Becoming a Modern-day Pharisee

February 27, 2022

By Lizhi, China

I started following the Lord Jesus in 1989. By attending service and reading the Bible, I learned that the heavens, the earth, and all things were created by God, that the Lord Jesus personally became flesh and died on the cross in order to save mankind from Satan’s grasp, bringing us incredible grace, peace, and joy. I felt so much gratitude toward the Lord. After that, I started sharing the gospel while holding down a job, and going to church and reading the Scripture practically became my life. For a few years, the gospel was spreading really fast, and we established many new churches before long. I was elected to a leadership position, responsible for the work of two provinces. I ended up quitting my job and putting everything into the churches’ work. Every day felt really fulfilling.

Then from 1997 on, all sorts of problems started cropping up that I couldn’t resolve. Our evangelism wasn’t going well, illnesses weren’t healing with prayer, and we weren’t able to drive out demons. Most obvious, my sermons were uninspired and lacking insight. I remember co-workers asking me what they should preach on, and I’d say, “Just read the Bible if you get really stuck.” I knew that was no kind of solution, that brothers and sisters could read the Bible on their own, so they didn’t need us to read it. Church members weren’t getting any spiritual sustenance and were feeling weak. Not only were we not gaining new members, but existing ones were leaving the church. Some gave up their faith entirely and some co-workers even went back out into the world. Co-workers and I were constantly fasting and praying, calling out to the Lord, and we also reached out to the clergy in Henan Province. But no matter what we did, we couldn’t turn the church’s desolate state around. I was as nervous as a cat on a hot tin roof, and having a hard time eating or sleeping. I was wondering, if things went on that way, could all those churches we’d worked so hard to set up fall apart, just like that? Then what would I have to show the Lord when He returned? Wouldn’t that make me a sinner? No, I realized I needed to travel around and take a look at other churches.

First I visited Elder Wu, the most prestigious elder in our area, but he was just preaching about the same old things. Then I went to Beijing to see Elder Yuan, based on Elder Wu’s recommendation. He was another well-respected elder. I figured he’d definitely have something enlightening to share that could revive the church, but over three days of fellowship with him, all he talked about was his own life, how he’d made sacrifices for the Lord, how the Communist Party had oppressed him. It wasn’t enlightening at all. It was a wasted trip to Beijing. Later on, a sister introduced me to a couple of evangelists from South Korea. I figured that since the gospel came to China later, they probably had something elevated to share, so there was hope for our churches. It was just the same old stuff, nothing enlightening. At that point, I felt totally downcast. I called out to the Lord, “Oh Lord, what should I do? I’ve done everything I know to do, sought out everyone I can. I’m really at my wits’ end—I don’t know where to go from here.”

That was late 1998. When an upper leader from Henan was giving us a service, he mentioned a church called Eastern Lightning that said the Lord has returned. I was both flabbergasted and excited to hear that. I’d been hoping for the Lord’s return for years, and the day had finally come! But just as I was getting excited, I heard him say, “Eastern Lightning says the Lord has returned, that He’s doing new work and speaking new words. They don’t even read the Bible anymore, and say the Lord has returned as a woman.” The moment those words left his mouth, there was an uproar of discussion among everyone. Some said, “What? The Lord returned? How could we not know? How could He come back as a woman? The Lord Jesus was a man, so He should come back as a man!” And some said, “There’s nothing in the Bible about the Lord speaking new words and doing new work at His return. What Eastern Lightning says simply isn’t possible.” I was thinking that the claim that the Lord had returned and was doing new work, and had incarnated in female form, wasn’t something the Bible ever mentioned. So without any biblical basis, it couldn’t be the work of God. As believers, we have to follow the Bible, and anyone who strays from that isn’t a Christian. Also, the Lord’s prayer says “Our Father which are in heaven” (Matthew 6:9). Doesn’t “Father” refer to a man? How could God incarnate as a woman? Just as I was pondering all this, I heard that upper leader shout, “Absolutely do not believe in Eastern Lightning! What they say isn’t in line with the Bible. We have to stay alert at all times so that we’re not led astray. Starting right now, you need to be on your guard and follow the ‘Three Nos’: No listening, reading, or hosting. You absolutely can’t let them steal our sheep.” I chatted with that leader for a while after the meeting. He said that lots of long-standing believers and co-workers who were good seekers had already accepted Eastern Lightning. I was kind of confused, so I asked him why people who knew the Scripture pretty well and were ardent in their faith would go over to Eastern Lightning. What was it they were teaching? He couldn’t give me a clear answer. He just said it wasn’t in line with the Bible, that faith in the Lord is faith in the Bible, and we can’t believe anything without a scriptural basis. And he really emphasized, “You’re a church leader, so brothers’ and sisters’ lives are in your hands. You absolutely can’t get confused now, but you have to adhere to the Bible. The Lord has entrusted you with His sheep and you have to protect them. You won’t be able to justify it to the Lord if you let them steal a single sheep.”

After he left, I shared everything he’d said with the other brothers and sisters, telling them not to host any strangers or take relatives into the church without permission. Any special circumstances had to get my approval first. There were absolutely no exceptions, and anyone who didn’t follow this would be expelled. I also told them it was for their own good, because they were immature in life and lacked discernment, so they could be fooled easily. After that, to scare people away from Eastern Lightning, I made up some rumors just like that leader told me to. I really stopped at nothing in my attempts to keep brothers and sisters from investigating God’s work of the last days. But to my surprise, plenty of them went over to Eastern Lightning anyway. I became even more vigilant, and if any stranger talked about matters of faith at all, I’d suspect them of being with Eastern Lightning. I got really sensitive during that time, worried that anyone at all could be an Eastern Lightning preacher.

