4. The Awakening of a Deceived Spirit
By Yuanzhi, Brazil
I was born in a small city in Northern China and in 2010, followed relatives to Brazil. Here in Brazil, I got acquainted with a Christian friend who brought me to church to listen to some sermons, after three visits I still hadn’t absorbed anything. I got really busy with work after that, so I didn’t go back to church again until one day in June, 2015, when my friend brought me to church once more. That time, I finally gained some understanding of the Lord Jesus as the Redeemer through what the brothers and sisters shared. In particular, when I first read Genesis, I realized that man was actually created by God, that God had created all things, and I felt that the Creator is truly wondrous. When I was in school all the textbooks had taught me that man evolved from primates, and all the things in the world were formed naturally—it turned out that I had been deceived for over two decades. Only after reading the Bible did I fully awaken, and from that point on, I believed in the Lord Jesus.
In late 2015, I went back to Brazil after five months in China. This time, I decided to find a steady job and settle down properly. However, things don’t always turn out as planned. Things weren’t going smoothly with work or my personal life, leaving me very agitated and anxious. One evening, I phoned that Christian friend to complain, and he told me, “Quiet yourself and pray to the Lord and see how the Lord arranges everything for you.” So, I quieted my heart and prayed to the Lord, “Lord Jesus! I’ve encountered some problems at work that I don’t know how to deal with. Lord, I hope that I may receive some help from You.” To my surprise, four days later, my boss called me and asked me to come back to work. I was ecstatic and thankful that the Lord Jesus heard my prayers. I received more of the Lord’s grace after that, so I started attending gatherings every week to repay His love, even if I had to take time off from work.
Starting in June 2016, not only was I attending church gatherings, but I also shared Bible verses with friends on Facebook, plus I would browse through Facebook for content so I could gain more understanding of the Lord. I added a lot of friends who would all share Bible verses with me when they had time. This was extremely rewarding for me. One day while browsing Facebook, I saw a video with a description “God Descends With Judgment”—this immediately grabbed my attention. Curious, I clicked on it. I was pleasantly surprised that it had been so well done. Simply put, it was spectacular! I was drawn in by the sonorous, powerful singing, lyrics that tugged at the heartstrings, and the enthusiasm of everyone in the performance. Giving it a closer look, I saw that the video was from The Church of Almighty God. I thought: “All the performers really throw themselves into it—it’s as if they’re singing for God to hear. The Church of Almighty God seems not bad at all! This is the first time that I’ve heard of them; if I get the chance I should get in touch with them.”
One day, I sent the link for that video to a Facebook friend, Sister Yang, with whom I frequently discussed the Bible. She really liked it too, and said that she was interested in learning more about The Church of Almighty God. She felt that this church was indeed very special and that it was filled with the Holy Spirit’s work. I then shared the video on my Facebook page, but to my surprise, one of my friends watched it and told me that The Church of Almighty God was no good, plus he sent me all sorts of negative stuff about it. Seeing all these materials that blasphemed Almighty God and condemned The Church of Almighty God really scared me and I thought: “This church seems fine—how could anyone have a problem with them?” When I went to give the video another look, I suddenly thought back to something my pastor had once said in a sermon, that false Christs will appear in the last days. If I stray from the Lord Jesus’ path, wouldn’t it all be over for me? I knew that was something that I couldn’t just disregard, so I decided not to watch it just then. I reached out to Sister Yang right away and explained the situation to her. Her response was, “We can’t just rely on one side of the story to determine whether it’s true or false. This is not in accordance with the Lord’s teachings. All of us who are believers in the Lord are awaiting His return, and right now, some people are saying that He has already come. We have to investigate this. We can’t just follow the herd, blindly judging and condemning it. Let’s find some people from The Church of Almighty God and look into it. We’ll see their true colors—nothing real can be made fake, and nothing fake can be made real.” I thought: “Sister Yang is right. This is indeed the first time that I’ve heard anyone preach the gospel that the Lord has returned, plus I have no idea whether that stuff on the Internet condemning The Church of Almighty God is true or false. I can see that the videos and movies shot by The Church of Almighty God are pretty good. I should go and learn about them—that’s the only rational way to approach the return of the Lord.” And so, I agreed to investigate Almighty God’s work of the last days with Sister Yang.
