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. Benny

    Not in hell but has to be a Cub fan for eternity

    April 21, 2011 at 10:32 am |
  2. Believer

    If he was a believer, then all sins, past and future are forgiven. I believe one's salvation cannot be taken away.

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

      This "forgiveness thing" is a problem. The Catholic church has a "forgiveness program" for priests who molested children. The right program for these offenders is a prison sentence, not "forgiveness." The only person who can "forgive" is the victim or the victim's family. A church has nothing to do with this.

      April 21, 2011 at 10:35 am |
  3. Just Wondering

    '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.'

    If you didn't want people to debate on this topic, why put it on your Facebook?

    April 21, 2011 at 10:31 am |
  4. One Happy Atheist

    love it Colin – sounds like a good childrens story
    Believers = People who are afraid to accept the reality of Death

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

      Atheism requires a certain amount of courage. There is less "comfort" for mourners. On the other hand, atheists live for what they can do today because they know there is nothing after. In a strange way it is liberating because you have an opportunity to think for yourself and take responsibility for yourself.

      April 21, 2011 at 10:42 am |
  5. Richard

    I was a 7th Day Adventist but Carletta is DEEP Southern Baptist so she made me change because she has plans on Saturdays and goes to Birmingham on Fridays.

    April 21, 2011 at 10:31 am |
  6. HWR

    Come on, who really cares. Religion is just a fantasy/belief.

    April 21, 2011 at 10:30 am |
  7. Ann

    Judas and Peter made the same sin. Why do we think that one (Peter) went to heaven and the other (Judas) went to hell? It's exactly because what you wrote. One asked for forgiveness and went on to do good works. Judas, on the other had, never asked for forgiveness and never repented. He killed himself. His greatest sin wasn't that he betrayed Jesus...it was that he did so and chose to kill himself instead of repenting.

    April 21, 2011 at 10:30 am |
  8. Tminus

    can anyone answer this, would the resurrection have occured without Judus ?

    April 21, 2011 at 10:29 am |
  9. Nick

    Wow what an important opinion piece for CNN to cover! Is a fictional character in one fictional locating or another??? It is a mystery! Next up: Did Frodo and Bilbo Baggins ever make it to Valindor?

    April 21, 2011 at 10:29 am |
  10. Chris Mankey

    Which make believe place did the make believe man go to?

    April 21, 2011 at 10:29 am |
  11. Tim

    he is neither in heaven or hell he rotted in the ground like ALL human animals

    April 21, 2011 at 10:29 am |
  12. Hurley

    Man wrote the Bible. He edited the Bible. He made decisions to put some things in and leave some things out. There are dozens of versions of the Bible, all with different text. How can this be the word of God? It's the word of human beings. I believe there is a God. I don't believe that the Bible is anything but myth and tradition same as any other of the hundreds of religions out there. There's nothing worse than a religious person tell you what's right and wrong and that you should live by their standards. Ask the hundreds of millions of people that have died because of someone elses religious beliefs. This world would be an infinitely better place if we could all just accept that most of what we know as religion is mythology and folklore spun as absolute law. It's always silly and untrue until it's your religion... then it's the WORD OF GOD AND YOU MUST OBEY! Ridiculous.

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

      It's just as annoying when someone who isn't religious tells you how to think.

      April 21, 2011 at 10:30 am |
    • sanjosemike

      You make good points, but unlike you, I don't believe in any god or gods. There is absolutely no proof.

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

      The 'proof' that there aren't gods is as silly as the 'proof' that there are.

      April 21, 2011 at 10:34 am |
    • Stewart M Nichols

      WELL SAID!!!

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

      Mjollnir said: "It's just as annoying when someone who isn't religious tells you how to think."

      sanjosemike responds: I'm not telling you how to think, but as an atheist I do get sick and tired of paying more taxes because your organizations don't pay their fair share. I also get sick and tired of being "libeled" for everything evil because I am an atheist. Atheists are not responsible for evil.

      April 21, 2011 at 10:38 am |
    • Holly

      It wouldn't be so bad if they would use bit of lthe logic and common human kindness that Jesus actually used would be refreshing change in Christianity, rather than condemning you in the same breath they claim to 'save' you with.

      April 21, 2011 at 10:49 am |
    • Madtown

      This is my feeling as well. I personally believe there is a God/creator, whatever we call him/her/it. I fully acknowledge there's no proof of this whatsoever, it's a feeling that I have based on some specific ideas that I'll keep to myself. But, the notion that any one man-made religion is somehow superior to all others, and the only way to God, based simply on the writings of other human beings...just defies all logic.

