"My prayer is not that You take them out of the world ..." (John 17:15)

"My prayer is not that You take them out of the world but that You protect them from the evil one." (John 17:15)
Here Jesus continues his prayer, now asking the Supreme Being to protect his students and disciples. From what?

Who is 'the evil one'?

First, let's clarify what Jesus really said.* The reality is that Jesus did not even say "evil one" according to the original Greek.

Here "evil one" is being translated from the Greek word πονηρός (ponēros), which means according to the lexicon: 1) "full of labours, annoyances, hardships;" and 2) "bad, of a bad nature or condition."

And there is no word in Jesus' statement in the Greek that could be translated to "one" either. It is just ἐκ τοῦ πονηροῦ - "from the [hardships or bad nature]."

While asking God to protect his students from hardships seems plausible, within this context it is more likely Jesus is discussing "bad nature" or "badness" or even "wickedness" - appropriately derived from "bad nature."

We can also derive this from other statements Jesus made that used this word, πονηρός (ponēros). For example, Jesus used this word in these two statements:
"A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit." (Matt. 7:18)
"A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a sign!" (Matt. 12:39)
In these verses, "bad" and "wicked" are both being translated from the word πονηρός (ponēros).

So now that we have more dimension to this word πονηρός (ponēros) - just what is it?

Consider the "generation" and the "fruit" - what is wrong with these?

Why should they not be taken 'out of the world'?

Jesus is praying for God not to take his followers "out of the world." Why not? 

Because Jesus wants them to stay here so they can pass on his teachings. If they all left "the world" with Jesus then there would be no one to pass on his teachings.

Jesus connects "the world" with the "evil one" not because of a physical connection. It is the connection between self-centeredness. The "evil one" is a figurative expression that describes self-centeredness within each of us.

The type of "badness" or "wickedness" Jesus is referring to is one's interest being only about oneself - and disregarding the interests of others - or the Supreme Being.

This approach to life is what drives all the crime, hatred, envy, violence and wars within the physical world. Self-centeredness is the key driver of the physical world. Even economists admit this when they say stuff like "greed drives the economy."

Thus we find that Jesus is not asking God to protect his students against some outside party. Jesus is asking the Supreme Being to help protect them from becoming self-centered and envious.

This is, in fact, why we are here in the physical world. We are here because we rejected the environment of the spiritual realm. And is the nature of that environment?

Where is love?

Each of us has the capacity to love, but we find "the world" a place where love is the exception, not the rule. Mostly we find self-centeredness here - and its extensions, nationalism, racism, sectarianism, hatred, violence and envy. 

Contrasting this world, the spiritual realm is a place of unconditional love. Citizens of the spiritual realm are naturally in love with the Supreme Being, and they each exchange loving relationships with God and God's other children.

Yes, the spiritual realm is a feast of love. It is a love-fest.

Sometimes we dream about such a place, and we each hope we can make earth such a place. But no matter how hard peace-loving people try, there continues to be violence, bloodshed, greed, envy, crime, hatred and so on here in this world. It never seems to stop. Why?

Because this is where those of us who rejected the love-fest of the spiritual realm go. This is the place where all the people with πονηρός (ponēros) in their hearts get put.

Yes, the physical world is a rehabilitation center. And each of us has the opportunity to become rehabilitated and return home to our loving relationship with the Supreme Being.

Why is there so much envy in 'the world'?

In this world, when someone succeeds, most others will become envious. This is why so many glamour magazines focus on the rich and famous - because people envy their fame, their looks and/or their wealth.

This condition of envy is not our natural position. But somehow we fell into such an attitude. Once we did, we became self-centered.

Since those in the spiritual realm are tender and soft-hearted, our newfound selfishness and envy had no place in the spiritual realm. There we would be like elephants in a crystal shop. This is why the Supreme Being set up the physical realm.

We were pushed out of the spiritual realm and into the physical and subtle physical realms.

The physical realm is like a rehabilitation center and these physical bodies are our tools for rehabilitation. They are like icons or avatars in which we get to set up various situations to learn from and be tested with.

This rehab center and our temporary physical avatars also have some other characteristics. They effectively allow us to forget about God completely and chase our self-centered dreams around. They even allow us to deny God's existence altogether.

This is God's programming - set up to enable us to get away from Him and pretend we are the center of the universe - while teaching us that we aren't the center of the universe. In other words, God set up the physical world to be a rehabilitation center as well as a place for us to exercise our quest for freedom from Him.

And as far as the illusory nature of the physical world, yes, this is organized and created by the Supreme Being. It is also managed by some of His servants - as God's universe is a personal universe, and He delegates many operations to His various servants.

But the illusory nature surrounding each of us is perfectly tailored to fit our particular self-centered desires.

And those who help Him manage the illusions of the physical world are His servants. God never has a challenger - as many have attributed to this notion of a devil or satan. If we want to define someone who helps God carry out His illusory nature - yes there are personalities that we can look to.

But if need to talk through the classic devil or satan story - about satan rejecting God and being thrown out of the spiritual realm - well, that is the story of each of us. That story - of rebelling against our relationship with God - is what each of us did to get tossed out of the spiritual realm. Yes, in that metaphorical sense, the story of Satan is the story of each of us.

Why do we have the choice?

God wants us to love Him, but only if we choose to. Therefore He gives us the choice to love Him or not. And should we decide not to, He sets up this world so we don't have to see Him or be with Him. We can completely escape His existence while we are within these physical bodies.

This is the "world" that Jesus is discussing here in this verse and the previous verse when he said:
"I have given them Your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world." (John 17:14)
And we can see that Jesus is using the word "world" in two respects here - one (in John 17:14) to indicate the consciousness of the physical world - one of self-centeredness, trying to avoid the Supreme Being. The other (in 17:15), is the reality that they are still physically within the physical world, and Jesus is saying that they - his students - will be remaining within the physical world for the time being ("My prayer is not that You take them out of the world...") - but their consciousness is not "of the world." 

Their consciousness is not "of the world" because they are focused - at least in this prayer as he is giving them the benefit of the doubt - on pleasing Jesus and thus pleasing God.

While Jesus' students remain in the physical world, Jesus wants them to pass on to others this consciousness - in the form of his teachings. This is expressed in coming verses, such as:
"As You sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world." (John 17:18)
Jesus is saying that God sent Jesus to the world to try to bring us back to the spiritual realm - and Jesus is sending his students out with the same mission.

And what is that mission? To inform us that we will never be happy chasing our self-centered dreams around this state of temporary illusion. We will only be happy when we resume our natural position as the loving servant and friend of the Supreme Being. Yes - despite our self-centered past, and all the crap we've done - God still wants us to come home because He loves us and knows only this will make us happy.

And this is why He sent Jesus - to invite us back home. This is why Jesus' most important instruction was:
“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment." (Matt. 22:37-38)

*Here is the translation of this part of Jesus' prayer from the Lost Gospels of Jesus:
"I ask not for You to remove them from the material world, but to keep them from wickedness.” (John 17:15)