Just as God has said, “None can grasp the root of My words, nor do they know My purpose in speaking them,” if not for the guidance of the Spirit of God, and if not for the advent of His utterances, all people would perish under His chastisement. Why has God taken such a long time to test all people? And for as long as five months? This is precisely the focal point of our fellowship as well as a central point in God’s wisdom. We may postulate the following: Without this period of putting man on trial, and without God vehemently striking at, killing, and hacking away at the corrupt human race, if the building of the church had continued until today, then what would the result have been? So God gets straight to the point in the very first sentence, directly pointing out the desired effect of these several months’ work—truly He draws blood at the first prick! This suffices to show the wisdom of God’s deeds over this period of several months: They have enabled everyone to learn, through trial, how to submit and how to expend themselves with sincerity, as well as how better to come to know God through painful refinement. The greater the despair people experience, the better they come to know themselves. And to tell the truth, the more they face refinement that is fraught with suffering, the more they come to know their own corruption, to the point of recognizing that they are unworthy even of being a service-doer for God, and that to render service is to be elevated by Him. And so, after this result has been achieved, when man has used up every part of himself, God directly gives voice to the sounds of mercy, without hiding anything away. It can readily be seen that God’s method of working, after these few months, takes today as its starting point; He has made this plain for everyone to see. Because, in the past, God often said “it is not easy to earn the right to be called God’s people,” He has borne these words out in the people who are referred to as service-doers, which suffices to show that God is trustworthy beyond the shadow of a doubt. Whatsoever God says will come true, in varying degrees, and in no way is it empty talk.
When all people are filled with grief and sorrow to the point of distraction, words like these from God hit home, reviving them all in the midst of their hopelessness. In order to eliminate any further doubt from men’s minds, God added the following: “[E]ven though they are referred to as My people, this title is in no way secondary to being called My ‘sons.’” This suffices to show that only God is able to protect His own authority, and once the people have read this, they will believe even more firmly that, far from being a method of working, it is a fact. Going one step further, so that people’s visions may remain unclouded, everyone’s identity is made clear in His new approach. This suffices to show the wisdom of God and it enables people to better know that God can see into the hearts of men; in their thoughts and actions men are as puppets, with God pulling the strings, and this is certain and beyond question.
Going back to the beginning, what God did from the start was to point out directly that the first step of His work, that of “purifying the church,” had already been concluded. “The situation now is not what it once was, and My work has entered on a new starting point.” From this statement, one can see that God’s work has entered on a new starting point, immediately following upon which, He has indicated to us the blueprints for the next step of His work—once the building of the church is concluded, the life of the Age of Kingdom will begin, “for it is now no longer the era of church building, but rather the era in which the kingdom is successfully built.” Furthermore, He has stated that, as people are still on the earth, their assemblies will continue to be referred to as the church, in this way avoiding the realization of an unrealistic “kingdom” as everyone has imagined it. Next comes fellowship on the issue of visions.
Why is it that, even though it is now the era of kingdom building and the end of church building, all assemblies are still called the church? It has been said in the past that the church is the precursor to the kingdom, and without the church there can be no talk of the kingdom. The beginning of the Age of Kingdom is the beginning of God’s ministry in the flesh, and the Age of Kingdom is ushered in by God incarnate. What He brings is the Age of Kingdom, and not the official descent of the kingdom. This is not difficult to imagine; what I mean by the people of God are the people of the Age of Kingdom, and not the people of the kingdom itself. That is why it would make sense to say that assemblies on earth should still be referred to as the church. In the past, He acted within His normal humanity while not yet having been borne witness to as God Himself, and so the Age of Kingdom had not then begun among men; that is, as I have said, My Spirit had not yet officially begun to work in My incarnate flesh. Now that God Himself has been borne witness to, the kingdom is realized among men. This signifies that I will begin to work within My divinity, and so those human beings who can appreciate the words I speak and the deeds I work in My divinity will become known as My people of the Age of Kingdom. It is from this that “God’s people” came to be. In this stage, it is primarily My divinity that acts and speaks. Man simply cannot interfere, nor can he disrupt My plan. Once God has reached a certain stage in His speaking, His name is witnessed, and from this point His trial of mankind will commence. This is the summit of the wisdom in God’s work. It lays a firm foundation and sets down roots for the beginning of the next step as well as the end of the last step. This is something that, no one, as a human being, could possibly have anticipated; it is the meeting point of the first and second parts of the era of judgment. Without those few months in which I refined man, My divinity would have had no way of working. Those several months of refinement opened the way for the next step of My work. The cessation of these few months of work is a sign that the next phase of work is to be more profound. If one truly understands the words of God, then one may be able to grasp that He is using this period of several months to start the next step of His work, thereby enabling it to achieve even better results. Because the obstruction of My humanity has created a hindrance to the next step of My work, through these few months of refinement through suffering, therefore, both sides are edified and have derived substantial benefit. Only now, as a result of this, does man begin to treasure My way of referring to him. Therefore, when God, with a turn of His writing brush, said He would no longer call men “service-doers” but rather “God’s people,” all of them were overcome with joy. This was man’s Achilles’ heel. It was precisely to get hold of this vital weakness of man that God spoke as He did.
