Here is, I. A moral prognostication of the time; the end is coming: Little children, it is the last time, 1 John 2:18. Some may suppose that the apostle here addresses the first rank of Christians again; the juniors are most apt to be seduced, and therefore, “Little children, you that are young in religion, take heed to yourselves that you be not corrupted.” But it may be, as elsewhere, a universal appellation, introductive of an alarm to all Christians: “Little children, it is the last time; our Jewish polity in church and state is hastening to an end; the Mosaic institution and discipline are just upon vanishing away; Daniel’s weeks are now expiring; the destruction of the Hebrew city and sanctuary is approaching, the end whereof must be with a flood, and to the end of the war desolations are determined,” Dan. 9:26. It is meet that the disciples should be warned of the haste and end of time, and apprised as much as may be of the prophetic periods of time.
II. The sign of this last time: Even now there are many antichrists (1 John 2:18), many that oppose the person, doctrine, and kingdom of Christ. It is a mysterious portion of providence that antichrists should be permitted; but, when they have come, it is good and safe that the disciples should be informed of them; ministers should be watchmen to the house of Israel. Now it should be no great offence nor prejudice to the disciples that there are such antichrists: 1. One great one has been foretold: As you have heard that antichrist shall come, 1 John 2:18. The generality of the church have been informed by divine revelation that there must be a long and fatal adversary to Christ and his church, 2 Thess. 2:8-10. No wonder then that there are many harbingers and forerunners of the great one: Even now there are many antichrists, the mystery of iniquity already worketh. 2. They were foretold also as the sign of this last time. For there shall arise false Christs and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders, insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect, Matt. 24:24. And these were the forerunners of the dissolution of the Jewish state, nation, and religion: Whereby we know it is the last time, 1 John 2:18. Let the prediction that we see there has been of seducers arising in the Christian world fortify us against their seduction.
III. Some account of these seducers or antichrists. 1. More positively. They were once entertainers or professors of apostolical doctrine: “They went out from us (1 John 2:19), from our company and communion;” possibly from the church of Jerusalem, or some of the churches of Judea, as Acts 15:1; Certain men came down from Judea, and taught the brethren, etc. The purest churches may have their apostates and revolters; the apostolic doctrine did not convert all whom it convinced of its truth. 2. More privately. “They were not inwardly such as we are: But they were not of us; they had not from the heart obeyed the form of sound doctrine delivered to them; they were not of our union with Christ the head.” Then here is, (1.) The reason upon which it is concluded that they were not of us, were not what they pretended, or what we are, and that is their actual defection: “For, if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us (1 John 2:19); had the sacred truth been rooted in their hearts it would have held them with us; had they had the anointing from above, by which they had been made true and real Christians, they would not have turned antichrists.” Those that apostatize from religion sufficiently indicate that, before, they were hypocrites in religion: those who have imbibed the spirit of gospel truth have a good preservative against destructive error. (2.) The reason why they are permitted thus to depart from apostolical doctrine and communion—that their insincerity may be detected: But this was done (or they went out) that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us, 1 John 2:19. The church knows not well who are its vital members and who are not; and therefore the church, considered as internally sanctified, may well be styled invisible. Some of the hypocritical must be manifested here, and that for their own shame and benefit too, in their reduction to the truth, if they have not sinned unto death, and for the terror and caution of others. You therefore, beloved, seeing you know these things before, beware lest you also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness. But grow in grace, etc., 2 Pet. 3:17, 18.