A “Stolen” Blessing
By A’Chao, China
It was in March of 2012. I don’t know which day it started, but I noticed every day after dinner, my wife hurried through her chores, and then went into the bedroom to read a book. It happened one day, the next … and it kept happening. I was very curious. What book was she reading? Why was it so attractive to her? One night, I couldn’t help but push open the door to see what was going on. When she saw me enter, she wanted to put the book away. I grabbed her hand holding the book and asked her what book she was reading. She smiled and said, “This is The Scroll Opened by the Lamb. These are the words expressed by the returned Lord Jesus. We have yearned for His return, and now He has come back.” When I heard that, I was shocked and afraid. I remembered the pastor said, “We believe in the Lord, so we are saved. When He comes, He will directly lift us up into the kingdom of heaven, so any preaching of the Lord’s coming is false.” I said angrily, “I think you’re making a mistake. Did you forget what the pastor told us? We are already saved by believing in the Lord. If the Lord had returned, we would have been lifted up into the kingdom of heaven already. But we’re still here, aren’t we? As believers in the Lord, we must read the Bible and keep the Lord’s way. Only thus can we be taken up to the kingdom of heaven when the Lord comes.” My wife said, “Don’t be so fast to define it. Read this book first, and then you’ll know whether the Lord has really returned.” But I was very guarded against it at the time, so I couldn’t take in what my wife said, so all she could do was take the book away.
After that, once I came home to pick up something in the middle of work, and when I saw my wife reading the book again, I frowned and ignored her as I grabbed what I needed and left. On the way back, I kept thinking, “Why is my wife so enthusiastic about this? She reads whenever she has time, and goes out to preach the gospel.” I suddenly remembered what my mother said before, “‘Eastern Lightning’ is a force to be reckoned with. The brothers and sisters who are familiar with the Bible and pursue hard get lost in their books and never come out.” I thought, “Is my wife reading an Eastern Lightning book? Has she been bewildered by it? What if she really gets deceived and loses the Lord’s salvation? But I’m immature in life, and I’m not very familiar with the Bible. I don’t know how to bring her back.” Later, I went to Pastor Chen’s house to help him redecorate. I thought he had believed in the Lord for years, was familiar with the Bible, and was mature in life. He would have some intelligent ways to bring my wife back from the brink. So, I said to Pastor Chen, “Recently my wife has been reading a book. She says the Lord has returned and is actively preaching the gospel. She has changed a lot. You know that in the past, her belief in the Lord was weak, and she didn’t read the Bible much. I don’t know why she pursues so strongly now.” After hearing this, he said solemnly, “She is in danger! Now, in the entire religious world, only Eastern Lightning testifies the Lord’s return, and they are the only ones who don’t read the Bible. Your wife may have accepted Eastern Lightning. If she believes in Eastern Lightning, she will lose the Lord’s salvation, and there will be no place for her in the kingdom of heaven. You have to do something quickly to bring her back.” Hearing that made me terrified. I worried my wife’s wrong belief would make the Lord abandon her, and she would fall into disasters. I asked Pastor Chen what I should do. He thought for a while, then said, “I’m a pastor, and I know the Bible better than you. Tonight, steal the book your wife is reading, and I’ll help you take a look at it. But don’t let her find out.” At the time, I thought it would be better for the pastor to help me analyze it. That way, I would know what was written in it, and I could gain some discernment. If my wife’s belief was wrong, we could persuade her to turn back in time. That night, I secretly brought The Scroll Opened by the Lamb to Pastor Chen’s house. Pastor Chen took the book, flipped through it casually, then slammed it down on the table. Staring at the cover of the book, he said disdainfully, “Yes, this is an Eastern Lightning book. I’m sure your wife believes in Eastern Lightning. Their preaching is very lofty, and most people can’t refute it. Some people who pursue strongly and are familiar with the Bible completely stop reading the Bible after reading their books. If they don’t read the Bible, are they still believers in the Lord? Your wife has been deceived by Eastern Lightning. If she doesn’t turn back, she will lose the blessings of the kingdom