by Pastor Joshua Pfeiffer
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Children, it is the last hour! As you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. From this we know that it is the last hour (1 John 2:18).
In connection with the end of this age, St John speaks several times of the mysterious figure of the antichrist. This figure has often been understood as the same one St Paul speaks of as the ‘man of lawlessness’ (2 Thessalonians 2). ‘Anti’ most often means ‘against’ but can also mean ‘in the place of’. Both seem to be in view here. The apostles speak of one who will oppose Christ and his kingdom but also present as a rival or usurper. In other words, one of the sobering things about this prophecy is that the antichrist doesn’t attack the church from without but from within. This manifestation of evil has a religious quality to it. This is why Martin Luther and the Reformers famously understood this to be fulfilled in the papacy of their day.
But notice in our verse that St John also speaks of many antichrists coming in the lead-up to the antichrist. In other words, this title can also be used to describe the ever-present forces at work that seek to contest, destabilise and undo the work of Christ and his church. One of our seminary lecturers quoted the well-known Hermann Sasse on this point (who wrote quite a bit on the antichrist) as saying ‘before you consider who the antichrist may be, ask yourself, “Am I perhaps an antichrist?”’ That’s a confronting comment, to say the least.
As much as the New Testament warns about the coming of the antichrist and the man of lawlessness, so much more does it proclaim Christ’s certain victory over them. As St John says later, ‘the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world’ (1 John 4:4). Christ’s resurrection has conquered the powers of evil once and for all, and what we experience in this world are the death throes. In the face of these events in this ‘last hour’, we are simply called to be vigilant, stand firm and be faithful.
Our Father in heaven, thank you for your Son’s victory over sin, death and the devil. Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Joshua is married to Kimberley. Together they have four children. He is a pastor of the Lutheran Church of Australia and previously served at St Paul’s, Nundah, in Queensland, and Bethlehem, Adelaide, in South Australia. Currently, he is pursuing doctoral studies at Concordia Seminary St Louis, USA, and enjoying the adventure. He posts videos on a YouTube channel called Kairos (www.youtube.com/JoshuaPfeiffer).