Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have appeared; from this we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us.
Many of us today have been so influenced by Christian fiction and movies that the word “antichrist” immediately brings to mind an end of time world dominating figure. But take careful note that John warns his readers that many antichrists have appeared. Break the word down – “anti” + “Christ” = anyone against Christ, not simply those like David Koresh who literally claim to be Christ. Verse 18 indicates that John speaks of people who were once members of the believers and had left the fellowship, presumably following some false doctrine. Augustine’s comments on the antichrists of this verse are very direct: "They are like bad humors in the body of Christ, the Church: when they are vomited out, then the body is relieved; the body of Christ is now still under treatment, and has not yet attained the perfect soundness which it shall have only at the resurrection."
Larger than life figures appear every few generations, and many immediately think of “the” Antichrist. Men from Nero to Charlemagne to Hitler to several Popes have been thought to be this end of time figure. Emails and speculation even circled that Obama might be the antichrist before his election! Although I would never downplay the evil done by Hitler and others, the false teaching espoused by “antichrists” in religious circles can do far more damage. Satan is in the business of religion. Our flesh drives us to sin – we need little help in that arena. Antichrists today exist in false religion, cults, and even in Christianity – twisting the truth of Scripture just enough that what is false seems true. Many will be satisfied with a small amount of truth and will be kept from true saving knowledge in Christ. Every person who opposes the spirit of the Gospel, and every teacher and writer who endeavors to lower the Gospel standard to the spirit and taste of the world is a genuine antichrist, no matter where or among whom he is found.