1 John 2:18-19

John is talking in this section about the last "hour" in our world as we know it. History has always been "His story". Since the rebellion by Adam and Eve in the "Garden of Eden" (also known as "The Fall"), God has been using everything that we call "history" to reveal Himself to His precious creation. He is even able to use the work of the enemy ("Satan" or the "devil") to show Himself as God to people all over the earth who want to know the truth. He continues to do the same in our own time. In the Old Testament, the book of Ecclesiastes maintains that there is really nothing new that happens in the world. (Ecclesiastes 1:9-10) Whatever problems we see in history, whether in the pages of the Bible or elsewhere, we can still see in our newspapers today. The problems may be "dressed in different clothes" but, essentially, they are the same.

Nonetheless, we can have a real confidence and peace because we know that our Father loves us and will protect us and keep us for the whole of eternity. The Bible speaks about the time between the birth and life on earth of Jesus Christ (including His death and resurrection) and His return to the earth (often referred to as the "second coming") at some stage in our future as "the last days". According to the book of Revelation, "every eye will see Him" when Jesus returns so clearly, this has not yet happened. (Revelation 1:7) However, from the descriptions given in the Bible of "the last days", many Christians believe that Jesus' return may be imminent. Whether or not this proves to be the case, we are currently in a period of waiting that we must put to good use as a time of preparation. When Jesus does return, we do not want to be filled with regret. (Matthew 24:45-51)

The "Rapture"

The apostle Paul expected Jesus to come again in his lifetime. When he wrote to the church in Thessalonica, he described a figure called the "Antichrist" but said that this person could not begin his satanically inspired activities until the Holy Spirit had been taken from the earth. That will only happen when the church has first been gathered to the Lord Jesus Christ in heaven. (2 Thessalonians 2:1-12) This will occur at a time called "The Rapture". "Look, He is coming with the clouds and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him; and all the peoples of the earth will mourn because of Him. So shall it be! Amen!" (Revelation 1:7) During "The Rapture", Jesus will return to the earth, together with those who have given their lives to Him throughout the course of human history. He will then be recognised as the rightful King of kings. Although Satan has long attempted to usurp Jesus' authority and has sought to lead a rebellion against God, he has failed. For all who put their trust in Jesus, God is their king and their rightful inheritance is the kingdom of heaven. Satan and all those who have chosen to follow him, both angelic and human beings, stand judged and defeated by Jesus' sacrifice of Himself, allowing the Jewish and Roman authorities to crucify Him in Jerusalem.

"When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having cancelled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; He took it away, nailing it to the cross. And, having disarmed the powers and authorities, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross." (Colossians 2:13-15)

Just as, at a Jewish wedding, the bridegroom returns from preparing a home for his bride to marry her, so Jesus will return for His "bride" (described in Revelation 21:2 as "the new Jerusalem") and, after the marriage feast, Jesus will reign for a thousand years. Literally, every eye - including those of Satan and his minions - will see Him as He returns. They will see Him and recognise Him for Who He is: the King of kings and Lord of lords. Thank God for what He has done for us and for the fact that we, as believers (Christians), shall see Him return – not in fear like those who refused His grace and goodness – but in excitement because the fulfilment of all that we have waited for has finally happened. He is the beginning and the end, the "Alpha and the Omega". He will always be our Lord and King! How glorious is our expectation!

Little antichrists and Big Antichrist

John talks in these two verses about "little antichrists", describing them as people who have been in churches and passed themselves off as "born-again" believers. They were there to deceive the true believers but, when life became tough or they were shown a few "home truths" they were not willing to show sorrow or repentance and walked out. Such is the spirit of the "antichrist". They deny Jesus as their Lord or even that He needs to be such. Whilst people like this were around in John's day, there are still many such people in churches in our own time. They challenge and question the truth - as recorded in the teaching of the Bible - and seek to undermine the good news about Jesus Christ. They encourage believers to compromise with "the world" and its ever-changing beliefs and seek to water down the influence of Christian faith (or what remains of it), both in churches and in contemporary society and culture.

"For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths." (2 Timothy 4:3) We human beings need spiritual truths and absolutes - the Maker's instructions - to form the foundations of our lives if they are going to be satisfactory, victorious lives with an eternal future.

Imagine if I were to sever the cord on my electric lawnmower then decide to connect it to a new electric plug with a long piece of bare wire because I couldn’t be bothered to research the maker’s instructions. (After all, I did do a little bit with electrics when I was at school and I'm sure I can remember enough to get by on!) We all know this would be utter foolishness! How much more so, when we fool around with our eternal future. We are warned that these "antichrists" will come like wolves: "Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing but, inwardly, they are ferocious wolves." (Matthew 7:14) These antichrists are sent by the enemy to "soften up" the world and prepare people to receive the main "Antichrist" when he reveals himself. Appearing as a saviour, he will promote strong, humanitarian values and engender a "feel-good factor". He will oppose God and attempt to obliterate our need to depend upon the one true Christ: Jesus.

The name and identity of the "Big Antichrist" is not revealed in Scripture, but we do know that he gets his authority and power from Satan. The book of Revelation reveals to us a little about the enemy's plan, the way in which he will seek to carry it out and its final outcome. Over the years, many people have attempted to identify the "Antichrist" with various candidates proposed (such as the Pope, Henry Kissinger, Tony Blair and many others!) In reality, we do not know, because the Bible does not give us any information or even hints about it. The "rider of the white horse" (described in Revelation 6:2) is the one who will be the "Antichrist". During the first period of the "Tribulation†*", he is not described as the "Antichrist" but as a great diplomat. However, during the second period of the "Tribulation", he is described as the "Antichrist". How very sad that a man should allow himself to be controlled in such a way! However, the Bible tells us something of the system that allows him to come to power and sustains him. We should watch out for that! (Read Revelation, chapters 13 and 17.)

