1. Judgment Is the Key to the Kingdom of Heaven
By Zheng Lu, China
I was born into a Christian family. My father often said, “By believing in the Lord our sins are forgiven and we’re no longer sinful, and when the Lord comes, He’ll take us into the kingdom of heaven, for the Bible says, ‘For with the heart man believes to righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made to salvation’ (Romans 10:10).” So for years I believed I was justified and saved by my faith and that I would get into heaven. I later read the Lord Jesus’ words saying: “Truly I say to you, Except you be converted, and become as little children, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3). “Not every one that said to Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that does the will of My Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 7:21). This confused me a lot. The Lord says only those who do the Father’s will can get into heaven, and tells us not to hate or envy others, but love each other. I knew I wasn’t living up to this. I lied and cheated all the time for my own interests and I wasn’t very patient with brothers and sisters. I couldn’t love others like myself. When things went wrong, I blamed God. I didn’t truly love God. I couldn’t keep the Lord’s commandments and I wasn’t doing God’s will. How could I get into heaven? God’s words then came to mind: “You shall therefore be holy, for I am holy” (Leviticus 11:45). I was always sinning and confessing, still bound up with sin. Would the Lord take me up to heaven when He came? I pored over the Bible trying to figure all this out. I went through it over and over, but couldn’t find the way to get rid of sin. I thought of what Paul said: “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” (Romans 7:24). Even Paul couldn’t find it, so how could I? I wasn’t getting any younger and I’d been a believer most of my life, but I still wasn’t sure if I’d get into heaven. I felt so pathetic and lost. I wanted so much to find the way into heaven and finally meet the Lord in peace. So I started visiting well-known senior Christians wherever they happened to be, but they couldn’t help me either. I attended some other denominations’ gatherings but they only talked about the same old things, about being justified and saved by faith. I felt so disappointed.
Through an unexpected opportunity, I started studying at a seminary run by foreigners. I thought foreigners’ sermons would be great, and that I was sure to find answers there. Filled with faith, I studied there for over two months. Unfortunately, the pastor just read from books in his lessons about church history, Jesus’ life, the overviews of New and Old Testaments, and so on. He never talked about the way of life. One evening after dinner, I asked the pastor, “Could you tell us about the way of life?” He said, “That’s exactly what we teach here. We’re the biggest religious organization in the world, internationally recognized. After three years you’ll get an international pastor’s certificate. Then you can preach the gospel and set up churches anywhere in the world.” I found this really disheartening. I didn’t want to be a pastor. I just wanted to know how to get into heaven. So I asked, “If that certificate is so great, can I use it to get into heaven?” The pastor made no reply. I went on with my questions. “I hear you’ve believed for decades. Have you been saved? Can you get into heaven?” With full confidence he said, “Of course! I’m sure to get into heaven.” So I asked, “What do you base that claim on? Do you love others as you love yourself? Have you rid yourself of sin and are now holy? Have you become as a little child? We can’t help but sin and go against the Lord’s teachings all the time. We sin by day and then confess our sins by night. God is holy. Are you saying that sinful people like us can get into the kingdom of heaven?” After I asked these questions, his face went beet red and he didn’t say a word. I was crushed. I dropped out of the seminary and went back home.
On my way home, my heart was in my boots and I felt like my last hope had been dashed. I had no idea where to find the way to heaven. The tearful face of my old father then came into my mind. All his life, he preached justification by faith and that we’d get into heaven when we died, but he died with regrets. I’d believed in the Lord most of my life and told people every day they’d get into heaven when they died. But now I wasn’t sure about how to get into the kingdom of heaven. Would I be like my dad, dying with regrets? I suddenly thought of what the Lord Jesus said: “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you” (Matthew 7:7). “The Lord is faithful,” I thought. “I cannot give it up! As long as I have breath left, I’ll keep searching for the way into heaven.” I went before the Lord in prayer: “Dear Lord, I’ve been looking everywhere for the way to be rid of sin and to get into heaven and no one can help me. O Lord, what should I do? I’m a preacher who tells people every day to stay strong in their faith and endure to the end to get into heaven. But now even I don’t know how to be rid of sin and get into heaven. Am I not the blind leading the blind, leading them all into a pit? O Lord! Where can I find the way into heaven? I ask for Your guidance.”
When I got home, I heard that many churches’ good members and leaders had gone over to Eastern Lightning. People were saying how great their sermons were, that they had new light, and even sparked admiration in some pastors. I thought, “How come I’ve never met anyone from Eastern Lightning? It would be wonderful to meet with them one day! I have to go seek with them and see why their sermons are so great and whether they can solve my problem.”
