian to continue in the truth, even if he does not make the top grade. John repeatedly mentioned this point.
The Gospel of John mentions certain things that the other Gospels paid little attention to. About half of John’s Gospel pertains to the last week of Jesus’ life and his sermons rather than the parables. One of John’s themes was eternal life. He knew that many Christians in their humility in examining themselves are prone to be discouraged because they think they are not capable of making the high calling. As a result, some forsake the way altogether and go back into the world. Then everything is lost. If they give in to that type of reasoning, their entire hope perishes. The difference between Paul and John is that Paul was more optimistic, whereas John emphasized eternal life. James, who was much like John, was one of the leading apostles, yet he did not have John’s tenderness. John had the qualities of James, but he also had emphatic qualities of love, forgiveness, and mercy. Peter hardly talked at all on love in his two epistles, but he showed his love for God and Christ by his zeal. He was a leader. For example, of the 11 apostles present on the Day of Pentecost, he and John spoke out, Peter being the chief spokesman. Peter had the qualities of practical reasoning. The subject of the resurrection greatly excited him because he had gone down to the depths when Jesus died and also earlier when he denied Jesus. The resurrection of Jesus, as well as his mercy in receiving Peter back into the fold, resulted in Peter’s exceptional zeal and development. We feel that he has the qualities of John and James, and that Paul has the qualities of all three plus his own. Paul held up the banner to the extreme height in running for the high calling, but the Christian needs all kinds of encouragement. Paul reasoned that God would not call us unless we could make our calling and election sure. It takes faith to lay hold on that promise. The point is not to give up our anchor within the veil, and that anchor is life, not death (Heb. 6:19). And life is what John was holding out in verse 25. Anyone who gets life overcomes, but there are degrees of overcoming—Little Flock, Great Company, the world of mankind, etc. Eternal life is resurrection.
John would have emphasized the word “promise”: “This is the promise that he hath promised us, even eternal life.” This statement was a part of his reasoning, and he reasoned emphatically as a “son of thunder.”
1 John 2:26 These things have I written unto you concerning them that seduce you.
John saw that brethren were beginning to get mesmerized by the influence of the other leaders; they were being seduced. He was saying, “Consider (1) that the others lie and (2) that the gospel you have accepted is a gospel of life—and what is their gospel?” Whenever we are studying a different doctrine, we should sit back and ask, “Where would this teaching lead?”
John was talking about a wonderful joy of hope, but what did the others have with all of their supposed knowledge and doctrine? What they had was a dark and foreboding future.
Comment: Strong’s Concordance defines “seduce” as “to cause to roam.”
1 John 2:27 But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him.
“But the anointing which ye have received of him [God] abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you [that you received this anointing].” The meaning is clear in the Diaglott, but the King James wording for verse 27 contradicts other Scriptures that show there is a need for teachers. For example, Ephesians 4:11,12 tells us that Jesus appointed apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers “for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.” There is a need for teachers and other helps, but there is not a need for others to teach that something happened to us when we initially came into the truth. When we look back at our previous experiences, we know our consecration was a bona fide experience. Each of the consecrated has his own personal experience of how he came into the truth and what convinced him. He knows of that personalized experience and does not need anyone else to describe it.
John called the experience an “anointing.” An anointing is done with oil, an unguent, which is soothing and eases friction. Olive oil is used for light; it is an illuminant. It is also a food. Thus John carefully chose the word “anointing.” This anointing, this unguent, this salve, this healing, this enlightenment, is the message of love. We sing the words, “I love to tell the story, because I know it’s true; it satisfies my longings, as nothing else would do.” John was doing this type of appealing to the brethren. He was saying, “The experience that you had is very real. Do not let it go down the drain. Hang in there and obey God and His teachings. Do not listen to these other orators, who would like to mislead you into following them.”
1 John 2:28 And now, little children, abide in him; that, when he shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming.
“And now, little children, abide in him [Jesus]; that … we may … not be ashamed before him at his coming [presence, Greek parousia].” The presence covers the entire Kingdom Age, but it will be a little stronger in the initial phase, when both God and Christ are “revealed.” They will reveal themselves literally to the Church and figuratively to the world.
Comment: A related text is 2 Timothy 2:15, “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” By faithfully studying and obeying God’s Word, we will not be ashamed.
Reply: Yes, and there are degrees of shame.
Comment: The Great Company will experience a measure of shame at the marriage supper when they receive their secondary reward.
Reply: Even on this side of the veil, the consecrated who are left behind when the door is closed will experience shame, let alone beyond the veil.
1 John 2:29 If ye know that he is righteous, ye know that every one that doeth righteousness is born of him.
“If ye know that he [God] is righteous, ye know that every one [every Christian] that doeth righteousness is born [or begotten] of him [God].” Jesus said that a tree is known by its fruitage (Matt. 7:17-20). At this particular period of time, based on another doctrine, much licentiousness was practiced—not when Paul and Peter were on the scene but in John’s day. These other philosophies did not come into the Church until the end of the first century. As the name Ephesus indicates, the apostolic era was “desirable,” but now, in Smyrna, those who followed pagan ideas such as Gnosticism engaged in immoralities.
Comment: Of the Smyrna period, Jesus said, “I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews [true Christians], and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan” (Rev. 2:9).
(1997 Study with Excerpts from 1982-1983 Study)