1 John 2:20-23 – Who is the Antichrist?

In contrast to the ones who have left John’s circle, the readers have been anointed by the Holy One and know the truth (2:20-21). Although John does not specifically say this is the anointing of the Holy Spirit, the word anointing found here is used in the NT only with God as the subject and the Holy Spirit as the object. God is the Holy one, but in John’s gospel Jesus is the holy one, “We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God” (John 6:69). In addition Jesus will send the Holy Spirit who “will teach them the truth (John 15:26; 16:7, 12–15)” (Kruse, 103).

By way of contrast, the antichrists who have already gone out from John’s apostolic circle are the ones who are not anointed by God and do not know the truth about Jesus (2:22-23)

  • They deny Jesus is the Christ, the messiah.
  • They deny the Father and the Son.
  • They do not confess the Son or the Father.
  • They try to deceive the true believers (v. 26).

Who are these antichrists? Are they even Christians? For John, they are not believers. Either they have rejected their faith or were never really believed in the first place. it is possible they are Jewish Christians who have rejected the idea that Jesus is the Messiah, or they could be Gentiles who have rejected the Jewish-ness of the Christian faith. We just do not know enough to be sure since we do not have anything reporting their side of this conflict with John and the apostolic churches in Ephesus.

Who Is the Antichrist?But do they think are Christians? As Kruse says, “In their own minds they had not ceased to be Christians, but the author believed they had, for no one could hold their Christology and still remain a Christian” (Kruse, 105). They are Christians who deny something fundamental about Jesus that he is messiah or the son of God, or (as John says later) that Jesus came in the flesh.

Why have they denied Jesus as the messiah? We cannot know for sure since we do not have the writings of the opponents. But if they were Jewish Christians, it is possible the idea of a crucified messiah was offensive to them. If they were Gentiles, converts from the Greco-Roman paganism of Ephesus, perhaps they had no idea what the Jewish Messiah was or why that concept was necessary for being a believer in Christ.

Because the readers have the Holy Spirit, they do not need anyone to tell them the truth. Whether that is the author of the letter, verse 21, or those who have gone out from John’s church.

For John, the ultimate test is one’s confession of Jesus. John will develop what a person must confess about Jesus in the following verses, but for now his point is the ones who have eternal life have confessed the Son and the Father has anointed them with the Holy Spirit.

This is the challenge for me as I read this passage. I find it very easy to look at another Christian denomination, one with a different theological approach than mine, or maybe one that is more legalistic (or more liberal) than me, and think of them as “not really Christians.” But if their Christology is biblical and they demonstrate the love of God, then I cannot really dismiss them even if I don’t like something about their doctrine or practice. This ought to lead to a more broad view of Christianity.

On the other hand, there are groups with claim to be Christian that have denied a biblical Christology (so theologically liberal) or do not practice love towards others. It is possible someone might have proper doctrine and practice hate towards people (common in extremely conservative Christian groups). Someone might demonstrate the love of God to all people in amazing ways, but really have no clue what the Bible actually says about Jesus. For John, both of these extremes are dangerous and obscure the truth of the Gospel. Real Christianity is not just proper beliefs, nor is it just proper behavior. Real Christianity is a balance of both doctrine and practice.

10 thoughts on “1 John 2:20-23 – Who is the Antichrist?

  1. Phillip-thank you for posting! I heard about this from Michael Heiser who referred me to Roger D Aus’ article and commentary. Good work. Thanks. Mark

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  2. Some nice points in this article…

    1Jn 2:19 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.

    Also what Antichrist means? it means “in the place of”. Who claims to be in the place of Christ.

    Paul describes him as “the man of lawlessness” (changing the commandments of God as given on mount Sinai) that sits in the temple of God and exalts himself, which usually only the popery has done and does.
    2Th 2:4 Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God.

    2Th 2:11 And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie:
    2Th 2:12 That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.

    God will give them what they want, to see what will be the results of their wickedness, as to the Pharaoh of old and they that follow the Antichrist will be damned (condemned).

    1Jn 4:2 Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God:
    1Jn 4:3 And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world.

    That spirit of antichrist is been there at that time and then displayed when he sat in the temple of God, pretending that he is God.

    To understand more study the book of Daniel and Revelation.
    1Jn 2:19  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. 

    Also what Antichrist means? it means “in the place of”. Who claims to be in the place of Christ.

    Paul describes him as “the man of lawlessness” (changing the commandments of God as given on mount Sinai) that sits in the temple of God and exalts himself, which usually only the popery has done and does.
    2Th 2:4  Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God. 

    2Th 2:11  And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: 
    2Th 2:12  That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness. 

    God will give them what they want, to see what will be the results of their wickedness, as to the Pharaoh of old and they that follow the Antichrist will be damned (condemned).

    1Jn 4:2  Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: 
    1Jn 4:3  And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world. 

    That spirit of antichrist is been there at that time and then displayed when he sat in the temple of God, pretending that he is God.

    To understand more study the book of Daniel and Revelation.

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  3. Hillary Clinton is not the Antichrist. Whew, there, I said it. In all seriousness though, the ability to understand who and what the Antichrist is important for us Christians because in the last days they will be prevalent. We don’t know when the last days will bet. It could be next week, so this is why we need to be fervent in our efforts to identify who they are. According to John, the Antichrist are simply non believers. Does this mean that all non-believers are the Antichrist? I think that would be a bit of a stretch. If we took what John says as literal there, then that means that all people who do not believe in the Lord Jesus are the Antichrist? So my dear aunt Janet is the Antichrist as well? Well if we take it literal, then yes. If we view that the other 6 billion people on this earth who aren’t christian as the Antichrist, then how difficult is that going to make it to evangelize to them?

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  4. It seems as though this title for your post is click-bate. It does not talk about THE antichrist. It talks about people who oppose right doctrine or orthodoxy. Thus leading to people who do not have orthopraxy or right practice. John is writing to Christians about how they have the truth and can be confident in it because of the Holy Spirit given to them (v. 20). They have been enlightened. This may or may not be evident to another believer. The only way that one could see this evidence is by the fruit that the believer bears. If the believer is bearing fruit that aligns with the virtues of Christ then it is quite possible that this person has the Holy Spirit inside of them. While this is an external proof it will always be subjective. People can seem to bear fruit and have bad doctrine. People can seem to have correct doctrine and not bear fruit.
    The balance that your post comes to reminds me of Aristotle’s idea of The Golden Mean. Things are better when balanced. Orthodoxy and orthopraxy become beneficial when in balance with one another. The difficulty that it seems like John is coming to is whether or not the believer believes the same thing as him (clearly not). A title does not always define the same thing. John’s definition of a Christian is different than his “antichrist’s” definition (v. 22). This is similar to my definition being different than a Westboro Baptist’s definition of a Christian. They would still say they are Christians but I do not see the same fruit that Christ bore coming from them. Real Christianity must reflect Christ. In knowledge and faith. In doctrine and practice.

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  5. Reading this blog, showed some examples of those who consider antichrists, denial and deception of Yehoshua being the Son of Elohim, rejection of the faith in him. Does the denial of the faith consider those of not being anointing by God? What does anointing looks like on a person? Can God still use those in the world who are brokenhearted, sinners, addicts, to bring news to the one that needs confirmation? How do we determine if someone is anointed? Who gives us the right to analyze someone’s condition of the heart and their relationship with God, if they believe or not? This blog, has me thinking more of how to approach this blog. I’m too, can’t quite give an answer to this blog, other than researching and mediate in the Lord. I think we should be careful with this term antichrist, and the assumptions.

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