Did God Kill Judas?
Even my close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted up his heel against me. (Psalms 41:9)
I do not speak of all of you. I know the ones I have chosen; but it is that the Scripture may be fulfilled, 'he who eats my bread has lifted up his heel against me.' (John 13:18)
Then when Judas, who had betrayed Him, saw that He had been condemned, he felt remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, saying, "I have sinned by betraying innocent blood." But they said, "What is that to us? See to that yourself!" And he threw the pieces of silver into the temple sanctuary and departed; and he went away and hanged himself. (Matthew 27:3-5)
The past few years I have engaged in a new direction of focus from my previous spiritual direction. For many years I lived under the heaviness of fear, guilt and condemnation. My perceptions of God filled me with intimidation that ever prevented me from entering into any kind of meaningful relationship of love with Him. The only hope of having such a relationship was always far off in the future, potentially after I could sufficiently get my act together to appease God's wrath against me and hopefully induce Him to begin viewing me differently.
Wonderfully in His mercy God began to introduce Himself to my heart, right around twenty years ago now. I distinctly remember the Holy Spirit confronting me during my devotions about my fearful views of God that were in stark contrast with what I was starting to perceive as I read about the life of Jesus in the book Desire of Ages. I was confronted with a choice: either cling to the old, familiar opinions about what God is like reinforced by the majority view of those around me and by those I had been taught much of my life, or give God permission to open up radically different insights about the real truth about Him to my heart that would upset and challenge nearly everything that defined my view of reality.
After struggling with this decision for several days, thankfully I chose to allow God access to do whatever He wanted to do to change my opinions about Him. As the saying goes, the rest is now history. I have been on an increasingly accelerated journey into whole new dimensions of truth that have forced me to revisit over and over again assumptions I have held all my life about how to see God in every story, every passage, every teaching of the Bible or any other source I have relied on to define Him. The result has been more than I could ever describe, but has been extremely life-giving for my heart. I now feel increasingly compelled to share the genuinely good news about what God is really like with anyone who is willing to listen.
One of the stories that has needed revisiting is the story of Judas Iscariot, the one who ended up betraying Jesus and who's name has now become in history synonymous with betrayal and intrigue. Yet that reputation obscures the real Judas that the other disciples knew as they interacted with him day by day. It was not until the crucifixion that any of them had any inkling that Judas was not fully loyal to Jesus. Even then they didn't have much to brag about in comparison, for Scripture says that they all forsook Jesus and fled and Peter denied three times that he even knew who Jesus was.
But what I most want to focus on is how Jesus – God in flesh – related to Judas. For to understand how Jesus/God viewed Judas and treated him is to gain very valuable insight into how God feels about all sinners, especially those whom He already knows will be lost. Does God treat people differently depending on His foreknowledge of who will be saved in the end and who will not? Scripture is clear that Jesus knew for a long time who it was that would betray Him. But did that affect the way Jesus treated Judas? And if so, in what way did it affect it?
Even more importantly, how did the demise of Judas come about? Did God have anything to do with the death of Judas? Did God punish Judas for being a traitor? Before we rush to answer this question, remember that there are several references in the Old Testament Scripture that speak of others who died with contradictory accounts of who killed them. The demise of king Saul is one of those. And the hardening of Pharaoh's heart during the plagues of Egypt is reported as a choice by Pharaoh himself but in another passage that God did it. So the question always surfaces as to how much God is complicit with the decisions against Him made by humans who come out on the wrong side in choices that affect their eternal destiny.
Many insist that God makes the determination as to who will be good and who will be lost. This seems to be strongly reinforced by Paul's writings about vessels of wrath in contrast to vessels of mercy found in Romans 9. I am not suggesting that are easy answers for these questions. But what I have come to believe is that Jesus Christ is the only safe revelation of the truth about God's character that must always have priority over any other testimony in Scripture or out. So the story of Judas is a good example to examine to better perceive how God relates to turncoats and traitors.
