Who or what is the ‘antichrist,’ anyway? And how many were there?
John’s reference to antichrists (1 John 2:18 – see last post) is further support for our understanding of “world” as the Old Covenant system. The word “antichrist” carries the idea of rivalry with Christ, as well as opposition to Christ. According to Jesus himself, this would be one of the signs preceding the end – as we’ve been exploring it, the tragic fall of Jerusalem in AD 70:
For many will come in my name, saying, “I am Christ,” and will deceive many…Then if anyone says to you, “Look, here is the Christ!” or “There!” do not believe it. For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect (Matthew 24:5, 23-24).
No doubt this was the foundation for the apostle’s teaching about the coming of antichrists, whose presence convinced John that “the last time” finally had arrived. It is only by separating 1 John 2:18 from Matthew 24 that we present ourselves with an exegetical problem. If we let inspiration lead interpretation rather than follow it, we can more easily make sense of the text.
Peter and the Last Times
Knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers,but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you (1 Peter 1:18-20).
This manifestation of Christ in the last time for the purpose of redemption correlates with Hebrews 9:26:
He then would have had to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now, once at the end of the ages, he has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.
The last times of 1 Peter 1:20 are equated with “the end of the ages” in Hebrews 9:26. Christ appeared in the end of the Old Covenant age (Galatians 4:4). Paul wrote:
Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come” (1 Corinthians 10:11).
If Christ came at the end of the ages, and if that end had come upon Paul and the Corinthians, it is difficult to see this “end” extended for nearly two millennia.
Scoffers in the Last Days
Knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts (2 Peter 3:3).
For whom was this warning intended?
You therefore, beloved, since you know this beforehand, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked (2 Peter 3:17).
Peter’s language and warning are very similar to that of Christ in Matthew 24, where he speaks of false prophets whose objective was “to deceive the elect” (Matthew 24:24).
An increase in wickedness, sin and deception in the end of the age is affirmed by different New Testament writers:
But you, beloved, remember the words which were spoken before by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ: how they told you that there would be mockers in the last time who would walk according to their own ungodly lusts (Jude 17-18).
Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons (1 Timothy 4:1).
But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come:
For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! (2 Timothy 3:1-5).
But when was all this supposed to take place?
Paul’s warning to Timothy places the perilous times within that generation. Things were going to get worse toward the end:
Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived (2 Timothy 3:12-13).
And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold, but he who endures to the end shall be saved” (Matthew 24:12-13).
The end of what?
The end of the Old Covenant age (Matthew 24:14-34).
Salvation in the Last Time
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to his abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade not away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time (1 Peter 1:3-5).
The “last time” of 1 Peter 1:5 is the same as the “last time” in 1 John 2:18. The salvation that was ready to be revealed then is the same salvation in Matthew 24:13. It corresponds to the redemption obtained in the fall of the Old Covenant system (Luke 21:28); the adoption (Romans 8:23); the inheritance (Ephesians 1:14); possessing and entering the eternal kingdom (Daniel 7:22; 2 Peter 1:11, Matthew 25:34); or being received into the new heaven and earth (2 Peter 3:13; Revelation 21:1-7; 22:14).
Peter writes as though their salvation is near, and that it would follow the trial of their faith:
In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls. Of this salvation the prophets have inquired and searched carefully, who prophesied of the grace that would come to you, searching what, or what manner of time, the Spirit of Christ who was in them was indicating when he testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow. To them it was revealed that, not to themselves, but to us they were ministering the things which now have been reported to you through those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven—things which angels desire to look into. Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:6-13).
The exhortation to “gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” shows they were in the last time when these things would happen to them. Paul counsels Timothy by the same appearing of Christ:
That you keep this commandment without spot, blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ’s appearing which he will manifest in his own time, he who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords (1 Timothy 6:14-15).
“His own time” was Christ’s coming into his kingdom with power and glory (Matthew 16:27-28; Mark 9:1; Luke 21:27-32). Luke makes it clear that it would happen in the fall of Jerusalem. That was the “last time” in which salvation was ready to be revealed, provided they keep the commandment without spot (1 Timothy 6:14), gird up the loins of their minds, be sober, and hope to the end (1 Peter 1:13), watch and pray (Luke 21:36) and endure unto the end (Matthew 24:13).
Thus, it was the hope of gospel saints that “…if we died with him, we shall also live with him. If we endure, we shall also reign with him…” (2 Timothy 2:11-12). They knew the destruction of the Old Covenant world would not leave them naked (2 Corinthians 5) – rather, Christ would raise them to eternal and heavenly inheritance in that last day. This he promised in his personal ministry,
This is the will of the Father who sent me, that of all he has given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day. And this is the will of him who sent me, that every one who sees the Son, and believes in him may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day…No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day… Whoever eats my flesh, and drinks my blood has eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day (John 6:39-40, 44, 54).
- Does the Bible speak of the “end of time”? Where?
- When the Bible speaks of “all things” or the “end of all things,” to which “things” does it refer?
- In the biblical context, what are “this age” and the “age to come”? What age were they expecting? In what age are we living?
- What is the “Day of the Lord”?
- How might a failure to see the overlap of the two ages (remember Isaac and Ishmael) lead us to misidentify the “last days”?
- Of what was the Holy Spirit an “earnest”?
- John tells us in 1 John 2:18 that “many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour.” Could these be the false christs of Jesus’ prophecy (Matthew 24:5)?
- If someone you respect were to tell you that it was the “final hour” for our nation, what would that mean to you? Would you expect nothing to happen for hundreds or thousands of years?
- According to 1 Peter 1:20 and Hebrews 9:26, when were the last times?
- If Peter was awaiting a salvation “ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Peter 1:5), where is that salvation if we are living in a kind of perpetual “last times”?
Join us each week as we explore fulfilled covenant eschatology by blogging through The Spirit of Prophecy by Max King, where this post is drawn from. (And if you get impatient, you can always read the full book inspiring inspiring these posts here.) Please feel free to weigh in below