1 John 2:18-19 discusses the idea of an “anti-Christ”. This theme was a big part of my childhood, because for many years I grew up attending with my family a church in the family of Adventist denominations called “Church of God”. Like many early Adventist groups, their key focus was discovering how the end would come through a careful study of Revelation. They preached often about who the final opponent of God would be, about the day Christ battled this world leaders’ armies at Armageddon, and how to have your lives ready for a fearful judgment. People feared committing that one sin, which each preacher suggested was something different, that marked you as a follower of the anti-Christ.
It is interesting how the elder John, traditionally understood as either the same writer as the John who wrote Revelation or in the same community as him, talks about anti-Christ. Here, John talks about an anti-Christ as not some figure at the end of time but rather an attitude of denying Christ. All who deny Christ are anti-Christ’s, those who oppose Jesus and his work.
Read in this way, this descriptor is no longer a cause for fear or sensationalism. It is a call for self-examination. Are we denying Christ in some way? As Peter Rollins once suggested, if we are honest all of us do at times deny Jesus. He writes,
“Without equivocation or hesitation I fully and completely admit that I deny the resurrection of Christ. This is something that anyone who knows me could tell you, and I am not afraid to say it publicly, no matter what some people may think…
“I deny the resurrection of Christ every time I do not serve at the feet of the oppressed, each day that I turn my back on the poor; I deny the resurrection of Christ when I close my ears to the cries of the downtrodden and lend my support to an unjust and corrupt system.
“However there are moments when I affirm that resurrection, few and far between as they are. I affirm it when I stand up for those who are forced to live on their knees, when I speak for those who have had their tongues torn out, when I cry for those who have no more tears left to shed.”
I do not think John’s words about anti-Christ are here to challenge us, as the preachers I heard as a child did, to try and determine through charts and symbols some final figure to avoid, nor to cause us to be raked over the coals of guilt and fear that somehow we will not make into that number when “the roll is called up yonder”. Rather I think we are challenged, as Rollins challenges himself, to examine our souls. What actions and attitudes cause us to deny Christ by our actions? These are the anti-Christ to be cleansed from our lives through the Holy Spirit. What actions proclaim Christ? These are that which need to multiplied and grown.
Each of us can with God’s help, be witnesses of Christ’s love and peace through loving and serving each others.