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 the first six verses of the fourth chapter. When you come to this particular passage found within the fourth chapter of the epistle written by the apostle John you will again find the apostle turning his attention to safeguarding oneself from deception and delusion. Within and throughout this first epistle written by the apostle we have found a variety of themes which have been worth studying altogether, and even independently of each other. It could be argued that one could study the various themes of John within this epistle, and one would have a detailed and thorough knowledge of that which is contained within the epistle. If you spend time reading this first epistle of the apostle John you will find the apostle writing about several ma and truths which those to whom he was writing would need to engage themselves in and practice within their lives. This first epistle written by the apostle contains such themes as loving the Lord our God, as well as loving our neighbor as ourselves. Undoubtedly the apostle Hohn took everything he heard the Lord Jesus spike when He taught the crowds publicly, as well as everything Jesus taught them privately during those times when Jesus separates the disciples from the crowds. There were specific times when Jesus needed to separate the disciples from the crowds and from the masses in order that He might speak to them personally and privately away from the voices, the noises and clamor of the crowds which continually bombarded and followed Him during the three and a half years He engaged Himself in public ministry. We dare not forget that which the apostle wrote at the beginning and opening of this epistle—namely, that he was an eyewitness of all that Jesus saw and did. In the opening verses of this epistle you find the apostle John speaking of that which he heard, that which he heard, that which he looked upon, and that which he handled with his hands.
As you come to and approach this fourth chapter of the epistle written by the apostle John you will find the apostle instructing and warning the saints which worshipped within the city of Ephesus concerning the spirits which were present all around them. It’s imperative that we recognize and understand that what the apostle was speaking of was not concerning demonic or evil spirits, but rather the spirits of men which were present before and all around them. In this particular section of the epistle—the first six verses of the fourth chapter—you find the apostle instructing and earning them to test and try the spirits of and the spirits within men, for not everyone is born of God. I can’t help but be reminded of the words which Jesus spoke in the company and presence of His disciples just before He engaged Himself in the passion week—a week in which He Himself would be betrayed into the hands of men by one of His own, and would ultimately be crucified upon a cruel Roman tree. I can’t help but wonder if when writing this epistle the apostle John didn’t look back upon that time when Jesus spoke to both he and the other disciples, and spoke to them concerning the tremendous danger of being deceived in the last days. If you read the words which are found within the writings of the various New Testament authors you will find that they believed themselves to be living in the last days—days which were characterized and marked by tremendous opposition to the truth that is found in the person and Gospel concerning Jesus Christ. The New Testament authors believed themselves to be living in the last days, and in the midst of Ike’s when false teachers, false apostles, false prophets, and false brethren would creep in among them unaware in order to seduce and deceive them. It is absolutely and incredible it imperative that we recognize and understand this, for we have to understand the lens through which the New Testament authors viewed the days and times in which they were living, for they believed themselves to be living dyeing incredibly dark and dangerous times.
When Jesus spoke unto His disciples just before the week of His passion you will find Him—in His Olivet discourse—speaking unto them concerning the last days and the end of times, and what they could expect in those days and times. It is necessary that we understand that while Jesus was still present among them in the earth and walked among men, the last days had not emerged within and upon the earth. In fact, it wouldn’t be until Jesus was raised from the grave, ascended to the right hand of the Father and the day of Pentecost officially came that the last days actually began. In fact, I am utterly and completely convinced and firmly believe that when the Holy Spirit was released on that day of Pentecost just fifty days after the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, a clock began to tick, and the world as we know it was plunged into the last days. It was beginning with that day that the world entered into the last days, and it was on that day when the end of times began. What’s more, is that almost as quickly as Jesus ascended into the heavens the messianic expectation for His return began to envelop the saints and authors during and within that time period. Undoubtedly those who lived during those times believed that Jesus could return and come back at any point in time, as they considered themselves to be living in the last days. The apostles, the saints of the early church, as well as the early church fathers all believed themselves to be living during the last days—days in which the Lord Jesus could return at any any moment in time. From the time Jesus ascended to the right hand of the Father and the time the Holy Spirit was poured out on the Day of Pentecost there was a period of ten days which elapsed—ten days in which the apostles, together with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus continued regularly in prayer and supplication before the Lord in the city of Jerusalem. During those times they were waiting for and expecting something that would take place—something which Jesus promised while He was still alive and present on the earth. During those ten days the apostles, as well as those various women gathered together in the upper room in order to patiently wait for, pray, and earnestly expect that which Jesus Christ had faithfully promised would be sent unto them at the appointed time. The one single condition Jesus placed upon them was that they were to tarry within the city of Jerusalem, and that they were not to leave the city. I am convinced that this is perhaps one of the greatest reasons why Jesus met the two men who were traveling on the road to Emmaus, for not only was the story not over yet, but Jesus wanted to bring them back to Jerusalem—back to the place of death and crucifixion, but also a place where the promise of the Father would be released among them.
