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My Take: Is Judas in heaven or hell? God only knows
April 21st, 2011
12:01 AM ET

My Take: Is Judas in heaven or hell? God only knows

Editor's Note: Craig Gross is the pastor and founder of XXXchurch.com. He has written seven books and speaks across the country on a range of topics. He just turned 35 and is no longer a hip 20-something pastor from California.

By Craig Gross, Special to CNN

I heard a news clip promoting my recent speaking engagement at a church, and they mentioned that I deal with some of "the greatest sinners of all time."

I thought to myself: Do I? Would people who are caught up in porn and sexual sin addictions consider themselves some of the greatest sinners of all time? Probably not.

Without a doubt, Judas, the biblical disciple of Jesus, is considered the greatest sinner of all time because of what he did to Jesus.

Here is the passage from Luke 22:21-22.

Do you realize that the hand of the one who is betraying me is at this moment on this table? It's true that the Son of Man is going down a path already marked out.

No surprises there. But for the one who turns him in - who turns traitor to the Son of Man - this is doomsday.

Let me tell you a little bit about what the Bible says about Judas:

He was personally chosen to be an apostle by Jesus.

He spent 3 1/2 years traveling with Jesus.

He saw all the miracles of Christ in person.

He watched as Christ healed the sick, raised the dead and cast out demons.

In terms of experience with Jesus, whatever you can say about Peter, James and John, you can say about Judas.

On top of all this, he handled the money, which is most of the time the most trusted one in the bunch. No one suspected that Judas would betray Jesus, which tells me he was a believer.

His life was changed.

He knew Jesus personally.

In a dark moment of his life, he made a mistake. A big one. He sold Jesus out for 30 silver coins or so. The moment he knew what he had done, he felt remorse, and he killed himself.

I am not here to debate theology. The facts are the facts. I don't think Judas was “The Mole,” like the reality show character who's there to sabotage the game from the beginning. I think he made a mistake and now has gone down as committing the biggest sin of all time.

Judas heard every message, saw every miracle, and still screwed up.

Recently, I asked on my Facebook page: "Is Judas in heaven or hell?"

The first response was:

Judas is in hell today. He has been there for 2,000 years and he will be there forever.

There is a button on Facebook that I have started to love. It is called “unfriend.” I won't unfriend you because you believe differently than I do, I just don’t need more theologians as my friends on Facebook who speak with such confidence when it comes to someone's place in eternity.

A debate continues on my Facebook wall. I love how everyone is so convinced they know whether Judas is in heaven or hell.

I don't know who gets in, actually. Do I believe in heaven and hell? Yes. I believe one is dark and one is light, and they both last forever.

Belief Blog: What if there is no hell?

What is interesting to me is that in the upper room where Jesus and his disciples shared their last supper together, the 12 disciples all talked about how they were so great. Peter left the room and denied Jesus three times.  Judas left the room and sold Jesus out for 30 coins.

One committed suicide, and one went on to build the church as we know it today. Both Peter and Judas committed the same sin. They both denied Jesus. But why do most people think one goes to heaven and one goes to hell?

This is not the debate Christians need to be engaged in. We don’t know. Instead of wasting our time on these types of arguments inside our little Christian world, maybe we should look inside ourselves this Easter.

It is easier to debate these issues and make speculations about others than it is to actually look at ourselves in the mirror. It is always easier to think someone else is worse off then we are.

But maybe as we approach Easter, we can be reminded that for Christians, the cross and the grave should silence all of these debates. We all fall short and deserve death, but because of what Jesus did on the cross 2,000 years ago, we are able to have life. And I believe that where you end up, God only knows.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Christianity • Church • Opinion

soundoff (2,323 Responses)
  1. Carolyn

    God knew Judas's heart and intentions. He regretted what he had done, but if he didn't follow through with the betrayal the redemption would have not taken placed. So I won't be surprised if I bump into Judas in the afterlife.

    April 21, 2011 at 10:20 am |
    • Chad

      I agree, without a villain, there can be no hero

      April 21, 2011 at 10:25 am |
  2. Vishal Arora

    God knows and one other person knows...and that's Judas. There are two things I have come to understand as a believer in the Messiah. The first is that if you seek the Word with diligence and humility and love, God will tell you where you stand with Him. He will show you and you will see. But you will only see through the Word and in the Spirit. With any other eyes, you will remain blind. The second is that where anyone else stands with God is rarely our business. It's only our business when they are close enough to us to join us in Spirit in our quest for God and His light.

    April 21, 2011 at 10:18 am |
    • Kunal Shah

      Arora by now we all know that there is really no religion that is worth believing in, all seem to be different from the time they were originally written and so no body knows the real interpretation of what the great masters were talking about at that time.

