"Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God; and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world." (1 John 4:1-3)As we have previously seen from John, the antichrist is not a person but a spirit that pervades over the Earth. There are many who are antichrist, not because they fulfill some prophetic office or role in the end times, but because they represent the opposite of what Jesus came to teach and to do. Even so shortly after the formation of the church, false prophets and false apostles had already risen teaching things that were not right. They claimed to be christs, in that they claimed to be anointed, but their teaching and deeds were opposed to Christ. They were anti-Christ. Even today there are many who claim enlightenment and who purport to speak for God, yet their actions and words deny Him and they themselves are following the spirit of antichrist.
The problem for the early church, and for us today, was to know how to tell the difference between the true prophets and apostles and the false ones. Much of the heresy the early church had to face centered around the question as to who Jesus was in His nature and His relationship to God. The heresies were broadly split between those who claimed that Jesus was purely God and only appeared in human form but never was born or suffered as a man and those who claimed Him to be solely a man, perhaps an enlighten man, but not God and certainly not perfect or unique. The issue boiled down to that of spirit and flesh. Did God's Spirit really come down and take on human flesh becoming both God and man? The unequivocal answer of the early church was "Yes!" Jesus was both God and man therefore He could redeem us as God because He suffered for us as man. Though such a composition of the human and divine may be beyond our ability to comprehend or fully understand, it was nonetheless the true nature of Jesus and the exact formulation that was necessary for our salvation.
In helping the church distinguish between the two, I believe that John was not giving an exhaustive list of challenges to prove if a profit was false or true, but rather was answering their need for discernment according to the need of the day. Today, those heresies we face may not turn around the question of Jesus and His nature; they may be new heresies focused on new doctrinal issues. However, the proof is still the same. Those who set themselves against and in opposition to the words and deeds of Christ set themselves against Him and His mission. They are too antichrist!
Just as there were antichrists in John's day so there are today, yet me must not yield to them nor give them our attention. Jesus, speaking of the antichrists, said, "So if they say to you, 'Behold, He is in the wilderness,' do not go out, or, 'Behold, He is in the inner rooms,' do not believe them." (Matthew 24:26) Our's is not to hunt them out but rather to avoid them. They do not participate in the work of God and we have so much work to do. Let us recognize them but not be distracted by them. Let us be devoted to the work of Christ and leave them to the opposite,