18 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.
19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.
20 But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and you all have knowledge.
21 I write to you, not because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and because no lie is of the truth.
22 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.
23 No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also.
24 Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you too will abide in the Son and in the Father.
25 And this is the promise that he made to us – eternal life. 1 John 2:18-25
Verse 19: This indicates there were people who once were part of the congregation, who departed the group and separated themselves. Interestingly, they were showing up for meetings without being “of” the true fellowship. This raises the question, if showing up for meetings isn’t enough, what is? Simply continuing in fellowship isn’t enough — notice that they were never “of us”. They didn’t leave and then become non-members, they were never really members and thus were compelled to leave. However, a huge observation here is to notice that the many anti-christs who have come are people who had once been part of the true Christian fellowship, and had left. Of course this doesn’t mean that everyone who leaves any church is somehow possessed by Satan! It means that the many antichrists are not some vague spiritual force, but actual human individuals, who very possibly might have been part of a Christian fellowship at one time. It also indicates that some people may very possibly be attending our services and meetings, who are not “of” us at all!
Notice that until they actually left and started to manifest their animosity towards key Christian doctrines, it was not PLAIN that they were not of us. It became plain because they were compelled to leave, not because the church ferreted them out and ejected them. The true fellowship of saints simply continued to assert truth concerning Jesus Christ and the offense of this caused them such discomfort that they departed. Until they departed, it was not plain, but all along, they had never been part of us.
This is interesting, because it supports the idea that there are many people who attend church and go to church meetings who really are not believers in Christ at all. Our job is not to extend such comfort to them that they will remain with us, avoiding controversial doctrines. Our job is to continue to assert the true nature of Jesus Christ, true Christian doctrines and practice, and thereby to shake the tree until the false or rotten fruit falls off. We may want to be seeker sensitive, but we need to be antichrist enemies. People of the antichrist persuasion should be so uncomfortable with us that they leave. It is to be PLAIN that they left because they do not like the outrageous things we believe about Jesus Christ. If we are bending over backwards to say nothing that will make them uncomfortable, how can it be plain that they are staying or leaving for the right reasons? The message and doctrine must be plain enough that it is plain why they leave. Let us endeavor to make unbelievers complain about us for the right reasons!!
They are not all of us. There are people who talk about Jesus and make a show of attending Christian congregations and meetings who are not really Christians at all. They are NOT all of us. We should endeavor to be an aroma of Christ to all (2 Corinthians 2:14-16), to Christians (and soon-to-be Christians) the aroma of life, and to anti-Christians the aroma of death! The presence of antichrist individuals that have left our group and oppose us is evidence of the fact that we are in an end-game scenario, and this is meant to be encouraging to us. Let us find comfort in the fact that people oppose us because of the grace of God in Christ that we stand in, and that the time is not forever but is near at hand. We will be upheld.
The aim of this study is to understand the book of 1 John from the perspective of grace. How does this pertain? It is because it is not our job to retain people and to fix them when they are of another spirit, and bent from the inside to leave and to oppose Christ. We are not God. God is God. We can release people to pursue their true bent, like the father of the prodigal son with his son. God is not controlling and codependent, and He doesn’t expect us to be either. We do not need to speak and act to preserve fellowship at all costs, including at the cost of truth. It doesn’t matter how others judge us, we are beyond judgment; our sins are already judged. He is saying, really, the people who go out from you are antichrists, and don’t worry about their accusations and jugdments. They will hate you, but take comfort that you are right, and their judgment is a sign that it is the last hour.