      April 21, 2011 at 10:23 am |
    • Vishal Arora

      And one other food for thought on this subject. When people outright blame Judas for the crucifixion of Jesus, what they are implying is that Judas was in control. Do you seriously think Judas controlled the fate of Jesus? Is Judas in such a position of control over the plan of God? Ridiculous. Judas was nothing but an instrument. If there is one thing the Bible will show you if you sit down and read it, it is that God is in control. Everything and everyone else is an instrument. An agent at best. So before you waste your time hating Judas, realize that Judas was not significant. The cruficixion is significant. The world's rejection of the truth that Christ brought into the world – THAT is significant. Judas is a pawn on God's chess board – in God's message.

      April 21, 2011 at 10:31 am |
    • Sam

      I have to disagree with you on that Vishal. If Judas was an instrument and so are we, then that demeans the very meaning of God. Just like Judas had the free will to decide what was right and what was not, just like Adam had the free will to eat the fruit or not and just like Mary had the free will to decide if her will would be God's will or not(when the angel spoke to her), we also have the free will to follow Christ or not....God had a plan and always does have a plan but he gives the free will to HIS people...If God controlled the world like chess pieces, then God would NOT be God and there would be no point in having faith in God cause your and my fates would be decided even before we live out our lives.

      Remember we have been called to live like Christ and on judgment day we will be save by our faith and our works(fruits of our faith) just like James presented in the new testament. We are his handiwork prepared to do HIS work but we have a free will to choose.

      April 21, 2011 at 2:31 pm |
  3. questionauthority

    I vote he is in Heaven.

    April 21, 2011 at 10:18 am |
  4. Chad

    I believe that Judas in in Heaven because him selling out Jesus was part of the plan. If Judas had not sold him out, then there may have not been a Crucifixion. As a matter of fact, I believe God knows from the beginning who will go to Heaven and who will go to hell. Therefore, it's hard to believe it is truly free will since you are predestined. If God knew you were going to hell, then why would he create you?

    April 21, 2011 at 10:18 am |
    • Madtown

      I don't think anything is pre-destined. We have complete control over the actions we choose and the decisions we make.

      April 21, 2011 at 10:36 am |
    • MikeBell

      Judas was so distraught about it that he took his own life. That in itself is considered a sin. Bottom line is that it isn't for us to judge.
      Those that seem to care the most about this seem to be more interesting in justifying their tendency to judge others.

      April 21, 2011 at 10:41 am |
  5. MikeBell

    Personally, it's not my concern. Isn't it enough to be concerned with one's own life?
    This article is more for derision to stir things up than anything else.

    April 21, 2011 at 10:17 am |
  6. Ike

    Please, It is hard to take seriously the comments of people on the accounts of the Bible when they don't believe in the Bible and have proably never read the Bible. The Bible relates that there is defintiely a Heaven and a Hell and that the path to Heaven is through Jesus and the other path leads to Hell. It is pretty clear in this. Now having said that it is hard to speculate the final destination of people when they leave this earth, because we ultimately don't know the peoples hearts and actions to the end. Judas is another story though, We do know that he he stole from the treasury, was foretold of and then sold Jesus down the river for 30 silverettes and hung himself out of remorse. The only thing he didn't do was seek forgiveness and live a better life. Peter denied Christ, but returned to His calling. Even Paul who had killed Christians, didn't seek remorse in suicide. While Judas might be in heaven, the Bible cast doubt on this. And for those who don't believe in Heaven or Hell, let me say that if Heaven or Hell is not real and you live life as a Christian you have served others and lived a good life and will die and that is all, there is no regrets for there is nothing to remember. But if you live life with no sense of judgment in the end, living only for yourself and die and then find out there is a Hell, then whoa its too late. Living life as a Christian now and then nothing isn't going to be near as bad as living life badly and then burning for all eternity. Sotmething to think about.

    April 21, 2011 at 10:16 am |
    • Blasphemer

      whatever works for you ike. keep on rationalizing your beliefs.

      April 21, 2011 at 10:29 am |
    • knels

      Sadly circular christian reasoning.
      .
      It's in the Bible, so it must be true"
      Q. How do you know the Bible is true.
      A. Because the Bible tells me so

      How about finding some authority other that.

      April 21, 2011 at 10:40 am |
  7. Leo D

    Judas is probably playing musical chairs with the space monster Yahweh in heaven. That or battling demons with the Hulk and Spiderman.

