It’s Rapture versus Rupture in modern day Christianity

Acts 1:18 —With the payment he received for his wickedness, Judas bought a field; there he fell headlong, his body burst open and all his intestines spilled out.

IMG_5827The Gospel narratives are full of predictions, prophecies (fulfilled and unfulfilled) and warnings against behavior that could lead one away from God. That makes the character known as Judas one of the most interesting, portentous enigmas in all the Bible.

Judas was a close disciple of Jesus. He saw everything his teacher did. He was present for the miracles and witness to the teachings. No doubt he also received admonishment from Jesus when the disciples failed to learn the lessons of spirituality from the parables.

Mark 4:13 shows one of many instances in which Jesus showed concern that his disciples just just didn’t get it. “Then Jesus said to them, “Don’t you understand this parable? How then will you understand any parable?”

Some people bristle under guidance like that. They don’t like having their intellect questioned, or their belief systems challenged. In fact they often think they have it all figured out.

Yet it appears the disciples struggled to understand the true mission of Jesus on many levels. Acts 6:7 shows them asking questions about what type of kingdom Jesus sought to bring.

Acts 1:6 When they therefore had come together, they asked of Him, saying, “Lord, wilt Thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?”

Acts 1: 7 And He said unto them, “It is not for you to know the times or the seasons which the Father hath put in His own power.”

Statements like that must have really pissed off Judas. Those were desperate times in Israel. Roman occupation was cruel and dismissive of anyone that did not fall in line with worshipping the Emperor and the state. Many in Israel thought there must be a better way. They longed for an earthly king and a nation of their own to rule. They wished a bloodthirsty king like David might return to smite the foe. The entire Book of Revelation is a secretive song of hope for just such a result.

Yet too often the purpose and meaning of Revelation is forgotten. The opening lines of the prophetic book lay it out clearly enough.

Revelation 1:1The revelation from Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, 2 who testifies to everything he saw—that is, the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ. 3 Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near.”

It all came true soon enough through Jesus. The Roman empire was ultimately vanquished, much by its own making. Christianity was then adopted as the ruling religion through Constantine. It took a few hundred years or so after the death of Jesus for all that to happen, but in classic style the opportunity for the kingdom of God was opened and revealed, like a seal you might say. And from then on the history of the world has been engaged and determined to some extent by the DNA of Christianity. For better or worse, the Book of Revelation came true.

But again, that’s not how some people see it. Judas was one of those people who wanted instant gratification. He wanted to see the Romans die. He wanted immediate victory over his oppressors. It apparently frustrated him that Jesus was not going to swing the mighty hammer of God and bring it all about.

In his frustration, Judas turned on Jesus and sold him out to some religious leaders who were eager foes of Jesus because he questioned their authority, their methods and their status in society. The Bible lays it out all so clearly, yet it is too easily forgotten today. All four Gospels and the entire Bible provide examples of people whose positions are threatened and are all too willing to take matters into their own hands when the opportunity presents itself.

That was also the case when Judas rolled over for the price of 30 coins and vented his frustration by betraying his teacher and friend. Thanks to Judas, Jesus was taken into custody, turned over to Roman authorities, causelessly judged, flogged and then crucified on a set of timbers with nails driven through his arms and legs. It was an ignominious death.

What happens next in the story of Judas is subject to a degree of interpretation. Some accounts say he hanged himself. The story in Acts suggests another scenario in which Judas purchases a field and in so doing, experiences anguish and stress to the point where he bursts apart, spilling his guts on the ground. It’s not impossible. Gastric distress has been known to cause bowel explosions. 

One might call that the Rupture. It is a symbolically significant but much ignored aspect of scripture. After all, it was Judas that pushed forward on gut instincts to betray Jesus. He wasn’t patient enough to wait around and find out what the entire scenario was supposed to mean. His gut told him that the kingdom he desired was not going to pan out. It pained him at a level of frustration and zealotry that could not be sustained. He couldn’t take the idea that vengeance and victory would not be his. His hated enemies the Romans were not going away any time soon. There would be no immediate war and no blood spilled on behalf of Israel. The Jewish state would not be enacted in his lifetime. In fact the opposite ultimately happened. The temple in Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans. How could that have been part of God’s plan? 