The story of Judas can get a bit complex and has produced many arguments that relate to the character of God. When this subject came to my attention a few months ago, I decided to look up the reference that Jesus quoted from Psalms and was a little surprised to notice that in that passage Judas is likened to what David called a close friend. Actually I am told by those in the know about these things that this reference of David was about the father of Bathsheba who had long been a close confidant and advisor to David until the rebellion of Absalom. At that time he defected from his loyalty to David, possibly from resentment about what David had done to his own daughter previously, and sided with those rebelling against the kingdom of David. This deeply affected David's heart and this Psalm is an expression of David's feelings in reaction to this betrayal of one whom he had long trusted as a bosom friend. This Psalm of course was also a Messianic prophecy of what would happen to Jesus in connection with Judas which is why Jesus quoted it in the upper room.
I have come to see that the way in which Jesus treated Judas all throughout their time together is very enlightening as to how God treats those who are false-hearted. Even though Judas had many faults like all the disciples, Jesus apparently never rebuked Judas openly like He did with Peter a number of times. One of the few times Jesus spoke intensely with Judas was when Mary was anointing the feet and head of Jesus while Judas and Simon were recoiling with disgust and maybe looking daggers at her, filling her with shame in the presence of the One she loved so passionately. At that time Jesus instantly stood up for her and told everyone present not to condemn her while openly affirming that her kind of love for Him was far superior than anything yet demonstrated by others present.
Significantly, it was at this time when Judas sealed his decision to go to the priests and rulers to finalize the deal to betray Jesus into their hands as an insider of the group. It is likely that it was Judas' resentment over the rebuke of Jesus about Mary that caused him to turn against Jesus in this way. And while Judas had convinced himself that betraying might actually work to compel Jesus to declare Himself king to avoid suffering and death at the hands of His enemies; this decision also had a tinge of retaliation involved, to get even for Jesus daring to expose Judas' secret feelings even though Jesus did not call him out by name.
The clearest example of how Jesus treated Judas though, was in the upper room. It was this event where John makes very clear that Jesus was fully cognizant of the infinite power at His disposal and His true identity as God in the flesh. While having all of this in His awareness, He demonstrated the true character of what God is really like by humbling Himself even further than He had already done (see Philippians 2:5-11) and washing the feet of all His disciples including Judas. Jesus did this intentionally as His last desperate attempt to awaken a response of repentance in the heart of Judas, hoping to even then turn him away from the tragic path he had chosen to enter and accept rescue through the mercy of God from the terrible consequences of his selfish choices. We are told that Judas almost relented, but at the last second he chose to indulge in a spirit of disdain and disgust for Jesus. Satan urged him to have contempt for Jesus who had stooped to take on the form of a slave to serve His disciples instead of acting like the King that He claimed to be. By indulging in this spirit of judgment over God Himself in the form of Jesus, Judas finally sealed his own heart in wickedness so securely that there was nothing else God could do to entice him back from the path of his eternal ruin.
But amazingly, even after Judas had sealed his own fate in his heart without knowledge of anyone else in the room, Jesus who knew all things treated Judas with total respect and discretion. This attitude testifies as to the way God relates to sinners even after they have passed the point of no return. It becomes clear that it is never God who changes His attitude toward sinners, rather it is always the attitude of sinners toward God that accomplishes their final ruin.
Jesus, as God always does and always will, simply respected the choices that Judas had made in the complete freedom that God gives all of us. Yes, Judas was trapped in bondage to sin, selfishness and finally demonic influence. But God never imposed His will on Judas or manipulated him to fulfill the prophecies that predicted all of this taking place. Rather, God's foreknowledge simply explained, like history in advance, what will transpire without any imposed intervention on God's part to make it happen. It was Judas who in the end chose to take his own life from a sense of despair after realizing that his careful scheme had completely backfired and that was he who had ended up being betrayed by the leaders. He even felt that Jesus had failed him by not reacting as Judas had intended. As all his carefully constructed scenarios fell apart, Judas saw no option but to end his own life rather than face the shame and humiliation that would surely result when it became known publicly what he had done to the One who had trusted him and loved him for so long.
