Today’s passage mentions “antichrists”, a reference to those who stand “against” or “opposite” Christ and thus are adversaries, and to those who would stand in his stead (take his place, if you will) and thus are counterfeits or false Christs.
John writes that these antichrists have certain unmistakable characteristics. In earlier verses, for instance, he has told us that two such characteristics are disobedience to the commands of Christ and a lack of love for one another.
In these verses, John gives us still more ways to recognize antichrists. In verses 18-19, we see that those who do not continue in Christian fellowship, or who do not remain in community with fellow believers, make their true status in relation to Christ known. Those who love and follow Jesus will be in deep and profound relationship with others who are so devoted.
And then in verses 20-25, we see that antichrists deny the faith. They deny the true identity of Jesus the Christ as the unique incarnation of God the Father, who is indeed one with the Father so that whoever has the Son has the Father also. In so denying the identity of Jesus, they also deny his exclusive claim on our lives as our Lord and Savior.
In sharing with us characteristics such as these, John’s hope is that we would recognize such people for what they are, and thus hold fast to the truth. His hope is that we would not be deceived, but instead continue to abide in Jesus.
Clearly, antichrists continue to exist in the world today. They exhibit the same characteristics outlined in the First Letter of John, and so can be recognized today just like they were so many years ago. Like John’s earliest readers, we too must be diligent in holding to the truth, professing both by our words and our lives that Jesus is the Christ, is God incarnate, is our Lord and Savior. It is only when we do this that we will abide in him