The Second Epistle Of John: Antichrists and Deceivers

Dec 12th, 2009 | By | Category: 1st & 2nd & 3rd John, Verse by Verse --Studies led by Br. Frank Shallieu (Click on Book name)

The Second Epistle Of John: Antichrists and Deceivers

There is no way of knowing when John’s second and third epistles were written. However, if the first epistle was written around AD 90, then the second and third epistles were written subsequently, somewhere between AD 90 and 100. The Book of Revelation was recorded in AD 98, but it was not really circulated until AD 100. Moreover, it is likely that John wrote all three epistles while he was in Ephesus.

2 John 1 The elder unto the elect lady and her children, whom I love in the truth; and not I only, but also all they that have known the truth;

Why was this second epistle included in the Bible? The literal lady to whom the letter was specifically addressed was being influenced by the false element.

Why did John call himself “the elder”? The suggestion, already made, is that the letter was written when John was old—somewhere in the AD 90s and after his Gospel. The Living Bible has the correct thought: “the old Elder.” The aged John was like an old patriarch, who had been through a long experience and thus could give good advice.

Why was the sister called “the elect lady”? The term “elect” is used elsewhere in the New Testament to refer to the called class, to those who have made a consecration. Such individuals are living a reasonable outward deportment that seems to be in harmony with conscientiously doing God’s will. It is as if John were saying to her, “I am speaking to you, dear one, as one who has been long in the truth and has had much experience.” Probably this lady was a person of means who had brethren stay at her home for long periods of time. In addition, she was a sister of influence. Notice that her husband was not mentioned. Therefore, we assume that either he was not consecrated, or he was dead.

The Greek rendered “the elect lady” can also be considered the personal Greek name Cyria (see the Diaglott and the Living Bible). Also, since 2 John 5 seems to be a personal beseeching— “I entreat [or beseech] thee, Cyria”—we feel that she was being named here. It is true that the Greek word means “lady,” but it can also be a personal name. Incidentally, the Greek kuria was the feminine of kurios, which means “lord” (masculine). Also, there is no “y” in Greek, just a “u.” Ancient Greek had the uncial “y,” which modern translators think of as “u,” but we like to think of it as “y,” for then it would be the female of Cyrus, which means “the sun.”

Comment: A note in the Companion Bible reads, “In all probability a proper name ‘Kyria’.”

Reply: Yes, we think “y” should be in the name. However, we do not know whether the personal name in verse 1 is the female of Cyrus (“the sun”) or kurios (“lord”).

Comment: Further support for a personal name is the fact that John’s third epistle begins with an individual’s name (“The elder unto the wellbeloved Gaius, whom I love in the truth”), and another brother, Demetrius, is named subsequently (3 John 1,12).

Reply: Yes, we believe this second epistle was addressed to a specific person.

It is likely that she was a local sister, relatively speaking, because John was very old and his travels were confined to Asia Minor. Hence he could visit her later. In fact, he said he planned to visit her (verse 12). Evidently, John heard that she was in danger of being weaned from the truth because of contact with other brethren, and he realized she needed a warning right away.

This epistle was also addressed to the elect lady’s children, who lived in either the same house or the same town or area. John was happy that her children had accepted the truth and were stable characters. He said that he loved “the elect lady and her children … in the truth”; hence all were consecrated. The wording “and not I only, but also all they that have known the truth” suggests that these children had been active, and thus their works were appreciated by others as well. Their deeds would have been going on for some time. Many of the brethren who thought well of John also thought well of this lady and her children.

In the first epistle, the Greek word teknion was used; here the word teknon is translated “children.” The elect lady’s children were not necessarily full adults, for in the previous epistle, two different Greek words were rendered “children,” one word meaning very young children and the other meaning that all of the consecrated are little children regardless of age. Thus teknion was used more liberally, whereas teknon referred to this sister’s literal children. We do not know their ages nor the age of Cyria.

The main distinction we are making is that these “children” were consecrated relatives of this woman who had taken a stand for truth. In the first epistle, John spoke favorably of three categories of the consecrated: (1) youngsters, (2) middle-aged brethren, and (3) old-timers, some of whom had even known Jesus (1 John 2:13,14).

2 John 2 For the truth’s sake, which dwelleth in us, and shall be with us for ever.

Verse 2 does not prove “once saved, always saved.” Jesus said, “I will be with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:20). God does not desert His people, for He and Jesus are loyal. Rather, we are the ones who cause the alienation. Therefore, if an estrangement occurs, it is our fault. John was saying, “You can be sure of the truth and God’s constancy as long as you remain faithful.” Thus verse 2 is qualified.

