The other day, my youngest looked up from her homework and asked, "Do you think Judas is in heaven?" That woke me from my Sudoku stupor.
I had a quick response: "probably not". Only because there is a verse in John where Jesus talks about none of his disciples being lost except one. There are other interpretations of that, but as a rule, unless there is scripture that speak clearly otherwise, I try to take the simplest meaning of a verse as being what it means. One disciple was lost, and that would pretty obviously have to be Judas.
But I certainly could be wrong. It isn't that simple of a question. And I had a more important point to make with my daughter, which was that Judas could have gone to heaven.
That will shock some folks. Judas? That terrible sinner? The man who betrayed Jesus? Yep. He could have gone to heaven, even after his betrayal.
First of all, if betraying Christ disqualified one for salvation, there would be no hope for any of humanity. We ALL have betrayed Jesus in some sense. (Writing this post is bringing to mind a song from an old Christian rock group, Petra: "I wonder how it makes you feel when no one seeks your face . . . It must be . . . just like Judas' kiss." Insert awesome guitar riff here. )
This is one of the primary tenets of Christianity that so many people miss: whether or not you go to heaven has nothing to do with the good and bad things you've done in life. Nothing. Nothing at all. Nada. Zip. Zilch. Nothing.
I realize that goes against our human instincts about justice, because we see heaven as a reward and hell as a punishment. But I'm not sure that they are those things . . . at least not in the way we think of reward and punishment. They are simply destinations--destinations that are fitting for the nature of those who end up there. A person who does not have a right relationship with God ends up in a place where they are eternally separated from God (that's hell). A person whose relationship with God has been put right ends up spending eternity with him.
Now, it's true that when someone's relationship with God has been put right, their behavior should change. Not because they are now trying so hard to be good people, but because their very nature has been altered (and is continually being altered), and this will show on the outside. But sanctification (that's the ten-dollar churchy word for that process) is not completed in this lifetime (at least, that's my take on what scripture says about it -- some denominations disagree). A person can be put right with God and still do wrong sometimes. Sometimes very, very wrong.
The actual act of betrayal, I believe, did not put Judas on the short list to hell. It all depended on the state of his heart, his relationship with Christ. It is entirely possible that Judas was quite aware of his sinful state and his separation from God (almost certain, in fact), and of his need for an outside mediator -- a Savior -- to put him right with God. And it's entirely possible that he came to a point of understanding that Jesus was that mediator, that Savior, and believing that what Christ did on Calvary applied to him as well. Yes, he committed suicide -- powerful emotions can drive us to acts of desperation -- but our emotions are affected by a multitude of factors and are not always indicative of the state of our soul.
(Did everyone hear that? Our emotions do not define our reality -- even our spiritual reality. I know some people who need to understand that today.)
So, no, I doubt that Judas is in heaven. But yes, I think there's a chance he could be. There's hope for even the most grievous of sinners.
And yes, this was important enough to devote an entire blog post to the question.