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by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached on Lord’s Day Morning, August 27, 2006
at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles

“And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world” (I John 4:3).

The heretic Cerenthus lived in the second half of the first century, dying about 100 AD. He was an early Gnostic teacher. As did other Gnostics, he believed that Jesus was an ordinary man, upon whom “the Christ” descended at His baptism, and who departed from Him before the crucifixion, and went back to Heaven. Only the human Jesus was crucified. According to Cerenthus, the “spirit Christ” was another being. This was the heresy of Gnosticism.

The early Christian historian Eusebius quotes Irenaeus, who told of hearing from Polycarp, who was a disciple of John, that John was in a gymnasium in Ephesus when he heard that Cerenthus had entered. John ran out of the gymnasium saying, “The building will collapse because the enemy of truth is inside” (J. D. Douglas, editor, Who’s Who in Christian History, Tyndale House, 1992, p. 148).

Many scholars believe that I John was written against Cerenthus and his false teachings, and the teachings of other early Gnostics, who believed in a Docetic “spirit Christ,” and denied Christ’s human body. It is against this backdrop that our text was given,

“And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world” (I John 4:3).

Let us consider three simple thoughts in this verse.

I. First, the spirits.

Our text says,

“Every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God…” (I John 4:3).

The Apostle John spoke of the Holy Spirit in I John 3:24. Then in the next verse (4:1) the Apostle said,

“Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try [test] the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world” (I John 4:1).

Dr. J. Vernon McGee said,

We are dealing here with the spirit world, and the Bible has a great deal to say about it…Not only are there good angels who serve God, but there are also fallen angels. They too are called spirits in the Scriptures. The Gospels speak a great deal of the fact that in Christ’s day there were “unclean spirits.” That is what is known as demonism; we call them demons because the Scriptures use that term (J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1983, volume 5, pp. 799-800).

Dr. Henry M. Morris said the same thing when he pointed out that, “False teachers are influenced by demonic spirits, I Timothy 4:1” (Henry M. Morris, Ph.D., The Defender’s Study Bible, 1995, note on I John 4:1). The Apostle Paul said,

“We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Ephesians 6:12).

Dr. McGee said, “As this verse [Ephesians 6:12] suggests, the Devil has his demons pretty well organized” (ibid., p. 800). Dr. John MacArthur, though wrong on the Blood, correctly said, “By juxtaposing ‘spirits’ with ‘false prophets’ John reminds his readers that behind human teachers who propagate false doctrine and error are demons inspired by Satan…Human false prophets and teachers are the physical expressions of demonic, spiritual sources” (John MacArthur, D.D., The MacArthur Study Bible, Word Publishing, 1997, note on I John 4:1).

We are told to “try [test, prove] the spirits whether they are of God” (I John 4:1). But how can we test to see if the teachings that we hear are from God – or if they are demonic in origin? That takes us to the next point.

II. Second, the test.

The test is a very simple one. It is given at the beginning of our text,

“Every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God…” (I John 4:3).

Now, I want you to notice one little word here, the word “is.” That is the correct translation. It is translated “has” in all the modern translations, including the New King James. But the word “has” does not give us the correct meaning. The English word “is” gives the meaning conveyed in the original Greek. This is not a minor thing at all. Many false teachers are willing to say that Christ “has” come in the flesh. That is not the test here. The test is whether or not they confess that Jesus Christ “is come in the flesh.” The words “is come in the flesh” appear twice, once in verse two and once in verse three, in the Textus Receptus Greek. Both times it is exactly the same in Greek. The Westcott and Hort text leaves this phrase out in verse three. But that makes little difference regarding this test, because this phrase is given in verse 2 as the positive side of the test. The way you can tell whether the teaching is from God, or from demons, is this:

“Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God” (I John 4:2).

Now I am not a Greek scholar. I am a Christian writer and preacher. But I have enough sense to know a Greek scholar when I see one! Dr. A. T. Robertson was a Greek scholar. For many years he was professor of Greek New Testament at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. Dr. Robertson said,

“The test…follows. That Jesus Christ is come in the flesh (Iesoun Christon en sarki eleluthota). The correct text (perfect active participle predicate accusative), not the infinitive (eleluthenai, B Vg). The predicate participle…describes Jesus as already come in the flesh (his actual humanity, not a phantom body as the Gnostics held)” (A. T. Robertson, Ph.D., Word Pictures in the New Testament, Broadman Press, 1933, pp. 229-230).