    April 21, 2011 at 10:15 am |
  8. RoadRunner, Albuquerque, NM

    Judas did the will of God. No one who truly knew Jesus wanted him to die. Jesus rebuked Peter for even thinking about preventing his death, because to die for the sins of the world was Christs central purpose for living, and to stand in the way of God's will was the work of Satan. Therefore, Judas assisted God's will, and this is not reason to condemn him.

    However, the question arises as to whether or not he may have condemned himself. The biblical account does have him repenting, because by human standards, betraying Christ was a horrible thing to do. Sometimes we condemn ourselves or others, because we refuse to accept God's will or our part in it, when we should always defer to God's standards, not human ones. That is why the Bible clearly advises us to refrain from judging, either others–or ourselves. Only God can safely judge another, and he does not use human customs, traditions, or taboos to do so. He uses his own Will as the standard.

    So, while Judas repented of betraying Christ, his repentance seems to have been ineffectual because he was unwilling to accept God's will. Rather, he went on to live what was to be the rest of his life under his own condemnation deriving from his own human will and understanding, and he took a different path from what God had intended for him. So much of what is the mainstream church world today follows down this broad road away from God, choosing rather to adhere to human judgement and human thinking, rather than that of Christ. Like Judas, they too should know better, and claim to speak for Christ, but their actions show that their hearts are far from him.

    I only hope that our people will have a renewal of faith in the goodness of God, and the forgiveness that Christ brings, and set aside petty human differences, set aside human thinking and narrow minded judgementalism, set aside every religious leader or organization that teaches human bigotry anchored in man's ego, and instead come to revel in the miracle of life that God has given to every living soul. That is what it means to be a Christian.

    April 21, 2011 at 10:14 am |
  9. Fred L. Fraud

    There is no such thing as Hell. It is man made.

    April 21, 2011 at 10:14 am |
  10. Marshall Prince

    Jesus himself is plain on this one....
    Jn :17
    12 While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by[ that name you gave me. None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled.

    April 21, 2011 at 10:14 am |
  11. varan tatu

    Is Judas in heaven or hell? That's for someone else to judge (and I would take great care in judging "another man's servant"). Two things I do know from the narrative: Peter repented and was forgiven. Judas did not.

    April 21, 2011 at 10:14 am |
    • Skegeeace

      Exactly.

      April 21, 2011 at 10:18 am |
  12. Skegeeace

    UM- dear author and brother in Christ, your logic doesn't really add up.

    "Nobody SUSPECTED Judas of being a betrayer, so he must have been a believer". Nobody suspected the folks at Enron, so they must have been really nice people up until the moment they were caught in their ponzi scheme? NOT.

    You say out of one side of your neck that you don't unfriend people who disagree with you, but that's exactly what you did when someone answered the question YOU asked in a way you didn't like? Yeah, great example there.

    Also, Judas was given charge of the money, but he was also STEALING. "He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it." – John 12:6

    Jesus knew from the beginning who Judas was. He wasn't surprised by anything (Uh, he was God.) Jesus answered them, "Did I Myself not choose you, the twelve, and yet one of you is a devil?" John 6:70.

    I can understand you're being frustrated that people would judge the members of your church as the "worst" sinners (Who would have such gall?) However, making light of Judas's sin of betraying our Saviour as "just a mistake" and claiming that he was a believer just don't jive with scripture. If Judas REALLY thought Jesus was the Messiah, surely he wouldn't have thought that mere men could contain him or persuade him to free Isreal from Roman tyranny. Yes, he showed anguish at his sin, but guilt doesn't equal belief or repentance (I've learned that the hard way).

    Please be more responsible with your musings as a pastor, sir.

    April 21, 2011 at 10:13 am |
  13. Evodevo

    Belief blog is dumbing down further. What a stupid topic. Coming up: How many angels can fit on a pinhead (written by another pinheaded author)

    April 21, 2011 at 10:12 am |
  14. gelbkreuz

    He's dead and waiting for the next universe like everything else that lived and died. That's it folks. Once per universe. Good thing you don't even realize you're waiting.

    April 21, 2011 at 10:12 am |
  15. Eric

    Hell.

    April 21, 2011 at 10:11 am |
  16. NL

    "On top of all this, he handled the money, which is most of the time the most trusted one in the bunch. No one suspected that Judas would betray Jesus, which tells me he was a believer."

    Actually, the most trusted one ought to be he who you entrust your kids with. Children are far more precious than money, but we already know where that trust has led the Church.

    If speaking of mere money, however, the author's sentiment would then imply that televangelists and other well-to-do clerics must be the greatest believers within all christendom, because of people's trust in giving them so much money.

