Jesus made a statement about Judas that we Christians seem to feel is very damming. If those words are to be understood as they stand, and they are the verdict, then he is gone forever; what if we really do not know the answer to that? No one seems to believe that there was any mercy available for Judas. I can understand why though and I believe it comes from John 17:12 where Jesus said of Judas:
“While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name: those that thou gave me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition; that the scripture might be fulfilled.” John 17:12 KJV
The only other place that we see this term used specifically toward a person, is the son of perdition (the antichrist) reference, that we find in Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonian church.
2 Thessalonians 2:3 KJV (3) Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition;
The word perdition, as the dictionary defines it is a hard one to accept because it carries such finality. PERDI’TION, n. [L. perditio, from perdo, to lose, to ruin.] 1. Entire loss or ruin; utter destruction.
Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, © 1984, 1996, Thomas Nelson, Inc. However, defines perdition like this:
- apollumi (G622), a strengthened form of ollumi, signifies “to destroy utterly”; in middle voice, “to perish.” The idea is not extinction but ruin, loss, not of being, but of well-being. This is clear from its use, as, e.g., of the marring of wine skins, Luk_5:37; of lost sheep, i.e., lost to the shepherd, metaphorical of spiritual destitution, Luk_15:4, Luk_15:6, etc.; the lost son, Luk_15:24; of the perishing of food, Joh_6:27; of gold, 1Pe_1:7. So of persons, Mat_2:13, “destroy”; Mat_8:25, “perish”; Mat_22:7; Mat_27:20; of the loss of well-being in the case of the unsaved hereafter, Mat_10:28; Luk_13:3, Luk_13:5; Joh_3:16 (Joh_3:15 in some mss.); Joh_10:28; John_17:12; Rom_2:12; 1Co_15:18;
Our passage about Judas being the son of perdition is included, and opens the door for us to consider the possibility of mercy being shown to him.
The Contemporary English Version translates Jesus comment about Judas in this fashion:
John 17:12 CEV While I was with them, I kept them safe by the power you have given me. I guarded them, and not one of them was lost, except the one who had to be lost. This happened so that what the Scriptures say would come true.
If I were to make an assumption, then it leans toward God needed someone to fulfill prophecy and Judas was it.
How different was Judas in his beliefs about who Christ was from the others, not much really.
We know that Judas was known to take money from the money bag, but no one seemed to care. Perhaps that was because Jesus-through prayer-made sure that they always had enough, and did not have to care.
If Judas Iscariot was just a useful implement that God could merely pull out of the toolbox, then we are all being pushed into a gray area that convolutes the character of God, and really gives none of us a choice in our relationship with God. This convoluted logic goes against God’s declarations such as we find in John 10:9, where He says, “I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.”
We know what Judas did, but why and how do we know any of that?
Someone had to tell them, and they probably shared that information expressly to hurt them, now that Jesus is gone.
In Matthew chapter 26, verse 16 we find: “from that moment on he sought a fitting opportunity to betray Him.” What triggered this drive in Judas? You walked with this man Jesus for three years, how could you not fall in love with Him. Now you want to betray him; it does not make any sense. The verses just before this may shed some light on Judas motivations.
When Jesus was at Bethany, a guest of Simon the Leper, a woman came up to him as he was eating dinner and anointed him with a bottle of very expensive perfume. When the disciples saw what was happening, they were furious. “That’s criminal! This could have been sold for a lot and the money handed out to the poor.” When Jesus realized what was going on, he intervened. “Why are you giving this woman a hard time? She has just done something wonderfully significant for me. You will have the poor with you every day for the rest of your lives, but not me. When she poured this perfume on my body, what she really did was anoint me for burial. You can be sure that wherever in the whole world the Message is preached, what she has just done is going to be remembered and admired.” (Matthew 26:6-13 MSG)
Matthew tells us that the disciples had a small meltdown over the monetary value of the perfume and what could be done with it, not just Judas. Why did any of that matter, it was not theirs to make a decision about. This might have motivated Judas if he were trying to finance a rebellion against Rome, but we do not know that.