Thus Dr. Robertson argues for the English word “is” instead of “has.” Dr. Robertson, in his own translation, gives the word “is” rather than “has,” as given in the modern translations, on the basis that the word “eleluthota” is given, not the word “eleluthenai” (is come, not has come) (ibid.).

The Jamieson, Fausset and Brown commentary (William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1976 reprint, note on I John 4:2) makes this crystal clear. Their widely known commentary correctly said,

Man is required to confess it openly, as in teaching. Jesus Christ is come in the flesh – a twofold truth confessed: that Jesus is the Christ; and that he is come [eleluthota, perfect [tense]; not a mere past historical fact [that He has come], but present and continuing in its blessed effects] in the flesh (invested in flesh; not with seeming humanity, as the Docetae [Docetic Gnostic heretics] afterwards taught) (Jamieson, Fausset and Brown, A Commentary on the Old and New Testaments, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., volume III, part three, p. 640).

The perfect tense of “is” indicates the continuation and present state of completed past action. The word “eleluthota” indicates the continuation and present state of a completed past action. The word “eleluthota” indicates the progress of the action is continuing on in full effect. Therefore “is,” in the perfect tense, shows that Christ continues, “is come in the flesh,” not that He “has” come in the flesh. That is the conclusion of both Dr. A. T. Robertson and the Jamieson, Fausset and Brown commentary.

Why is this important? Simply because the words “is come” are as close as you can get to the Greek in an English translation. The first century Apostle tells us that “Christ is come in the flesh” (I John 4:3). This is a far cry from relegating His coming in the flesh to the past. The correct rendering into English is, therefore, “is come in the flesh.” He became flesh in the virgin’s womb. He was born in the flesh. He did His ministry while in the flesh. He rose from the dead in the flesh. He ascended back to Heaven in the flesh – glorified flesh. He is seated at the right hand of God in His resurrected and glorified flesh and bone body. This truth is graphically illustrated in the Gospel of John, when the physically resurrected Christ spoke to doubting Thomas,

“Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side” (John 20:27).

Again it is illustrated when Jesus appeared to His Apostles soon after His physical resurrection and said,

“Why are ye troubled? and why do thoughts arise in your hearts? Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have” (Luke 24:38-39).

Then Jesus went with them to the Mount of Olives,

“And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven” (Luke 24:51).

This was the very same, glorified, resurrected flesh and bone Jesus they had met several times after His bodily resurrection. Then He ascended back to Heaven. The Disciples stood looking up, but two angels said to them after He ascended,

This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11).

Those are not new thoughts. They may seem new, but they are not. That has been the view of mainstream Christians for close to two thousand years. And it all boils down to what our text teaches,

“And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God” (I John 4:3).

Jesus Christ “is” come in the flesh. The “is” there shows it was not something He did only in the resurrection of His body, for He continues to live on in Heaven in that same glorified flesh and bone body today – up in Heaven, at the right hand of God, as we are repeatedly told in the New Testament. Jesus Christ “is” in glorified flesh today. Jesus Chris is come in the flesh!

Anyone who denies that Jesus Christ is incarnate, living right now, in a resurrected and glorified flesh and bone body, has been led astray by Satanic forces. Anyone who says that Jesus is a spirit “is not of God,” but has been led into heresy by “that spirit of antichrist.” Which leads us to the last point.

III. Third, the Antichrist.

Our text tells us of “the spirit of antichrist.” The prefix “anti” can mean “against” or “in place of.” In regard to the word “antichrist” it is both. The “spirit of antichrist” is Satan, and he is “against” Christ, and he wants to put someone else “in place of” Christ. So, the spirit of antichrist is against the real, glorified flesh and bone resurrected Jesus (who is up in Heaven), and the spirit of antichrist puts someone else in His place.

Now, I want you to turn over the page to II John, verse 7. Here again is that same test,

“For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist” (II John 7).

