First John, chapter 2, part 6
Jan 11, 2018
The confusion and misunderstanding about antichrist is widespread because most people have not understood that antichrist is a usurper of the throne of Christ and that this was foreshadowed in the Old Testament story of King David and his usurper son, Absalom. Having been raised in the church, not once do I recall hearing any preacher make the connection between the revolt of Absalom and the overall story of the New Testament.
I discovered the connection one day as I was reading Acts 1:15-20, where Peter firmly stated that Judas ought to be replaced. In making his case, Peter quoted two of the psalms which prophesied of Judas. They are found in Acts 1:20,
20 For it is written in the book of Psalms, “Let his homestead be made desolate, and let no man dwell in it: [Psalm 69:25]; and “Let another man take his office” [Psalm 109:8].
Peter understood from Psalm 109:8 that someone else was to take the place of Judas. The others agreed, and so they drew lots, replacing Judas with Matthias. Acts 1:26 says,
26 And they drew lots for them, and the lot fell to Matthias; and he was added to the eleven apostles.
There were many passages in the psalms where David prophesied about Judas. David was actually writing about Ahithophel, who had betrayed him by joining Absalom’s revolt, but those passages were also prophetic about Judas. Ahithophel was a prophetic type of Judas.
The story of the revolt is found in 2 Samuel 15-18. We read in 2 Samuel 15:6 that “Absalom stole away the hearts of the men of Israel.” Then, when the time was ripe, Absalom went to Hebron, where his supporters crowned him king. 2 Samuel 15:9, 10, and 12 says,
9 And the king [David] said to him [Absalom], “Go in peace.” So he arose and went to Hebron. 10 But Absalom sent spies throughout all the tribes of Israel, saying, “As soon as you hear the sound of the trumpet, then you shall say, “Absalom is king in Hebron….” 12 And Absalom sent for Ahithophel the Gilonite, David’s counselor, from his city Giloh, while he was offering the sacrifices. And the conspiracy was strong, for the people increased continually with Absalom.
After Absalom’s coronation in Hebron, his supporters marched on Jerusalem. David decided not to fight his son, so he left the city with his main supporters. 2 Samuel 15:30 and 32 says,
30 And David went up the ascent of the Mount of Olives, and wept as he went, and his head was covered and he walked barefoot… 32 It happened as David was coming to the summit [rosh, “head, top, summit”], where God was worshiped, that behold, Hushai the Archite met him with his coat torn and dust on his head.
David left Jerusalem and walked up the ascent of the Mount of Olives. There he worshiped God; that is, he offered a sacrifice on the summit, or head, the place later known as “Golgotha, which means Place of a Skull” (Matthew 27:33).
The Septuagint version of 2 Samuel 15:32 reads, “And David came as far as Ros, where he worshiped God.” Ros is rosh, “summit, head.” This Greek translation of the Old Testament shows that the Jewish translators understood that David worshiped God while he was on his way out of town. This rendering shows that the verse prophesied about the sacrifice that Jesus was to make when He fulfilled the story of David.
It is clear that Jesus was playing the prophetic role of his ancestor, David, while those who had ordered His death were playing the role of Absalom. The third main character in this story, of course, was Ahithophel, who played the role of Judas.
After David had escaped from Jerusalem, Absalom had to decide whether to pursue him or to let him escape. Ahithophel gave counsel that he should send the army to pursue David, but Hushai, David’s (secret) friend, disagreed and his counsel prevailed (2 Samuel 17:14). Ahithophel then knew that David would return later, and so we read in 2 Samuel 17:23 KJV,
23 And when Ahithophel saw that his counsel was not followed, he saddled his ass, and arose, and gat him home to his house, to his city, and put his household in order, and hanged himself, and died, and was buried in the sepulcher of his father.
In hanging himself, he set the prophetic pattern for Judas, for we read in Matthew 27:5,
5 And he [Judas] cast down the pieces of silver in the temple and departed, and went and hanged himself.
That is how it came about that the remaining apostles later had to replace Judas. David had written many things about the death of Ahithophel, who had been his friend and counselor. In fact, Ahithophel was also his wife’s grandfather. David often mourned the loss of his friend, writing in Psalm 55:12-14,
12 For it is not an enemy who reproaches me, then I could bear it; nor is it one who hates me who has exalted himself against me, then I could hide myself from you. 13 But it is you, a man my equal, my companion and my familiar friend. 14 We who had sweet fellowship together, walked in the house of God in the throng.
Enemies may kill you, but only a friend can betray you. Jesus called Judas “friend” in Matthew 26:50,
50 And Jesus said to him [Judas], “Friend, do what you have come for.” Then they came and laid hands on Jesus and seized Him.
It was also prophesied in Zechariah 13:6,
6 And one will say to him, “What are these wounds between your arms?” Then he will say, “Those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends.”
Tradition says that Judas was a childhood friend of Jesus. The pain of betrayal was part of the suffering that Jesus had to undergo along with crucifixion.
The Hebron Factor
Absalom’s revolt began in Hebron, where he usurped the throne of David. Hebron means “association, joining, conjunction,” having a connotation of friendship. The name is derived from Cheber, “fellowship.”
The ancient name of Hebron was Kirjeath-arba, or Kiriath-arba. Joshua 14:15 tells us, “Now the name of Hebron was formerly Kiriath-arba.” This was Judas’ home town, for Matthew 10:4 speaks about “Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed Him.” His surname, Iscariot, is the Greek spelling of Ish-Keriath, “man from Keriath (arba).” Judas was from Hebron, the place of friendship and fellowship.
It was also place of betrayal, both of David and later of Jesus.
All of this shows how the conflict in the New Testament between Jesus and the Jewish leaders was a replay of the story of David, Absalom, and Ahithophel. We cannot truly understand the New Testament without knowing this. Neither can we understand the nature of antichrist and antichrists without knowing this.
Absalom was the chief antichrist in the time of David. David was God’s “anointed one,” that is, the messiah (Hebrew term) or Christ (Greek term). In the New Testament, Caiaphas was the chief antichrist, fulfilling the same role that Absalom had played earlier. And Judas, who betrayed Him, represented all the antichrists who support antichrist and thereby betray Christ.
The tragedy of the story is the fact that Judas one of Jesus’ disciples. More than that, he was Jesus’ friend. And yet he ended up betraying Jesus. In his remorse later, he hanged himself. The plot would have been worthy of a Shakespearean tragedy.
We can now understand what John had in mind when he wrote in about the antichrists 1 John 2:19, “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.” We read in Psalm 41:9,
9 Even my close friend, in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted up his heel against me.
Like Ahithophel, Judas was “of us,” as John writes, but did not remain with us. The betrayers were believers who loved Jesus, but they loved the high priest of Judaism even more. So, like Judas, these Christian believers reverted back to Judaism in support of the temple in Jerusalem—the system of antichrist which had usurped the throne of Christ.
In other words, one cannot support both antichrist and Christ at the same time. Perhaps this issue had come to a head in John’s time, where the Jewish believers had to decide which side to support. Some had chosen to remain with the old temple and its system of worship, while others were able to make the clean break and come out in support of Jesus Christ.
The same choice yet remains today.
This is part 9 of a series titled "Studies in First John." To view all parts, click the link below.
Dr. Stephen Jones