The online Bible teaching ministry of John Brand

The Real Lord’s Prayer – John 17:12 (2)

John 17:12  “While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled.”

In our last study we focused on the security that is ours as believers because Jesus keeps and guards us just as he kept the disciples when he was on earth and then entrusted them to the Father’s keeping.

We noted that Jesus said that not one of the disciples had been lost “except the son of destruction”, and just briefly made the point that Jesus isn’t saying that he managed to keep eleven out of the twelve.

That brings us to what Jesus says here about Judas, and because that is important and, to some, troublesome, I think we need to focus on these words.

You see it raises, at least in some people’s minds, various questions, questions like –

  • Can the experience of Judas be used as evidence that someone can come to faith and later make shipwreck of his faith and end up in destruction?
  • How can we hold Judas responsible for his actions if it was always intended that he would act as he did and end up where he did?

We need to unpack two things Jesus said about Judas.

First, he describes him as “the son of destruction”, or as the AV puts it, “the son of perdition”.  The NIV which opts for a thought-for-thought approach, rather than word-for-word, puts it like this, “the one doomed to destruction” which gets it exactly right.

The phrase, “son of…” can refer either to someone’s character or to their destiny, or indeed both.  You will remember that Jesus described James and John as “the sons of thunder” (Mark 3:17), probably because of their outspoken nature.

But here, with Judas, the reference is to his destiny; he is the son of, or the one destined for, destruction; i.e. eternal destruction.

It’s the word Jesus uses in Matthew 7:13 when he warns that the wide gate and easy way “leads to destruction”.  Paul uses it in Romans 9:22 when he speaks about “vessels of wrath prepared for destruction”; and John, in Revelation 17:8 and 11 uses it to refer to the judgement on the Beast.

Now we need to be careful we understand that word destruction correctly and biblically.  In everyday English, the word destroy means to, well, destroy; to ruin, to bring to an end.

But that is not quite how the Bible uses the word. What is meant here is not a simple end of existence but an everlasting state of torment and death.  It’s a reference, in effect, to hell and eternal, conscious judgement.  That’s why the AV uses the word “perdition”, because that is the precise and only meaning of that word.

Now, and I guess this is the troubling bit for many, Jesus does not simply say that Judas is going to hell, but that he is the son of destruction, he is marked out for destruction, for hell.

Friends, this is uncomfortable, I appreciate that, but it is biblical and therefore we need to accept it.  Judas was destined by God to play the role he did in the betrayal of the Saviour and to be eternally judged and condemned for his actions.  

This is one of those examples where Scripture teaches both the ultimate sovereignty of God without negating the responsibility of sinful men and women for their actions.

There’s another example of this in Pharoah.  See what God says to Pharoah through Moses in Exodus 9:16, quoted by Paul in Romans 9:17; “…for this purpose I have raised you up, to show you my power, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth.”

And please note that back in Exodus 5:21, even before Moses first met with Pharoah, God says, “I will harden his heart, so that he will not let my people go.”  So God didn’t simply harden Pharoah’s heart because he himself had hardened it; God initiated the hardening process.

This is all part of the providence of God, whereby God, in his sovereign overruling of the universe, controls and directs everything – and we stressed the everything – in order to achieve the ends he has planned.

Think of the same principle with regard to Cyrus. 150 years before he appears on the scene of world history, Isaiah prophesies, “Thus says the LORD to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right I have grasped, to subdue nations before him.” (Isaiah 45:1).  Note the following verses in that chapter as well.

What Jesus’ reference to Judas tells us is that God, in his sovereign power and purpose, raised up Judas, just as he raised up Pharoah and Cyrus, to use him to bring about his own glorious and saving purposes; but he did it in such a way that Judas willingly co-operated and bore full responsibility for his actions.

Scripture tells us that it was the devil who put it into Judas’ mind to betray Jesus (John 13:2, 27) and that “Satan entered into Judas” (Luke 22:3), and also that it was Judas himself who willingly carried it through (Matthew 26:14, 25, 47; Mark 14:10; Luke 22:48; John 18:2–3, 5).  But remember that Satan can only act within the perameters of God’s will and with God’s permission.

We have to admit, we find these issues hard to truly understand but, read on in Romans 9, which, as I said, quotes Exodus 6. God anticipates these very struggles:

“You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?”  Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use?  “What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory – even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?” (Romans 9:19-24).

Now let’s briefly note the second thing Jesus says about Judas which reinforces the first in some ways.  He says that, “…not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled”

The fact that Judas’ actions fulfil Scripture also assures us that all of this was prophesied by Scripture.  The Scripture that Jesus has in mind is probably Psalm 41:9 – “Even my close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted up his heel against me”; a verse which Jesus had already applied to Judas earlier on this same evening, as recorded in John 13:18.

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