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.
But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth.I do not write to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it and because no lie comes from the truth. Who is the liar? It is whoever denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a person is the antichrist—denying the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also.
As for you, see that what you have heard from the beginning remains in you. If it does, you also will remain in the Son and in the Father. And this is what he promised us—eternal life.
I am writing these things to you about those who are trying to lead you astray. As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit—just as it has taught you, remain in him. (New International Version)
Identifying the Antichrist is almost a spectator sport amongst some Christians. They seem to enjoy advancing particular persons as the archenemy of Christ and the Church.
Throughout Christian history, bloodthirsty kings and ruthless dictators have typically received the moniker of Antichrist. When the Protestant Reformation came along, five-hundred years ago, the Catholic Church often got labeled as the great enemy of Christianity.
The mudslinging that has gone on between different Christian traditions throughout the centuries can make any contemporary political war look like a powder puff football game.
Although some Christian groups tend to view the antichrist as a single enemy, setting-off a bomb of world-ending trauma, the earliest Church, following the teaching of the Apostle John, understood antichrist not as an individual, but as a class of people who deny Jesus is the Christ.
It has become much too vogue in some circles of Christianity to identify and label enemies outside their small groups, leading to a xenophobic attitude of distrust and finger-pointing toward all kinds of people.
The fingers, however, must first be directed within our own house. It behooves us all to take up the instruction of John to let what we have heard from the beginning abide in us. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you too will abide in the Son and in the Father.
We are to embrace basic core cardinal truth given us. Then we will not be deceived by some supposed enlightened teacher who detracts from Trinitarian theology.
It is the last hour – but not because of some politician, tyrant, or religious figure. It is the end-times because Jesus has accomplished redemption for us, and the only event left is the return of Jesus to judge the living and the dead.
Therefore, we must all live with the possibility and tension that it could be today. We are to be prepared. Proper preparation comes through proclaiming Jesus in all we say and do – not by obnoxiously ginning up fearmongering through pointing fingers at those we don’t like. Rather, we emulate our Lord in the way of loving God and neighbor.
When a person or group gets labeled by us as “enemy” or “antichrist” then our hate for them seems divinely justified and sanctioned. God, however, is the judge; not us. We are to follow the ethical instruction of Jesus to love our enemies, not curse them through declaring certain persons a “monster,” “devil,” “animal,” or some other non-human label.
Weaponizing words in a verbal war, which supposedly defends Christianity, only shifts the focus off Jesus and onto how horrible another is.
One of the great problems in our world, including many corners of Christianity, is that we assume we already know what another believes. So, we fail to listen. We cannot care as we ought because we’ve already formed our judgment.
“The moment someone attaches you to a philosophy or a movement, then they assign all the baggage and all the rest of the philosophy that goes with it to you. And when you want to have a conversation, they will assert that they already know everything important there is to know about you because of that association. And that’s not the way to have a conversation.”Neil deGrasse Tyson
Within Christianity, there is more we have in common across the various traditions, than that which is different. Yes, spiritual charlatans exist. Let’s just make sure we have done our due diligence in listening to another and being curious before we form our opinions.
Despite the differences, the exchange of ideas and debate among various Christian groups in the early centuries of the church helped to clarify and form a sound Christology. While it may be difficult to avoid labeling individuals in an increasingly complex society, we must act in good faith and make the effort.
Perhaps we have already met the real enemy… us.
Gracious God, you are the Divine Gardener who cares for us with love. You call us to see the beauty of each branch united to the vine, the beauty of each person united to you in Christ through the Holy Spirit.
And yet, too often the differences in others make us afraid. We withdraw into ourselves. Our trust in you is forsaken. Enmity develops between us. Come and direct our hearts. Help us to live from your forgiveness so that we may be together and praise your name.
Lord Jesus, Prince of Peace, light the fire of your love in us so that suspicions, contempt and misunderstanding cease in the church. May the walls that separate us fall. Amen.