God Himself, the Unique II
God’s Righteous Disposition
Now that you have listened to the previous fellowship about God’s authority, I am confident that you are equipped with quite an array of words on the matter. How much you can accept, grasp and understand all depends on how much effort you will apply to it. It is My hope that you can approach this matter earnestly; by no means should you deal with it half-heartedly! Now, is knowing God’s authority equal to knowing God’s entirety? One can say that knowing God’s authority is the beginning of knowing the unique God Himself, and one could also say that knowing God’s authority means that one has already stepped into the gate of knowing the substance of the unique God Himself. This understanding is one part of knowing God. What is the other part, then? This is the subject that I would like to fellowship about today—God’s righteous disposition.
I have selected two sections from the Bible with which to fellowship about today’s topic: The first concerns God’s destruction of Sodom, which can be found in Genesis 19:1-11 and Genesis 19:24-25; the second concerns God’s deliverance of Nineveh, which can be found in Jonah 1:1-2, in addition to the third and fourth chapters of the book. I suspect that you are all waiting to hear what I have to say about these two sections. What I say naturally cannot stray from the theme of knowing God Himself and knowing His substance, but what will be the focus of today’s fellowship? Do any of you know? Which parts of My fellowship about “God’s Authority” caught your attention? Why did I say that only the One who possesses such authority and power is God Himself? What did I wish to explain by saying that? What did I wish to inform you of? Are God’s authority and power one aspect of how His substance is displayed? Are they a part of His substance that proves His identity and status? Have these questions told you what I am going to say? What do I want you to understand? Think this over carefully.
(I) For Stubbornly Opposing God, Man Is Destroyed by God’s Wrath
First, let us look at several passages of scripture describing “God’s destruction of Sodom.”
(Gen 19:1-11) And there came two angels to Sodom at even; and Lot sat in the gate of Sodom: and Lot seeing them rose up to meet them; and he bowed himself with his face toward the ground; And he said, Behold now, my lords, turn in, I pray you, into your servant’s house, and tarry all night, and wash your feet, and you shall rise up early, and go on your ways. And they said, No; but we will abide in the street all night. And he pressed on them greatly; and they turned in to him, and entered into his house; and he made them a feast, and did bake unleavened bread, and they did eat. But before they lay down, the men of the city, even the men of Sodom, compassed the house round, both old and young, all the people from every quarter: And they called to Lot, and said to him, Where are the men which came in to you this night? bring them out to us, that we may know them. And Lot went out at the door to them, and shut the door after him, And said, I pray you, brothers, do not so wickedly. Behold now, I have two daughters which have not known man; let me, I pray you, bring them out to you, and do you to them as is good in your eyes: only to these men do nothing; for therefore came they under the shadow of my roof. And they said, Stand back. And they said again, This one fellow came in to sojourn, and he will needs be a judge: now will we deal worse with you, than with them. And they pressed sore on the man, even Lot, and came near to break the door. But the men put forth their hand, and pulled Lot into the house to them, and shut to the door. And they smote the men that were at the door of the house with blindness, both small and great: so that they wearied themselves to find the door.
(Gen 19:24-25) Then Jehovah rained on Sodom and on Gomorrah brimstone and fire from Jehovah out of heaven; And he overthrew those cities, and all the plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and that which grew on the ground.
From these passages, it is not difficult to see that Sodom’s iniquity and corruption had already reached a degree detestable to both man and God, and that in the eyes of God the city therefore deserved to be destroyed. But what happened inside the city before it was destroyed? What can people learn from these events? What does God’s attitude toward these events show people about His disposition? In order to understand the whole story, let us carefully read what was recorded in the Scripture …
Sodom’s Corruption: Infuriating to Man, Enraging to God
On that night, Lot received two messengers from God and prepared a feast for them. After dining, before they had lain down, people from all over the city surrounded Lot’s residence and called out to Lot. The Scripture records them as saying, “Where are the men which came in to you this night? bring them out to us, that we may know them.” Who said these words? To whom were they spoken? These were the words of the people of Sodom, yelled outside Lot’s residence and meant for Lot. How does it feel to hear these words? Are you furious? Do these words sicken you? Are you simmering with rage? Do these words not reek of Satan? Through them, can you sense the evil and darkness in this city? Can you sense the cruelty and barbarity of these people’s behavior through their words? Can you sense the depth of their corruption through their behavior? Through the content of their speech, it is not difficult to see that their iniquitous nature and savage disposition had reached a level beyond their own control. Save for Lot, every last person in this city was no different from Satan; the mere sight of another person made these people want to harm and devour them…. These things not only give one a sense of the city’s ghastly and terrifying nature, as well as the aura of death around it; they also give one a sense of its iniquity and bloodiness.
As he found himself face-to-face with a gang of inhumane thugs, people who were filled with soul-devouring ambition, how did Lot respond? According to the Scripture: “I pray you … do not so wickedly. Behold now, I have two daughters which have not known man; let me, I pray you, bring them out to you, and do you to them as is good in your eyes: only to these men do nothing; for therefore came they under the shadow of my roof.” Lot meant the following with his words: He was willing to give up his two daughters in order to protect the messengers. Out of reason, these people should have agreed to Lot’s conditions and left the two messengers alone; after all, the messengers were perfect strangers to them, people who had absolutely nothing to do with them; these two messengers had never harmed their interests. However, motivated by their iniquitous nature, they did not leave the matter at this. Rather, they only intensified their efforts. Here another one of their exchanges can undoubtedly give one further insight into these people’s true vicious nature; at the same time it also lets one know and comprehend the reason why God wished to destroy this city.
So what did they say next? As the Bible reads: “Stand back. And they said again, This one fellow came in to sojourn, and he will needs be a judge: now will we deal worse with you, than with them. And they pressed sore on the man, even Lot, and came near to break the door.” Why did they want to break down the door? The reason is that they were only too anxious to harm those two messengers. What were those messengers doing in Sodom? Their purpose in coming there was to save Lot and his family; however, the people of the city mistakenly thought that they had come to assume official posts. Without asking their purpose, it was merely conjecture that made the city want to savagely harm these two messengers; they wished to harm two people who had nothing whatsoever to do with them. It is clear that the people of this city had utterly lost their humanity and reason. The degree of their insanity and wildness was already no different from Satan’s vicious nature of harming and devouring men.
When they demanded these people from Lot, what did Lot do? From the text we know that Lot did not hand them over. Did Lot know these two messengers of God? Of course not! But why was he able to save these two people? Did he know what they had come to do? Although he was unaware of their reason for coming, he did know that they were God’s servants, and so he received them. That he could call these servants of God lords shows that Lot was usually a follower of God, unlike the others inside Sodom. Therefore, when God’s messengers came to him, he risked his own life to receive these two servants; furthermore, he also exchanged his two daughters in order to protect these two servants. This is Lot’s righteous deed; it is also a tangible expression of Lot’s nature and substance, and it is also the reason God sent His servants to save Lot. When faced with peril, Lot protected these two servants without regard for anything else; he even attempted to trade his two daughters in exchange for the servants’ safety. Other than Lot, was there anyone else inside the city who could have done something like this? As the facts prove—no! Therefore, it goes without saying that everyone inside Sodom, save for Lot, was a target for destruction as well as a target that deserved destruction.
Sodom Is Laid to Waste for Offending God’s Wrath
When the people of Sodom saw these two servants, they did not ask their reason for coming, nor did anyone ask whether they had come to spread God’s will. To the contrary, they formed a mob and, without waiting for an explanation, came to seize these two servants like wild dogs or vicious wolves. Did God watch these things as they happened? What was God thinking in His heart as to this kind of human behavior, this kind of thing? God decided to destroy this city; He would not hesitate or wait, nor would He continue to show patience. His day had come, and so He set about the work He wished to do. Thus, Genesis 19:24-25 says, “Then Jehovah rained on Sodom and on Gomorrah brimstone and fire from Jehovah out of heaven; And he overthrew those cities, and all the plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and that which grew on the ground.” These two verses tell people the method with which God destroyed this city; it also tells people what God destroyed. First, the Bible recounts that God burned the city with fire, and that the extent of the fire was enough to destroy all the people and that which grew on the ground. That is to say, the fire that fell from heaven not only destroyed the city; it also destroyed all people and living things inside it, all without leaving a single trace behind. After the city was destroyed, the land was bare of living things. There was no more life, nor any signs of it. The city had become a wasteland, an empty place filled with dead silence. There would be no more evil deeds against God in this place; there would be no more slaughter or spilled blood.
Why did God want to burn this city so thoroughly? What can you see here? Would God bear to watch mankind and nature, His own creations, be destroyed like this? If you can discern Jehovah God’s anger from the fire that was cast down from heaven, then it is not difficult to see the level of His rage from the target of His destruction as well as from the degree to which this city was destroyed. When God despises a city, He will render His punishment upon it. When God is disgusted with a city, He will issue repeated warnings informing people of His anger. However, when God decides to put an end to and destroy a city—that is, when His wrath and majesty have been offended—He will deliver no further punishments or warnings. Instead, He will directly destroy it. He will make it utterly disappear. This is God’s righteous disposition.
After Sodom’s Repeated Resistance and Hostility Toward Him, God Utterly Eradicates It
Once we have a general understanding of God’s righteous disposition, we can return our attention to the city of Sodom—what God saw as a city of sin. By understanding the substance of this city, we can understand why God wanted to destroy it and why He destroyed it so completely. From this, we can come to know God’s righteous disposition.
From a human perspective, Sodom was a city that could fully satisfy man’s desire and man’s evil. Alluring and bewitching, with music and dancing night after night, its prosperity drove men to fascination and madness. Its evil corroded the hearts of people and bewitched them into degeneration. This was a city where unclean spirits and evil spirits ran amok; it brimmed with sin and murder and was filled with a bloody, putrid scent. It was a city that chilled people to the bone, a city that one would shrink back from. No one in this city—neither man nor woman, neither young nor old—sought the true way; no one yearned for the light or longed to walk away from sin. They lived under Satan’s control, corruption and deceit. They had lost their humanity; they had lost their senses, and they had lost man’s original goal of existence. They committed countless sins of resistance against God; they refused His guidance and opposed His will. It was their wicked deeds that carried these people, the city and every living thing inside it, step by step, down the path of destruction.
