Vol. 2 - No. 2

February, 1983

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I John 2:18-22

by Randy G. King

“Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrist; whereby we know that it is the last time. 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. But ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things. I have not written unto you because ye know not the truth, but because ye know it, and that no lie is of the truth. Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son.”

It is not the intent of this article to comment on each verse before us but to deal specifically with verse nineteen. What does it say and what does it teach? This is a popular passage often referred to by those who hold the belief of “Impossibility of apostasy,” arguing that when one has apparently fallen away, in fact that one never was really one of us or counted with the saved. Is this what the apostle John was teaching? I think not, but to understand what he does say, it is necessary for us to look much closer at the passage and not lift a verse out of its context.

To begin with we should observe carefully the use of three personal pronouns. In verse nineteen “Us” (first person objective), “They” (third person objective) and in verse twenty “Ye” (second person objective) or “Us” doing the talking, “They” being talked about and “Ye” being talked to. What must be determined then is the Who. Who is “Us,” who are “They” and who is ““Ye”?

John says, “They went out from us but they were not of us.” To determine who “us”“ refers to, we must go to chapter one and verses one through three where John writes, “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of Life; (For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;) That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.” 

As we draw nearer in our observation to what John has said in chapter one we will discover that he defines the “Us” of the second chapter and verse nineteen. Note, he says, “that which WE have heard, have seen with OUR own eyes, have looked upon and OUR hands have handled, the Word of Life.” The “Word of Life” here refers not to the gospel, but rather to the source or as John records in John 1:1, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” He speaks then of Jesus Christ our Lord. Further, in verse 2, “(For the life was manifested, and we have seen it)” as compared with John 1:14, “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we behold his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father) full of grace and truth.” Who was with the Lord in his life; who did he appear to after his resurrection; to whom did Christ commission to go into all the world; who are they that walked for three years by his side, beholding his every action, having personal contact with him daily and who did the Holy Ghost ascend upon on Pentecost? The apostles! Thus the “Us” of verse 19 refers to the apostles.

Who are “They”? “They went out from us but they were not of us.” Look now to verse eighteen and read, “ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrist” and verse twenty-two, “Who is a liar, but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son.” “They” are the antichrist, those who will deny that Jesus is Christ, those who had been among or in the presence or company of the apostles and who would now come claiming to be sent of them, or carrying their message or possibly even promulgating themselves apostles. Notice in Acts 15:1,2 and 22-24 that some Judaizers came to Antioch declaring to all that the apostles had sent them out to teach circumcision after the manner of Moses and unto salvation. In 1 Corinthians 15 others came denying the resurrection of the dead and are seen teaching their false doctrine. (vs. 12). Still in Revelation 2:2 we find that the church at Ephesus had tried them which said they were apostles and were not and found them to be liars. Thus John exhorts the brethren to test those who would claim to be apostles or sent from them or would come declaring to carry the gospel message. If they deny Christ has come to the earth, his resurrection, or teach that which we know not to be the truth (per vs. 21), they are indeed liars and antichrist. Finally, who is the “Ye”? They are the brethren, the children of God to whom John is now writing. The brethren of verse seven and the “Little children” of verse one and eighteen which are the disciples the apostle is now addressing.

In our context we have then the apostles, who had heard, seen, looked upon and touched Christ, warning the brethren or the children of God to beware of and try those who would go out teaching false doctrines, laying claim to being either from the apostles or to be apostles. The children would recognize if these were antichrist or false teachers because they knew the truth.