The title “son of perdition” is used twice in the New Testament, first in John 17:12 and again in 2 Thessalonians 2:3. The phrase simply means “man doomed to destruction” and is not reserved for any one individual. In fact, there are two people to which the title “son of perdition” is applied. In context, John 17:12 is referring to Judas Iscariot, while 2 Thessalonians 2:3 is referring to the “man of lawlessness”—the Antichrist—who will appear in the end times before Christ’s return.
The word perdition means “eternal damnation” or “utter destruction.” It can also be used as a synonym for hell. When a person is called “son of perdition,” the connotation is that of a person in an unredeemable state, someone who is already damned while he is still alive. Jesus mentions the “son of perdition” in His high priestly prayer in John 17. While praying to the Father for His disciples, Jesus mentions that He “protected them and kept them safe” and that none of them were lost except the “son of perdition,” that is, the one who was already in a damned state. The fact that the phrase is used again to describe the Antichrist shows us that forgiveness was not planned for Judas. God could have saved Judas—moved his heart to repentance—but He chose not to. He was indeed “doomed to destruction.”
A good picture of a person who is a “son of perdition” appears in Hebrews 6:4–8, which describes a person who, like Judas, has experienced a certain closeness to God and has a good understanding of salvation, but then denies it. Instead of bearing good fruit, he bears “thorns and thistles.” This is a person who sees the path to salvation, which is trusting in God’s grace to cover sin (Ephesians 2:8–9), and instead either flatly denies the existence of God or denies God’s gift of salvation, preferring to pay his own debt. Judas chose the second path, punishing himself by suicide instead of accepting grace.
However, Judas and the Antichrist are extreme cases. It is never right for a human being to label another person a “son of perdition” because only God knows the ultimate future of each human soul. Only with these two individuals did God choose to reveal His plan for their eternal damnation. With every other person, no matter how lost or evil he may seem, we are to hope and pray for his redemption (1 Timothy 2:1).