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By:  Michael J. Sullivan
Copyright 2008

1) Again, a new commandment I write to you, which thing is true in Him and in you, because the darkness is passing away, and the true light is already shining.” (1Jn. 2:8)  

2)  And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever. Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour.” (1Jn. 2:17-18) 

As we saw in the gospel of John, John is consumed with the wondrous theme of portraying Jesus (and those united to Him in faith) as the new creation of God. Jesus being the fulfillment of the new covenant promises and new creation predicted by the prophets, is the “beginning” of a new creation with new “life” and “light” that was in the process of shining in and overtaking the “darkness” of the old covenant “world.” This world was passing away and would “soon disappear” (2Cor.3; Heb.8:13; Rev.21:1/1:1/22:6-7, 10-12, 20; Mt.24:34-35). John points us to the “signs” of the antichrists and false prophets as a testimony to the fact that His time statement is to be taken literally. Indeed Jesus said when these false prophets would come it would be a sign of His return in their generation (Mt.24:5, 11, 23-25, 27, 30-31, 34).   

In Mathison’s book on Postmillennialism he takes the signs of the antichrists and false prophets here in 1John 2:18 as a sign predicted to occur before the Lord’s return in A.D.70 (Mathison, Postmillennialism, p.112, ibid). And although he takes some of the time statements in the new testament to be referring to A.D.70, he has no comment on the “last hour” of verse 17. In WSTTB?, “maybe it means this or maybe it means that—Mathison” suggests the “possibility” that this a 2,000 years and counting “last days” “last hour” (WSTTB?, p.200). But as we have seen from other postmillennial partial preterists such as John Owen, John Lightfoot, Kenneth Gentry, and Gary DeMar, this is just one of those very clear – “how else could (John) express nearness more clearly?” texts! Indeed John does not say it “might be” or “it could be” the last hour, but rather because the signs of the apostates seeking to deceive them (1Jn. 2:19, 26-27; 3:9/Mt.24:24) along with the antichrists and the false prophets being present; John says he “knew” “it is the last hour”!  

In 1-3 John, is usually another place where futurists seek to develop the persecutions and apostasy creeping into the early church as allegedly originating from “Gnosticism.” They appeal to the alleged denial and lack of a confession that Jesus came in the “flesh” as a proof text for this (1Jn. 2:23, 4:2-3). They interpret “flesh” here to mean Jesus’ physical body and the Gnostics were denying this and teaching Jesus was a spirit having the form of a fleshly body. However, like everywhere else in the new testament we have examined thus far, these antichrists and false teachers were Judaizers denying that Christ came in the realm of the old-covenant (the flesh) in order to set men free from that realm and ultimately burn up and destroy the “elements” of that world. They wanted a Messiah (or Jesus as their Messiah- kind of sort of), that would not abolish that carnal and fleshly “world” system. This is why as we saw in Timothy and Thessalonians, they wanted the second coming and resurrection as a “past already” event so as to keep the old-covenant economy going. They could confess some things about Jesus but not this! The first century Christian’s had no problem confessing this because it was the teachings of their Lord and He had set them free from “lusting” after that world as an ultimate and continuing means to attain forgiveness of sins and righteousness. 

For John, a denial that the old-covenant world of darkness and the flesh was passing away, was in essence a declaration of one continuing to walk in that darkness and claim to have “no sin” (1Jn. 1:5-10). The Christians understood that the goal of redemption and their sins being completely forgiven entailed not only Christ fulfilling all the promises of that fleshly old- covenant world, but that in order for them to inherit the new covenant world of righteousness, the old-covenant world would have to be destroyed at Christ’s return Rms.11:26-27; 13:11-12; Heb.9:26-28; 10:25, 27; 2 Pet.3; Rev.21. Even Gentry to a limited degree understands John’s theology of the passing of the old creation and the coming in of the new in (Rev.21), entails the removal of “sin” “within,”

“The absence of the sea (21:1) speaks of harmony and peace within. In Scripture the sea often symbolizes discord and sin (13:1-2; cf. Isa. 8:7-8; 23:10; 57:20; Jer. 6:23; 46:7; Ezek. 9:10). Christianity offers the opposite: peace with God and among humankind (Luke 2:14; Rom. 5:1; Eph. 2:12-18; Phil. 4:7, 9).”[1]       

The Pharisees and Judaizers lusted after the old-covenant world and its sacrificial system thinking it took away their sin and thus they confessed self righteously that they “had no sin.” They thought they were in bondage to no one let alone to their sins and therefore most assuredly saw no need for Jesus to forgive them of it, fulfill that system, and then turn around and destroy it within their generation Jn.8:24, 31-36; 9:38-41; 15:22-25, Mt.24:1-35. A part of confessing Christ and continuing in His teachings meant a dieing to the flesh of that old-covenant world knowing God would destroy it soon and establish a new one. In the new world to come, they could be forgiven of all their sins and stand before the very face of God without shame. This leads us to our next texts. 

3) And now, little children, abide in Him, that when He appears, we may have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His coming.” “Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.” (1Jn. 2:28; 3:2) 

Postmillennial partial preterists such as Mathison, Gentry, Demar, and others cut these second coming texts out from there preceding “signs” and passing of the old-covenant world and “last hour” A.D.70 context. The context tells us “when” He would “appear” and be “revealed”–“it is the last hour!” John says in verse 8 that Christ was “manifested” or “appeared” in order to destroy the devil. Paul and John in Revelation said this would take place “shortly” (Rms.16:20, Rev.1:1). And when does the rest of the new testament teach us Christ would “appear” (Greek phaneroo)? John again ties these same themes together with Christ coming “quickly” and thus the church needing to be clothed and rewarded so as to not “appear” “ashamed” at His “quickly” return (Rev. 3:11, 18; 22:12). The writer to Hebrews tells us Christ appeared at the end of the old covenant age(s) to put away sin (Heb.9:26-28). Christ predicted that He was “about to come” in judgment and would be “ashamed” of some of those standing next to Him “in this adulterous and sinful generation” (Mrk.8:34, 38-9:1; Mt.16:27-28). Peter tells us Christ and His glory was “about to be” “revealed” (1Pet.5:1YLT).  

We have already examined the “like him” or in his death and resurrection “likeness” and transformation passages (Rms. 6, 2Cor. 3-4) and they did not entail a biological literal transformation or likeness concept. Apart of this transformation process was seeing God’s face 2Cor. 3-4, 1Cor. 13:8-12. Our text says, “…we shall see Him as He is.” Since Mathison and Gentry see the passing of the first creation in Rev. 21:1 as the old-covenant creation in A.D.70, and are thus required exegetically to teach believers post A.D.70 are now seeing God’s face in the creation that took its place in A.D.70 Rev. 22:4, seeing God now should not be a difficult “experience” or “attitude” for them them to grasp (1Thess.4:17). We have been gathered into God’s kingdom and behold His face without shame because He has glorified us and clothed us with His righteousness–selah.

[1] Kenneth Gentry, FOUR VIEWS ON THE BOOK OF REVELATION, p.89, ibid., emphasis added.  

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Mike Sullivan