Was Judas Iscariot Saved or Lost?
By Reese Currie, Compass Distributors
The other day in a Bible study, one of the participants asked if Judas Iscariot was saved or lost. In a room that contained two missionaries, two pastors, myself, and a couple of dozen other visitors, no one could come up with an answer. The question was asked in relation to the fact that Judas Iscariot had committed suicide by hanging himself, and the Bible study was on eternal security.
Forgetting about the questions of suicide and eternal security, we all should have known the answer on Judas Iscariot. Jesus Himself provided the answer in John 17:12, "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."
The son of perdition who was lost is of course Judas Iscariot.
In relation to his suicide, one must note that Judas Iscariot was pronounced lost before his actual suicide had taken place. Judas appeared with the guards to betray Jesus in John 18, obviously before he had committed suicide.
There is nothing in Scripture to suggest that suicide itself is an unforgivable sin. Matthew 12:31 even suggests that suicide must be forgivable, "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."
The phrase, "all manner of sin" must include suicide. So, the lost state of Judas does not really have to do with his suicide; it has to do with the fact that Judas never repented and believed in Jesus Christ.
We know that Judas did not repent because he did not bring forth works that reflected repentance. Paul characterized his own preaching as telling people they should "repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance" (Acts 26:20d).
Judas's works did not reflect a repentant life. John 12:6 reports that Judas, who held the money bag, was a thief who stole from the money he had been entrusted with.
One may wonder whether a truly repentant person would ever commit suicide. I do not understand how this could be, either; however, Matthew 12:31 tells us that "all manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men" (excepting the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit). The sins of people who are not repentant will never be forgiven; therefore, if suicide has ever been forgiven, it must have been the suicide of a person who had indeed repented and believed in Jesus Christ.
Certainly suicide is a terribly unadvisable thing. The Scripture would seem to support the possibility that suicide is forgivable, but I think we should endeavor to follow the advice given at 2 Peter 1:10, "Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall."
There can be nothing in this life that is so bad that we should risk our happiness in eternity to end our unhappiness here. Rather, in the midst of our troubles, we should keep in mind what Jesus said at John 12:20, "He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal." There are going to be many "reversals" when we reach heaven. Jesus also said, "Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted" (Matthew 5:4). It seems almost that the more troubled life we lead here, the more comforted we will be there.
We should hold to these promises, remembering also this word of Jesus, "And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved" (Matthew 10:22). We have to endure through the hatred of other people for the sake of our faith.
What happened with Judas has absolutely no bearing on the doctrine of eternal security; if anything, Judas' life supports the doctrine. It is evident from Judas' unrepentant actions, such as stealing from the money bag, that Judas had never repented and believed in Jesus Christ. In fact, Judas was never characterized as being a saved person.
In John 6:70, Jesus asks the rhetorical question to His twelve apostles, "Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil?"
The basic nature of Judas Iscariot never changed. He was not saved and then lost. The man was never saved at all. He never repented, and so, was never born again, and he remained the same old sinful creature he had always been.
Paul wrote, "Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new" (2 Corinthians 5:17). Judas Iscariot was not in Christ because his old things had never passed away. Rather, he clung to his old sinful nature to the point that he was even willing to betray Jesus for the sake of 30 pieces of silver (cf. Matthew 26:15).
Therefore, the life of Judas Iscariot does nothing whatsoever to erode the Biblical doctrine of eternal security for the saved believer. What Jesus said remains true: "And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand" (John 10:28-29). Not even the man himself is able to pluck himself out of the Father's hand, if he is indeed in the Father's hand.
At the point that Jesus was speaking of Judas in John 17:12, Judas had certainly not repented. However, after Jesus had been betrayed, we read in Matthew 27:3-5, "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."
The words "repented himself" here (from the King James Version) are not the best possible translation of the underlying Greek. The underlying Greek word means "regret" or "remorse" but it does not necessarily imply a change like the word for "repentance" does. The World English Bible translates Matthew 27:3 as, "Then Judas, who betrayed him, when he saw that Jesus was condemned, felt remorse, and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders" (WEB).
The key piece of information in interpreting this remorse of Judas is 2 Corinthians 7:10, "For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death." Given this piece of information, there can be little question that Judas' remorse did not result in repentance but in death, and it was merely worldly sorrow, not godly sorrow that he experienced.
Sometimes we get so caught up in doctrinal principles that we fail to look at what the Bible actually says about things. The question of Judas' salvation has little to do with principles concerning suicide or eternal security. The answer is in black and white from our Bible, and the answer has come from the very lips of our Lord Jesus Christ: "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."
Was Judas Iscariot Saved or Lost? is Copyright (c) 2001 by Compass Distributors
All Scripture quotations taken from the King James Version except for the quotation marked (WEB) which was taken from the World English Bible.