How Lost is Judas – the Son of Perdition?

This discussion is in reference to Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed Christ to the Jewish leaders, whom Christ described in his prayer to the Father as the one lost – the son of perdition.

My approach to this question comes down to another question – is God’s grace sufficient to cover the sins of Judas? It can be discussed from at least two perspectives; with regard to God’s calling (Fourth Gospel(1) 17:6,9), and from God’s overall redemptive plan (Romans 9:19-24; 2 Timothy 2:20-21; Romans 11:32).

Let’s begin by understanding the context and reference to the “son of perdition” in the Fourth Gospel 17:12 (KJV). As noted from Ellicott’s Commentary(2), its use is intended as a qualitative adjective, not as a noun:

  • The son of perdition (destruction in the ESV) – describes the outcome of the person possessing this character
    • Character that leads to destruction
    • A son of disobedience
  • It can be rendered as – “And none of them perished except him whose nature it was to perish.”
  • Used in Isaiah 57:4 to express the disobedience of the Israelites, yet they are not beyond redemption (Romans 11:1-2a, 11-12, 15, 17-23)

Many Called, Few Chosen

It’s important to distinguish between the calling and being chosen. This theme from Matthew 22:14, runs throughout the gospel and requires deeper study to understand fully. We can, however, glean several key points from it:

  • Being chosen depends as much on the part of being called as it does on that person’s response to the calling(3)
  • Not everyone who hears God’s call, responds in an effective way(4) and leads to producing the fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22)
  • The path to follow Christ is a narrow one, not a wide one (Luke 13:23-25; Matthew 7:12-14; Ephesians 4:17-32; Colossians 3)

The process of being called and chosen is an essential part of our relationship with God. It is the process God used to call Israel out of Egypt and claim them as his own portion. It’s also the process used when Christ called his disciples to follow him (Fourth Gospel 17:6,9). It’s also clear that Christ knew those he chose and of what character they possessed or lacked (Fourth Gospel 13:10-19).

  • Christ served (washed the feet of) him who did not believe
  • To fulfill scripture in the simplest sense (Psalm 41:9)
  • And fulfills the will of God in the larger sense (Fourth Gospel 6:50-51)

Interested in the details about those called, chosen, and faithful in Christ? Discover more.

Who Will Receive the Bread of Life

When the time came for Christ to challenge the thinking of those around him, including his disciples, the response was telling. We see an example of this in the sixth chapter of the Fourth Gospel.

Fourth Gospel 6:60-71

  • Some of Christ’s followers were stumbling at his difficult saying – he who eats my body and drinks my blood will abide with me and I with him.
  • Christ was speaking of the spirit not of the flesh (vs 63)
  • Some with him didn’t believe – thought only in the flesh, and departed (vs 64, 66)
    • Included in those who did not believe was the one who would betray him
  • No man can come to me (spiritually) unless it is given to him by my Father (vs 65)
    • It was not given to those who departed
    • It was not given to him who would betray Christ
  • Christ even asks the twelve – Do you want to go away as well?
  • Peter, speaking for all of them them said – You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.
    • It was given to those who believed
    • But not all twelve believed (Matthew 16:16-17)
  • One of you has a devilish (adjective, not noun) nature (vs 70)
    • Lacks character
    • Fourth Gospel 8:44 – You are from the father of accusations
    • Fourth Gospel 13:2 – the unbelieving are easily influenced by this spirit of deception
    • Fourth Gospel 13:10-11 – though Christ serves them all, one is not clean

In reference to verse 70, both Pulpit and Meyer’s commentaries express dissatisfaction with the idea that Christ had foreknowledge of his betrayer:

It is morally inconceivable that Christ, in his divine foreknowledge, chose Judas to special reprobation, knowing him then to be devilish in his nature(5).

Jesus cannot have received Judas into the company . . . this would be psychologically and morally inconceivable. He must have had confidence that each . . . would become an effective supporter of his work(6).

Is it really morally inconceivable? These are the limited views and thinking of men, not according to the will and purpose of God. Christ, from the very beginning, was committed to what the Father required of him. Was his commitment so shallow that he could not dwell in the presence of him who would become his betrayer? I think not.

First, there is the premise that God rules supreme. He alone is the master potter, making vessels of honor or vessels of dishonor (Romans 9). Yet in spite of that challenging reality, we can see that he is willing to account for both (Romans 11:32).

