Perdition, Damnation, and Eternal Loss

By Mark Mayberry


In this article, let us consider the biblical term “perdition,” which is derived from the Greek word apoleia. Strong says it means “ruin or loss (physical, spiritual or eternal).” Thayer defines it as “1. actively, a destroying, utter destruction: as, of vessels; 2. passively, a perishing, ruin, destruction.”1 In particular, it has reference to “the destruction which consists in the loss of eternal life, eternal misery, perdition,” and describes “the lot of those excluded from the kingdom of God.”2 Thomas classes it as “destruction” or “loss.”3 The New Bible Dictionary says perdition is “a word employed in the NT, in the sense of ‘destruction’ and with special reference to the fate of the wicked and their loss of eternal life (Rev. 17:8, 11). . . . The Gk. word stands in direct antithesis to full and complete blessedness (souteuria).”4 

In the KJV, this word is translated “damnable (-nation), destruction, die, perdition, perish, pernicious ways, waste.” In the NASV, this word appears 17 times in 18 Bible verses (Matt. 7:13; 26:8; Mark 14:4; John 17:12; Acts 8:20; Rom. 9:22; Phil. 1:28; 3:19; 2 Thess. 2:3; 1 Tim. 6:9; Heb. 10:39; 2 Pet. 2:1, 3; 3:7, 16; Rev. 17:8, 11), where it is rendered “destruction, destructive, perdition, perish, waste, and wasted.” In the New Testament, the Greek word apoleia has application to four classes: It describes the fate of those who are covetous, those who are comfortable, those who are compromisers, and those who are cowardly. 

Perdition Awaits Those Who Are Covetous

When a woman anointed Jesus’ head with a very costly perfume, the disciples were indignant at the squandering of this valuable resource: “Why this waste [apoleia]? This perfume might have been sold for a high price and the money given to the poor.” Jesus assured them that no waste had occurred. He reminded them that the poor are ever present, but his brief ministry was quickly nearing its end. By preparing his body for burial, her actions were virtuous and memorable (Matt. 26:6-13; Mark 14:3-9). 

In John’s account of this incident (or a similar one), Judas was particularly incensed, saying, “Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and given to poor people?” Yet, these  altruistic words hid Judas’ real motivation: He was a thief. Entrusted with the money box, he had previously pilfered from it (John 12:1-8). Immediately afterwards, Judas made his unholy pact with the chief priests to betray Jesus for thirty pieces of silver (Matt. 26:14-16; Mark 14:10-11). 

Judas, the “son of perdition” was doomed to destruction for betraying Christ into the hands of his enemies (John 17:12). Though chosen as an apostle, Judas’ heart was not right with God — he was a devil (John 6:70-71). Like others who rejected the truth, Judas was more demonic than Christ-like, more compliant to temptation than resistant of it, more a son of Satan than a child of God (John 8:44-47; 13:2, 21-30). Bowing before the god of mammon, Judas sold his Master for thirty pieces of silver (Matt. 26:14-15; Zech. 11:12-13). 

A similar curse befell Simon the Sorcerer. This former occultic trick master was amazed when he observed genuine signs and miracles (Acts 8:9-13). Ignoring the real purpose of miracles (i.e., confirmation of the apostolic message), Simon viewed spiritual gifts from a different angle: “Here is a way to get rich quick!” Allowing greed to get the best of him, Simon attempted to purchase the gift of God with money. However, Peter rebuked him saying, “May your silver perish [apoleia] with you . . . You have no part or portion in this matter, for your heart is not right before God . . . Repent . . . and pray . . . For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and in the bondage of iniquity” (Acts 8:18-24). Once again, we see the danger of covetousness: The love of money plunges men into ruin and destruction (1 Tim. 6:9-10). 

Perdition Awaits Those Who Are Comfortable

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus contrasted the saved and the lost. He spoke of two gates and two ways which lead, respectively, to life and death. The pathway leading to heaven is lonely, difficult, and narrow, but the thoroughfare leading to destruction (apoleia) is popular, easily traveled, and broad (Matt. 7:13-14; Luke 13:24). Looking for a way that is painless and trouble-free, many reject Christian discipleship because it is arduous and demanding. Yet, paradoxically, the yoke of Christ is easier than the way of sinners (Matt. 11:28-30; Prov. 13:15). Yet, those who follow the easy way forget there is a great day coming when all wickedness and ungodliness will be judged (2 Pet. 3:3-13; Rev. 17:8, 11). Woe unto those who are at ease in Zion (Amos 6:1-7). The Laodicean disciples were lazy, lethargic, lackadaisical, and lost. Jesus commanded, “Be zealous and repent” (Rev. 3:14-19). 

Perdition Awaits Those Who Are Compromisers

Eternal destruction awaits those who are enemies of the cross of Christ (Phil. 3:17-19). Included in this curse is the man of lawlessness, the son of perdition (2 Thess. 2:3-4). Sin is defined as rebellion against God’s rule and revelation: “Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness” (1 John 3:4). Such a spirit is evident both in the unregenerate world (Rom. 6:19) and also in apostate religions (Matt. 7:21-23). Destruction will overtake, not only the proponents of Romanism, foreshadowed in 2 Thessalonians and elsewhere, but false teachers of every variety and stripe (2 Pet. 2:1-3). Who is a false teacher? Anyone who teaches damnable heresies! Some men distort biblical doctrines that are hard to be understood; others twist teaching that is simple. Yet, those who mutilate the Scriptures — whether the milk or the meat – do so to their own destruction (apoleia) (2 Pet. 3:15-16). Blind guides bring swift destruction upon both themselves and their followers (Matt. 15:13-14). 

Perdition Awaits Those Who Are Cowardly

Calamity will overtake the cowardly (Rev. 21:8). Endurance is needed; those who shrink back do so to their own destruction (apoleia) (Heb. 10:36-39). If we are ashamed of Jesus in the presence of sinful men, he will be ashamed of us in the presence of his sinless Father (Mark 8:38). Those who confess Christ will be confessed; those who deny him will be denied (Matt. 10:32-33; 2 Tim. 2:12-13). Therefore, let us be strong and courageous (Josh. 1:6-9)!


In non-biblical literature, perhaps the most famous reference to perdition comes from the pen of John Milton: “Him the Almighty Power/Hurl’d headlong . . . /To bottomless perdition, there to dwell.” No more terrible fate could be imagined. Therefore, let us faithfully serve the Lord Jesus Christ, steadfastly avoiding such conduct that would endanger our eternal souls. Trusting in God who has delivered us from so great a peril of death, let us firmly set our hope on him who will yet deliver (2 Cor. 1:8-11).

1 BibleSoft’s New Exhaustive Strong’s Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary (Seattle, WA: BibleSoft & International Bible Translators, Inc., 1994), s.v. “APOLEIA,” #684.
2 The Online Bible: Thayer’s Greek Lexicon and Brown, Driver & Briggs’ Hebrew Lexicon (Seattle, WA: BibleSoft & Ontario, Canada: Woodside Bible Fellowship, 1993, 1996), s.v. “APOLEIA,” #684.
3 Thomas, Robert L., Th.D., General Editor, New American Standard Hebrew-Aramaic and Greek Dictionaries, Updated Edition (Anaheim, CA: Foundation Publications, Inc.) 1999, c1998, s.v. “APOLEIA,” #684
4 The New Bible Dictionary (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.) 1962, s.v. “Perdition.”
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Truth Magazine Vol. XLV: 3  p1  February 1, 2001