Was Judas predestined to betray Jesus and go to hell?

Questions about God, the Bible and the Christian culture 

Question: What was Judas Iscariot's relationship to the Holy Spirit? Was it the same as the other apostles? And was he predestined (as in Ephesians one) to betray Christ and then die?

Answer: Wow! Now there's a batch of questions with some teeth. Let's get at them.

The Holy Spirit related to Judas Iscariot in the just same manner that he related to the other apostles. He resided immeasurably close to him while remaining on the outside of him. From that vantage point, the Holy Spirit would continue in wooing, teaching, convicting of sin and teaching about the Christ. However, his workings were about to change, so his relationship to Judas and the others was the same for a while — and then different. Because Judas died before the Holy Spirit began to indwell every believer after the birth of the Church in Acts chapter 2. The remaining eleven apostles experienced the Holy Spirit both from without and from within whereas Judas only experienced him from without.

Judas was (in my opinion) looking to Jesus for the wrong reasons... as were all the apostles initially. But while the other apostles began to grow in the kind of discipleship that leads to conversion, Judas did not. And that left him vulnerable to the attack which eventually killed both him and the Lord. Satan himself entered into Judas.

“Then Satan entered into Judas called Iscariot, who was of the number of the twelve.” (Luke 22:3, ESV).

Judas was a non-believer, not because of any spiritual destiny, but because he ignored the Holy Spirit. He had the same opportunities to listen to the Spirit as did the other apostles, but he chose not to respond. And that is the case for all the unsaved people today. The Holy Spirit is on the outside of them, too, wooing and convicting — but he's no bully. He needs to be invited in through the gate of Jesus Christ, and too often he is left outside rubbing against the ever-thickening calluses... but not forever.

Just as the Holy Spirit left Judas, so he will leave any unbeliever who continues to ignore him. When? In no set time — that's quite up to the Holy Spirit. But with eternity in the balance, we should implore all men to receive Jesus Christ immediately, because there is only one eternal sin — saying no to the Holy Spirit about Jesus Christ. The Bible calls that blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.

“Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter, but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”
(Mark 3:28–29, ESV).

Let's shift from the Holy Spirit to Ephesians chapter one, and explore whether or not Judas was somehow predestined to betray Jesus, predestined to wind up in hell. That's quite a question because it represents a watershed in theology. Some people (with Calvinistic leanings) interpret predestination to mean determinism, asserting that God's sovereign will has pre-caused both salvation and damnation, while others (this includes me) insist that the free-will of an individual is necessary to secure either salvation or damnation. We must be careful, therefore, when dealing with the word predestination that we don't understand it to represent the doctrine of predestination as developed by Calvin. That adds an unnecessary burden to the word.

At first blush, a word like predestination seems incompatible with any notion of free-will — but it can't be. The Bible teaches both. Doesn't the Bible instruct us to spread the word to all nations, to convince men and to pray that people might be saved? Wouldn't all of these be wastes of time if by predestination we meant that God has pre-caused our eternal destinies? Since the Bible avers that both predestination and free-will are true, we should be careful to put limits on the word predestination. If we understand it to mean determinism, then it is mutually exclusive with free-will. That would set up a logical contradiction, and the Bible has none of those. Let us consider then how Scripture uses that word.

The scriptures do not teach that we were predestined to go to heaven, to hell or to perform any actions. We are predestined to something though, so, to what? If we look at the following two verses (without the burden of Calvinism), we can see that it is those who are already saved who are predestined to certain things. Ephesians 1:4-5 shows that we are predestined to be adopted by God. Since this is passage is written to those who are already believers, it cannot mean that we are predestined to become believers.

“even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will,” (Ephesians 1:4–5, ESV, emphasis mine).

We have another example in Romans 8:29 where we are predestined to conform to Christ. Again, this is for people who are already believers. Neither verse teaches that we are predestined to become believers.

“For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.” (Romans 8:29, ESV, emphasis mine)

Note also that the Bible speaks of predestination in positive terms, that is, we who are saved were predestined. The Bible never states the opposite, that the remainder of the people is predestined for hell. Indeed, God sends no one to hell. People send themselves there — and not for performing gross sins — but by (as did Judas) ignoring the Holy Spirit's pleadings. God (in the person of Jesus Christ) will surely sentence people to hell, but this is quite different than determining that they will go there. Like in a court of law, sentencing is for those who have already exercised their free-will to choose rebellion over obedience, and God will honor their choice. They chose the non-God option while here on earth, and God will not force his company upon them in eternity. Since a Godless eternity is the definition of hell, they will have sent themselves there.

Furthermore, God never makes "bad guys." Bad guys make themselves. Take Pharaoh as an example. People often blame God for Pharaoh's behavior because "...the LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh..." (Exodus 9:12). But think about this for a minute: God did not make Pharaoh's heart proud or evil. Pharaoh managed that on his own! All God did was harden what was already there. I find that God often does this particular thing. He punishes people by giving them what they want. We're not entirely sure what Judas wanted, but he certainly did not want God's kingdom to come on Jesus' terms. If you think about that, then death was his only option.

Judas was not predestined to destruction. That was his choice. Yes, there were prophecies concerning his betrayal and death, but these merely formed a path. It was of his own free will that he decided to follow it. I say again of Judas (and I say this in way of warning to all who draw breath) that Judas had the same opportunities for conversion as did the other apostles. He just chose wrongly for himself.

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