I remember once, a co-worker ran into an Eastern Lightning preacher in a gathering. She listened to her for an entire day and really liked what she heard, then suddenly remembered what I’d said about kicking anyone out who’d been in touch with Eastern Lightning. She was too scared to keep listening, so rushed back to report it to me. She said she’d listened all day and really liked it, but didn’t dare accept it, afraid I’d kick her out. Hearing that, I stared at her angrily and gave her a piece of my mind, “I told you over and over to have no contact with them, so how could you do that? We know the Lord Jesus was male, but they say the Lord has returned as a female. It’s clear that can’t be right! And you listened for ages—you weren’t afraid I’d expel you?” She rushed to explain herself, but I wasn’t having any of it. I told her she shouldn’t attend those gatherings anymore, but I would go myself. I did end up encountering Eastern Lightning people at that gathering place later on. They shared testimony of God’s work in the last days. I was thinking we could have a debate over it, but then I remembered the Henan clergy saying that anyone with Eastern Lightning couldn’t be a good person, so I got up to leave. The host sister there asked me to stay and hear them out, but I was so upset that I gave her an earful, too. I went back and told other co-workers that some people in that gathering place had definitely accepted Eastern Lightning, and we had to kick them out. And I also told my co-workers that if we didn’t kick them out and they converted other brothers and sisters, then our sin would be even greater, and we’d never be able to justify that to the Lord.

Then one day in late March of 1999, a friend of mine, a fellow believer, stopped by my house and mentioned that their church was doing really well. I didn’t know what to think. Our church was doing so poorly hardly anyone came anymore, but they were doing great. Were they with Eastern Lightning, too? Wanting to figure all this out, I gave a call to Sister Xing, a leader of their church. Sister Xing said they didn’t read the Bible anymore, just the scroll mentioned in Revelation. My heart sunk when I heard her say that. I realized she believed in Eastern Lightning, too. She was a good person, well-versed in the Bible, and had a good reputation with believers. If she went over to Eastern Lightning, others were sure to follow her, too. I couldn’t just watch others follow her in that faith. I got on a train out of town the very next day. When I got there I realized that over 20 brothers and sisters had accepted Eastern Lightning along with her. I urged her to turn back, but no matter what I said, she was determined to stick with it. When I got back to town, I notified all the churches that Sister Xing and the others had accepted Eastern Lightning. But some brothers and sisters, seeing that such an ardent seeker with strong views had joined them, didn’t feel as put off by Eastern Lightning and started to think it probably was the true way. Some of them even started secretly hosting Eastern Lightning members. I also heard about a church in Shandong where over 100 of its members had joined, including a few co-workers I knew who were pretty devout.

I saw it thrive and keep growing and growing, and I just couldn’t make sense of why so many people were accepting it, including so many co-workers who knew the Bible well and were devoted seekers. Some brothers and sisters, and other co-workers were asking why, since I wouldn’t let them look into it, more and more people were joining all the time, and nothing could get them back. I was totally stumped by their questions. So, what all did Eastern Lightning preach, and what made it so appealing? Could it be true that the Lord had returned? But then I thought the Lord couldn’t possibly return as a woman, and having faith but not reading the Bible couldn’t be right! Their church thriving that way was probably just temporary—it couldn’t last. So I wasn’t willing to look into it or let other church members accept it. I started keeping a closer eye on the church after that, determined to keep brothers and sisters away from Eastern Lightning.

But then out of the blue, that July, I started swelling up all over my body. When it got bad, if I squatted down I couldn’t even stand back up. Church members were fasting and praying for me, but there was no improvement. A doctor told me I had a tumor as big as an egg on my uterus. I was shocked to hear that, and I just went home fighting back tears. I started to do some personal reflection. I wondered if getting so seriously ill was God punishing me. I also thought of this verse: “Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares” (Hebrews 13:2). But all along, I’d been keeping the church sealed off, refusing to receive Eastern Lightning people and no matter what they said about the Lord’s return, I refused to hear them out or be in touch with them or let church members look into what they said. Behaving that way, I was clearly going against the Bible. I actually had no idea what Eastern Lightning preached, but I’d just get my guard up against anyone who was with them. Maybe I was being really reckless about it. I was so unwell that I didn’t have the will, the energy to keep fighting against Eastern Lightning. For a while, I was feeling lonely and helpless, and farther and farther from God. I cried and prayed to the Lord, “Lord, I’m feeling so weak right now. Are You really abandoning me? Lord, how can I return to the way things were before, with You by my side? Lord, where are You? Please show Yourself to me and save me!”

I was spending every day in terrible misery, but I could see members of Eastern Lightning were filled with faith and were really spiritually upbeat. And I remember a co-worker’s mother had been so depressed and weak, she didn’t want to keep her faith, but after accepting Eastern Lightning, it was like she’d come back from the dead—she seemed so energetic. She started getting up at 5 a.m. every day, leaving at 7 a.m. to share the gospel, and not going home until evening. Her faith was so strong. She was like a different person. But looking at the members of our church, some of us were ill, some were falling apart. It felt dead and dull, without any sort of vitality.

I couldn’t figure it out. Our clergy said Eastern Lightning was no good, that it came from a person, not God, that it wouldn’t last. But in fact, it was just thriving more and more all the time. It made me think of the Bible verses: “For if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nothing: But if it be of God, you cannot overthrow it; lest haply you be found even to fight against God” (Acts 5:38–39). If they didn’t have the Holy Spirit’s work, how could they build so much faith and thrive like that with only human effort? Could it really be coming from God? If it was, then by fighting Eastern Lightning, I was fighting God.

