On March 25, 1997, comet Hale-Bopp made its closest approach to the Earth. Next morning, the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department discovered 39 dead bodies, members of a religious group called Heaven’s Gate. Investigation revealed that they had committed ritual suicide, believing they would resurrected and then transported to a space ship traveling with the comet.

Whatever else we may think of the people in the cult, we can’t deny their sincerity. There were no young children, as they had been in Jonestown. They were all adults, and all chose to commit suicide.

But that was far from a lone incident. Just in my lifetime, massacres, atrocities too horrible to describe, suicides and other terrible things have been done by people in the name of religion. We wonder how such things can happen. But we should not.

Jesus warned us. “Yet an hour is coming for everyone who kills you to think that he is offering a [c]service to God.” John 16:2 NASB.

We must not forget that Judas thought he was helping Jesus bring in his kingdom when he identified Jesus with a kiss. How can I say that? Because we have the testimony of scripture, even of Judas himself.

When Judas, who had betrayed Him, saw that He had been condemned, he felt remorse and returned the thirty [a]pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.”. . . . And he threw the pieces of silver into the temple sanctuary and left.” Matthew 27:3-5, NASB.

Look at the series of events:

    1. Judas “saw that He had been condemned”
    2. And then “felt remorse.
    3. He then “returned the thirty pieces of silver”
    4. Declaring  he had “sinned by betraying innocent blood.”
    5. And when the Priests declined to accept the money “he threw the pieces of silver into the temple sanctuary.

People often say that Judas betrayed Jesus for thirty pieces of silver. But this passage tells us that cannot be true. As soon as Judas realized he had betrayed Jesus, he wanted nothing to do with the money. Apparently, Judas did not anticipate that Jesus would allow himself to be condemned.

We know that the disciples expected Jesus—despite his repeated warnings—to be the conquering Messiah that drove out the hated Romans. If you doubt that, simply re-read the story of the Road to Emmaus in Luke 24. Jesus’ death defied the disciples’ expectations. Combine that with this account in Matthew 27, and it becomes clear. Judas expected that when confronted with arrest, Jesus would resist and begin the revolution. That is what Judas thought he was doing. Like Uzzah, he thought he was helping God.

If his goal was to betray to Jesus to His death, why the remorse? If he wanted the money, why literally throw it away? Clearly, he desired neither the money nor Jesus’ death. He wanted to assist God in accomplishing what he, Judas, understood God’s plans to be.

This explains Heaven’s Gate, Jonestown, and a whole history of terrible things done in the name of God. The hour has long since come that people believe that in killing one or a groups of people, are doing the right thing— that they are offering a [c]service to God.” John 16:2 NASB.

And  we have seen how it begins. We will begin to examine that anon.