"Why do you not understand what I am saying? It is because you cannot hear My word. You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies." John 8:43-44
For soldiers on a battlefield, the most critical survival skills are knowing how to recognize the enemy, and knowing where his battle-lines are. If we mistake enemies for friends, we are in danger of heedlessly straying into their territory, and being killed or captured.
Human armies wear distinctive uniforms to show which side they are fighting for. In spiritual warfare, each army is clothed in its own unmistakable spirit.
Jesus gives simple directions for recognizing the enemy. The enemy is first of all, emphatically, NOT "flesh and blood" (II Corinthians 10:3, Ephesians 6:12). Thinking so, a great many Christians in this time believe their enemy is anyone who represents a human identity different than their own: racial, national, political, or religious. Scripture says not.
(This isn't to say these human "dividings"...as Galatians 5:20 calls "deeds of the flesh" factions...don't share some of the enemy spirit. Racial hate-groups and nationalisms frequently teach their followers to murder; religious groups have also done so, and do so. And political factions usually operate by lies. The point to be clear about is that the spirit they manifest, and not the "flesh and blood" group they belong to, is the enemy.)
And in the passage quoted above, Jesus emphasizes two primary spiritual characteristics by which we recognize the enemy, "the devil." He is a murderer, and he is a liar: he is in fact the source ("father") of all murder and all lies.
Saying so, Jesus indelibly maps the battle-lines for us. We're involved in the inevitable warfare between the one whose spirit is murder and lies, and Jesus, Who IS Himself Truth and Life (John 14:6).
John denotes the existential basis of this warfare when he writes that the spirit of anti-Christ is active in the world (I John 2:18, 4:3), alluding to the essential spiritual nature of the enemy: against, and counter to, Christ. Thus, the same way The Holy Spirit God sent into the world is of Christ's nature (and so Jesus speaks of Him repeatedly as "the Spirit of Truth:" John 14:17, 15:26, 16:13), and manifests Him. The spirit of anti-Christ also present in the world shares satan's nature, and manifests him.
And the same way The Holy Spirit manifests His Presence in those who act in Jesus' nature, satan's spirit manifests itself in those who act in his character. That is Jesus point in John 8: that the men He's talking to, in their desire to murder and lie, show unmistakably whose spirit they act in, and who is their spiritual "father."
Murder was a heavy accusation; and scripture gives no hint that the men was talking to had actually killed anyone previously. But Jesus' viewed murder, again, by its spirit. He'd taught that anyone "angry with his brother" was guilty of murder (Matthew 5:21-22); which John later made explicit, that "everyone who hates his brother is a murderer" (I John 3:15).
Jesus said the men he was ralking to wanted to kill him because He spoke the Truth to them (John 8:40). They proved Him right. But even before rhey cried out for Him to be crucified, He recognized in them satan's "desire" to murder, and satan's "desire" to destroy The Truth.
We know then, that the spiritual warfare in which we're involved is even now manifest on earth, in men. Who has the Spirit of Christ can see and attest to His Presence in the world, manifest in the deeds of those who walk in Him (Romans 8:4), the good deeds God has prepared for us to walk in (Ephesians 2:10). We can also clearly see and attest that the spirit of anti-Christ is in the world, manifest in those who walk in the spirit and deeds of murderous hatred and lies, satan's own spirit.
Our speculation about "anti-Christ" has always centered on the single individual who is the final and greatest spiritual counterfeit, the world-leader who will be satan himself in flesh, and satan's imitation of Christ, God in human flesh. And we have always assumed that individual will be such a singular monster of evil that we will easily be able to recognize him and reject him.
But when His disciples asked what would be the signs of "the end of the age," Jesus warned that there will be many "false Christs" (pseudochristos) and false prophets, "...so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect" (Matthew 24:24). John too emphasized the plurality of anti-Christ's manifestations, warning that "...it is the last hour; and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have appeared..." (I John 2:18, my emphasis). The same way we need to be aware that the spirit of anti-Christ is already in the world, even before the final deceiver himself appears, we need to be aware that his spirit is manifest in many men, even now.
Jesus warns that the "false Christs" and false prophets of the end times will be such skilled deceivers that they will almost be able to mislead the "elect." It's an extremely sobering warning to Jesus' Own people: we should all be frightened at how close a thing Jesus says it is that we could be misled. Most of all, His words should deeply impress on us our need for mindful attention to hearing His voice.
The deceivers will not succeed in misleading the "elect," of course. We have Jesus' Own promises to His sheep that "...no one will snatch them out of My hand" (John 10:28, my emphasis), and that He will never desert or forsake His Own (Hebrews 13:5). And we know that His Spirit in us witnesses to our heart that we are His.
But recognizing how prone we are to self-deception, and how "desperately wicked" our hearts are, we'd be foolish to trust completely in our sense of certainty that we are "elect." Jesus doesn't say that all who think they're elect will be safe from being deceived by the spirit of anti-Christ. He says that those who are His show it by hearing His voice, and following Him.
In this very time (which we know from the above scriptures is the "last hour"), satan is already preparing people to follow anti-Christ, by making them "comfortable" in following men who manifest his spiritual character of murderous hatred and lies. Nowhere is this more evident today than in America. And Jesus is strengthening His people against being deceived to follow such men, by speaking to us in His Spirit, teaching us to discern the battle-lines of the spiritual war even now taking place in this world ("distinguishings of spirits," I Corinthians 12:10).
May all who hear Jesus' sober warning also give mindful, continual attention to His guiding voice of spiritual discernment, and follow Him. Amen !!