Although these two passages do not record the details describing the extent of the corruption of the people of Sodom, instead recording their conduct toward God’s two servants following the latter’s arrival in the city, a simple truth can reveal the extent to which the people of Sodom were corrupt, evil and resisted God. With this, the true face and substance of the city’s people are also exposed. Not only did they not accept God’s warnings, they also did not fear His punishment. To the contrary, they scorned God’s anger. They blindly resisted God. No matter what He did or how He did it, their vicious nature only intensified, and they repeatedly opposed God. The people of Sodom were hostile toward God’s existence, His coming, His punishment, and even more so, His warnings. They saw nothing else worthwhile around them. They devoured and harmed all people that could be devoured and harmed, and they treated God’s servants no differently. In regard to the whole of the wicked deeds committed by the people of Sodom, harming God’s servants was only the tip of the iceberg, and their wicked nature that this revealed actually amounted to little more than a drop in a vast sea. Therefore, God chose to destroy them with fire. God did not use a flood, nor did He use a hurricane, earthquake, tsunami or any other method to destroy the city. What did God’s use of fire to destroy this city signify? It meant the city’s total destruction; it meant that the city vanished entirely from the earth and from existence. Here, “destruction” not only refers to the vanishing of the city’s form and structure or outer appearance; it also means that the souls of the people inside the city ceased to exist, having been utterly eradicated. Simply put, all people, events and things associated with the city were destroyed. There would be no afterlife or reincarnation for them; God had eradicated them from humanity, His creation, once and forever. The “use of fire” signified a halt to sin, and it meant an end to sin; this sin would cease to exist and spread. It meant that Satan’s evil had lost its nurturing soil as well as the graveyard that granted it a place to stay and to live. In the war between God and Satan, God’s use of fire is the brand of His victory with which Satan is marked. Sodom’s destruction is a great misstep in Satan’s ambition to oppose God by corrupting and devouring men, and it is likewise a humiliating sign of a time in humanity’s development when man rejected God’s guidance and abandoned himself to vice. Furthermore, it is a record of a true revelation of God’s righteous disposition.
When the fire God sent from heaven had reduced Sodom to nothing more than ashes, it meant that the city named “Sodom” would cease to exist, as would everything within the city itself. It was destroyed by God’s anger; it vanished under God’s wrath and majesty. Because of God’s righteous disposition Sodom received its just punishment; because of God’s righteous disposition, it received its just end. The end of Sodom’s existence was due to its evil, and it was also due to God’s desire to never look upon this city again, as well as any of the people who had lived in it or any life that had grown within the city. God’s “desire to never look upon the city again” is His wrath, as well as His majesty. God burned the city because its iniquity and sin caused Him to feel anger, disgust and loathing toward it and wish to never see it or any of the people and living things inside it again. Once the city had finished burning, leaving only ashes behind, it had truly ceased to exist in God’s eyes; even His memories of it were gone, erased. This means that the fire sent from heaven did not only destroy the entire city of Sodom and the iniquity-filled people inside it, nor did it only destroy all things inside the city that had been stained by sin; even more so, this fire destroyed the memories of humanity’s evil and resistance against God. This was God’s purpose in burning the city down.
A humanity had become corrupt to the extreme. They did not know who God was or where they had come from. If you mentioned God, these people would attack, slander and blaspheme. Even when God’s servants had come to spread His warning, these corrupt people not only showed no signs of repentance; they did not abandon their wicked conduct. To the contrary, they brazenly harmed God’s servants. What they expressed and revealed was their nature and substance of extreme enmity toward God. We can see that these corrupt people’s resistance against God was more than a revelation of their corrupt disposition, just as it was more than an instance of slandering or mocking stemming from a lack of understanding of the truth. Neither stupidity nor ignorance caused their wicked conduct; it was not because these people had been deceived, and it was certainly not because they had been misled. Their conduct had reached the level of flagrantly brazen antagonism, opposition and uproar against God. Without a doubt, this kind of human behavior would enrage God, and it would enrage His disposition—a disposition that must not be offended. Therefore, God directly and openly released His wrath and His majesty; this is a true revelation of His righteous disposition. Faced with a city overflowing with sin, God desired to destroy it in the swiftest manner possible; He wished to eradicate the people within it and the entirety of their sins in the most complete way, to make this city’s people cease to exist and to stop the sin within this place from multiplying. The swiftest and most complete way of doing so was to burn it down with fire. God’s attitude toward the people of Sodom was not one of abandonment or disregard; rather, He used His wrath, majesty and authority to punish, strike down and utterly destroy these people. His attitude toward them was one not only of physical destruction but also of destruction of the soul, an eternal eradication. This is the true implication of God’s desire for them to “cease to exist.”
Although God’s Wrath Is Hidden and Unknown to Man, It Tolerates No Offense
God’s treatment of the whole of foolish and ignorant humanity is primarily based on mercy and tolerance. His wrath, on the other hand, is concealed in the vast majority of time and of things; it is unknown to man. As a result, it is difficult for man to see God display His wrath, and it is also difficult to understand His wrath. As such, man makes light of God’s wrath. When man faces God’s final work and step of tolerating and forgiving man—that is, when God’s final instance of mercy and His final warning reach them—if they still use the same methods to oppose God and do not make any effort to repent, mend their ways or accept His mercy, God will no longer bestow His tolerance and patience upon them. To the contrary, it is at this time that God will retract His mercy. Following this, He will only send forth His wrath. He can express His wrath in different ways, just as He can use different methods to punish and destroy people.
God’s use of fire to destroy the city of Sodom is His swiftest method of utterly annihilating a humanity or a thing. Burning the people of Sodom destroyed more than their physical bodies; it destroyed the entirety of their spirits, their souls and their bodies, ensuring that the people inside this city would cease to exist in both the material world and the world invisible to man. This is one way in which God reveals and expresses His wrath. This manner of revelation and expression is one aspect of the substance of God’s wrath, just as it is naturally also a revelation of the substance of God’s righteous disposition. When God sends forth His wrath, He ceases to reveal any mercy or lovingkindness, nor does He display any more of His tolerance or patience; there is no person, thing or reason that can persuade Him to continue to be patient, to give His mercy again, to bestow His tolerance once more. In place of these things, without a moment’s hesitation, God will send forth His wrath and majesty, do what He desires, and He will do these things in a swift and clean manner in accordance with His own wishes. This is the way in which God sends forth His wrath and majesty, which man must not offend, and it is also an expression of one aspect of His righteous disposition. When people witness God showing worry and love toward man, they are unable to detect His wrath, see His majesty or feel His intolerance to offense. These things have always led people to believe that God’s righteous disposition is one solely of mercy, tolerance and love. However, when one sees God destroy a city or detest a humanity, His wrath in the destruction of man and His majesty allow people to glimpse the other side of His righteous disposition. This is God’s intolerance to offense. God’s disposition that tolerates no offense surpasses the imagination of any created being, and among the non-created beings, none is capable of interfering with it or affecting it; even more so, it cannot be impersonated or imitated. Thus, this aspect of God’s disposition is the one that humanity should know the most. Only God Himself has this kind of disposition, and only God Himself is possessed of this kind of disposition. God is possessed of this kind of righteous disposition because He detests wickedness, darkness, rebelliousness and Satan’s evil acts—corrupting and devouring mankind—because He detests all acts of sin in opposition to Him and because of His holy and undefiled substance. It is because of this that He will not suffer any of the created or non-created beings to openly oppose or contest Him. Even an individual that He had once shown mercy to or selected need only provoke His disposition and transgress His principle of patience and tolerance, and He will release and reveal His righteous disposition without the least bit of mercy or hesitation—a disposition that tolerates no offense.
God’s Wrath Is a Safeguard for All Just Forces and All Positive Things
By understanding these examples of God’s speech, thoughts and actions, are you able to understand God’s righteous disposition, a disposition that cannot be offended? In the end, this is an aspect of the disposition unique to God Himself, regardless of how much man can understand. God’s intolerance of offense is His exclusive substance; God’s wrath is His exclusive disposition; God’s majesty is His exclusive substance. The principle behind God’s anger demonstrates the identity and status that only He possesses. One needs not mention that it is also a symbol of the substance of the unique God Himself. God’s disposition is His own inherent substance. It does not change at all with the passage of time, nor does it change whenever the location changes. His inherent disposition is His intrinsic substance. Regardless of whom He carries out His work upon, His substance does not change, and neither does His righteous disposition. When one angers God, that which He sends forth is His inherent disposition; at this time the principle behind His anger does not change, nor do His unique identity and status. He does not grow angry because of a change in His substance or because His disposition has produced different elements, but because man’s opposition against Him offends His disposition. Man’s flagrant provocation of God is a severe challenge to God’s own identity and status. In God’s view, when man challenges Him, man is contesting Him and testing His anger. When man opposes God, when man contests God, when man continuously tests God’s anger—which is also when sin runs rampant—God’s wrath will naturally reveal and present itself. Therefore, God’s expression of His wrath symbolizes that all evil forces will cease to exist; it symbolizes that all hostile forces will be destroyed. This is the uniqueness of God’s righteous disposition, and it is the uniqueness of God’s wrath. When God’s dignity and holiness are challenged, when just forces are obstructed and unseen by man, God will send forth His wrath. Because of God’s substance, all those forces on earth which contest God, oppose Him and contend with Him are evil, corrupt and unjust; they come from and belong to Satan. Because God is just, of the light and flawlessly holy, all things evil, corrupt and belonging to Satan will vanish with the release of God’s wrath.
