By Learning to Discern the True Christ From False Christs, I Welcome the Lord’s Return
Editor’s Note: We are now in the last days and the prophecies within the Bible concerning the Lord’s return have basically all been fulfilled—the Lord is about to return to receive us. But at the time of the Lord’s return, false Christs will also appear to deceive people, so how then should we discern the true Christ from false Christs and welcome the Lord’s return? I trust that this is an issue that all who sincerely believe in the Lord wish to understand. Sister Ganxin was once confounded by this very issue, but she now knows the principles behind discerning the true Christ from false Christs, and she has now welcomed the Lord’s return. How did she come to understand these things? Let’s read her experiences together.
In 1996, Sister Lan preached faith in the Lord Jesus to me and I happily accepted. Afterward, no matter what unfortunate event befell me, I always prayed to the Lord, and many difficulties were resolved without my being conscious of it. I felt that, with the Lord beside me, everything was well, and I felt peace and joy in my heart. Several years later, however, I found that the preacher in my church had run out of new things to say, the number of people attending church gatherings was getting fewer and fewer, and there were even some brothers and sisters who fell asleep during the sermons. My spirit was utterly without enjoyment and I was weary of this kind of church gathering. I no longer wanted to attend them, but then I would feel a sense of self-reproach, and all I could do was reluctantly force myself to keep going.
Is Any Message That Preaches That the Lord Has Returned False?
At a church gathering one day, Brother Xu, the preacher, said, “Brothers and sisters, the Lord Jesus gave us a warning: ‘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). The prophecies of the Lord’s return have now basically been fulfilled and the Lord will soon come to receive us. But at the time of the Lord’s return, false Christs will appear to deceive people. We must beware and not accept any preaching that says the Lord has returned. In particular, Eastern Lightning preaches that the Lord has returned already and that He is performing new work. Many brothers and sisters from every church who sincerely believe in the Lord have accepted it already, and there are even many preachers who have believed in the Lord for many years who have been stolen away by Eastern Lightning. You are yet immature in life, and you absolutely must not have any contact with strangers, so as to avoid being stolen away by Eastern Lightning.”
When I heard that Eastern Lightning was testifying that the Lord had already returned, and that many preachers who had believed in the Lord for many years had accepted it, I was surprised, and thought to myself: “Could it be that the Lord really has returned? These preachers have believed in the Lord for many years and they understand the Bible. They have their own thoughts and their own minds, and it will not have been a simple thing for them to accept Eastern Lightning. It looks as though there is some truth in Eastern Lightning that I must seek. But Brother Xu won’t allow us to seek this way, so if we do what he says, will we be able to welcome the Lord? The Lord Jesus said, ‘Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you’ (Matthew 7:7). If the Lord truly has returned and I don’t seek or investigate, what shall I do if the Lord gives up on me? Haven’t I been longing for the Lord to come through all my years of belief?” But when I thought of what the preacher had said, I began to worry once again, and I thought, “Many false Christs will appear in the last days—what will I do if I end up being deceived by one?” My heart was in turmoil and I didn’t know what to do for the best, so I said a prayer to the Lord in my heart: “O Lord! What on earth should I do in order to conform to Your will? If I happen to come across someone from Eastern Lightning who preaches to me that You have returned, should I listen to them or not? O Lord! I ask that You enlighten me and guide me….”
Just then, these words from the Bible came to mind: “… for He has said, I will never leave you, nor forsake you. So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do to me” (Hebrews 13:5–6). My heart instantly felt at ease. “Yes,” I thought. “With the Lord as my backup, what is there to fear? I believe that as long as I pray and rely on the Lord more, then He will guide me to discern the true Christ from false Christs. Why shouldn’t I be able to listen to their preaching?”
The Lord Wills Us to Seek
One day, after I and seven or eight brothers and sisters arrived at our gathering place, the preacher Brother Xu once again began to preach to us about how to guard against Eastern Lightning. He stressed again and again that false Christs would appear in the last days to deceive people and that we should not have any contact with strangers. As soon as he finished speaking, Sister Qian said, “Brother Xu, what is your basis for saying that we mustn’t have any contact with strangers? You always preach that the prophecies of the Lord’s return have basically all now been fulfilled, and that the Lord is very nearly here. But now Eastern Lightning is testifying that the Lord is here already, and you won’t let us seek this way nor go to hear their sermons. By doing this, are you not preventing us from turning to the Lord? The Bible says, ‘So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ’ (Romans 10:17). Whether or not Eastern Lightning is the return of the Lord is something we can only determine by listening to their sermons. If we don’t listen, don’t look and don’t have any contact with them, then how will we know whether Eastern Lightning is true or false?”
