Judas: Christ's Treasurer
We are all familiar with the Judas betrayal of Christ for 30 pieces of silver. What is important to remember however, is that Judas never actually expected Christ to come to any harm from it. Matthew 27:3-4 “Then Judas, His betrayer, seeing that He had been condemned, was remorseful and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.”” Judas never imagined the Romans would actually allow Christ to be executed, due to Christ’s provocation of the Jews. Romans never cared about Jewish beliefs or customs, so why would they crucify a person on the Jews behalf? It was not expected. Judas believed Christ would dispute with the priests and leave unharmed as he always did. If Judas knew that his actions would lead to Christ’s death, he never would have performed them. Christ had encountered the Jewish crowds many times before without coming to any harm. Also, the priests never told Judas that they had actually planned to kill Christ. Of course he should have been asking questions, but money can blind a person like that. We can see Judas mentally giving himself the excuse that Christ would not actually be harmed in any way, but would escape the mob as he always did. Luke 4:29-30 “and they led Him to the brow of the hill on which their city was built, that they might throw Him down over the cliff. Then passing through the midst of them, He went His way.” Notice how in the passage, Christ just sneaks away as if invisible. Judas likely believed Christ would do the same again and come to no harm. Judas may even have planned to refill the treasury from the money he had pilfered out earlier or to share the profits 50/50 between himself and Christ’s treasury which he was guarding. We can only guess at his excuses. His risk of course was a foolish one.
Perhaps Judas would have been forgiven if he had desperately sought forgiveness from Christ rather than giving up and committing suicide. Some teach that it was too late for Judas and he could not repent. This is false, because Judas actually felt remorse as scripture mentions and a person can only feel remorse and repent if the Holy Spirit is still working on them. This means even as dark as Judas betrayal was, God was still working to draw Judas back into repentance. Judas was not beyond the point of no return nor was his heart impossible hardened but was in fact still soft and humble enough to realize his error. Many people in the world think they are “too far gone” to receive God’s forgiveness. When evangelizing, a common response is “But you don’t know the things I have done. God will never accept me.” People had a hard time accepting the basic message of universal forgiveness that is possible. The Bible is full of stories of terrible people being forgiven, even murders. Not grudgingly forgiven but in fact God made Paul the most powerful apostle, despite how he had murdered many of Christ’s faithful saints and missionaries. No one who is willing to repent can say they are too far gone. If you were too far gone, you would be unable to feel remorse or feel any need for repentance. Anyone who is willing to repent will be forgiven.
Peter: Leader of the Disciples
Christ was not only betrayed by Judas however. We also have to look at Peter’s betrayal. Peter was one of Christ’s “inner circle” and was expected to take over the leadership of the disciples after Christ. This makes Peter’s betrayal all the more serious. If doubting Thomas had denied Christ three times, no one would have paid attention because it would not be unexpected or out of character for him. Peter was the leader however. Christ had chosen him as the “solid rock” on which the worldwide church would be founded. He was expected to be the strong one who would overcome the world’s opposition and then encourage the other disciples. Denying Christ three times was not Peter’s only or main sin. His worse mistake was to lead the other disciples back into their secular jobs as fishermen. This was Peter’s true betrayal of Christ. Imagine how the world would be if the apostles had all stayed as fishermen instead of preaching the gospel of Christ. We would still be stuck in the Old Testament making meaningless animal sacrifices when Christ had already made the final and ultimate sacrifice! We would be stuck distant from God, trying to please him by Sabbath-keeping, circumcision, strict dietary laws, and similar practices which are optional and no longer of particular importance to God. We would be without the Holy Spirit and spiritual giftings. The fate of the entire world depending on Peter picking himself up to continue to preach and leading the other disciples to do the same. Instead Peter led them back to secular jobs as fishermen, the lowest ranking job in that society. Fortunately, Christ offers forgiveness and led Peter back to the right path while appearing to him at his fishing place.
