Bible Study for Feb. 24: When false religions deceive

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1 John 2:18-29
Gregg Potts, lay minister

Back in the early nineties, I was pastor of a church in Mississippi. One day while making some prospect visits, I met a lady who was a member of a cult, a false religion. I asked her how she had gotten involved with the false religion. The lady told me that this group of people had helped her at some point and that’s why she was part of that group.

Now get the picture; here is a lady who was not religious, but she needed help. I am not being critical of her, but she knew little to nothing about religion. At a time of need in her life, these people who are a part of what we as Christians would refer to as a cult, showed up in her life. This lady needed help and these people offered to help. And, she liked these people because they helped her, and she joined their false religion.

She isn’t the only person that’s ever done that. This lady had no idea this religious group was false. And quite honestly, she probably wouldn’t have cared if she knew. What she did know was she needed help and these people helped her. This group of people was masquerading as “angels of light,” as Paul referred to them in II Corinthians 11:14.

There are many false religions, as there were in the first century. The apostle John deals with it in the epistle of I John. In the first century, there were false messiahs and people who were considered antichrists. An “antichrist” was someone who did not have the spirit of Christ. Many times, antichrists were somewhat difficult to discern. An antichrist could, at times, look like and sound like the real Christ.

Just as Christians in the first century needed to be alert to “Antichrists,” Christians today need to be alert to false religions. In I John, the apostle John talks about the need to discern if antichrists were present.

As we look at this lesson, we see that John talks first, about…

The presence of the antichrist

John warned, “It is the last hour.” The phrase “last hour” is used in Scripture to refer to the times before Jesus returns. John wrote this in the first century. Nineteen-hundred-years have passed since. So, was John wrong? No, he wasn’t. We have been living in the “last days” since Jesus ascended to heaven.

“Antichrist” is a word which occurs only in John’s letters in the New Testament (I Jn.

2:22; I John 4:3; II Jn. 1:7). The word refers to those who distort the truth about Christ as well as those who oppose Christ. New Testament scholar William Barclay says, “The simplest way to think of it is that Christ is the incarnation of God and goodness, and Antichrist is the incarnation of the devil and evil” (cf. Barclay’s Study Bible.)

In verse19, John wrote, “They went out from us.” Then John added, “They did not really belong to us.” That phrase could be more accurately translated, “they were not of us.” This means that these men did not share the spirit of perspective of those in the apostolic circle because if they had, secession would not have taken place. A man who is in-touch with God will submit to apostolic instruction.

John also used the word “antichrists” to refer to people who had left the church. These were normally people who don’t care for the direction a church was going. When this kind of thing happens, I have seen times when these people would be criticized or maybe labeled by others. Just because someone disagrees with you doesn’t make them the antichrist.

In verse 19 John said, “But you have an anointing from the Holy One and all of you know the truth” (20). At times, someone may refer to a Preacher as “He is anointed.” What does this mean? In the Old Testament, oil was poured or rubbed on priests, prophets, or kings as an act of dedication to God’s purposes. However not all anointing was done with oil. Some Bible commentators think John’s use of the word “charisma” refers to guidance or anointing from the Holy Spirit.

The problem of the antichrist

In verses 21-25, John indicates the problems that the antichrist presents. John asks, “Who is the liar, if not the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ?” John adds, “This one is the antichrist; the one who denies the Father and the Son.”

So, the antichrist is someone who denies that Jesus is Christ. False teachers have always been around. The early Christians dealt with them and we deal with them today. Some of the television preachers are good but some of them teach what is known as “prosperity” gospel. Prosperity gospel teaches that if you give to the ministry of that Preacher, God will bless you. Be careful about this type of thing.

Today, false religious groups lead people astray. Because of that, we have to be alert to the presence and influence of the teaching of false religious groups.

Years ago, there was an elderly lady that I knew who had begun watching a certain preacher on television. This preacher was preaching false doctrine but she couldn’t be convinced of that. In today’s world, there is lots of false religion on the television or internet or radio.

Finally, John deals with…

The power to deal with the antichrist

In verse 28 John writes, “So now little children, remain in him so that when he appears, we will have confidence and not be ashamed.”

How can we have confidence when Jesus returns? We do it by remaining true to His word. We do it by not being led astray.

John adds that in the “last hour” we acknowledge the truth that Jesus is the Christ.

And how are we to do that? When Jesus ascended, He said the Father would send the spirit of truth who would guide us into all truth. (John 16:13). So, on a daily basis, we ask the Holy Spirit to guide us and help us be discerning.

False religions, unfortunately, do appeal to some people Why? Because most people have very little understanding of Christianity. Which is why we need to be busy about sharing the gospel.

 Some years ago, I read an article in which a police detective explained how he was trained to spot counterfeit money. He wasn’t told to study counterfeit money; instead he was told to study real money. As he learned what real currency looked and felt like he would be better prepared to detect fake currency.

In order to detect someone who is an antichrist, we need to focus on and study the Lord Jesus, the Savior of the world.

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