Once again Dr. Robertson upholds the idea of the King James (“is come”) when he says the verse is “treating the Incarnation as a continuing fact which the Docetic Gnostics flatly denied” (Robertson, ibid., p. 253). One of the best tests to tell if a religion is a cult, or a false religion, is simply to ask them, “Is Jesus Christ alive in a flesh and bone resurrected and glorified body right now?” The cults and false religious systems will hedge on it at best – and nearly all of them will say “no” right away. Like the Gnostics of the first century, they believe in a “spirit Christ.”

The weak new-evangelicals will say “He has risen” (in the past), but the King James Bible correctly translates it, “He is risen” (right now!), cf. Matthew 28:7. They want to make Christ’s resurrection a past event. My friend, the bodily resurrection of Christ is not a past event, it is a present reality!

The cults and false religions are against the living Christ, and they put “another Jesus” in His place, and the “other Jesus” is energized by, and counterfeited by demons, as we saw in I John 4:1-3. Satan is the deceiver who lies behind the coming Antichrist. He is “that spirit of antichrist” (I John 4:3).

Now turn back to I John 2:18. Let us stand and read this verse aloud.

“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” (I John 2:18).

You may be seated.

The Apostle John fondly calls these young Christians “little children.” Dr. Zane Hodges said,

John’s general warning against the world is now followed by a warning against one of its end-time manifestations. The readers knew about the predicted [coming] of the Antichrist and needed to be alerted to the appearance of many who would display his traits of hostility towards God’s Christ. This is a clear indication that history has entered a climactic era: the last hour. Despite the lapse of centuries since John wrote, the climax of all things [draws near] in a special way. The stage has been set for history’s final drama (The Bible Knowledge Commentary, New Testament, edited by Dr. John F. Walvoord and Dr. Roy B. Zuck, Victor Books, 1983, note on I John 2:18).

The Tim LaHaye Prophecy Study Bible says,

In this passage [I John 2:18], John reminds his readers that the Antichrist is coming in the future. Then, he adds that many antichrists have already come. These are Christ-denying false teachers who prefigure the ultimate Antichrist yet to come in the future (The Tim LaHaye Prophecy Study Bible, AMG Publications, 2000, note on I John 2:18).

How will we know who the final Antichrist is? I am convinced that he is the “man of sin” spoken of in II Thessalonians 2:3-4,

“Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God” (II Thessalonians 2:4).

Dr. Henry M. Morris said,

He will make a seven-year treaty with Israel…re-establishing their temple worship at Jerusalem, but will break that treaty after three and one-half years, and will install his own…image in the temple, proclaiming himself to be the god whom all men must worship (The Defender’s Study Bible, ibid., note on II Thessalonians 2:4).

Thus, the final Antichrist will be the climax of all those before him who had the “spirit of antichrist” (I John 4:3). The final Antichrist will not pass the test of I John 4:2-3. He will not confess “that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh” (I John 4:3). He will refuse to believe that Jesus Christ alone is God in the flesh (God incarnate).

But Jesus Christ alone is God incarnate. Jesus Christ is the only one who died on the Cross to pay for your sins. Jesus Christ is the only one of whom it can be said,

“He is not here: for he is risen, as he said” (Matthew 28:6).

“It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God” (Romans 8:34).

“He was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God” (Mark 16:19).

And this Jesus is the only true Christ. And this Jesus is the only one who can save you from judgment for your sins. And it is this Jesus that you must come to by faith.

“Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved” 
   (Acts 16:31).

He is coming again, He is coming again,
The very same Jesus, Rejected of men;
He is coming again, He is coming again,
With power and great glory, He is coming again!
   (“He is Coming Again” by Mabel Johnston Camp, 1913).

You can read Dr. Hymers' sermons each week on the Internet
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Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan: II Thessalonians 2:3-8.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“He is Coming Again” (by Mabel Johnston Camp, 1913).



by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

“And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world” (I John 4:3).

I.   First, the spirits, I John 4:3a, 1; Ephesians 6:12.

II.  Second, the test, I John 4:3b, 2; John 20:27; Luke 24:38-39, 51;
Acts 1:11.

III. Third, the Antichrist, II John 7; I John 4:3c; I John 2:18;
II Thessalonians 2:4; Matthew 28:6; Romans 8:34; Mark 16:19;
Acts 16:31.