19. A “Messenger Pigeon” Brings Critical News
One day in 1999 after a gathering had wrapped up, the pastor approached me and said, “Su Jie, here’s a letter for you.” As soon as I saw it, I knew that it had come from a church I had established in Shandong. I took the letter and on the way home, I wondered as I walked along, “This letter is so thick, could it be that they’ve encountered some difficulties?”
I couldn’t wait to open the letter after getting home and in it I read: “Sister Su, peace be with you in the Lord! I am writing to tell you some incredible news: The Lord Jesus our Savior whom we’ve yearned for day and night has returned. He has already returned to the flesh and is doing the stage of work of judging and cleansing people through His words in China; He has ended the Age of Grace and started the Age of Kingdom. … I hope you accept God’s new work and keep pace with God’s footsteps. Whatever you do, do not miss this chance at God’s salvation of the last days.” Once I read up to that point I felt a sense of shock: They hadn’t actually encountered any difficulties, but believed in Eastern Lightning! I was eager to know who wrote this letter, so I quickly turned to the last page. It turned out that Brother Meng had been the one to write it, and the signatures of all the other brothers and sisters of the church were at the end, too. After reading through the whole letter I was dumbfounded. I stared at it blankly for a while before I recovered and thought to myself: “Eastern Lightning testifies that the Lord has returned, and they’ve stolen away lots of good sheep and head sheep from a number of denominations. I never thought that Brother Meng from the Shandong church would believe in Eastern Lightning too. All the brothers and sisters of this church have been stolen by Eastern Lightning—what can be done?” When this thought occurred to me I felt an even greater sense of urgency, but it was too far to travel to Shandong and I was tied up with my work here. I couldn’t go right then. Helpless, I could only cry and pray to the Lord: “Lord! These brothers and sisters haven’t believed in You for very long and they don’t have a stable foundation yet. Please watch over them.…”
After that, I combed through the Bible and put pen to paper to write the first letter back to them. In the letter I said: “Brothers and sisters, in Jesus Christ, I respectfully advise you to be wary. Paul said: ‘I marvel that you are so soon removed from Him that called you into the grace of Christ to another gospel: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than that which we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, if any man preach any other gospel to you than that you have received, let him be accursed’ (Galatians 1:6–9). Brothers and sisters, bringing you before the Lord was no easy task; how could you betray the Lord so quickly? Your stature is too small—don’t just cavalierly listen to other ways! You must listen to me because what I shared with you is the true way. Only the Lord Jesus Christ is our Savior. You must uphold this forever….” Only after I finished writing and looked at the eight-page letter did I feel at ease. I thought to myself: I wrote all that I should write, consulted all of the scriptures that I should consult, and wrote all the words of advice and encouragement that I should. I believe that after they read this, they will certainly respond and acknowledge their mistake.
Two weeks later, I received this response: “Sister Su, we cannot not speak of all that we have seen and heard because Almighty God whom we believe in is the returned Lord Jesus. We are upholding the true way and moving forward; we have not remotely betrayed the Lord, but are following the Lord’s footsteps. You mentioned these words from Paul: ‘I marvel that you are so soon removed from Him that called you into the grace of Christ to another gospel: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ’ (Galatians 1:6–7). There is a background to what Paul said. We just need to study the Bible to know that ‘another gospel’ that Paul spoke of then referred to the Pharisees asking people to keep to Jehovah’s law; it didn’t refer to people of the last days spreading the gospel of the kingdom, bearing witness that the Lord has returned in the flesh and is doing His work of judgment starting with the house of God. When Paul wrote this letter to the Galatian churches, no one at all was preaching God’s kingdom gospel. Therefore, the ‘another gospel’ that Paul spoke of does not refer to the Lord returning and doing His judgment work of the last days beginning with the house of God. This stage of judgment work that the Lord has now returned to carry out fulfills this prophecy in the Book of Revelation: ‘And I saw another angel fly in the middle of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach to them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people, Saying with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory to Him; for the hour of His judgment is come’ (Revelation 14:6–7). Here ‘everlasting gospel’ refers to the gospel of the kingdom. Moreover, this final salvation was long ago revealed by the Holy Spirit to the disciples of the Lord Jesus. As Peter said: ‘For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God’ (1 Peter 4:17). ‘Who are kept by the power of God through faith to salvation ready to be revealed in the last time’ (1 Peter 1:5). Sister Su, isn’t the return of the Lord what we as believers yearn for? Now the Lord has indeed returned; we must be humble seekers. We absolutely cannot be like the Pharisees in their treatment of the Lord Jesus, God’s first incarnation, blindly using knowledge of the Bible and their notions and imaginations to delimit God’s new work, condemning and resisting the Lord because of the Lord Jesus not obeying the law, and then crucifying the Lord. The Pharisees only believed in Jehovah God but did not accept the incarnation of Jehovah God—the Lord Jesus’ work—and ultimately they were condemned and cursed by the Lord. Isn’t this bloody lesson worthy of our reflection? No one can deny that the Lord Jesus is our Savior. But if we only accept the Lord Jesus yet do not accept the return of the Lord, are we not the same as the Pharisees? Have we not then become people who believe in God yet resist Him? Furthermore, Sister Su, we can’t do as you say just because you preached the Lord’s gospel to us. What we believe in is God. Peter and the other apostles once said, ‘We ought to obey God rather than men’ (Acts 5:29). And in matters regarding the coming of the Lord we particularly can’t just listen to other human beings. We have already determined that the word of Almighty God is the voice of God. We hope that you look into it too.”