Second, it is no small thing that Christ submitted to the betrayer within his midst. He was among the disciples whom God gave him, and one who ate bread with him. Christ bore, personally, all the pain and suffering common to mankind – especially those most crippling to men, yet he was the victor:

  • Rejection and hatred by his own people, the Jews
  • Unacceptance by his own community – they thought they knew him but didn’t
  • Disappointment by those looking to the Messiah to restore Israel and subdue the heathen dogs and oppressor Rome
  • Betrayal by one of his own disciples (who was likely seeking only the restoration of the nation of Israel above all things)

The shallow thinking expressed in these commentaries seems to only fit a Christ who was a victim of the world and it’s deceptive ways.

Christ as Victor, not Victim 

Christ was not a victim of some moral conflagration. He was as high above the moral state as the Godly realm is above the physical realm.

Fourth Gospel 6:38-40

  • Christ came to do his will and the will of the Father
    • To lose nothing that the Father has entrusted to him
    • To raise them up at the last day
    • That whoever sees the Son and believes
    • To him it is given to be raised up

Fourth Gospel 6:50-58

  • Christ is the bread which came down from heaven, that if a man partakes of it (spiritually), he will not die
    • The bread he gives (spiritually) is in the death of his body (physically)
    • For the sake of the life of the world (the wicked, the unjust, the sinner)
    • His body and blood are the source of life, eternal life, at the last day
    • Through his body and blood, those who eat abide (in spirit) with him and he with them
    • Eternal life is passed from the Father to the Son, and from the Son to those who eat his body and drink his blood.

Fourth Gospel 10:15-18, 26-30

  • Christ and the Father are one
  • He lays down his life for the sake of the sheep (to the Jews – 9:40-41)
  • He has other sheep (gentiles), not of this fold (Israel)
    • They will hear his voice
    • Together (Israel and gentiles) they will become one flock
  • Christ is loved by the Father because he does his will – lays down his life and takes it up again
  • No man takes his life from him
    • Christ lays it down of his own free will
    • This command he received from his Father
    • Power to lay down his life
    • Power to take it up again
  • Some do not believe because they are not of Christ’s sheep (vs 26)
    • Those who are his sheep he gives life eternal and they will never perish
    • No one can snatch them from my hand
    • No one can snatch them from my Father’s hands – who is greater than all
    • Does Judas fit into this category – not currently
  • The Father and the Son are of one accord
    • One mind
    • One will
    • One intent
    • Seeking the same outcome
    • Motivated by the same purpose

Fourth Gospel 17:1-4

  • Christ prays to the Father
    • The Son seeks to be glorified by the Father
    • The Son seeks to glorify the Father
  • The Father has given him power over all flesh
    • To all those whom the Father gives
    • To them the Son gives eternal life
    • Was Judas included in this – not currently
  • What is eternal life?
    • That they know the Father, he is the only true God
    • And his Son, Yeshua the Christ
  • Christ sees his work as though it is already finished
    • That is the level of his commitment
    • That’s the assurance and trust in the will of the Father

Fourth Gospel 18:1-9

  • Christ and his disciples enter the garden
    • This is a place Judas was familiar with
  • Together with guards and soldiers of the high priest and Pharisees, Judas leads them to the garden
  • Christ knows everything that is to happen (vs 4)
  • Yeshua freely admits – I am
    • More than words proceed from him as indicated by their response (vs 6)
  • Christ commands, if you take me – let these go
    • To fulfill – of those you gave me, none are lost
    • Judas is not included in this group

Back to Fourth Gospel 17

  • Christ knows those whom the Father gave him, through God’s call and gift of belief (vs 6)
    • They have kept your word
    • Judas was not a believer, given to Christ by the Father, and was accepted by Christ that the will of the Father might be fulfilled.
  • Here are the characteristics of those who God gave him (vs 8):
    • They accepted the word of God from Christ
    • They know that Christ came from the Father
    • They believe the evidence that God did send him as the Messiah, the Christ
    • They trust in his words of life
  • Christ is glorified by those whom God gave him (vs 10)
    • Judas does not fit into this category – not by word or by deed
  • None are lost except the son of perdition (vs 12)
    • Lost the opportunity in his call to office of disciple/apostle (Act 1:20-22)
    • Lost in unbelief
    • Lost in death – the word is used here and other places this way (Acts 27:22; 1 Corinthians 15:18)
    • Perdition leads to destruction (death)
    • What are the wages of sin? (Romans 6)

How did Judas Respond? 

