I Welcomed the Return of the Lord (Audio Essay)
My parents are both Christians and from an early age I started going with them to church to attend services. At the age of 12 I attended a grand Christian camp in Myanmar, and while I was there a pastor told me: “The only way to avoid death and enter the kingdom of heaven is to be baptized.” And so in order to enter the kingdom of heaven I decided to get baptized while I was at the camp. From that time on, I became a genuine Christian.
After reaching adulthood, I became the chairperson of my church’s youth association for many years, and whenever the preachers weren’t there I would lead the brothers and sisters in prayer, Bible studies, hymn-singing, and the sharing of testimonies. After getting married, I was put in charge of receiving the Sunday offerings and the tithes. At first our church had the work of the Holy Spirit: The pastor talked fluently and eloquently, and the brothers and sisters enjoyed the sermons and felt that they were edified by them. Everyone was brimming with confidence, and we attended all the church services and spread the gospel wherever we could with great enthusiasm. But eventually the pastor’s sermons became repetitive and lackluster, and could no longer provide what we needed. The confidence of brothers and sisters thus began to wane, and they became more interested in money and pleasures of the flesh. Congregation numbers began to fall, until it got to the point where the pastor had to make calls every Saturday just to try and get everyone to attend. Even when the brothers and sisters did show up they sang the hymns listlessly and without devotion, dozed off during the sermons, and started talking about business as soon as the services ended. The services had become all form and no substance. And I was very troubled by this. I thought to myself: “How does our church turn into such a barren pasture?” But then I remembered how, over the previous 30 years, I had often heard different pastors saying the same thing: “We believe in the Lord Jesus, so our sins have all been forgiven.” “We gain salvation by the grace of God because of our faith.” “The Lord Jesus has already completed His work of redemption once, so we believers in the Lord are already saved and will enter the kingdom of heaven.” Because of this, “I’m already saved, I will enter the kingdom of heaven” became the basic tenet of my faith in God. No matter how bleak the church was, or how weak and passive the believers were, I would always tell myself: “I must keep the way of the Lord. As long as I don’t leave the Lord, then He won’t abandon me. When the Lord returns, He will take me into the kingdom of heaven.” Although I kept on warning myself in this way, I still wasn’t able to keep on the Lord’s path: I would sin by day and confess sins by night, but whenever I prayed, I couldn’t feel the Lord by my side. My spirit felt dark and empty, and I felt I was getting farther and farther away from the Lord, as if He had abandoned me. This caused me great suffering, but I was unable to find the source of the problem …
In February 2016 I met Brother Zheng and Sister Li Hui online. After sharing experiences concerning faith in the Lord with each other, I told them about my bemusement that my church had become a barren pasture. Brother Zheng said to me: “It’s not just your church that is bleak and desolate: The whole religious community is bleak right now. It’s like the desolate temple that became a den of thieves when the Lord Jesus was doing His work. If we understand how that temple became desolate in the first place, then we’ll know how it is that the religious community is so bleak and desolate now. When the Lord Jesus concluded the Age of Law and began the Age of Grace, the Holy Spirit did not perform work in the temple but did it instead on those people who accepted and followed the Lord Jesus. Those who worshiped Jehovah missed out on the work of the Holy Spirit because they couldn’t keep up with the pace of God’s work. Without the protection and care of God, they lived in sin, as shown by their temple becoming a place to sell cattle, sheep, and doves and exchange money. A temple that originally shined with the glory of Jehovah became a den of thieves, thus offending God’s disposition and being abandoned by Him in disgust. This was one of the reasons why the temple originally fell into desolation.” Then we examined two passages from the Book of Amos in the Bible: “And also I have withheld the rain from you, when there were yet three months to the harvest: and I caused it to rain on one city, and caused it not to rain on another city: one piece was rained on, and the piece whereupon it rained not withered” (Amos 4:7). “Behold, the days come, said the Lord GOD, 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 the LORD” (Amos 8:11). Brother Zheng also sent me two passages of Almighty God’s words: “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 is suffering 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). “But in fact, God’s work in them ceased long ago, and the work of the Holy Spirit is absent from them. The work of God was long since transferred to another group of people, a group on whom He intends to complete His new work. Because those in religion are incapable of accepting God’s new work, and only hold to the old work of the past, thus God has forsaken these people, and does His new work on the people who accept this new work. These are people who cooperate in His new work, and only in this way can His management be accomplished” (“God’s Work and Man’s Practice” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). Brother Zheng then said: “The churches at present are as desolate as the temple was, and it’s also because God is doing new work. The Lord Jesus that we have been desperately waiting for is now incarnated in human form and returns among us. He has taken the name Almighty God to express the truth and do the work of judging, cleansing and saving man in the last days. He has come to conclude the Age of Grace and begin the Age of Kingdom. The Holy Spirit has already left the churches of the Age of Grace and is now working on those who accept Almighty God’s work of the last days. All those who are merely keeping the name of the Lord Jesus but are not keeping up with God’s new work no longer have God by their side, no longer have the work of the Holy Spirit, and will never be provided with the living water of life. So, of course these churches will become more and more desolate….”
