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The Last Hour

Sermon Transcript

What does it mean to live in the last hour? Join Dr. Marty Baker as we take a look at 1 John 2:18.

The New Testament Church no sooner got off the proverbial ground than nefarious false teachers infiltrated its ranks seeking to destroy its unity and minimize its societal impact.  Exhibit A is the church in Galatia.

            “Christian” Jews, who taught that salvation consisted of faith in Jesus coupled with strict adherence to the Mosaic Law and Jewish ceremonial traditions, sought to convince unsuspecting church members of the validity of their position and the vacuous nature of the gospel Paul had presented to the various churches in the area.  Realizing the high spiritual stakes of this game, Paul quickly moved to counter their destructive, disruptive teaching with the truth about the gospel in his powerful, pointed letter we know as the book of Galatians.

            After some cordial and brief opening remarks, Paul took these false teachers to task with these moving words:

6 I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; 7 which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you, and want to distort the gospel of Christ. 8 But even though we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to that which we have preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to that which you received, let him be accursed (Gal. 1).

In the rest of the book, Paul made sure these saints knew the earmarks of a false gospel: (1) It views Christ’s death as insignificant (Gal. 2:21), (2) It stresses perpetual obedience to legalistic laws as the basis of salvation (Gal. 3:12), (3) It places a premium value on garnering favor with God through the continual observance of certain religious rituals, and (4) It seeks to shackle a person to endless laws, rules, and regulations.

            What happens if a believer gets sucked into false doctrinal teaching?  Here’s Paul’s warning and answer in Galatians 5. I like how the NIV translates verse 4:

4 You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.”

“Alienated” is from the Greek ekpipto ( ἐκπίπτω ). It is a nautical term referring to a ship drifting off course.  The active nature of the verb denotes the drifting originated in a willful decision of the saint.  Did he lose his salvation? No. He lost the freeing heart of the gospel of grace and intimacy with Jesus as the sole provider of his salvation.  Getting back on the proper spiritual course was (is) possible for this saint. All he had to do was pull out of the false theological current, and Paul anticipated this when he stated this in verse 10:

10 I have confidence in you in the Lord, that you will adopt no other view; but the one who is disturbing you shall bear his judgment, whoever he is.

Paul wouldn’t have made this point if he had lost his salvation. On the contrary, he would have called the person to get saved. But he didn’t do this because he knew the relationship with Jesus wasn’t terminated, just tarnished. And he had confidence the saint would do the right thing.

            What happened in the province of Galatia in 49 A.D. took on a new form when John pastored the churches in Asia Minor some forty years later.  False teachers sought to ween believers from a proper understanding of Jesus as the perfect God-man and adopt a twisted view of His person.  Their teaching wasn’t akin to that of the Judaizers; however, it bore the same legalistic traits: Believe as we do and do as we say, or you are not true believers.  The result of their false teaching was the same:  Internal fighting between the theological have and have nots flourished, relationships were marred, and some saints lost the joy of their once innocent walk with Jesus.

            Satan’s strategy against the Church hasn’t changed in the last 2,000 years.  He still sends false teachers to infiltrate churches and re-educate believers as Jude says, “unnoticed” (Jude 1:4).

4 For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. (Jude 1).

Their teaching eventually reveals, as Jude wrote in this verse, its utter disdain for the position of Jesus as Lord, Messiah, and Savior. And once Jesus isn’t THE Lord, then man can be the Lord of his life and live a sexual deviant life (masquerading as a holy, moral life) because he is accountable to no one but himself.

            This is what the Gnostics believed and did in John’s day, and it is an ever-increasing issue in our day.  You can believe in Jesus as truth; just don’t judge those who hold to other forms of religious truth.  Furthermore, let people enjoy sexuality and gender as they see fit, and certainly don’t judge them.  Jude, like John, didn’t take this tact.  He warned against licentiousness, which is sexual debauchery, because there is limited acceptable behavior before the Lord who fashioned us, and there is a thing called perversion.  Once again, we see today nothing more than ancient godless Gnosticism dressed in different clothes, and some churches are reeling from its infiltration.

