“Word for Today” – 1 John 2 – www.concordialutheranchurch.com

November 9, 2009 at 4:45 am Leave a comment

Christ 1I suppose it was bound to happen sooner or later.  A couple of months ago, I received a link in my email inbox to a YouTube video which made the unfounded claim that our president was the antichrist.  Honestly, I just groaned a little bit.  My heart also sank, knowing that this video was frightening some beloved Christian friends of mine with its polemical antics and misconstrued exegesis.

It seems as though just about everyone and everything has been called the antichrist at one time or another.  The Roman Empire was seen as the antichrist in the first century.  The Protestant reformers thought of the papacy as the antichrist.  Then, there have been the usual more recent historical suspects:  Hitler, Mussolini, our former president, and yes, our current president.  I’ve even seen a few people try to argue that Billy Graham is the antichrist!

Blessedly, our reading for today from 1 John 2 encourages us to dispose of such juvenile and foolish speculation and leads us toward a more reasoned theology of the antichrist:

Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us.  (verses 18-19)

A few things are notable about this passage.  First, worries about the antichrist are nothing new.  Apparently, Christians in John’s day were also worried about this mysterious figure.  Second, lest we recklessly dump the title of “antichrist” on any politician for whom we might not particularly care, John seems to indicate in verse 19 that the antichrist will come out of the church, not the secular world:  “They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us.”  The Lutheran reformers picked up on this line and on Paul’s words in 2 Thessalonians 2 and so wrote:  The antichrist is “someone reigning in the church, not a pagan ruler…because he will invent doctrine that conflicts with the gospel and will arrogate to himself divine authority” (Tr. 39).  Thus, the antichrist seems to be someone who is interested in perverting true doctrine, not just in gaining secular power.  Third, notice that John mentions not just one antichrist, but “many antichrists.”  In other words, looking for just one antichrist is a fool’s chase.  For there are many antichrists.

The Greek prefix anti- means “in place of.”  An antichrist, then, is anyone who sets him or her self up in place of the true Christ who is God.  And John warns that there are many who do this.  In fact, if you want to know who the first antichrists were, you need look no farther than Genesis 3:

Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’? The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’” “You will not surely die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:1-5)

“You will be like God.”  That’s the very definition of an antichrist – one who wants to be in the place of God.  And so the very first antichrists are born.  Their names?  Adam and Eve.

On September 10, 1813, after defeating the British fleet in the Battle of Lake Erie, Commander Oliver Perry, sent the following message Major General William Harrison concerning their victory: “We have met the enemy, and they are ours.”  This famous saying was later paraphrased in 1971 by Walt Kelly in his Pogo cartoon strip as, “We have met the enemy, and he is us.”  Sadly, this is the case when it comes to John’s antichrist.  So often, people speculate wildly about the identity of the antichrist.   We are blind, however, to the fact that, at least in one sense, we have met the antichrist, and he is us.  For all we seek to put ourselves in God’s place every time we sin.  We all have a little bit of antichrist in us.

Of course, the good news of the gospel is that we don’t have to continue to play the role of Christ.  After all, playing the role Christ is hard work.  Playing the role Christ involves the cross.  No, we don’t have to save the world and rule the universe, for we have someone who saves and rules it sovereignly, lovingly, and more efficiently than we ever could.  And he is the true God.  So let’s leave that to him.

Finally, we need not fear antichrists.  Indeed, we need not fear even the great antichrist, spoken of in 2 Thessalonians 2, who will arise at the end of the time.  For as powerful as that final antichrist might be, he’s no match for the real Christ.  And it’s the real Christ who we trust.  It’s the real Christ who we worship.  It’s the real Christ who holds our salvation secure.  Don’t settle for anything less than him.

Entry filed under: Word for Today.

“Word for Today” – 1 John 1 – www.concordialutheranchurch.com “Word for Today” – 1 John 3 – www.concordialutheranchurch.com

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