This song is Judas speaking to Jesus somewhere in the afterlife, and is about the guilt and punishment Judas had after he betrayed Jesus.
Isaac Lee icleeucdavis.edu (contributed before the 20:th of February 1998)
To all people, who care for the Christian tradition, Judas is a complex person in the story of Jesus. That's why Bono finds it interesting to tell a story about him, and it's very special to have such direct connection to the Bible in a U2-song. I figure the story is told by Judas, just before committing suicide. The climax is at the end in wawes of regret, waves of joy/ I reached out for the one I tried to destroy/ You, you said you'd wait until the end of the world. Somehow Judas believe, that the love of Jesus is of the kind, that will forgive him. To think about this, you can consider Jesus hanging on the cross praying to His Father - Forgive them, 'cause they don't know what they are doing. The theme of the song is Love, Love that changes to betrayal, but the paradox is, that this is necessary for a greater change. And Bono is fascinated by the story of the Bible, where Judas both is a tool of God, and still he takes responsability and regrets. The point is to claim the unconditional forgiveness of Jesus and to question our feelings about the Love, that often have to cope with disappointment.
Joergen Lasgaard lasgaardvip.cybercity.dk( 9:th of December 1998)
Prior entries have stated that this song is directed from Judas to Jesus after meeting Him in the afterlife. Bono essentially confirmed this on this latest tour (Elevation). Listening to several live versions of the song, the fifth line changes. In Buenos Aires (1998-02-06), Bono sang the version on the album, "We ate the food, we drank the wine..." However, recently in San Diego (2001-04-19) he changed the words to "We broke the bread, we drank the wine..." and in Pittsburgh (2001-05-06) he sang "We ate the bread, we drank the wine..." Additionally, in the two recent concerts, at the beginning of the song, right after the "sound effects" and as the main guitar riff is starting, Bono calls out "Judas..." These help confirm the interpretation of the song.
Mike H mikesaltlakeyahoo.com (10:th of August 2001)
The discussion of the song as being about Jesus through the eyes of Judas seems correct. I'd like to add that within the context of the album - there is a running story about a couple in love, but one of the lovers is tempted and then cheats with a new lover, then comes back, and the couple must reconcile (see Bill Flanagan's U2 biography, At the End of the World for this) - this is the point of betrayal, where the beloved (symbolized by Jesus) is betrayed by his/her lover (represented by Judas). The song uses the most famous story of betrayal in the world to symbolize the grief and pain felt by the betrayed lover.
Porter Bayne porterbayneyahoo.com (12:th of January 2002)
As you all might or might not know, Bono is and has been very good friends with director and writer, Wim Wenders for many years now. Wim, who co-wrote and directed the Million Dollar Hotel with Bono a few years back, is mentioned (for Wim Wenders) after the lyrics to Until the End of the World in the booklet included with the Achtung Baby CD. Wim is mentioned because in 1991 he directed a film titled Until the End of the World in which Bono, being his friend, had prior knowledge of and wrote this song for the movie. (It appears on the movie soundtrack from Warner Brothers). The movie as well as the song is a true masterpiece and is a very complicated and complex story about three main characters involved in deception, robbery, addiction and the relentless pursuit of desires located in the elusive bodies of the self and the other. The movie takes place in 1999 (the future) and the Indian Nuclear Satellite goes out of control. The whole world was alarmed as it just soared above the ozone layer, not knowing where or when it would land and destroy the Earth. Bono wrote the song from the point of view of the three main characters; one for each verse of the song. The last verse was from the view point of Clair, who could care less about the satellite, because she was living in her own dreams. She even loved to think about her dreams when she was awake. this steams the line In my dreams I was drowning my sorrows but in her dreams, which started out with her peacefully gliding over an unknown land, she would start to fall and panic. but my sorrows they learned to swim . There are numerous other hidden meanings in this song related to each of the three characters, which become clear after viewing the movie. PS Lemon is also played in the movie, yet does not appear on the soundtrack.
Brian Gleckler bglecklerwillinghamassociates.com (30:th of June 2002)