            To churches in Asia Minor that contended with this type of destructive teaching, John turns in the second chapter of his instructive first letter and answers one significant question they all needed a quick answer to:

How Should Saints Deal With Destructive Doctrinal Deceptions? (1 John 2:18-24)

John gave his churches and all future churches three answers to this burning question:

Consider The Times (1 John 2:18)

Listen and learn as John introduces us to the type of people who had really done a number on the churches he loved and cared for:

18 Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have arisen; from this we know that it is the last hour (1 John 2).

Lovingly the old pastor educated his sheep concerning the time in which they lived.  He called it “the last hour”  (ἐσχάτη ὥρα).  “Last” is from the Greek eschatos, which means the last in a series.  Here is Danker’s lexical analysis of the keyword:

② pert. to being the final item in a series, least, last in timeⓐ coming last or the last of someth. that is left w. ref. to its relation with someth. preceding Mt 20:12, 14; Mk 12:6, 22; J 8:9 v.l. Opp. πρῶτος (2 Ch 9:29 al.; Sir 24:28; 41:3): ἀπὸ τῶν ἐ. ἕως τῶν πρώτων Mt 20:8; cp. 27:64; 1 Cor 15:45 (ἔ. also the later of two, as Dt 24:3f ἔ. … πρότερος; hence 1 Cor 15:47 replaced by δεύτερος). Cp. Mt 21:31 v.l. ὁ. ἔ. the latter. Of things τὰ ἔσχατα Rv 2:19; Hv 1, 4, 2. τὰ ἔσχατα (in contrast to τὰ πρῶτα as Job 8:7; TestSol 26:8) the last state Mt 12:45; Lk 11:26; 2 Pt 2:20. Of the creation in the last days ποιῶ τ. ἔσχατα ὡς τ. πρῶτα (apocryphal quot.; cp. Hippolytus, Comm. on Daniel 4:37) B 6:13.ⓑ w. ref. to a situation in which there is nothing to follow[1]

Rightly, then, did ancient theologians use this word to denote the field of Eschatology or study of the end times.  Therefore, the “last hour” represents the final time of human history before the coming of the Lord and Savior, Jesus, the true Messiah (Matt. 24; Rev. 19).

            Many other New Testament divinely inspired writers shared John’s analysis about the close, really imminent, nature of the Lord’s return as He promised (Matt. 21:33-44; Luke 19:11-27).

2 in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. (Heb. 1:2 NAS)

5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. (Phil. 4:5 NIV)

7 Be patient, therefore, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. Behold, the farmer waits for the precious produce of the soil, being patient about it, until it gets the early and late rains. 8 You too be patient; strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. 9 Do not complain, brethren, against one another, that you yourselves may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing right at the door. (Jas. 5:7-9 NAS)

God who lives outside of time and space as we know it, and who calculates time differently than we do (8 But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day, (2 Peter 3) warns us repeatedly we are living on the brink of His glorious and ominous arrival to set things straight when He erects His Davidic empire (Isa. 2; 9).  I’d dare say since it was the “last hour” in John’s day, we must be at the “last second” stage of God’s eschatological program for humankind.

            What’s the practical point of this eschatological truth?  Peter gives us a clear, motivational answer:

1 Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, 12 looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, on account of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat! 13 But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells. 14Therefore, beloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless, (2 Peter 3).

Put differently, Christ’s imminent arrival should move you to embrace a holy life quickly.  That means dropping old beliefs which aren’t biblical but emotional, confessing ingrained sin and moving toward freedom, keeping tabs on what’s playing in the theater of your mind, watching how you treat and talk to each other, and so forth.

            How do we know it is the “last hour” in God’s toleration of sin and sinners as He prepares to reveal Himself?  Simple. We note the presence of what John calls little anti-Christs, who are merely precursors to the final Anti-christ.  Read again what John wrote:

18 Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have arisen; from this we know that it is the last hour (1 John 2).

