Next to Peter and John, Judas would probably count as the most well-known of Jesus’s disciples.
After all, he’s the notorious black sheep in the flock. The one who stole from the moneybox and who betrayed Jesus for 30 pieces of silver to the chief priests, and who later hung himself out of guilt. Even I heard about him before I became a Christian.
Did Judas ever make it to heaven, though?
That would seem like a nice thought, and a great example of grace – after all, God is love and He forgives all things through Jesus, and the cross is outside time, right?
But sadly, Judas was never saved. He took his own life before Christ could give His life for him, so he never actually accepted Jesus’s payment and sacrifice at the cross for him.
Jesus Himself said, “While I was with them in the world, I kept them in Your name. Those whom You gave Me I have kept; and none of them is lost except the son of perdition, that the Scripture might be fulfilled” (John 17:12), referring to Judas Iscariot, the only one of His disciples who was lost to destruction.
But wait a minute – didn’t Judas go around preaching the gospel, casting out demons, healing the sick and raising the dead, like all the other 11 disciples?
Yes, he did, and he did all of that in the name of Jesus. He ate, journeyed, and lived with Jesus for more than 3 years during Jesus’s earthly ministry. But doing all of that doesn’t make him saved.
Today, there can be – and there are – people who call themselves Christians, who are full of “Christian” works e.g. helping the poor, feeding the hungry, healing the sick, and preaching the gospel, even missionaries and pastors perhaps. But just because they are outwardly doing all of that doesn’t mean they are inwardly saved.
So how is one saved? Simply, by believing on Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour. As the Bible says:
“that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. (Romans 10:9)
For whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved. (Romans 10:13)”
Access into eternal salvation and heaven is as simple as calling upon the name of Jesus and believing in Him as Lord and Saviour, the One who died for your sins and was raised again so you could be set free.
Believing in the sacrificial Lamb of God as a condition of salvation is true for the prophets and patriachs of old before Jesus’s time, the disciples when Jesus walked on earth, and for us today in the age of the resurrected Christ. Who knows for sure if someone is saved? God, and the person themselves.
That is not to say that we have to maintain our salvation through constant and unwavering faith in Jesus. There are people who may have accepted Christ earlier in life but then subsequently, because of wrong beliefs and teachings or disappointments they experienced, left the church or renounced Jesus.
The moment we accept Jesus into our life as Lord and Saviour, God sees that as a done deal, once and for all. Jesus Himself tells us clearly more than once that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16), and that it is Jesus and God who keeps us safely held in His hands, not us (John 10:28-30). Once saved, always saved.
A renouncement of Christ in a moment of emotion or a multitude of sins after we are saved does nothing to shift our position of eternal righteousness and salvation, just as a rejection of our status as sinners and a multitude of good deeds before we were saved did nothing to shift us closer to God.
Nor does it mean that those who are truly saved do nothing but sit around boasting of His love and enjoying His blessings. But the more we understand the truth of our eternal security and righteousness in Christ, the more we will supernaturally walk in line with His Spirit and manifest good works out of His overflow.
So how do we know that Judas wasn’t in the above category of a saved person doing wrong out of folly? Because he never saw Jesus as Lord.
Judas never addressed Jesus as “Lord”, not once throughout the entire Bible. At the night of the last supper, when all the other disciples called Jesus “Lord”, Judas alone addressed Jesus as “Rabbi”, meaning ‘Teacher’ or ‘Master’ (Matthew 26:21-25), betraying how he truly saw Jesus. To Judas, Jesus was just a good teacher, an example to follow, a great man of God with the power of God on him.
Judas wasn’t “killed by God” through his own hanging because he betrayed Jesus or because he was a thief who loved money above Jesus. God makes sure we’re clear on this through recording 2 similar examples: Peter also betrayed Jesus, denying Him 3 times with cursing and swearing, yet Jesus restored him immediately after He was resurrected; and the thief on the cross beside Jesus received his promise of salvation just by accepting Jesus as “Lord”.
Judas didn’t have to die and suffer eternal damnation. If he had just waited a little while longer, Jesus would have very likely – in fact, most definitely – appeared to him too after He was raised to restore and assure Judas that he had been redeemed at the cross.
If Judas was never saved, why then did Jesus keep him around Himself for so long, knowing all the while that Judas was “a devil” (John 6:70-71)?
For the same reason He keeps the others who profess to be Christians today doing His mighty works and following Him as a Teacher (not Saviour) in His church still. Because He loves them. And one moment of revelation can change their view of Him forever and turn them into a glorious new creation in Him.
It is not difficult to be saved. It’s not enough to just know about Jesus from afar and agree that He is a great Man and Teacher. He doesn’t need your approval. What He cares about is your salvation, so that you can be blessed right now in this world and enjoy eternal life with Him in heaven in the age to come.
Because when we encounter Jesus, we encounter grace.