Sister Zong said, “That’s right. The Lord Jesus said, ‘Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you’ (Matthew 7:7). The Lord’s will is for us to pray more when we encounter things we do not thoroughly understand. As long as we have a heart that is open and seeking, then the Lord will hear our prayers and He will guide us. We’ve now heard the gospel of the Lord’s return, but we haven’t sought or investigated it, and neither have we prayed or sought the Lord’s will. We have indeed gone against the Lord’s teachings and, by doing this, we will be unable to welcome the Lord!”
The preacher, faced with such questions from the two sisters, spoke hesitantly and could not come up with any real reasons for not allowing us to seek the way of Eastern Lightning. After listening to the two sisters’ fellowship, I thought that they had spoken correctly and that we should indeed be taking the initiative to seek and investigate Eastern Lightning. At the same time, I felt a little surprised. “Sister Zong is usually so timid and shy, never daring to speak,” I thought. “How is it that today she has the courage to refute the preacher? What’s more, her fellowship was reasonable and substantiated, it entirely accorded with the teachings of the Bible and it was irrefutable. It’s amazing!” That night as I lay in bed, I thought again about how Sister Qian and Sister Zong had disputed with the preacher, and I couldn’t help but wonder: “How could those two sisters have changed so much? Could it be that they have accepted Eastern Lightning? I cannot treat such an important matter as the Lord’s coming so frivolously, so tomorrow I will go speak with them.”
The next day, I found Sister Zong and asked her straight out, “Sister Zong, have you accepted Eastern Lightning?” She nodded, and said, “Yes, I have accepted Eastern Lightning. Our Lord Jesus has returned already as the incarnated Almighty God. Almighty God expresses all truths to enable mankind to attain true salvation and He performs the work of judgment that begins in God’s house. He does this to judge and purify our corrupt dispositions, to save us utterly from the bonds of sin and to enable us to become people who will do the will of God.” Hearing her talk this way, it made me all the more impatient to hear sermons given by Eastern Lightning. Just then, Sister Zong said, “I’ve only just begun to believe in it and there are many truths I don’t understand. How about I get some of the other brothers and sisters to give you fellowship?” I happily nodded and agreed to this proposal.
How to Discern False Christs
Early on the appointed day, I went with Sister Zong to the home of a brother. He was very kind and he cheerfully asked us to sit. I then told them both about the confusion I was feeling: “Brother, 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). On the basis of these verses, our preacher says that, when the Lord returns in the last days, false Christs will also appear to deceive people. He also says that any message that preaches that the Lord has come already is false, and he will not allow us to investigate it. I feel that, if we do what he says, then we will not be able to welcome the Lord, but I’m also afraid of being deceived by false Christs. I’ve come here today to get it straight in my head: How on earth are we to discern the true Christ from false Christs?”
Smiling, the brother said, “We are all afraid of going astray in our belief in God and we are all afraid of being deceived by false Christs. It’s totally normal to feel this kind of worry and concern. But we must understand the Lord’s will. The Lord said this so that we might have discernment of false Christs and so that we might not be deceived by them. He did not say it to make us guard blindly against false Christs to the point where we deny entry even to the return of the Lord Jesus. In fact, the Lord’s words not only tell us that false Christs will appear in the last days, but they also tell us the way to discern false Christs. The Lord said, ‘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: 24). The Lord speaks very clearly; the behavior of false Christs is that they rely on showing great signs and wonders in order to deceive people. We now know the characteristics of false Christs, so as long as we take care to discern them, then we will not be deceived. If we take this verse out of context and we completely misunderstand the Lord’s will, believing that all messages that preach of the Lord’s return are false and we must not investigate or seek them at all, would we then not be condemning the Lord’s return? And how then would we be able to welcome the return of the Lord? Would we not be refusing to eat for fear of choking and giving up on what is truly important in order to make petty gains?”