While reading the letter I was incensed, and not the least bit convinced. I pounced on my biblical reference book and paged to the introduction to the Book of Galatians. I read carefully and was so surprised: This really was true! The “another gospel” that Paul spoke of really referred to the Pharisees getting people to adhere to Jehovah’s law; sure enough, it didn’t refer to the Lord’s work of judgment starting with the house of God upon His return. All those years, how was it that I had never noticed that this was the context of that verse? No wonder they were unconvinced. But then another line of thinking occurred to me: Even if what I said was wrong, that still can’t prove that the Lord has returned, as they preach. I read the letter again from start to finish and the more I read it, the angrier I got. I thought, “I never expected that after being gone for such a short time, they would have the audacity to take such a high tone with me and even dare … dare to call me a Pharisee. I hate the Pharisees more than anyone. How could I possibly resist the Lord the way the Pharisees did? I’ve worked so hard for so many years, toiling day and night for believers. How could they not know that?” The more I thought about it the more upset I felt and I thought: “No, how can I be out-argued by a handful of believers who are still wet behind the ears? I’ve read the Bible so many times—there’s no way I can’t win this debate.”
So, I once again whipped out my pen and wrote a second letter back to them, saying: “Brothers and sisters, may peace be with you in the Lord! Reading your letter was very upsetting for me. I’m not asking you to do as I say—you’ve really misunderstood my intention. I am afraid of you departing from the way of the Lord Jesus because the Lord Jesus said: ‘Then if any man shall say to you, See, here is Christ, or there; believe it not. For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders; so that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect’ (Matthew 24:23–24). Paul also said: ‘Now we beseech you, brothers, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together to Him, That you be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand. Let no man deceive you by any means’ (2 Thessalonians 2:1–3). Dear brothers and sisters, I advise you in the name of the Lord Jesus that there will be dangerous days ahead in the last days, and that you must not believe anyone who preaches of the Lord’s coming. We have to be extremely careful and bear the Lord’s words in mind, lest we take the wrong path and displease the Lord!”
Two weeks later I got another letter from them, which said: “Sister Su, the scriptures you found for us is not in error, but we must be clear on the Lord Jesus’ true meaning within these words and not misunderstand the Lord’s will. The Lord Jesus clearly told us that false Christs would appear when the Lord comes in the last days, and that false Christs would pass themselves off using the Lord’s name, and show miracles to deceive people. By saying this, the Lord is telling us to practice discernment; He’s not saying that all those who preach of the Lord’s coming are false. If, as you say, all those who preach of the coming of the Lord are false and we must guard against them and reject them, then wouldn’t we be very likely to close the door on the Lord Jesus who has returned to flesh? We say this because the Lord said He will come again. Obviously, that kind of perspective is not in line with the Lord’s will. As for how to distinguish between the true Christ and false Christs, we have transcribed a passage of the words of Almighty God for you and hope that you will take a good look. Almighty God said: ‘If, during the present day, there is to emerge a person who is able to display signs and wonders, cast out demons, heal the sick, and perform many miracles, and if this person claims that they are Jesus who has come, then this would be a counterfeit produced by evil spirits which imitate Jesus. Remember this! God does not repeat the same work. Jesus’ stage of work has already been completed, and God will never again undertake that stage of work’ (The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. Knowing God’s Work Today). God’s work cannot possibly be always unchanging. God’s work is always new, never old, and it never repeats. Just as God’s work in the Age of Law and the Age of Grace were two different stages of work. In the last days, God has already performed one stage of the work of judging and cleansing people through His words in accordance with mankind’s needs. This is a stage of thoroughly purifying and saving people. It is newer, loftier, and more practical than previous work. From every stage of God’s work, we can see the truths that He expresses as well as the wisdom, authority and power of His work. But false Christs are possessed by evil spirits and do not possess the essence of God. They are entirely lacking the truth and so they are incapable of expressing truths, and they are incapable of expressing God’s almightiness, wisdom and God’s disposition. It’s clear that false Christs cannot do God’s work at all. False Christs can only imitate work that the Lord Jesus has already done, healing the sick, casting out demons and showing some ordinary miracles to pass themselves off as Christ in an effort to deceive people. Sister, we need a pure understanding of the Lord’s words; we cannot misinterpret the Lord’s will, let alone cut off our nose to spite our face just because false Christs appear in the last days. We can’t not even study the work of the Lord’s return.…”
