Today’s selected reading continues in the first New Testament epistle written by the apostle John unto the saints which were at Ephesus. More specifically, today’s passage is found in verses eighteen through twenty-seven of the second chapter. When you come to this particular passage of scripture you will find the apostle John shifting gears and beginning to write about something which until now has not been mentioned. As you come to and approach this portion of the chapter, you will find the apostle John beginning to write about the last rime, or the end of days. If you have spent any amount of time reading the New Testament, you will notice that this isn’t the first time a New Testament author wrote concerning the last days or the end of time. In fact, the first two epistles which the apostle Paul wrote in his apostolic ministry were unto the Thessalonian congregation, and within those epistles the apostle wrote in great detail concerning the last days and the end of time. You will also note that although it wasn’t specifically speaking of the events which will surround the last days, that which the apostle Paul wrote in the fifteenth chapter of his first epistle to the Corinthian church and congregation deals with what Christians and the saints of God can and should expect hen the last trump sounds and when Jesus descends with the voice of an archangel to gather together both the dead in Him, as well as all those who are alive and remain. If you transition to the first epistle which the apostle Paul wrote unto his spiritual son in the faith—Timothy—you will find that he wrote concerning the last days within the fourth chapter. In his second epistle which he wrote unto Timothy you will find the apostle Paul again wrote unto Timothy concerning the of days and the end of time. What’s more, is that in his second epistle which was written unto those who had obtained like precious faith, the apostle Peter also wrote concerning the last days—both concerning the return of Jesus Christ, as well as concerning the events which e can expect to take place in the days leading up to His return. What’s more, is that Jude also wrote a considerable amount concerning the last days and what we can expect coming into the last days.
When we come to the second chapter of this first epistle written by the apostle John we find him writing concerning the last time, and actually doing something quite remarkable and astounding with it. Within this second chapter of this first epistle, the apostle John writes unto the church in Ephesus—not only concerning the Antichrist which is most certainly to come, but also false antichrists. What is interesting and unique about that which the apostle John writes concerning the antichrist, as well as these false antichrists, is that earlier on in the history of the Ephesian church the apostle Paul called together the elders of the church in order that he might peak to them one final time before he would engage in a journey that would guarantee he would not return to that city or the saints within that city. When speaking unto the elders of the church within the city of Ephesus you will find the apostle Paul speaking unto, earning and cautioning them concerning the false brethren and false teachers who would creep in among them unawares, and like ravening wolves would not spare the flock of God. This actually echoes and confirms what Jesus the Christ spoke when He warned us to beware of false teachers and false prophets who come to us as wolves in sheep’s clothing, and are ravenous beasts with intense appetites in the inside. The apostle Paul warned the Ephesian congregation concerning false prophets, false teachers and false brethren who would come in among them, and now we find the apostle John writing unto this same congregation concerning antichrists who would go out from among them. It was true the apostle John wrote about Antichrist as a singular being and individual, however, the apostle John also wrote concerning antichrists who would rise up from among them within their own midst, and who would go out from among them into the world. The apostle John knew and understood that these antichrists would wreak havoc and would bring with them a path of destruction and devastation that would endanger both the church as well as the world itself.
