18 Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour. 19 They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us.

20 But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth. 21 I do not write to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it and because no lie comes from the truth.

22 Who is the liar? It is the man who denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a man is the antichrist -- he denies the Father and the Son. 23 No-one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also. 24 See that what you have heard from the beginning remains in you. If it does, you also will remain in the Son and in the Father. 25 And this is what he promised us -- even eternal life.

26 I am writing these things to you about those who are trying to lead you astray. 27 As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit -- just as it has taught you, remain in him.

28 And now, dear children, continue in him, so that when he appears we may be confident and unashamed before him at his coming. 29 If you know that he is righteous, you know that everyone who does what is right has been born of him.



  • In the first part of chapter two John warns his readers to follow Jesus, not the world. He is responding to a serious problem. Christians are defecting, leaving the faith. In the second part of the chapter, we find two problematic terms: antichrist and anointing.
  • It is the last hour (v.18).
    • John is stressing the theological urgency of the situation, more than the chronological nearness of the end of the world.
    • At any rate, all disciples must always be ready for the end; Jesus promised he would come as a thief.
  • The antichrist (v.18) is not necessarily one evil individual.
    • Many antichrists have come.
    • They were denying the teachings of Christ and sacrificial lifestyle demanded of his followers. They also denied the incarnation.
  • "They went out from us" and "did not really belong to us" (v.19). This doesn't necessarily mean they never belonged. Rather, their decisions and beliefs were (or became) contrary to correct Christian teaching.
  • What is the "anointing" (v.20)? The false teachers whom John is refuting claimed that extra, esoteric, mystical knowledge was necessary in order to fully apprehend the truth.
    • Gnosticism was a highly speculative religion/philosophy. John counters by affirming that all Christians already have the truth.
    • Jesus had promised that the Spirit would see to that (John 14:26 and 16:13). We need no teacher to explain the real faith to us, because we've already been taught, through the apostles.
      • We have no need for anyone to teach us the gospel all over again, or and add to it.
      • Our Christian foundation was not defective.
    • The “anointing” refers to the original, pristine, apostolic doctrine which is both immutable and inimitable. No one needs to teach us the truth; we learned it when we first came to know the Lord. Jeremiah 31:34, with Hebrews 8:10-11, continues this thought. The claim that God did not come in the flesh is gravely wrong (v.22ff).
  • Verse 21 shows that “knowing the truth” is equivalent to “receiving the anointing” (2:20, 27).
    • The liar rejects the sufficiency of this “anointing.” He denies that Jesus is the Messiah.
    • The liar’s teaching is counterfeit; it resembles the genuine article, but up close its cheapness, baseness and uselessness become evident.
  • We should feel “confident and unashamed” (v.28) when we understand the power of Christ’s cleansing blood (1:7-2:2).
    • See 3:19-21 for the continuation of this thought.
    • Ironically, the false teachers were also confident (arrogantly so) and unashamed (though they shouldn’t have been).
  • In verse 29 John reminds us that true Christians not only “talk right,” they also “walk right.”
    • Their sinful lifestyle confirms that the prophets are false (Matthew 7:15-20). Whether they’d (initially) crossed from death to life is irrelevant; they were now living for themselves. And when you live for self, the Bible says, you’re dead even while you live (1 Timothy 5:6).
    • God's true children ("born of him") live righteously, in the light.


  • The precise meaning of the “last hour” (v.18) is difficult to pin down.
    • Maybe it refers to the end of the world. This view is not without obvious difficulties; it does, however, follow on smoothly from verse 17. If this is correct, are we still in the last hour? Did it come and go, or are we still “on stand-by” till the end?
    • Some hold that it refers to the final years before the Destruction of Jerusalem (Matthew 24), in which case these were the final days of Judaism, or Christianity within Judaism—enjoying imperial protection. Things were to heat up considerably for the Christians after 70 AD!
    • Perhaps it alludes to the last hour in the Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard (Matthew 20:12), and thus refers to the influx of Gentiles into the church. Could the Holy Spirit be revealing that, for the Christians in Asia Minor, persecution might soon eradicate the faith in that part of the world? In other words, it’s the “last hour” locally, not globally, for these disciples.
    • Or maybe this is a reference to Paul’s prophecy in 2 Timothy 4:3.
    • Or yet again to Jesus’ oracle (Matthew 24:12-14, 24). Many passages speak of disciples being led away from the truth.
  • Possibly these Gnostics have Jewish roots and “went out” (v.19) from the church to return to the synagogue, to escape persecution. The false prophets (4:1-6) would likely have permitted their adherents to worship in their own way, even if that meant a return to established religion (Judaism). But, there's no way to be saved apart from the truth of Christ—and the Christ of truth (2:23).
  • In Isaiah 61:1, anointing refers to the Messiah. It is not right, in my opinion, for a modern-day preacher to claim to have God's "anointing" on him.
  • For further questions related to today's text, click here, here, and here.

Thought questions:

  • Am I easily influenced by novel and attractive doctrines? (See also Ephesians 4:14 and Hebrews 13:9.)
  • “Confident and unashamed” (v.28) -- does this describe my walk with Jesus Christ? If I were to be ushered into his presence now, how would I feel?

This lesson has been adapted from chapter 19 of James, Peter, John, Jude. For the complete studies, buy/borrow the book!