According to those who believe in universal atonement
(or unlimited atonement)
the work of Jesus Christ on the cross makes salvation possible for all but certain for none based on the doctrines that A) Jesus Christ died for the sins of all humans and B) a person must accept this fact in order to make His work efficacious
. So, let us apply this to the case of Judas Iscariot. Did Jesus Christ die for his sins, and make salvation possible for this character?
If this is the case, then why did Jesus Christ call Judas Iscariot the son of perdition in John 17:22? In that text, Jesus Christ said that He had preserved from falling all of the apostles except this one Judas Iscariot, and that the exception of Iscariot was so that the scriptures would be fulfilled. Since the fate of this Judas Iscariot was foretold in the Bible, inspired by the same Holy Spirit that works regeneration, in no sense was his salvation possible. The idea that the death of Jesus Christ makes salvation possible for all cannot possibly be so in the case of Judas Iscariot. Or if it is so, then with respect to Judas Iscariot the death of Jesus Christ was in vain. After all, Iscariot was not one born out of due time. He knew Jesus Christ personally, heard Jesus Christ preach, and saw His many works. So, if redemption was possible for everyone, then would not Judas Iscariot, one of the original twelve, one of those sent out two by two who did mighty works in Christ’s Name (Mark 6:7-13) including healing the sick and casting out devils, be foremost among whom it was possible?
Yet, why did Jesus Christ say of Judas Iscariot that it would have been better had he never been born, as recorded in Mark 14:21 and Matthew 26:24? It is logically incongruous to say of a person on one hand “Jesus Christ died for his sins, making his salvation possible” and then on another “it would have been better for him had he never been born!” In the former case, Judas Iscariot had a chance at salvation. In the latter case, the one actually recorded in the Bible, he had no chance.
Also, it can be said with a high degree of confidence that Jesus Christ Himself stated that His atonement was not intended for Judas Iscariot. Where was this? The famous text of John 15:13, which reads “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” Who are the friends of Jesus Christ? He says so in John 15:14, “Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.” In this section, Jesus Christ was speaking to His apostles during His high priestly prayer and discourse. As the apostles are the foundation of the church, when Jesus Christ addressed His apostles in this manner, He was addressing the entire church through them, with the apostles’ acting as the church’s representatives.
So, the summary of John 15:13-14 is “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends, and you (meaning first the people that He is directly addressing, and then through them the church that the people that He is directly addressing represents) are my friends.” And when Jesus Christ says “I am dying for my friends and you are my friends”, Judas Iscariot has already left! Judas Iscariot had departed the room, and thereby from the perspective and effect of these words of Jesus Christ, from those who Jesus Christ identified as His friends that He died for, in John 13:26-30! Judas Iscariot was not alone when he left, but Satan had entered into Judas Iscariot. And of course, Satan is not a friend of Jesus Christ. Despite the claims of Origen and others who adhere to universalism, Jesus Christ did not die for Satan! And it is also true that Jesus Christ did not die for those who Satan rules, those whose father is Satan according to the words of Jesus Christ in John 8:44-47!
And it cannot be said that Judas Iscariot was unique; the one person in history for whom Jesus Christ did not die. Atonement is either universal or it is limited, and the mere exclusion of Iscariot makes it limited. Also, it should be said that even Muslims who read of Judas Iscariot were aware of the implications, as the (false) Gospel of Barnabas
was almost certainly written and definitely advanced by Muslims specifically as a polemic against Reformation doctrines, of which limited atonement is one.
While limited atonement is a truth, it is equally true man cannot and does not know the identity of the people that this act of Jesus Christ is limited to. For instance, some early Jewish Christians felt that the work of Jesus Christ was limited to members of their nation, but that false idea was destroyed upon the conversion of Cornelius. Further, Reformed Baptist William Carey, an adherent to limited atonement in its true form, exposed false doctrines based on distortions of limited atonement (created for the political and cultural purposes of European church-states) against “evangelizing the heathen” for the abominable doctrines of devils that they were with his successful missionary work in India. Further still – and very sadly – up to 88% of children born and raised in evangelical Christian families and churches leave the faith upon adulthood
(a fact that challenges not limited atonement doctrines, but rather free will salvation ones, as why would all these people, having been raised with the message of the gospel and heard it hundreds of times all their lives, knowingly brazenly reject Jesus Christ and choose an eternity in a lake of fire instead)?
So, please recall the words of Jesus Christ: many are called but few are chosen (Matthew 20:16, Matthew 22:14). It is the duty of those who are called and chosen to make their calling and election sure (2 Peter 1:10); to work out their salvation with fear and trembling (Philemon 2:2) in accordance to the manner laid out for us in the scriptures (Acts 2:38, Romans 10:9-10). If you have not received the free gift of salvation through the work of Jesus Christ, do it now.