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John's View of the Antichrist

Commentary on 1 John 4: 3

John is quite harsh with those who hold the doctrines he rejects: “this is the spirit of the antichrist.” The antichrist is not someone who openly attacks Christianity, or who commits horrendous crimes. The antichrist is this spirit that disguises itself as more “spiritual,” and leads people away from the true confession, that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh.

By declaring that the antichrist is already in the world, John builds a bridge into the next three verses, which seek to strengthen readers against the attractions and the threats of the world. Here the polarity is between being “from the world” or “not from God” (v. 5), and being “from God”—a phrase that appears three times in these three verses. Here the theme is one of victory—“you are from God, and have conquered them.” This is a typical Johannine emphasis. In the midst of all sorts of difficulties, usually despised and occasionally persecuted, those who believe in Jesus are conquerors. It appears in the Gospel of John: “In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world!” (Jn 16:33). And it is also a central theme in the Book of Revelation, where the faithful are repeatedly called “those who conquer,” and where the entire plot leads to the final victory of God.

First John will return to this in chapter 4. Here, he emphasizes first of all the power of the one who abides in the faithful: “the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.” And then he claims that those who will not listen to the Christian proclamation will not listen because they are “from the world”—and this apparently includes both unbelievers and those others who have left the community and now profess false teachings.


© 2014 United Methodist Women