Some co-workers even asked me to find someone to share a spiritually restorative sermon with us. Hearing this made me feel incredibly uncomfortable. I’d been a believer for years and thought of myself as a devout seeker. I never imagined I’d end up leading the others down a dead-end path. How could I answer to the Lord for that? Sometimes I really wanted to go talk to people with Eastern Lightning to see what they actually preached and why their church members were so energized.

One day in August, Sister Su brought a couple of brothers to stay at my home, and I welcomed them enthusiastically. In conversation, Brother Wang asked me why I thought people believed in God. I told him, “To go to heaven, to gain eternal life.” Then he asked, “If they couldn’t get into heaven, do you think they should still have faith?” “Then who’d have faith?” just slipped out of my mouth. He smiled and responded, “It’s a matter of course that as created beings we should worship the Creator. Believing in and loving God is what we should do, not for the sake of going to heaven.” With just a few little sentences, he spoke straight to my heart and I excitedly nodded my head in agreement. Over all my years of faith, I’d never heard anything like it before. Not from church leaders, co-workers from other denominations, or even preachers from abroad. They all talked about engaging in pursuit so we’d be blessed and get into heaven, but no one had preached anything so lofty about faith, such a pure understanding. I suddenly felt like I saw a glimpse of hope. I asked them right away about how to resolve the desolation in the church.

Brother Wang first told me about why the temple became so bleak late in the Age of Law. He said that earlier in the Age of Law, it was full of the glory of Jehovah, and no one dared try to act willfully in it. But toward the end of the Age of Law, it became a place to exchange money, to sell livestock. It had been devoid of God’s glory for a long time, becoming a den of thieves, a wasteland. He said that we could see from the Lord Jesus’ words rebuking the Pharisees that the chief priests, scribes and Pharisees serving in the temple were just leading people to carry out rites and follow rules, but they didn’t practice God’s words. They’d strayed from God’s way. That’s why the Lord Jesus didn’t work in the temple when He came, but performed new work outside of the temple. Everyone who left the temple and followed the Lord’s new work could gain sustenance in life and the work of the Holy Spirit. The Lord’s grace followed them. But those who clung to the law and refused to accept the Lord’s new work fell into darkness and became more and more depraved. Just as the Bible says, “Behold, the days come, said the Lord Jehovah, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of Jehovah” (Amos 8:11). Then he went on to say that the religious world today is just like the temple late in the Age of Law. It’s desolate and dark, and more and more unruly. Believers are losing faith and lacking love because the clergy leading them aren’t practicing the Lord’s words, plus God’s work has taken a step forward and the Holy Spirit’s work has shifted. We have to seek God’s new work to find a way out! Brother Wang’s fellowship helped me see that the church wasn’t so bleak because the Lord had forsaken us, but because He was doing new work that we weren’t following. We just had to seek His new work and keep up with God’s footsteps to gain the Lord’s presence and the Holy Spirit’s work. Seeing that I was starting to understand things, he read me a couple passages of God’s words. Almighty God says, “God will accomplish this fact: He will make all people throughout the universe come before Him and worship the God on earth, and His work in other places will cease, and people will be forced to seek the true way. It will be like Joseph: Everyone came to him for food, and bowed down to him, for he had things to eat. In order to avoid famine, people will be forced to seek the true way. The entire religious community will suffer severe famine, and only the God of today is the wellspring of living water, possessed of the ever-flowing wellspring provided for the enjoyment of man, and people will come and depend on Him” (“The Millennial Kingdom Has Arrived” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). “None have faith that they will see My glory, and I do not compel them, but rather remove My glory from mankind’s midst and take it to another world. When men once again repent, then I shall take My glory and show it to even more of those of faith. This is the principle by which I work. For there is a time when My glory leaves Canaan, and there is also a time when My glory leaves the chosen. Furthermore, there is a time when My glory leaves the whole earth, causing it to grow dim and plunging it into darkness. Even the land of Canaan shall not see the sunlight; all men will lose their faith, but none can bear to leave the fragrance of the land of Canaan. Only when I pass into the new heaven and earth do I take the other part of My glory and reveal it first in the land of Canaan, causing a glimmer of light to shine forth in the whole earth, sunk in the pitchy darkness of night, that the whole earth may come to the light; that men all over the earth may come to draw strength from the power of the light, allowing My glory to increase and appear anew to every nation; and that all humanity may realize that I have long ago come to the human world and long ago brought My glory from Israel to the East; for My glory shines from the East and it was brought over from the Age of Grace to this day. But it was from Israel that I departed and from there that I arrived in the East. Only when the light of the East gradually turns white will the darkness across the earth begin to turn to light, and only then will man discover that I have long ago gone from Israel and am rising anew in the East. Having once descended into Israel and later departed from it, I cannot again be born into Israel, because My work leads all of the universe and, what is more, the lightning flashes straight from East to West. For this reason I have descended in the East and brought Canaan to the people of the East. I shall bring people from all over the earth to the land of Canaan, and so I continue to issue forth utterances in the land of Canaan to control the entire universe. At this time, there is no light in all the earth apart from Canaan, and all men are imperiled by hunger and cold. I gave My glory to Israel and then took it away, thereby bringing the Israelites to the East and all of humanity to the East. I have brought them all to the light so that they may be reunited with it, and be in association with it, and no longer have to search for it. I shall let all who are searching see the light again and see the glory I had in Israel; I shall let them see that I have long ago come down upon a white cloud into the midst of mankind, let them see the countless clouds of white and fruits in their abundant clusters, and, what is more, let them see Jehovah God of Israel. I shall let them look upon the Master of the Jews, the longed-for Messiah, and the full appearance of Me who have been persecuted by kings throughout the ages. I shall work upon the entire universe and I shall perform great work, revealing all My glory and all My deeds to man in the last days. I shall show My glorious countenance in its fullness to those who have waited many years for Me, to those who have longed for Me to come upon a white cloud, to Israel that has longed for Me to appear once again, and to all mankind who persecute Me, so that all will know that I have long ago taken away My glory and brought it to the East, and it is no longer in Judea. For the last days have already come!” (“The Seven Thunders Peal—Prophesying That the Gospel of the Kingdom Shall Spread Throughout the Universe” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). This was really surprising for me to hear. It was so authoritative. I knew it couldn’t have come from any human. Then he continued his fellowship, saying that the Lord has returned and is doing new work, bringing His glory from Israel to the East. That is, the Holy Spirit’s work is moving forward, and only those who keep up with God’s new work and accept His current words can gain the Holy Spirit’s work, the never-ending fount of sustenance for life.

