One dissenting view against universal reconciliatiom involves the problem of Judas. For some, this is rather a deal-breaker for the idea that all will be saved in the end, if indeed Judas is permanently lost. But after studying the manner, there can be made a case that Judas can and had been saved in the brief life afforded him. I will also attempt to reconcile those passages that appear to indicate Judas’ permanent lost condition.
Before I do that, I should like to build on what we know about the forgiveness of God, or rather the antithesis of this found in Matthew 12:31-32:
“Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men.
And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come.”
From a contextual point of view, this was in response to the Pharisee’s claim that Jesus cast out devils by the power of Beelzebub, rather than the Spirit of God.
So in the matter of Judas, the question becomes: Did Judas commit the unpardonable sin, which is the only sin neither to be forgiven ‘in this world, neither in the world to come’?
No where in scripture do we find Judas attributing the works of Christ as being powered by Beelzebub. In fact, if we follow scripture closely, we’ll find that Judas himself, as one of the Twelve, performed the same works of Christ by His authority when Jesus commissioned to disciples to preach the gospel.
*“Then he called his twelve disciples together, and gave them power and authority over all devils, and to cure diseases.
And he sent them to preach the kingdom of God, and to heal the sick.” – Luke 9:1-2 *
Later in the same chapter we are given a positive report:
“And the apostles, when they were returned, told him all that they had done. And he took them, and went aside privately into a desert place belonging to the city called Bethsaida.” – Luke 9:10
Then in the very next chapter, Jesus commissions the seventy to do likewise. There is no reason to believe that the seventy didn’t include the Twelve.
“After these things the LORD appointed other seventy also, and sent them two and two before his face into every city and place, whither he himself would come…And into whatsoever city ye enter, and they receive you, eat such things as are set before you:
And heal the sick that are therein, and say unto them, The kingdom of God is come nigh unto you. – Luke 10:1, 8-9
And again, the seventy give a good report:
And the seventy returned again with joy, saying, Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through thy name. – Luke 10:17
But notice Jesus’ response to the seventy,
“Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you. Notwithstanding in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven.” - Luke 10:19-20
If the Twelve were included in the Seventy and Judas was included in the Twelve, then the logically conclusion is that at the time of Jesus’ words, Judas’ name is written in heaven.
So not only did Judas cast devils and heal the sick by the power of God, but was also numbered among those who destined for heaven.
But then what do we do with the sad events that followed Judas. As misguided as Judas was, perhaps driven by greed (for in the account of the woman with the alabaster oil, Judas complains that the oil could have been used for the poor, yet the scripture states that as treasurer, Judas sought dishonest gain), none of this constitutes an unforgivable sin.
Now we will turn to the passages that suggest Judas was lost.
“While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name: those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition; that the scripture might be fulfilled.” – John 17:12
Jesus’ prayer in the Garden certainly seems to seal the fate of Judas. But what if Jesus was speaking in terms of mission, rather than of salvation. Certainly, one of this chapter’s emphasis is in sending them out into the world (vs. 18). Let us remember that Jesus hand-picked His disciples for the specific purpose of spreading the Gospel to the world. Judas unfortunately didn’t stick around to receive the post-resurrection commission, but he nevertheless produced some fruit during the training phase while Jesus walked among them. All the remaining disciples presumable led productive lives as harbingers of the gospel, most of whom ultimately paying with their lives. In this sense, Judas’ mission was a lost opportunity.
The Son of man indeed goeth, as it is written of him: but woe to that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! good were it for that man if he had never been born.” – Mark 14:21
This has been discussed numerous times on the board, so I shant recount but only to say that ‘good were it for that man if he had never been born’ appears to be a rhetorical saying which I believe carries with it a sense of regret and shame, certainly something that Judas carried and ultimately led to his suicide. I don’t believe that it was meant to convey that Judas’ life isn’t worth anything. But certainly it is something that Judas will have to come to terms with in eternity, even with the forgiveness available. (I would even offer that Jesus, as He was surrounded by those who crucified and in making the request, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do”, included Judas within that circle)
Lastly, I should like to examine closely the last moments of Judas’ life leading up to his demise, and beyond to the account in the first chapter of Acts:
“Then Judas, which had betrayed him, when he saw that he was condemned, repented himself, and brought again the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders,
Saying, I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood. And they said, What is that to us? see thou to that.
And he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself.” - Matthew 27:3-5
The main thrust of the gospel even early on is the exhortation to “Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand”. We see here that indeed Judas made an effort to repent, being condemned (or convicted?) in his heart. Repentance should always lead to some kind of action to demonstrate that repentance. In Judas’ case, he tried to make restitution by returning the blood money he received from the chief priests and elders. By the same logic, Zaccheus made a similar restitution to those he had wronged and Jesus said that salvation had entered his household. Judas likewise admits his sin and betrayal, and while not out rightly asking forgiveness like the publican, he certainly is seeking understanding from the chief priests and elder (in the Temple, significantly) for his admittal. Strangely and sadly, the priests offer no resolution to Judas, as one would think to reconcile a fallen brethren. Perhaps this non-response contributed to Judas’ hopelessness leading to the brass action of hanging himself. I would think that God would hold the chief priests and elders accountable for not lifting up their brother in time of need, despite the fact that they wee in on it just the same. And I would conclude further that this would lead to some leniency of God’s part to consider the inaction of the priest on behalf of Judas. It wasn’t Judas’ fault that they, the priests, offered no recourse.
So I conclude that there is reason to believe that Judas’ sin is not as grievious to his eternal fate as one might imagine. That despite his mistake, (And one wonders if indeed his was any worse that Peter’s denial in light of Jesus’ words: “But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.”) and the circumstances surrounding his demise, that there is room for forgiveness and restitution for Judas, even during his lifetime, if not post-mordem.