I can’t help but be reminded of the words which the beloved physician Luke wrote—first in the final chapter of the gospel treatise he wrote Theophilus concerning the life and ministry of Jesus, and second in the first chapter of the treatise he wrote concerning the life and ministry of the body of Christ. Consider if you will the following words contained within the passages of both the New Testament gospel of Luke, as well as the New Testament book of the Acts of the apostles:
“And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me. Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures, and said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And ye are witnesses of these things. And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high. And He led them out as far as to Bethany, and He lifted up His hands, and blessed them. And it came to pass, while He blessed them, He was parted from them, and carried up into heaven. And they worshipped Him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy: and were continually in the temple, praising and blessing God. Amen” (Luke 24:44-53).
“The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, until the day in which he was taken up, after that he through the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the apostles whom he had chosen: to whom also he shewed Himself alive after his passion by man infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God: and, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith He, ye have heard of me. For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence. When they therefore were come together, they asked of Him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power. But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. And when He had spoken these things, while they beheld, He was taken up; and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven. Then returned they unto Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is from Jerusalem a sabbath day’s journey. And when they were come in, they went up into an upper room, where abode both Peter, and James, and John, and Andrew, Philip, Thomas, Bartholomew, and Matthew, James the son of Alaphaeus, and Simon Zelotes, and Judas the brother of James. These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brethren” (Acts 1:1-14).
When you read these two passages it becomes quite clear that after His resurrection—during those forty days when when Jesus shewed Himself alive by many infallible proofs, and speaking of those things pertaining the kingdom of God—Jesus spoke to His disciples and followers concerning the promise of the Father which would be released in the coming days. It would be during those forty days Jesus would set His disciples, together with those who would be committed during that time to tarry and wait in Jerusalem for the promise of the Father. Thus, within and during those times there was a wonderful and powerful expectation that was found within the hearts and spirits of those who followed Jesus during the three and a half years he walked upon the earth. At that time there was a deep expectancy, as well as a wonderful anticipation that Jesus was going to send something unto them that would completely and radically alter and transform everything they had believed and experienced. Twice within the two treatises which the beloved physician Luke wrote he recounted the words of Jesus instructing His disciples and followers to tarry and remain in Jerusalem, and that only by tarrying and waiting in Jerusalem would and could they experience the promise of the Father. There is not a doubt in my mind that during those forty days between he resurrection and the ascension there was a wonderful sense that there was coming a certain and specific promise of the Father which would be released upon those who were willing to commit themselves to tarrying and waiting in the city of Jerusalem. Oh please don’t miss this, for while Jesus was still alive and present upon the earth—alive after His resurrection from the grave—there was a wonderful and powerful expectation within the hearts and minds of the disciples and followers of Jesus concerning the coming of that which would be sent and released by the Father to those who were willing to tarry in Jerusalem and not allow themselves to be caught up in vain pursuits and endeavors. Twice the beloved physician Luke writes and recounts the words of Jesus to tarry and wait in Jerusalem, for that which the Father would release would only come and be experienced upon those who were willing to tarry and wait in the city of Jerusalem. There needed to be a waiting and praying people during those times, for the Holy Spirit could only come upon a waiting and praying people. Far too many times we think and believe that the Holy Spirit can and will come upon those who are not willing to commit themselves to waiting and praying, and yet Jesus made it perfectly clear that the Holy Spirit could only come upon those who tarried and waited in the place of prayer, intercession and supplication. Oh, please don’t miss this tremendous reality, for during those forty days after Jesus’ resurrection while Jesus was still with them, He showed Himself alive in order that their faith, in order that their trust, in order that their confidence might be strengthened within their hearts and spirits. This He did in order that they might have the necessary faith and strength to actually be able to tarry within the city of Jerusalem in order that they might receive that which was promised of the Father.