The purpose of the first epistle was not only to warn but also to encourage the brethren. “Look what you have—life and a future! If you go to the false teachers, you will have darkness instead of light. You would be foolish to depart from the way for the unknown.”

2 John 3 Grace be with you, mercy, and peace, from God the Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love.

Notice that John contrasted “God the Father” and “the Son of the Father,” not “God the Son.” The greeting was, “Grace, mercy, and peace be with you in truth and in love.” Truth and love are companions—one cannot exist without the other—and truth, being listed first, gets the priority. John was saying, “Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, the Father’s Son.” The terminology pertaining to “the Son of the Father” is replete in John’s epistles.

2 John 4 I rejoiced greatly that I found of thy children walking in truth, as we have received a commandment from the Father.

Several translations have the thought that John was overjoyed to find some of the lady’s children “walking in truth, as we have received a commandment from the Father.” Although supplied, the word “some” is the correct thought.

Comment: Like the first epistle, this second epistle emphasizes obedience in conduct, that is, walking in truth. Obedience is more than just the initial receiving of truth.

2 John 5 And now I beseech thee, lady, not as though I wrote a new commandment unto thee, but that which we had from the beginning, that we love one another.

John was saying, “And now I beg thee, Cyria, not as though I were writing a new commandment to you, but that which we had from the beginning, that we love one another.”

John’s concern was that she remember the importance of loving one another. He earnestly beseeched her in this matter, reminding her of what she had already learned lest she forget. What was the problem? Others were making suggestions that would alienate her from John and those with him. These false ones were introducing false doctrines, and John was fearful that she might, as a result, become cool to him and to those close to him regarding doctrine contrary to the gospel taught by Christ.

Comment: The point seems to be that new commandments were going around, deceiving the brethren. John was encouraging this sister not to lose the truth she already knew.

2 John 6 And this is love, that we walk after his commandments. This is the commandment, That, as ye have heard from the beginning, ye should walk in it.

“This is love, that we walk after his [Jesus’] commandments [plural].” In other words, John was admonishing, “Do not depart from the teachings you formerly heeded so well.”

Some Bibles have a break between verses 6 and 7 with the subhead “Enemies of Christ.”

Verses 1-6 are considered a salutation with greetings, encouragement, and admonition. Then, starting with verse 7, comes the nitty-gritty about the enemies of Christ.

2 John 7 For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist.

Many deceivers were active, and some may even have been entertained in her home. John was concerned about doctrinal error. One error was that Christ had merely appeared at his First  Advent, that he was not really flesh and blood (a human being) but a spirit being and thus an apparition. Hence the false teachers said that Jesus did not really die on the Cross. Angels appeared (materialized) in Old Testament times, ate a meal, and then disappeared. The false teachers thought the same of Jesus by mixing things he did before and after his resurrection. This error paved the way for Satan to later introduce the Antichrist teaching that Jesus was half God and half man and only seemed to die on the Cross—that it was God on the Cross. This false teaching destroyed the need for a vicarious sacrifice to pay the price for sin, whereas flesh and blood had to pay for the sin of Adam. If we do not remember this fact, we will forget that we need to be forgiven for sin, and the false teachers back there said they did not sin—and hence did not need forgiveness. Christian Scientists think somewhat along this erroneous line. Truth was distorted; Scriptures were perverted. This false teaching was the means by which Satan deceived.

Notice, there were “many deceivers”—that is, many professed Christians were the deceivers— and thus there were many antichrists. Any brethren who harbored and gave hospitality to these deceivers incurred great guilt. Ordinary people whom the lady might entertain could be those the Adversary was using. By realizing there were many deceivers, or antichrists, she would be more on her guard. In his first epistle, John said, “Try the spirits” (1 John 4:1). He gave common-sense simple tests of how to know the exponents of error. Two of those tests were (1) the need for forgiveness of sin and (2) the need to beware of those who practiced sin.

The lady was to question a visitor as to whether he thought Jesus was a human being or like an angel. If the latter was his belief, she was to have reserve and not entertain him or wish him Godspeed. This question was a means of determining what was of God and what was of Satan.

“Deceivers … confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh.” The term “is come” infers Jesus’ preexistence as well. However, the aspect of materialization was the real source of error.

John was concerned lest this sister be led away from the truth. She was influential, so if she could be weaned over to new leadership, then all those who loved her and were her children would probably follow her. Thus she would become a target of those who were trying to wean disciples unto themselves.

