12. How do God’s three stages of work gradually deepen to bring mankind salvation?
The Answer from God’s Word:
The work of managing mankind is divided into three stages, which means that the work of saving mankind is divided into three stages. These three stages do not include the work of creating the world, but are rather the three stages of the work of the Age of Law, the Age of Grace, and the Age of Kingdom. The work of creating the world was the work of producing the whole of mankind. It was not the work of saving mankind, and bears no relation to the work of saving mankind, for when the world was created mankind had not been corrupted by Satan, and so there was no need to carry out the work of mankind’s salvation. The work of saving mankind only began when mankind had been corrupted.
from “Knowing the Three Stages of God’s Work Is the Path to Knowing God” in The Word Appears in the Flesh
At this time, the significance, purpose, and phases of Jehovah’s work in Israel were to initiate His work on the whole earth, which, taking Israel as its center, gradually spread into the Gentile nations. This is the principle according to which He works throughout the universe—to establish a model and then broaden it until all people in the universe shall have received His gospel. The first Israelites were the descendants of Noah. These people were endowed only with the breath of Jehovah, and understood enough to take care of the basic necessities of life, but they did not know what kind of a God Jehovah was, or His will for man, much less how they should revere the Lord of all creation. As for whether there were rules and laws to be obeyed, and whether there was work that created beings should do for the Creator: Adam’s descendants knew nothing of these things. All they knew was that the husband should sweat and labor to provide for his family, and that the wife should submit to her husband and perpetuate the race of humans that Jehovah had created. In other words, this people, who had only Jehovah’s breath and His life, knew nothing of how to follow God’s laws or how to satisfy the Lord of all creation. They understood far too little. So even though there was nothing crooked or deceitful in their hearts and jealousy and contention seldom arose among them, nevertheless they had no knowledge or understanding of Jehovah, the Lord of all creation. These ancestors of man knew only to eat the things of Jehovah, and to enjoy the things of Jehovah, but they did not know to revere Jehovah; they did not know that Jehovah is the One they should worship on bended knee. So how could they be called His creatures? If this were so, what of the words, “Jehovah is the Lord of all creation” and “He created man in order that man might manifest Him, glorify Him, and represent Him”—would they not have been spoken in vain? How could people who have no reverence for Jehovah become a testimony to His glory? How could they become manifestations of His glory? Would not Jehovah’s words “I created man in My image” then become a weapon in the hands of Satan—the evil one? Would these words not then become a mark of humiliation to Jehovah’s creation of man? In order to complete that stage of work, Jehovah, after creating mankind, did not instruct or guide them from the time of Adam to that of Noah. Rather, it was not until after the flood destroyed the world that He formally began to guide the Israelites, who were the descendants of Noah and also of Adam. His work and utterances in Israel gave guidance to all the people of Israel as they lived their lives throughout the land of Israel, and in this way showed humanity that Jehovah was not only able to blow breath into man, that he might have life from Him and rise up from the dust into a created human being, but that He could also incinerate mankind, and curse mankind, and use His rod to govern mankind. So, too, did they see that Jehovah could guide man’s life on earth, and speak and work among humanity according to the hours of the day and of the night. He did the work only so that His creatures might know that man came from dust picked up by Him, and moreover that man had been made by Him. Not only this, but the work He began in Israel was meant so that other peoples and nations (who in fact were not separate from Israel, but rather had branched off from the Israelites, yet were still descended from Adam and Eve) might receive the gospel of Jehovah from Israel, so that all created beings in the universe might be able to revere Jehovah and hold Him to be great. Had Jehovah not begun His work in Israel, but instead, having created mankind, let them live carefree lives on the earth, then in that case, owing to man’s physical nature (nature means that man can never know the things he cannot see, which is to say that he would not know that it was Jehovah who created mankind, and even less why He did so), he would never know that it was Jehovah who created mankind or that He is the Lord of all creation. If Jehovah had created man and placed him on the earth to be an object for His own enjoyment, and then simply dusted off His hands and left, rather than remaining among mankind to give them guidance for a period of time, then in that case all humanity would have returned to nothingness; even heaven and earth and all the myriad things of His making, and all of humanity, would have returned to nothingness and moreover have been trampled upon by Satan. In this way Jehovah’s wish that “On the earth, that is, in the midst of His creation, He should have a place to stand, a holy place” would have been shattered. And so, after creating mankind, that He was able to remain in their midst to guide them in their lives, and speak to them from within their midst, all this was in order to realize His desire, and to achieve His plan. The work He did in Israel was meant only to execute the plan He had set in place before His creation of all things, and therefore His working first among the Israelites and His creation of all things were not at odds with each other, but were both for the sake of His management, His work, and His glory, and also in order to deepen the meaning of His creation of mankind. He guided the life of mankind on earth for two thousand years after Noah, during which He taught humanity to understand how to revere Jehovah the Lord of all creation, how to conduct their lives and how to go on living, and most of all, how to act as a witness for Jehovah, render Him obedience, and give Him reverence, even praising Him with music as did David and his priests.
