SERIES: 1 John
SERMON: The Last Hour
TEXT: 1 John 2:18-27 (ESV)
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As always it’s a joy to be with all of you this weekend at Gateway Church. And there’s one thing I want you to know — and this is true if you’re worshiping with us for the first time or are joining us at our North Main Campus — I want you to know that God loves you and that I love you too.
If you have your Bible — and I hope you do — please turn with me to First John chapter two — we’ll be looking at verses eighteen through twenty-seven together today. And while you’re finding First John chapter two — let me remind you why we’re studying this particular letter in the Bible. Our reason is the same as John’s — who wrote this letter so that Those who believe in God can know that they have eternal life.
In First John chapter five — verse thirteen — we read, I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life. - 1 John 5:13 (ESV)
John wants his readers to know — with certainty — whether or not they have eternal life. His goal isn’t to make them doubt their faith — he’s not writing to make true believers confused — he’s written this letter for the exact opposite reason. John wants true believers to know they have eternal life when they read or hear his letter. However — John knows that pretenders will begin to doubt, be confused, and will wonder why his message seems so different than what they believe.
Which means two things. First, the message of this letter gives assurance, hope, and joy for true believers because it affirms both what they believe and the life transformation they’ve experienced because of the power of the gospel taking root in their life. And — second — for John’s opponents — for people who are pretending to be Christians without truly believing the gospel — this letter contains a message that challenges everything they believe.
Which leads us to the words found in First John chapter two — beginning in verse eighteen.
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. 26 I write these things to you about those who are trying to deceive you. 27 But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie — just as it has taught you, abide in him. - 1 John 2:18-27 (ESV)
You’ve probably heard someone say, “It doesn’t matter what you believe — what matters is if you’re sincere in your beliefs.” Or you may have heard someone say, “That may be true for you, but that’s not true for me.” Or the claim “this is my truth.” Or even “There’s no such thing as absolute truth.”
For over half a century — there’s been an attack on truth — an arrogant dismissal of objective truth. And — ironically — in the name of tolerance — there’s been a recent shift back to a kind of absolutism — the forcing a new dogmatism — a cultural “truth” — that you’re either to accept or be cast as a bigot, racist, or some sort of phobic — homophobic, transphobic, and so on — if you reject this cultural dogmatism.
And the world — meaning the culture around us that’s against God — is asking us to deny our faith by forcing on us certain expectations and behaviors in society, the workplace, and so on. And we simply cannot do this — nor should we be surprised by this. Why? For we’re living in the last hour.
And I hope you feel the need for us Christians to step into the light of our calling and not hide in the shadows that others may want us to hide in. Our public perseverance in the faith is needed now more than ever. A Christ-like perseverance — not using the weapons of the culture war going on around us. Not “jerks for Jesus” — but “cross carrying servants” for Jesus. And this is what we’re going to explore today — this is how I’ve summed it up.
Because we’re living in the last hour, we must actively persevere in our faith. Now — in our country — this looks drastically different than persevering in countries like Syria that are much more hostile towards Christians. Nonetheless, there’s an active perseverance that we Christians in the US must be engaged in so that our faith proves to be genuine which will grow our confidence in knowing that we believe and have eternal life.
So what should a Christian’s life look like in this last hour? How should you and I live in — and persevere in — what the Bible calls the last days — the end times — the last hour?
First…Because we’re living in the last hour, we must not abandon meeting together. Don’t stop meeting together. Look with me in verse eighteen.
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 (Yet) They (some who used to be part of us have done what? They…) went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have (done what? They would’ve…) continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us. - 1 John 2:18-19 ESV)
Because we’re living in the last hour, we must not abandon meeting together. Why do we need to meet together with other Christians? Because…
We live in the end times. John tells us, 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. - 1 John 2:18 (ESV)
Yes, this is the point I just made — but in reverse. But this is how we’re to view the times in which we’re living and the importance of us gathering together. John tells us that it’s the last hour, which is a theological term that refers to the end times or the last days. For John — Jesus — coming into the world the first time — was the beginning of the end. Christ gave a death blow to the Devil on the cross and — through his resurrection — Jesus has given eternal hope to all who believe in him — and all of this was the beginning of the end.