Even though the brothers and sisters’ fellowship in the letter was all well-founded, I had absolutely no intention of seeking or pondering it. I only cared about whether or not they accepted the scriptures I had found for them and turned back to the Lord. I thought back about these two debates over our correspondence and saw that they hadn’t been remotely convinced. On the contrary, I had allowed them to argue me into the ground to the point that I had no face at all. I rushed to make a prayer to the Lord and then got the Bible and all of my spiritual books, and laid them out on my bed. I kept flipping through them, wanting to find a basis for refuting them. The room was totally silent aside from the swish, swish sound of me turning the pages. Night fell before I realized it and I still hadn’t found anything. I was so tired that I gave a deep sigh and thought: “It’s really not easy to come up with a response to this letter.” All I could do was pick up my pen and write: “Brothers and sisters, reading your letter has left me with the feeling that you are no longer the lovely little lambs you once were. You won’t even listen to me, you insist on departing from the Lord’s way, and you are so contrary with me. I think that your behavior saddens the Lord, and I am very sad too. May the Lord Jesus move you and may this letter enable you to turn back soon. Amen!”
After a couple of weeks I received another reply from them, but to my disappointment, they had not turned back because of my love and encouragement. On the contrary, they said harshly and categorically: “Sister Su, you converted us, that is true, but the One we should thank for this is the Lord, because it was God who gathered us, these lost and wandering sheep, into a flock with your help. You were just a servant caring for the flock, but only the Lord Jesus is our true shepherd. As the Lord Jesus said: ‘I am the good shepherd, and know My sheep, and am known of Mine’ (John 10:14). The Lord entrusts sheep to every person who works for Him. A person’s responsibility is just to look after them and when the Lord returns, they should return the flock to Him. Sister Su, we all know the parable of the ‘evil tenants’ which the Lord Jesus spoke of in the Bible. In order to forcibly occupy the estate, the tenants struck the servants who came to collect the fruit, and when the householder sent his son, they killed the son to occupy the estate. When the householder returns, how will he deal with these evil tenants? We must not be like them. The Lord has now returned, and we should hand the Lord’s sheep over to the Lord. This is the reason we must possess.”
This letter really took me aback. I thought to myself: “How can they gain so much understanding in the blink of an eye? It’s only been two years since I went to Shandong and set up that church. When I left they were still like ‘babies’ in their faith. I never thought that just a few months after accepting Eastern Lightning their words would contain so much strength, or that they’d be able to find such perfect Bible passages to argue me down, that I’d be left without a word to counter them.” At that moment I was bitterly disappointed and felt that these brothers and sisters had become unshakable in their resolve to follow Eastern Lightning, that they had no plans to turn back. I knew that I wouldn’t be able to persuade them to return. Feeling completely weak and feeble, I reluctantly sent them a fourth letter, in which I said: “Suit yourselves. As it is written in the Bible, since ancient times, that which stems from God will prosper and that which stems from man will be defeated. Do not write to me again. I hope that you are able to hold on to your faith and love for Jesus Christ.”
After rejecting God’s last days’ work that the Shandong brothers and sisters had shared with me, my spirit had grown darker and weaker, and my general condition had deteriorated. Even though I often fasted and prayed and reflected upon how I may have sinned against the Lord, I could never grasp the Lord’s will, and I just couldn’t feel the presence of the Lord. It was during this time that the pastors and elders made false charges against me to vie for the money from offerings, and they successfully pushed me out of the church. I was incredibly miserable and didn’t know where to turn. I would often go to the riverbank and sing the hymn “Lord, You Are My Closest Friend” while I wept. I longed for the Lord to return soon so that He could save me from my woes.