Sister Yang reached out through the contact details left at the end of the video and ended up in contact with Brother Zhang of The Church of Almighty God in North America. Once we were online with him, Sister Yang and I brought up the same question: “We both know that the Lord will return in the last days; however, the Lord Jesus said: ‘Then if any man shall say to you, See, here is Christ, or there; believe it not. For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders; so that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect’ (Matthew 24:23–24). Brother Zhang, what do you think of this issue of false Christs emerging in the last days to deceive people?”
Brother Zhang said: “The Lord Jesus said these things to warn us: When He returns during the last days, false Christs will also emerge. The Lord’s will is to have us develop discernment so that we’re not deceived by false Christs. However, He didn’t say this so that we would just wholesale reject anyone who says that the Lord has returned, or even go so far as to judge and condemn them. This is our misunderstanding of the Lord Jesus’ words. The Lord Jesus was clear about what false Christs are: ‘For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders; so that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect’ (Matthew 24:24). The obvious hallmarks of false Christs are that they imitate the Lord Jesus’ work, showing signs, performing miracles, healing diseases and casting out demons. These are the areas where false Christs are most cunning and evil, and they are their primary distinctive features. Almighty God’s words are even more specific and incisive regarding the manifestations and hallmarks of false Christs. Almighty God said: ‘If, during the present day, there is to emerge a person who is able to display signs and wonders, cast out demons, heal the sick, and perform many miracles, and if this person claims that they are Jesus who has come, then this would be a counterfeit produced by evil spirits which imitate Jesus. Remember this! God does not repeat the same work. Jesus’ stage of work has already been completed, and God will never again undertake that stage of work. … If, during the last days, God still displayed signs and wonders, and still cast out demons and healed the sick—if He did exactly the same as Jesus—then God would be repeating the same work, and the work of Jesus would have no significance or value. Thus, God carries out one stage of work in every age. Once each stage of His work has been completed, it is soon imitated by evil spirits, and after Satan begins to follow on the heels of God, God changes to a different method. Once God has completed a stage of His work, it is imitated by evil spirits. You must be clear about this’ (“Knowing God’s Work Today” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). We all know that all that is false can only ride on the coattails of what is true and imitate it. False Christs are no exception. They are evil spirits and they lack the essence of Christ. They cannot do the work of Christ, they are unable to express the truth, and they are unable to express God’s disposition or all that God has and is. They cannot bring man the truth, the way, and the life. Therefore, false Christs can only imitate the work that the Lord Jesus has already done; all they can do is perform some signs and wonders to deceive foolish and ignorant people. There are some people who have been possessed by evil spirits, who presumptuously declare that they are the returned Lord Jesus, and imitate the Lord Jesus in doing things such as healing diseases and casting out demons, performing miracles, and preaching the way of repentance and forgiveness. There is no shred of a doubt that they are false Christs that deceive people. God’s work is always new and never old, always developing in a forward direction. He will never repeat old work that He has done before. This is just like when the Lord Jesus came to work; He brought a close to the Age of Law and opened up the Age of Grace. He did not repeat the work that Jehovah God had done of issuing the law to guide people in their lives, but instead, He performed His work of redemption upon the foundation of the work of the Age of Law. The Lord Jesus brought the way of repentance and forgiveness to mankind; as long as we come before Him, confess, and repent, the Lord will pardon our sins and forget our transgressions, making us fit to enjoy the abundant grace and blessings that the Lord bestows upon mankind. All of that work was new, and it could not have been done by any evil spirits or by Satan. This is the same for the returned Lord Jesus in the last days—Almighty God concluded the Age of Grace and began the Age of Kingdom. Almighty God did not repeat the Lord Jesus’ work of redemption—He does not cast out demons, heal the sick, or perform miracles for people. Instead, He expresses the truth and performs the stage of work of judging and cleansing man on the foundation of the work of redemption. He fully saves mankind from the domain of Satan and brings us into God’s kingdom. This is all new work from God that He has never before performed and could not be performed by any false Christ whatsoever. As long as we know that God’s work is always new and never old, and we understand the principles of discerning the true Christ from false Christs, we will naturally differentiate between the appearance and work of God and the deception of false Christs.”
