Wednesday, November 25, 2020

The Spirit of Antichrist

"Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world" (1 John 4:1)

John turns now to a theme that is found frequently in the Bible, but which too many modern Christians don’t want to think about. It is the theme of false prophets and heretics. John says that “many” false prophets have gone out into the world, just as Paul warns that false prophets will certainly arise inside the church (Acts 20:29). We must make no mistake about it: There will be false prophets, and we will encounter them in the church as well as in the world.

The Bible warns us about this over and over again, and there are at least two reasons why. First, Christians are sinners too, and thus have an inward, fleshly tendency to be soft on heretics and antichrists. Second, those who have been born again have been given peaceful hearts, and Christians don’t enjoy fighting. In fact, we often misunderstand the command to “turn the other cheek” or to “love our enemies.” Thus, Christians have to be reminded and stimulated by God to fight against His enemies.

God provided Israel with tests of a false prophet: His predictions had to come true every time, and he had to teach in accordance with God’s revealed Word. Otherwise he was to be put to death for presuming to speak for God (Deuteronomy 13:1–5; 20:20–22). In the church, the penalty is excommunication.

John says every heretic eventually denies this cardinal truth: That the Son of God, God Himself, has come into the world as Jesus the Messiah, taken upon Himself true human flesh, and died for our sins (1 John 4:2, 15). Some will say Jesus was “Messiah” and died for us in some sense, but He was only a man. Others will say that the Son came into the world, but never really took human flesh, could not die, and thus was only a spirit who looked like a man. Yet others will come up with some kind of mixture, but will still deny the biblical doctrine of Christ.

This spirit of antichrist has shown up in every age of the church and is present today in the various cults, such as Mormonism, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, theological liberalism, and neo-orthodoxy. The Bible tells us that we must be on our guard, and if we love Christ and His brethren, we will hate the heresies of the antichrists.

We don’t want to become “heresy hunters,” falsely accusing true brethren of heresies of which they are not guilty. There is plenty of that going on today, and it is a great evil because it shows no love for the brethren (1 John 4:7–21). At the same time, be on your guard, and in order to discern true false teaching, study the Bible.