When Brother Wang said the Lord has returned, it occurred to me that in the whole religious world, only Eastern Lightning was bearing witness to this, so they had to be with them. I felt kind of conflicted. I remembered the clergy saying that Eastern Lightning members were no good, but as far as I could see, those two brothers were really dignified and upright, and had a warm attitude. The message they shared was also really novel and practical—they clearly had the Holy Spirit’s work. They also cleared up the reason for the church being so desolate, something that had confused me for years. I was totally convinced. I thought meeting with them that day was thanks to the Lord’s benevolent will. I figured I may as well hear them out and ask them questions to see why Eastern Lightning members were so full of faith and wouldn’t turn back after accepting it. So I went ahead and asked them outright, “I know that you’re with Eastern Lightning. Is there any biblical basis for this claim that the Lord has returned and is doing new work? God’s work and words are all in the Bible, and we have to follow the Bible in our faith. What you’re saying is outside of the Bible, so I can’t accept it.” Brother Wang smiled and said, “You say our faith has to follow the Bible. So you’re saying that the Lord can’t do any work that doesn’t have a biblical basis?” I said very confidently, “That’s right.” Then he asked me, “Which would you say came first: God, or the Bible?” This caught me off guard. I’d been a believer for years, but I’d never thought about that. I gave it a little thought and said that of course God came first. Brother Wang said, “Yes. The Bible is a historical record of God’s work. It’s testimony of His work in the Age of Law and Age of Grace. The Old Testament records God’s work in Israel, and the New Testament records the Lord Jesus’ work in the Age of Grace. So God’s work came first, and then Scripture came later. God’s work wasn’t based on the Bible, but on His management plan.”

Then he read a passage of Almighty God’s words. “During the time of Jesus, Jesus led the Jews and all those who followed Him according to the Holy Spirit’s work in Him at the time. He did not take the Bible as the basis of what He did, but spoke according to His work; He paid no heed to what the Bible said, nor did He search in the Bible for a path to lead His followers. Right from when He began to work, He spread the way of repentance—a word of which there was absolutely no mention in the prophecies of the Old Testament. Not only did He not act according to the Bible, but He also led a new path, and did new work. Never did He refer to the Bible when He preached. During the Age of Law, no one had ever been able to perform His miracles of healing the sick and casting out demons. So, too, were His work, His teachings, and the authority and power of His words beyond any man in the Age of Law. Jesus simply did His newer work, and even though many people condemned Him using the Bible—and even used the Old Testament to crucify Him—His work surpassed the Old Testament; if this were not so, why did people nail Him to the cross? Was it not because it said nothing in the Old Testament of His teaching, and His ability to heal the sick and cast out demons? His work was done to lead a new path, it was not to deliberately pick a fight against the Bible, or to deliberately dispense with the Old Testament. He simply came to perform His ministry, to bring the new work to those who yearned for and sought Him. He did not come to explain the Old Testament or uphold its work. His work was not in order to allow the Age of Law to continue developing, for His work gave no consideration to whether it had the Bible as its base; Jesus simply came to do the work that He ought to do. Thus, He did not explain the prophecies of the Old Testament, nor did He work according to the words of the Old Testament Age of Law. He ignored what the Old Testament said, He cared not whether it agreed with His work or not, and cared not what others knew of His work, or how they condemned it. He simply kept doing the work that He ought to do, even though many people used the foretelling of the prophets of the Old Testament to condemn Him. To people, it appeared as if His work had no basis, and there was much of it that was at odds with the records of the Old Testament. Was this not man’s error? Does doctrine need to be applied to the work of God? And must God work according to the foretelling of prophets? After all, which is greater: God or the Bible? Why must God work according to the Bible? Could it be that God has no right to exceed the Bible? Can God not depart from the Bible and do other work? Why did Jesus and His disciples not keep the Sabbath? If He were to practice in light of the Sabbath and according to the commandments of the Old Testament, why did Jesus not keep the Sabbath after He came, but instead washed feet, covered head, broke bread, and drank wine? Is this not all absent from the commandments of the Old Testament? If Jesus honored the Old Testament, why did He break with these doctrines? You should know which came first, God or the Bible! Being the Lord of the Sabbath, could He not also be the Lord of the Bible?” (“Concerning the Bible (1)” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). After reading this passage, Brother Wang fellowshiped, “When the Lord Jesus came to work, He went beyond the Old Testament’s law to do the work of the Age of Grace. He had new requirements and new practices for mankind, like not observing the Sabbath, forgiving people 70 times 7 times. People saw this as not in line with the Old Testament law, totally outside their Scripture. This shows us that God’s work can’t be held back by Scripture. When the Lord Jesus’ disciples saw how powerful and authoritative His work and words were, that no human could achieve that, so it had to come from God, they followed the Lord. They weren’t held back by the literal Scripture, but they sought the Holy Spirit’s work and followed God’s footsteps. So in our faith, we can’t judge God’s work based on Scripture, but we need to know God by His words and His work.”

