Beasts in the Assembly

John identified false teachers IN THE CHURCH as ‘antichrists’, and their deceptive teachings confirmed that the Last Days had commenced. In the New Testament, the term “antichrist” occurs only in the second and third letters of John. Moreover, the Apostle applies the plural form of the Greek noun to deceivers who were causing dissension and spreading false teachings in his congregations. The presence of “antichrists” in the Assembly constituted irrefutable evidence that the “Last Days” were underway. These troublemakers were manifestations of the “Spirit of Antichrist,” and forerunners of the “Antichrist” who was (and is) yet to come.

The Greek term rendered “antichrist” means “instead of Christ,” NOT “against Christ.” The force of the preposition anti is “instead of.” Certainly, the “Antichrist” is no ally of the Nazarene, but Satan’s strategy is to replace him with a “different Jesus.”

Church Interior - Photo by Karl Fredrickson on Unsplash.
[Photo by Karl Fredrickson on Unsplash]

  • (2 John 7-8) – “And this is love that we should be walking according to his commandments: This is the commandment, even as you heard from the beginning that you should be walking in it. Because many deceivers have gone out into the world, they who do not confess Jesus Christ coming in flesh: This is the deceiver and the antichrist. Be taking heed to yourselves, lest you lose what things we earned.

Moreover, John’s reference to “many deceivers” echoes the warning of Jesus about coming deceivers who are intent on misleading the “very elect.”

  • “Beware lest anyone deceive you; for MANY will come upon my name, saying, I am the Christ, and will DECEIVE MANY… And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray… For there will arise false Christs and false prophets, and will show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.” - (Matthew 24:4-5, 11-13, 23-25).

In 1 John, the Apostle declares that “it is the Last Hour,” the same period elsewhere called the “Last Days.” Thus, the final era had commenced already as John was writing his three epistles in the first century - (1 John 2:18-22).

The idea that believers live in the “Last Days” occurs multiple times in the New Testament, and John can point to the very deceivers in his congregations to substantiate this claim (“Even now many antichrists have come whereby we perceive that it is the last hour”) - (Matthew 24:4-5, Mark 13:5-6, Luke 21:8, 1 Timothy 4:1, 2 Timothy 3:1).

John called them “antichrists,” not because they were pagan counterfeits working outside the Assembly, but because they were false teachers active within it (“They went out from among us”). Moreover, they can be identified by their denial “that Jesus is the Christ.” THEY WERE (and are) IN THE CHURCH.

In his letters, John did not coordinate these “many antichrists” or the coming of the final “Antichrist” with the return of Jesus or other final events. His concern was with the damage such deceivers were inflicting on his congregants - (1 John 4:1-3).


John’s letters provide instructions on how disciples are to avoid deception by these “antichrists”; namely, BY ADHERING TO THE TEACHINGS OF THE APOSTLES and the believer’s knowledge of the “Son.”

There is no true knowledge of God apart from Jesus, and his disciples must “test the spirits” and not take every new teaching or self-described apostle or prophet at face value - (1 John 4:1-4).

The true disciple must exercise discernment because “many false prophets” have arrived, and in John’s letter, the stress is on “MANY.” The activities of deceivers, false prophets, and counterfeit “Christs” have been a constant problem in the church.

These false teachers are recognizable by their denial that “Jesus Christ is come in the flesh.” This means they reject his genuine humanity (“By this, we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error”). The “spirit” that denies this IS the “Spirit of the Antichrist,” presumably, a trait that also will characterize the final “Antichrist.”

Furthermore, THE Antichrist is “coming.” In John’s letter, this term represents the Greek verb in the progressive present verb tense. That is, it describes a process that is underway.

But what about the larger world outside the church and the threat posed by this coming “Antichrist”? In fact, the deceivers, the “antichrists,” are “of the world.” Therefore, they “speak as of the world, and the world hears them.” The world receives their lies gladly because it is deceived; even now, the “Spirit of Antichrist” holds sway over all humanity apart from those men and women who belong to Jesus.

In all this, John says nothing about specific “signs” that will portend the arrival of THE “Antichrist” or the “Last Hour.” What would be the point of doing so since the “Last Hour” is already underway? His concern is about how these deceivers impact believers and how the Body of Christ can identify them.

This conflict has raged in the Church since its inception, a flood of deceivers and deceptions far too numerous to list here. This battle will continue until the very day the Risen Jesus arrives in all his glory to strike down the final great deceiver, the “Man of Lawlessness” - (2 Thessalonians 2:8-9).

Moreover, the Apostle Paul warned the Thessalonian believers that this “Lawless One” will only be revealed when he “seats himself IN THE SANCTUARY OF GOD,” a term he elsewhere applies to the true church, the “Body of Christ.”

If the epistles of John provide us with a reliable method for identifying the “Antichrist,” then we must look first in our own midst for this creature before pointing to any global political leader in the outside world as the prime candidate who will become this dark and final figure.




Absent Church?

Pentecost and the Last Days