As I listened to the brother’s fellowship, I pondered: “So, the Lord said these words to tell us that the obvious characteristics of false Christs are that they show signs and wonders in order to deceive people, so that we might have discernment of false Christs. The Lord has spoken so clearly—how is it I never noticed this before? Our preachers have preached this verse countless times, but not only have they never explained the way to discern false Christs, but they have also named as false any message that preaches that the Lord has returned. They consistently tell us to be on our guard against strangers, and that we are not to seek or investigate the way of the Lord’s return. By doing this, would we not be denying entry to the Lord when He returns? It’s too dangerous!”
Just then, the brother took up a book and said, “Let’s read some of Almighty God’s words, and then we’ll understand more about how false Christs deceive people. Almighty God says, ‘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 the counterfeit of evil spirits, and their imitation of 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. … In the conceptions of man, God must always display signs and wonders, must always heal the sick and cast out demons, and must always be just like Jesus, yet this time God is not like that at all. If, during the last days, God still displayed signs and wonders, and still cast out demons and healed the sick—if He did exactly the same as Jesus—then God would be repeating the same work, and the work of Jesus would have no significance or value. Thus, God carries out one stage of work in every age. Once each stage of His work has been completed, it is soon imitated by evil spirits, and after Satan begins to follow on the heels of God, God changes to a different method. Once God has completed a stage of His work, it is imitated by evil spirits. You must be clear about this’ (‘Knowing God’s Work Today’ in The Word Appears in the Flesh).
“Almighty God speaks very clearly. God is an ever-new and never-old God and He never performs the same work twice. In the Age of Law, for example, God proclaimed the law and the commandments to mankind, He led them in their lives on earth, and taught them how to worship God. When the Lord Jesus came, however, He did not repeat the work of the Age of Law, but instead He performed the work of redemption upon the foundation of the work performed in the Age of Law. He expressed the way of repentance, He healed the sick and cast out demons, and He performed miracles until, finally, He was nailed to the cross, thus redeeming mankind from sin. Similarly, Almighty God has now come in the last days and, upon the foundation of the Lord Jesus’ work of redemption, He performs the work of judgment beginning in God’s house. He also expresses all the truths that can save mankind and that can enable our corrupt dispositions to gradually become cleansed and changed through the judgment of His words, and ultimately, He will lead us into our beautiful destination. It is therefore evident that God’s work moves ever onward and that, according to the needs of mankind, God continually expresses His truths and performs His work to save mankind. If Almighty God came and once again performed the work of the Age of Grace, healing the sick and casting out demons, then His work would be unable to move on, and that would render the stage of work performed by the Lord Jesus meaningless. Therefore, when the Lord returns in the last days, He absolutely will not carry out once again the work of healing the sick, casting out demons and performing miracles. If someone shows signs and wonders, pretending to be the return of the Lord Jesus, then they are sure to be a false Christ trying to deceive people. False Christs are all evil spirits and demons trying to palm themselves off as Christ. They are simply incapable of performing the work of beginning new ages and bringing old ages to a close, much less can they save mankind. All they can do is trail behind and imitate some of the past works of God and show some simple signs and wonders to deceive people. The kind of miracles performed by the Lord Jesus that brimmed with the authority and power of God, however, such as bringing the dead back to life, feeding the five thousand with five loaves and two fish, and calming the winds and seas with a word, are quite simply beyond false Christs’ ability to perform. When we understand the work of God and have discernment of the essence of false Christs and the means they employ to deceive people, we can then avoid being deceived by them.”
After listening to the words of Almighty God and to the brother’s fellowship, I came to have some understanding of the truth of how to discern false Christs. It turned out that the Lord Jesus’ work to redeem mankind was over already, and that, returning in the last days, God will not repeat the work that has already been done by the Lord Jesus. False Christs, moreover, are incapable of performing the work of God, but can only rely on imitating God’s past work and showing some simple signs and wonders to deceive people. Just then, I came to a new understanding of these words spoken by the Lord Jesus: “For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders.”
