The Sky Was Especially Clear and Sunny That Day (Part 1)
By Tian Ying, China
I used to be a believer in the Three-Self Church in China. When I first started participating in gatherings, the pastors would often say to us, “Brothers and sisters, it is recorded in the Bible that, ‘For with the heart man believes to righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made to salvation’ (Romans 10:10). We’ve been justified due to our faith, and since we believe in Jesus, we have been saved. If we believed in anything else, then we wouldn’t be saved….” I kept these words spoken by the pastors always in mind. They spurred me on as I ardently engaged in pursuit and actively attended gatherings, waiting for the Lord to come and receive me into the kingdom of heaven. Later, a series of unlawful deeds were committed in the church, and as a result I began to weary of the gatherings there. Not only were the pastors divided amongst themselves, with each trying to establish themselves at the top and set up their own fiefdoms, but also the sermons given by the pastors were constrained to toe the line drawn by the United Front Work Department (UFWD). The UFWD didn’t allow our pastors to preach from the Book of Revelation out of fear that it would “incite disturbance among the people,” and so, they didn’t preach from the Book of Revelation. The pastors would often preach about donations, saying that the more one donated then the more blessings one would receive from God. Seeing the church in this condition, I felt bewildered: How had the church come to this? Did the pastors not believe in the Lord? Why did they not follow the Lord’s word? Why did they not have even the slightest reverence for the Lord? From that point on, I no longer wanted to go to gatherings at the Three-Self Church because I felt that they did not truly believe in God, and that they were false shepherds who pretended to believe in God in order to obtain the brothers and sisters’ hard-earned money.
In late 1995, I left the church without hesitation and joined a house church (the Sola Fide Church). At first, I thought that their sermons were not subject to the restrictions of the national government, and they even integrated the Book of Revelation into their sermons and discussed the last days, the Lord’s return, and so on. So I felt that their preaching was much better than that of the pastors in the Three-Self Church, and that there was more enjoyment to be had by attending gatherings here compared to the gatherings in the Three-Self Church—I was very happy. But after a period of time, I discovered that here, too, among the co-workers there were some who engaged in jealous disputes and who created schisms. None of the brothers and sisters were living out the requirements of the Lord, and they were not as loving as they had once been. When I saw that this church wasn’t really any different to the Three-Self Church, I felt very disappointed, but I also didn’t know where I could find a church that had the work of the Holy Spirit. For lack of a better option, all I could do was stay within the Sola Fide Church, and so I kept attending their gatherings. The pastors and preachers all said “once saved always saved” and “so long as you endure to the end, toil and work for the Lord and keep the way of the Lord, then you will be able to enter the kingdom of heaven.” So I thought to myself at that time: “Regardless of what happens to other people, as long as I persevere in my faith in the Lord Jesus and do not depart from the way of the Lord, then when the Lord returns I will have a chance to be raptured into the kingdom of heaven.”
In the blink of an eye it was late 1997, God’s kingdom gospel had already reached us, and our church was thrown into uproar. Leader Li said to us, “Nowadays a group has emerged that is spreading Eastern Lightning, they are stealing good sheep from various denominations, and they are saying that the Lord Jesus has already returned and that He is carrying out a new stage of work. The Lord Jesus was nailed to the cross for us, and He has already paid the price of His life in order to redeem us. We have already been saved. We just need to endure to the end, and when the Lord returns we will certainly be raptured into the kingdom of heaven. We must therefore be careful, and we absolutely cannot receive these people from Eastern Lightning. Whoever receives them shall be expelled from the church! Also, you must be sure not to listen to what they say, and you must be sure not to read their books….” It seemed that co-workers at all levels were all talking about these things at pretty much every gathering. After hearing what they said, the brothers and sisters unwittingly began to resist and guard against Eastern Lightning. I began to be even more careful and cautious, for I feared that I would be stolen away by Eastern Lightning and would therefore lose my chance to enter into the kingdom of heaven.
However, the new year had just begun in 1998 when, one day, I unexpectedly ran into someone from The Church of Almighty God, and I had the fortune to listen to the way of Eastern Lightning for the first time. That day, my elder sister gave me a call and invited me to her house. She had also invited Sister Hu from her village to come over too. When Sister Hu saw me she smiled and said, “Oh good, you came. A distant relative of mine who believes in the Lord is visiting me. Why don’t we all gather together?” I happily agreed. Before long, Sister Hu came back with her relative. When this sister saw us, she greeted us with enthusiasm. Although I had never met her before, I felt a sort of closeness to her. She said, “There is widespread desolation in the church nowadays. The preachers don’t have anything fresh or new to sermonize about. At every gathering, when they aren’t preaching about how to resist Eastern Lightning, it’s all just listening to tapes and singing hymns. This is all that happens at gatherings. Co-workers engage in jealous disputes, they collude and connive, they are all extremely self-righteous and no one listens to anyone else. The brothers and sisters are negative and weak, and they have lost their faith and love. Many have left the Lord to return to the world to make money.” Deep inside me I felt the same way, and as I nodded my head, I said to the sister, “This is what it’s like in my church, too. Before, we would have 20 to 30 people in every meeting place at our monthly meetings, but now there are just a few elderly people, and even the preachers have gone into the world to make money! There is no enjoyment to be had at the gatherings.” The sister nodded her head and said, “This kind of situation doesn’t just exist in certain churches anymore, but is a widespread phenomenon throughout the religious world. This shows that the work of the Holy Spirit is not to be found within the church any longer, and so unlawful deeds are being committed all the time—this is a sign of the Lord’s return. It’s just like the end of the Age of Law, when the temple became a place where livestock was sold and people exchanged money. It was because God had already stopped carrying out His work in the temple, and instead had incarnated as the Lord Jesus to carry out a new stage of work outside of the temple.” I listened attentively, nodding from time to time. The sister went on, saying, “Sister, in Luke 17:24–26 it says: ‘For as the lightning, that lightens out of the one part under heaven, shines to the other part under heaven; so shall also the Son of man be in His day. But first must He suffer many things, and be rejected of this generation. And as it was in the days of Noah, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man.’ How do you interpret these lines of Scripture?” I thought seriously about them for a while, and then laughed awkwardly and said, “Sister, aren’t these lines of Scripture talking about the coming of the Lord?” The sister replied, “These lines of Scripture are discussing the coming of the Lord. However, they are not talking about the coming of the Lord Jesus back in those olden days. Rather, they are referring to the return of the Lord in the last days because, here, the Lord is very clearly prophesying about what will happen when He returns in the last days. Sister, right now the faith of the believers in the church has grown cold, and they are negative and weak. This is because God has become flesh once again to carry out a new stage of work. God’s work has moved on, and everyone who does not follow God’s new work will lose the work of the Holy Spirit.” As soon as I heard the sister say that the Lord Jesus had already returned, I immediately guessed that she belonged to Eastern Lightning, and my heart instantly sank. The smile on my face disappeared as the words from my leaders who had sealed off the church at once appeared in my mind: “To believe in Jesus is to be saved, and once saved always saved! … Do not receive those from Eastern Lightning! …” As I thought about these words from my leaders, I wanted to rush back home. But when this idea came into my mind, the Lord enlightened me by having me remember a verse from a hymn: “Jesus is our refuge, when you have troubles hide with Him, when the Lord and you are together what do you have to fear?” “That’s it!” I thought. “If I have the Lord by my side, then what do I have to fear? The things I am afraid of do not come from God, they come from Satan.” Just then, the sister said, “If anyone has any questions, go ahead and share them. The word of God will be able to solve all the problems and difficulties that we have.” When I heard the sister say this, I thought to myself: “You may not be able to answer my questions! I now have to find out exactly what is really being preached by Eastern Lightning, and how it has been able to steal away so many good sheep.”
Thinking this, I decided to jump straight in and take the initiative, and I said, “Our leaders are always saying that the Lord Jesus was nailed to the cross for us, and that He has already paid the price of His life in order to redeem us, and therefore we have already been saved. It is recorded in Scripture: ‘For with the heart man believes to righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made to salvation’ (Romans 10:10). Since we have been saved once we have been saved forever, and so long as we endure to the end, then when the Lord returns we will certainly be raptured into the kingdom of heaven. This is the promise that the Lord has made to us. We therefore do not need to accept any new work being carried out by God.”
The sister smiled and said to me, “Many believers think that the Lord Jesus was nailed to the cross for us, and that since He paid the price of His life to redeem us, we have been saved. People believe that to be saved once is to be saved forever, that all we need to do is endure to the end, and then when the Lord returns we will certainly be raptured into the kingdom of heaven, and we do not need to accept any new work carried out by God. But is this way of thinking really correct? Does it really conform to the Lord’s will? Actually, this idea that ‘to be saved once is to be saved forever, and when the Lord returns we will be raptured into the kingdom of heaven’ is just a notion and an imagining of man, and it simply does not accord with what the Lord said. The Lord Jesus never once said that those who have been saved by their faith may enter into the kingdom of heaven, but rather, He said, ‘[B]ut he that does the will of My Father which is in heaven’ (Matthew 7:21). To be saved and to do the will of the Father which is in heaven are not the same thing. When we speak of being saved by one’s faith, this being saved refers to being forgiven for your sins. That is to say, if someone was supposed to be put to death according to law, but then they came before the Lord and repented and received the Lord’s salvation, then the Lord would forgive them their sins, and that person would cast off the condemnation of the law, and would no longer be put to death according to law. This is the true meaning of being saved. But to be saved doesn’t mean that a person has been freed from sin and been cleansed. We have all profoundly experienced this. Though we have believed in the Lord for many years, and we often confess our sins to the Lord and repent, and also enjoy the joy and peace of being forgiven for our sins, we still often involuntarily commit sins, and we are bound by our sins. This is a fact. For example, our corrupt dispositions such as arrogance, deceitfulness, selfishness, greediness, wickedness and so on still continue to exist; we still enjoy pursuing the trends of the world, pursuing wealth and fame, and the pleasures of the flesh, and we covet sinful pleasures. In order to protect our personal interests, we are also capable of frequently telling lies and deceiving others. Therefore, to be saved does not mean that one has attained full salvation. That is a fact. It is recorded in Scripture: ‘[Y]ou shall therefore be holy, for I am holy’ (Leviticus 11:45). God is holy, so would He allow those who often sin and resist God to enter the kingdom of heaven? If you believe that those who have been saved by their faith may enter into the kingdom of heaven, then why does the Lord Jesus say the following words? ‘Not every one that said to Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that does the will of My Father which is in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name? and in Your name have cast out devils? and in Your name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess to them, I never knew you: depart from Me, you that work iniquity’ (Matthew 7:21–23). Why is it said that when the Lord returns, He will separate the goats from the sheep and the tares from the wheat? It is therefore completely untenable to say that those who have been saved by their faith may enter into the kingdom of heaven. It is completely at odds with the words of the Lord Jesus, and it defies the words of the Lord! So, if we do not receive and believe in the Lord’s word, but rather cling to the fallacies disseminated by the pastors and elders and rely on our own notions and imaginings to believe in God, then we will never be able to meet the Lord’s requirements, and we will never be able to be raptured into the kingdom of heaven.”