Matthew gives us an idea of where Judas’ perspective was based – in the flesh rather than in the spirit. When compared to Peter’s denial of Christ and his response to it, the contrast between true repentance and simple regret becomes more evident (Matthew 26:30-35, 69-75).

Matthew 27:3-5 [Meyer’s](3) [Barnes’](5)

  • Judas, seeing the conviction of Christ, did not get the results he expected from his actions
  • The regret which he expresses is not that of true (spiritual) repentance:
    • His regret leads to hopelessness, despair, and his own death
    • This is fitting for an unbeliever
    • For a believer, true repentance leads to wholeness and salvation
  • The sin he relents of is betrayal of innocent blood
    • His confession was not to God or to Christ, but to his co-conspirators
    • This indicates the awareness of the innocence of Christ
    • Though he apparently had no faith in the divinity of Christ
    • This too, is fitting for an unbeliever

Conclusions 

From this evidence it is clear to this reader that Judas, though in the company of believers, was not one himself. His personal, and possibly national, expectations for the coming Messiah did not fit with those of our Lord. It was in this character and root motivation that Christ accepted him into the company so that the will of the Father might be fulfilled – a will that Christ was aware of and completely committed to.

In the case of Judas we have an unbeliever who, although weak in character, was not without some level of conscious remorse. His sin is certainly redeemable, even though, currently, he isn’t among the redeemed. Can he be in the future? That is up to God’s future call and his response. 

To discover more about the plans Christ has for all of Israel’s descendants, read my recent book . . .

The Rapture Question – An Unfiltered View

There is much more to learn about each of these topics and links have been provided to related articles. Those tagged with Read more lead you to related channel questions and their basic answers. Those tagged Discover more are part of a more in-depth study program. Any tagged with Learn more address methods, processes, and resources which can aid your approach to learning. All are free resources to assist you in gaining a more unfiltered view of God’s word.


 Presuppositions

At the close of each article we’ll cite the relevant presuppositions that support it. This enables the reader to gain a clearer and deeper understanding of the context. To learn more about presuppositions, see the About page.

  1. God is proactive and purposeful in all that he does
    (Matthew 13:34-35; Ephesians 1:3-14; Hebrews 1; 1 Peter 1:18-21)
  2. God is faithful and will fulfill in those called and chosen what he has already completed in Christ (Fourth Gospel 1:9-13)
  3. The grace of God is greater-than the sin of humanity (Romans 5)
  4. God’s redemptive work on humanity’s behalf is to save them from the second death, not the first death
    1. The death spoken of in God’s command to Adam – in dying you shall surely die does not refer to spiritual death, but the second death – which results in separation from God and from which there is no hope of resurrection.
      (Genesis 2:16-17; Fourth Gospel 3:14-21; 5:24; 6:40; Romans 5; 6; 1 Corinthians 15:19; Hebrews 9:25-28; Revelation 20:6, 14-15)
  5. Faith, which is a gift of God, is the basis of the hope of salvation for all those committed to the Lord
    (Romans 11; 1 Peter 1; 2 Timothy 3:14-17; Jude 3)
  6. Based on God’s promise to offer the new covenant to all Israel after Christ returns and establishes his earthly kingdom, clearly this is not the only day of salvation
    (Jeremiah 31; 32:37-41; Ezekiel 37:24-28; Zechariah 8; Romans 9, 10, 11)

Footnotes:

  1. Due to the dispute over the authorship of the fourth gospel, typically attributed to John the brother of James and author of the Book of Revelation of Jesus Christ, I have concluded on the side of such authors as J. Phillips, Edward Reaugh Smith, and Tobias Skinner who have shown conclusively John could not be the sole author and instead attribute primary authorship to Lazarus – the disciple whom Christ loved. I will therefore refer to the book as the Fourth Gospel.
  2. Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers on John 17:12
  3. Ellicott’s Commentary on Matthew 22:14
  4. In short, many hear, few believe: many are members of the visible, but few of the invisible church. Benson Commentary on Matthew 22:14.
  5. Pulpit Commentary on John 6:70
  6. Meyer’s NT Commentary – Note 1 on John 6:70, Matthew 27:3

Published by GMajella

Husband, father, and author on theological topics, with a focus on the underlying presuppositions which either cloud or enhance our view of reality. My focus is to challenge and guide fellow Christians into a deeper knowledge of God; his work, his will, and his overall purpose. My primary methods will be through books, blogs, and virtual or personal events.

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