Thursday, March 29, 2012

Did Judas Go to Heaven or Hell?

Where did Judas go after he died? He betrayed Christ. He committed suicide. But the answer of where Judas is now might surprise you.

From Matthew 26:
 1 When Jesus had finished saying all these things, He said to his disciples, 2 “As you know, the Passover is two days away—and the Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified.”

Jesus knew that He was going to die, didn’t He? He knew He was going to be crucified, that He was going to have to go through the awful pain of that death. And He willingly went through with it because of His love for us, because of His deep over-riding desire to forgive us and to provide a way for us to come back to God. Jesus would rather come to earth and die than continue to live in Heaven without us. That’s amazing, isn’t it?

 3 Then the chief priests and the elders of the people assembled in the palace of the high priest, whose name was Caiaphas, 4 and they schemed to arrest Jesus secretly and kill Him. 5 “But not during the festival,” they said, “or there may be a riot among the people.”

John 12:1-6:
Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. 2 Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. 3 Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. 4But one of His disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, 5 “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.” 6 He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.”

So, Judas wanted to sell that expensive perfume and then keep the money for himself. He was a thief, a greedy man, who was only looking out for himself. Here this woman is, worshipping Jesus, at least in part because Jesus had raised her brother, Lazarus, from the dead, and Judas… is not worshipping. He’s not remembering the awe of Jesus calling Lazarus, a man who had been dead and in the tomb for four days, back to life. Instead, he’s thinking about how he can make a quick buck.

10 Aware of this, Jesus said to them, “Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me. 11 The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me. 12 When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial.

Judas is thinking about money, and Jesus and this woman, Mary, are thinking about how Jesus is about to die for the sins of the world. Talk about Judas not having his priorities straight. Judas is right in the middle of the biggest thing God has ever done since the creation of the world – God, in the body of Jesus Christ, is about to die – and Judas is being distracted, thinking about how he can make some money.

But I wonder how many of us can get distracted too. I wonder how many of us concern ourselves with our daily living or want we want to do, and don’t notice or don’t pay attention or don’t give enough priority to the things of God.

We live in this world, and we have to take care of things in this world, but we are not of this world. Our priority, our loyalty, our future and eternal home is beyond this world. As believers, we need to be about bigger things than the daily grind while we’re here because we know that getting that next paycheck, or taking care of that next thing on our to-do list is not all there is to life. Life is about something so much bigger, something so much more beyond, something so much more eternal than our daily routine.

Judas, apparently, didn’t realize that. Hopefully, we do. I often wonder how Judas could have been right there with Jesus for three straight years and not have been affected, not have been changed, by being with Christ. There are some Christians who go to church every week and who claim to have known Jesus for years, and yet it’s obvious that they have not been changed. It’s obvious that, like Judas, they haven’t let Jesus affect them.

I say that we will not be like that. We will not be like Judas. We will take our faith seriously. We will allow our faith in Christ to change us, to shape us, to grow us, into what God wants us to be. We will have a faith that looks beyond ourselves and our daily ups and downs to a God who is in control of everything, and who has called us to higher things, to the God who wants us to be involved in His activity in this world.

Judas had the opportunity to take part in God’s work, right there by God’s side, and he wasted it. We will not waste the opportunities that God gives us. We will not waste our lives like Judas did. Amen? We will make our lives count for God and for His eternal purposes.

13 Truly I tell you, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”
14 Then one of the Twelve—the one called Judas Iscariot—went to the chief priests 15 and asked, “What are you willing to give me if I deliver him over to you?” So they counted out for him thirty pieces of silver. 16 From then on Judas watched for an opportunity to hand him over.

Is it any surprise that Judas, this thief, this greedy man, was willing to betray Christ for a few coins?

I wonder what we are willing to betray Christ for. We betray Christ every time we sin. Every time we accept Satan’s temptation instead of standing strong, instead of staying loyal to our Savior.

Satan has all kinds of things he can tempt us with, and he knows each of our weaknesses. Judas’ weakness was money. What is your weakness, and what are you doing to make sure that you stay strong in that area so that you don’t end up sinning and betraying Jesus like Judas did?

The thing is that Judas went looking for trouble, didn’t he? He went to the priests, and he said, “What are you willing to give me?” Sometimes, we go looking for trouble too. We know what our weakness is and yet we still go to the places, we still talk to the people, we still buy the products, that encourage us to sin in that area.

If Judas had recognized his weakness and decided to stay away from the priests, he would never have betrayed Jesus like he did. In the same way, the first step in our fight to keep ourselves from sinning and betraying Jesus is to consciously avoid those things, those places, those people, that tempt us.

20 When evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the Twelve. 21 And while they were eating, he said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.”
 22 They were very sad and began to say to him one after the other, “Surely you don’t mean me, Lord?”
 23 Jesus replied, “The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me. 24 The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.”
 25 Then Judas, the one who would betray him, said, “Surely you don’t mean me, Rabbi?”
  Jesus answered, “You have said so.” …
 36 Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane…
 47 While he was still speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, arrived. With him was a large crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests and the elders of the people. 48 Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: “The one I kiss is the man; arrest him.” 49 Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” and kissed him.