One day six months later while making lunch, I heard my mother-in-law call my name from outside the front door. Upon opening the door, I saw a slender young woman with delicate features standing behind my mother-in-law. My mother-in-law said, “This young sister has come to see you. She had an address but couldn’t find you, so went to the church. She said that she needed to see you urgently, so I rushed to bring her over.” I carefully sized up this sister and thought to myself: “Why is it that I don’t seem to know her?” Seeing me, she came right over to me, took my hand and said excitedly: “So you are Sister Su. I found you after all!” Dumbfounded by her actions, I looked at her in surprise and asked: “Who are you? I don’t think we’ve met before?” Her enthusiastic response was: “Sister, my surname is Wang. I’m here because of Brother Meng and Sister Zhao from Shandong. Brother Meng and the others wrote a letter to The Church of Almighty God here and asked us to think of a way to find you, no matter what. They entrusted us with sharing God’s gospel of the kingdom with you because they’re way too busy and there really wasn’t time for them to come in person. I have no idea how many people’s hands this letter has passed through, but it made a few rounds before getting to us. I’ve come around so many times asking about you. It wasn’t easy to find you.” When she got to that point, the young sister choked up and put the letter into my hands. I took it and read: “Sister Su is a true believer. Please, you have to find her and share God’s gospel of the kingdom with her….” Reading these words warmed my heart and my tears could not stop flowing. My mother-in-law was moved and said: “This really is thanks to the Lord! This really is the love of the Lord!” Looking at this kind, sincere young sister, I thought over the moving, heartfelt words in that letter and could feel the sense of urgency the brothers and sisters had to share the gospel of the Lord’s return with me. My intuition from within my soul told me that this love came from God. Only God cherishes every single soul this way and cares deeply about every person who truly believes in God. And so, I decided that this time I would seek and study Almighty God’s work of the last days. I could no longer refuse. I said to her enthusiastically: “Sister, come inside and have a seat.” She nodded happily, her eyes still shining with tears.
We had something to eat, and then I called my co-worker Sister Zhang over too. My husband heard that we were going to have fellowship and asked for the day off as well. The young sister warmly asked: “Sister, in Brother Meng’s letter they said they had written several letters to you about God’s work of the last days, but you wouldn’t accept it. I wonder what your thoughts on this are? Sister, if you have any difficulties, please share them; we can fellowship and seek together.” I said: “Since you ask, I’ll open up and share with you. I’ve been afraid of being taken in by false Christs that appear during the last days and so have kept to ‘all those who preach of the Lord’s coming are false,’ so I never looked into Almighty God’s work of the last days. Later, I gave some thought to what Brother Meng and the others said in their letters, and thought about how it made sense. Blindly rejecting any gospel of the Lord’s return because false Christs appear in the last days really is cutting off our nose to spite our face. However, if we want to welcome the Lord’s return, we can’t be incapable of discerning between the true Christ and false Christs. Since you’re here, please fellowship with us on this.” Sister Zhang, my husband and my mother-in-law also nodded their heads in agreement.
The sister then read a passage of God’s words to us, where Almighty God said: “It is not difficult to inquire into such a thing, but it requires each of us to know this one truth: He who is God incarnate shall possess the essence of God, and He who is God incarnate shall possess the expression of God. Since God becomes flesh, He shall bring forth the work He intends to do, and since God becomes flesh, He shall express what He is, and shall be able to bring the truth to man, bestow life upon him, and point the way for him. Flesh that does not have the essence of God is decidedly not the incarnate God; of this there is no doubt. If man intends to inquire into whether it is God’s incarnate flesh, then he must corroborate this from the disposition He expresses and the words He speaks. Which is to say, to corroborate whether or not it is God’s incarnate flesh, and whether or not it is the true way, one must discriminate on the basis of His essence. And so, in determining whether it is the flesh of God incarnate, the key lies in His essence (His work, His utterances, His disposition, and many other aspects), rather than external appearance. If man scrutinizes only His external appearance, and as a result overlooks His essence, this shows that man is benighted and ignorant” (The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. Preface). After reading God’s words, this young sister said in fellowship: “We can see from the words of Almighty God that the key to discerning between the true Christ and false Christs is to look at their essence. This can be discerned from their work, words and disposition. The Lord Jesus once said: ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life’ (John 14:6). Clearly, since He was God in the flesh, He could express the truth and do God’s own work; He could also express God’s own disposition and what He has and is. Just as in the Age of Grace, the Lord Jesus expressed many truths, expressed a disposition primarily of mercy and love, and completed the work of redeeming the whole of mankind. From the Lord Jesus’ work and words, and from the disposition He expressed, we can be sure that Jesus Christ was the truth, the way, and the life, that He was God incarnate Himself. Now Almighty God has come