Fr. Aidan Kimel recently posted a fascinating, must-read article on the question of Judas Iscariot's final destiny in light of universal hope. It begins, "But what about the Iscariot‽ The fate of Judas is the challenge most often posed to anyone who dares to proclaim the greater hope." That's the question. His research and thoughts on the matter are worth reading here:
However, it still left me wondering about Jesus' words at the Last Supper in Mark 14, where we read,
17 When evening came, Jesus arrived with the Twelve. 18 While they were reclining at the table eating, he said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me—one who is eating with me.”
19 They were saddened, and one by one they said to him, “Surely you don’t mean me?”
20 “It is one of the Twelve,” he replied, “one who dips bread into the bowl with me. 21 The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.”
Verse 2 ought to trouble even the most hopeful among us, for in light of the possibility of ultimate redemption, how could the Saviour say non-existence would have been better than a redeemed outcome, the betrayal notwithstanding. That question led to a fascinating discussion among friends, worth sharing here:
Responding to Mark 14:21
Eccl. 6:3 A man may have a hundred children and live many years; yet no matter how long he lives, if he cannot enjoy his prosperity and does not receive proper burial, I say that *a stillborn child is better off than he.* [emphasis mine].
"Then he will come, Christ the uncrucified,
Christ the discrucified, his death undone,
His agony unmade, his cross dismantled—
Glad to be so—and the tormented wood
Will cure its hurt and grow into a tree
In a green springing corner of young Eden,
And Judas damned take his long journey backward
From darkness into light and be a child
Beside his mother’s knee, and the betrayal
Be quite undone and never more be done."- Edwin Muir, "The Transfiguration"
Woe to Judas for the suffering of guilt and bitter remorse of his actions! The sin committed would burden even the hardest of hearts -- woe indeed, for the pain would be unbearable! But blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! He is a refuge for the broken and a comfort for the mourning.
Jesus doesn't say it would be better for Judas not to have existed, but better for him not to have been born. Perhaps an empathic reflection on the inner turmoil Judas felt.
4 [the stillborn baby] comes without meaning, it departs in darkness, and in darkness its name is shrouded.
5 Though it never saw the sun or knew anything, it has more rest than does that man—
6 even if he [the man who can't enjoy his prosperity] lives a thousand years twice over but fails to enjoy his prosperity.
"Do not all go to the same place?"
As for Jesus statement that it would be better if Judas had never been born, it reads to me as obvious hyperbole, referring (as Chris suggested) more to remorse than anything. And the idea that suicide is a mortal sin is patent nonsense, in my opinion. In this case, it was actually an act of repentance. (Check out the Greek in Matthew 27:3.)
Here's some additional fun speculation. According to Matthew's account, Judas would have reached Hades just a few hours before Jesus did (27:5, 50). What if Judas were among the saints who were raised a few verses later (52–53)? He thus would have been around after Jesus' resurrection, when Jesus appeared to "the twelve" (1 Corinthians 15:5).
"O Son of God, receive me today as a partaker of Your mystical supper. For I will not speak of the mystery to Your enemies, nor will I give You a kiss, as did Judas. But like the thief, I confess to You: Remember me, Lord, in Your Kingdom."