31 December 2013

1 John 2:18-21

“Children, it is the last hour!” (v. 18)


We might think as we read today's passage that we are back in Advent, as there are echoes of the apocalyptic writings that we have set for us in those early weeks of that season. John is clearly writing to a group of people who have been going through a period of great stress - in the previous passage he has been warning against becoming too worldly in their outlook. Here he is warning of the antichrist who is rumoured to be coming but also of those who already there amongst them.

We are not told what temptations are being put in the way of people by those so named, but it is clear that whoever they are they are disturbing the equilibrium of the people and causing divisions within that early group of Christian believers. We can perhaps imagine the kind of abuses of faith which have occurred: misuse of money given to help the poor; encouraging arrogance amongst the believers; undermining the teaching being given by those designated as leaders within the community maybe?

John is urging his readers to stick to the truth and not to listen to those who will undermine the truth. In verse 20 he reminds them that, through the Holy Spirit, they will be able to discern the truth and have the strength to stand up against the antichrist both amongst the community there and also those who will come in the future.

The people to whom the letter was written were living with the understanding that the promise of Jesus that he would come again was imminent, that it could come any minute. There have been so many false alarms over the centuries that now very few people even consider that the day will come when he will come as the Christ to judge the world. Rather they ignore the commands or are happy to follow the antichrist who tempts them away from the demands that faith places upon them. Perhaps from time to time we should remember that 'we do not know the hour'.

To Ponder

  • Read the hymn "There is a redeemer" (Singing the Faith 338). Reflect upon the words focusing on the description of Jesus the hymnwriter places before us. Hold them as a talisman as it were when faced with some of the conflicts that come upon you day by day.
  • Where do you see the antichrist at work today and how would you recognise him or her?
  • To what extent are divisions within those who would call themselves Christian caused not by divisions in doctrine but through the work of those who wish to destroy their faith by dividing them from one another?

Bible notes author

The Revd Pat Billsborrow

Pat Billsborrow is a supernumerary minister in the Northwich and Winsford Circuit, and is at present part of a district ministry team working within that circuit with pastoral care of four churches. She is ecumenical officer in the Cheshire part of the Chester and Stoke on Trent Methodist District.