of heaven.” I was a little puzzled when I heard this, “Those unfamiliar with the Bible lack discernment, so it’s normal for them to be deceived, but if those who have been leaders for years and know the Bible well believe in Eastern Lightning, is there some sort of mystery in this book? Otherwise, why do people who are familiar with the Bible become so attracted to it and end up believing in Eastern Lightning? I don’t understand at all.” So, I said to the pastor, “You understand a lot about the Bible. Take a look at the book’s content and talk to me about what it says. What should I do to persuade my wife to come back?” I was surprised when Pastor Chen said solemnly, “I am a pastor, and I am mature in life, so I don’t need to read this book. We are saved by believing in the Lord, and we just need to wait for Him to take us into God’s kingdom. If your wife preaches Eastern Lightning to you, don’t believe in it. Eastern Lightning is nothing but a financial scam. In this matter, the only thing you can do is make sure you don’t give her much money. Deposit all your money, don’t let her access it, and keep an eye on her every move.” At the time, I felt the pastor knew more than me, and it was to protect me, so I decided to do as he said. When I got home, I thought my wife hadn’t come back, so I carefully put the book back in its place, but before I could put it away, my wife came out of the other room. I was taken aback, and then she anxiously asked me, “Did you take my book?” I was afraid she would find out I stole it, so I lied and said, “I didn’t take it. You always leave things lying around. Let me help you find it.” Then, I rummaged around in the room, and finally took out the book, handed it to her, and said, “Here it is. You always leave things lying around. You really should put things where they go.” My wife just kept staring at me, and I felt my face turning red as guilt gripped my heart. Fortunately, my wife didn’t ask any more. She simply took the book and left. At this moment, I remembered that the Lord Jesus asks us to be honest people. “Let your communication be, Yes, yes; No, no” (Matthew 5:37). But what had I done? I had gone against the Lord’s teachings and against my conscience, and I had acted like a thief. But I consoled myself by telling myself I did it to protect her.
The next day, I went to the bank, changed the PINs for all of our bank books and cards, and deposited all of our extra money, so that we only had enough for food. Unexpectedly, my wife didn’t say anything after she found out. Aside from reading her book, she did all her chores as well as she usually did, and she treated me as pleasantly as she always had. But I felt ashamed and uneasy. I’d believed in the Lord for so many years, but still treated my wife in such despicable ways. This wasn’t how a Christian should behave. I realized my wife had changed a lot since she started reading the book. I was treating her like this, and she wasn’t even angry. Was it the words in the book that changed her? Was I making a mistake? Could it be that this Eastern Lightning my wife believed in was really the return of the Lord Jesus? I knew I had to figure it all out.
One night, during dinner, my wife encouraged me to read the book again, and said, “You say we are saved by faith in the Lord, and that He will take us into the kingdom of heaven when He comes. But look at our mother and sister-in-law, and at us, we’ve believed in the Lord for years, yet we always sin during the day and confess at night. We can’t escape the bondage of sin. The Scriptures say that without holiness, we can’t see the Lord. God is holy, so if we still sin so frequently, how are we qualified to enter the kingdom of heaven? Now, the Lord Jesus has returned. He expresses the truth and does the work of judgment beginning with God’s house to completely cleanse people of sin and bring us into His kingdom. To enter the kingdom of heaven, we must accept Almighty God’s work of judgment in the last days.” What my wife said made some sense to me. We still lived in a state of sinning by day and confessing by night, and we still couldn’t escape the bondage of sin. The Lord is holy, so it’s hard to say whether people as filthy and corrupt as us could enter the kingdom of heaven. When I realized this, I nodded. My wife saw that I wasn’t resistant, and happily said that two sisters could come to talk to me about the Lord’s return the next day. I agreed to hear them. But I knew I understood little about the Bible, so I wanted Pastor Chen to come as well to help me understand and debate with the sisters. That way, I could gain discernment and see whose words were most in line with the Bible. So, I told Pastor Chen about this.