Although the outpouring of God’s wrath is one aspect of the expression of His righteous disposition, God’s anger is by no means indiscriminate as to its target or without principle. To the contrary, God is not at all quick to anger, nor does He rashly reveal His wrath and His majesty. Additionally, God’s wrath is considerably controlled and measured; it is not at all comparable to how man will flare into a rage or vent his anger. Many conversations between man and God are recorded in the Bible. The words of some of these individuals were shallow, ignorant and infantile, but God did not strike them down, nor did He condemn them. In particular, during Job’s trial, how did Jehovah God treat Job’s three friends and the others after He heard the words that they spoke to Job? Did He condemn them? Did He fly into a rage at them? He did nothing of the sort! Instead He told Job to entreat for them, to pray for them; God, on the other hand, did not take their faults to heart. These instances all represent the primary attitude with which God treats corrupt, ignorant humanity. Therefore, the release of God’s wrath is by no means an expression or venting of His mood. God’s wrath is not a full-blown eruption of rage as man understands it. God does not release His wrath because He is unable to control His own mood or because His anger has reached its boiling point and must be vented. To the contrary, His wrath is a display of His righteous disposition and a genuine expression of His righteous disposition; it is a symbolic revelation of His holy substance. God is wrath, tolerant of no offense—this is not to say that God’s anger does not distinguish among causes or is unprincipled; it is corrupt humanity that has an exclusive patent on unprincipled, random bursts of rage that does not distinguish among causes. Once a man has status, he will often find it difficult to control his mood, and so he will enjoy seizing upon instances to express his dissatisfaction and vent his emotions; he will often flare up into rage for no apparent reason, so as to reveal his ability and let others know that his status and identity are different from those of ordinary people. Of course, corrupt people without any status will also frequently lose control. Their anger is frequently caused by damage to their individual benefits. In order to protect their own status and dignity, corrupt mankind will frequently vent their emotions and reveal their arrogant nature. Man will flare up in anger and vent his emotions in order to defend the existence of sin, and these actions are the ways with which man expresses his dissatisfaction. These actions brim with defilement; they brim with schemes and intrigues; they brim with man’s corruption and evil; more than that, they brim with man’s wild ambitions and desires. When justice contests wickedness, man will not flare up into anger to defend the existence of justice; contrarily, when the forces of justice are threatened, persecuted and attacked, man’s attitude is one of overlooking, evading or flinching. However, when facing the forces of evil, man’s attitude is one of catering, and of bowing and scraping. Therefore, man’s venting is an escape for evil forces, an expression of the rampant and unstoppable evil conduct of the fleshly man. When God sends forth His wrath, however, all evil forces will be stopped; all sins of harming man will be stopped; all hostile forces that obstruct God’s work will be made apparent, separated and cursed; all of Satan’s accomplices who oppose God will be punished, rooted out. In their place, God’s work will proceed free of any obstacles; God’s management plan will continue to develop step by step according to schedule; God’s chosen people will be free of Satan’s disturbance and deceit; those who follow God will enjoy God’s leadership and supply among tranquil and peaceful surroundings. God’s wrath is a safeguard preventing all evil forces from multiplying and running rampant, and it is also a safeguard that protects the existence and spread of all just and positive things and eternally guards them from suppression and subversion.
Can you see the substance of God’s wrath in His destruction of Sodom? Is there anything mingled within His rage? Is God’s rage pure? To use man’s wording, is God’s wrath unadulterated? Is there any ruse behind His wrath? Is there any conspiracy? Are there any unspeakable secrets? I can tell you sternly and solemnly: There is no part of God’s wrath that can lead one to doubt. His anger is pure, unadulterated anger and harbors no other intentions or goals. The reason for His anger is pure, blameless and above criticism. It is a natural revelation and display of His holy substance; it is something that none of the creation possess. This is a part of God’s unique righteous disposition, and it is also a striking difference between the respective substances of the Creator and His creation.
Regardless of whether one becomes angry in the sight of others or behind their backs, everyone has a different intention and purpose. Perhaps they are building up their prestige, or maybe they are defending their own interests, maintaining their image or keeping face. Some exercise restraint in their anger, while others are more rash and flare up with rage whenever they wish without the least bit of restraint. In short, man’s anger derives from his corrupt disposition. No matter what its purpose, it is of the flesh and of nature; it has nothing to do with justice or injustice because nothing in man’s nature and substance corresponds to the truth. Therefore, corrupt humanity’s temper and God’s wrath should not be mentioned in the same breath. Without exception, the behavior of a man corrupted by Satan begins with the desire to safeguard corruption, and it is based on corruption; thus, man’s anger cannot be mentioned in the same breath as God’s wrath, no matter how proper it may seem in theory. When God sends forth His rage, evil forces are checked, evil things are destroyed, while just and positive things enjoy God’s care, protection, and they are allowed to continue. God sends forth His wrath because unjust, negative and evil things obstruct, disturb or destroy the normal activity and development of just and positive things. The goal of God’s anger is not to safeguard His own status and identity, but to safeguard the existence of just, positive, beautiful and good things, to safeguard the laws and order of humanity’s normal survival. This is the root cause of God’s wrath. God’s rage is a very proper, natural and true revelation of His disposition. There are no intentions behind His rage, nor is there deceit or plotting; or even more so, His rage contains none of the desire, craftiness, maliciousness, violence, evil or anything else that all corrupt humanity share. Before God sends forth His rage, He has already perceived the substance of every matter quite clearly and completely, and He has already formulated accurate, clear definitions and conclusions. Thus, God’s objective in every matter He does is crystal-clear, as is His attitude. He is not muddle-headed; He is not blind; He is not impulsive; He is not careless; more so, He is not unprincipled. This is the practical aspect of God’s wrath, and it is because of this practical aspect of God’s wrath that humanity has attained its normal existence. Without God’s wrath, humanity would descend into abnormal living conditions; all things just, beautiful and good would be destroyed and cease to exist. Without God’s wrath, the laws and order governing creation would be broken or even utterly subverted. Since the creation of man, God has continuously used His righteous disposition to safeguard and sustain humanity’s normal existence. Because His righteous disposition contains wrath and majesty, all evil people, things, objects and all things that disturb and damage humanity’s normal existence are punished, controlled and destroyed because of His wrath. Over the past several millennia, God has continuously used His righteous disposition to strike down and destroy all kinds of unclean and evil spirits which oppose God and act as Satan’s accomplices and bailiffs in His work of managing humanity. Thus, God’s work of the salvation of man has always advanced according to His plan. This is to say that because of the existence of God’s wrath, the most righteous cause among men has never been destroyed.
Now that you have an understanding of the substance of God’s wrath, you must certainly have an even better understanding of how to distinguish Satan’s evil!
Although Satan Appears Humane, Just and Virtuous, It Is Cruel and Evil in Substance
Satan wins its fame through deceiving the public. It often establishes itself as a vanguard and role model of righteousness. Under the banner of safeguarding righteousness, it harms man, devours their souls, and uses all sorts of means to benumb, deceive and incite man. Its goal is to make man approve of and follow along with its evil conduct, to make man join it in opposing God’s authority and sovereignty. However, when one grows wise to its schemes, plotting and vile features and does not wish to continue to be trampled upon and fooled by it or to continue slaving away for it, or to be punished and destroyed together with it, Satan changes its previously saintly features and tears off its false mask to reveal its true evil, vicious, ugly and savage face. It would love nothing more than to exterminate all those who refuse to follow it and those who oppose its evil forces. At this point Satan can no longer assume a trustworthy, gentlemanly appearance; instead, its true ugly and devilish features under the sheep’s clothing are revealed. Once Satan’s schemes are brought to light, once its true features are exposed, it will fly into a rage and expose its barbarity; its desire to harm and devour people will only be intensified. This is because it is enraged by man’s awakening; it develops a strong vindictiveness toward man for their aspiration to yearn for freedom and light and to break free of its prison. Its rage is intended to defend its evil, and it is also a true revelation of its savage nature.
In every matter, Satan’s behavior exposes its evil nature. Out of all the evil acts that Satan has carried out upon man—from its early efforts to delude man into following it, to its exploitation of man, in which it drags man into its evil deeds, and Satan’s vindictiveness toward man after its true features have been exposed and man has recognized and forsaken it—not one fails to expose Satan’s evil substance; not one fails to prove the fact that Satan has no relation to positive things; not one fails to prove that Satan is the source of all evil things. Every single one of its actions safeguards its evil, maintains the continuation of its evil acts, goes against just and positive things, ruins the laws and order of humanity’s normal existence. They are hostile to God, and are that which God’s wrath will destroy. Although Satan has its own rage, its rage is a means of venting its evil nature. The reason why Satan is exasperated and furious is thus: Its unspeakable schemes have been exposed; its plots are not easily gotten away with; its wild ambition and desire to replace God and act as God have been struck and blocked; its goal of controlling all of humanity has now come to nothing and can never be achieved. It is God’s repeated summoning of His wrath that has stopped Satan’s plots from coming to fruition and cut short the spread and rampancy of Satan’s evil; therefore, Satan both hates and fears God’s wrath. Each application of God’s wrath not only unmasks Satan’s true vile appearance; it also exposes Satan’s evil desires to the light. At the same time, the reasons for Satan’s rage against humanity are completely exposed. The eruption of Satan’s rage is a true revelation of its evil nature, an exposure of its schemes. Of course, each time Satan is enraged, it heralds the destruction of evil things; it heralds the protection and continuation of positive things, and it heralds the nature of God’s wrath—one that cannot be offended!