When reading this particular passage within the second chapter of the first epistle of the apostle John it is necessary and imperative that we consider the tremendous warning and word of caution that was given unto these saints of God. It is important that we recognize that for the apostles and the New Testament writers, they believed themselves to be living in the last days. Some of them—the apostles Peter and John—has already witnessed the ascension of Jesus Christ at the mount Olivet, and undoubtedly they believed that Jesus Christ could and would return at any point in time. The apostles had already witnessed the ascension of Jesus Christ, and they had already heard the angels declare unto them that in the same manner in which they saw Jesus ascend into heaven, so also would He return. Essentially, there was buried within the ascension of Jesus Christ a profound mystery concerning the return of Jesus Christ, for the angel declared that as they saw Him ascend, so also would He return and descend in the same way. In fact, I can’t help but wonder if Jesus Christ won’t return and come back in the very same place the disciples and His followers saw Him ascend. With that being said, it is necessary and imperative that we understand how Jesus Christ is going to return, and how the apostles believed that Jesus Christ could and would return at any time. This is perhaps what is so telling and unique about the words which the apostle peter wrote in the second epistle found within the New Testament, for the apostle Peter wrote that in the last days there would be scoffers who would rise up and question the return of the Lord. There would be scoffers who would hear about the return of Jesus Christ and would see that it hadn’t happened yet, and they would question and doubt that He is even going to return at all. Undoubtedly such scoffers rose yo during the days in which the apostles and New Testament wrote their epistles, for many believed that Jesus should have already returned and come back. By the time we come to the writing of the first epistle of the apostle John, which was written around 90 AD, we find that Jesus Christ still had not returned, and that the saints of God were still waiting for the return of Jesus Christ.
Undoubtedly, when the apostle John wrote this first epistle unto the saints and congregation at Ephesus, he wore from a place where he believed they were indeed living in the last days. At the time of the writing of this epistle, fifty-seven years had passed—that is if Jesus ascended to the right hand of the Father around 33 AD. I feel it necessary to bring your attention to the words which the apostle John wrote in this second chapter of this first epistle which was written unto the saints which were at Ephesus. Consider if you will the words which are found in this particular passage beginning with the eighteenth verse:
“Little children, it is the last time: and as y e have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time. They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were. Not all of us. But ye have an untion from the Holy One, and ye know all things. I have not written unto you because ye know not the truth, but because ye know it, and that no lie is of the truth. Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son. Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father: (but) he that acknowledgeth the Son hath the Father also. Let that therefore abide in you, which ye have heard from the beginning. If that which ye have heard from the beginning shall remain in you, ye also shall continue in the Son, and in the Father. And this is the promise that he hath promised us, even eternal life. These things have I written unto you concerning them that seduce you. But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in Him” (1 John 2:18-27).
The words which we find in this particular portion of the second chapter of this first epistle written by the apostle John bring us face to face with a tremendous word of warning and caution the apostle was seeking to convey unto his audience. The apostle John began this particular section with an emphatic declaration—a declaration concerning the days and time in which they were living. There is not a doubt in my mind the apostle John firmly believed that both he, as well as the apostles, the early church, the early church fathers, and all those which were present during that time were living during perilous and dangerous times. One of the things that makes me so incredibly intrigued by the words of caution which the New Testament authors wrote within the New Testament is that they hadn’t seen nearly half of what we have witnessed over the past sixty or so years. I can’t help but wonder what the New Testament writes, and what the apostles of Jesus Christ would think if they were walking the earth today, and saw even a fraction of what was taking place among us—not only within and among the nations of the world, but also within the four walls of the church. I would dare say the apostles and New Testament authors would be utterly shocked and appalled if they were to be alive today and witnessed but a faction of what we are facing and experiencing. This is in no way stating or declaring that what the early church went through is in any way inferior—particularly and especially when you consider the western church—for while the level of transgression, gross immorality and iniquity have increased and abounded throughout history, we have yet to face, experience and endure persecution. We have been able to experience relative peace, safety and the freedom to worship Jesus Christ however we choose to, and even have the ability to choose which church and which body we will worship together with. There is a freedom and liberty that is found within the western church that is unparalleled and unrivaled in many other churches within and throughout the world—churches that are forced to exist in the darkness, forced to exist in the shadows, forced to exist underground, and forced to hide and conceal themselves from detection and notice. [As a side note: I can’t help but wonder if the freedom we experience is an external and superficial freedom when considered and compared to the freedom those in the churches among the nations of the world experience. Oh it is true that we might experience freedom on the external and outward in that we can worship without fear of consequence of repercussion, but are we experiencing the same level of freedom in the Spirit as those in the churches scattered throughout the world? Is it possible that although many saints and followers of Jesus Christ in the nations of the earth have experienced and are experiencing an even greater level of freedom in the Spirit—and even greater level of freedom in their worship, in their intercession, and in their prayers—than we are here in the western church? We brag and boast about the freedom we possess within the western church, and yet I would dare say that the freedom we boast about is nothing more than a superficial, artificial, and external freedom that touches not the spiritual realm.]
