by Spiros Zodhiates, Ph.D.

From The Epistles of John, AMG Publishing,  
Reprinted by permission from the October 2005 Pulpit Helps.

Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; 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 (I John 2:18-19).

The antichrists were part of the distinct group of those known as belonging to Christ - shown by the preposition ek, out of, not ap, from - but in reality they did not all belong to Christ Himself. Such was Judas, who belonged to the Twelve but not to Christ.

The antichrists, as in the case of Judas, can delude anybody but God. They can pretend they belong to a group but they really do not. They are religious characters, members of a church, but not necessarily members of Christs body. As one reads the letters to the seven churches of Asia Minor in Revelation 2 and 3, one can easily discern that in every church there are both true believers, who fall short of Gods expectation in their lives and need to repent of their sins (cf. 1 John 1:9-10; 2:1-2), and unsaved individuals who need to initially repent and be saved.

The antichrists deceive people into believing that they are part and parcel of the believing group, while in reality they were not and are not part of the body of Christ - for anyone who could dismember the body of Christ would be stronger than Christ.

Such people, as Judas, were and are following Christ for some ulterior motive, but true believers are those whose genuine faith is recognized by Christ and are held firmly by Him (1 Cor. 8:3). Of these Christ said, [I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand] (John 10:28). Our hold on Christ can never be sure, but His hold on us as true believers is always firm and adequate.

But they were not of us. The not is ou, the imperfect of eim, to be, which follows the ou. It is as if John were saying, They never were part of us. He does not say, They are not now part of us, implying that they may have been at a time in the past but are no more. Had they been born again, they would still be.

For if they had [really] been of us uses the suppositional conjunction ei,if. This expresses a condition which is merely hypothetical and separate from all experience; that is, a mere subjective possibility, thus differing from en,if (of a real objective possibility). Thus the meaning is that if they really had been an integral part of us [which they could not have been], they would then have certainly remained with us.

[They would no doubt have continued with us] is memenekeisan, the pluperfect of mnō, to remain, used repeatedly in Johns epistles. The idea conveyed is that it is impossible for one to remain a part of the body if he was never attached to or baptized into the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:13) in the first place. The ei, if of suppositional unreality, is followed by n, a particle of certainty - which could have been translated as surely, certainly, or no doubt (KJV), but in most English texts usually remains untranslated.

[But they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us]. Hypocrites are finally unmasked by God and shown to be the opposite of what they were thought to be. Judas never evidenced his coming betrayal. It was Jesus who revealed him (John 13:26). Until the very last moment, Judas pretended he was a friend of Christ by kissing Him (Matt. 26:47-49; Mark 14:44-45; Luke 22:47-48). Kissing has always been a sign of endearment and affection, not betrayal. The antichrists are eventually shown to be enemies who had never really been true friends.

Saving faith exercised by man is by the Holy Spirit (Eph. 1:13); then man is indwelt by God (Rom. 8:9) and becomes part of the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:13; Col. 1:27). In this spiritual church there can be no fakes because the acceptance into it is by the Holy Spirit.

From The Epistles of John, AMG Publishing, by Spiros Zodhiates.
Reprinted by permission from the October 2005 Pulpit Helps.

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