Judas Iscariot the Apostate

Judas Iscariot[1] is the most well known apostate of the New Dispensation. There is one particular branding which the New Testament Gospel writers all make mention of when mentioning Judas Iscariot—that is, “The Betrayer.”

  • Matthew 10:4 – “Simon the Canaanean, and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.”
  • Mark 3:9 – “and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.”
  • Luke 16:6 – “and Judas the son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.
  • John 18:5 – “They answered him, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus said to them, “I am he.”  Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them.

In every Gospel account, Judas is remembered and mentioned as the betrayer; an apostate.  He was one who followed Jesus, worshipped Him, learned from Him, and yet at the end of Christ’s ministry was still controlled by Satan. R. P. Martin compares Judas and Jeroboam’s apostasy, saying, “We may compare the case of Jeroboam I, in the OT, who is mentioned with horror as the one ‘who made Israel to sin’.”[2] What is comparable is that both were a part of the covenant—tasting it and seeing it first hand—yet they made a covenant with themselves which they would rather follow. Jeroboam, under Solomon (a type of Christ), broke away from the Davidic Covenant and lead Israel into sin. Judas, under the teaching of Jesus Christ, broke away from the New Covenant, continuing to lead mankind into sin.

One may ask how anyone could possibly apostatize directly from faith in Jesus Christ after spending three and a half years living and learning with Him. The answer is found in Luke 20:1-6, which tells us exactly how such apostasy takes place:

“Now the Feast of Unleavened Bread drew near, which is called the Passover. And the chief priests and the scribes were seeking how to put him to death, for they feared the people. Then Satan entered into Judas called Iscariot, who was of the number of the twelve. He went away and conferred with the chief priests and officers how he might betray him to them. And they were glad, and agreed to give him money. So he consented and sought an opportunity to betray him to them in the absence of a crowd.”

Matthew Henry comments on these verses saying,

“It was the devil’s work, who thought hereby to ruin Christ’s undertaking, to have broken his head; but it proved only the bruising of his heel. Whoever betrays Christ, or his truths or ways, it is Satan that puts them upon it. Judas knew how desirous the chief priests were to get Christ into their hands, and that they could not do it safely without the assistance of some that knew his retirements, as he did. He therefore went himself, and made the motion to them, v. 4. Note, It is hard to say whether more mischief is done to Christ’s kingdom by the power and policy of its open enemies, or by the treachery and self-seeking of its pretended friends: nay, without the latter its enemies could not gain their point as they do. When you see Judas communing with the chief priests, be sure some mischief is hatching; it is for no good that they are laying their heads together.”[3]

It is the same today in the New Covenant: apostasy is the work of Satan, drawing away those who have seen the gospel first hand and capturing them into his darkness. It was Judas’ long history of habitual sins—namely stealing and thievery—which John makes mention of in his Gospel in 12:6 saying, “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.” Andrew Knowles also makes mention of Judas’ problems with money as he says, “There are many possible reasons why Judas betrays Jesus. He loves money. John tells us that Judas is an eager but dishonest treasurer (John 12:6). Is he so desperate for money that he will sell his master?”[4] Habitual sins can sear the heart to the point that it no longer feels repentance; instead becoming a lifestyle that leads one who has tasted to gospel to live apart from the gospel and leading away from Christ into apostasy.

At one of the most intimate times in the history of mankind—Jesus eating with His disciples at Passover, transitioning the Old into the New Covenant—it is made clear that there was one amongst them who had already betrayed Jesus. Luke 22:20-23 states:

“And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood. But behold, the hand of him who betrays me is with me on the table. For the Son of Man goes as it has been determined, but woe to that man by whom he is betrayed!” And they began to question one another, which of them it could be who was going to do this.”

Just as stunning today as it was at the time, Jesus was in the middle of telling His disciples of His coming death and let it be known that there was one in their circle who would apostatize. As Jesus spoke of these events that were to come—His betrayal by Judas and His death—they were of no surprise to Him, as He both knew and planned how every last detail would play out.