When I heard his fellowship, I could see that the Bible is just a historical record of God’s work, but not a basis for it. I’d been a preacher all those years, so why didn’t I understand the relationship between God and the Bible? I’d been all over the place listening to sermons, too, and I’d never heard anyone say anything like that. I always thought God’s work and words were in the Bible, and straying from that wasn’t having faith. That was really foolish of me. Then Brother Shi read a couple more passages of Almighty God’s words. “For many years, people’s traditional means of belief (that of Christianity, one of the world’s three major religions) has been to read the Bible; departure from the Bible is not a belief in the Lord, departure from the Bible is heterodoxy and heresy, and even when people read other books, the foundation of these books must be the explanation of the Bible. Which is to say, if you believe in the Lord, then you must read the Bible, and outside the Bible you must not worship any book that does not involve the Bible. If you do, then you are betraying God. From the time when there was the Bible, people’s belief in the Lord has been the belief in the Bible. Instead of saying people believe in the Lord, it is better to say they believe in the Bible; rather than saying they have begun reading the Bible, it is better to say they have begun believing in the Bible; and rather than saying they have returned before the Lord, it would be better to say they have returned before the Bible. In this way, people worship the Bible as if it were God, as if it were their lifeblood, and losing it would be the same as losing their life. People see the Bible as being as high as God, and there are even those who see it as higher than God. If people are without the work of the Holy Spirit, if they cannot feel God, they can carry on living—but as soon as they lose the Bible, or lose the famous chapters and sayings from the Bible, then it is as if they have lost their life” (“Concerning the Bible (1)” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). “They believe in My existence only within the scope of the Bible, and they equate Me with the Bible; without the Bible there is no Me, and without Me there is no Bible. They pay no heed to My existence or actions, but instead devote extreme and special attention to each and every word of Scripture. Many more even believe that I should not do anything I wish to do unless it is foretold by Scripture. They attach too much importance to Scripture. It can be said that they see words and expressions as too important, to the extent that they use verses from the Bible to measure every word I say and to condemn Me. What they seek is not the way of compatibility with Me or the way of compatibility with the truth, but the way of compatibility with the words of the Bible, and they believe that anything that does not conform to the Bible is, without exception, not My work. Are such people not the dutiful descendants of the Pharisees? The Jewish Pharisees used the law of Moses to condemn Jesus. They did not seek compatibility with the Jesus of that time, but diligently followed the law to the letter, to the extent that—after having charged Him with not following the law of the Old Testament and not being the Messiah—they ultimately nailed the innocent Jesus to the cross. What was their substance? Was it not that they didn’t seek the way of compatibility with the truth?” (“You Should Seek the Way of Compatibility With Christ” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). Brother Shi fellowshiped, “Lots of people swear up and down that they believe in God, but they actually believe in the Bible. They confine God to being within the scope of Scripture and compare God’s work to the literal words of the Bible. They deny and condemn anything that doesn’t match it. How is that any different from the Pharisees? The Pharisees compared the Lord Jesus’ work to the Old Testament law, and when they saw it went outside those bounds, they condemned Him and had Him nailed to the cross in the end. What a painful lesson to learn. In our faith, we should seek the truth and the footsteps of God. In the last days, Almighty God has expressed so many truths to do the work of judgment, to fully cleanse us of sin and bring us into the kingdom of heaven. This stage of work is deeper and more elevated than the Lord’s work of redemption and it’s totally outside the scope of the Bible. If we judge it based on the literal words of the Bible, delimiting God’s work of the last days, wouldn’t that be making the same mistake as the Pharisees?”

I always thought God’s work couldn’t go outside of the Bible, that anything not recorded in the Bible couldn’t be God’s work. After all those years of faith, how could I have thought of God as limited to the Bible? I’d never realized that wasn’t the right kind of faith. There’s a great quote from Almighty God: “They equate Me with the Bible; without the Bible there is no Me, and without Me there is no Bible. They pay no heed to My existence or actions, but instead devote extreme and special attention to each and every word of Scripture. Many more even believe that I should not do anything I wish to do unless it is foretold by Scripture” (“You Should Seek the Way of Compatibility With Christ” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). Every single word was so poignant for me. How could I treat the Bible like it was God Himself? Was that putting God first? I cared about the Bible, not about God!

