Summary: There is a growing belief within the church that a person who is a believer in Jesus is considered a Christian and has therefore been given eternal life after they say the "sinners prayer." This is an in-depth multipart message
This belief stems primarily from the notion that because Jesus ‘chose’ the Disciples, they were now the ‘saved’ elect, including Judas, which is why they were able to perform healings, miracles, and casting out demons in Jesus’ name. It is true that Judas was one of the multiple disciples Jesus gave authority to use His name. However, it must be noted that nowhere in Scripture does it specifically say that Judas actually performed ‘healings’ and ‘miracles.’ God will most certainly use whoever, or whatever, He wants to promote His Kingdom (Num 22:28).
One of the proof texts used is when Peter declared "We BELIEVE and know that thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God (John 6:69 - emphasis mine)" therefore, Peter's reference to "we" included Judas who had to be a believer as well. The Greek word Jesus used when He ‘chose’ Judas is ‘eklexamenos,’ which is a perfect passive participle and means to pick out, choose a 'thing' for yourself, such as Jesus picking out one from the many around Him, and is also used when settling some business or picking out a person for an office position (John 6:70; 13:18; 15:16; Acts 1:2, 6:5, 15:22,25). The Greek word for ‘elected/chosen,’ is 'ekletos' which means one of the “elect” (i.e., Born-Again) and is not the same word used by Jesus when He picked who would be one of the 12 Apostles (Col 3:12;1 Pet 2:9).
Believer versus Receiver
The question that remains is, what does the Bible mean when it uses the word ‘believer’ versus the term ‘Born-Again/Born from above’ in relationship to salvation through Jesus Christ? To answer that question, we need to clarify some things and then take a look at the Old Testament covenant with God that was prior to the incarnation of Jesus, and what it meant.
A ‘believer’ in the Old Testament was a person who lived a righteous life by faith in God and looked forward to the promised Messiah. When they died their ‘spirit/soul’ went to a place or compartment called “paradise,” also believed to be "Abraham's bosom” (2 Cor 12:4; Rev 2:7), where they were held captive by the devil against their will (Heb 2:14-15). The unrighteous went to a place called “Sheol” and 'Hades" in the New Testament (Luke 16:19-31).
As Jesus was dying on the Cross, one of the thieves being crucified with Him asked for mercy. Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43 NIV). Paradise/Abraham's bosom was not Heaven, the dwelling place of the Triune God. It was located in the lower parts of the Earth (Eph 4:8-10; Matt 12:40).
When Jesus died, the New Covenant began, and the first thing He did was descend “into the lower parts of the earth” (Eph. 4:9) to liberate the “righteous” captives and take them to Heaven with Him when He ascended on high. That holding place is now empty (Matt 12:40; Eph 4:8-10). The righteous and the wicked are separated. The unrighteous are held in the place called Gehenna in Greek (Matt 5:22, 29,30; Mark 9:43,45,47, Luke 23:43; James 3:6).
Jesus has the keys of Hades and death (Rev 1:18). When a Christian passes from this world through death they are no longer held captive by the devil but go immediately to Heaven to await the resurrection of the body (2 Cor 5:8; Phil 1:21-24; Heb 12:22-24; Rev 6:9-11).
Gehenna continues to fill up with those who have rejected Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior. It will hold them until the end of the Millennial reign of Jesus when “death and Hades,” with the souls of those there, will be delivered up and cast into the eternal Hell Gk ‘abussos’ = the abyss, unfathomable depth, an especially Jewish conception, the home of the dead and of evil spirits) known as the "lake of fire" where there will be eternal "weeping and gnashing of teeth (Rev 20:11-15; Luke 13:28).
A person who claims to be a ‘believer,’ versus being a receiver (one who has become Born-Again/Born form above), are two very different things. Even the demons in Hell are believers (James 2:19).
There were many who believed, such as John and James, that Jesus was the Messiah who would set up His new Kingdom in Jerusalem and throw out the Romans (Matt 20:21). The Pharisee’s accused Jesus of treason, and because of that pervading belief, it was the primary reason the Romans sentenced Him to death (Luke 23:2).
Peter ‘believed’ in Jesus and declared that He was the promised Messiah, “the son of the living God” after God revealed it to him (Matt 16:16 ESV). It was upon that truth Jesus said He would build His Church (vs.18).
It must be noted upfront that not one of the Disciples Jesus chose, including Judas, could be regenerated, or experience the new birth of being born from above, until after Jesus died (Matt 19:28; Titus 3:5). In reference to Judas, the Bible states that he was not a genuine ‘believer;’ “But there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe (Greek ‘pisiteuousin’ = to have confidence in, be persuaded of [in, upon, or with respect to, a person or thing], i.e. credit; by implication, to commit one’s self, entrust (especially one’s spiritual well-being to Christ), and who it was that would betray Him” (John 6:64).