I Recognize the Essence of Christ and Welcome the Lord’s Return
The brother then continued with his fellowship, saying, “If we wish to discern between the true Christ and false Christs, the most important thing for us to do is to recognize the essence of Christ. To this end, let’s now read two more passages of Almighty God’s words. ‘To study such a thing is not difficult, but requires each of us to know this truth: He who is God’s incarnation shall hold the substance of God, and He who is God’s incarnation shall hold the expression of God. Since God becomes flesh, He shall bring forth the work He must 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 man, and show man the way. Flesh that does not contain the substance of God is surely not the incarnate God; of this there is no doubt. To investigate whether it is God’s incarnate flesh, man must determine this from the disposition He expresses and the words He speaks. Which is to say, whether or not it is God’s incarnate flesh, and whether or not it is the true way, must be judged from His substance. And so, in determining[a] whether it is the flesh of God incarnate, the key is to pay attention to His substance (His work, His words, His disposition, and many more), rather than external appearance’ (Preface to The Word Appears in the Flesh). ‘God become flesh is called Christ, and so the Christ that can give people the truth is called God. There is nothing excessive about this, for He possesses the substance of God, and possesses God’s disposition, and wisdom in His work, that are unattainable by man. Those who call themselves Christ, yet cannot do the work of God, are frauds. Christ is not merely the manifestation of God on earth, but also the particular flesh assumed by God as He carries out and completes His work among man. This flesh is not one that can be replaced by just any man, but one that can adequately bear God’s work on earth, and express the disposition of God, and well represent God, and provide man with life. Sooner or later, those who impersonate Christ will all fall, for although they claim to be Christ, they possess none of the substance of Christ. And so I say that the authenticity of Christ cannot be defined by man, but is answered and decided by God Himself’ (‘Only Christ of the Last Days Can Give Man the Way of Eternal Life’ in The Word Appears in the Flesh).”
The brother gave fellowship, saying, “Almighty God’s words show us clearly that Christ is God in incarnate flesh, that is, Christ is the heavenly Father clothed in flesh as the Son of man who comes into the world to perform His work. Not only does He possess normal humanity, but He also possesses complete divinity, and only Christ can perform the work of saving mankind, only Christ can express God’s disposition and what God has and is, and express the truth at any time and in any place to provide for and guide people and show people the path of practice—this is determined by the essence of Christ. Therefore, if we wish to be sure whether someone is or is not Christ, the key is to determine this based on such aspects as his words, his work and his disposition. The Lord Jesus, for example, was the incarnated flesh of God; He expressed many truths, expressed His disposition of mercy and lovingkindness, and He performed the work of redeeming mankind. His work and words were able to provide for the needs of man’s spirit, and they showed the people of that age the direction of the new era. For example, the Lord Jesus taught people to confess their sins and repent, that they had to love their neighbors as themselves, be tolerant and patient, forgive others seventy times seven times, and He exhorted people to love the Lord with all their hearts and minds, and so on. By practicing according to the Lord’s words, we are then able to obtain His commendation and blessing, we are no longer subject to being condemned by the law, and we are able to live in peace and joy. From the Lord Jesus’ words and work, as well as from the disposition He expressed, we can see that the Lord Jesus was Christ, that He was God Himself. Now, the incarnate Almighty God is performing the work of judgment beginning in the house of God, He is expressing all truths to purify and save mankind, and He has revealed the mystery of God’s three stages of work, the mystery of God’s name, the mystery of God’s incarnation, the truth behind the Bible, the end and destination of mankind, and so on. Almighty God has also unveiled the truth of mankind’s corruption by Satan and He has revealed most fully our satanic dispositions such as arrogance, selfishness, deceit, greed and wickedness. At the same time, He also shows us the way to purification as well as the truths we should practice and enter into, such as how to be honest people, how to obey and love God, how to serve God in a way that conforms to His will, how to cast off our corrupt dispositions, and so on. Through the judgment and chastisement of God’s words, we now recognize the truth of our corruption by Satan as well as God’s righteous and majestic disposition and His holy essence. A God-fearing heart has arisen within us, we focus more and more on practicing the truth, we seek to cast off our corrupt dispositions and attain change, and we gradually grow to live out a genuine human likeness. The words and work of Almighty God bring us truth and life; the truths He expresses and His disposition which is now principally righteous are entirely the expressions of His divine essence. Through the words and work of Almighty God, we become certain that Almighty God is God Himself and that He is the Lord Jesus returned. False Christs, on the other hand, are possessed by evil spirits—their essence is that of evil spirits, they do not possess a divine essence, and they are simply incapable of explaining the mysteries of God’s management plan, much less express truths that judge and cleanse man or perform the work of saving mankind. All they can do is rely on showing some simple signs and wonders, misinterpret the words in the Bible and talk about some profound doctrine, or else they say pleasant-sounding words which chime with people’s fleshly conceptions in order to deceive people. When people hearken to their words, they find they come to a dead-end, and all they can do then is sink deeper and deeper into darkness, until finally they are devoured by Satan.”