      April 21, 2011 at 11:03 am |
  13. sanjosemike

    Neither Jesus or Judas actually existed. There is no afterlife because consciousness requires an interconnected network with a power-supply (either machine or biological). After you're dead, you cease to exist. Period. The only people who reach a kind of immortality are those who leave great works or great trauma, Beethoven for example....for the best, or Hitler...for the worst. But the universe itself will end, so there is no immortality for anything. These kinds of religious arguments are ridiculous and just a method to sell books. The best you can do is just appreciate what you have now, because there's nothing after it. It's called "growing up" and becoming an adult.

    April 21, 2011 at 10:28 am |
    • Tom

      You must be a very sad person!

      April 21, 2011 at 10:41 am |
  14. Jo

    They deny Mary at the table, whats up with that? There's 13, she's on Jesus's left. So we're to believe anything else said?

    April 21, 2011 at 10:28 am |
  15. JB

    I don't know a single person who either became a Christian OR rejected religion altogether because of what they read on a CNN comments page. It seems to that a comments page should be used to discuss the particular topic and loses its true purpose when it degenerates into "bash the other side" free for all.

    April 21, 2011 at 10:28 am |
    • sanjosemike

      True, but it's fun.

      April 21, 2011 at 10:29 am |
  16. Jon

    This was a refreshing article from a pastor.

    April 21, 2011 at 10:28 am |
  17. Rainer Braendlein


    it is somehow interesting that at Easter some people start to think about Judas Iscariot. I would find it more appropriate to think about Jesus Christ than about Judas at Easter festival.

    Some people seem to have an intellectual problem with the issue of Judas: How could a disciple or a saved man do such an awful sin? According to the doctrine of the german theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer ("The Cost of Discipleship"), Judas was baptized. Judas was baptized by the call of Jesus Christ: "Come on, and follow me!" Not anybody had called Judas, but Jesus Christ the eternal Son of God. This call was supernatural and powerful. Judas seemed to be obedient to Jesus' call.

    Jesus and his disciples were a small-scale Church that means, everything was organized and they even had a cash box (coffer) and the housekeeper, managing the cash box, was Judas Iscariot. Once upon a time an extremly devout woman came and anointed Jesus with a very costly salve. When Judas saw the waste of the salve, he criticized Jesus that the salve could have been sold, and the money could have been given to the poor. No matter, what Judas said, he was not concerned about the poor, but about his small income. Sometimes, when nobody was around, he found it easy to reach into God's cash box and to take the salary, which Jesus had neglected to pay him. Wasn't he the most diligent of them all?

    The woman, who anointed Jesus, had a very great appreciation for her Lord, but Judas was somewhat annoyed that the ordinary carpenters son allowed wasting the salve, instead to increase Judas' salary. Although Judas was under the supernatural call of Jesus Christ, he never was a true disciple, because he just followed Jesus in order to earn money (simony). Judas was a fraud all the time. He had no appreciation for Jesus like the devout woman. The other 11 disciples loved Jesus truely and believed that he was the Son of God. However they were in danger to get "infected" by Judas disbelief.

    It is nearly a crime to compare the denial of Jesus by Peter with Judas' betrayal. Peter acted on impulse, when he denied Jesus. Judas in contrast calculated for a long time, how he could sell Jesus most effectively. When Jesus was captured, Peter started to fight for his beloved Lord. He cut away the ear of one of the soldiers. Peter really believed that Jesus was the king of Isreal and could not understand that Jesus didn't defend himself by using violence. Jesus just took the ear of the soldier and put it back to its place at the soldier's head (he cured him). Peter denied Jesus not because he wanted any money or because he was greedy for money, but because he didn't yet understand Jesus' way at the moment.

    What was Jesus' way?

    Jesus had to be obedient to his heavenly father. It was the decision of God that Jesus should bear the sin of the whole mankind. Assumed Jesus had struggled, the plan of God had never been fullfilled. By accepting to be killed, Jesus provided the basis for our salvation. Romans Chapter 6 says that we have died and resurrected together with Jesus. That means, our old man of sin has died with Jesus at the cross and we have entered a new life in Jesus in the power of his resurrection. At Holy Baptism this salvation was dedicated to us.