One Must Not Rely on Experience and Imagination to Know God’s Righteous Disposition
When you find yourself facing God’s judgment and chastisement, will you say that God’s word is adulterated? Will you say that there is a tale behind God’s rage, and that His rage is adulterated? Will you slander God, saying that His disposition is not necessarily entirely righteous? When dealing with each of God’s acts, you must first be certain that God’s righteous disposition is free of any other elements, that it is holy and flawless; these acts include God’s striking down, punishment and destruction of humanity. Without exception, every one of God’s acts is made in strict accordance with His inherent disposition and His plan—this does not include humanity’s knowledge, tradition and philosophy—and every one of God’s acts is an expression of His disposition and substance, unrelated to anything that belongs to corrupt humanity. In man’s conceptions, only God’s love, mercy and tolerance toward humanity are flawless, unadulterated and holy. However, no one knows that God’s rage and His wrath are likewise unadulterated; furthermore, no one has contemplated questions such as why God tolerates no offense or why His rage is so great. To the contrary, some mistake God’s wrath for corrupt humanity’s temper; they understand God’s anger to be the rage of corrupt humanity; they even mistakenly assume that God’s rage is just like the natural revelation of humanity’s corrupt disposition. They mistakenly believe that the issuing of God’s wrath is just like the anger of corrupt humanity, which arises from displeasure; they even believe that the issuing of God’s wrath is an expression of His mood. After this fellowship, I hope that every one of you present will no longer have any misconceptions, imaginings or suppositions as to God’s righteous disposition, and I hope that after hearing My words you can have a true recognition of the wrath of God’s righteous disposition in your hearts, that you can put aside any previous mistaken understandings of God’s wrath, that you can change your own mistaken beliefs and views of the substance of God’s wrath. Furthermore, I hope that you can have an accurate definition of God’s disposition in your hearts, that you will no longer have any doubts as to God’s righteous disposition, that you will not impose any human reasoning or imagining onto God’s true disposition. God’s righteous disposition is God’s own true substance. It is not something molded or written by man. His righteous disposition is His righteous disposition and has no relations or connections to any of the creation. God Himself is God Himself. He will never become a part of creation, and even if He becomes a member among created beings, His inherent disposition and substance will not change. Therefore, knowing God is not knowing an object; it is not dissecting something, nor is it understanding a person. If you use your concept or method of knowing an object or understanding a person to know God, then you will never be able to attain the knowledge of God. Knowing God is not reliant on experience or imagination, and therefore you must never impose your experience or imagination on God. No matter how rich your experience and imagination may be, they are still limited; what is more, your imagination does not correspond to facts, much less does it correspond to the truth, and it is incompatible with God’s true disposition and substance. You will never succeed if you rely on your imagination to understand God’s substance. The only path is thus: accept all that comes from God, then gradually experience and understand it. There will be a day that God will enlighten you to truly understand and know Him because of your cooperation and because of your hunger and thirst for the truth. And with this, let us conclude this portion of our conversation.
(II) Humanity Wins God’s Mercy and Tolerance Through Sincere Repentance
What follows is the biblical story of “God’s salvation of Nineveh.”
(Jon 1:1-2) Now the word of Jehovah came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before me.
(Jon 3) And the word of Jehovah came to Jonah the second time, saying, Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and preach to it the preaching that I bid you. So Jonah arose, and went to Nineveh, according to the word of Jehovah. Now Nineveh was an exceeding great city of three days’ journey. And Jonah began to enter into the city a day’s journey, and he cried, and said, Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown. So the people of Nineveh believed God, and proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even to the least of them. For word came to the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, and he laid his robe from him, and covered him with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. And he caused it to be proclaimed and published through Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles, saying, Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste any thing: let them not feed, nor drink water: But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily to God: yes, let them turn every one from his evil way, and from the violence that is in their hands. Who can tell if God will turn and repent, and turn away from his fierce anger, that we perish not? And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do to them; and he did it not.
(Jon 4) But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was very angry. And he prayed to Jehovah, and said, I pray you, O Jehovah, was not this my saying, when I was yet in my country? Therefore I fled before to Tarshish: for I knew that you are a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repent you of the evil. Therefore now, O Jehovah, take, I beseech you, my life from me; for it is better for me to die than to live. Then said Jehovah, Do you well to be angry? So Jonah went out of the city, and sat on the east side of the city, and there made him a booth, and sat under it in the shadow, till he might see what would become of the city. And Jehovah God prepared a gourd, and made it to come up over Jonah, that it might be a shadow over his head, to deliver him from his grief. So Jonah was exceeding glad of the gourd. But God prepared a worm when the morning rose the next day, and it smote the gourd that it withered. And it came to pass, when the sun did arise, that God prepared a vehement east wind; and the sun beat on the head of Jonah, that he fainted, and wished in himself to die, and said, It is better for me to die than to live. And God said to Jonah, Do you well to be angry for the gourd? And he said, I do well to be angry, even to death. Then said Jehovah, You have had pity on the gourd, for the which you have not labored, neither made it grow; which came up in a night, and perished in a night: And should not I spare Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more then six score thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand; and also much cattle?
Synopsis of the Story of Nineveh
Although the story of “God’s salvation of Nineveh” is brief in length, it allows one to glimpse the other side of God’s righteous disposition. In order to understand exactly what that side consists of, we must return to the Scripture and look back upon one of God’s acts.
Let us first look at the beginning of this story: “Now the word of Jehovah came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before me” (Jon 1:1-2). In this passage from Scripture, we know that Jehovah God commanded Jonah to go to the city of Nineveh. Why did He order Jonah to go to this city? The Bible is very clear about this: The wickedness of the people inside this city had reached the eyes of Jehovah God, and therefore He sent Jonah to proclaim to them what He intended to do. While there is nothing recorded telling us who Jonah was, this is, of course, unrelated to knowing God. Thus, you need not understand this man. You need only know what God ordered Jonah to do and why He did such a thing.
Jehovah God’s Warning Reaches the Ninevites
Let us proceed to the second passage, the third chapter of the Book of Jonah: “And Jonah began to enter into the city a day’s journey, and he cried, and said, Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown.” These are the words that God directly passed on to Jonah to tell the Ninevites. They are also, naturally, the words that Jehovah wished to say to the Ninevites. These words tell people that God began to abhor and hate the people of the city because their wickedness had reached the eyes of God, and so He wished to destroy this city. However, before God destroyed the city, He would make an announcement to the Ninevites, and He would simultaneously give them an opportunity to repent for their wickedness and start anew. This opportunity would last forty days. In other words, if the people inside the city did not repent, admit their sins or prostrate themselves before Jehovah God within forty days, God would destroy the city as He did Sodom. This was what Jehovah God wished to tell the people of Nineveh. Clearly, this was no simple declaration. Not only did it convey Jehovah God’s anger, it also conveyed His attitude toward the Ninevites; at the same time this simple declaration also served as a solemn warning to the people living inside the city. This warning told them that their wicked acts had earned them Jehovah God’s hatred, and it told them that their wicked acts would soon bring them to the brink of their own annihilation; therefore, the lives of everyone in Nineveh were in imminent peril.
The Stark Contrast in Nineveh and Sodom’s Reaction to Jehovah God’s Warning
What does it mean to be overthrown? In colloquial terms, it means to disappear. But in what way? Who could make an entire city overthrown? It is impossible for man to perform such an act, of course. These people were no fools; as soon as they heard this proclamation, they caught the idea. They knew that it had come from God; they knew that God was going to perform His work; they knew that their wickedness had enraged Jehovah God and brought His anger down upon them, so that they would soon be destroyed along with their city. How did the people of the city behave after listening to Jehovah God’s warning? The Bible describes in specific detail how these people reacted, from their king to the common man. As recorded in the Scriptures: “So the people of Nineveh believed God, and proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even to the least of them. For word came to the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, and he laid his robe from him, and covered him with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. And he caused it to be proclaimed and published through Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles, saying, Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste any thing: let them not feed, nor drink water: But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily to God: yes, let them turn every one from his evil way, and from the violence that is in their hands. …”
After hearing Jehovah God’s proclamation, the people of Nineveh displayed an attitude utterly opposite to that of the people of Sodom—the people of Sodom openly opposed God, proceeding from evil to evil, but after hearing these words, the Ninevites did not ignore the matter, nor did they resist; instead they believed God and declared a fast. What does “believed” refer to here? The word itself suggests faith and submission. If we use the Ninevites’ actual behavior to explain this word, it means that they believed God could and would do as He said, and that they were willing to repent. Did the people of Nineveh feel fear in the face of imminent disaster? It was their belief that put fear in their hearts. Well, what can we use to prove the Ninevites’ belief and fear? It is as the Bible says: “and they proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even to the least of them.” This is to say that the Ninevites truly believed, and that from this belief came fear, which then led to fasting and the donning of sackcloth. This is how they showed the beginning of their repentance. In utter contrast to the people of Sodom, not only did the Ninevites not oppose God, they also clearly showed their repentance through their behavior and actions. Of course, this did not only apply to the common people of Nineveh; their king was no exception.
The Repentance of Nineveh’s King Wins Jehovah God’s Commendation
When the king of Nineveh heard this news, he arose from his throne, took off his robe, dressed himself in sackcloth and sat in ashes. He then proclaimed that no one in the city would be allowed to taste anything, and that no livestock, lambs and oxen would graze or drink water. Man and livestock alike were to don sackcloth; the people would earnestly entreat God. The king also proclaimed that every one of them would turn away from their evil ways and forsake the violence in their hands. Judging from this series of acts, the king of Nineveh demonstrated his heartfelt repentance. The series of actions he took—arising from his throne, casting off his king’s robe, wearing sackcloth and sitting in ashes—tells people that the king of Nineveh laid aside his royal status and wore sackcloth alongside the common people. This is to say that the king of Nineveh did not occupy his royal post to continue his evil way or the violence in his hands after hearing the announcement from Jehovah God; rather, he laid aside the authority he held and repented before Jehovah God. At this moment the king of Nineveh was not repenting as a king; he had come before God to confess and repent his sins as an ordinary subject of God. Moreover, he also told the entire city to confess and repent their sins before Jehovah God in the same manner as him; additionally, he had a specific plan for how to do so, as seen in Scripture: “Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste any thing: let them not feed, nor drink water: … and cry mightily to God: yes, let them turn every one from his evil way, and from the violence that is in their hands.” As the city’s ruler, the king of Nineveh possessed supreme status and power and could do anything he wished to. When faced with Jehovah God’s announcement, he could have ignored the matter or simply repented and confessed his sins alone; as for whether or not the people in the city chose to repent, he could have completely ignored the matter. However, the king of Nineveh did not do this at all. Not only did he arise from his throne, wear sackcloth and ashes and confess and repent his sins before Jehovah God, he also ordered all people and livestock within the city to do the same. He even ordered the people to “cry mightily to God.” Through this series of actions, the king of Nineveh truly accomplished that which a ruler should; his series of actions is one that was difficult for any king in human history to achieve, and also one that none achieved. These actions can be called unprecedented undertakings in human history; they are worthy of being both commemorated and imitated by mankind. Since the dawn of man, every king had led his subjects to resist and oppose God. No one had ever led his subjects to entreat God to seek redemption for their wickedness, receive Jehovah God’s pardon and avoid imminent punishment. The king of Nineveh, however, was able to lead his subjects to turn to God, leave their respective evil ways and abandon the violence in their hands. Furthermore, he was also able to put aside his throne, and in return, Jehovah God turned and repented and retracted His wrath, allowing the people of the city to survive and keeping them from destruction. The king’s actions can only be called a rare miracle in human history; they can even be called a model of a corrupt humanity confessing and repenting their sins before God.
