In 1 Jn. 2, the apostle addresses “antichrists” and his reasoning sounds a little strange when he turns and says, “but you have an anointing from the holy one and you know all things” (2:20). He goes on to describe the lie of believing that Jesus is not the Christ, and that those who deny the Father and the Son are “antichrists” (2:22-23).
While clearly part of John’s point is the content of what these people believe, (i.e. that Jesus is not the Christ and therefore not the Son of the Father, etc.), it seems that he may also have other things in mind, particularly since he addresses the “anointing” of his readers.
“Christ” of course means “Anointed One”, Christos is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew Messiah. To be an anointed one is to be a priest, a king, a prophet, to be marked with a symbol of the Holy Spirit for authority, to carry on a mission of God in the world. Of course all of that comes to fulfillment in Christ upon whom the Spirit comes to rest and remain upon Him. But it doesn’t stop there. The Spirit is poured out on the Church at Pentecost, and all of God’s people are anointed. As Jesus was anointed in his baptism, so too the promise of the Holy Spirit is promised to those who repent and are baptized (Acts 2).
And all of this means that Christians are mini-Christs, miniature messiahs. We are all anointed with the same Spirit. But this also means that to deny the Messiahship of Jesus is to deny our own messiahship. To deny that Jesus was the Anointed One is to forfeit that same anointing for ourselves.
Thus to be ‘antichrist’ is not merely an active denunciation of Jesus; it is also a self-malediction. If Jesus is not the Christ, then neither are you a christ. If Jesus was not anointed with the Spirit, then neither are you. To be an “antichrist” takes on a sort of literal fulfillment in the bodies of those who were once marked as “with us,” those who had been anointed and yet went out from us (2:19). To go out from the church, to walk around denying that Jesus is the Messiah, is to become a walking object lesson. His anointed has become an un-anointing, an anti-anointing.
It’s interesting then that this verse is sometimes used by those who want to downplay the objective, covenant realities of the Church. “They were not really of us” is taken to mean that there was no connection really even though they may have pretended for a time. But it would seem that there’s much more than that going on. These christs have not merely left revealing that they were not really christs. Rather, they have left and turned their anointing into an anti-anointing. They have turned their baptisms into anti-baptisms. They do not leave as though nothing has happened. They leave, revealing their true loyalties, but their allegiance to the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life (2:16) is their profession of faith as “antichrists.” Their denial of Jesus as Christ and as Son, is their own forfeiture of their own status as christs and sons.