The apostle John—when writing this first epistle unto the saints of the church at Ephesus—wrote concerning the last time, and not only concerning the last time, but also concerning the last time, and how the saints of God had heard that the antichrist shall come. That which the apostle John was seeking to do was warn the saints of God concerning the last time when the antichrist will rise up within the earth, and will wreak havoc and unleash terror and horror upon the earth. I can’t help but be reminded of the words which this same apostle wrote in the New Testament prophetic book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ—particularly and especially within the thirteenth chapter of the book. To set the stage for what we find in the thirteenth chapter of the prophetic book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ—in the previous chapter we find the dragon together with his angels waging war in heaven against Michael and the angelic host of heaven. Ultimately and inevitably there was found no place in heaven for the dragon, for he could and would not prevail against Michael and his angels. As a direct result of the dragon’s defeat in heaven, he was cast down to the earth together with all his angels. It was after being cast down to the earth the dragon became incredibly wroth, for he knows that he has but a short time before his ultimate destruction. Upon being found on the earth, the dragon would first seek to persecute the woman which brought forth the man child. The woman, however, was given two wings of a great eagle, in order that she might fly into the wilderness, into her place, where she would be nourished for a time, and times, and half a time from the face of the serpent. The serpent—still wroth—cast out of his mouth water as a flood after the woman, hoping to cause her to be carried away of the flood. The earth, however, helped the woman, and the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed up the flood which was cast out of the mouth of the dragon. When the twelfth chapter of the prophetic book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ concludes, it does so the dragon being wroth with the woman, and going out to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ. In other words, what began as a war in heaven between Michael and his angels and the dragon and his angels would eventually culminate in the dragon and his angels being cast out of heaven. Please pay close attention to this, for while in heaven, the dragon had the ability to accuse the saints before the throne of God both day and night. When the dragon was cast down out of the earth, the dragon lost his place to accuse the saints of God before His throne, and now sought a different tactic to destroy the saints. When the dragon saw that he could not destroy the woman that brought forth the man child, he then transitioned to launching an assault and attack against the remnant of the seed of the woman—the church of Jesus Christ, and the saints of God. It is in this context where we come to that which is found in the thirteenth chapter of the book, for it is in the thirteenth chapter where we encounter the beast which ascended out of the sea, and the great horror and havoc he wrought upon the earth together with the beast which ascended up from the earth:
“And I stood upon the sand of the sea, and saw a beast rise up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns, and upon his heads the name of blasphemy. And the beast which I saw was like unto a leopard, and his feet were as the feet of a bear, and his mouth as the mouth of a lion: and the dragon gave him his power, and his seat, and great authority. And I saw one of his heads as it were wounded to death; and his deadly wound was healed: and all the world wondered after the beast. And they worshipped the dragon which gave power unto the beast: and they worshipped the beast, saying, Who is like unto the beast? Who is able to make war with him? And there was given unto him a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies; and power was given unto him to continue forty and two months. And he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme his name, and his tabernacle, and them that dwell in heaven. And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them: and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations. And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. If any man have an ear, let him hear. He that leadeth into captivity shall go into captivity: he that killeth with the sword must be killed with the sword. Here is the patience and the faith of the saints” (Revelation 12:1-10).