One of the most critical questions about Judas’ apostasy is “why?” Why would he apostatize from Jesus after being a disciple of His?  One way of perceiving Judas’ apostasy is by understanding the redemptive historical approach of looking at the history of the Bible. In this we see that in God’s will He had made plans that His Son, Jesus Christ, would be betrayed by one of His disciples, and that it would be Judas whom Satan would take hold of and blind from the gospel. In fact, Judas’ betrayal of Jesus was prophesied in the Old Testament:

  • Psalm 41:9 – “Even my close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted his heel against me.”

With this in mind it is common to question whether it was Judas that apostatized from Christ, or was it God that had planned his future to apostatize? Considering this, one must not be lead to a misunderstanding of God’s sovereignty and man’s accountability. What takes place from the hands of evil men is not done by God, but is allowed by Him. Man is still accountable for his actions even though God knows and allows man to continue in sin. So are those in the New Covenant any different from Judas, since God does not prophesy one’s future today? Of course the answer is an astounding “no,” because mankind himself prophesied his own future when Adam took part of the fruit in Genesis 2. This is better said by Paul in Romans 5:12-13, as he explains, “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned—for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law.” Like Adam in the garden walking in perfect communion with God, and like Judas learning from Jesus’ teaching, all of mankind can easily fall into sin; but with Judas, it was his habitual sin that lead him into a life that would allow Satan to overtake not only his body, but also his soul, leading him into apostasy until his death. It is very important to see that no man, including even the disciples of Christ, is safe from the work of Satan. Once one has committed into apostasy—hardening their heart—it is impossible for them to return. As in Judas’ example, upon realizing what he had done he could not repent for his actions and decisions. Matthew 27:3-5 says,

“Then when Judas, his betrayer, saw that Jesus was condemned, he changed his mind and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders, saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” They said, “What is that to us? See to it yourself.” And throwing down the pieces of silver into the temple, he departed, and he went and hanged himself.”

Reflecting on this, Acts 1:15-20 helps the Church today to look back at the act of Judas’ apostasy to show how God uses the evil of mankind for the good of His people and His plan of redemption for His elect. Acts 1:15-20 states:

“In those days Peter stood up among the brothers (the company of persons was in all about 120) and said, “Brothers, the Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke beforehand by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus. For he was numbered among us and was allotted his share in this ministry.” (Now this man acquired a field with the reward of his wickedness, and falling headlong he burst open in the middle and all his bowels gushed out. And it became known to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the field was called in their own language Akeldama, that is, Field of Blood.) “For it is written in the Book of Psalms,  “‘May his camp become desolate, and let there be no one to dwell in it’”

[1] Cf. for a study of Judas’ life and apostasy: The difficulties associated with the variant details of the death of Judas are discussed in BC, 1.5, pp. 22–30; cf., too, Arndt, loc. cit. and s.v. ‘Ioudas’, 6; K. L¸thi, Judas Iskarioth, 1955; D. Haugg, Judas Iskarioth in den neutestamentlichen Berichten, 1930; J. S. Stewart, The Life and Teaching of Jesus Christ, 1933, pp. 166–170; P. Benoit, art. ‘La mort de Judas’ in collected works, ExigËse et Thiologie, 1961; B. G‰rtner, Iscariot, E.T. 1971.

[2] D. R. W. Wood and I. Howard Marshall, New Bible Dictionary, 3rd ed. (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1996), pp. 624.

[3] Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible : Complete and Unabridged in One Volume (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1996), Lk 22:1–6.

[4] Andrew Knowles, The Bible Guide, 1st Augsburg books ed. (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg, 2001), pp. 495-96.


2 Comments on “Judas Iscariot the Apostate”

  1. Manfred says:

    Excellent examination of one whom the Romans believe inherited eternal life. How hateful it is for habitual sin to afflict one’s soul – how weak we are as humans. Without the Holy Spirit of God, we each would gladly and selfishly skip off to hell.

  2. Larry Mitchell says:

    Thank you for your thoughts on Judas Iscariot. So often overliiked and easily pushed aside is the simple fact as you stated. An individuals choices are his to make. As well pointed out, “you are either with him, or against him.” Mankind makes their choice. To God, they are accountable.

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