The NAS doesn’t place an article “the” before the “antichrist” here, while the NIV does.  Both are correct insofar as John spoke here about the fact all saints had been forewarned concerning the coming of THE Anti-christ.  Daniel gives us great detail about him in his interpretations of historically specific and explicit visions God gave him concerning the end of time:

23 "Thus he said: 'The fourth beast will be a fourth kingdom on the earth, which will be different from all the other kingdoms, and it will devour the whole earth and tread it down and crush it. 24 'As for the ten horns, out of this kingdom ten kings will arise; and another will arise after them, and he will be different from the previous ones and will subdue three kings. 25 'And he will speak out against the Most High and wear down the saints of the Highest One, and he will intend to make alterations in times and in law; and they will be given into his hand for a time, times, and half a time. 26 'But the court will sit for judgment, and his dominion will be taken away, annihilated, and destroyed forever. 27 'Then the sovereignty, the dominion, and the greatness of all the kingdoms under the whole heaven will be given to the people of the saints of the Highest One; His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all the dominions will serve and obey Him' (Dan. 7).

This vile, vicious politician will rise to oppose God and God’s people and attempt to set himself up as God.  Daniel reveals how God will eventually move at the appearance of the Messiah to destroy him and his forces before establishing His kingdom of peace, righteousness, and justice.

            Yet, before the Anti-christ’s termination, God will permit him to do what is prophesied of him.

  1. He appears on the scene in the “latter times” of Israel’s history (Dan. 8:23).
  2. He will not appear until the Day of the Lord has begun (2 Thess. 2:2).
  3. His manifestation is presently hindered by the Restrainer (2 Thess. 2:6-7).
  4. He will be revealed when the Restrainer is removed (2 Thess. 2:1-3).
  5. He is a Gentile because he arises from the sea (Rev. 13:1).
  6. He comes from the revived Roman empire because he is from those who destroyed Jerusalem (Dn. 9:26).
  7. He is the head of the last form of Gentile world power, for he is like a leopard, a bear, and a lion (Rev. 13:1).
  8. He rules over all nations (Rev. 13:8).
  9. He eliminates three of the ten world leaders in his rise to power (Dan. 7:8, 24).
  10. His rise comes through a peace program (Dan. 8:25).
  11. He is noted for intelligence and persuasiveness (Dan. 7:8, 20; 8:23).
  12. He rules with absolute authority (Dan. 11:36).
  13. His chief interest is might and power (Dan. 11:38).
  14. He makes a peace treaty with Israel as the head of the new world government (Dan. 9:27).
  15. He introduces idolatrous worship (Dan. 9:27).
  16. He is a blasphemer who assumes deity status (Ezek. 28:2; Dan. 7:25; Rev. 13:1, 5-6).
  17. He is energized by Satan (Ezek. 28:9-12; Rev. 13:4).
  18. He is the head of Satan’s lawless systems (2 Thess. 2:3).
  19. He is seen as “God” because of the blindness of the people (2 Thess. 2:11).
  20. He becomes the great adversary of Israel, more than any other (Dan. 7:21, 25; 8:24; Rev. 13:7).
  21. An alliance will come against him (Ezek. 28:7; Dan. 11:40).
  22. In the ensuing conflict, he will gain control over Palestine and adjacent territory (Dan. 11:42).
  23. He will rise to power with the help of a corrupt religious system that seeks to dominate him (Rev. 17:3).
  24. He destroys the false religious system so he can rule unhindered (Rev. 17:16-17).
  25. He becomes THE adversary of the Prince of princes (Dan. 8:25).
  26. He is in power for seven years (Dan. 7:25; 9:27; 11:36; Rev. 13:5).
  27. The direct judgment of God will terminate his rule God as he is engaged in a military campaign in Palestine (Ezek. 28:6; Dan. 7:22, 26; 8:25; 9:27; 11:45; Rev. 19:19-20).
  28. He will be thrown into the Lake of Fire (Rev. 19:20; Ezek. 28:10).

All of this is what he prophesied to do when he arrives.

            What will the Anti-christ’s be like? How does Scripture describe his character?