Through listening to Brother Zheng, I came to realize that the situation with the churches nowadays is indeed the same as with the temples when the Lord Jesus began His work. I felt that there was a new light and the guidance of the Lord in what Brother Zheng was fellowshiping. But I felt a bit bemused by what he said about the Lord Jesus returning to do the new work of judging and cleansing man: It is possible that the Lord Jesus has returned, but we believers were already saved so when the Lord returns He should take us directly to the kingdom of heaven, not to carry out another stage of judgment and cleansing work! But then I realized that the Lord’s return was a big event and so I should first seek hard for answers.
So, I told Brother Zheng of my bemusement and he told me: “Many of the Lord’s brothers and sisters share your point of view. They also think that because we have accepted the Lord Jesus as our Savior, then our sins are forgiven, we will attain salvation through His grace, and when He returns we will all be taken directly to the kingdom of heaven. So, they refuse to accept God’s salvation of the last days. The main reason for this is that we don’t understand the good results that the work of the Lord Jesus has brought and we don’t know the work of God. Almighty God said: ‘At the time Jesus’ work was the redemption of all mankind. The sins of all who believed in Him were forgiven; as long as you believed in Him, He would redeem you; if you believed in Him, you were no longer a sinner, you were relieved of your sins. This is what it meant to be saved, and to be justified by faith. Yet in those who believed, there remained that which was rebellious and opposed God, and which still had to be slowly removed. Salvation did not mean man had been completely gained by Jesus, but that man was no longer of sin, that he had been forgiven his sins: Provided you believed, you would never more be of sin’ (‘The Vision of God’s Work (2)’ in The Word Appears in the Flesh). ‘Though Jesus did much work among man, He only completed the redemption of all mankind and became man’s sin offering, and did not rid man of all his corrupt disposition. Fully saving man from the influence of Satan not only required Jesus to take on the sins of man as the sin offering, but also required God to do greater work to completely rid man of his disposition, which has been corrupted by Satan. And so, after man was forgiven his sins, God has returned to flesh to lead man into the new age, and begun the work of chastisement and judgment, and 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 shall gain the truth, the way, and the life’ (Preface to The Word Appears in the Flesh). From God’s words we can see that the work of the Lord Jesus during the Age of Grace was that of redemption for mankind. The Lord Jesus was nailed to the cross to be our sin offerings, to redeem us from condemnation by law. By coming in front of the Lord, admitting our sins, and repenting, we are able to be forgiven of our sins. This is being saved. In other words, being saved means sins are forgiven and there is no accusation of sin under law, but it doesn’t mean that we have escaped from Satan’s corrupt disposition or our satanic nature and will never sin again. Our satanic nature such as arrogance, deceit, selfishness and greed still exists. Due to the dominion of our satanic nature and Satan’s disposition, we still frequently lie and cheat, act in an arrogant and self-opinionated manner, and pretend to be good to dupe God. We always criticize God’s work willfully, especially when it doesn’t match our conceptions, we accuse God and resist God. How could a mankind like us that is so deeply corrupt and resistant to God win His praise? Are we qualified to enter the kingdom of heaven? If God took us—a corrupt mankind that resists Him and belongs to Satan—into His kingdom, then there would be no way to account for God’s righteousness and holiness. So for us to be qualified to enter the kingdom, we need God to do a stage of judgment and cleansing work to transform our corrupt disposition and thoroughly shake off the shackles of our sinful nature. Once our life dispositions have been transformed, we will no longer rebel against or resist God and we’ll be able to truly obey Him, be completely gained by Him, be completely saved by Him and enter the kingdom of heaven to inherit what He has promised. These are the results brought by the judgment work of God of the last days, and we can see that the Lord Jesus’ work of redemption was to pave the way for the judgment and cleansing of people during the last days. Therefore, our faith in the Lord brings us forgiveness of our sins but not complete escape from sin or entry to the kingdom of heaven. We need to undergo another stage of judgment and cleansing work to be thoroughly saved from sin. God’s judgment work of the last days exactly makes these words from the Bible into reality: ‘Who are kept by the power of God through faith to salvation ready to be revealed in the last time’ (1 Peter 1:5).”
When I heard the words of Almighty God and what Brother Zheng said, I realized that what the Lord Jesus had done was the work of redemption, not the work of removing sins completely. As people commit sins, they should be accused and punished under law, but if we come before the Lord Jesus and admit to our sins, then we will be forgiven of our sins. God doesn’t see us as sinful and He absolves us of punishment, and that is salvation. But this salvation certainly doesn’t mean that we have been cleansed and thoroughly saved. It seems that people don’t understand the truth, and so have misunderstandings about what true salvation is. I think about that now we are still living sinful lives— committing sins and admitting to them every day—and so that’s why we need another stage of God’s work of judgment and cleansing. When I think about what the pastor at the camp said—“The only way for a Christian to avoid death and enter the kingdom of heaven is to be baptized”—I realize that this way of thinking really is very unrealistic. We could even say it’s childish and ridiculous. When I was later able to have long chats with Brother Zheng and Sister Li Hui and digest their fellowship, I came to feel that there is the truth to seek in the words of Almighty God, that they are very practical, and that they can benefit me and help me a lot. But the return of the Lord is a big thing, and in order to treat it seriously and cautiously I decided to conduct a thorough investigation of the work of Almighty God of the last days.