Prior to the two thousand years during which Jehovah did His work, man knew nothing, and almost all humanity had fallen into depravity, until, before the destruction of the world by the flood, they had reached a depth of promiscuity and corruption in which their hearts were empty of Jehovah, and even emptier of His way. They never understood the work Jehovah was going to do; they lacked reason, had even less of knowledge, and, like a machine that breathes, were consummately ignorant of man, God, the world, life and alike. On earth they engaged in many seductions, like the serpent, and said many things that were offensive to Jehovah, but because they were ignorant Jehovah did not chastise or discipline them. Only after the flood, when Noah was 601 years old, did Jehovah formally appear to Noah and guide him and his family, leading the birds and beasts that had survived the flood along with Noah and his descendants, until the end of the Age of Law, in all 2,500 years. He was at work in Israel, that is, formally at work, for a total of 2,000 years, and at work simultaneously in Israel and outside of it for 500 years, together making 2,500 years.
from “The Work in the Age of Law” in The Word Appears in the Flesh
In the Age of Grace, man had already undergone Satan’s corruption, and so the work of redeeming all humanity required an abundance of grace, infinite forbearance and patience, and even more, an offering sufficient to atone for humanity’s sins, in order to arrive at its effect. What humanity saw in the Age of Grace was merely My offering of atonement for the sins of humanity, that is, Jesus. All they knew was that God could be merciful and forbearing, and all they saw was Jesus’ mercy and lovingkindness. This was entirely because they lived in the Age of Grace. And so, before they could be redeemed, they had to enjoy the many kinds of grace that Jesus bestowed on them; only this was beneficial to them. This way, they could be forgiven of their sins through their enjoyment of grace, and could also have the chance to be redeemed through enjoying Jesus’ forbearance and patience. Only through Jesus’ forbearance and patience did they win the right to receive forgiveness and enjoy the abundance of grace bestowed by Jesus—just as Jesus said, “I have come to redeem not the righteous but sinners, to allow sinners to be forgiven of their sins.” If Jesus had been incarnated with the disposition of judgment, curse, and intolerance of man’s offenses, then man would never have had the chance to be redeemed, and would then have remained forever sinful. Had this been so, the six-thousand-year management plan would have come to a stop in the Age of Law, and the Age of Law would have been prolonged for six thousand years. Man’s sins would only have grown more numerous and more grievous, and the creation of humanity would have been for naught. Men would only have been able to serve Jehovah under the law, but their sins would have exceeded those of the first created humans. The more Jesus loved mankind, forgiving them their sins and bringing unto them enough mercy and lovingkindness, the more mankind gained the capacity to be saved, to be called the lost lambs that Jesus bought back at a great price. Satan could not meddle in this work, because Jesus treated His followers as a loving mother treats the infant in her bosom. He did not grow angry at them or despise them, but was full of consolation; He never flew into a rage in their midst, but forbore with their sins and turned a blind eye to their foolishness and ignorance, to the point of saying, “Forgive others seventy times seven times.” So His heart transformed the hearts of others. It was in this way that the people received forgiveness of sins through His forbearance.
from “The True Story Behind Work in the Age of Redemption” in The Word Appears in the Flesh
This present stage is to expose the unrighteousness within man by means of chastisement, judgment, the smiting of words, as well as the discipline and revelation of words, so that humanity may afterward be saved. This is work more in-depth than redemption. The grace in the Age of Grace was sufficient for man’s enjoyment; now that man has already experienced this grace, he is no longer to enjoy it. This work is now past its time and is no longer to be done. Now man is to be saved through the judgment of the word. After man is judged, chastised, and refined, his disposition is thereby changed. Is this not all because of the words I have spoken? Each stage of work is done in line with the progress of the whole human race and with the age. The work is all significant, and it is all done for the sake of the final salvation, that mankind may have a good destination in the future, and that humanity may be divided according to their kind in the end.