God Sees the Sincere Repentance in the Depths of the Ninevites’ Hearts
After listening to God’s declaration, the king of Nineveh and his subjects performed a series of acts. What is the nature of their behavior and actions? In other words, what is the essence of the entirety of their conduct? Why did they do what they did? In God’s eyes they had sincerely repented, not only because they had earnestly entreated God and confessed their sins before Him, but also because they had abandoned their wicked conduct. They acted this way because after hearing God’s words, they were incredibly frightened and believed that He would do as He said. By fasting, wearing sackcloth and sitting in ashes, they wished to express their willingness to reform their ways and refrain from wickedness, to pray for Jehovah God to restrain His anger, to entreat Jehovah God to withdraw His decision as well as the catastrophe about to befall them. Through examining all of their behavior we can see that they already understood that their previous wicked acts were detestable to Jehovah God and that they understood the reason why He would soon destroy them. For these reasons, they all wished to utterly repent, to turn away from their evil ways and abandon the violence in their hands. In other words, once they became aware of Jehovah God’s declaration, each and every one of them felt fear in their hearts; they no longer continued their wicked conduct nor continued to commit those acts hated by Jehovah God. Additionally, they entreated Jehovah God to forgive their past sins and to not treat them according to their past actions. They were willing to never again engage in wickedness and to act according to Jehovah God’s instructions, if only they would never again infuriate Jehovah God. Their repentance was sincere and thorough. It came from the depths of their hearts and was not feigned, nor was it temporary.
Once the people of Nineveh, from the supreme king to his subjects, learned that Jehovah God was angry with them, every single one of their actions, the entirety of their behavior, as well as every one of their decisions and choices were clear and plain in the sight of God. God’s heart changed according to their behavior. What was God’s frame of mind at that very moment? The Bible can answer that question for you. As is recorded in Scripture: “And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do to them; and he did it not.” Although God changed His mind, there was nothing complex about His frame of mind. He simply went from expressing His anger to calming His anger, and then decided not to bring the catastrophe upon the city of Nineveh. The reason why God’s decision—to spare the Ninevites from the catastrophe—was so swift is that God observed the heart of every person of Nineveh. He saw what they held in the depths of their hearts: their sincere confession and repentance for their sins, their sincere belief in Him, their deep sense of how their wicked acts had enraged His disposition, and the resulting fear of Jehovah God’s impending punishment. At the same time, Jehovah God also heard the prayers from the depths of their hearts entreating Him to cease His anger against them so that they might avoid this catastrophe. When God observed all these facts, little by little His anger disappeared. Regardless of how great His anger had previously been, when He saw the sincere repentance in the depths of these people’s hearts His heart was touched by this, and so He could not bear to bring the catastrophe upon them, and He ceased to be angry at them. Instead He continued to extend His mercy and tolerance toward them and continued to guide and supply them.
If Your Belief in God Is True, You Will Receive His Care Often
God’s changing of His intentions toward the people of Nineveh involved no hesitation or ambiguity. Rather, it was a transformation from pure anger to pure tolerance. This is a true revelation of God’s substance. God is never irresolute or hesitant in His actions; the principles and purposes behind His actions are all clear and transparent, pure and flawless, with absolutely no ruses or schemes intermingled within. In other words, God’s substance contains no darkness or evil. God became angry with the Ninevites because their wicked acts had reached His eyes; at that time His anger was derived from His substance. However, when God’s anger vanished and He bestowed His tolerance upon the people of Nineveh once more, all that He revealed was still His own substance. The entirety of this change was due to a change in man’s attitude toward God. During this entire period of time, God’s unoffendable disposition did not change; God’s tolerant substance did not change; God’s loving and merciful substance did not change. When people commit wicked acts and offend God, He will bring His anger upon them. When people truly repent, God’s heart will change, and His anger will cease. When people continue to stubbornly oppose God, His rage will be unceasing; His wrath will press in on them bit by bit until they are destroyed. This is the substance of God’s disposition. Regardless of whether God is expressing wrath or mercy and lovingkindness, man’s conduct, behavior and attitude toward God in the depths of his heart dictate that which is expressed through the revelation of God’s disposition. If God continuously subjects one person to His wrath, this person’s heart doubtlessly opposes God. Because he has never truly repented, bowed his head before God or possessed true belief in God, he has never obtained God’s mercy and tolerance. If one often receives God’s care and often obtains His mercy and tolerance, then this person doubtlessly has true belief in God in his heart, and his heart is not opposed to God. He often truly repents before God; therefore, even if God’s discipline often descends upon this person, His wrath shall not.
This brief account allows people to see God’s heart, to see the realness of His substance, to see that God’s anger and the change of His heart are not without cause. Despite the stark contrast that God demonstrated when He was angry and when He changed His heart, which makes people believe that a large gap or a large contrast seems to exist between these two aspects of God’s substance—His anger and His tolerance—God’s attitude toward the repentance of the Ninevites once again allows people to see another side of God’s true disposition. God’s change of heart truly allows humanity to once again see the truth of God’s mercy and lovingkindness and to see the true revelation of God’s substance. Humanity has but to acknowledge that God’s mercy and lovingkindness are not myths, nor are they fabrications. This is because God’s feeling at that moment was true; God’s change of heart was true; God indeed bestowed His mercy and tolerance upon humanity once more.
The True Repentance in the Ninevites’ Hearts Wins Them God’s Mercy and Changes Their Own Ends
Was there any contradiction between God’s change of heart and His wrath? Of course not! This is because God’s tolerance at that particular time had its reason. What reason might this be? It is the one given in the Bible: “Every person turned away from his evil way” and “abandoned the violence in their hands.”
This “evil way” does not refer to a handful of evil acts, but to the evil source behind people’s behavior. “Turning away from his evil way” means that those in question will never commit these actions again. In other words, they will never behave in this evil way again; the method, source, purpose, intent and principle of their actions have all changed; they will never again use those methods and principles to bring enjoyment and happiness to their hearts. The “abandon” in “abandon the violence in their hands” means to lay down or to cast aside, to fully break with the past and to never turn back. When the people of Nineveh abandoned the violence in their hands, this proved as well as represented their true repentance. God observes people’s exteriors as well as their hearts. When God observed the true repentance in the hearts of the Ninevites without question and also observed that they had left their evil ways and abandoned the violence in their hands, He changed His heart. This is to say that these people’s conduct and behavior and various ways of doing things, as well as the true confession and repentance of sins in their heart, caused God to change His heart, to change His intentions, to retract His decision and not to punish or destroy them. Thus, the people of Nineveh achieved a different end. They redeemed their own lives and at the same time won God’s mercy and tolerance, at which point God also retracted His wrath.
God’s Mercy and Tolerance Are Not Rare—Man’s True Repentance Is
Regardless of how angry God had been with the Ninevites, as soon as they declared a fast and wore sackcloth and ashes, His heart gradually softened, and He began to change His heart. When He proclaimed to them that He would destroy their city—the moment prior to their confession and repentance for their sins—God was still angry with them. Once they had gone through a series of acts of repentance, God’s anger for the people of Nineveh gradually transformed into mercy and tolerance for them. There is nothing contradictory about the coinciding revelation of these two aspects of God’s disposition in the same event. How should one understand and know this lack of contradiction? God successively expressed and revealed these two polar-opposite substances as the people of Nineveh repented, allowing people to see the realness and the unoffendableness of God’s substance. God used His attitude to tell people the following: It is not that God does not tolerate people, or He does not want to show mercy to them; it is that they rarely truly repent toward God, and it is rare that people truly turn away from their evil ways and abandon the violence in their hands. In other words, when God is angry with man, He hopes that man will be able to truly repent, and He hopes to see man’s true repentance, in which case He will then liberally continue to bestow His mercy and tolerance upon man. This is to say that man’s evil conduct incurs God’s wrath, whereas God’s mercy and tolerance are bestowed upon those who listen to God and truly repent before Him, upon those who can turn away from their evil ways and abandon the violence in their hands. God’s attitude was very clearly revealed in His treatment of the Ninevites: God’s mercy and tolerance are not at all difficult to obtain; He requires one’s true repentance. As long as people turn away from their evil ways and abandon the violence in their hands, God will change His heart and change His attitude toward them.