Another betrayal was by the entire crowd. John 6:66-67 “From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more. Then Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you also want to go away?””
The infamous number 666 makes a striking appearance in the verse number describing the apostacy of the crowd. The modern philosophy can sometimes be to seek church growth at all costs (especially in megachurches already quite large) however this is different from Christ’s pattern. Christ actually sought to shrink the crowd when it became too large. Why would he do such a thing? He clearly must have valued other things more than numbers. Many were beginning to follow Christ just because it was cool or popular and the entertainment of wanting to watch a miracle happen. Few really desired to change their lives and these would have trouble hearing Jesus, being blocked off by the complacent crowd. Back then there were no loudspeakers and was therefore a natural limit to how loud a crowd could become before the ones on the outer edges would lose the ability to hear what the preacher was saying. By purposely thinning out the herd, Christ ensured that those most loyal, the ones with true burning hearts desire for the truth, would be able to freely hear the gospel message and interact with Christ directly. Christ began to purposely release several bizarre sounding messages to accomplish this, in particular advising them they must “eat my flesh and drink my blood” to enter God’s kingdom (referring metaphorically to communion). The half-hearted weekend warriors left in disgust upon hearing this, while those passionate for truth knew there must be a deeper meaning and chose to remain loyal to Christ.
John the Baptist: Christ's Herald from the Womb
A large number of Old Testament passages refer to Christ being betrayed by one of his closest companions. We always assume this is referring to Judas for obvious reasons. Personally however, I believe some of these passages mentioning Christ’s deep betrayal are actually referring to John the Baptist. Christ always knew Judas would betray him, but John's betrayal was more of a shock. John the Baptist was specifically placed on earth to announce Christ's coming and prepare the world to receive Jesus and he started out in this preaching mission passionately.
Matthew 11:11 “Assuredly, I say to you, among those born of women there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist; but he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.”
John the Baptist was greater than any born of women but nonetheless still ended up less than the least of those in God’s Kingdom. Why? Because he LOST HIS FAITH IN CHRIST. As powerful a prophet as John was, he still ended up drifting outside of God’s grace and his kingdom because he turned away from believing in Jesus. A person can be spiritual and live a moral upright life with a lot of good works, but if they turn back from their faith in Christ then all of those things are in vain!
John and Jesus had known each other from childhood, almost like BFF's (best friends forever). As babies they had even recognized each other while still in their mother’s wombs:
Even from within his mother’s womb, John was already assigned spiritual giftings and able to discern Christ’s presence and become excited. Receiving a calling from the womb is mentioned by Jeremiah and apostle Paul also:
Jeremiah 1:4-5 “Then the word of the Lord came to me, saying: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; Before you were born I sanctified you; I ordained you a prophet to the nations.””
Galatians 1:15 “But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace,”
Now the question is, how could someone as powerful and spiritual as John the Baptist end up being deceived away from Christ? Discouragement can do surprising things to people. Even the mighty Paul the apostle mentioned that he was always on watch against the possibility of unintentionally falling away “But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.” (1 Corinthians 9:27)
John allowed the Pharisees arguments to infiltrate his mind, based on their analytical interpretation of scripture. The Pharisees were expecting a political messiah who would overtake the foreign nations and make Israel strong again. A Solomon type figure. The meek teacher Jesus was focused on building a spiritual kingdom and not a natural political kingdom, yet their contradicted everyone’s mindsets and expectations, including John’s. Although John was very wise and highly spiritual, he was still considered less than the least in God’s kingdom. The reason is because he lacked the foundation of FAITH in Christ. We have to be careful that we do not get so focused on being so spiritual and trying to master every small detail that we forget to guard the FOUNDATION of each person’s relationship with God.
Matthew 11:2-6 And when John had heard in prison about the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples 3 and said to Him, “Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?” 4 Jesus answered and said to them, “Go and tell John the things which you hear and see: 5 The blind see and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them. 6 And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me.”