and expressed all of the truths to purify and save mankind; He has done the last days’ work of judging and chastising people. Almighty God’s words reveal the truth of mankind’s corruption by Satan and the nature and substance of man. They tell us all aspects of the truth such as what attaining salvation is, what dispositional transformation is and the path to achieve it, as well as what mankind’s future destination is and what the ending will be for all kinds of people. His words also reveal the mysteries of God’s six-thousand-year management plan and the incarnations, plus they express God’s inherent disposition, essence, and what He has and is. Provided we diligently read God’s words, we will be able to see that the words uttered by Almighty God are the voice of the Spirit of truth, the way of judgment in the last days. Almighty God’s work of the last days has fulfilled prophecies in the Bible, such as, ‘Judgment must begin at the house of God’ (1 Peter 4:17). ‘When He, the Spirit of truth, is come, He will guide you into all truth’ (John 16:13) and ‘He that rejects Me, and receives not My words, has one that judges him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day’ (John 12:48). The truths that Almighty God has expressed, the work of judging, chastising and purifying people that He has done, and the disposition characterized by righteousness that Almighty God has expressed all fully confirm that Almighty God is the manifestation of Christ of the last days. But on the contrary, false Christs do not possess the essence of God. Most of them are possessed by evil spirits or are extremely arrogant demons and evil spirits completely devoid of reason. They can neither express truths to provide sustenance for people, nor can they carry out judgment work to purify people. They can only deceive those foolish, ignorant, confused people who want to stuff their bellies with bread to stave off hunger by showing them simple signs and wonders. Therefore, it is very easy for us to discern between the true Christ and false Christs by this one principle: Christ is the truth, the way, and the life. This is entirely in line with God’s will.”
As I listened to the sister’s fellowship, I turned this over and over in my mind: “I’ve believed in the Lord all these years but I’ve never heard this kind of fellowship. Now Almighty God’s words speak of discerning between the true Christ and false Christs so thoroughly; it seems as though the words of Almighty God really might be the voice of the Holy Spirit. Oh Lord! I have always anxiously awaited Your return, but these last few years I’ve only focused on guarding against false Christs and have hardly had any heart to seek. I have never looked into You returning to do the work of judgment in the last days as The Church of Almighty God bears witness to, but just blindly resisted and condemned it. Lord, have I really shut You out?” This thought got my heart to start pounding. I felt a sense of panic and couldn’t sit still any longer, so I got up and went into the kitchen to pretend to get some water, trying to calm myself down a little. While pouring water, I pondered: “This sister is very young, but her fellowship on the truth is so practical. The Shandong brothers and sisters also progressed so fast after accepting the work of Almighty God. Their understanding of the Bible and knowledge of God’s work were much higher than mine. This way allows people to understand the truth and gain knowledge of God’s work. Is this not God’s work?” Thinking through all of this, I felt both excited and remorseful. I thought back about when I was writing those letters to the brothers and sisters in Shandong. I was brandishing my pen, scolding them with an arrogant tone. And in my approach to the Lord’s return, not only did I fail to seek the truth and accept the brothers and sisters’ fellowship, but instead, I persistently refuted and rejected it. I considered myself the master of truth and wanted all the brothers and sisters to listen to me, plus I thought that I was doing my utmost to defend the true way. It never occurred to me that I was resisting God. So wouldn’t that make me a modern-day Pharisee? At that moment, I felt like I had been soaked from head to toe by cold water; I felt limp and weak all over. Both of my hands were trembling uncontrollably and I kept replaying scenes of me resisting God in my mind over and over…. I could no longer hold it in—tears started flowing from my eyes. I hated myself for being so arrogant and blind. After quite a while, I wiped away my tears and went back into the room with a tray of glasses of water. The sister looked at me and asked with concern: “Sister, do you accept this fellowship?” I let out a sigh and said with self-reproach: “After listening to Almighty God’s words and your fellowship just now, I feel that Almighty God is the returned Lord Jesus. I’ve waited every single day for the Lord’s return but never imagined that now the Lord has returned, I would actually fill the role of a Pharisee. I really have done a great evil! I’ve resisted God.” I then started crying so much that I could not speak.
Later, after a period of time spent reading the words of Almighty God, Sister Zhang, my mother-in-law, my husband and I became completely certain that Almighty God is the returned Lord Jesus. I was so incredibly delighted that I excitedly sent the Shandong brothers and sisters a fifth letter: “Dear brothers and sisters! Thanks be to God that through you sharing with me God’s gospel of the kingdom many times, I have now accepted Almighty God’s work of the last days and have become a member of The Church of Almighty God. Although I accepted it later than you, I don’t want to fall behind. I’ll throw my heart and soul into catching up….” At that moment, I felt like my heart was flying back to Shandong along with the letter to gather closely together with my brothers and sisters there. Thanks be to God for His love!