What I absolutely love about what we read in the first chapter of the New Testament book of the Acts of the apostles is that not only did Jesus give them an expectation of the promise of the Father, but when Jesus ascended into heaven and was concealed from their sight, two angels appeared and enhanced their expectation. You will notice and discover that when the angels appeared unto those who had watched and witnessed Jesus ascend unto the right hand of the Father in heaven, they declared unto them that this same Jesus, which was taken up from them into heaven would come back in like manner as they saw Him go into heaven. Oh, please don’t miss the tremendous significance and importance of these words, for it was Jesus who set the expectation for the promise of the Father, and yet it was the angels who set the expectation for the return of Jesus Christ in the same manner in which they had seen Him go. How absolutely incredible and wonderful it is that not only during those forty days after the resurrection, but also during the ten days following Jesus’ ascension into heaven, there was not only a wonderful expectation and anticipation concerning the coming of the promise of the Father, but there would also be a wonderful expectation concerning the return of Jesus Christ. I have long been amazed that there is actually concealed and found within Jesus’ ascension into heaven a wonderful and powerful portent and sign which points to His return, for the angels declared that in the same manner in which they saw Him go, they would also see Him come again and return to gather His own. Within Jesus’ ascension into heaven there was a powerful sign which pointed toward His return, for only in understanding His ascension can we truly and in fact understand His return when He gathers together unto Himself those which are dead in Christ, as well as those which are alive and remain. During those fifty days leading up to the day of Pentecost there was such a great anticipation and expectation—not only for the coming of the promise of the Father, but also for the return of Jesus Christ, for the angels declared that He would return. Oh please don’t miss or lose sight of this awesome and incredible reality, for to do so would be to miss that which the Lord Jesus Christ would seek to teach and convey unto us. What’s more, is that in order to understand the events which took place on the day of Pentecost, we must understand those forty days in which Jesus shewed Himself alive with many infallible proofs, as well as the ten days leading up to the day of Pentecost. Consider if you will the account of the day of Pentecost as the beloved physician Luke records it in the New Testament book of Acts:
“And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven. Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language. And they were all amazed and marveled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilleans? And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born? Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judaea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia, PHyrgia, and Pamphyila, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes, Cretes, and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God. And they were all amazed, and were in doubt, saying one to another, What meanteth this? Others mocking said, These men are full of new wine. But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up His voice, and said unto them, Ye men of Judaea, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem, be this known unto you, and hearken to my words: for these are not drunken, as ye supposed, seeing it is but the third hour of the day. But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; and it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: and on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy: and I will shew wonders in heaven above; and signs in the earth beneath; blood, and fire, and vapour of smoke: the sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before that great and notable day of the Lord come: and it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved. Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by Him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also. Know: Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and fore knowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain: whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that He should be holden of it” (Acts 2:1-24).
I so love what we find and what we read in the first chapter of the New Testament book of Acts, as well as what is found in the second chapter of the same book, for not only do we have an expectation of the promise of the Father—a promise which up until the day of Pentecost they did not know would be the Holy Spirit who would come only ten days later—but we also have an expectation that Jesus Christ was going to return in the same manner in which they say Him go. This is absolutely critical and vital for what we find and read in the first New Testament epistle which the apostle John wrote, for John too wrote about Jesus coming in the flesh and dwelling among us. In the gospel account which John the apostle wrote, He wrote concerning Jesus Christ, and how He was in the beginning with God, and was in the beginning God. What’s more, is the apostle John also wrote how Jesus took on and became flesh and dwelt among us, and how we beheld His glory—glory as of the only begotten of the Father. Within the gospel account of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ, the apostle John sought to describe how Jesus Christ took on the form of human flesh, and how he dwelt among us, thus allowing us to behold His glory, and the glory of the eternal Father who was in heaven. When we come to the first epistle which was written by the apostle John unto the saints which were at Ephesus, we find him writing and speaking of those who would dare deny that Jesus came in the flesh, and those who would deny both Jesus the eternal Son, as well God the eternal Father. The apostle John would go on to describe that they are antichrist who deny that Jesus Christ came in the flesh, and dwelt among us as a man—one who walked among us for three and a half years. Why is this important? This is important, for if we do not and cannot believe that Jesus Christ first came in the flesh and dwelt among us as a man, we cannot believe that He will come back and return in like manner as we saw Him go. Think about it—how can you believe that Jesus can and will return and come back in the manner in which we saw Him go if we do not and cannot believe that He came in the form of human flesh in the first place? Only those who are willing to admit, accept and believe that Jesus came in the flesh and dwelt among us can and will truly believe that Jesus can and will return in the same manner in which He came. There was an expectation during the days of the Old Testament and covenant—an expectation in which men and women patiently waited in expectation of the coming of the. Messiah. Once the Messiah had finally come, it wouldn’t be until thirty-three and a half years after He entered the earth as a baby that we would see a different expectation and anticipation emerge within the hearts and minds of his disciples and followers—an expectation concerning the return of Jesus Christ in the clouds, as well as an expectation of the Holy Spirit begin released and poured out among all those who believed.