The brother integrated Almighty God’s words into his fellowship and spoke so clearly about the essence of Christ, and my heart became filled both with light and enjoyment. Excitedly, I said, “I understand what you’re saying. If we want to determine whether or not someone is Christ, whether or not they are the Lord returned, the key is to understand it from their work, words and disposition. The Lord Jesus said, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life’ (John 14:6). If they are Christ, then they will be able to express the truth, bestow life on people, and show people the way. The essence of false Christs, however, is that of evil spirits; they are utterly without truth and they cannot provide for people’s lives in the slightest, much less show people the way. All they can do is rely on showing some signs and wonders and say some things that chime with people’s conceptions in order to deceive them. Thanks be to God! If Almighty God hadn’t unveiled these truths and mysteries, then I would never have understood them no matter how many years I spent reading the Bible or listening to sermons. Your fellowship today has been so enlightening, and I’ve gained so much!”
The brother said in earnest, “Thank God! The Lord Jesus said, ‘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 16:13). In the last days, the Spirit of truth has come as the incarnate Almighty God. He reveals all these truths and mysteries, and we only understand these truths and have the correct path of practice to follow by reading God’s words. Without them, no one would ever be able to know this much.”
Afterward, the brother also gave me fellowship on such truths as God’s six-thousand-year management plan to save mankind, the purpose of God’s three stages of work, the truth behind the work of conquest, and the significance of God performing the work of judgment. The more I listened, the more I enjoyed listening, and I felt as though the truths I’d come to understand in just one day were far more numerous than the truths I’d understood in all my years believing in the Lord. No wonder people say that the way of Eastern Lightning is a lofty way; the people of Eastern Lightning have accepted God’s new work and have understood it from the words of Almighty God! And so, I couldn’t hold myself back from asking the brother, “How much is this book? I’d like to buy a copy and take it home to give it a careful investigation.” The brother smiled and said, “This book is free. God said, ‘I will give to him that is thirsty of the fountain of the water of life freely’ (Revelation 21:6). God’s love encompasses all; He loves mankind, cares for mankind, and in order to utterly save man from the domain of Satan, God freely provides us with all truth and life. As long as we are willing to seek the truth, then God bestows His words upon us freely.” I felt so moved—only God could love us and provide for us so selflessly like this. Thereupon, the brother gave me a book of God’s words, and I received it with joy.
From that time on, I read God’s words avidly, and the more I read them, the more enjoyment I felt. I felt as though God’s words were being spoken directly into my heart. God truly scrutinizes the innermost heart of man, He exposes all our corruption, He clearly shows us the way to be purified and to attain full salvation, and my heart felt unparalleled happiness. I thought of all the good sheep from all denominations who had accepted Eastern Lightning; it was through God’s words that they had become sure that Almighty God is Christ, that He is the returned Lord Jesus, and only then did they unhesitatingly accept Almighty God’s work of the last days—they are the wise virgins! Because I, on the other hand, had been deceived and fettered by the absurd theories and conceptions put about by religious leaders, I had believed that any message that preached the coming of the Lord was false and I had not dared to investigate the true way. In the end, I had let this misunderstanding interfere with my chance to seek the truth and welcome the coming of the Lord; I had been so ignorant. Later, after some investigation, I became certain about Almighty God’s work of the last days, and I was able to keep pace with the footsteps of the Lamb. Thank Almighty God!
a. The original text reads “as for.”