An In-depth Biblical Study On Judas
By Dr. Diego Sausa
Did Judas repent and was he forgiven? What does Scripture say about Judas after the betrayal? In the NKJV translation of Matthew 27:3 we read that Judas "was remorseful [metamelomai].” The same Greek word “metamelomai” is translated by the KJV as “repented,” the NASB translates the same as “felt remorse,” while the ESV translates the same word as “changed his mind.” The Greek word “metamelomai” gives the idea of total change of mind or a 180-degree turnaround or about face, trying to do diametrically opposite to what was previously done. Matthew uses the same Greek word to depict the repentance of a wayward son in Christ’s Parable of the Two Sons in Matthew 21:28-29. “What do you think? A man had two sons. And he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard.’ And he answered, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he changed his mind [metamelomai] and went” (ESV). The KJV renders “metamelomai” in this passage as “he repented” while the NASB renders the same as “he regretted.”
The picture of “metamelomai” in Jesus’ parable in this passage is diametrically opposite of or a total about face from what was done earlier by the son, a positive change of mind for the better. In other words, “repented” is an accurate translation of “metamelomai.” The Greek word “metamelomai” is therefore a synonym of another Greek word “metanoeo” which is the more common Greek word in the NT translated into English as “repent.” Matthew uses “metanoeo” five times in his book. For example in Matthew 3:2, he quotes John the Baptist saying, “Repent [metanoeo], for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (ESV). The Greek word “metanoeo” also means “to change one’s mind for the better.”
Both Greek words “metamelomai” and “metanoeo” are therefore synonymous and are both used to mean “repent,” expressing the person’s sincere abhorrence of his past actions and change of direction opposite those past actions that he came to abhor. In other words, Matthew was expressing that Judas repented. In fact in Matthew 27:4 Matthew depicts Judas confessing his sins, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood” (NKJV). One may ask, was he sincere in his repentance? No doubt about Judas' sincerity, in fact he hanged himself once he realized that he could not change Jesus’ fate because of his betrayal (Matt. 27:5).
All indications in this testimony by Matthew regarding his comrade Judas seem to point to the fact that Judas repented, confessed and was therefore forgiven, until we consider Christ’s own testimony about Judas. Talking about Judas in Matthew 26:23-24, Christ says, “He who dipped his hand with Me in the dish will betray Me. The Son of Man indeed goes 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” (NKJV). In Gethsemane Jesus prayed and says of His disciples, “Holy Father, keep through Your name those whom You have given Me, that they may be one as We are. While I was with them [the disciples] in the world, I kept them in Your name. Those whom you gave Me I have kept, and none of them [none of the disciples] is lost except the son of perdition, that the Scripture might be fulfilled” (Jn. 17:11-12).
These direct testimonies from Jesus Himself regarding Judas seem to explicitly confirm that Judas was a “son of perdition” who is the only one of the twelve disciples who got lost. The words "son of perdition [huios apoleia]" appear only twice in the NT, here in this passage used by Christ (Jn. 17:12) and in 2 Thessalonians 2:3 where Paul describes the "son of perdition" as "the man of sin" and "the apostate" who belongs in the group but who falls away by transgression, "the lawless one...who the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming" (2 Thess. 2:8). This means that Paul makes a parallel between Judas and the apostate Christian church that will be destroyed by Christ's in the judgment.
In other words, what Matthew was depicting of Judas was repentance in the sense that he felt a terrible sense of condemnation, remorse and guilt that he had betrayed the innocent Son of God and that he wanted to reverse the wrongful arrest of Jesus, but he did not really repent in the sense that he wanted to totally change his life and dedicate it to a loving service for his Lord like Peter did.