I didn’t realize how wonderful Eastern Lightning’s preaching was, but I still had lots of unanswered questions. I figured that since I was listening to them, I may as well get some answers. I couldn’t keep being so disorganized in my faith. I also wanted to hear more about those two brothers’ other views on faith. So I asked them about Revelation 22:18: “For I testify to every man that hears the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add to these things, God shall add to him the plagues that are written in this book.” Since they said God had come and spoken new words, done new work, how could that verse be explained? Brother Wang said, “‘Add’ in that verse means not adding anything to prophecies in Revelation, not that God wouldn’t return and speak more in the last days. If we went by your idea that God wouldn’t return and speak more in the last days, then think of the Lord saying ‘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’ (John 16:12–13). How would that be fulfilled? And Revelation mentions seven times ‘He that has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches’ (Revelation Chapters 2, 3). How could that be explained? Aren’t you denying and condemning the Holy Spirit’s words to the churches in the last days, the truths He expresses? We all know that God is the source of life, the ever-flowing spring of living water of life. So delimiting God’s work and words to the Bible would be like saying God could only say what was recorded in the Bible and do the work He did in the past. Wouldn’t that be disrespecting and confining God? Almighty God has spoken millions of words now, and He’s doing the work of judgment beginning with God’s house. This fulfills the Lord Jesus’ prophecy, ‘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 in 1 Peter, it says, ‘For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God’ (1 Peter 4:17). It’s only by accepting God’s truths in the last days and the judgment of His words that we can understand the root of our sin, be freed from the bonds of corruption, and stop sinning and resisting God. Then we can truly obey and worship God, and ultimately be taken by God into His kingdom and gain a beautiful destination.” Hearing this, I realized that the Lord speaking new words and doing new work in the last days really was prophesied in the Bible. Before, I always thought I knew the Bible really well, but I saw I didn’t remotely understand the inside story and I didn’t know how to approach the Bible properly.

Those two brothers shared so much more fellowship after that about the right approach to the Bible. I was left without any doubts. But it was also really upsetting for me. I didn’t know why I was so misguided after all those years of faith. I’d always thought faith in God meant faith in the Bible, and anything else wasn’t faith in God. I thought God’s work and words were all limited to the Bible, so I saw the Bible as even greater than God. I resisted and condemned anyone’s claim that God was doing new work and speaking new words and I didn’t have any desire to seek. I just rigidly clung to my own notions and fed brothers and sisters with them, too, misleading the others. I felt like the preaching I’d done all those years was a way of deceiving church members, that it hurt them. Then I saw that I was just an ignorant, foolish preacher. I’d been in contact with lots of preachers before, and discussed the Scripture with them, but those brothers were the clearest in their fellowship. I’m a really arrogant person who’s not easily convinced, but this time, I had no doubts!

I was dying to have them explain everything to me to clear up all my confusion. I said to them, “I understand all your fellowship, but I still have an important question. You’ve said the Lord has returned in the flesh as a woman, which is something I can’t accept. The Lord Jesus was a man, so He should return as a man, too!” Brother Wang said, “God is a Spirit, a Spirit without physical form or sex. He has come to work in the flesh because of what’s required for His work, and that’s the only reason He’s taken on any sex. Whether He’s male or female, He can do God’s work. In the Age of Grace, God incarnate was crucified, serving as mankind’s sin offering. The Lord Jesus was a man and He could redeem mankind through crucifixion. If the Lord Jesus had come as a woman, He could have been crucified just the same. Once His work in the flesh is done, God will change into a spiritual form, so then He will be neither male nor female. The Bible says, ‘So God created man in His own image, in the image of God created He him; male and female created He them’ (Genesis 1:27). This Bible verse tells us that God created male and female in His image. God incarnating as a man could represent God, so can’t His incarnation as a woman also represent God? Male or female, this is a fleshly incarnation of God’s Spirit and in either case, God is performing His own work. This wasn’t a truth we knew before, so ever since God’s first incarnation as a man, lots of people delimited Him, thinking God incarnate could only be a man, and never a woman.” Then Brother Wang read a couple passages of Almighty God’s words. “Each stage of work done by God has its own practical significance. Back then, when Jesus came, He came in male form, and when God comes this time, His form is female. From this, you can see that God’s creation of both men and women can be of use in His work, and with Him there is no distinction of gender. When His Spirit comes, He can take on any flesh He pleases, and that flesh can represent Him; whether male or female, it can represent God as long as it is His incarnate flesh. If Jesus had appeared as a female when He came, in other words, if an infant girl, and not a boy, had been conceived by the Holy Spirit, that stage of work would have been completed all the same. If that had been the case, then the present stage of work would have to be completed by a male instead, but the work would be completed all the same. The work done in each stage has its significance; neither stage of work is repeated, nor does it conflict with the other. At the time, Jesus, in doing His work, was called the only Son, and ‘Son’ implies the male gender. Why is the only Son not mentioned in this current stage? Because the requirements of the work have necessitated a change in gender from that of Jesus. With God there is no distinction of gender. He does His work as He wishes, and in doing His work He is not subject to any restrictions, but is especially free. Yet every stage of work has its own practical significance. God became flesh twice, and it is self-evident that His incarnation during the last days is the final time. He has come to make known all His deeds. If in this stage He did not become flesh in order personally to do work for man to witness, man would forever cling to the notion that God is only male, not female.” “If this stage of work were not done in the final age, then toward God the whole of humankind would be veiled under a dark shadow. If this were the case, man would think himself higher than woman, and women would never be able to hold their heads up, and then not even a single woman could be saved. People always believe that God is male, and moreover that He has always despised woman and would not grant her salvation. If this were the case, would it not be true that all women, who were created by Jehovah and who have also been corrupted, would never have the opportunity to be saved? Then would it not have been pointless for Jehovah to have created woman, that is, to have created Eve? And would not woman perish for eternity? For this reason, the stage of work in the last days is undertaken in order to save the whole of humankind, not just woman. If anyone should think that were God to be incarnated as female, it would solely be for the sake of saving woman, then that person would indeed be a fool!” (“The Two Incarnations Complete the Significance of the Incarnation” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). Then he said, “There’s meaning within whether God incarnates as a man or as a woman, and there’s truth that we should seek. If God incarnated both times as a man, people would think God could only be a man, never a woman. Then wouldn’t that be delimiting God? God incarnating as a woman in the last days shows us that whether He takes on a male or female body, His essence never changes—He is God Himself and can always express truths and perform God’s work. This gives us a more accurate understanding of God. Also, the incarnation of God helps us see that He’s not just God for men, but He’s God for women, too. If He incarnated as a man again in the last days, there would be a bias against women forever, and people could even think that God detests women, that they can’t be saved. Wouldn’t that be a misunderstanding? God incarnating as a woman in the last days doesn’t fit with people’s notions, but it’s meaningful, and beneficial for people’s salvation and understanding of God. God’s love is within this.”