What else was said that is highly significant? “What she really did was anoint me for burial.” If this man sitting here, having perfume rubbed on Him is the Messiah we have waited for, we do not need Him talking about an eminent death. Jesus had told them all along what was going to happen, he merely left out names as He told them the story. Yet, they all anticipated him rising up as the victorious, Messiah king that would bring them freedom from Roman oppression. Is it possible that Judas was merely trying to force the masters hand. Jesus had already told them that he would be handed over and betrayed during the Passover (Matthew 26:2) someone had to fulfill that role.
Matthew’s gospel records the incident where Judas makes the deal to betray Jesus:
Matthew 26:14-16 AMP Then one of the Twelve [apostles], who was called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests (15) And said, What are you willing to give me if I hand Him over to you? And they weighed out for and paid to him thirty pieces of silver [about twenty-one dollars and sixty cents]. [Exo_21:32; Zec_11:12.] (16) And from that moment he sought a fitting opportunity to betray Him.
Since the Amplified gives us possible references that might elaborate, let us pursue that.
Exodus 21:32 AMP If the ox gores a manservant or a maidservant, the owner shall give to their master thirty shekels of silver, and the ox shall be stoned.
We have to stretch the imagination somewhat to find a typology for Judas in this, but I suppose the concept is there. If Judas can be substituted for the ox, then Judas would have to be stoned. I tend to take the bible literally, and since Judas was neither an ox or stoned, this does not fit. However, the reference to Zechariah’s words/prophecy fit what transpired, with a remarkable precision.
Zechariah 11:12-13 MKJV (12) And I said to them, If it is good, give My price; and if not, let it go. So they weighed My price thirty pieces of silver. (13) And Jehovah said to me, throw it to the potter, the magnificent price at which I was valued by them. And I took the thirty pieces of silver and threw them to the potter in the house of Jehovah. [Mat_26:14-15; Mat_27:3-10.]
The Message by Eugene Peterson, gives us this take on verse 12, and I think it makes the connection very well.
Zechariah 11:12 MSG Then I addressed them: “Pay me what you think I’m worth.” They paid me an insulting sum, counting out thirty silver coins.
Sounds very similar to what Matthew said, doesn’t it?
Matthew 26:14-15 ESV Then one of the twelve, whose name was Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests (15) and said, “What will you give me if I deliver him over to you?” And they paid him thirty pieces of silver.
After the betrayal, what did Judas do?
He tried to give the money back. Thrown back in their faces, the Pharisees bought the potters field with it, and buried Judas there. Once again, let us look at Matthew’s gospel:
Matthew 27:3-10 ESV Then when Judas, his betrayer, saw that Jesus was condemned, he changed his mind and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders, (4) saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” They said, “What is that to us? See to it yourself.” (5) And throwing down the pieces of silver into the temple, he departed, and he went and hanged himself. (6) But the chief priests, taking the pieces of silver, said, “It is not lawful to put them into the treasury, since it is blood money.” (7) So they took counsel and bought with them the potter’s field as a burial place for strangers. (8) Therefore, that field has been called the Field of Blood to this day. (9) Then was fulfilled what had been spoken by the prophet Jeremiah, saying, “And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of him on whom a price had been set by some of the sons of Israel, (10) and they gave them for the potter’s field, as the Lord directed me.”
It still echoes what Zechariah spoke: “And I took the thirty pieces of silver and threw them to the potter in the house of Jehovah”.
We know that Jesus sent Judas away saying, “what you have to do, go and do quickly.” Therefore, Jesus was not blind sided in any way. Judas, having made the agreement to betray Jesus kissed Him on the cheek. How is it possible that those who came for him did not know who Jesus was that night?
If mercy was shown to Judas, where can we find that?
Matthew 27:3-4 CEV tells us this about Judas: that “when he learned that Jesus had been sentenced to death, he was sorry for what he had done. He returned the thirty silver coins to the chief priests and leaders and said, “I have sinned by betraying a man who has never done anything wrong.“
When Jesus was crucified that day there were two thieves also crucified with him. As the day began they both cursed him, shouting, if you are the Son of God then get yourself down off that cross, but Jesus did not respond to them. One of them, seeing something different about the man Jesus, who is now unrecognizable, says, let him alone, for this man has done nothing wrong as we have, and he asks Jesus to remember him in paradise when He goes there. This tells me that at least this one thief had some knowledge of who Jesus was and had previously ignored Him, as most did. Some will argue against that, it has already happened, but you have to ask yourself:
- How probable is it that the thief would have seen the signage above Jesus head indicating that He was the king of the Jews, and given the circumstances, why would that affect you now?