    April 21, 2011 at 10:11 am |
  17. Colin

    I believe in Leprechauns. I believe that the Leprechaun King created the entire Universe about 6,000 years ago. I know there is a substantial amount of evidence suggesting that the Universe is significantly older than this, but I think a lot of that evidence comes from bad science, or from a worldwide conspiracy of scientists who want to deny Leprechauns. I know this because it is written in the Leprechaun Chronicles, a book cobbled together from various authors, most unknown, by our church during the Dark Ages.

    The Leprechaun King lives in Leprechaun Heaven, where he busies himself answering prayers, running the Universe and recording the lives of humans for their final judgment before him. He is surrounded by an entire society of magical beings – his son Merlin, the Holy Leprechaun Spirit, the good fairy Mary, thousands of other fairies, pixies and the souls of many millions of dead people.

    Each Leprechaun pixie has a special task. For example, Saint Christopher is the patron-pixie of travelers and it is his job to intercede with the Leprechaun king on behalf of travelers to keep them safe. Most countries and professions similarly have a special Leprechaun who pays them special attention – even lawyers. There are strict rules governing the roles, responsibilities of the various Leprechauns, elves, pixies and other heavenly beings.

    I believe that the Leprechaun King loves me and hears my prayers. He intervenes in my life periodically by saving me from various ills. All I have to do is think to myself and he reads my mind and answers my prayers. He loves me and when I die, provided I have lived a good life, I will go to Leprechaun Heaven, where I will live happily ever after with all other humans who have ever led good lives.

    I know there is not a lot of evidence to support my beliefs, but that is just the point. The Leprechaun King wants us to have “faith,” so he never reveals himself. To make an unambiguous appearance and settle once and for all the question of his existence would deprive us of free will and, even though he is all knowing, he would not know who his true believers were. In fact, I believe that the Leprechaun King is “beyond understanding”. He is “outside the Universe” and any time I am faced with something about my Leprechaun belief that makes no sense, I don’t dare question it, I just close my mind and tell myself that "the Leprechaun King moves in mysterious ways" or that my mind is too small to understand the greatness of the Leprechaun King. These are satisfying answers to me.

    Some people, called “atheists,” are skeptical of my belief in the Leprechaun King. They point out many inherent contradictions and unsupported assumptions that underwrite my belief in Leprechauns. But, they can’t prove he doesn’t exist, so he must exist. They also can't definitively explain where the Universe came from or how life on Earth first started, so it must be the Leprechaun King.

    And so what! Even if I am wrong, and go my whole life believing in nonexistent Leprechauns, I have lost nothing. However, if they are wrong, the Leprechaun King will send them to hell to burn forever in the presence of the Evil Ground Troll. Am I convincing you to believe in Leprechauns yet?

    April 21, 2011 at 10:07 am |
    • Mjollnir

      Based on your previous comments, I assume you are parodying Christianity. You do of course realize that the Leprechaun is the Christian mocking of Lugh, one of the Celtic gods.
      Oh yeah, and it actually contains several bits that would support religion.

      April 21, 2011 at 10:12 am |
    • Chanselor Jenkins

      I believe you colin from Colorado.

      April 21, 2011 at 10:18 am |
    • Colin

      @MJollina. No, I did not know that. So, I am mocking Christians by using their mocking of the Celtics. So, who then, did the Celtics mock? Please, tell me it was the French.

      April 21, 2011 at 10:19 am |
    • Jugger

      Best Post Ever!

      April 21, 2011 at 10:21 am |
    • Colin

      Ah, Monsieur Jenkins, such stately obsession with Colorado....No, wrong dude. I am the oobnoxiouss, self-loathing, opinionated, hateful, sure to burn in hell, heathen atheist from the other side of the country.

      April 21, 2011 at 10:22 am |
    • Blasphemer

      Up the airy mountain
      down the rushy glen
      we daren't go a huntin'
      for fear of little men

      we folk, good folk
      troopin' all together

      green jacket
      red cap
      white owl feather

      April 21, 2011 at 10:22 am |
    • Madtown

      LOL!!

      I enjoyed a bowl of me Lucky Charms this morning.

      April 21, 2011 at 10:23 am |
    • Mjollnir

      Clearly you lack the ability to come up with good insults. And the Celtics weren't mocking anything. Lugh was one of their gods. When the Christians came, they were all "He's not a god, how can we make people stop liking him?" So they called him...some name that I can't recall at the moment, but it meant 'stooping Lugh' or some such, and this was eventually anglicized into Leprechaun.

      April 21, 2011 at 10:23 am |
    • Colin

      @jugger. go to http://www.thinkingatheist.blogspot.com I

      April 21, 2011 at 10:24 am |
    • The Smurfy God

      That was great Colin.