This brings me to another close friend of Christ that is seldom talked about from this perspective. As I understand it, Lucifer used to be the covering cherub over the very throne of God in heaven before sin ever existed. As such there seems to be evidence, at least for me, that possibly Christ may have taken on the form of an angel and may have filled the role of a counterpart cherub to Lucifer. If this is true, then it would only stand to reason that during their time together the Son of God and Lucifer may have enjoyed the closest relationship of any created beings in the universe. It was so close that it is possible that Lucifer may have come to assume that Christ was also a created being just like himself. One inspired writer has written that at some point God the Father had to call a universe-wide meeting to announce that Christ was actually a part of the godhead and was in fact not a created being at all, though in appearance it seemed that way. This was meant to counteract the growing discontent beginning to take hold in the mind of Lucifer as he experimented with ideas about sin and was beginning to infect others with his sophistry.
We seldom think of Jesus as having deep feelings of sadness over the loss of this ancient, deep friendship He once enjoyed with Lucifer later turned Satan. But God never changes, and the pain suffered in the heart of God from the loss of even one friendship cannot begin to be measured with the puny capacities of our own dull hearts. Yet God feels the full pain of every strained and broken relationship of every being He has ever created and bears it all in His own heart without a trace of resentment or desires for revenge. This is what Jesus came to reveal to the universe and to all of us when He took on human form and allowed humans and demons alike to do anything that sin can invent to be heaped on Him. This is the gospel – the incredible 'good news' about how God really feels towards those who hurt or offend Him. Jesus came to show us this truth about God's heart, and if we miss this central point in the way we interpret any part of the stories found in Scripture then we remain blinded by the darkness of the lies from Satan about what God is actually like.
Consider some of the following passages that foreshadow how the final resolution of sin will transpire and how God relates even to the devil.
Then Aaron shall offer the goat on which the lot for the LORD fell, and make it a sin offering. "But the goat on which the lot for the scapegoat fell shall be presented alive before the LORD, to make atonement upon it, to send it into the wilderness as the scapegoat. (Leviticus 16:9-10)
Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding the key of the abyss and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold of the dragon, the serpent of old, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years; and he threw him into the abyss, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he would not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were completed; after these things he must be released for a short time. (Revelation 20:1-3)
When the thousand years are completed, Satan will be released from his prison, and will come out to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together for the war; the number of them is like the sand of the seashore. And they came up on the broad plain of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city, and fire came down from heaven and devoured them. And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever. Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat upon it, from whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them. (Revelation 20:7-11)
To understand these passages relating to the final end of sin, sinners and Satan, much more must be appreciated about the nature of the fire that describes God's presence. That is beyond the scope of this writing, but I simply want to point out here that particularly in the symbolic act of releasing the 'scapegoat' into the wilderness rather than killing it, we are given an explicit lesson about how God relates to not just human sinners but even to the greatest sinner that has ever existed, the former intimate friend of Christ Himself, the one who has betrayed God the most.
God does not act as an executioner against sinners – any of them. God allows sin to take its own course and it never fails to produce its own natural consequences. God does not have to impose punishments for sin, because sin itself pays its own wages – the wages of death. The fire that consumes all who resist the passionate love that ever emanates from the heart of the godhead and will finally cause all out of harmony with that love to be consumed through their dissonance with it, is the same fire that ignites the saved who will burst into flames of glory and will shine as the stars of the firmament. (see Daniel 12:3)
This is the glorious truth that liberated my own heart a few years ago when God spent two years tutoring me regarding the real truth about hell, the wrath of God and the fire that consumes. This was the truth that for the first time in my entire life awakened genuine and spontaneous love in my own heart in response to this amazing revelation about how God feels toward me. As I became aware, and continue to become more and more aware of this stunning truth about God's nonviolent nature and His faithful, passionate and everlasting love for every individual He has created, whether they be ultimately saved or lost, I now see that this is the true gospel, the amazingly good news about God that Satan and religion are desperate to keep from us. Evil forces know that when the real truth about God finally overwhelms the darkness under which it has been suppressed for so long, then final events will be rapid and the end of all things will culminate with the extinction of sin forever.
Even so, come Lord Jesus.