It is within the first ten verses of the thirteenth chapter of the prophetic book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ that we find the apostle Paul writing concerning the beast which rose up and emerged from the sea—this first beast who would ultimately be known as the antichrist who would terrorize the earth after three and a half years of false peace with Israel upon the earth. The apostle John saw how this beast was given power and authority to make war with the saints, and to over come them, and how power and authority was given unto the beast over all kindreds, tongues and nations. What’s more, the apostle John saw that all those who dwell upon the earth whose names were not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world would worship the beast. It is necessary and imperative that we pay close attention to this fact, and that we understand what is going on, for when you come to the eleventh verse of this same chapter, you find a second beast emerging—this time a beast emerging not from the sea, but a beast coming up out of the earth. It would be this second beast coming up out of the earth that would partner together with the first beast, and would unleash a wave of terror upon the earth in an attempt to get the earth to bow down and worship the first beast. If you begin reading with and from the eleventh verse of this thirteenth chapter you will find the following words concerning this second beast which rises up from the earth, and how this second beast partners together with the first beast to utterly and completely wreak havoc upon the face of the earth:
“And I beheld another beast coming up out of the earth; and he had two horns like a lamb, and he spake as a dragon. And he exerciseth all the power of the first beast before him, and causeth the earth and them which dwell therein to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed. And he doeth great wonders, so that he maketh fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men, and deceiveth them that dwell on the earth by the means of those miracles which he had power to do in the sight of the beast; saying to them that dwell on the earth, that they should make an image to the beast, which had the wound by a sword, and did live. And he had power to give life unto the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed. And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: and that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name. Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his name is Six hundred threescore and six” (Revelation 13:11-18).
The entire thirteenth chapter of the New Testament prophetic book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ details and describes the emergence of the first beast, which would emerge from the sea. This first beast would have a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies, and power would be given unto him to continue for a space of forty-two months. This first beast would open his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme his name, and his tabernacle, and them that dwell in heaven. Unto this first beast was given power and authority to make war with the saints, and to overcome them. Power was given unto this first beast over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations, and all that dwell upon the earth shall worship—those whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lam slain from the foundation of the world. At some point during the reign of this first beast a second beast would emerge from the earth—a beast that had two horns like a lamb, but a mouth speaking as a dragon. This second beast would exercise all the power of the first beast before him, and causes the earth and all them which dwell therein to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed. This second beast would do great wonders, so that he caused fire to come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men. This second beast would deceive them that dwell on the earth by the mans of those miracles which he had power to do in the sight of the beast, saying to them that dwell on the earth, that they should make an image to the beast, which had the wound by a sword, and did live. This second beast had power to give life unto the image of the beast, in order that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast to be killed. It would be this second beast that would cause all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads in order that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name. One thing we must consider when writing and speaking about this first beast, is that it would unto this first beast the dragon would give his power, his seat, and his great authority, so as to exercise dominion, control, power and authority upon the earth. It would be the dragon who recognized that his place in heaven was no more and had been lost forever who would give power and authority unto the beast—the one whom we know to be the antichrist—in order that he might unleash terror upon the face of the earth. When this first beast emerges from the sea, he would be given great authority, great power, and even the seat of the dragon in order that he might rule and reign upon the earth. What’s more, is that together with the great seat, the great power and authority of the dragon being given unto this first beast, the second beast would cause all upon the face of the earth to worship the beast and the image of the beast. All those who refused to bow down and worship the beast and the image formed and fashioned upon the earth would be killed.