John was saying that many deceivers had gone out into the world who would not acknowledge the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh. A number of the modern translations put a little different twist on verse 7, making the coming of Christ in the flesh future, whereas the older translations all agree—and correctly—that the coming is past. To an impartial reader, the context clearly indicates a past coming. The Living Bible has, “Watch out for the false leaders— and there are many of them around—who don’t believe that Jesus Christ came to earth as a human being with a body like ours.” Certainly that is the proper thought, for Jesus was not half spirit and half flesh.

One translation has, “Any such person is a deceiver and an antichrist.” Such individuals were originally in the group with John, but they subsequently left him and began to deny that Jesus had come in the flesh, becoming open enemies of Christ. In other words, in the second (or Smyrna) period of the Church, Satan was an open enemy of the Christian religion. In the third (or Pergamos) period, the man-child was born, and the pseudo-Christ arose. Thus there was a blatant, glaring difference between the Smyrna stage of the Church and the subtle, secret, hidden counterfeit Church in the Pergamos period.

2 John 8 Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have wrought, but that we receive a full reward.

John was saying, “Beware lest you lose what you have wrought and do not receive a full reward [the divine nature, a place in the Little Flock].” If careless, one will be of the Great Company or go into Second Death. Stated another way, the apostle was saying, “Do not throw away all the labor that has been spent on you.”

2 John 9 Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son.

“Whosoever transgresseth” by practicing sin or “abideth not in the [true] doctrine of Christ, hath not God.” Our daily walk is to be based on correct doctrine. “Transgression,” the practice of sin, means that the individual has let go of correct doctrine.

A “transgressor” obviously walks out of harmony with the principles of divine government. Examples are a drunkard, a fornicator, one who physically beats another, etc. If a person sins in any of these ways, we should not accept him as a teacher (or even as being in the truth) until he repents. Nor should we call him “brother” or “sister.”

If we see hatred and animosity plainly manifested, we should not accept the guilty party as a teacher or a brother until such time as he repents. Conspicuously wrong things should not be tolerated. We are to abide by the fundamentals.

These “transgressors” once walked in truth, but they subsequently “separated” from John and company. They committed obvious wrong deeds because of wrong doctrines. Therefore, if one manifestly transgresses plain Scripture—no matter how sweetly and eloquently he talks and no matter how educated he is—we should not accept his teachings and reasonings. If his way of life is obviously contrary to the principles of Christ—if his “fruits” are bad—he is not of God.

We usually think of “transgression” as meaning disobedience or willful sin, but in this particular setting, John seemed to be saying something very different. It is true that these false teachers were committing willful sin, but John was speaking strong and saying in effect, “Anyone who is so advanced that he is not content with what Jesus Christ himself taught, and thus abides not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God.” John did not mince words in advising the elect lady to see the situation in its proper light. In some respects, this was almost like a farewell letter.

“He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son.” John spoke very nicely to those who were abiding in the “doctrine of Christ” as they had been taught. But the others, who were so “advanced” that they thought the “doctrine of Christ” was like kindergarten, had forsaken God.

Comment: The principle is stated in Revelation 22:18, “If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book.”

Q: Is there an application for us today?

A: The principle will increasingly apply to “religious intellectuals” the closer we get to the very end of the age.

2 John 10 If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed:

If anyone brought not the true doctrine of Christ that John was speaking about, the instruction was to “receive him not into your house.” Thus there are times when we should ostracize, or excommunicate, a brother or sister. In spite of the lady’s love and charity, she had to be cold to the false teachers in order to be faithful. Not wanting her to be deceived and thus lose the full reward, John was saying, “If a deceiver comes to you, do not entertain him, but cut him short as soon as you realize his thinking. Do not invite him to stay with you, and do not bid him Godspeed.” In other words, we are not to say “God bless you” to those who espouse serious doctrinal error. John’s instruction was to take a firm stand and not to encourage such persons. He did not teach that we are to love everybody, for “love” must be based on God’s Word and His principles. We are to love others in proportion to their obedience.

“Godspeed” is especially wishing “God bless you” upon one’s departure and inviting him to return. It could also include giving the individual money to continue on in his work. In short, John was afraid that this lady, this sister, had entertained some false brethren and was being affected herself so that she might lose her full reward.

