Post Series on 1 John 5:18-20:
- He Who Was Born of God Protects You from the Touch of the Evil One (1 John 5:18)
- The Whole World Lies in the Power of the Evil One (1 John 5:19)
- Jesus is the True God and Eternal Life (1 John 5:20)
- Little children, keep yourselves from idols (1 John 5:21)
In the second “We have come to know” statements with which John closes his First Letter, he writes:
We have come to know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one. (1 John 5:19)
The two halves of this verse speak to the infinite chasm between good and evil, heaven and hell, blessing and curse.
The good news, of course, is that those who look to Jesus Christ for salvation may have absolute confidence in our origin, which is that we are from God (ek theou), a shortened form of saying that we have been born of God (ho gegennemenos ek tou theou, 5:18). And if we know that we have been born of God, we may be confident that God has indeed given us eternal life–in other words, if we are confident about our origins, we may be confident about our destiny.
But just as glorious as the gospel of Jesus Christ is for the believer, so terrifying is the curse of sin, death, and the Evil One for the unbeliever. John writes literally that “the whole world lies in the Evil One,” but the ESV translators added the phrase “in the power of” to make more sense of the phrase. The image is of utter, complete, and dead passivity on the part of the world–the Evil One has the world completely within his dominion.
Perhaps most tragically, the world thinks that they are the ones who are really living. They do anything and everything they please, and they imagine that in chasing after every opportunity available to them, they have life. But it is in doing those very things that they in fact enslave themselves more and more to Satan.
There are only two kingdoms in this world: the Kingdom of the Evil One, and the Kingdom of our God and of his Christ. Every human being is a subject of one of these kingdoms, without exception. The Kingdom of the Evil One is death and slavery; the Kingdom of The Lord Jesus Christ is life and freedom.
In fact, the title of this blog, “Toward Real Liberty” comes from this conviction. Henry Martyn Robert (the author of Robert’s Rules of Order) once wrote (in an allusion to Judges 21:25), “Where there is no king, and every man does what is right in his own eyes, there is the least of real liberty.” Moving “toward real liberty” does not happen through seeking to do whatever you please; real liberty is found in perfect submission to the King–the Son of God, Jesus the Christ.
But John Stott draws our attention to an important point concerning John’s describing the lost as the “whole world”:
We need to remember, however, that although the whole world lies in the power of the evil one, it is for the sins of the whole world (the only other occurrence of the expression in the Epistle) that Jesus Christ is the propitiation (ii. 2). (The Epistles of John, p. 194)
The gospel gives this promise: believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved–saved from the dominion of darkness, being transferred into the kingdom of God’s beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.