The next day, after dinner, everyone had arrived. One of the sisters fellowshiped, “The Lord has returned, He expresses the truth and does the work of judging and purifying people—” Before she could finish, Pastor Chen shouted loudly, “On what basis do you say that the Lord has returned? Our sins are forgiven by our belief in the Lord Jesus. We are saved by grace. We don’t need this work of judgment. You don’t understand the Bible at all!” The other sister said to the pastor, “Brother, we can’t gain the truth by quarreling about it. The Lord really has returned, and if you read the truth the returned Lord expresses, you will know whether He is real.” Pastor Chen said impatiently, “Why should I read it? The Lord hasn’t returned. You don’t understand the Bible at all, so why are you preaching the gospel? I know much more about the Bible than you, and I won’t listen to this.” The two sisters used the Bible to talk about God’s work in the last days, but Pastor Chen didn’t listen at all, and he continually interrupted them, not allowing them to speak, until the two sisters had no choice but to leave. Then he said to my wife, “Don’t listen to them. You don’t understand the Bible, so don’t be deceived, and read the Bible more in the future.” And just like that, in less than fifteen minutes, they had all left. I was very disappointed. As the pastor of a church, if someone testifies that the Lord has returned, he should seek and investigate, and debate with the people from The Church of Almighty God. If it really is the Lord’s return, we should accept it together, and if it isn’t, then we will gain some discernment. That would be good for everyone. Why was Pastor Chen so arrogant? If he really understood the Bible, he should have had a proper discussion with them. I thought I would gain something that evening. I was surprised to find out how wrong I was, and I was unhappy with how Pastor Chen handled things. But his fellowship was based on the Bible, and the two sisters didn’t fellowship on anything outside the Bible. Both of them had a biblical basis, so why were their explanations and understandings so different? I was very confused.
Later, my wife and I went back to our hometown, and Pastor Liu and Co-worker Liang from the local church came to my house to persuade my wife to stop believing in Eastern Lightning. When they saw she wasn’t listening, Co-worker Liang angrily pointed at my wife and berated her, and said many things condemning Eastern Lightning to frighten her. I thought, “Is this still a believer in the Lord? All my wife does is believe in Eastern Lightning. You should be helping and supporting her out of love as the Lord teaches, not wagging your finger in her face.” I was angry, and I wanted to reason with him, but just then, Pastor Liu pulled me out the door and said to me, “You have to persuade your wife. She hasn’t believed in Eastern Lightning for very long, so tell her to confess her sins to the Lord and repent, and if she won’t listen, if you have to, you can call the police.” At that time, I felt it was wrong of Pastor Liu to say that, but I also felt there was no other way to stop her. After they left, my wife said to me, “When I believed in the Lord, I was passive and weak, and my faith was cold, but none of the pastors or elders came to help or support me. Now I’ve welcomed the Lord, and you can see how diligent they’ve become. I can tell they don’t care about my life at all. They just want to drag me back into religion so that I keep giving them offerings, and when they can’t, their whole bearing changes. They wagged their finger in my face, berated me, and said blasphemous things. Is this in line with the Lord’s teachings? Are they behaving like believers in the Lord? You need to have discernment of them and not blindly listen to what they say. The believers of Judaism blindly followed the Pharisees in condemning the Lord Jesus, and in the end, they crucified the Lord and offended God’s disposition.” After hearing what my wife said, I recalled how Pastor Liu said he came to bring my wife back, but they didn’t offer a word of love and support. Everything they said was intimidation, threats, and condemnation. They also asked me to call the police to arrest my wife. Were these things believers in the Lord would say? Wouldn’t this just be pushing my wife into the pit? I was furious, and after that, I didn’t dare trust the pastors again.
