Someone left a comment about Judas that I thought should be addressed because of its implications: “Judas did what he had to do. He had no choice. Jesus came to be sacrificed, and Judas played his part.”
It’s healthy to ask questions about the Scriptures. That’s how we grow. However, the key to finding the correct answers is to ask them with the knowledge that all of God’s judgments are righteous and true altogether. He never does anything that lacks the utmost integrity.
I suspect that this person doesn’t know the difference between man’s free will and divine sovereignty. No, God wasn’t playing human chess with Judas. He wasn’t a pawn. He freely chose to betray Jesus. Scripture even tells us that his crime was premeditated.
He once showed his hypocritical hand — when Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus, used an expensive oil in an act of sacrificial worship toward Jesus. Judas objected to such extravagance. He didn’t think Jesus was worth it, saying, “Why was this fragrant oil not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” (John 12:5).
Then Scripture gives us insight into Judas’ motives: “This he said, not that he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief, and had the money box; and he used to take what was put in it” (John 12:6).
God didn’t manipulate Judas to steal from the collection bag. He stole of his own free will.
Look now at his premeditation to betray Jesus: “Then one of the twelve, called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, ‘What are you willing to give me if I deliver Him to you?’ And they counted out to him thirty pieces of silver. So, from that time he sought opportunity to betray Him” (Matthew 26:14-16).
Judas sought an opportunity to betray Jesus — more evidence that his betrayal came from his own free will.
In John 6, after Peter famously said, “We have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God,” Jesus specifically referred to Judas. Look at what He said: “Jesus answered them, ‘Did I not choose you, the twelve, and one of you is a devil?’ He spoke of Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon, for it was he who would betray Him, being one of the twelve” (John 6:70).
Jesus called Judas a “devil,” yet He chose him, knowing what he would do. He gave him the opportunity to be a genuine follower. He could have honorably served Jesus in the kingdom of light, but he chose evil and served the devil in the kingdom of darkness. You and I have that same choice.
God knew exactly what Judas would do. Judas was not just a poor pawn in a divine game of chess that God would win. What was intended for evil, God used for good. And He could do so because of His perfect sovereignty.
So, did Judas go to Hell? It certainly seems that way.
In Mark 14:21, Jesus said, “‘The Son of Man indeed goes just as it is written of Him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been good for that man if he had never been born.’”
That isn’t the way you would describe someone who is on his way to Heaven.
Then there’s the incident where the disciples decided to replace the now-dead Judas with another disciple: “And they prayed and said, ‘You, O Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which of these two You have chosen to take part in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place’” (Acts 1:24-25).
He went to his own place. Judas got what he deserved. Again, while we don’t directly read that he went to Hell, Scripture certainly leans in that direction.
So, who are we following? Jesus or Judas? Where do our sympathies lie: with the betrayer or the betrayed? With the guilty Judas or with the innocent Jesus? Again, our leaning in either direction will be directed by our high or low view of God.
Let me tell you about an incident that happened way back in the late 1970s that indirectly involved Judas.
I was sharing the Gospel with a small crowd when something caught my eye that I will never forget. There was a crowd following cast members of the famous rock musical Jesus Christ Superstar. They had come to the heart of our city to promote their musical.
They then entered my crowd, and it swelled to about 100 people. I kept preaching, and — to my delight and surprise — I began to be heckled by Pontius Pilot and Caiaphas, the high priest. Both were dressed in full garb, and both had oratory skills. Caiaphas was leaning on a staff, dressed in black, complete with his phylactery. He hollered, “We rubbed you guys out 2,000 years ago, and you’re still going!”
Unbeknown to me, those who swelled my crowd were the rest of the cast. During my preaching, they would suddenly burst into a harmonized chorus, singing, “Jesus Christ, Jesus Christ, who are you, what have you sacrificed?” It was the perfect springboard for the Gospel.
After I finished preaching, part of the cast packed around and asked if I would come to the performance. I said that I wouldn’t. The musical’s story is told from the eyes of Judas and portrays Jesus as a mere man. They asked again, but I was adamant: “Thank you, but no. I definitely won’t go!” When they said, “We will give you two free tickets,” I replied, “What time does it start?”
I took my sister, and we were kindly invited to meet the cast after the show. I told them that I thoroughly enjoyed it and felt proud of them. Then I said, “But the Jesus you are portraying is not the Jesus of the Bible.” To which Mary Magdalene replied, “But we’re making Jesus acceptable to the 20th century.”
She nailed it. They preached another Jesus. It’s called “idolatry,” and it’s so serious that God saw fit to address it in the first two of the 10 Commandments. Changing the nature of God and making Him “acceptable” opens the door to every sin in the book.
If we fear God, our view of Jesus will only be shaped through the eyes of Holy Scripture and not through the eyes of His betrayer.
One more important fact about Judas. None of the disciples suspected him. He hid it well. When Jesus said, “One of you will betray me,” the disciples said, “Lord, is it I?” (Matthew 26:21-22). They suspected themselves rather than the trusted treasurer.
Even when Judas went out to betray Jesus, the Scriptures say that some thought he’d gone to give money to the poor. He was such a “good” guy. Yes, Judas hid it well from the eyes of men, but he couldn’t hide his sin from the eyes of God.
Neither can we hide any sin from His morally perfect eyes. That’s why the short life of Judas should be a lifelong lesson not to follow in his steps.
Ray Comfort is the Founder and CEO of Living Waters and the bestselling author of more than 80 books, including God Has a Wonderful Plan for Your Life, How to Know God Exists, and The Evidence Bible. He cohosts the award-winning television program "Way of the Master," seen in almost 200 countries, and is the Executive Producer of "180," "Evolution vs. God," "Audacity," and other films. He is married to Sue and has three grown children, and hasn't left the house without gospel tracts for decades. You can learn more about his ministry at LivingWaters.com.