Note to the Reader
Generally at the beginning of each month we examine one book from the Bible. We started this month finishing our examination of First John. As of this week, we will begin looking at Second John, as such I encourage you to invest additional time reading the Epistle of Second John in conjunction with this article.
The Epistle of Second John
As I was preparing for this article, it just seemed right to continue looking at the Epistles of John. As such we will take a look at John’s Second Letter. Second John is a very brief letter, less than one page, thirteen verses, and only 298 words in the King James. While shorter than one of my typical articles, John’s letter contains profound statements that Christians have used as a spring board for volumes of books.
When it comes to this Second Letter of John, it is not specifically known when John penned the epistle. Interestingly, it is ancient church history that traditionally assigns this epistle to the Apostle John. However, modern disciples can see similarities among the Gospel of John and First and Second John; these similarities, along with long-held church tradition, persuade us to accept the Apostle John as the author.
The recipient of this second letter is entitled the elect lady and her children.1 There is some disagreement as to whether this “elect lady” was an actual female and her children, or if this “elect lady” is a symbolic reference to a church with its members. While it is appealing that John would write a personal letter to a mother and her children, it seems that a symbolic reference is what rings true with verse thirteen “the children of thy elect sister greet thee.”
It seems that John is either concerned that the “elect lady” was being influenced by deceivers or was in the process of being deceived. The specific teaching that was deceiving the elect is found in verse seven, there were some (perhaps fellow Christians) who were teaching that Jesus was not an actual person. John (by calling those that taught that Jesus was not human “antichrist”) is proclaiming that Jesus was actually real “flesh and blood” saying that Jesus was both the son of God and the son of man.
The concept of “antichrist” is found five times2 in the New Testament and all five are within the writings of John. John warns that there are antichrists in these last days3 and according to John, one who is an antichrist:
1. Denies Jesus as the Christ4
2. Denies the Father and the Son5
3. Does not confess that Jesus was flesh and blood.6
The English word antichrist is from a Greek word7 that is a compound of anti8 and christos.9 One of Thayer’s definitions states that anti means “over against, opposite to” which equates to our understanding of anti which means that one is against something because they take the opposite position. Thayer states that the Greek word christos means “anointed” and refers to Jesus as the Messiah. So according to John, one would be an antichrist if the person is against the belief that Jesus was the human anointed and sent by God and if one believes that Jesus is not the human anointed by God then they are against God.
Let us consider some tidbits mentioned in the NIV Archeological Study Bible. These provide additional points of interest that can enrich one’s reading of the Epistle of Second John. The study Bible stated: “Pay attention to John’s emphasis on truth and love, and note his warning against false teaching and deceivers.”10 Also consider this information regarding John’s letter:11
1. In his later years the apostle John functioned as an elder, perhaps of the Ephesian church (v. 1).
2. The paper of John’s day was made from papyrus reeds, which were readily available and inexpensive (v. 12).
3. Ink (the Greek term comes from a word that means “black”) was made by mixing carbon, water and gum or oil (v. 12).
While Second John is brief, it has much that can encourage our faith and build our conviction in Jesus and God. It is my hope that we all will be blessed my the writings of John. May the LORD bless us as we seek to learn more.
1. “The Elect Lady.” Second John 1.1, NASB.
2. “Term antichrist used five times in NT.” First John 2.18 (2x), First John 2.22, First John 4.3, Second John 1.7, NASB.
3. “Antichrists in these last days.” First John 2.18, 4.3, NASB.
4. “Antichrist’s denies Jesus as the Christ.” First John 2.22, NASB.
5. “Antichrist’s denies the Father and the Son.” First John 2.22, NASB.
6. “Antichrist’s do not confess that Jesus was flesh and blood.” First John 4.3, Second John 1.7, NASB.
7. English antichrist from Greek word antichristos, Strong’s Number G500.
8. Greek word anti, Strong’s Number G73.
9. Greek word christos, Strong’s Number G5547.
10. Introduction to Second John; “As You Read” Archaeological Study Bible, New International Version, p. 2032, ISBN-10: 0-310-92605-X.
11. Introduction to Second John; “Did You Know?” Archaeological Study Bible, New International Version, p. 2032, ISBN-10: 0-310-92605-X.