My last post on Judas brought up a discussion of Jesus’ words about Judas and what it would have been like for him had he not been born.
Matthew 26:24 (NASB) “The Son of Man is to go, just as it is written of Him; but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been good for that man if he had not been born.”
What is “good”?
There is no doubt that Jesus’ words are inspired. His words are also preserved in the Scripture so that we can learn things that we could not know without His revelation. Jesus gives a conditional statement about what would be “good” or “better” for Judas on the condition that he had died before he was born. Jesus said that for Judas to die before he was born would have been advantageous to Judas. Look at the range of the meanings for the word that Jesus chose to use:
What is the specific usage of the Greek word “kalon” in Matthew 26:24?
Let’s consider the specific usage determined by the BDAG lexicon (Bauer, Danker & Arndt) for Matthew 26:24
Jesus said that it would have been better for Judas to die before being born. This means that Judas is placed in the exact same category as all other babies in the eyes of Jesus.
Addition: I am adding answers in this section because of great questions that were asked of me in the comment section.
Q: How do we know from Jesus’ statement about Judas that He is not simply inferring less judgment? In other words, if Judas had died as a baby before he committed the sins that he did, he would have been under less severe judgment. Would this not have been much better for him?
The Greek word that Jesus used is highly important. It refers to something that is actually good, not “less bad”. If Jesus had wanted us to know that Judas would have been punished in hell as a baby, but not as much as he would have been punished as a grown man who betrayed Jesus, then He would have used a word comparing judgments, not a word identifying a good thing. For example in Matthew 10:15, Jesus said:
Matthew 10:15 (NASB)
15 “Truly I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city.
The term “more tolerable” is a comparison of judgment. It is not “good” or “beneficial”.
Q: Further, would it be possible that Jesus is saying here that it would have been better that Judas had never existed, not that he died before or at birth?
If Judas had never existed, there can be no advantage for him for there would be no person to exist to have an advantage. When God talks about before one is born, He is talking about an existing person. If He is talking about a person who does not exist there is another term for Him to use. Let’s look at a few examples:
Look at Romans 9:11-12
Romans 9:11–12 (NASB)
11 for though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, so that God’s purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls,
12 it was said to her, “THE OLDER WILL SERVE THE YOUNGER.”
When was this said? When the twins were not in existence, or when they were formed in their mother’s womb? God is not talking about non-existent persons, but about babies who were in their mother’s womb because that is when the words were said to their mother.
Look also here:
Luke 2:21 (NASB)
21 And when eight days had passed, before His circumcision, His name was then called Jesus, the name given by the angel before He was conceived in the womb.
Before conception: This is the term for before one exists as a man. It is translated as “before He was conceived” not before He was born.
If God had wanted to tell us that a non-existent person was more advantaged, then God would have used the term for conception, not the term for born.
Look at two more examples:
Luke 1:31 (NASB)
31“And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus.
James 1:15 (NASB)
15 Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.
In Luke 1:31 the term “will conceive” shows that the man Jesus is not yet in existence because it is before conception. In James 1:15 the difference between conception and birth is shown. So if Jesus had wanted us to know that Judas were advantaged if he had not existed, not only can a non-existent person be advantaged, but we would have to correct Jesus’ words so that He would say, “It would have been better if that man would not have been conceived.” That is the way to talk about non-existence. Jesus’ exact words using the term for an advantage and the term for born show that Jesus is talking about a person who existed who would have had a good thing and would have been advantaged. I believe we should accept what Jesus said is truth and allow that truth to determine our doctrine.
Does Scripture tell us what happens to babies who die?
Let’s consider the words of David the man after God’s own heart. In 2 Samuel 12, David had just been told that his baby born from Bathsheba had just died. Consider carefully the inspired words to see David’s response:
2 Samuel 12:20–23 (NASB)
20 So David arose from the ground, washed, anointed himself, and changed his clothes; and he came into the house of the LORD and worshiped. Then he came to his own house, and when he requested, they set food before him and he ate.
21 Then his servants said to him, “What is this thing that you have done? While the child was alive, you fasted and wept; but when the child died, you arose and ate food.”
22 He said, “While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept; for I said, ‘Who knows, the LORD may be gracious to me, that the child may live.’
23 “But now he has died; why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me.”
Notice that David was confident that he would be with his baby in the future. David said “I will go to him” but he will not return to me. David understood that the baby was gone and would not be returning to him again on this earth, but he knew that he would go to be with the baby in the future! David had such a confidence in this fact that he acted out his belief by worshiping God. David had fasted, hoping for God to give him a miracle by curing the baby, but when God did not bring health to the baby, and the baby died, David came into the house of the LORD and worshiped. David was comforted by the God who cares for the innocents.
Who are the innocents?
God Himself has called the young children as “innocents.” In Jeremiah 7:31 God spoke about the terrible act where Judah was sacrificing their children in the fire to Baal.
Jeremiah 7:31 (NASB) “They have built the high places of Topheth, which is in the valley of the son of Hinnom, to burn their sons and their daughters in the fire, which I did not command, and it did not come into My mind.
God despised the burning of babies as a sacrifice to Baal and called their blood the blood of the innocents.
Jeremiah 19:4–5 (NKJV)
4 “Because they have forsaken Me and made this an alien place, because they have burned incense in it to other gods whom neither they, their fathers, nor the kings of Judah have known, and have filled this place with the blood of the innocents
5 (they have also built the high places of Baal, to burn their sons with fire for burnt offerings to Baal, which I did not command or speak, nor did it come into My mind),
God repeats that these children were innocent in His eyes in Psalm 106.
Psalm 106:37–38 (NASB)
37 They even sacrificed their sons and their daughters to the demons,
38 And shed innocent blood, The blood of their sons and their daughters, Whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan; And the land was polluted with the blood.
Who does the Kingdom of Heaven belong to?
Jesus also said that the kingdom of heaven belonged to the children, and so they were not to be hindered from coming to Him.
Matthew 19:14 (NASB) But Jesus said, “Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”
One last testimony is David’s own reaction when he heard about the death of his son Absalom.
2 Samuel 18:32–33 (NASB)
32 Then the king said to the Cushite, “Is it well with the young man Absalom?” And the Cushite answered, “Let the enemies of my lord the king, and all who rise up against you for evil, be as that young man!”
33 The king was deeply moved and went up to the chamber over the gate and wept. And thus he said as he walked, “O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! Would I had died instead of you, O Absalom, my son, my son!”
The Scriptures do not show that there are just two categories of humans – the elect and the reprobate. There are three categories. The elect, the wicked and the innocents. Every person who comes into the world as a baby starts out in the same category. They are the innocents.