The Creator’s Righteous Disposition Is Real and Vivid
When God changed His heart for the people of Nineveh, were His mercy and tolerance a false front? Of course not! Then what does the transformation between these two aspects of God’s disposition during the same matter allow you to see? God’s disposition is a complete whole; it is not at all split. Regardless of whether He is expressing anger or mercy and tolerance toward people, these are all expressions of His righteous disposition. God’s disposition is real and vivid. He changes His thoughts and attitudes according to the development of things. The transformation of His attitude toward the Ninevites tells humanity that He has His own thoughts and ideas; He is not a robot or clay figure, but the living God Himself. He could be angry with the people of Nineveh, just as He could forgive their pasts according to their attitudes; He could decide to bring misfortune upon the Ninevites, and He could change His decision because of their repentance. People prefer to mechanically apply rules, and they prefer to use rules to establish and define God, just as they prefer using formulas to know God’s disposition. Therefore, according to the realm of human thought, God does not think, nor does He have any substantive ideas. In reality, God’s thoughts are constantly transforming according to changes in things and in environments; while these thoughts are transforming, different aspects of God’s substance will be revealed. During this process of transformation, at the moment when God changes His heart, He reveals to mankind the truth of the existence of His life, and He reveals that His righteous disposition is real and vivid. Furthermore, God uses His own true revelations to prove to mankind the truth of the existence of His wrath, His mercy, His lovingkindness and His tolerance. His substance will be revealed at any time and any place in accordance with the development of things. He possesses a lion’s wrath and a mother’s mercy and tolerance. His righteous disposition is not allowed to be questioned, violated, changed or distorted by any person. Among all matters and all things, God’s righteous disposition, that is, God’s wrath and God’s mercy, can be revealed at any time and any place. He vividly expresses these aspects in every nook and cranny of nature and vividly carries them out at every moment. God’s righteous disposition is not limited by time or space, or in other words, God’s righteous disposition is not mechanically expressed or revealed as dictated by the limits of time or space. Rather, God’s righteous disposition is freely expressed and revealed at any time and place. When you see God change His heart and cease to express His wrath and refrain from destroying the city of Nineveh, can you say that God is only merciful and loving? Can you say that God’s wrath consists of empty words? When God expresses fierce wrath and retracts His mercy, can you say that He feels no true love toward humanity? God expresses fierce wrath in response to people’s evil acts; His wrath is not flawed. God’s heart is moved by people’s repentance, and it is this repentance that thus changes His heart. His being moved, His change of heart as well as His mercy and tolerance toward man are utterly without flaw; they are clean, pure, unblemished and unadulterated. God’s tolerance is purely tolerance; His mercy is purely mercy. His disposition will reveal wrath, as well as mercy and tolerance, in accordance with man’s repentance and his different conduct. No matter what He reveals and expresses, it is all pure; it is all direct; its substance is distinct from that of anything in creation. The principles of actions that God expresses, His thoughts and ideas or any particular decision, as well as any single action, are free of any flaws or blemishes. As God has decided, so will He act, and in this manner He completes His undertakings. These kinds of results are precise and faultless because their source is flawless and unblemished. God’s wrath is flawless. Likewise, God’s mercy and tolerance, which are possessed by no creation, are holy and flawless, and they can stand up to deliberation and experience.
After understanding the story of Nineveh, do you see the other side of the substance of God’s righteous disposition? Do you see the other side of God’s unique righteous disposition? Does anyone among humanity possess this kind of disposition? Does anyone possess this kind of wrath like God’s? Does anyone possess mercy and tolerance like God’s? Who among creation can summon forth so much wrath and decide to destroy or bring disaster upon mankind? And who is qualified to bestow mercy, to tolerate and pardon man, and thereby change one’s decision to destroy man? The Creator expresses His righteous disposition through His own unique methods and principles; He is not subject to the control or restrictions of any people, events or things. With His unique disposition, no one is able to change His thoughts and ideas, nor is anyone able to persuade Him and change any of His decisions. The entirety of the behavior and thoughts of creation exist under the judgment of His righteous disposition. No one can control whether He exercises wrath or mercy; only the substance of the Creator—or in other words, the Creator’s righteous disposition—can decide this. This is the unique nature of the Creator’s righteous disposition!
Once we have analyzed and understood the transformation of God’s attitude toward the people of Nineveh, are you able to use the word “unique” to describe the mercy found within God’s righteous disposition? We previously said that God’s wrath is one aspect of the substance of His unique righteous disposition. Now I shall define two aspects, God’s wrath and God’s mercy, as His righteous disposition. God’s righteous disposition is holy; it is unoffendable as well as unquestionable; it is something possessed by none among the created or non-created beings. It is both unique and exclusive to God. This is to say that God’s wrath is holy and unoffendable; at the same time, the other aspect of God’s righteous disposition—God’s mercy—is holy and cannot be offended. None of the created or non-created beings can replace or represent God in His actions, nor can anyone replace or represent Him in the destruction of Sodom or the salvation of Nineveh. This is the true expression of God’s unique righteous disposition.
The Creator’s Sincere Feelings Toward Mankind
People often say that it is not an easy thing to know God. I, however, say that knowing God is not a difficult matter at all, for God frequently allows man to witness His deeds. God has never ceased His dialogue with mankind; He has never concealed Himself from man, nor has He hidden Himself. His thoughts, His ideas, His words and His deeds are all revealed to mankind. Therefore, so long as man wishes to know God, he can come to understand and know Him through all sorts of means and methods. The reason why man blindly thinks that God has intentionally avoided him, that God has intentionally hidden Himself from humanity, that God has no intention of allowing man to understand and know Him, is that he does not know who God is, nor does he wish to understand God; even more so, he is not concerned with the Creator’s thoughts, words or deeds…. Truthfully speaking, if one only uses their idle time to focus upon and understand the Creator’s words or deeds, and pay a little attention to the Creator’s thoughts and the voice of His heart, it will not be difficult for them to realize that the Creator’s thoughts, words and deeds are visible and transparent. Likewise, it will take little effort to realize that the Creator is among man at all times, that He is always in conversation with man and the entirety of creation, and that He is performing new deeds every day. His substance and disposition are expressed in His dialogue with man; His thoughts and ideas are revealed completely in His deeds; He accompanies and observes mankind at all times. He speaks quietly to mankind and all of creation with His silent words: I am in the heavens, and I am amongst My creation. I am keeping watch; I am waiting; I am at your side…. His hands are warm and strong; His footsteps are light; His voice is soft and graceful; His form passes and turns, embracing all of mankind; His countenance is beautiful and gentle. He has never left, nor has He vanished. From dawn to dusk, He is mankind’s constant companion. His devoted care and special affection for humanity, as well as His true concern and love for man, were displayed bit by bit when He saved the city of Nineveh. In particular, the exchange between Jehovah God and Jonah laid barer the Creator’s pity for the mankind He Himself created. Through these words, you can obtain a deep understanding of God’s sincere feelings for humanity …
The following is recorded in the Book of Jonah 4:10-11: “Then said Jehovah, You have had pity on the gourd, for the which you have not labored, neither made it grow; which came up in a night, and perished in a night: And should not I spare Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more then six score thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand; and also much cattle?” These are the actual words of Jehovah God, a conversation between Him and Jonah. While this exchange is a brief one, it is brimming with the Creator’s care for mankind and His reluctance to give him up. These words express the true attitude and feelings that God holds within His heart for His creation, and with these clear-cut words, the likes of which are rarely heard by man, God states His true intentions for humanity. This exchange represents an attitude God held toward the people of Nineveh—but what kind of attitude is this? It is the attitude He held toward the people of Nineveh before and after their repentance. God treats humanity in the same manner. Within these words one can find His thoughts, as well as His disposition.
What thoughts of God are revealed in these words? A careful reading immediately reveals that He uses the word “pity”; the use of this word shows God’s true attitude toward mankind.
From a semantic perspective, one can interpret the word “pity” in different ways: first, to love and protect, to feel tenderness toward something; second, to love dearly; finally, to be both unwilling to hurt it and unable to bear doing so. In short, it implies tender affection and love, as well as an unwillingness to give up someone or something; it means God’s mercy and tolerance toward man. Although God used a word commonly spoken among men, the use of this word lays bare the voice of God’s heart and His attitude toward mankind.
While the city of Nineveh was filled with people just as corrupt, evil and violent as those of Sodom, their repentance caused God to change His heart and decide not to destroy them. Because their reaction to God’s words and instructions demonstrated an attitude in stark contrast to that of the citizens of Sodom, and because of their honest submission to God and honest repentance for their sins, as well as their true and heartfelt behavior in all regards, God once more demonstrated His heartfelt pity and bestowed it upon them. God’s reward and His pity for humanity are impossible for anyone to duplicate; no person can possess God’s mercy or tolerance, nor His sincere feelings toward humanity. Is there anyone whom you deem a great man or woman, or even a superman, who would, from a high point, speaking as a great man or woman or upon a supreme point, make this kind of statement to mankind or to creation? Who amongst mankind can know humanity’s living conditions like the palm of their hands? Who can bear a burden and responsibility for humanity’s existence? Who is capable to proclaim the destruction of a city? And who is capable of pardoning a city? Who can say that they cherish their own creation? Only the Creator! Only the Creator has pity on this mankind. Only the Creator shows this mankind tenderness and affection. Only the Creator holds a true, unbreakable affection for this mankind. Likewise, only the Creator can bestow mercy on this mankind and cherish all of His creation. His heart leaps and aches at every one of man’s actions: He is angered, distressed and grieved over man’s evil and corruption; He is pleased, joyful, forgiving and jubilant for man’s repentance and belief; every single one of His thoughts and ideas exist for and revolve around mankind; what He is and has is expressed entirely for mankind’s sake; the entirety of His emotions are intertwined with mankind’s existence. For mankind’s sake, He travels and rushes about; He silently gives forth every bit of His life; He dedicates every minute and second of His life…. He has never known how to pity His own life, yet He has always pitied and cherished the mankind He Himself created…. He gives all that He has to this humanity…. He grants His mercy and tolerance unconditionally and without expectation of recompense. He does this only so that mankind can continue to survive before His eyes, receiving His provision of life; He does this only so that mankind may one day submit before Him and recognize that He is the One who nourishes man’s existence and supplies the life of all creation.