Brother Wang from my church came over one day saying two of his relatives who believed in Almighty God were visiting and he asked me to come over. I was so happy when I heard him say this and we rushed over to his house. We introduced ourselves and I told them my problem, saying, “I’ve always believed that being baptized means we’re saved, that believing in our hearts and confessing with our mouths means we’re justified by faith, and when the Lord comes He’ll raise us up into heaven. But I’ve been confused for the last few years about whether I’ll be able to get into heaven or not. I don’t think it can be that simple. The Bible says: ‘Holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord’ (Hebrews 12:14). I myself and brothers and sisters in the church sin all the time and I don’t think people who live in sin like we do can get into heaven. I’d like to know how exactly we can get into the kingdom of heaven. Can you fellowship with me about this?”
Smiling, Sister Zhou said, “Getting into the kingdom of heaven is a major concern for every Christian. On this issue, the Lord Jesus told us clearly: ‘Not every one that said to Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that does the will of My Father which is in heaven’ (Matthew 7:21). The Lord is very clear. Only those who practice His words and do God’s will can enter the kingdom of heaven. The Lord never said we are once saved forever saved, nor that we’re justified by faith and so can get into His kingdom. Justification by faith was something Paul came up with. Paul was just an apostle, a corrupt man. He wasn’t Christ, and his words weren’t Christ’s words. We can’t rely on his words to get into heaven. Only Jesus is the Lord and King of the heavenly kingdom. Only His words have authority and are the truth. Man’s notions are not truth and cannot set the standards for getting into His kingdom. We can only go by the Lord’s words in this. We cannot go by Paul’s words, and that’s that.” Sister Zhou then read us several passages of Almighty God’s words on what being justified and saved by faith meant, and on being saved and getting into heaven. Almighty God says, “At the time, Jesus’ work was the work to redeem all mankind. The sins of all who believed in Him were forgiven; as long as you believed in Him, He would redeem you; if you believed in Him, you were no longer of sin, you were relieved of your sins. This is what it meant to be saved, and to be justified by faith. Yet in those who believed, there remained that which was rebellious and opposed God, and which still had to be slowly removed. Salvation did not mean man had been completely gained by Jesus, but that man was no longer of sin, that he had been forgiven his sins. Provided you believed, you would never more be of sin” (“The Vision of God’s Work (2)” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). “You only know that Jesus shall descend during the last days, but how exactly will He descend? A sinner such as you, who has just been redeemed, and has not been changed, or been perfected by God, can you be after God’s heart? For you, you who are still of your old self, it is true that you were saved by Jesus, and that you are not counted as a sinner because of the salvation of God, but this does not prove that you are not sinful, and are not impure. How can you be saintly if you have not been changed? Within, you are beset by impurity, selfish and mean, yet you still wish to descend with Jesus—you should be so lucky! You have missed a step in your belief in God: You have merely been redeemed, but you have not been changed. For you to be after God’s heart, God must personally do the work of changing and cleansing you; if you are only redeemed, you will be incapable of attaining sanctity. In this way you will be unqualified to share in the good blessings of God, for you have missed out a step in God’s work of managing man, which is the key step of changing and perfecting. You, a sinner who has just been redeemed, are therefore incapable of directly inheriting God’s inheritance” (“Concerning Appellations and Identity” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). “Though Jesus did much work among man, He only completed the redemption of all mankind and became man’s sin offering; He did not rid man of all his corrupt disposition. Fully saving man from the influence of Satan not only required Jesus to become the sin offering and bear the sins of man, but it also required God to do even greater work to rid man completely of his satanically corrupted disposition. And so, now that man has been forgiven of his sins, God has returned to the flesh to lead man into the new age, and begun the work of chastisement and judgment. This work has brought man into a higher realm. All those who submit under His dominion shall enjoy higher truth and receive greater blessings. They shall truly live in the light, and they shall gain the truth, the way, and the life” (Preface to The Word Appears in the Flesh).
Sister Wang then gave fellowship, saying, “Late in the Age of Law, Satan was corrupting mankind deeper and deeper, and people were sinning more and more. Everyone was in danger of being put to death under the law. So the Lord Jesus did the work of redemption in the Age of Grace and by being crucified He became man’s sin offering and forgave man’s sins. Back then, we only had to believe in the Lord, confess and repent to Him, and our sins were forgiven and we could enjoy the grace He bestowed on us. This was salvation for people who had been living under the law. This ‘salvation’ meant being freed from being condemned and cursed by the law and never being condemned by the law again. This is ‘being saved by faith.’ Being justified by faith does not mean we become righteous. Being justified and saved by faith does not mean that we’re sinless, that we’re totally pure and have attained full salvation, or that we can get into heaven. Although our sins have been forgiven, our sinful nature and satanic dispositions are still deeply rooted in us. We can still lie, cheat, be jealous and hate others, and we often commit sin and resist God. How could people like us, so filled with satanic dispositions, who disobey and resist God ever get into the kingdom of heaven? That’s why the Lord Jesus promised to return. Almighty God has come in the last days. He has expressed all truths which cleanse and save us and is doing the work of judgment to resolve our satanic natures and dispositions and to fully save us from sin and purify us so we can get into the heavenly kingdom. Almighty God’s work of judgment fulfills the Lord 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’ (John 16:12–13). ‘For I came not to judge the world, but to save the world. He that rejects Me, and receives not My words, has one that judges him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day’ (John 12:47–48). And in 1 Peter it says: ‘For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God’ (1 Peter 4:17). By experiencing the redemption work of the Age of Grace, we can only enjoy the Lord’s grace and have our sins forgiven. We can’t be rid of sin or be cleansed. That’s why we have to accept and obey God’s judgment work in the last days and truly repent and be cleansed of corruption to be free of sin and fully saved once and for all. We can then survive the disasters and God will lead us into His kingdom.”