After this incident, my wife still often persuaded me to read Almighty God’s words. I was very curious. I wanted to see just what this book contained that made my wife’s faith so firm, and made her so determined to persuade me to read it. But I didn’t want my wife to know my attitude, so I was too embarrassed to tell her. One day, when my wife wasn’t at home, I took out her book and read it. I opened the first chapter and read the title, “Preface.” Here is what I read in the book: “Though many people believe in God, few understand what faith in God means, and what they must do to conform to God’s will. This is because, though people are familiar with the word ‘God’ and phrases such as ‘the work of God,’ they do not know God, and still less do they know His work. No wonder, then, that all those who do not know God are muddled in their belief of Him. People do not take belief in God seriously, and this is entirely because believing in God is too unfamiliar, too strange for them. In this way, they fall short of God’s demands. In other words, if people do not know God, and do not know His work, then they are not fit for God’s use, and still less are they able to satisfy His will. ‘Belief in God’ means believing that there is a God; this is the simplest concept as regards believing in God. What’s more, believing that there is a God is not the same as truly believing in God; rather, it is a kind of simple faith with strong religious overtones. True faith in God means the following: On the basis of the belief that God holds sovereignty over all things, one experiences His words and His work, purges one’s corrupt disposition, satisfies the will of God, and comes to know God. Only a journey of this kind may be called ‘faith in God’” (The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God). When I reached this point, I felt like no human could say such words. In our belief in God, beyond believing that all things are created by God, we must experience God’s words and work, cast off our corrupt dispositions, and come to know God. These words made it clear what belief in God is. In all my years of belief in the Lord, I only knew I had to read the Bible, pray, and listen to sermons. I believed whatever the pastors said, and listened to the pastors in everything. How could this be called belief in God? This was believing in the pastors! The more I read these words, the brighter my heart became, and the more I wanted to read. Whenever my wife wasn’t at home, I secretly took the book out to read it.
One day, I read this passage of Almighty God’s words: “There are those who read the Bible in grand churches and recite it all day long, yet not one among them understands the purpose of God’s work. Not one among them is able to know God; still less can any one among them accord with God’s will. They are all worthless, vile people, each standing on high to lecture God. They willfully oppose God even as they carry His banner. Claiming faith in God, still they eat the flesh and drink the blood of man. All such people are devils that devour the soul of man, head demons that deliberately get in the way of those trying to step onto the right path, and stumbling blocks impeding those who seek God. They may appear of ‘sound constitution,’ but how are their followers to know that they are none other than antichrists who lead people to stand against God? How are their followers to know that they are living devils dedicated to the devouring of human souls?” (The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. All People Who Do Not Know God Are People Who Oppose God). After reading these words, I immediately thought of the pastors and elders. They were familiar with the Bible, outwardly humble, patient, and loving, and often told us to watch and wait for the coming of the Lord, but once someone actually testified the Lord’s return, they didn’t have the slightest desire to seek and investigate. Pastor Chen asked me to steal the book, saying he wanted to help me check it, so it stands to reason that he should have read its contents, but without even looking at it, he immediately condemned my wife for being mistaken. Co-worker Liang scolded my wife, and intimidated and threatened her with condemning words, and Pastor Liu told me to call the police, betray my wife, and hand her over. How could believers in God do such things? If Almighty God really was the Lord Jesus’ second coming, but the pastors, instead of leading us to seek and investigate, tried their best to get in our way, and even wanted me to call the police to arrest my wife, weren’t they just like these words describe, stumbling blocks and obstacles that prevented us from investigating the true way? Weren’t they just people who resisted God under the banner of believing in God? I thought of how, when the Lord Jesus came to work, the Pharisees also didn’t seek or investigate, but instead did their best to resist and condemn Him, and in the end, the Lord was nailed to the cross. If Almighty God really was the return of the Lord Jesus, the pastors were doing what the Pharisees did in their time. It seemed to me that the pastors and elders might be people who resisted the Lord. At the time, I thought, “I can’t listen to the pastors anymore. I need to carefully investigate Almighty God’s work to see if He is the Lord’s return.”