In the fourth chapter of the first epistle which the apostle John wrote, we find the apostle instructing his audience and readers to believe not every spirit, but to try the spirits whether they are of God. The apostle John issued such a strong word of instruction and warning because many false prophets were gone out into the world, and many false prophets were present among them within the early church. The apostle John would go on to write that we can know the Spirit of God, for every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God. Furthermore, the apostle John would go on to write that every spirit which confesses not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God. That spirit which denies that Jesus came in the flesh is not only not of God, but it is also antichrist, whereof we have heard that it should come, and is already in the world. The apostle John would go on to emphatically declare that we are of God, and we have overcome antichrist and the spirit of antichrist because greater is He that is in us, than he that is in the world. Mark these words and mark them well, for the words which the apostle John wrote in this passage directly build upon that which the apostle wrote in the second chapter of the same epistle. If you turn and direct your attention back to the words which the apostle John wrote in the second chapter of this epistle, you will find that he again wrote concerning antichrist, and the spirit of antichrist which was in the world. In fact, beginning with the eighteenth verse of the second chapter of this first epistle we find the following words written by the apostle John unto these beloved and dear saints:
“Little children, it is the last time: and as ye 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 unction 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 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 thou. 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 true that, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him. And now, little children, abide in him; that, when he shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming. If ye know that he is righteous, ye know that every one that doeth righteousness is born of Him” (1 John 2:18-29).
It’s important that we understand that which the apostle John wrote in this second chapter of the epistle, for within this particular passage the apostle John wrote and spoke of antichrist, of the spirit of antichrist, and of the presence of many antichrists which were present within and upon the earth. The apostle John made it perfectly and abundantly clear that he was antichrist who denied that Jesus is the Christ. The apostle John made it perfectly clear that he was antichrist who both denied Jesus Christ, as well as the Father who had begotten the eternal Son who was the living word. Within this passage of Scripture the apostle John would go on to call those who deny that Jesus Christ are liars, and that the truth is not in them, but only falsehood. Furthermore, the apostle John would go on to write and declare that such individuals went out from among us, thus proving and demonstrating that they were not of us, but were actually imposters and false brethren. What’s more, the apostle John would go on to write and speak concerning the anointing and unction which we as the saints of God have—an anointing an unction to discern antichrist, and the spirit of antichrist which is found in the. The apostle John—as well as the other New Testament authors—believed themselves to be living in the last days in which the spirit of antichrist would emerge within and upon the earth. The apostles, as well as the New Testament authors wrote and believed that although they were living during days of Messianic expectation, they were also living during days of tremendous darkness, for there were false prophets, false teachers, false apostles, and false brethren that would rise up from among their own, would creep in unaware, and would come in wolves and sheep’s clothing. By the time the apostle John wrote this first epistle unto the saints which were at Ephesus, there had emerged within and among the church of Jesus Christ such a widespread and rampant influx of deception and delusion, as false teachers, false apostles, false prophets and false brethren would rise up from among us. In fact, it was Jesus Himself who spoke concerning the Last Days, and declared that in the Last Days there would be such widespread deception that would seek to persuade even the very elect of God. I leave you with the words of Jesus, which are found in the twenty-fourth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew as a wonderful and powerful word of warning to us who are living in the last days—we who are living in days of a wonderful and powerful Messianic expectation and anticipation:
“And as He sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto Him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? And what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world? And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you.l For many shall come in my name, saying, I am. Christ; and shall deceive many. And ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. All these are the beginning of sorrows. Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake. And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come. When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand) then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains: let him which is on the housetop not come down to take any thing out of his house: neither let him which is in the field return back to take his clothes. And woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days! But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the sabbath day: for then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened. Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not. For there shall arise false Christs,, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch, that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. Behold, I have told you before. Wherefore if they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert; fo not forth: behold, he is in the secret chambers: believe it not” (Matthew 24:3-26).