While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name: those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition; that the scripture might be fulfilled. – John 17:12, KJV
The Meaning of the Son of Perdition
Who is the son of perdition mentioned in the King James Version of John 17:12? And what does perdition mean? The Latin root “perdere” means to “do away with, destroy; lose, throw away, squander,” or spiritually, the “condition of damnation, spiritual ruin, state of souls in Hell.” Perdition in the Greek, apōleia, is translated as “destruction” or “waste” depending on the verse one is reading. The Son of Perdition is the progeny of abuse and desolation. So who is he?
Is Judas the Son of Perdition?
Judas is named by Jesus in John 17:12 as the one He lost; the “son of perdition” (KJV); the one “doomed to destruction” (NIV); or the “rebel bent on destruction” (MSG). Judas chose the path to ruin when he determined to betray Jesus. As Warren Wiersbe commented, even though “it was prophesied that one of Messiah’s close associates would betray Him […] this fact does not relieve Judas of responsibility. We must not make him a martyr because he fulfilled this prophecy.” Wiersbe was explaining Matthew 26:8 where Judas criticized Mary for wasting expensive oil to worship Jesus: apōleia is translated here as “waste.” This double-meaning helps us understand the tragedy of Judas.
How Did Jesus Treat Judas?
In John 6:70 Christ says, “one of you is a devil.” The Greek for “devil” is “diabolos” or “slanderer; a false accuser; unjustly criticizing to hurt (malign) and condemn to sever a relationship.” Judas “was often warned by Jesus” that He knew what Judas was up to; Jesus even “washed Judas’ feet” as an example of the disciples’ true life of service.
According to Wiersbe, Judas probably hoped that if “Jesus established His kingdom, [he], as treasurer, would have had an important position,” but “when Jesus repeatedly refused to become a political Messiah, Judas turned against Him.” Jesus knew that instead of renouncing a life of deceit in exchange for eternal life, Judas would cut himself off from God; “sever a relationship” by behaving as a false accuser and slandering Jesus before the religious authorities.
Judas helped bring prophecy to fruition, but Christ deplored the wastefulness of his choice all the same. Judas is called “diabolos” but Jesus does not identify Judas as The Son of Perdition.
Is Satan the True Son of Perdition?
Pastor Roger Barrier explains that, “Judas was specifically chosen for the job of betrayal. We may say that Judas was predestined.” Still, he was not created out of destruction. He was a child of God. So if Judas was not the ultimate Son of Perdition, then who is this frightening figure? Here are 7 characteristics:
1. He isSatan’s version of the Son of Man. Arthur Pink calls him “man and yet not a man.” He is not a child of God. While Jesus was the Son of God, “the word made flesh,” (John 1:14) the Son of Perdition is “the incarnation of the Devil;” opposite, but not equal. The Son of Perdition comes according to the work of Satan (2 Thessalonians 2:9) but Satan does not have authority to act without permission from God. (Job 1:12)
2. The Son of Perdition is a created entity whom “Jesus will overthrow with the breath of his mouth and destroy by the splendor of his coming” (2 Thessalonians 2:8). One cannot destroy that which has not first been created. Jesus has always existed as part of the Trinity. The Son of Perdition is merely Satan’s parody; “the serpent’s masterpiece.” (Ibid.) Moreover, this verse speaks of Christ’s coming; that is, His second coming, future tense. Judas Iscariot is long gone.
3. The purposes of the Son of Perdition oppose those of Jesus. Christ came to save souls for eternal life in Heaven. Through forgiveness of sins to repentant believers, Jesus brought new life and continues to save people today. Satan’s offspring (referred to by Arthur Pink as the “Antichrist”) comes to deceive and destroy. This title “diagnoses his personality and exposes his awful character” as the “lawless” one for whom there is no depth of wickedness too low. (Ibid.) The Antichrist will be sent to cause “defection from the religion ordained by God;” apostasy. Although Judas was a deceiver, his actions were used to further God’s plans, not to oppose them, and he is not shown to have led others to ruin. Christ’s resurrection leads believers into victory over Satan’s schemes. Judas was free to repent, but the Son of Perdition is a slave to the Serpent’s purposes.