The sister’s fellowship really opened my eyes. The idea of being saved by our faith and getting into heaven was just our imagining and was at odds with the Lord’s words. The Lord Jesus did the work of redemption, not the work of expunging sin, so our sinful nature remains within us and we still can’t help but sin and resist Him. No wonder I could never free myself from sin all those years no matter how I forsook my flesh or subdued my own body. Turned out it was because of my sinful nature and because I hadn’t experienced God’s new work. Almighty God does the work of judgment to uproot our sinful nature and to cleanse and fully save us once and for all. This is just what we need and it’s so wonderful! But I didn’t know how God judged and cleansed us in the last days so I asked the sisters about this.
Sister Wang read another passage of Almighty God’s words: “Christ of the last days uses a variety of truths to teach man, to expose the substance of man, and to dissect the words and deeds of man. These words comprise various truths, such as man’s duty, how man should obey God, how man should be loyal to God, how man ought to live out normal humanity, as well as the wisdom and the disposition of God, and so on. These words are all directed at the substance of man and his corrupt disposition. In particular, the words that expose how man spurns God are spoken in regard to how man is an embodiment of Satan, and an enemy force against God. In undertaking His work of judgment, God does not simply make clear the nature of man with a few words; He exposes, deals with, and prunes over the long term. All these different methods of exposure, dealing, and pruning cannot be substituted with ordinary words, but with the truth of which man is utterly bereft. Only methods such as these can be called judgment; only through judgment of this kind can man be subdued and thoroughly convinced about God, and moreover gain true knowledge of God. What the work of judgment brings about is man’s understanding of the true face of God and the truth about his own rebelliousness. The work of judgment allows man to gain much understanding of the will of God, of the purpose of God’s work, and of the mysteries that are incomprehensible to him. It also allows man to recognize and know his corrupt essence and the roots of his corruption, as well as to discover the ugliness of man. These effects are all brought about by the work of judgment, for the essence of this work is actually the work of opening up the truth, the way, and the life of God to all those who have faith in Him. This work is the work of judgment done by God” (“Christ Does the Work of Judgment With the Truth” in The Word Appears in the Flesh).
She then followed on with this fellowship: “Almighty God expresses the truth to judge and cleanse us in the last days. He reveals man’s satanic nature and dispositions which resist God. Through the judgment and revelations of His words and the facts we see just how corrupted by Satan we are. We are arrogant, deceitful, truth-loathing, hard, and evil by nature. Satanic dispositions fill our bones and blood, and we hardly seem human. Controlled by these corrupt dispositions, we can’t help but resist and rebel against God. For example, we often talk ourselves up and show off when working and preaching to win others’ esteem. We’ll do anything for our own interests, and we vie for prestige and scheme against each other. We envy and hate anyone better than us, we expend ourselves only for blessings and to get into His kingdom, and we blame and misunderstand God the minute something goes wrong at home. God’s judgment and chastisement allow us to see our own corruption. We then truly hate our satanic nature and we begin to feel remorse and hate ourselves, and then we repent to God. We also come to know a little about God’s righteous disposition. We begin to fear and submit to God, we can consciously forsake our flesh and practice God’s words, and we can fulfill our duty as proper created beings and begin to live out some human likeness. By experiencing all this, we feel how deeply Satan has corrupted us, that we must accept the judgment of God’s words, that our satanic dispositions must be cleansed, we can’t resist God anymore, and that’s the only way into God’s kingdom.”
My heart brightened hearing these fellowships. If we only accept the redemption work of the Age of Grace and not Almighty God’s work of judgment, then even if we believe in the Lord all our lives, sin will always bind us and we’ll never do God’s will or enter God’s kingdom. Almighty God expressing the truth and doing His judgment work is the only way into the heavenly kingdom! I searched high and low for the way into the heavenly kingdom for years, and now I’d found it at last. I became tearful with joy—my long-held wish had been fulfilled. This is God’s voice and Almighty God is the Lord Jesus returned! When the Lord Jesus was born, Simeon was overjoyed to see Him only eight days after His birth. Being able to hear God’s voice and welcome the Lord in my lifetime makes me feel even happier and more blessed than Simeon! I’m so grateful to Almighty God!