†The "Tribulation"

This is a time of testing that is forecast to take place during "the last days". (Daniel 12:1-3; Matthew 24:4-31; Mark 13:5-31; Revelation 3:10)
For further information, see the outline and introduction to the study on "Revelation".

The father of lies

The "Antichrist" will turn out not to be a man of peace and reconciliation, but a military dictator. He will attempt to subdue by force those nations that do not acknowledge him or give him their allegiance. The "Antichrist" will seek to extend his powerbase to take in the entire earth, because he is a pawn of Satan. We should note, however, that neither he nor his boss (Satan) ever have control over what they wish. God always remains in control, even during the difficult times of the "Tribulation". At no time will Satan ever have control of more than a part of the earth.

Of course Satan is the father of lies. The Bible tells us this in no uncertain terms, so it is no great surprise to discover that he is acting true to form when he speaks to us. If Satan tells us that something is true, we should doubt it at best and, at worst, expect that precisely the opposite is probably closer to the mark. Speaking about Satan, Jesus said: "He was a murderer from the beginning and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a falsehood, he speaks what is natural to him, for he is a liar [himself] and the father of lies and of all that is false." (John 8:44 Amplified Version)

Signs of the times

Not only has Jesus set us free from our sinful natures, releasing us from the prison of sin, but He has bound us together and made us priests to serve God for ever. In the Old Testament, priests acted as mediators between God and people, but that role was removed when Jesus came as a new type of high priest: sinless and eternal. He offered His own life as a sacrifice for our sins and now we can approach God directly through Jesus. "Therefore, since we have a great high priest, who has ascended into the heavens (Jesus, the Son of God) let us hold firmly to the faith we profess." (Hebrews 4:14)

We have no idea of precise times and dates, but we are expected to know the "seasons". Jesus said to His disciples: "It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by His own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth." (Acts 1:7-8) We may not know precisely when the farmer will choose to go into his field of barley to reap the crop, but we can see from its appearance and colour that the time is getting near. Eventually, the crop will turn almost white and, within a couple of days, the combine harvester will appear. The grain will be gathered into barns and the straw discarded to be used for cattle bedding or to be burned. Jesus used a slightly different illustration for His disciples: "Notice the fig tree, or any other tree. When the leaves come out, you know, without being told, that summer is near. In the same way, when you see the events taking place that I've described, you can be just as sure that the kingdom of God is near.” (Luke 21:29-31)

Are we ready?

"First of all, you must understand that, in the last days, scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, 'Where is this coming He promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation'." (2 Peter 3:3-4)

Let's not be cynical just because Jesus seems to be slow in His return. God is merciful and infinitely patient, for which we can be extremely thankful. Many people, including us and, perhaps, our own relatives (who we long to see saved before it is too late) have had (or may have) the opportunity to find Jesus and know Him for themselves. Let's reflect on this and renew our prayers for those we love; this could be their last chance. Jesus does not want us to be "in the dark". As we have seen, we are no longer slaves, we are free. We can walk in the light of His truth and He calls us friends. Jeremiah penned this encouragement to us from God: "Call to me and I will answer you and show you great and mighty things, fenced in and hidden, which you do not know [do not distinguish and recognise, have knowledge of and understand]." (Jeremiah 33:3 Amplified Version)

"'In the last days', God says, 'I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions and your old men will dream dreams'." (Acts 2:16-18) What an exciting time to be alive! We can help the Holy Spirit to prepare the bride for the return of the bridegroom. "But mark this: there will be terrible times in the last days." (2 Timothy 3:1-3) This is all the more reason for us to be "walking in the Holy Spirit" and not "gratifying the desires of the flesh". (Galatians 5:16) There has never been a more important time for us to live godly lives. Through it all, we can have the reassurance of hearing our shepherd’s voice, protecting us from false shepherds and giving us the wisdom we need to overcome any temptation to be distracted by those who are still enslaved to their fallen, human natures.

You may find it helpful to read the notes from the module "Real Women" (study four) to remind yourself of the signs to be aware of in Jesus' parable of "the wise and foolish virgins". (Matthew 25:1-13) We have a choice as to whether we stick close to God or allow our hearts to grow cold by listening to the strong delusions from the enemy which can look very attractive.

"But the exact day and hour? No one knows that: not heaven's angels, not even the Son, but only the Father. So keep a sharp lookout, for you don't know the timetable. It's like a man who takes a trip, leaving home and putting his servants in charge - each assigned a task - and commanding the gatekeeper to stand watch. So, stay at your post, watching. You have no idea when the home-owner is returning, whether evening, midnight, cockcrow, or morning. You don't want him showing up unannounced, with you asleep on the job. I say to you, and I'm saying it to everyone: stay at your post. Keep watch!" (Mark 13:32-35)

We cannot emphasise enough the importance of being strong in the Lord, His word and His Spirit at this time. The best way forward is to live a holy life, choosing to put God first in everything. (Matthew 6:33; Matthew 22:37) Let's recognise the signs as they happen and warn anyone who will listen of the imminent danger they are in.

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