I gained a great deal from Brother Zhang’s communication; his fellowship was very clear. False Christs can only repeat and imitate some of the work that God has done in the past, but they can never perform any new work, nor can they provide a new path for mankind. At this point, I understood the true meaning behind the Lord Jesus’ words: “For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders; so that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect” (Matthew 24:24). Sister Yang also said that she had reaped a great harvest from this, so we made an appointment with Brother Zhang for the following evening so that we could continue listening to his fellowship.
I felt that what Brother Zhang from The Church of Almighty God had to share was wonderful and really edifying for me. However, when I thought of all those online rumors I was still a little apprehensive. After I went back to my church, I asked one of the elder brothers whether he knew anything about The Church of Almighty God. He told me that the pastor had said we shouldn’t have anything to do with them; he also told me about some things a number of pastors had said, judging, attacking, and condemning Almighty God. When I heard this I vacillated a bit. I lost no time letting Sister Yang know about this negative information and suggested that she cut off contact with The Church of Almighty God. However, Sister Yang seemed determined to investigate Almighty God’s work of the last days. She said to me, “Wherever the footprints of the Lamb lead me, I will follow. Recently, I’ve understood a number of truths by reading the words of Almighty God online and watching all sorts of videos and gospel movies from The Church of Almighty God. A lot of the confusion and the difficulties that stymied me in the past have been resolved. I feel that Almighty God’s words are the truth. Regardless of how others condemn The Church of Almighty God, I will look into this until I’ve gained total clarity.” I was unable to persuade Sister Yang, so I blocked both her and Brother Zhang on Facebook and didn’t dare contact them again.
However, not even two days had gone by before I started to go through a dry spell with work. Day in, day out, I had nothing to do except to make food at home. Since I was idle, I opened up YouTube to watch some movies, but strangely, every single time, movies, music videos, and choral works by The Church of Almighty God would appear. I started to think: “The videos and movies of The Church of Almighty God are put out so quickly. It’s astonishing! Anything that comes from God must certainly thrive, so could it be that The Church of Almighty God truly comes from God? Everything Brother Zhang talked about last time was in line with the truth. Maybe I should try to gain an understanding of The Church of Almighty God one more time. I can’t offhandedly refuse to investigate Almighty God’s work of the last days just because of what other people say.” However, as soon as I thought about what I had seen online condemning Almighty God as well as my pastor’s warning to not contact The Church of Almighty God, I thought perhaps I should not go any further. So, I decided to look for other videos to watch on YouTube. However, everywhere I looked, there were videos from The Church of Almighty God and I started to feel a sense of helplessness. In the end, my curiosity took over and I thought: “It doesn’t matter if The Church of Almighty God is good or not. I’ll just take a quick look at their videos, and if they really aren’t any good, then it’ll be a lesson on gaining discernment.” I then clicked on a video called Gospel Choir 9th Performance. This video attracted my interest because it was a genuine depiction of contemporary society that I really identified with. It portrayed human life so vividly, realistically, and genuinely. I cried and laughed along with it; my heart was very moved, and was filled with energy. I had this urge to immediately watch every single video produced by The Church of Almighty God. After that I started watching videos from The Church of Almighty God on a daily basis, and within one week I had watched all 17 episodes of the Chinese choral videos. The more I watched them the more of an affinity I felt for them. There seemed to be a force within my heart urging me to watch and investigate without delay. I thought: “I’ve watched so many videos of The Church of Almighty God; each and every one has been so beneficial to me, plus there hasn’t been a single negative word in any of them: It is all positive. Some of them expose the darkness of the world, some bear witness to God, and some guide man to return before God. There’s no adulteration of fleshly or worldly matters. The Church of Almighty God is filled with the Holy Spirit’s work. It is not at all like what the rumors say. Almighty God’s work in the last days is definitely worth looking into!”