So, in the weeks that followed I started to search online for information about the work of the last days of Almighty God. Before going online, I prayed to the Lord: “Lord, if Eastern Lightning is indeed the Lord that I have faith in, I beg You to move my heart and let me recognize Your voice.” Without really being aware of it, I clicked on a website and found to my surprise that it was all judgments, attacks, and accusations on Almighty God and His church from the religious community and the CCP. I was very shocked and became scared that I ventured down a dangerous path. So, I sent the link to Brother Zheng and Sister Li Hui and asked them: “How do you explain all this?” I originally thought that Brother Zheng and the others would have no reply to the information that I had sent, and so was surprised when they calmly and firmly replied: “Almighty God is the real God, the return of the Lord Jesus. The stuff that the religious community and the CCP spread online is all rumors and nonsense designed to confuse people. It’s part of their wicked scheme to prevent people from following God….”
What Brother Zheng said really moved me, and in my heart I began to struggle to make sense of it all. I got offline and prayed to the Lord: “Lord, if Almighty God really is Your return then I beg You to enlighten and illuminate me so that I can understand Your way and not miss the chance to witness Your return. If all that stuff online is just rumors spread by the religious community and the CCP, then make me deaf to it, because being taken by Satan is a terrible thing.” After praying I felt a bit calmer, and then I remembered the times that I too was falsely accused, and also an occasion when a storekeeper I knew who did good business selling jade products had his reputation ruined by rumors spread by a jealous competitor. Some light began to shine in my heart and I realized just how dark and evil this world is and that most of what is online—good or bad—is just people talking. Then I thought carefully about the online accusations about Almighty God and His church spread by the religious community and the CCP: There was no evidence given and none of it seemed very believable. Furthermore, I had read Almighty God’s words and been in touch with the brothers and sisters of The Church of Almighty God. What they said bore no relation to the rumors being spread online, and they hadn’t tried to force me to join their church. In the few months of contact with them, besides exploring the Bible, reading Almighty God’s words, and fellowshiping about God’s words with me, we hadn’t discussed any other topics. From the way they spoke, I could tell that they were pious and upstanding people. Their fellowship was full of light and I felt it was very useful to me, and their church was indeed a church that had the work of the Holy Spirit. Thinking about this, I realized that a church that has the work of the Holy Spirit is a church of God, and so of course Satan would attack and accuse it and there would be a lot of negative propaganda surrounding it.
At a later date I read online about the many evil actions of the CCP: How they drove foreign missionaries out of China, burned Bibles, pulled down churches, and detained and killed Christians…. Hatred and anger toward the CCP grew in my heart. How could they be so spiteful as to persecute innocent, unarmed Christians? The CCP has always opposed God by promoting atheism, and has captured and persecuted Christians with a complete lack of humanity and reason, so there was no way to know whether what they said was true or false. So, I initiated contact with Brother Zheng and the others again, and they fellowshiped about a lot of truths concerning God’s work of the last days and how to discern Satan’s cunning schemes…. After listening to them I felt I had a bit of better understanding of God’s work of the last days and could discern how the nonsense disseminated online by the religious community and the CCP was all baseless rumors and ridiculous opinions that were part of Satan’s cunning plans to prevent people from accepting the work of Almighty God. I resolved not to listen to anything the religious community and the CCP said ever again. The worry and fear in my heart then disappeared and, at the same time, I recognized that the work of Almighty God and the work of the Lord Jesus was the same and they had both encountered resistance and accusations from satanic political regimes and from religious circles. To me, this confirmed even more that the work of Almighty God is the true way!
One day when I was using Facebook, I heard a hymn that praised God, which I found particularly moving. Indeed, only God deserves praise and is worthy of being extolled. This hymn had the guidance of the Holy Spirit and when I checked to see where it had come from, I discovered it was one of the hymns of The Church of Almighty God. I couldn’t help being moved to tears by this, and excitedly sought the brothers and sisters to tell them that God had moved my heart and led me…. I now completely believe that Almighty God is the Lord Jesus returned, and I am willing to follow Almighty God to the end of the road.
Now I attend The Church of Almighty God, and I not only enjoy being provided with the water of living life that flows from the throne, but my confidence and love has been restored. Even more importantly, I can now distinguish between right and wrong, darkness and light. I know what truths are and what rumors are. Truths come from God, while rumors come from Satan. When we hear rumors, we shouldn’t just blindly go along with them but should carefully distinguish truth from falsehoods, pray earnestly, and humbly seek and examine the true way. Only then can we escape from rumors and return before God.