Later, my wife invited Brother Zhou from The Church of Almighty God to fellowship with me. I asked him, “The Bible says, ‘For with the heart man believes to righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made to salvation’ (Romans 10:10). We believe in the Lord and have been saved, why do we still need God to do a stage of the work of judgment?” Brother Zhou fellowshiped, “What does it mean to be saved by believing in the Lord Jesus? Actually, ‘salvation’ refers to people who believe in the Lord Jesus, pray to the Lord, and confess their sins. Our sins are forgiven, we are not condemned by the law, and we enjoy the peace, joy, and abundant grace bestowed by the Lord. This is what it means to be ‘saved’ in the Age of Grace. But our sinful nature still exists within us, and we have not yet cast off our sin. God is holy, the kingdom of God is a holy place, and it is impossible for God to bring those who can still sin and resist Him into His kingdom. So, in the last days, God performs a stage of judgment work to thoroughly purify people. In this way, people are qualified to enter the kingdom of God.” Brother Zhou also said that God’s work in the last days had long been prophesied in the Bible. Just as the Lord Jesus said, “I have yet many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. However, when He, the Spirit of truth, is come, He will guide you into all truth: for He shall not speak of Himself; but whatever He shall hear, that shall He speak: and He will show you things to come” (John 16:12–13). “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). And 1 Peter 4:17 says, “For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God.” He said, “From this, we can see that the Lord will still express the truth when He returns in the last days, as well as do the work of judging and purifying people, and judgment will begin with the house of God. Almighty God’s work fulfills these prophecies.” Next, Brother Zhou showed me a recitation video of God’s word. Almighty God says, “A sinner such as you, who has just been redeemed, and has not been changed, or been perfected by God, can you be after God’s heart? For you, you who are still of your old self, it is true that you were saved by Jesus, and that you are not counted as a sinner because of the salvation of God, but this does not prove that you are not sinful, and are not impure. How can you be saintly if you have not been changed? Within, you are beset by impurity, selfish and mean, yet you still wish to descend with Jesus—you should be so lucky! You have missed a step in your belief in God: You have merely been redeemed, but you have not been changed. For you to be after God’s heart, God must personally do the work of changing and cleansing you; if you are only redeemed, you will be incapable of attaining sanctity. In this way you will be unqualified to share in the good blessings of God, for you have missed out a step in God’s work of managing man, which is the key step of changing and perfecting. You, a sinner who has just been redeemed, are therefore incapable of directly inheriting God’s inheritance” (The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. Concerning Appellations and Identity). “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 did not mean that man no longer had 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 his 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” (The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. The Mystery of the Incarnation (4)). “Though Jesus did much work among man, He only completed the redemption of all mankind and became man’s sin offering; He did not rid man of all his corrupt disposition. Fully saving man from the influence of Satan not only required Jesus to become the sin offering and bear the sins of man, but it also required God to do even greater work to rid man completely of his satanically corrupted disposition. And so, now that man has been forgiven of his sins, God has returned to the flesh to lead man into the new age, and begun the work of chastisement and judgment. This work has brought man into a higher realm. All those who submit under His dominion shall enjoy higher truth and receive greater blessings. They shall truly live in the light, and they shall gain the truth, the way, and the life” (The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. Preface). Brother Zhou fellowshiped, “Almighty God’s words are very clear. The Lord Jesus only did the work of redemption. He did not completely save humankind from sin. Although we believe in the Lord and our sins are forgiven, our sinful nature still exists in us, and we cannot escape the bondage of sin. In our years of belief in the Lord, we have often lied and deceived, and we have also been arrogant, self-important, envious, and ready to fight. Our forsaking and expending for the Lord is all transacting with God, in exchange for God’s blessings, and when faced with trials and tribulations, we still resist, judge, or even betray the Lord. And so on. For people like us, who often live in sin, who resist and judge God, how can we be qualified to enter the kingdom of God? In the last days, based on God’s management plan to save humankind, the needs of corrupt humankind, and the Lord Jesus’ work of redemption, Almighty God expresses truth and does the work of judgment to thoroughly cleanse and change people, save people from sin, and bring them into the kingdom of heaven. If we only accept the Lord Jesus’ work of redemption, it is impossible for our satanic dispositions to change, we live forever in sin and in bondage to sin, and we are not qualified to enter the kingdom of heaven. That is why we must accept Almighty God’s work of judgment and chastisement, come to understand the path to dispositional change, cast off our corrupt dispositions, and become people who obey and fear God. Only then can we truly be saved by God.”
