I John 2:18-23 The Antichrist, Antichrists, And The Truth.
As noted previously, John now addresses those who have grown beyond being babes, to the next stage of their spiritual growth and training as little children. He also defines the context in which he writes about the Antichrist and antichrists. He called it “the last hour.” The KJV translates this as ‘time’, but it is a very specific word, and not the same as, for example, the word translated as ‘time’ at Jude 18-which is kronon, from which we get chronological. Instead, John chooses to use the word ‘hora’ from which we actually get the word ‘hour’, also ‘hora’ in Latin, and ‘hore’ in old French. Strong’s defines it as “hour, instant, short time. There are other occurrences of hora where it would have also been more appropriate to translate it as ‘hour’ and not ‘time’ (Cf. Mt. 18:1; Lk. 14:17; Jn. 16:2, 4, 25; Rev. 14:15-as in v. 7).
Whenever one encounters multiple English translations of the same Greek word, and especially when the context might not be as clear as one would like, it is always best to go to a single verse or passage, from the same human author, where more than one Greek word is translated with the same English word, and ask if it is appropriate. We have such an instance at Romans 13:11. Paul’s audience was called to love, “and do this, knowing the time (kairon), that now it is high time (hora-hour), to awake out of sleep; for now salvation is nearer than when we first believed.” The point here is that hora specifies a shorter time than kairon, in fact the shortest part of kairon that the bible refers to. We also see this in the phrase “day…and at an hour” (Lk. 12:46).
The question then is-the last hour of what? It is highly unlikely that this could be interpreted as an indefinite period of time, for the reasons already given. This would be to make the opposite point of John calling it not only an hour, but the last hour. This would appear to reiterate what Jesus said in Matthew 24:34 when he talked about the tribulations that would come upon that generation. We are helped in this investigation by the distinction which John makes between the Antichrist and antichrists. There is a specific Antichrist that would be coming at that our, but this did not preclude the reality that there were many antichrists already present. It is the very presence of these antichrists that led John to say that the Antichrist was coming in that hour.
Despite the popularity of the word ‘antichrist’, it is interesting to note that John’s letters are the only place we find this word. The critical text (NU) omits any definite article ay verse 18, and in the ESV and other translations, the definite article is not included. This is a critical point, because I John 2:22 does have the definite article in the NU, and thus it is included in the ESV (for example), but then they did not capitalize the Antichrist. This inclusion of the definite article with ‘Antichristos’ is crucial. There is a specific individual to come at their hour, but there is also the spirit of this individual that had already appeared as “many antichrists,” without the definite article (Cf. 4:3). However, John does include the definite article in his second letter at verse 7, but the NKJV does not include it in translation.
John was really saying the same thing in both letters. In the latter he wrote about many deceivers who had gone out into the kosmon, who were doing so under the influence, as it were, of “ho planos kai ho antichristos-the Deceiver and the Antichrist.” The Antichrist and the Deceiver, and the spirit of this individual, manifested itself in many antichrists and deceivers, and they are distinguished by a two key points. Firstly, John says these are those who deny “that Jesus is the Christ” (v. 22a). So they deny that the man Jesus was the promised Messiah. In this denial then, John makes the point that they are also denying the Father, because the fulfillment had been proven. Secondly, anyone who denies that this One has arrived in the flesh are also antichrist (I Jn. 4:3; II Jn. 7).
Couched in this context are the famous words of verse 19. “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us, but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us.” So these were people who at one time were numbered with those who believed that Jesus was the promised Messiah, and that this One had appeared in the flesh. Those who left their number departed from these truths. Furthermore, John says that his readers or hearers knew these truths because they also had the Spirit (vv. 20-21). So here we see a third thing that characterized the true church, and the denial of which characterized the antichrist(s), and that is the Trinity. He who accepts these truths concerning Jesus, also has the Father (vv. 22-23).