The work of the last days is to speak words. Great changes can be effected in man by means of words. The changes now effected in these people upon their accepting these words are much greater than those effected in people upon their accepting the signs and wonders of the Age of Grace. For, in the Age of Grace, the demons were cast out from man with the laying on of hands and prayer, but the corrupt dispositions within man still remained. Man was healed of his sickness and forgiven his sins, but as for just how man was to be purged of the corrupt satanic dispositions within him, this work had yet to be done. Man was only saved and forgiven his sins for his faith, but the sinful nature of man was not extirpated and still remained within him. The sins of man were forgiven through the agency of the incarnate God, but this does not mean that man no longer has sin within him. The sins of man could be forgiven through the sin offering, but as for just how man can be made to sin no more, and how his sinful nature may be extirpated completely and transformed, he has no way of solving this problem. The sins of man were forgiven, and this is because of the work of God’s crucifixion, but man continued to live within the corrupt satanic disposition of old. This being so, man must be completely saved from his corrupt satanic disposition, so that his sinful nature may be completely extirpated, never to develop again, thus enabling the disposition of man to be transformed. This would require man to grasp the path of growth in life, to grasp the way of life, and to grasp the way to change his disposition. Furthermore, it would require man to act in accordance with this path, so that his disposition may gradually be changed and he may live under the shining of the light, so that all that he does may be in accord with the will of God, so that he may cast away his corrupt satanic disposition, and so that he may break free from Satan’s influence of darkness, thereby emerging fully from sin. Only then will man receive complete salvation. At the time that Jesus was doing His work, man’s knowledge of Him was still vague and unclear. Man always believed Him to be the son of David, and proclaimed Him to be a great prophet, the benevolent Lord who redeemed man’s sins. Some, on the strength of their faith, were healed just from touching the edge of His garment; the blind could see and even the dead could be restored to life. However, man was unable to discover the corrupt satanic disposition deeply rooted within himself, neither did he know how to cast it away. Man received much grace, such as the peace and happiness of the flesh, the faith of one member bringing blessing on an entire family, the healing of sickness, and so on. The rest were the good deeds of man and his godly appearance; if man could live on the basis of these, he was considered an acceptable believer. Only believers of this kind could enter heaven after death, which means that they were saved. But, in their lifetime, these people did not understand at all the way of life. All they did was to commit sins and then confess their sins in a constant cycle without making any path toward changing their disposition: Such was the condition of man in the Age of Grace. Has man received complete salvation? No! Therefore, after that stage of work was finished, there still remained the work of judgment and chastisement. This stage is to make man pure by means of the word and thereby give him a path to follow. This stage would not be fruitful or meaningful if it continued with the casting out of demons, for it would fail to extirpate man’s sinful nature, and man would come to a standstill at the forgiveness of his sins. Through the sin offering, man has been forgiven his sins, for the work of the crucifixion has already come to an end and God has prevailed over Satan. But the corrupt disposition of man still remaining within him, man can still sin and resist God, and God has not gained mankind. That is why in this stage of work God uses the word to expose the corrupt disposition of man, causing him to practice in accordance with the right path. This stage is more meaningful than the previous one, as well as more fruitful, for now it is the word that directly supplies man’s life and enables the disposition of man to be completely renewed; it is a much more thorough stage of work. Therefore, the incarnation in the last days has completed the significance of God’s incarnation and completely finished God’s plan of management for man’s salvation.
from “The Mystery of the Incarnation (4)” in The Word Appears in the Flesh
In the work of man’s salvation, three stages have been carried out, which is to say that the battle with Satan has been split into three stages prior to the complete defeat of Satan. Yet the inner truth of the entire work of the battle with Satan is that its effects are achieved through bestowing grace upon man, and becoming a sin offering of man, forgiving the sins of man, conquering man, and making man perfect. As a matter of fact, the battle with Satan is not the taking up of arms against Satan, but the salvation of man, the working of the life of man, and the changing of man’s disposition so that he may bear testimony to God. This is how Satan is defeated. Satan is defeated through changing the corrupt disposition of man. When Satan has been defeated, that is, when man has been completely saved, then the ashamed Satan will be completely bound, and in this way, man will have been completely saved. And so, the substance of man’s salvation is the battle with Satan, and the war with Satan is primarily reflected in the salvation of man. The stage of the last days, in which man is to be conquered, is the last stage in the battle with Satan, and also the work of man’s complete salvation from the domain of Satan. The inner meaning of man’s conquest is the return of the embodiment of Satan, man who has been corrupted by Satan, to the Creator following his conquest, through which he will forsake Satan and completely return to God. In this way, man will have been completely saved. And so, the work of conquest is the last work in the battle against Satan, and the final stage in God’s management for the sake of Satan’s defeat. Without this work, the full salvation of man would ultimately be impossible, the utter defeat of Satan would also be impossible, and mankind would never be able to enter the wonderful destination, or get free from Satan’s influence. Consequently, the work of salvation of man cannot be concluded before the battle with Satan is concluded, for the core of the work of God’s management is for the sake of mankind’s salvation. Earliest mankind was in the hands of God, but because of Satan’s temptation and corruption, man was bound up by Satan and fell in the hands of the evil one. Thus, Satan became the object to be defeated in the work of God’s management. Because Satan took possession of man, and because man is the stock of all God’s management, if man is to be saved, then he must be snatched back from the hands of Satan, which is to say that man must be taken back after having been held captive by Satan. Satan is defeated through changes in man’s old disposition that restore his original sense, and in this way, man, who has been taken captive, can be snatched back from the hands of Satan. If man is freed from the influence and bondage of Satan, Satan will be shamed, man will ultimately be taken back, and Satan will be defeated. And because man has been freed from the dark influence of Satan, man will become the spoils of all of this battle, and Satan will become the object that will be punished once this battle has finished, after which the entire work of mankind’s salvation will have been completed.
from “Restoring the Normal Life of Man and Taking Him to a Wonderful Destination” in The Word Appears in the Flesh