- Assuming the thief could not see the signage, what other things might have convinced him that day? Perhaps the massive earthquake that opened graves and many dead people came to life and walked around town; How about that permeating darkness that fell over Jerusalem and probably the whole earth, that just happened to come as they sunk His cross in the ground. Was it the centurions recognition that this was the Son of God, because they are not affected by anything, or was it the strange calmness in the way He spoke to the one He called Father, that got his attention.
The point here is that we give this thief mercy, a man who recognized that he sinned and in a sense repented, just as Judas did, and yet no one excoriates that thief, eliminating all hope for him.
As we started our morning bible study, the topic was eternity.
That seemed safe enough and the potential for it being a positive study was good; that quickly proved incorrect because somehow it swung around to Judas and levels of hell and now we are no longer teaching the bible but some derivation of Dante’s inferno.
Judas has died. Bereft over his actions that might have been motivated by the hope of pushing Jesus to become the King they anticipated, Judas hung himself. Many will tell you that to do that is self-murder and you have condemned yourself to a fiery hell, apart from God for eternity over that act. How about showing some mercy for people whose mind is so sick, tired and damaged, that they cannot see any other way out.
How quickly did you forget that the “Law” called any man cursed that hung on a tree, and that is precisely where we find Jesus that day, hanging on a tree? Not only Jesus, but also the thief that asked for mercy and obtained it, or do you only have capabilities for handing out mercy to one person in your lifetime.
You want examples of mercy under the law where all of this transpired, look at this:
Isa_49:25 But so says Jehovah, Even the captives of the mighty shall be taken away, and the prey of the fearful ones shall escape. For I will contend with him who contends with you, and I will save your sons.
Isa_61:1 The Spirit of the Lord Jehovah is on Me; because Jehovah has anointed Me to preach the Gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
I am not brainless; I know what some of you are thinking, because I have heard the arguments already. You think you can limit God and his abilities to your way of thinking, and therefore declarations such as: “to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound” are merely spiritual metaphors and not to be taken literally. Then what am I supposed to do, just rip a few more pages out of my bible because you have chosen what is right and believable.
What are we to do with?
Revelation 1:18 LITV and the Living One; and I became dead; and, behold, I am living forever and ever. Amen. And I have the keys to hell, and of death.
Do you think that the demons holding those keys just amicably handed those keys over to Jesus? I think He snatched them out of their hands in a way that shook them to their core, and they cleared out of His way as He threw the gates open.
Or the prophet Hosea’s words:
Hosea 13:14 LITV I will ransom them from the hand of Sheol; I will redeem them from death. O death, where are your plagues? O Sheol, where is your ruin? Repentance is hidden from My eyes.
The leader and at least one other chimed in agreement, that there are two different levels to hell. As the casual observer, I can tell you that my mind always seems to go back to college literature class, in which we had to read, and write on, The Inferno by Dante Alighieri. It was interesting to learn how political this book truly was, and how he denigrated corrupt politicians by placing them in the varied and torturous levels of the hell he described. Is this purely a creation of Dante’s? I do not know because the Catholic Church as well as Mormons practice forms penitence to relieve loved ones from possible punishment.
What do we know from scripture about “levels of hell”? We have to go to the parable that Jesus told to find out anything about it.
“There was a rich man who dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. But at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus whose body was covered with sores, who longed to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. In addition, the dogs came and licked his sores. “Now the poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. And in hell, as he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far off with Lazarus at his side. So he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in anguish in this fire.’ But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things and Lazarus likewise bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in anguish. Besides all this, a great chasm has been fixed between us, so that those who want to cross over from here to you cannot do so, and no one can cross from there to us.’ (Luke 16:19-26 NET.)
Do you really believe that Jesus would be incapable of crossing a miserable gap? Think this through for a moment. Jesus did not just take the sins of the world upon Him, He became sin, and that is just a bit different is it not? Satan thought he had won and Christ was finally defeated. This should ring loudly since we just celebrated the season in which Jesus died and rose from the dead (we call it Easter.) Therefore, it is possible that Jesus was dragged to whatever level involved the torment. Moreover, if we choose to place Judas there, then Jesus preached once again to him.