John had his servants confront Jesus openly, he did not even have the respect to have the conversation privately. He publicly humiliated Jesus in front of the crowds, challenging him as to whether he was really the saviour or not. As the crowd saw Jesus formerly most loyal believer casting doubt and questioning his ministry, it would have inspired a lot of doubt in them as well. Perhaps this sowing of doubt from John is what helped as the large departure of the crowd from Christ which occurs in Chapter 6 of John’s gospel (this book was written by the disciple John, not John the Baptist)
John’s doubt would be the equivalent today of Billy Graham turning away from Christ or saying he had doubts whether Jesus is really the saviour. Can you imagine if Mr. Graham had gotten up on a platform one day and said he was unsure whether Jesus had actually existed or whether the Bible was true? How would it affect your own faith? Would you be able to stand strong and confident if such a thing happens or would you struggle?
John 5:35-37 “He was the burning and shining lamp, and you were willing for a time to rejoice in his light. But I have a greater witness than John’s; for the works which the Father has given Me to finish—the very works that I do—bear witness of Me, that the Father has sent Me.”
The interesting thing in the above passage is that Christ mentions John WAS a burning and shining light (meaning he no longer “is” since he lost his faith in Christ)
Matthew 14:10-13 So [Herod] sent and had John beheaded in prison. 11 And his head was brought on a platter and given to the girl, and she brought it to her mother. 12 Then his disciples came and took away the body and buried it, and went and told Jesus. 13 When Jesus heard it, He departed from there by boat to a deserted place by Himself.
Jesus departed to a solitary place over John’s death. It appears this affected Christ deeply. He may have been anguished because of uncertainty whether his friend John would be permitted into heaven, due to his doubt and thus needed some time to himself alone in prayer. The thought of John the Baptist losing his salvation and having to go to hell would have disturbed Jesus greatly. It is the groaning you feel inside when a lifelong full-time minister denies Christ in their old age, after having spent their entire life in ministry. The thought that after all of his life of sacrifice and seeking God, John would turn away and lose his reward is a disturbing one. Of course we do not know for certain what happened to John’s soul, whether or not he repented and regained his faith, nor will we know until we are on the other side. It does raise a sobering point however. Matthew 24:24 says “For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.” Seeing how even John the Baptist was deceived to turn aside from his faith in Christ, this shows the power deception can have. No one should assume it is not possible to happen to them. That can lead to pride and a feeling of being invulnerable to error. If even John can turn aside, you and me must definitely be on guard lest we also be tricked by the enemy.
The Great Falling Away
Before the return of Christ, the Bible mentions a great “falling away” taking place first which leads into the appearance of the antichrist.
2 Thessalonians 2:3 “Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition,”
It doesn’t take much knowledge of history to see this taking place. In past centuries most important nations of the world acknowledged Christ as lord, except for tribal and very far off countries. In contrast we have gotten to a point today where nations give a token acknowledgment of a concept of “God” (which is no longer necessarily considered the Christian God, but can even be considered a “force”), but making any actual decision based off of biblical principles is ridiculed. God is put afar off in a distant dimension, unable to do anything on earth. In contrast to the Bible’s clear teaching of an active and ever-present God who wants to be involved in each person’s daily life. But this relationship is not desired.
There have always been some Christians who turn aside from the faith, especially when forced into religion at a young age but without a true encounter with God or God’s power. The difference today is that we see rather prominent individuals and leaders who are rejecting Christ. One of the most popular worship groups for youth is Hillsong United. Although I cannot stand their music myself, the point is that this group is followed by many. One of their long-time songwriters and early members, Marty Sampson, recently made a public declaration that he is abandoning his faith. Again, this is not just any music, this is someone who led worship music for the most popular group and who influences countless young persons. Imagine looking up to such a person for inspiration and encouragement in your faith, only to have them reject Christ publicly. Put yourself in the place of a young person who is a new Christian. This would be very difficult to deal with and cause many to question their own faith and experience with God.