One day while browsing through Facebook, I read someone’s experience and testimony entitled “I Found Salvation of the Last Days on Facebook.” I opened it and saw that this sister had similar experiences to me. When she first got in touch with The Church of Almighty God, her online friends sent her some rumors about the church that really stood in her way. I read on impatiently, eager to know what happened in the end. I saw that after this sister prayed to the Lord and asked Him to guide her, she felt that she could not be selective in what she chose to listen and believe, but she had to investigate The Church of Almighty God in a practical way in order to discern whether it was true or false. Blindly listening to the rumors and refusing to investigate the second coming of the Lord would not be a very rational approach, so she felt that she had to find out the truth about the Lord’s return. These words really resonated with me. The return of the Lord is an important thing and one must treat it prudently. We can’t just follow the herd; we can’t just blindly reject and resist it. I continued reading the article and saw that what this sister came to understand about The Church of Almighty God was entirely different from what her online friends were telling her. She also personally hosted some visiting sisters from The Church of Almighty God who fellowshiped with her on Almighty God’s words, and were helpful and caring toward her. The real-life experiences of this sister told me that I could no longer continue to be deceived by these rumors, nor could I be taken in by gossip, refusing to investigate the work of Almighty God in the last days. Otherwise, I would very likely lose God’s salvation of the last days. I knew I had to get back in touch with The Church of Almighty God for further investigation!
That night while I was tossing and turning restlessly in bed, I thought, “I have to find Sister Yang again, even though I blocked her. If I can find her I’ll definitely be able to find Brother Zhang from The Church of Almighty God. Sister Yang is a genuine believer and she has been investigating Almighty God’s work of the last days this whole time. She’s probably gained a lot of understanding by now. I really need to ask her how her investigation is coming along.” It was no easy task, but through the help of some friends, I found Sister Yang’s Facebook account a couple of days later. I was really happy that she wasn’t angry at me for blocking her. When I contacted her, she told me that she had already gained clarity through her investigation, and that Almighty God is the return of the Lord Jesus. She also very happily put me in touch with Brother Zhang. When the three of us all connected online, I told them, “Through my recent experience, I can see that the Lord is guiding me. I am also willing to seek and investigate the work of Almighty God in the last days, but, I have so many questions for the two of you that I’d like your fellowship on. The one thing I really can’t make heads or tails of is that Jesus incarnated as a man to do His work, so how is it that He would now return to the flesh as a woman to do His work? This is a mystery. Brother Zhang, can you explain this to me?”
In response to my question, Brother Zhang replied, “Yes. There are mysteries contained within God’s incarnations—the significance is immense and profound, as well as something unfathomable to us. Therefore, we must maintain hearts of reverence regarding the return of the Lord. Even if God’s work is not remotely in line with our notions, we must watch our tongues. We must not judge it without thinking the matter through. Seriously speaking, arbitrarily judging God’s work is blaspheming against God, and the sin of blasphemy cannot be pardoned in this life or the next. Almighty God of the last days has come and opened up all mysteries. This completely fulfills Jesus’ prophecy: ‘I have yet many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. However, when He, the Spirit of truth, is come, He will guide you into all truth: for He shall not speak of Himself; but whatever He shall hear, that shall He speak: and He will show you things to come’ (John 16:12–13). Let’s read the words of Almighty God together to understand this aspect of the truth. Almighty God said: ‘Back then, when Jesus came, He was male, and when God comes this time, He is female. From this, you can see that God created both male and female for the sake of His work, and with Him there is no distinction of gender. When His Spirit comes, He can take on any flesh He pleases, and that flesh can represent Him; whether male or female, it can represent God as long as it is His incarnate flesh. If Jesus had appeared as a female when He came, in other words, if an infant girl, and not a boy, had been conceived by the Holy Spirit, that stage of work would have been completed all the same. If that had been the case, then