I tried, that morning during bible study, to point this possibility out, especially since we had turned the topic of eternity into an ugly reprimand about our deficiency in the field of evangelism. When the bible study goes this direction the subject of how to respond to rebuttals comes up, and one of the men will inevitably point out how foolish it is for people to respond with, I have time and so I think I will just wait. If Jesus captured the keys to hell, then he was there releasing captives that wanted freedom. Can you imagine Judas saying to Jesus, I have time, let me think about it for a couple more years. Judas, just like me, would have run into His arms.
I can only speculate about what happened to Judas, but if I am going to err, then I am going to do it on the side of mercy, because I too long for mercy. I also think that our beating Judas, as the dead horse, is doing nothing more than showing people an inappropriate character of God, the same God that supposedly lives in us.
God sent His only Son into a world that not only hated Him, but also refused His love continuously, for one reason, to rescue those who wanted this everlasting life.
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. (John 3:16-18 KJV)
I do not know how I did it, but in a sense I brought this back to what I had hoped the mornings bible study would really talk about, our glorious, everlasting life in Him. As you can see in the passage above, that whosoever believes in him should not perish, but have this everlasting life, and you no longer have to worry about your destiny, you can know. His name is Jesus, and He is coming sooner than you think.
An addendum. As this has obviously been on my mind, I have been talking about it, primarily from the view point of our being just a little less critical, and more understanding. Certainly there are some issues that can be black and white, but our judgmental attitudes need to stop.
Two days in a row I have spoken about this subject, and both times I have been interrupted and told I am wrong. How am I wrong, if I read it to you from scripture? If anyone is wrong, it is God, who promoted the idea through His word. Perhaps we should all be tearing pages out of our bibles because, these two men, much like many others, disagree with God. Seems like a common problem, doesn’t it? So it is really not God that has the problem is it; it is humans and their lack of knowledge or arrogance in that they refuse to accept the truth.
One of my acquaintances pointed me to this: (John 17:12 NASB) “While I was with them, I was keeping them in Your name which You have given Me; and I guarded them and not one of them perished but the son of perdition, so that the Scripture would be fulfilled.” He had to add, Judas was not saved, and therefore a subject of Satan. I contended that no one was saved, as salvation did not come until after the cross, so your logic does not hold up.
I also pointed out what John 10:28,29 said: John 10:28-29 NASB “and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. (29) “My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.” Interesting, what does that say about Judas? Here we go, back to the argument that Judas was never one of them, and that I need to look at the context more intently. Perhaps the Holy Spirit should not make such bold statements, as they tend to make God look foolish. But that is not the case, is it. God is not the liar.
Another argues, how then were the Old Testament saints saved? I responded with, they were only atoned for their sins through a sacrifice, and their atonement was only temporary. The response to that was, Oh no, look at Hebrews 11 were it says they were saved. So let us look at Hebrews 11 for a moment.
Hebrews 11:1-2 NASB Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. (2) For by it the men of old gained approval.
Who are they gaining approval from, and what does that buy them? The answer is not so clear, is it. Certainly, in stories like Jephthah, and Gideon’s, we can see that approval was gained, not only from God, but Israel itself – at least for a time. But none of that equates to the confidence we have in salvation. Let us continue.
Hebrews 11:13 NASB All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.
None of them received the promise of everlasting life with the Father. That only comes with an acceptance of Jesus Christ as the Messiah. Well how did that happen then, as they did not have that opportunity? That means Christ went into the place of captivity and demonstrated that He was the awaited Messiah, giving those trapped there the opportunity to receive Him. They did, and look at how Paul explains that:
Ephesians 4:8-10 NASB Therefore it says, “WHEN HE ASCENDED ON HIGH, HE LED CAPTIVE A HOST OF CAPTIVES, AND HE GAVE GIFTS TO MEN.” (9) (Now this expression, “He ascended,” what does it mean except that He also had descended into the lower parts of the earth? (10) He who descended is Himself also He who ascended far above all the heavens, so that He might fill all things.)
I realize that this pokes big holes in the traditions of many, but maybe God needs to do that now and then.