The Creator Expresses His True Feelings for Humanity
This conversation between Jehovah God and Jonah is without a doubt an expression of the Creator’s true feelings for humanity. On one hand it informs people of the Creator’s understanding of all creation under His command; as Jehovah God said, “And should not I spare Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more then six score thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand; and also much cattle?” In other words, God’s understanding of Nineveh was far from a cursory one. He not only knew the number of living things within the city (including people and livestock), He also knew how many could not discern between their right and left hands—that is, how many children and youths were present. This is concrete proof of God’s superb understanding of mankind. On the other hand this conversation informs people of the Creator’s attitude toward humanity, which is to say the weight of humanity in the Creator’s heart. It is just as Jehovah God said: “You have had pity on the gourd, for the which you have not labored, neither made it grow; which came up in a night, and perished in a night: And should not I spare Nineveh, that great city…?” These are Jehovah God’s words of blame toward Jonah, but they are all true.
Although Jonah was entrusted with proclaiming Jehovah God’s words to the people of Nineveh, he did not understand Jehovah God’s intentions, nor did he understand His worries and expectations for the people of the city. With this reprimand God meant to tell him that humanity was the product of His own hands, and God had put forth painstaking effort for every single person; every person carried with them God’s hopes; every person enjoyed the supply of God’s life; for every person, God had paid a painstaking cost. This reprimand also told Jonah that God cherished humanity, the work of His own hands, as much as Jonah himself cherished the gourd. God would by no means easily abandon them before the last possible moment; moreover, there were so many children and innocent livestock inside the city. When dealing with these young and ignorant products of God’s creation, who could not even distinguish their right hands from their left, God was all the more unable to end their lives and determine their outcomes in such a hasty manner. God hoped to see them grow up; He hoped that they would not walk the same paths as their elders, that they would not have to hear Jehovah God’s warning again, and that they would bear witness to Nineveh’s past. Even more so God hoped to see Nineveh after it had repented, to see Nineveh’s future following its repentance, and more importantly, to see Nineveh live under God’s mercy once again. Therefore, in God’s eyes, those objects of creation who could not distinguish between their right and left hands were Nineveh’s future. They would shoulder Nineveh’s despicable past, just as they would shoulder the important duty of bearing witness to Nineveh’s past and future under Jehovah God’s guidance. In this declaration of His true feelings, Jehovah God presented the Creator’s mercy for humanity in its entirety. It showed to humanity that “the Creator’s mercy” is not an empty phrase, nor is it a hollow promise; it has concrete principles, methods and objectives. He is true and real, and uses no falsehoods or disguises, and in this same manner His mercy is endlessly bestowed upon humanity in every time and age. However, to this very day, the Creator’s exchange with Jonah is God’s sole, exclusive verbal statement of why He shows mercy to humanity, how He shows mercy to humanity, how tolerant He is of humanity and His true feelings for humanity. Jehovah God’s succinct conversation expresses His complete thoughts for humanity; it is a true expression of His heart’s attitude toward humanity, and it is also concrete proof of His bestowal of abundant mercy upon humanity. His mercy is not only bestowed upon humanity’s elder generations; it is also granted to the younger members of humanity, just as it has always been, from one generation to the next. Although God’s wrath frequently comes down upon certain corners and certain eras of humanity, God’s mercy has never ceased. With His mercy, He guides and leads one generation of His creation after the next, supplies and nourishes one generation of creation after the next, because His true feelings toward humanity will never change. Just as Jehovah God said: “And should I not spare Nineveh…?” He has always cherished His own creation. This is the mercy of the Creator’s righteous disposition, and it is also the pure uniqueness of the Creator!
(III) Five Types of People
For the time being, I will leave our fellowship about God’s righteous disposition finished at that. Next I will classify God’s followers into several categories, according to their understanding of God and their understanding and experience with His righteous disposition, so that you may know the stage you currently belong to as well as your current stature. In terms of their knowledge of God and their understanding of His righteous disposition, the different stages and statures which people occupy can generally be separated into five types. This topic is predicated on the basis of knowing the unique God and His righteous disposition; therefore, as you read the following content, you should carefully attempt to figure out exactly how much understanding and knowledge you have regarding God’s uniqueness and His righteous disposition, and then use this to judge which stage you truly belong to, how large your stature truly is, and which type of person you truly are.
The first type is known as the “infant in swaddling clothes” stage.
What is an infant in swaddling clothes? An infant in swaddling clothes is an infant who has just come into this world, a newborn. It is when people are at their smallest and most immature.
People at this stage essentially possess no awareness or consciousness of matters of belief in God. They are bewildered and ignorant toward everything. These people may have believed in God for a long time or for not a very long time at all, but their bewildered and ignorant state and their true stature place them within the stage of an infant in swaddling clothes. The precise definition of the conditions of an infant in swaddling clothes is as such: No matter how long this kind of person has believed in God, he will always be muddle-headed, confused and simple-minded; he does not know why he believes in God, nor does he know who God is or who is God. Although he follows God, there is no exact definition of God in his heart, and he cannot determine whether whom he follows is God, let alone whether he truly should believe in God and follow Him. These are the true conditions of this type of person. These people’s thoughts are clouded, and simply put, their belief is one of confusion. They always exist in a state of bewilderment and blankness; muddle-headedness, confusion and simple-mindedness summarize their states. They have never seen nor felt God’s existence, and therefore, talking to them about knowing God is as much use as making them read a book written in hieroglyphics; they will neither understand nor accept it. For them, knowing God is the same as hearing a fantastical tale. While their thoughts may be clouded, they actually firmly believe that knowing God is an utter waste of time and effort. This is the first type of person: an infant in swaddling clothes.
The second type is that of the “suckling infant” stage.
Compared to an infant in swaddling clothes, this type of person has made some progress. Regretfully, they still have no understanding of God whatsoever. They still lack a clear understanding of and insight into God, and they are not very clear as to why they should believe in God, but in their hearts they have their own purpose and clear ideas. They do not concern themselves with whether it is right to believe in God. The objective and purpose they seek through belief in God is to enjoy His grace, to have joy and peace, to live comfortable lives, to have God’s care and protection and to live under God’s blessings. They are not concerned with the degree to which they know God; they have no urge to seek an understanding of God, nor are they concerned with what God is doing or what He wishes to do. They only blindly seek to enjoy His grace and obtain more of His blessings; they seek to receive a hundredfold in the present age, and eternal life in the age to come. Their thoughts, spending and devotion, as well as their suffering, all share the same objective: to obtain God’s grace and blessings. They have no concern for anything else. This type of person is certain only that God can keep them safe and bestow His grace upon them. One can say that they are not interested in and not very clear as to why God wishes to save man or the result God wishes to obtain with His words and work. They have never made an effort to know God’s substance and righteous disposition, nor can they muster the interest to do so. They do not feel like paying attention to these things, nor do they wish to know them. They do not wish to ask about God’s work, God’s requirements of man, God’s will or anything else related to God; nor could they be bothered to ask about these things. This is because they believe these matters are unrelated to their enjoyment of God’s grace; they are only concerned with a God who can bestow grace and is related to their personal interests. They have no interest whatsoever in anything else, and so they cannot enter the reality of the truth, regardless of how many years they have believed in God. Without anyone to water or feed them often, it is difficult for them to continue down the path of belief in God. If they cannot enjoy their earlier joy and peace or enjoy God’s grace, they are quite liable to back out. This is the second type of person: the person who exists in the stage of the suckling infant.
The third type is the stage of the weaning infant—the stage of the young child.
This group of people possesses some clear awareness. These people are aware that enjoying God’s grace does not mean that they themselves possess true experience; they are aware that if they never tire of seeking joy and peace, of seeking grace, or if they are able to bear witness by sharing their experiences of enjoying God’s grace or by praising the blessings God has bestowed upon them, these things do not mean that they possess life, nor do they mean that they possess the reality of the truth. Beginning from their consciousness, they cease to entertain wild hopes that they will only be accompanied by God’s grace; rather, as they enjoy God’s grace, they simultaneously wish to do something for God; they are willing to perform their duty, to endure a bit of hardship and fatigue, to have some degree of cooperation with God. However, because their pursuit in their belief in God is too adulterated, because the individual intentions and desires they harbor are too strong, because their disposition is too wildly arrogant, it is very difficult for them to satisfy God’s desire or to be loyal to God; therefore, they frequently cannot realize their individual wishes or honor their promises to God. They often find themselves in contradictory states: They very much wish to satisfy God to the greatest possible degree, yet they use all their might to oppose Him; they often make vows to God but quickly shirk their oaths. Even more often they find themselves in other contradictory states: They sincerely believe in yet deny God and everything that comes from Him; they anxiously hope that God will enlighten them, lead them, supply them and help them, yet they still seek their own way out. They wish to understand and to know God, yet they are unwilling to draw close to Him. Instead, they always avoid God; their hearts are closed to Him. While they have a superficial understanding and experience of the literal meaning of God’s words and of the truth, and a superficial concept of God and truth, subconsciously they still cannot confirm or determine whether God is the truth; they cannot confirm whether God is truly righteous; nor can they determine the realness of God’s disposition and substance, let alone His true existence. Their belief in God always contains doubts and misunderstandings, and it also contains imaginations and conceptions. As they enjoy God’s grace, they also reluctantly experience or practice some of what they believe to be feasible truths, in order to enrich their belief, to augment their experience in believing in God, to verify their understanding of believing in God, to satisfy their vanity of walking upon the life path that they themselves established and accomplishing a righteous cause of mankind. At the same time they also do these things in order to satisfy their own desire for gaining blessings, in order to make a bet so that they can bear greater blessings of humanity, in order to accomplish the ambitious aspiration and lifelong desire of not resting until they have obtained God. These people are seldom able to obtain God’s enlightenment, for their desire and their intention of gaining blessings are too important to them. They have no desire to and cannot bear to give this up. They fear that without the desire to gain blessings, without the long-cherished ambition of not resting until they have obtained God, they will lose the motivation to believe in God. Therefore, they do not wish to face reality. They do not wish to face God’s words or God’s work. They do not wish to face up to God’s disposition or substance, let alone bring up the subject of knowing God. This is because once God, His substance and His righteous disposition replace their imaginations, their dreams will go up in smoke; their so-called pure faith and “merits” accumulated through years of painstaking work will vanish and come to nothing; their “territory” that they have conquered with their sweat and blood over the years will be on the verge of collapse. This will signify that their many years of hard work and effort have been futile, that they must begin again from nothing. This is the most difficult pain for them to bear in their hearts, and it is the result that they least desire to see; therefore they are always locked in this kind of stalemate, refusing to turn back. This is the third type of person: the person who exists in the stage of the weaning infant.