the present stage of work would have to be completed by a male instead, but the work would be completed all the same. The work done in either stage is equally significant; neither stage of work is repeated, nor does it conflict with the other. At the time, Jesus, in doing His work, was called the only Son, and “Son” implies the male gender. Why is the only Son not mentioned in this current stage? Because the requirements of the work have necessitated a change in gender from that of Jesus. With God there is no distinction of gender. He does His work as He wishes, and in doing His work He is not subject to any restrictions, but is especially free. Yet every stage of work has its own practical significance. God became flesh twice, and it is self-evident that His incarnation during the last days is the final time. He has come to make known all His deeds. If in this stage He did not become flesh in order personally to do work for man to witness, man would forever cling to the notion that God is only male, not female. … In the beginning, when Jehovah created humankind, He made two kinds of human being, both male and female; and so there is the division of male and female in His incarnate fleshes. He did not decide His work based on the words He spoke to Adam and Eve. The two times He has become flesh have been determined entirely according to His thinking at the time He first created humankind; that is, He has completed the work of His two incarnations based on the male and the female before they were corrupted’ (“The Two Incarnations Complete the Significance of the Incarnation” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). ‘In gender, one is male and the other female, so completing the significance of God’s incarnation, and dispelling man’s notions of God: God can become both male and female, and in essence, the incarnate God is genderless. He made both man and woman, and to Him, there is no division of gender’ (“The Essence of the Flesh Inhabited by God” in The Word Appears in the Flesh).
After reading God’s words, Brother Zhang shared this fellowship, “Whatever God does has meaning. God absolutely would not do anything lacking meaning or value. The Bible says: ‘So God created man in His own image, in the image of God created He him; male and female created He them’ (Genesis 1:27). We can see from this that in the beginning, God created man and woman in His image. God can incarnate as a man, and He can incarnate as a woman as well. In God, there is no distinction between genders; whether He becomes a man or a woman, He possesses the essence of God and is able to do God’s own work. God taking on two different genders the two times He has incarnated is to complete the significance of His incarnation and dispel man’s fallacious belief that God can only incarnate as a man, that He cannot incarnate as a woman. This allows mankind to realize that not only can God’s incarnation embody the identity of a man, but it can also embody the identity of a woman. This allows humanity to see that God is indeed almighty, that we are unable to fathom Him, and we should not arbitrarily judge or delimit God. Additionally, God’s essence is of the spirit, and there is no differentiation of sex in spirits. Sex only applies to created mankind. God has become flesh twice in order to save and redeem mankind, therefore, the sex of God’s incarnation is only dependent on the period of time in which He does His work in flesh. Once the incarnated God’s work on earth concludes, He returns to the spiritual world and at that time, there is no longer any differentiation according to sex. Therefore, if we delimit God within a certain sex, it is a great blasphemy!”
Listening to the words of Almighty God and Brother Zhang’s fellowship gave me a sudden flash of insight. I finally understood why God has taken on a different sex in each of His incarnations. I realized that contained within this is God’s will from when He first created mankind as well as His kind intentions. If God came to work as a man for both of His incarnations, we would believe for eternity that God is a man and we would believe in error that the male sex is greater and of higher status than the female sex. God incarnate of the last days working as a woman is an embodiment of God’s fairness and righteousness, and it allowed me to see the incredible significance of God incarnating and working as a woman this time! Otherwise, we would never have an understanding of God, and our notions and delimitations of God would never be eliminated and furthermore, this would offend God’s disposition. The first time that God was incarnated, He appeared as a man, and in the last days, He has appeared as a woman. These two incarnations of God truly show us the complete significance of God’s incarnation; they’ve given me a more accurate and a more genuine understanding of God. Thanks be to God! God’s work is truly wise!