And this idea — of living in the last hour or the end times or the last days — is found throughout the Bible. The apostle Paul writes, But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. 2 For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, 4 treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. - 2 Timothy 3:1-5 (ESV)
Jesus’ disciples asked him about the end of the age — what would it be like in the end times — and Jesus replied, They will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. 10 And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. 11 And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. 12 And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. 13 But the one who endures to the end will be saved. 14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. - Matthew 24:9-14 (ESV)
And Jesus’ words are happening all around the world — right now — as people are put to death because of their faith in Christ. We live in a day where false religions and false teachers lead people away from the truth. And — the time in which we lived — is summed up with Jesus’ words — for the love of many people has grown very cold — all because we’re living in the end times.
Additionally…We live among antichrists. How’s that for a shocking statement? Again — in verse eighteen — John writes, 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. - 1 John 2:18 (ESV)
Now most people — when they hear the word antichrist — they think of the Antichrist — meaning the individual who’ll be a really, really, really bad guy when the world is coming to an end. But John’s focus is not on a single person — he’s referring to a group of people who are causing division in the church. They’re tearing the church apart — they’re disrupting the peace and unity that God desires for the believers to have among themselves — and John calls these divisive folks the antichrists.
“Well that sounds like a bad group to be part of — what exactly do we know about these antichrists?” Well their name obviously means that they are “anti” — or opposed — to Christ. So they stand against Christ and his claims of truth. Antichrists may try to gain influence, authority, and power within a local congregation in order to lead the church astray or simply to cause a congregation to be ineffective in accomplishing God’s mission. But you’ll recognize them because they’re against Christ and his mission being accomplished.
Additionally — in our verses — we see that the antichrists have already come. This means that antichrists were already present when John wrote his letter. Thus we should be aware that — this isn’t describing a situation that’ll happen in the future — antichrists are a present day foe.
In verse twenty-two we see that antichrists are liars and — in verse twenty-six — they’re called deceivers — and John tells us that these antichrists deny that Jesus is the Christ. Finally — we see that — though the antichrists were part of the local church — eventually they left. Which leads to our next point.
We live in an age of abandonment. John describes this age of abandonment in verse nineteen when writes, 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. - 1 John 2:19 (ESV)
Now I want to be careful here — so hear me: Not everyone who leaves the church — or our church in particular — is an actual antichrist. There are many reasons why people leave a church that do not deserve the label “antichrist.” But we’d be fools to think that none of the people who’ve left us were antichrists or — at the very least — influenced by the Evil One and/or the world.
Satan is a seasoned deceiver. The world’s grip on our hearts can be strong. And many good people leave churches under the influence of Satan or the world resulting in them — and the church they’ve left — being less effective in accomplishing the mission God has called them to.
You’ve seen this, right? The person who leaves a church because it doesn’t do __________ any longer? And I’m not talking about “preach the gospel” or “exalts Christ” or something like that. I mean stuff like “doesn’t serve coffee” or “switched to small groups instead of Sunday school classes” or “someone saw sin in my life — lovingly asked me about it — and I didn’t like that! ” or “stuff that’s not eternally consequential, but I’m going to huff and puff my way out of the church” type stuff. And they’re just gone — they don’t even find another church to attend.
Other people leave the church and they weren’t upset about anything — they’ve just decided they don’t need to attend the gathering of the saints any longer. Yet God’s desire is that his followers gather together to worship him. This is why — in Scripture — we’re called the body of Christ. No single Christian is the entire body — all of us together are the body of Christ. Thus we find here a warning. For when a Christian separates him or herself from the church body — who are they actually separating themselves from? The body of who? Christ, right?
And — listen — there’s not one example — in the entire New Testament — of a solo Christian. There isn’t one example of a Christian who isn’t actively involved in a local church. The Christians in the New Testament are active members in a local church.
About the only example you could argue would be Paul — or one of his missionary companions — who were out starting new churches where none existed. So there’s your alternative: Be an active member engaged in your local church or we can buy you a one way plane ticket to an Unreached People Group and let you take the gospel to them.
Come on folks — this is serious — this is dangerous stuff we’re talking about — abandoning the fellowship of the saints has serious implications for your soul and eternity. And there’s no such thing as “my truth” as to what abandoning the local church means. Are you gathering with us to worship God? Not just showing up — not just making an appearance to serve, or talk to others, and so on…are you being part “of us.”