The three types of people described above—in other words, the people who exist in these three stages—do not possess any true belief in God’s identity and status or in His righteous disposition, nor do they have any clear, definite recognition or confirmation of these things. Therefore, it is very difficult for these three types of people to enter the reality of the truth, and it is also difficult for them to receive God’s mercy, enlightenment or illumination because the manner in which they believe in God and their mistaken attitude toward God make it impossible for Him to perform work within their hearts. Their doubts, misconceptions and imaginations regarding God have exceeded their belief and knowledge of God. These are three very dangerous types of people as well as three very dangerous stages. When one maintains an attitude of doubt toward God, God’s substance, God’s identity, the matter of whether God is the truth and the realness of His existence and cannot be sure of these things, how can one accept everything that comes from God? How can one accept the fact that God is the truth, the way and the life? How can one accept God’s chastisement and judgment? How can one accept God’s salvation? How can this kind of person obtain God’s true guidance and supplying? Those who are in these three stages can oppose God, pass judgment on God, blaspheme God or betray God at any time. They can abandon the true way and forsake God at any time. One can say that people in these three stages exist in a critical period, for they have not entered the right track of believing in God.
The fourth type is the stage of the maturing child; that is, childhood.
After one has been weaned—that is, after they have enjoyed an ample amount of grace, one begins to explore what it means to believe in God, to wish to understand different questions, such as why man is living, how man should live and why God performs His work upon man. When these unclear thoughts and confused notions emerge within them and exist within them, they continuously receive watering and are also able to perform their duty. During this period, they no longer have any doubts as to the truth of God’s existence, and they have an accurate grasp of what it means to believe in God. Upon this foundation they have a gradual knowledge of God, and they gradually obtain some answers to their unclear thoughts and confused notions as to God’s disposition and substance. In terms of their changes in disposition as well as their knowledge of God, people in this stage begin to step onto the right track and enter a transition period. It is within this stage that people begin to have life. Clear indications of possessing life are the gradual resolution of the various questions related to knowing God that people have in their hearts—misunderstandings, imaginations, conceptions and vague definitions of God—that they not only really believe and know the realness of God’s existence but also possess a clear definition and orientation of God in their hearts, that truly following God replaces their vague faith. During this stage, people gradually come to know their misconceptions toward God and their mistaken pursuits and ways of belief. They begin to crave the truth, to crave experiencing God’s judgment, chastening and discipline, to crave a change in their disposition. They gradually abandon all sorts of conceptions and imaginations of God during this stage; at the same time they change and rectify their incorrect knowledge of God and obtain some correct fundamental knowledge of God. Although a portion of the knowledge possessed by people at this stage is not too specific or accurate, at the very least they gradually begin to abandon their conceptions, mistaken knowledge and misunderstandings of God; they no longer maintain their own conceptions and imaginations toward God. They begin to learn how to abandon—to abandon things found among their own conceptions, from knowledge and from Satan; they start to be willing to submit to correct and positive things, even to things that come from God’s words and conform to the truth. They also begin to attempt to experience God’s words, to personally know and carry out His words, to accept His words as the principles of their actions and as the basis for changing their disposition. During this period, people unconsciously accept God’s judgment and chastisement, unconsciously accept God’s words as their life. While they accept God’s judgment, chastisement, and accept God’s words, they become increasingly aware of and able to sense that the God that they believe in within their hearts truly exists. In God’s words, their experiences and their lives, they increasingly feel that God has always presided over man’s fate, led man, and supplied man. Through their association with God, they gradually confirm God’s existence. Therefore, before they realize it, they have already subconsciously approved of and firmly believed in God’s work, and have approved of God’s words. Once people approve of God’s words and approve of God’s work, they unceasingly deny themselves, deny their own conceptions, deny their own knowledge, deny their own imaginations, and at the same time also unceasingly seek what the truth is and what God’s will is. People’s knowledge of God is quite superficial during this period of development—they are even unable to clearly elaborate this knowledge using words, nor can they specifically elaborate it—and they only have a perceptive understanding; however, when juxtaposed with the preceding three stages, the immature lives of people in this period have already received watering and the supply of God’s words, and have already begun to sprout. It is like a seed buried in the ground; after obtaining moisture and nutrients, it will break through the soil; its sprouting represents the birth of a new life. This birth of a new life allows one to glimpse the indications of life. With life, people will thereby grow. Therefore, upon these foundations—gradually making their way onto the right track of believing in God, abandoning their own conceptions, obtaining God’s guidance—people’s lives will inevitably grow step by step. Upon what basis is this growth measured? It is measured according to their experience with God’s words and their true understanding of God’s righteous disposition. Although they find it very difficult to use their own words to accurately describe their knowledge of God and His substance during this period of growth, this group of people is no longer subjectively willing to pursue pleasure through the enjoyment of God’s grace, or to pursue their purpose behind believing in God, which is to obtain His grace. Instead, they are willing to seek living by God’s word, to become a subject of God’s salvation. Additionally, they possess the confidence and are ready to accept God’s judgment and chastisement. This is the mark of a person in the stage of growth.
Although people in this stage have some knowledge of God’s righteous disposition, this knowledge is very hazy and indistinct. While they cannot clearly elaborate this, they feel they have already gained something internally, for they have obtained some measure of knowledge and understanding of God’s righteous disposition through God’s chastisement and judgment; however, it is all rather superficial, and it is still at an elementary stage. This group of people has a concrete point of view with which they treat God’s grace. This point of view is expressed in the changes of the objectives they pursue and the way in which they pursue them. They have already seen—in God’s words and work, in all kinds of His requirements of man and in His revelations of man—that if they still do not pursue the truth, if they still do not pursue to enter the reality, if they still do not seek to satisfy and know God as they experience His words, they will lose the significance of believing in God. They see no matter how much they enjoy God’s grace, they cannot change their disposition, satisfy God or know God, and that if people continuously live among God’s grace, they will never achieve growth, obtain life or be able to receive salvation. In summary, if one cannot truly experience God’s words and is unable to know God through His words, one will eternally remain at the stage of an infant and never make a single step forward in the growth of one’s life. If you forever exist in the stage of an infant, if you never enter the reality of God’s word, if you never have God’s word as your life, if you never possess true belief and knowledge of God, is there any possibility for you to be made complete by God? Therefore, anyone who enters the reality of God’s word, anyone who accepts God’s word as their life, anyone who begins to accept God’s chastisement and judgment, anyone whose corrupt disposition begins to change, and anyone who has a heart that craves the truth, has a desire to know God, has a desire to accept God’s salvation—these people are those who truly possess life. This is truly the fourth type of person, that of the maturing child, the person in the stage of childhood.
The fifth type is the stage of mature life, or the adult stage.
After experiencing the toddling stage of childhood, this stage of growth full of repeated reversals, people’s lives have already stabilized, their forward paces no longer cease, nor is anyone able to obstruct them. Although the path ahead is still rough and rugged, they are no longer weak or fearful; they no longer fumble ahead or lose their bearings. Their foundations are rooted deep within the real experience of God’s word. Their hearts have been drawn in by God’s dignity and greatness. They crave to follow God’s footsteps, to know God’s substance, to know God in His entirety.
People in this stage already know clearly who they believe in, and they know clearly why they should believe in God and the meanings of their own respective lives; they also know clearly that everything God expresses is the truth. In their many years of experience, they realize that without God’s judgment and chastisement, one will never be able to satisfy or know God, nor will one ever truly be able to come before God. Within these people’s respective hearts is a strong desire to be tried by God, in order to see God’s righteous disposition while being tried, to attain a purer love, and at the same time be able to more truly understand and know God. Those belonging to this stage have already entirely bid farewell to the infant stage, the stage of enjoying God’s grace and eating bread and being filled. They no longer place extravagant hopes on making God tolerate and show mercy to them; rather, they are confident to receive and hope for God’s unceasing chastisement and judgment, so as to separate themselves from their corrupt disposition and satisfy God. Their knowledge of God, their pursuits or the final goals of their pursuits: these things are all very clear in their hearts. Therefore, people in the adult stage have already completely bid farewell to the stage of vague faith, to the stage in which they rely on grace for salvation, to the stage of immature life that cannot withstand trials, to the stage of haziness, to the stage of fumbling, to the stage of frequently having no path to take, to the unstable period of alternating between sudden heat and cold, and to the stage where one follows God with one’s eyes covered. This kind of person frequently receives God’s enlightenment and illumination, and frequently engages in true association and communication with God. One can say that people living in this stage have already grasped part of God’s will; they are able to find the principles of the truth in everything they do; they know how to satisfy God’s desire. Furthermore, they have also found the path to knowing God and have begun to bear witness to their knowledge of God. During the process of gradual growth, they have a gradual understanding and knowledge of God’s will, of God’s will in creating humanity, of God’s will in managing humanity; additionally, they also gradually have an understanding and knowledge of God’s righteous disposition in terms of substance. No human conception or imagination can replace this knowledge. While one cannot say that in the fifth stage a person’s life is completely mature or call this person righteous or complete, this kind of person has already taken a step toward the stage of maturity in life; this person is already able to come before God, to stand face to face with God’s word and face to face with God. Because this kind of person has experienced so much of God’s word, experienced innumerable trials and experienced innumerable instances of discipline, judgment and chastisement from God, their submission to God is not relative but absolute. Their knowledge of God has transformed from subconscious to clear and precise knowledge, from superficial to deep, from blurry and hazy to meticulous and tangible, and they have changed from strenuous fumbling and passive seeking to effortless knowledge and proactive witnessing. It can be said that people in this stage have possessed the reality of the truth of God’s word, that they have stepped onto a path to perfection like Peter’s. This is the fifth type of person, one who lives in a state of being mature—the adult stage.