Q: In regard to not bidding Godspeed to those who do not subscribe to “the doctrine,” what should be our attitude toward those consecrated ones still in Babylon who believe in the Trinity in one form or another? Was John saying that if one understands the truth and then goes back and accepts the Trinity, we should in no way wish him Godspeed? Couldn’t we wish God’s blessing on those who have never had the doctrine explained to them yet are sincerely consecrated and believe in the Trinity?

A: The Scriptures say, “Lay hands suddenly on no man” (1 Tim. 5:22). This is a general rule. Wishing God’s blessing can be done as an individual or as a group, but the principle is more or less the same. We are to judge each case separately. For instance, if a brother has a wrong view on a certain subject but is performing a good ministry and does not bring up his doubts and opinions in his teaching, he should be regarded in a different light than another person who has the same wrong view but constantly brings it up. Also, there are times when a brother could be invited to speak on a certain subject; that way his wrong view would be purposely excluded. A class could even, on a rare occasion, invite an unconsecrated person to speak on a given subject from a historical standpoint, for example; that is, an exception could be made with limitations. However, wishing “Godspeed” is a more generalized matter, for it would be asking a blessing on the ministry of an individual. Therefore, we must be careful. If we have known the person over a period of time and what his ministry is like, our voting would be influenced accordingly.

Some come not as teachers but just as brothers and sisters, and after a limited conversation, we may wish them Godspeed. However, where we know something of a person’s background, we become responsible for our actions. We should not be loose in our approval if we know someone holds a wrong fundamental error.

The first clause in verse 9, “Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ,” means that the individual previously believed the “doctrine of Christ” and then left it. Hebrews 10:26 indicates the same thing: “If we sin wilfully after … we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins.” Thus verse 10 does not apply to a babe in Christ who has not yet come to a full knowledge of the doctrine of the Ransom.

“Godspeed” is so commonly used that we want to know where to draw the line. This blessing should not be wished hastily. Emotionally, we want to be kind and generous. If we have a sincere conversation and like the person, the tendency is to say, “God bless you.” This is okay to do normally, but once one is a recognized teacher, more consideration has to be given; that is, we are to “lay hands suddenly on no man” lest we partake of the injurious effect of his ministry.

John was specifically talking about some who once knew the truth and then left it and were now teachers, going around visiting as pilgrims. We must be careful whom we entertain and upon whom we wish God’s blessing.

The clause “If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine” refers generally to teachers who were visiting the homes of various believers with the intention of instructing and teaching. These professional spongers did not work, and the brethren became partakers of their evil deeds by entertaining them.

2 John 11 For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds.

In bidding Godspeed and entertaining enemies of God, a brother partakes of their sins—as long as he knows about them, of course. John was particularly warning about false teachers.

Those who encourage false teachers become participants in the sin.

“Godspeed” is usually said when a person is leaving, but in this context, it also means, “Do not even receive such an individual.” In other words, two thoughts are included here. (1) A brother or sister was not to encourage this element when they left by saying, “God bless you,” or help them along in their journey. (2) Nor was one to receive them. Some people are effusive by temperament and nature in wishing others well, but at times this attitude is inappropriate.

Comment: This advice pertains to individuals who once knew the truth and then departed from it. In our associations, we might have as guests in our home one from the nominal system who holds the Trinitarian view, but that situation is different, for he never understood the truth.

Reply: Yes, sins before consecration are a lot different from sins after consecration. For those who have known the truth to depart is much different from those who have never really seen the truth.

Comment: The Pastor commented that some who have neglected the plain statement of God’s Word on this subject have suffered spiritually for their disobedience.

2 John 12 Having many things to write unto you, I would not write with paper and ink: but I trust to come unto you, and speak face to face, that our joy may be full.

John hoped to visit the sister to whom this epistle was addressed. At that time, he would tell her many other things in person, filling in details.

Verse 12 leads to further consideration about this woman’s name and location. We believe that John wrote this epistle while in Ephesus and that she lived nearby because, being old, he was not in a position to journey a great distance. Not only was his visit to the seven churches phenomenal at his age, but we think she lived amidst those churches. We conjecture further that her name was related to Cyrus the Persian, who destroyed Sardis, the supposedly impregnable fortress. Following that victory, he resided there with many of his soldiers.

2 John 13 The children of thy elect sister greet thee. Amen.

The lady had consecrated relatives (children of a natural sister) who were there with John in Ephesus. The fact these individuals were with John and supporting him gave added weight to his warnings to the “elect lady.” In other words, these two women were both natural and spiritual sisters.

1997 Study with Excerpts from 1982-1983 Study

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