Almighty God’s words laid my notions bare. God creating both man and woman was something I just paid lip service to. I wondered why I thought He couldn’t possibly take on female form. How could I have been so ignorant? Then Brother Wang read more of Almighty God’s words for me. “God is not merely the Holy Spirit, the Spirit, the sevenfold intensified Spirit, or the all-encompassing Spirit, but is also a human—an ordinary human, an exceptionally common human. He is not only male, but also female. They are similar in that They are both born to humans, and dissimilar in that one was conceived by the Holy Spirit and the other was born to a human, though derived directly from the Spirit. They are similar in that both incarnate fleshes of God carry out the work of God the Father, and dissimilar in that one performed the work of redemption while the other does the work of conquest. Both represent God the Father, but one is the Redeemer, filled with lovingkindness and mercy, and the other is the God of righteousness, filled with wrath and judgment. One is the Supreme Commander who launched the work of redemption, while the other is the righteous God who accomplishes the work of conquest. One is the Beginning, the other the End. One is sinless flesh, while the other is flesh that completes the redemption, continues the work, and is never sinful. Both are the same Spirit, but They dwell in different fleshes and were born in different places, and They are separated by several thousand years. However, all Their work is mutually complementary, never conflicting, and can be spoken of in the same breath. Both are people, but one was a baby boy and the other was an infant girl. For all these many years, what people have seen is not only the Spirit and not only a human, a male, but also many things that do not jibe with human notions; as such, humans are never able to fully fathom Me. They keep half-believing and half-doubting Me—as if I do exist, yet am also an illusory dream—which is why, to this day, people still do not know what God is. Can you really sum Me up in one simple sentence? Do you truly dare to say, ‘Jesus is none other than God, and God is none other than Jesus’? Are you really so bold as to say, ‘God is none other than the Spirit, and the Spirit is none other than God’? Are you comfortable saying, ‘God is just a human clothed in flesh’? Do you truly have the courage to assert, ‘The image of Jesus is the great image of God’? Are you able to use your eloquence to thoroughly explain God’s disposition and image? Do you really dare to say, ‘God created males only, not females, after His own image’? If you say this, then no female would be among My selected, much less would females be one class of humankind. Now do you truly know what God is? Is God a human? Is God a Spirit? Is God really a male? Can only Jesus complete the work I am to do? If you choose only one of the above to sum up My essence, then you are an exceedingly ignorant loyal believer. If I worked as incarnate flesh once, and only once, would you delimit Me? Can you really understand Me thoroughly at a single glance? Can you really sum Me up completely based on what you have been exposed to during your lifetime? If I did similar work in both My incarnations, how would you perceive Me? Would you leave Me forever nailed to the cross? Could God be as simple as you claim?” (“What Is Your Understanding of God?” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). These words moved me the moment I heard them. I always said that God is the Spirit that fills all things, omnipotent and omnipresent, so how could I delimit Him? He incarnated as a man the first time, so isn’t it perfectly normal for Him to come as a woman this time? When He incarnates as a man or a woman, He represents God—He can express truths and save mankind. It’s actually really simple, so why did I see it as some great mystery? The more I considered it, the more I could see how wrong I was. I really didn’t know God, but I was always delimiting and constraining Him. It was so unreasonable.

Then Brother Shi fellowshiped, “To determine if it is God’s incarnation, the key is to see if He has divine essence and can express truths, not base it on sex or external appearance. Almighty God says, ‘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’ (Preface to The Word Appears in the Flesh). God’s words are very clear. He who expresses the truth, shows us the way, and gives us life is God in the flesh. When the Lord Jesus came to work in the flesh, He looked just like a regular person—He was the son of a carpenter. Lots of people wouldn’t acknowledge He was God for that reason. Then why did so many people follow the Lord Jesus? It was because His work and words couldn’t be achieved by any human. He could express the truth and give us the way of repentance. He was love, mercy and redemption for mankind. No person possessed those things or could do all of that. So, the Lord Jesus was God incarnate. And now Almighty God has come, and He looks like a regular person on the outside, but He has expressed so many truths and is doing the judgment work of the last days. He has already conquered and completed a group of overcomers. Almighty God has done such great work and shocked the entire world, revealing God’s righteous disposition to mankind and bringing us the way of eternal life. These are things no human could achieve. If all we take into consideration is the sex of the incarnation, but not the truths God expresses, that’s incredibly foolish, and it’s making the Pharisees’ mistake of resisting God.”

