When it was evening, he reclined at table with the twelve. And as they were eating, he said, “Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” And they were very sorrowful and began to say to him one after another, “Is it I, Lord?” He answered, “He who has dipped his hand in the dish with me will betray me. The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.” Judas, who would betray him, answered, “Is it I, Rabbi?” He said to him, “You have said so.”
(Matthew 26:20-25 ESV)
Yesterday we saw Jesus drop a bombshell on His disciples during the Last Supper. He stated that one of the twelve would betray Him. Each of the twelve wondered if it was him. Of course we all know it was Judas who betrayed Jesus.
Notice that Judas also asks Jesus “Is it I?” but he does not call Jesus “Lord” like the other eleven. Instead he simply calls Jesus “Rabbi” which means “teacher”. When the others called Jesus “Lord” they were humbling themselves before Him. They recognized and admitted that Jesus was many things they were not, including being God [Matthew 16:16].
Judas did not have such reverence for Jesus. Even his referring to Jesus as his teacher seems disingenuous. For reasons we studied yesterday, Judas was disillusioned with Jesus. When Jesus didn’t live up to Judas’ misguided expectations he made a deal to betray Him and send Him to His death.
Referring to the one who would betray Him Jesus says “it would have been better for that man if he had not been born”. This is a very strong statement. But it tells us something. It tells us that there is an eternity, even for those who don’t go to heaven.
Many people want to believe that God annihilates unbelievers or that unbelievers go to some place (e.g. purgatory) from where they can eventually make it to heaven. But such scenarios don’t line up with Jesus’ statement here. If these things were true then it would not be better for a sinner not to be born. It would always be better for them to have been born. The only way that Jesus’ comment makes sense is if there is an eternal, inescapable hell for people who die without having their sins forgiven.
But more than that, those people who knowingly and willfully sin after being confronted with the truth about their sin, as Judas was in this scene, will have a more severe time in hell than others who are ignorant about their sin. This will certainly apply to those who intentionally impugn the name of Jesus [Hebrews 10:26-27, 29].
Jesus spoke often about hell. He spoke about it more than any other subject. He didn’t do this to be mean. He did do it to frighten people. He literally wanted to scare the hell out of us so we would repent, humble ourselves, and accept His free offer of forgiveness for our sins. Those people who do not heed Jesus’ words will end up in hell for all eternity. There will be no escape.
But one won’t heed Jesus’ words if, like Judas, they do not have a reverence for Jesus. Salvation is impossible without first having a right understanding of Jesus.
If one does not believe in Jesus or recognize Him for who He is (God in the flesh) one will not pay attention to His words about hell and, hence, will end up there. It would have been better for them not to have been born.
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