After Sister Yang and Brother Zhang listened to my understanding and knowledge of God’s words, they felt happy that I had been able to understand God’s will and dispense with my notions and misunderstandings of God. They were moved to tears by the work of salvation that God had done upon me. We joined together in fellowship three more times. Thank God for His guidance. I understood more and more of the truth, I learned the mystery of God’s incarnation, and I learned the mystery of God’s three stages of work. I learned of the differences between God’s work and man’s work, the differences between the Holy Spirit’s work and Satan’s work, and other aspects of the truth. I could truly feel that Almighty God is the return of the Lord Jesus and that He is the truth, the way and the life. That Saturday evening, Sister Yang sent me a new music video called God’s Love Circles My Heart, “God’s will has been revealed—to perfect those who truly love Him. Innocents, pulsing with life, offer up your praises to Him. A dance of joy is beautiful, leap and prance around the throne. From the earth’s four corners, we come, summoned by God’s voice. His words of life bestowed on us, we’re cleansed by His judgment. …” This song was so encouraging for me that I was moved to tears. I dialed Sister Yang’s number, but I was so overcome with emotion that I couldn’t speak. All I could do was say over and over, “Thank God! Thank you …”
Once the intensity of my feelings had subsided, that same night I had a very heartfelt talk with my brothers and sisters. I was thankful that Almighty God had not given up on my salvation that whole time and that He had not dealt with me according to my rebellion and resistance. Instead, He was always with me. He used gospel movies, videos, and brothers’ and sisters’ articles on their own experiences to guide and move me bit by bit, bringing me back to His house, bringing me before Him. From the bottom of my heart, I told my brothers and sisters: “I have already experienced God’s love and I also understand the truth of God’s incarnation. I’ll never again believe hearsay or rumors. I completely accept Almighty God as my Savior and as my God. For I have already determined that Almighty God is the return of the Lord Jesus—He is the God that has provided me with so much grace, and He is the Redeemer of mankind.”
When I think back on how I listened to rumors in the past, how I was rife with conflict about the work of God in the last days and even said some words of judgment against God, of how I was so rebellious, I feel incredibly indebted to God—I’m aggrieved and full of regret. However, Sister Yang told me: “When we don’t know God, as human beings we’re really prone to being deceived by lies. As long as we truly repent, God will not keep a record. God’s word says, ‘This time, God has come to work not in order to smite people, but to save them to the greatest extent possible. Who is entirely free of error? If everyone were struck down, then how could it be “salvation”? Some transgressions are done on purpose, while others are done involuntarily. If you are able to change after you recognize the transgressions you commit involuntarily, would God strike you down before you changed? Can God save people that way? That is not how He works! Regardless of whether you transgress involuntarily or out of a rebellious nature, you must remember that, once the transgression has been committed, you must hurry up and wake up to reality, and press onward; no matter what situation arises, you must press onward. The work God is doing is that of salvation, and He will not casually strike down the people He wants to save’” (“God’s Will Is to Save People to the Greatest Extent Possible” in Records of Christ’s Talks). God’s words have given me great comfort and they have allowed me to see that God is full of mercy and forgiveness. God’s love is so great! I can’t hold back the gratitude to God I feel within my heart. Over the period of time that followed, through my interactions with brothers and sisters from The Church of Almighty God, I could see that the church is not at all what the rumors purport it to be. In fact, it is completely the opposite. This is the place for us to pursue the truth and know God. When we have gatherings in The Church of Almighty God, nobody talks about eating, drinking, and making merry; nobody talks about cars, money or houses; nobody talks about the dirty, filthy, evil things in the world. We all read Almighty God’s words together and we fellowship on our experience and knowledge of God’s words. We practice and adhere to Almighty God’s words. I can see that within The Church of Almighty God, God’s words hold power, the truth holds power, and Christ holds power. This is a place full of fairness and righteousness. I feel like I’m getting a taste of a beautiful life in a new heaven and earth! Now when I think back on those rumors, I realize that they do nothing but trap and harm people, and it was due to those rumors that I nearly lost God’s salvation of the last days. Thankfully, Almighty God saved me and allowed me to gain some understanding of God’s work. My spirit was awakened, I broke through the tangled web of Satan’s rumors, and I came before the throne of God. I give thanks to God for saving me!