I thought of how lots of churches were talking for years about guarding against false Christs, but no one could clearly explain how to tell if someone is God in the flesh. Only Almighty God could clarify this aspect of the truth. I was completely convinced. I also felt really guilty. I’d been a believer all those years and read the Bible so much, but I didn’t even know how to recognize the Lord. I was just like a secular person, judging a book by its cover, assuming that God incarnate couldn’t possibly be a woman. If I’d been born in the Age of Grace I would have condemned the Lord Jesus, just like the Pharisees. We fellowshiped on a lot more after that, including the mysteries of God’s management plan, the three stages of His work, how He does His judgment work in the last days to cleanse and save man, and more. I became more certain that Almighty God’s words are the truth, that He is the Lord Jesus returned. No one other than God can reveal these mysteries of the truth. No one can cleanse and save other people, and no one can determine people’s outcome and destination. This really opened my eyes. No wonder those brothers and sisters wouldn’t come back after accepting Eastern Lightning. They’d found the truth in Almighty God’s words, and heard the voice of God. They’d welcomed the Lord’s return. Who would want to walk away after finding God’s footsteps and attending the Lamb’s wedding feast? That would be idiotic. All those years went by. If I’d looked into it sooner and listened to what Eastern Lightning had to say, I could have been freed from the pain earlier, and enjoyed the living water of life. I was too blind and foolish, just mindlessly listening to the clergy’s nonsense. I was really arrogant, I stubbornly clung to the Bible, and I indoctrinated brothers and sisters with my mistaken notions, getting them to deny and condemn God’s new work along with me. I kept others from welcoming the Lord’s return. It reminded me of something the Lord Jesus said to rebuke the Pharisees: “For you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for you neither go in yourselves, neither suffer you them that are entering to go in” (Matthew 23:13). I was acting exactly like the Pharisees did, shutting up the kingdom of heaven, not going in or letting others go in. I did harm to brothers and sisters—it was a great evil.

Thinking of all the terrible things I’d done against Almighty God, I really hated myself, and couldn’t help but just dash into the kitchen and burst into tears. I read another passage of Almighty God’s words after that. “Since you believe in God, you must put faith in all of the words of God and in all of His work. Which is to say, since you believe in God, you must obey Him. If you are unable to do this, then it does not matter whether you believe in God or not. If you have believed in God for many years, and yet have never obeyed Him, and do not accept the entirety of His words, and instead ask that God submit to you and act according to your notions, then you are the most rebellious of all, you are a nonbeliever. How could such people be able to obey the work and words of God that do not conform to the notions of man? Most rebellious of all are those who intentionally defy and resist God. They are the enemies of God, the antichrists. Theirs is always an attitude of hostility toward the new work of God; they never have the slightest inclination to submit, nor have they ever gladly submitted or humbled themselves. They exalt themselves before others and never submit to anyone. Before God, they consider themselves the best at preaching the word, and the most skillful in working on others. Never do they discard the ‘treasures’ in their possession, but treat them as family heirlooms for worship, for preaching about to others, and they use them to lecture those fools who idolize them. There are indeed a certain number of people like this in the church. It can be said that they are ‘indomitable heroes,’ generation after generation sojourning in the house of God. They take preaching the word (doctrine) to be their highest duty. Year after year, generation after generation, they go about vigorously enforcing their ‘sacred and inviolable’ duty. None dare touch them; not a single person dares openly reproach them. They become ‘kings’ in the house of God, running rampant as they tyrannize others from age to age. This pack of demons seeks to join hands and demolish My work; how can I allow these living devils to exist before My eyes? Even those who are only half obedient cannot carry on until the end, much less these tyrants without the slightest obedience in their hearts!” (“Those Who Obey God With a True Heart Shall Surely Be Gained by God” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). God’s harsh words felt like a knife straight to my heart. It felt like every word was a judgment of me. Through all those years, I thought that no one’s faith surpassed mine in the church, that I was the most devout believer. I treated the sacrifices I’d made like personal capital, as if I had a king’s authority in church. I had final say over everything, big and small. Brothers and sisters believed in the Lord and read the Bible, but I was the one they listened to. I was really rigid about keeping my notions about welcoming the Lord, and I intimidated brothers and sisters to keep them from looking into it. I totally sealed off the church. Church members were too afraid to receive anyone with Eastern Lightning and didn’t dare hear them out. Some really liked what they said, but were too scared to let them finish, afraid I’d expel them. I saw I was an evil servant who was keeping people from welcoming the Lord. I was a modern-day Pharisee! I offended God’s disposition, and He disciplined me, allowing me to become ill. But I still didn’t turn back, just continuing to hold on to my notions as if they were the truth, instead of making the effort to investigate Almighty God’s work of the last days. How incredibly arrogant of me! I made everyone in the church listen to me, to treat my ideas like the truth. I was trying to stand in God’s place. Isn’t that like being an antichrist, like the archangel? After all my years of being a believer, I still didn’t know God, and fought against Him. But instead of directly punishing me, He stopped me in my evil tracks with a health problem, and then got those two brothers to come share the gospel with me. I really wasn’t worthy of God’s mercy and salvation. I was filled with gratitude and felt so indebted to God when I realized that. I prostrated myself before God, weeping, and prayed, “Almighty God! My actions really deserve Your condemnation, Your curse. I don’t deserve to live in this world. You’ve saved me and graced me with hearing Your voice. God, I’ve done so much evil and I don’t deserve to ask for Your mercy. I just ask You to give me a chance to atone for my sins, to make up for my transgressions. I’m willing to pay any price to share the gospel to help Your lost sheep find their way back to Your house and receive Your salvation.”

For a while, I devoured Almighty God’s words like a starving person and learned so many truths I’d never known before, like what the incarnation is, what faith in God is, what truly serving God means, plus I learned about dispositional change, how to really love and satisfy God, and more. I felt like I’d gained so much from all the watering and sustenance of God’s words. I was really attending the Lamb’s wedding feast. I became certain that this is God’s appearance and work, the road He’s personally showing us. Also, my health issue just disappeared without a trace. Through working with brothers and sisters, I got our nine main co-workers and over 30 team leaders to come before God. Then I started spreading the gospel and doing my duty so more true believers could gain God’s salvation of the last days sooner. Thank Almighty God!

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