Additionally…because we’re living in the last hour, we must know the truth. Look with me in verse twenty.
John writes, 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.
And in verse twenty-six we read, I write these things to you about those who are trying to deceive you. 27 But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie — just as it has taught you, abide in him. - 1 John 2:20-22, 26-27 (ESV)
John emphasizes this idea of truth because — in the last hour — truth will be attacked. So how do we know the truth?
First…God’s Word and Spirit teach us truth. Look with me again in verse twenty. 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. And in verse twenty-six, I write these things to you about those who are trying to deceive you. - 1 John 2:20-21, 26 (ESV)
John tells his audience that they know the truth — and so can we today. There is truth and it can be known. Additionally, John tells them to have confidence in the truth that’s found both in God’s Word and by God’s Spirit — a confidence coming from them having been anointed by the Holy One. What does that mean?
In other places in the New Testament we see that Christians are given the Holy Spirit when they believe in Jesus. The Spirit of God takes up residence — or lives — in all Christians when they believe. And Jesus has promised us that God’s Spirit will be our Teacher, Helper, and Guide and will remind us of the truth that we’ve believed.
And this same Spirit of God is the One who inspired the people who wrote the Bible — like our author John. Additionally, the Spirit of God and the Word of God always agree with one another. Thus — the better you know this book — the more God’s Spirit will use the truths in this book to teach and help and guide you as you live the life that God’s created you to live. For God — in his amazing grace to us — has given us both the Truth — his Word — and the Power — his Spirit — so we can know with certainty that we believe in his Son and have eternal life.
For this is what God’s Word and Spirit teach us. God’s Word and Spirit teach us that Jesus is the Christ. In verse twenty-two John writes, 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. - 1 John 2:22 (ESV)
If the liars — or the antichrists — deny that Jesus is the Christ — true Christians believe what about Jesus? That he is the Christ, right? And believing that Jesus is the Christ is a truth that comes from God’s Word and Spirit.
I think of Peter’s words in the gospel of Matthew. Jesus has just asked the disciples who people say that he is, And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. - Matthew 16:14-17 (ESV)
Here’s a test for our faith — a passable test that will increase your confidence in your faith: Who do you say that Jesus is? The true believer will respond with Peter, “You are the Christ — the Son of the living God.” Is this your response?
Finally…God’s Word and Spirit live in us. In verse twenty-seven John writes, But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie — just as it has taught you, abide in him. - 1 John 2:27 (ESV)
I mentioned this earlier — but don’t forget that God’s Spirit lives in you. And he desires to use God’s Word to shape you, mold you, and perfect you — all so he can use you for God’s glory. But this is only possible if you get his Word in you.
Sometimes preaching feels like being a broken record — I just keep saying the same things week in and week out — and this is one of those broken record sayings of mine: Get this Word in you. Read it. Study it. Memorize it. Meditate on it. Share it with others. Pray and ask God to use his Word to change you by the power of his Spirit. Whatever you do — don’t neglect God’s Word.
Practically speaking, this is why we devote a large portion of our worship service to the preaching of God’s Word — because we believe that God’s Spirit will use his Word to teach, guide, and lead us as a congregation. So that — what you hear from God’s Word and Spirit — as you gather with us — will shape you throughout the week. This is why we recommend that our Life Groups use the sermon discussion guides our staff put together so that — the preaching of God’s Word is a point of unity for us — something that shapes us as a community — instead of all of us just doing our own thing.
And this is why actually gathering together for worship with us is so important. It’s not enough to just make it to one of our campuses — are you joining us to worship God and hear him from his Word? I’m so thankful for the many folks who serve here at Gateway — but serving is not a substitute for worshiping with your brothers and sisters. Talking to others in the lobby — and not joining us during the worship service — is not a win — it’s a loss — it’s not unifying — that kind of behavior is divisive — it shows that something is wrong in your relationship with us — for you’re not joining us to do the most important activity we do as Christians — worshiping God. You’re among us — physically — but you’re not part of us — spiritually. For you’re keeping the main reason why the church exists — the corporate worship of God — off your list of priorities even though you’ve made the drive to one of our campuses.