Luke 22:48:

“but Jesus asked him, ‘Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?’”

“Are you betraying the Son of man with a kiss?” Can you imagine? Judas goes up to Jesus, calls Him ‘Rabbi’, a respectful term for ‘Teacher’, and then kisses Him affectionately, knowing the whole time that he’s come to betray Him.

I wonder if we ever betray Jesus like that. Sometimes, Christians will come to church, and they will say that they believe in Christ and that they serve God, but then, they betray Him by their sinful actions afterward. They respect Christ with their mouth one moment and sin against Him the next. That’s the Judas kiss.

Friends, I say that we will not give Jesus the Judas kiss. I say that when we say that we love and serve Christ, we will mean it. I say that our actions and our lifestyle will match what our mouth says. We will be sincere, genuine Christians. We will not be hypocrites, but will serve the Lord in truth.

From Matthew 27:

Early in the morning, all the chief priests and the elders of the people made their plans how to have Jesus executed. 2 So they bound him, led him away and handed him over to Pilate the governor.
 3 When Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders. 4 “I have sinned,” he said, “for I have betrayed innocent blood.”
“What is that to us?” they replied. “That’s your responsibility.”
 5 So Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself.

We’ve talked about how bad of a guy Judas was. He was greedy, he was a hypocrite, he betrayed Jesus, and now, we see him committing suicide. But I wonder, where did Judas go when he died? Is Judas in Heaven? I think most Christians would assume that Judas went to Hell.

But I’m not too sure about that. I think that Judas gets a bad rap among Christians. Judas is someone who did something wrong. But how many of us have ever done anything wrong?

So, Judas does something wrong, but then, when he realizes the consequences of his mistake, when he realizes the consequences of his wrongdoing, he feels bad about it, doesn't he? He goes to the priests and says that he has sinned, and he returns the money. How many of us have ever done something wrong and then felt bad about it afterward?

So, Judas feels bad about what he's done. Judas had some serious remorse for his sin. He felt terrible. He was guilty, and he knew it.

Let me ask you: Is that enough for God to have forgiven Judas? He felt bad about it, he confessed his sin to the priests, and he gave back the money. I’m not sure there was anything more Judas could have done in order to ask for God’s forgiveness.

I think that if I had been Judas’ pastor, I would have told him that God forgave him.

But I don’t think Judas would have believed me.

Because here's where Judas made his real mistake, his fatal mistake. It's tragic. Judas is the most tragic person in the entire Hebrew and Christian Scriptures. Because in Judas, we see the perfect picture of someone who was, most likely, forgiven by God but couldn’t forgive himself. Judas made a mistake, he had sinned, and he felt bad about it, but he didn't know, or he wasn't willing, to take the next step.

God forgave Judas, but Judas couldn’t forgive himself. He couldn’t let go of his own guilt, those all-too-recent memories of what he had done. Instead of acknowledging God’s forgiveness, Judas went out and killed himself. He chose to hang on to his guilt and take it to his grave instead of allowing himself to feel and experience the forgiveness that God had given him.

We can be like that too. We’ve come to God, we know we’ve been forgiven, but we still have those memories of the things we’ve done. We still feel that guilt. God says our guilt is gone – it’s forgiven – but we still carry it with us. We know that God has forgiven us, but we haven’t forgiven ourselves.

Don’t make the same mistake that Judas did. If you feel guilty about something, if you’re still haunted by the memories of things you’ve done in the past, don’t carry that guilt with you anymore.

When you continue to carry that guilt, that’s letting Satan keep you down. That’s letting Satan remind you of your past mistakes, your past failings, your past sins, instead of letting God remind you of His love, His forgiveness, all the ways He’s changed you, and the future plans He has for you.

I say that we will not let Satan keep us down anymore.
If you’re still in doubt about Judas or anyone else’s fate after death, here are a few more questions to ponder.

Is there any sin that God can’t forgive?

As Christians, we would say that the only unforgivable sin is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, not suicide.

Do you have to confess and ask for forgiveness for each individual sin that you commit for God to forgive you?

I hope not, because who can remember every single sin except God alone? So, if we die with unconfessed sins, that doesn’t mean we go to Hell. Everyone dies with unconfessed sin because no one can recount every failing they’ve ever had.

When you believe in Jesus and ask God to forgive you for your sins, what sins is He forgiving you of?

When we accept Christ, His death covers every sin that we’ve ever committed as well as every sin that we ever will commit. As long as we stay in Him, our sins are covered.

Do people who commit suicide automatically go to Hell?

No. Even that sin has been paid for if they believe in Christ, though our hope would be that their belief in Christ would keep them doing such a thing. Still, we must remember that a person's mental state can cause them to do things they would spiritually oppose.

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