      I have the Smurfy bible.
      Pappa smurf says you will all bow down and kiss
      my little blue butt.
      Then you will feed me offerings of smurfberries
      and sacrifice smurfette before me.
      Go now and Smurf.

      April 21, 2011 at 12:55 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      He is in the way of life that keepeth instruction: but he that refuseth reproof erreth.

      Proverbs 10:17

      Amen.

      April 22, 2011 at 3:41 pm |
  18. JayKay

    He's in my living room!

    April 21, 2011 at 10:06 am |
    • Tom

      It appears he went to a disco at the end of Jesus Christ Superstar.

      April 21, 2011 at 10:17 am |
  19. Denise

    "It is easier to debate these issues and make speculations about others than it is to actually look at ourselves in the mirror. It is always easier to think someone else is worse off then we are."

    This is the meat and potatoes of this entire article. The author calls us to look at ourselves and our own need for grace. Maybe if we took that opportunity this Holy Week - Christians and non-Christians alike - we would be more capable of extending that same grace to others and thereby truly living out the gospel of Jesus Christ.

    April 21, 2011 at 10:06 am |
    • NL

      Perhaps the real problem is with how grace is being marketed to believers? Being labeled as 'saved' I think gives many the false idea that their entry into heaven is guaranteed, and if there are guarantees for entry then there must also be guarantees for exclusion. Yet, within a system that allows for death bed conversions, Judas or even Hitler may be in heaven had they asked forgiveness with their dying breaths. So, who actually 'knows' who's really in heaven, right?

      As.suming to actually 'know' that you are heaven-bound, or that some other person is hell-bound also seems to fly in the face of numerous scriptural indications that God's mind is unfathomable, and that his wisdom is completely contrary to our own thinking, and our innate sense of right and wrong. If you believe in this aspect of God then you, or anyone else, can only hope that you've judged the situation correctly and that your conduct as a believer will result in your being rewarded in the end. You also have to hope that God's idea of 'paradise' matches your own, and that he isn't just gathering a bunch of juicy souls to snack on up yonder.

      April 21, 2011 at 10:32 am |
  20. GI JOHN

    @ Colin...........
    14 What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! 15 For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”[f]
    16 It does not, therefore, depend on man’s desire or effort, but on God’s mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh: “I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.”[g] 18 Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden.
    19 One of you will say to me: “Then why does God still blame us? For who resists his will?” 20 But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? “Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’”[h] 21 Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use?
    22 What if God, choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath—prepared for destruction? 23 What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory—
    Good luck Colin....................that will be the only pearl I will throw out to the swine who trample on the Word of God like yourself.

    April 21, 2011 at 10:02 am |
    • Gaunt

      Your version of god is evil, condemning good men to burn forever because they dont scream out HIS name, but scream out somebody elses. That is arrogant and self-indulgent, in other words evil. Good and evil dont matter, your actions dont matter, only whose name you cry out matters.

      Evidence? According to Christians, if Adolf Hitler, the most evil man of the last century, had embraced JC and begged forgivenes in true heartfelt repentance in his last moment, then Hitler is in heaven.

      Also according to Christians, if Mother Theresa, one of the most wonderful and best people of the last century had, on her deathbed, abandoned JC and decided to worship Bhudda, then she would be burning in hell.

      Good and bad dont matter to your god, he is not kind, he is not just, he is not fogiving, he is not merciful. he is an arrogant dictator who just wants everyone to worship him and nobody else.

      April 21, 2011 at 10:08 am |
    • Colin

      Ahhh, the whole believe or burn hypothosis. GI John, this is actually one of the sillier christian superst-itions. think it through. I don't have to kill, I don't have to rob, I don't even have to litter. All I have to do is be obdurate in my rejection of the christian religion and god will inflict a punishment on me a million times worse than the death penalty...and he loves me.

      Clearly manmade nonsense. I am, however, bemused by your strong desire that we atheists do burn for all eternity. I would not wish a bad sunburn on a Christian, simply because they have a different religious belief to me.

      April 21, 2011 at 10:11 am |
    • Dynan3

      The Gospel of Judas is now on the web for everyone to see. It tells how Jesus needed His closest and most trusted disciple to do this terrible deed so His Mission on Earth could be completed. Judas knew his name would be cursed for millenia, yet he held to his duty. Also tells of how Jesus knew that Judas was the only one that truly knew who Jesus, the Christ, was. And how Jesus gave Judas all the heavy secrets before going to Gethsemene.

      Who decided what went into the Bible? That's the question we should ask if this is going to be a supreme guide to action.

      Judas is surely in his Heaven.

      April 21, 2011 at 10:52 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.