There are similar themes going on in today’s world. Here in the United States we hear frequent claims that America was founded as a Christian nation. Lacking real proof, especially as it was successfully avoided in the drafting and approval of the Constitution, there are many that have endeavored to create a virtual Christian state by enacting laws that impose interpretations of so-called Christian values on the populace. They want a theocracy for America yet hate the notion that certain Muslim sects want to make a caliphate of the world. 

Still others take the prophetic approach. Television ministers like Pat Robertson blame all sorts of social ills on America’s unwillingness to bow before a highly conservative take on what a Christian America should look like. He has gone so far as to blame major weather events on America’s tolerance for homosexuality, or even sexuality in general.

But men like Robertson are little more than modern day version of Judas. One after another these fire and brimstone preachers are exposed for the angry, hypocritical zealots they really are. They seem to implode on the very ground they purchase with their 30 coins. 

One thinks of Jimmy Swaggart, the adulterous liar whose flock trusted his holiness and guidance only to find out he was a corrupt little fraud. People magazine carried this adroit bit of reaction to his downfall. ”I am indignant,” said a 47-year-old woman member of Swaggart’s Assemblies of God Church. “How could he stand up there in the pulpit and preach against adultery and promiscuity when he was doing that kind of thing all this time? I think he ought to stay out of the pulpit.” Angry as she was, she would not give her name, fearful of a fanaticism she’d had no cause to fear before.”

Yet Swaggart eventually swaggered right back into his game because every Judas has his or her fan club. There are plenty of other zealots willing to back the pattern of forcing the hand of God. They want to fix the results just like gamblers like to fix ballgames to guarantee the outcome.

The Republican Party has learned how to leverage all this angst and fury into votes for its candidates. So-called Values Voters fall in line with anyone promising a virtual theocracy in America. That’s also been an ugly scene, with one after another seemingly holy politician turning out to be a Judas in disguise. Sure enough, they’re forced to spill their guts sooner or later when the truth of their adultery, illicit relationships, money-laundering schemes and pay-for-play politics are exposed. Repression is a jealous mistress. The truth comes out sooner or later, rupturing careers and reputations. 

Yet they keep coming, these rapturous defenders of virtue, these zealots of social cues. But they can’t resist taking payment of 30 coins, more or less, from corporations or other big players to gain election. Then they are beholden to moneyed interests for the rest of their political career. It’s no secret that Judas was the keeper of the treasury for the disciples. Yet we all know that the love of money is the root of all evil. Don’t we? 

Judas found that out the hard way when he tried to force God’s hand that you ultimately can’t buy a kingdom here on earth any more than you can buy salvation in the hereafter. The things you find yourself doing to make it all happen are sooner or later revealed, discovered or destined to happen. Judas wanted to be rapturous about the fall of Rome. He didn’t get that. Jesus was bringing about a kingdom of the spirit that would counteract those forces given time. God’s time, that is.

Acts 1: 7 And He said unto them, “It is not for you to know the times or the seasons which the Father hath put in His own power.”

All these people longing for the Rapture had better (or best) concern themselves more with the Rupture. Too many Christians are selling themselves out to a forceful brand of faith that is not in line with God’s true plan for the kingdom of the spirit. There is no such thing as Left Behind. There is such a thing as spilling your guts for the wrong reasons. 

So let’s be clear. That kingdom of the spirit is composed of kindness, charity and love. It is not built on politics, power and culture wars based on angry interpretations of the Book of Revelation or any other symbolic text in the Bible. Either alternative of the forceful brand of faith are ugly and painful. Rapture or Rupture are essentially one and the same. 

Now let’s hear the Rapture people spill their guts about this one.

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