After hearing his fellowship, my heart brightened. Being redeemed is only the forgiveness of sin. It doesn’t mean we can enter the kingdom of heaven. I’d believed for over ten years, and I often prayed, confessed my sins, and asked God’s forgiveness, but my corrupt dispositions hadn’t changed at all. Also, Pastor Chen, Pastor Liu, and the others, after years of belief in the Lord, faced with news of the Lord’s return, didn’t seek or investigate at all, hindered other believers from investigating the true way, and even resisted and condemned it. They even encouraged me to call the police and have my wife arrested. How could people who were still able to sin and resist God enter the kingdom of heaven? Thinking of this, I said to Brother Zhou, “We still haven’t cast off our sins, so we really do need to accept Almighty God’s work of judgment.” Next, I asked him how Almighty God does the work of judgment, and he read another passage of Almighty God’s words to me. Almighty God says, “Christ of the last days uses a variety of truths to teach man, to expose the substance of man, and to dissect the words and deeds of man. These words comprise various truths, such as man’s duty, how man should obey God, how man should be loyal to God, how man ought to live out normal humanity, as well as the wisdom and the disposition of God, and so on. These words are all directed at the substance of man and his corrupt disposition. In particular, the words that expose how man spurns God are spoken in regard to how man is an embodiment of Satan, and an enemy force against God. In undertaking His work of judgment, God does not simply make clear the nature of man with a few words; He exposes, deals with, and prunes over the long term. All these different methods of exposure, dealing, and pruning cannot be substituted with ordinary words, but with the truth of which man is utterly bereft. Only methods such as these can be called judgment; only through judgment of this kind can man be subdued and thoroughly convinced about God, and moreover gain true knowledge of God. What the work of judgment brings about is man’s understanding of the true face of God and the truth about his own rebelliousness. The work of judgment allows man to gain much understanding of the will of God, of the purpose of God’s work, and of the mysteries that are incomprehensible to him. It also allows man to recognize and know his corrupt essence and the roots of his corruption, as well as to discover the ugliness of man. These effects are all brought about by the work of judgment, for the essence of this work is actually the work of opening up the truth, the way, and the life of God to all those who have faith in Him. This work is the work of judgment done by God” (The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. Christ Does the Work of Judgment With the Truth). Brother Zhou fellowshiped, “Almighty God puts things very clearly. God’s work of judgment is actually God opening up His truth, way, and life to people. In the last days, Almighty God expresses all aspects of truth, and with God’s righteous and majestic dispositions, He judges and exposes people’s satanic natures, analyzes people’s words and deeds, and one by one, He reveals our various notions and our improper motives in believing in God, our arrogant, deceitful, and stubborn satanic dispositions, and even the thoughts and ideas hidden deep in our hearts. When we read Almighty God’s words, it’s as if God is judging and revealing us face to face. We come to realize our satanic nature, see the fact of our corruption by Satan, gain some understanding of God’s righteous disposition that brooks no offense by people, have fear of God in our hearts, be able to hate ourselves and repent from the heart, have true repentance, and gradually change our corrupt dispositions.” God’s work is so practical! In the past, I imagined God’s work as too supernatural and vague. I thought that once I believed in the Lord, I was saved, and I could enter the kingdom of heaven. This is completely inconsistent with the facts of God’s work. When I realized this, I was certain that Almighty God is the returned Lord Jesus, and I happily accepted Almighty God’s work in the last days. I’m glad I didn’t go back to the pastors. Looking back, I see how I clung to my own notions and imaginings, refused to hear the Lord’s voice and welcome the Lord, and hindered my wife. I was so ignorant and blind, and I feel deep regret when I think about it. But I am even more grateful to Almighty God for having mercy on me and bringing me before Him step by step, so that I could finally hear God’s voice and welcome the Lord.
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