In order to further win over all people and gain their wholehearted belief, and in order to point out the fact that the devotion of some people is adulterated with impurities, God has taken the additional step of calling attention to all the different kinds of human ugliness, and in doing so He has fulfilled His words: “How many are sincere in loving Me? Who is not acting out of consideration for their own future? Who has never complained during their trials?” From words like these, everyone is able to recognize their own disobedience, disloyalty, and lack of filial devotion, and thereby come to see that God’s mercy and lovingkindness follow all of those who seek Him, every step of the way. This can be seen from the following words: “When some are on the brink of retreat, when all who, hoping for Me to change My manner of speaking, have lost hope, at that time I give voice to the sounds of salvation, bringing all who sincerely love Me back to My kingdom, before My throne.” Here, the phrases “those who sincerely love Me,” and the rhetorical question “How many sincerely love Me?” do not contradict one another. They illustrate how “sincerity” in this context contains impurities. It is not that God knows nothing; rather, it is precisely because God can see into the innermost hearts of men that He uses words like “sincerity,” which is a sarcasm aimed at the corrupt human race, to make everyone feel their indebtedness to God more deeply and reproach themselves more harshly, as well as recognize the fact that the grievances in their hearts come entirely from Satan. Everyone is surprised when they see a term like “devotion,” thinking privately: “Many times I have railed against Heaven and earth, and many times wanted to leave, but because I feared God’s administrative decrees I would deal anyhow with matters just to get them over with and go along with the crowd, waiting for God to deal with me, thinking that, if things turned out to be truly hopeless, there would still be enough time for me to back away slowly. But now God is calling us His devoted people. Can God really be a God who sees into the innermost hearts of men?” It was to avoid this kind of misunderstanding that God called attention to the psychological states of various types of people only at the very end, causing everyone to transition from a state where they doubted inwardly while outwardly expressing delight into a state whereupon they are convinced by heart, by word, and by sight. In this way, man’s impression of God’s word has deepened, as a natural consequence of which man has grown a little more fearful, a little more reverent, and has moreover gained a better understanding of God. Finally, to alleviate man’s worries, God said: “But as the past is the past, and the present is already here, there is no need to long nostalgically for yesterday anymore, or to take thought for the future.” This type of tense, harmonious, and yet pithy manner of speaking has an even greater effect, making all who read His words see the light once more from the midst of the despair of the past, until they see God’s wisdom and deeds, gain the appellation of “God’s people,” eliminate the clouds of doubt in their hearts, and then come to know themselves from the shifting patterns of their psychological states. These conditions ebb and flow in turn, giving rise to sorrow and grief, happiness and joy. In this chapter God has delineated an outline of people so lifelike and vivid in every detail that it has arrived at the point of perfection. It is truly something man cannot achieve, something that truly exposes the secrets in the deepest recesses of the human heart. Could this be something that man has the capacity to do?
Immediately following this, and of even greater importance, is the passage below, which reveals God’s administrative decree directly to man and which, moreover, is the most important part: “Being human, whoever goes against reality and does not do things according to My guidance will not come to a good end, but will only bring trouble upon themselves. Of everything that occurs in the universe, there is nothing in which I do not have the final say.” Is this not the administrative decree of God? This suffices to show that examples of those who contravene this administrative decree are legion. Based on the above, God goes on to urge everyone not to take thought for their own destiny. If one should dare to wish to break free of God’s orchestration, the consequences would be dire beyond imagining. This then enables all those who have experienced enlightenment and illumination in these words to better understand God’s administrative decree as well as to understand that His majesty may not be offended, and thereby to become more seasoned and steady, as verdant as a pine that, weathered by wind and frost, stands defiant against the threat of the bitter cold, continuing to add to nature’s thriving green vitality. Most people, encountering this passage, feel as bewildered as if they had wandered into some sort of maze; this is because the content of God’s words changes relatively quickly, and so nine out of ten people enter into a labyrinth when they attempt to understand their own corrupt dispositions. So that the work may go more smoothly in future, so that the doubts in all men’s hearts may be eliminated, and so that all may go one step further in their belief in God’s faithfulness, He emphasizes at the end of that passage: “[E]ach and every one of those who sincerely love Me shall assuredly return before My throne.” Thus, the minds of people that have undergone several months of His work are, in an instant, relieved of some part of their apprehension. What is more, their hearts, which had been suspended in midair, return to what they had once been as though a heavy stone had dropped off onto the ground. No longer do they have to take thought for their fate; further, they believe that God will no longer speak empty words. Because men are self-righteous, there is not a single one who does not believe that they display the utmost devotion toward God; this is why God deliberately emphasizes “sincerely”—to achieve a better outcome. This is to pave the way and lay the foundation for the next step in His work.