Thursday, February 9, 2017

John, and the “Instead-of-Christ” Movement

In John’s first epistle, he warned that an “anti-Christ” movement had become very strong (2:18; 4:3), but to perceive his meaning, we must understand that in first century Greek, anti did not mean “against” as it does today; rather, it meant “instead of ”.  For example, Jesus said, “What father among you, when a son asks for bread, will give him a stone?  Or also a fish, he won’t give him a snake instead of [anti] a fish, will he?” (Lk. 11:11).  So, what John meant by “anti-Christ” is “instead of Christ”, not “against Christ”.
This agrees with Paul’s description of false teachers who, he said, considered themselves to be apostles of Christ (2Cor. 11:13).  Those men did not present themselves as enemies of Christ, nor did they speak evil of him.  If they had done so, no believers would have followed them.  What those men did was to proclaim – in Jesus’ name – a gospel different from the true one, and by doing that, they persuaded God’s people of a way of worship different from the right way.  And by doing that, they were, in fact, teaching a Jesus that was different from the real Jesus, and a spirit that was different from the real Spirit of God, just as Paul said (2Cor. 11:4; cp. Gal. 1:6–7).  They were not opposed to the name, “Jesus”, or to the word, “God”; they just offered a different Christ than the true one.
John called such men “deceivers”, adding that they had “gone out [from the faithful saints] into the world” (2Jn. 1:7).  It is important to note that John did not say that the deceivers had come in from the world.  Sinners of the world would not come into the Assemblies of God to proclaim any kind of gospel at all.  These “instead-of-Christ” ministers were believers who “went out from us, but they were not of us, for if they were of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out that they might be exposed” (1Jn. 2:19).  John’s point was that those men did not stay among “us”; that is, the believing Jews.  James referred to brothers who had gone out from the Assembly in Jerusalem to teach believing Gentiles not to trust in Christ alone, but to trust also in the law: “We have heard that certain men among us, to whom we gave no charge, went out from here and troubled you with words, saying you must be circumcised and keep the law. . . .” (Acts 15:24).  These were some of the men who, as John said, “went out from us,” but “were not of us.”
Finally, it should be noted that the word “anti-Christ” does not appear in the book of Revelation.  And it does not appear in that book of prophecy because Revelation concerns the future, and the “instead-of-Christ” movement was already going strong in John’s day.  John had no need to prophesy of a future enemy of God named “the Anti-Christ”, for he said, “even now, many have become anti-Christs” (1Jn. 2:18).
You need not look for the anti-Christ to come in the future.  As my father, “Preacher Clark”, once said, “The anti-Christ has been here so long, God’s people have forgotten about him.”