    Let us praise Jesus Christ that he made possible our salvation by his sorrow and suffering and the humiliation and shame He beared for us. Our answer to Jesus' atonement must be discipleship (obedience). If we don't want to be obedient, our baptism will never become effective for us in any way. To the contrary if we don't follow Jesus after we have been baptized we are in big danger to get cursed.

    Of course it is possible that we sin after baptism. Then we have the possibility to practrice "private confession". The german pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer made a lot of got experiences with private confession. It is according to the Holy Scripture telling us that the Christian Church is allowed to forgive sins in the name of God (not in her own name of course). Bonhoeffer wrote a delightful book, called "Life Together" about this subject. It is a very good addition to his book "The Cost of Discipleship". God doesn't want that we become desperated about our sinfulness. God gave us the Christian Church, led by the Holy Spirit. God is not far away from us. He dwells in His Church.

    Kind regards,

    April 21, 2011 at 10:27 am |
    • RichG

      My ADHD caused me to skip over all of your comments.

      April 21, 2011 at 10:36 am |
    • Doug O

      Thank you, your post was a pleasure to read.

      April 21, 2011 at 10:43 am |
    • richunix

      Can I sell you some wamp-land in Flordia, as you are willing to believe in anything

      I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.”

      April 21, 2011 at 10:43 am |
    • Jo

      What is sin? How is it he, they, were allowed to choose what a sin is? What if there were never sin? There didn't have to be. If he forgave everything, and his message was peace among men, why wasn't it left at that and wouldn't have known any better?

      April 21, 2011 at 11:26 am |
  18. Pastor Ray

    Plain and simple, Judas(if in actuallity he existed) is dead. Case closed. He neither dances in hell or sings in heaven.
    Regardless of that fact though, christians should see him as a holy hero. After all, with out Judas, there would be no christianity as it is today.

    April 21, 2011 at 10:27 am |
    • Sid

      Indeed. I'm not Christian. I'm not even a theist. But the most compelling pro-Christian movie I ever saw was Scorcese's "Last Temptation of Christ" (Based on the 1960 novel of the same name by Nikos Kazantzakis).

      In it Judas is a reluctant hero for helping Jesus fulfill his destiny (at Jesus' insistence, by the way). While Jesus is portrayed, for a change, as an actual human, with fears, regrets and trepidation about allowing himself to be sacrificed. I was both impressed and worried by this movie because it seemed to me to make Christianity a lot more appealing and "down to Earth" than it is typically portrayed.

      Of course, I didn't have to worry. Christian protesters blocked theaters and dominated the news surrounding the movie's release, and demonstrated again their closed-minded intolerance of any interpretation that challenges their own. Too bad...it's a good movie.


      April 21, 2011 at 10:41 am |
  19. knels

    "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."

    Since according to Christian tradition, Jesus had to die for our sins, it seems to me that Judas was predestined to act as he did. So was he a sinner or, perhaps, a saint?

    April 21, 2011 at 10:27 am |
    • RichG

      A hero.

      April 21, 2011 at 10:35 am |
    • Seaburger

      If God has us all doing what is predestined ... why are we here? It's like playing a game where you have no choice of moves, you know who will win & you are punished for losing... yeah, I'll take me some more of that religion!

      April 21, 2011 at 10:37 am |
  20. Michael

    Does Santa live on the north pole or south pole? I would be just as interested to hear that explanation.

    April 21, 2011 at 10:26 am |
    • Kyle

      this made me laugh so hard I nearly cried.

      April 21, 2011 at 10:32 am |
    • Javier Flores

      Perfect Analogy!

      April 21, 2011 at 10:33 am |
    • Kallen

      When it comes right down to it we are all predestined to do what we are doing whether it was a mistake or not. But if Judas had never made this mistake Christianity would simply be a nice story and nothing more. But instead we have a savior that died for our sins all because of love. Happy Easter!

      April 21, 2011 at 10:37 am |
    • lolster

      This is much more compelling really.
      Or how many times a day should we pray to our lord Harry Potter for vanquishing Voldemort?
      Come on people, seriously. Accept religion as art and not as fact.
      People were dumb back in the day and easy to trick. The idea that we still follow these beliefs shows me that there is probably little hope for our species.
      I am not denying the absence of something "greater" it is just that we are all part of it and not separate as Christianity would have you believe.
      Existence is much more amazing than some book could ever attempt to describe.

      April 21, 2011 at 10:41 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.