But we’re living in the last hour — and there are antichrists among us. So let’s not neglect the gathering of the saints to worship God for this is when God’s Word and Spirit teach us — as a congregation — the truth that Jesus is the Christ — the Son of the living God. The time of corporate worship is when God’s Word and Spirit strengthen us — not just as individuals — but as the body of Christ.
CONFESS THE FAITH
Finally…Because we’re living in the last hour, we must confess our faith. In verse twenty-two John writes, 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 2:22-25 (ESV)
And what do we confess? We confess that the Son and the Father are One. In verse twenty-three we read, No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also. - 1 John 2:23 (ESV)
John makes it clear that to deny the Son — to deny Jesus — is to deny the Father. But — if you confess the Son — you have the Father also. This is what makes Christianity unique — this is what makes Christianity exclusive. To be right with the Father you must go through the Son. But — to deny Jesus — is to oppose God — for God the Father has sent his eternal Son to be the only way of salvation for all people.
The Westminster Confession is helpful here. It states, In the unity of the Godhead there are three persons, having one substance, power, and eternity: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. - WCF 2.3
Later it states, The Son of God, the second person of the Trinity, is truly the eternal God, of one substance and equal with the Father. - WCF 8.2
One God — three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. To deny one person is to deny them all. Thus to deny the Son is to deny the Father. So we confess — in these last days — that Jesus and the Father are One.
Finally…We confess that eternal life is found only through faith in Christ. In verse twenty-four John writes, 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. - 1 John 2:24 (ESV)
And — what John’s readers have “heard from the beginning” — is the gospel — that salvation is found only through a relationship with Jesus — which means that eternal life is found only through faith in Christ. And John tells us that our faith in Christ abides in us — meaning our faith lives in us — telling us that our faith is alive and is to be active.
Faith isn’t something cooped up in our heads — faith is to be lived. The Christian faith isn’t solely intellectual — it transforms not only our minds — but our entire lives. For when the truths found in God’s Word unite with God’s Spirit — who lives in us — like water boiling in a tea kettle — the steam of life transformation refuses to be kept bottled up in us. For God’s Spirit in us desires that we obey God’s Word — which compels us to live in a way that pleases our Heavenly Father.
Here’s the bottom. We’re living in the last hour and we don’t have time to waste our lives on anything other than being obedient to God’s will — obeying his commands — living for his glory. And we know God’s will by knowing his Word and by depending upon his Holy Spirit who lives in us.
And my hope and prayer is that all of us would live wisely in these last days — for it is the last hour. And many deceivers are among us — antichrists working for our Enemy — hoping to make us ineffective in our witness as individuals and as a congregation.
But if we don’t abandon meeting together — and if we know the truth — that Jesus is the Christ — as taught to us by God’s Word and Spirit who live in us — and if we confess the truths of our faith — that the Son and the Father are one — and that eternal life is found solely in Jesus — we will persevere — and we will know — with certainty — that we have eternal life because of our belief in the name of the Son of God. Let’s pray.
Heavenly Father, transform our hearts and minds by reminding us that it is the last hour. Our Enemy is wanting to destroy our witness. And — in knowing this — we ask you to develop within us a desire to live for you more zealously than we ever have before.
Spirit, empower us to persevere in this last hour by turning to Jesus. May we not abandon the gathering of the saints. Help us to not give into this age of abandonment that we’re living in. May we not cripple this body of saints by our absence.
Spirit, help us to persevere in this last hour by knowing the truth. Help us to grow in our understanding of your Word. Help us to hear you and listen to your words of instruction through the preaching of the Word and by gathering together with fellow believers to discuss your Word. Spirit of God, equip us so we to persevere in this last hour by living out our confession of faith. May we confess that the Son and the Father are One and that to deny the Son is to deny the Father. And may we confess that eternal life is found in Christ alone and live according to this truth.
So — Jesus — together we declare that we will obey you, we will follow you, we will not abandon one another — but will love each other — because you have first loved us. Thank you for your love for us. In your name we pray. Amen.
May you persevere as you live in the last hour — going with confidence that your faith in Christ is genuine. Amen.
God loves you. I love you. You are sent.