4.“He will use all sorts of displays of power through signs and wonders that serve the lie.” (2 Thessalonians 2:9) The Son of Perdition will appear “good,” to the extent that the unwary will be deceived into thinking he is from God or even the second coming of Christ. He will pretend to be religious (Ibid.), but also appear to be “the superman” everyone is desperate for. Many will follow this figure straight to eternal damnation, but everyone has a choice. The bible describes the behavior of one who worships Jesus Christ. Take heed of 1 John 4:1 and “test the Spirits.”
5. Christians glorify God, while Satan’s evil progeny “will exalt himself over everythingthat is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God.” (2 Thessalonians 2:4) Jesus glorified and thanked the Father (Matthew 11:25), working in His name (John 3:5), and praying to Him (Matthew 26:36-44). The Son of Perdition expects “divine homage” for himself. Judas coveted wealth, perhaps a place in the throne room next to a warrior king, but He did not compete for leadership.
6. Christians are unified but the serpent’s son stands alone. Paul’s letter to the Philippian church exhorts them to “striv[e] together as one for the faith of the gospel without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved—and that by God.” (Philippians 1:27-28) Unity offers protection, encouragement against fear, and is an identifying feature. As in nature, where a predator separates individuals from the group in order to weaken and destroy them, Satan wants to isolate believers and lure them towards apostasy.
Even a believer who maintains the faith can become discouraged and lose the peace of the Holy Spirit when he is cut off from the body of Christ. Wayne Jackson points out that the Greek word for temple in Paul’s letters is “naos” which is “used of the Christian’s body (1 Cor. 6:19) or of the church as God’s spiritual house.” (Ibid.) Judas was guilty of trying to cut Mary off in a sense, like a villain who pulls a bystander from the crowd to shield himself from his enemy’s bullets. The Son of Perdition will behave likewise, but on a much larger scale. The disciples might have offered Judas a chance at rehabilitation; where he might have become a true believer. He threw away the opportunity to be redeemed.
7. Religiosity is the evil one’s tool. “The implication of Paul’s warning is this. This unholy being is viewed as being a ‘church’ character.” (Ibid.) The Son of Perdition will appear to be a man of the law, yet he is the “lawless one” who has “no regard for the law of God.” (Ibid.) Judas asked "why wasn't this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year's wages.” (Matthew 12:5) The appearance of “good” is only a show, but his protests are easily overwhelmed: “‘Leave her alone,’ Jesus replied” (12:7) and they did.
The Son of Perdition is Restrained – For Now
God restrains the Son of Perdition for now. “The secret power of lawlessness is already at work; but the one who now holds it back will continue to do so till he is taken out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow with the breath of his mouth and destroy by the splendor of his coming.” (2 Thessalonians 2:7-8) Satan’s son will emerge, but only until Jesus returns. Satan’s beast might be here now, operating as a smooth politician, a benevolent multi-billionaire, or the pastor of a thousands-strong church preaching attractive lies that deceive the unwary, arrogant, or undiscerning. Judas was not a smooth-talking man of power. He was not destroyed by the breath of Christ but undone by shame. If only he had understood the promise of hope for the believer: “neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, […] nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39)
Candice Lucey lives with her husband and daughters in (mostly) tranquil Salmon Arm, BC, Canada. Here, she enjoys digging into God’s word when not working or taking part in ministry activities. Her prose and poetry has previously appeared in such publications as Purpose and Creation Illustrated, and her short plays were performed at Christmas by Sunday School students for several years. Catch up with Candice’s scriptural studies at her blog Wordwell.ca.
Image Credit: Getty/peter-forster