Joshua Harris wrote a book called “I kissed dating goodbye” which was very popular during the 90’s and early 2000’s. This book was given to almost every Christian teenager during this period. It had come good advice on looking towards marriage rather than short-term relationships, but overall its ideas were far too strict and mostly unrealistic. He later wrote a second book on marriage advice. Recently Mr. Harris announced that he has abandoned the faith.
In an Instagram post, he said:
I have undergone a massive shift in regard to my faith in Jesus. The popular phrase for this is “deconstruction,” the biblical phrase is “falling away.” By all the measurements that I have for defining a Christian, I am not a Christian. Many people tell me that there is a different way to practice faith and I want to remain open to this, but I’m not there now.
The person who was looked up to as a teacher and role model for Christian relationships instead turned away from the faith altogether and also ended up divorced.
Its good to do a self-evaluation here. Everyone has a favorite leader or minister. What would you do if this person turned aside from their faith. Would you be able to maintain your relationship with God without doubting? Would it kill your faith? Its important to create a direct connection to God though consistent seeking and devotions, because following human leaders can lead to shipwreck when they stumble or have scandals.
Often when speaking of the “falling away” many of us think of atheism as the main danger. For younger generations this is true. However, for many the real danger is falling away to a powerless gospel and impotent faith. The great falling away does not mean simply rejecting belief in God. Most people do believe in God. It can mean creating your own religion based on doing whatever you want rather than following Christ’s standard. We see so many people beginning to use the popular catchphrase “I’m not religious, I’m spiritual” which sounds nice, but is really just a way to avoid responsibility, sacrifice, and all the unpleasant parts of faith while serving self to the maximum.
The average person thinks it is enough to believe in God to be saved or to live a normal life without murdering anyone or doing something horrible, as if that is a ticket into heaven. The more religious think that God is looking for them to have good doctrines and theologies and perhaps if their church and denomination has the perfect definition of the Trinity they believe that will bring them salvation….. True faith in Christ is shown as a transformed person and lifestyle! People should not look at us and see no difference from the world. Christianity has become the norm, to the point where it has become the “default” option which requires no effort. A person can call themselves a Christian while spending no time for the things of God, helping others, ministry, or ever picking up a Bible. How many of these will stand strong when true persecution begins to come? How many are actually “saved” in God’s eyes?
Many churches are submitting to liberal ideas, changing the gospel around to fit with the spirit of the age. Rather than being the light of Christ they have conformed to being recipients of the false light of Lucifer. Allowing homosexual pastors and weddings to be performed, ignoring that the Bible states without doubt that this is ABOMINATION to God. This is not a light issue. God will not dwell in any church which accepts such practices and beliefs. The letters “Ichabod” (“The Glory has departed”) are firmly marked in the spirit on their doorways. All such members should expect to hear “I never knew you” from Christ on the day of their judgment. It is this mindset of putting the world first, accepting anything the world says as gospel and rejecting the Bible’s teachings that is leading modern Christianity astray. A false gospel justifies anything you wish to do, and even hunts for scripture verses in its defense. This is seen in Christ’s temptation in the wilderness where the devil constantly quoted scripture verses to make it seem like Christ could disobey God and be justified. The same happens today where the devil is the liberal pastors and liberal Christians who hunt for off-topic verses to deny the clear truths of the Bible. To be ashamed of standing apart for Christ and to change his standard to conform with the world’s ways is to deny the faith. The Bible teaches narrow is the way which leads to life and there are few who find it. Two billion call themselves Christians, so many must be a part of the other route, the “wide way which leads to destruction.” In Ezekiel 9 it mentions God’s mark is placed upon the few who sigh and cry for the abominations of the land. The rest, the majority, is given over to complete destruction. “Go with the flow” is not a good policy for eternal salvation and there is by no means safety in the herd! The only safe place is to abide in Christ and uphold his standard, rejoicing in standing apart for what is true and right, not feeling ashamed of the gospel’s teachings and changing them to fit the spirit of the age.
Mark 8:38 “For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.”