  1. He will be a liar to his core (2 Th. 2:11) and kill godly people because they dare challenge him (Dan. 7:21, 25; Rev. 13:7).
  2. He will be insolent toward God and not fear Him, for he will speak monstrous, blasphemous things against Him (Dan. 11:36; Rev. 13:5-6).
  3. He will be ‘shall do according to his will” (Dan. 11:36), meaning he will lead according to what he thinks is right while rejecting all forms of wisdom and counsel. It will be his way or no way.
  4. He will be overbearing in his attitude and feel he has all the answers, for he ‘shall exalt himself, and magnify himself (Dan. 11:36).
  5. He will ‘think to change the times…. and the laws (Dan. 7:25), meaning old traditions will be irrelevant to him, whatever holidays you enjoyed will be a thing of the past, and rules will be flexible and fluid . . . simply a tool to be used to control the masses.
  6. This shepherd will also be an ‘idol” shepherd (Zech. 11:17). The word ‘idol’ means ‘something worthless’ (particularly as an object of worship), gods, idols and is used primarily in Scripture to describe vain objects of worship, i.e., the gods of this world. These worthless gods or idols even included people whom men trusted but who were deceitful and of no value (Job. 13:4; Isa. 19:3; Zech. 11:17).
  7. Thus, the shepherd of Zechariah 11:15-17 will be a person who, through deceit, will convince people to put their trust in him as a god, even though he is not a god” (Renald Showers,“Maranantha: Our Lord Come!,” p. 107). Talk about a power-hungry politician.
  8. Natural affection of women will be unnatural for him, as Daniel foretells, “And he will show no regard for the gods of his fathers or for the desire of women, nor will he show regard for any other god; for he will magnify himself above them all” (Dan. 11:37). This means he will either have a disdain for women, or he will not sexually prefer them.  Either way, he has significant issues.  This verse informs us he will also not recognize any other earthly religion, for he will view himself as god. So, he won’t just go after Christians in a big way; he will eliminate all religious opposition.

This is a brief sketch of the Anti-christ John references.

            Why is it essential for saints to know about this godless man who will attempt to overthrow God’s rule, wipe out God’s truth, eliminate the gospel, and finally deal with the Jewish “problem”?  It is essential insofar as little anti-christs are a prelude to his arrival, and I’d go so far as to say we are overrun with them today inside and outside the Church.  Knowing that this wicked man is coming and what he is like helps us identify those who serve his purposes before his arrival.  They are merely his sinister shock troops meant to soften the ground so he can get the world to follow after him in lockstep.

            What are these little anti-christs like?  Just like the Anti-christ.

  • They profess to speak truth when, in reality, they push lies to deceive.
  • They act like they respect Christians when, in reality, they detest them and can’t wait to silence and control them, so their moral voice doesn’t bother them anymore.
  • They bring their deviant doctrines into unsuspecting churches under the guise of love, tolerance, kindness, and compassion, knowing they are not about true love and are the most intolerant, unkind, and uncompassionate people to walk the planet.
  • They look to smear and create dirt to silence and sideline godly leaders, as they did with Christ.
  • They attempt to shame believers when they are full of shame. They did the same to Christ when they called him various names like “he has a demon” (Luke 7:33; John 7:20).
  • They get people to turn against godly leaders as they did in the churches of Corinth, Colossae, Galatians, etc.
  • They create chaos and disunity wherever they plant themselves.
  • They are lawless but wrap themselves in the law to push their lawlessness.
  • They will eventually say things about God no sane person ever would.
  • They oppose Jesus, as we shall see in our subsequent stud being the true God-man and Messiah.

In sum, these little antichrists come across as being pro-Christ and Christianity, but this is merely a ruse, so they earn your trust and respect to ultimately deceive you and sideline your faith . . . and your church.

            Therefore, John’s statement in this verse couldn’t have been more timely and instructive. When you know you live in the time in which the world is prophesied to be over-run with the spirit of the Anti-christ (which is currently is as we watch lawlessness flourish), when you know what the characteristics of the Anti-christ are, you are better suited to identify them to hold false teachers accountable and to protect yourself, your family, your friends, and your church. You are also encouraged, for you know these times must unfold for God’s kingdom program to be fulfilled.  Yes, wickedness will run its course, but it will be held accountable by the living God in due time.  Further, knowing that falsity is prophesied to flourish before the end and be promulgated by an endless number of evil evangelists, we are reminded by God of the importance of standing up for truth, no matter what.

            Are you ready to stand sure-footed with us?

            Are you ready to hold the doctrinal line?

            Are you ready to walk away from false teaching be what it may?

                  [1] William Arndt et al., A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 397.