In all reality, this is much like what we find in the third chapter of the Old Testament prophetic book of Daniel, for it was in this chapter where we read about Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, and how Nebuchadnezzar caused a great image of gold to be made in the plain of Dura. Not only did Nebuchadnezzar form and fashion a great image of gold in the plain of Dura, but Nebuchadnezzar also commanded and instructed all within the Babylonian empire to bow down and worship the image made of gold. All those who refused to bow down and worship the image which was made of gold would immediately be cast into the furnace of fire. Of course the story goes on to reveal how there were at least three who refused to bow down to this image made of gold, for Hananiah, Azariah, and Mishael refused to bow down to this image of gold, and even declared unto the king that they would not worship his gods. The story goes that so great, so intense, and so fierce was the wrath of the king toward and against these three Hebrew men that he called for the furnace to be heated seven times hotter, and that these three Hebrew men be bound and cast alive into the furnace of fire. Of course, Daniel goes on to write and reveal how the king was utterly and completely astonished when he saw four men unbound walking about in the midst of the fire, and the fourth appeared to be like unto the Son of man. Ultimately the three hebrew men would be rescued from the fire, and would come forth without a hair on their body singed, the smell of smoke upon their clothes or their form, and their clothes completely and utterly unaffected by the flames of fire within the furnace. What we find and what we read in the third chapter of the Old Testament prophetic book of Daniel is in all reality a powerful type and shadow of what will take place and occur in the last days when the antichrist will rise up and emerge onto the scene. What we find in this chapter is a powerful shadow and type of the second beast—the false prophet—who will cause all men, both great and small, rich and poor to worship the beast and the image of the beast which he himself had set up. All those who refused to worship the beast and the image of the beast which had been set up upon the earth would be killed. What I so love about the third chapter of the prophetic book of Daniel is that it brings us face to face with the fact that there will in fact be those who will refuse to worship the beast and the image of the beast which was set up. There will be those who will possess the courage and strength to refuse to bow down and worship the beast and the image of the beast which was set up upon the earth. Consider if you will the words which are found in the fifteenth chapter of the same New Testament prophetic book of Revelation beginning with the first verse:
“And I saw another sign in heaven, great and marvelous, seven angels having the seven last plagues; for in them is filled up the wrath of God. And I saw as it were a sea of glass mingled with fire: and them that had gotten the victory over the beast, and over his image, and over his mark, and over the number of his name, stand on the sea of glass, having the harps of God. And they sing the son of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, Great and marvelous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints. Who shall not fear thee, O Lord, and glorify thy name? For thou art holy: for all nations shall come and worship before thee; for thy judgments are made manifest” (Revelation 15:1-4).
The words which we find in the second chapter of the first New Testament epistle written by the apostle John not only describe the physical Antichrist who will rise up and emerge within and upon the earth, but also how other antichrists will rise up and emerge upon the earth who will act in the same spirit as the antichrist—those who will go out from among us, yet are not of us, for if they were of us, they would no doubt have continued with us. The going out of these antichrists who operated in the very spirit of the Antichrist himself went out in order that it might be manifested that they were not of us, and never were. What is so incredibly intriguing about this passage, is that the apostle John describes the main and underlying nature—not only of the Antichrist himself, but also of these other antichrists who would rise up in the earth and would operate in the spirit of the Antichrist himself. IN the twenty-second verse of this chapter we find the apostle John writing how that one is a liar who denies that Jesus is the Christ. What’s more, is the apostle John also goes on to declare that he is antichrist who denies the Father, and the Son. John would go on to write how whosoever denies the Son, the same has not the Father, for he who acknowledges the Son has the Father also. What we must pay close attention to in this passage is the anointing and unction which we have to discern these antichrists who will rise up within us, and those who will go out from among us. As much as the apostle John wrote concerning the antichrists who would rise up from among us and would go out from among us, so also did the apostle John write how we have an unction from the Holy One, and know all things. Furthermore, the apostle John wrote unto those who knew the truth, and those who know and understand that no lie is of the truth. When you come to the twenty-sixth verse of this particular epistle you will find the apostle John writing how he wrote these words unto them concerning those that seduced them, and that the anointing which they received abided in them, and they had no need that any man teach them. It would be this same anointing which teaches them all things, and is true, and is no lie. If there is one thing we must recognize and understand when reading the words which the apostle John wrote in this passage of Scripture, it’s that not only do we have an anointing and unction from the Holy Spirit, but we are also of those who neither deny the Son, nor the Father. We must take from this passage and understand that there will be antichrists who will rise up from among us, and who will go out from among us, thus proving that they were never part of us to begin with. There is a tremendous warning which we find in this passage of Scripture—not only concerning our remaining and abiding in Christ, but also our remaining and abiding with and among the saints of God as the body of Christ.