I was talking to a co-worker today about Judas, and how we both felt that he kind of gets painted as an obviously wicked person in sermons today, when he actually is no stranger to the Church.
I think (these are just my thoughts here) Judas really believed that Jesus had come to rescue Israel, but only in the physical sense by establishing a kingdom on earth (this wouldn’t have been all that uncommon at the time). I get the feeling that Judas had placed all his eggs in one basket, this new physical kingdom, and when he started to see this unraveling, he panicked and tried to secure some sort of future for himself. By believing in the lie (that Jesus had come to establish a physical kingdom) Judas’ belief was really unbelief—he didn’t believe in the real Jesus. This unbelief opened him up to be used by Satan (see John 13:27).
Church, where have we placed our hope? In the Christ of our own hearts, or the true Christ of scripture? Does Jesus just ‘love everybody the way they are’ or does he want us to repent and be forgiven of our sins? Would Jesus really send people to hell just for not getting the whole ‘believing in him’ exactly right?
It saddens me to think about this verse:
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’” Matthew 7:21-23
“I never knew you”. My heart sinks to think that Jesus will say these very words to some who attend church. Some who teach Sunday school; some who even start churches. Just like Judas, you can be very near to Jesus, do many great things and witness the work of the Holy Spirit, having never really trusted in Him—having trusted in an imposter, sometimes created by our own deceitful (Jeremiah 17:9) hearts.
So is there no assurance of salvation? Can we ever really know? Consider the following:
“I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me” John 10:14
“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” John 10:27-30
“And this is the promise that he made to us—eternal life.” 1 John 2:25
“And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.” 1 John 5:11
“All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.” John 6:37
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16
“In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.” Ephesians 1:13-14
This barely scratches the surface, but hopefully it is enough to prove the answer is an emphatic ‘Yes!’, we can be assured of our salvation. We can be assured because it isn’t dependent on our work, but on Christ’s work on the cross.
And this is what Judas didn’t understand, didn’t believe: that Christ’s work was not on an earthy throne, but on an old rugged cross. He couldn’t believe that Israel’s salvation was to come through the humilation and death (and resurrection) of Jesus. Because of his unbelief, Jesus will say to him “I never knew you”.