1. Beholding the Appearance of God in His Judgment and Chastisement
Like the hundreds of millions of others who follow theChrist, we abide by the laws and commandments of , enjoy the abundant grace of Jesus Christ, and gather together, pray, praise, and serve in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ—and all this we do under the care and protection of the Lord. We are often weak, and we are also often strong. We believe that all of our actions are in accordance with the teachings of the Lord. It goes without saying, then, that we also believe ourselves to be on the path of obedience to the will of the Father in heaven. We long for the return of the Lord Jesus, for His glorious descent, for the end of our life on earth, for the appearance of the kingdom, and for everything as it was foretold in the Book of Revelation: The Lord arrives, He brings disaster, He rewards the good and punishes the wicked, and He takes all those who follow Him and welcome His return up to meet Him in the air. Whenever we think of this, we cannot but be overcome with emotion and filled with gratitude that we were born in the last days and have the good fortune to witness the coming of the Lord. Though we have suffered persecution, we have got in return “a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.” What a blessing! All of this longing, and the grace bestowed by the Lord, render us constantly sober unto prayer, and make us more diligent in gathering together. Maybe next year, maybe tomorrow, and again, maybe within a space of time shorter than man can conceive, the Lord shall suddenly descend, appearing among a group of people who have been waiting for Him with eager solicitude. We rush to get ahead of each other, none willing to fall behind, all for the sake of being in the first group to behold the appearance of the Lord, of being among those who are raptured. We have given everything, heedless of the cost, for the coming of this day, some leaving their jobs, some abandoning their families, some renouncing marriage, and some even donating all of their savings. What selfless acts of devotion! Such sincerity and loyalty is surely beyond even the saints of ages past! As the Lord bestows grace upon whomever He pleases, and shows mercy to whomever He pleases, our acts of devotion and of expending, we believe, have long since been beheld by His eyes. So, too, have our heartfelt prayers reached His ears, and we trust that the Lord will give us recompense for our dedication. Moreover, God had been gracious toward us before He created the world, and the blessings and promises He has given to us no one can take away. We are all planning for the future, and as a matter of course have made our dedication and expending into counter chips or capital to exchange for being raptured to meet the Lord in the air. What is more, we have, without the slightest hesitation, placed ourselves on the throne of the future, to preside over all nations and all peoples, or to reign as kings. All this we take as a given, as something to be expected.
We disdain all those who are against the Lord Jesus; they will all end by being annihilated. Who told them not to believe that the Lord Jesus is the Savior? Of course, there are times when we imitate the Lord Jesus in being compassionate toward the people of the world, for they do not understand, and it is right that we be tolerant and forgiving toward them. Everything that we do is in accordance with the words of the Bible, for everything that does not conform to the Bible is heterodoxy and heresy. Belief of this kind is deeply rooted in the mind of each one of us. Our Lord is in the Bible, and if we do not depart from the Bible we shall not depart from the Lord; if we abide by this principle, we shall gain. We spur each other on, each supporting the other, and every time we gather together we hope that everything we say and do is in accordance with the will of the Lord, and will be accepted by the Lord. Despite the severe hostility of our environment, our hearts are filled with delight. When we think of the blessings that are within such easy reach, is there anything we cannot set aside? Is there anything we are reluctant to part with? All of this goes without saying, and all of this lies under the watchful eyes of God. We, this handful of the needy who have been lifted from the dunghill, are just like all the ordinary followers of the Lord Jesus, dreaming of being raptured, of being blessed, and of ruling all nations. Our corruption has been laid bare in the eyes of God, and our desires and greed have been condemned in the eyes of God. Nevertheless, all of this happens so unremarkably, and again so logically, and none of us wonder whether our longings are right, much less do any of us doubt the accuracy of everything that we hold to. Who can know God’s will? Exactly what this path is that man walks, we do not know to seek or explore, even less to concern ourselves with. For we only care about whether we can be raptured, whether we can be blessed, whether there is a place for us in the kingdom of heaven, and whether we shall have a share of the water of the river of life and the fruit of the tree of life. Is it not for the sake of gaining these things that we believe in the Lord and become His followers? Our sins have been forgiven, we have repented, we have drunk the bitter cup of wine, and we have put the cross upon our back. Who can say that the Lord will not be pleased to accept the price we have paid? Who can say that we have not prepared enough oil? We do not wish to be those foolish virgins, or one of those who are forsaken. Moreover, we pray constantly, asking the Lord to keep us from being deceived by false Christs, for it is said in the Bible: “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). We have all committed these verses of the Bible to memory, we know them by heart, and we see them as a precious treasure, as life, and as a letter of credit that decides whether we can be saved or raptured …
For thousands of years, the living have passed away, taking their longings and their dreams with them, but as to whether they have gone to the kingdom of heaven, no one truly knows. The dead return, having forgotten all the stories that once occurred, and they still follow the teachings and the paths of the forefathers. And in this way, as years pass and the days go by, no one knows whether our Lord Jesus, our God, truly accepts everything that we do. All we can do is look forward to having an outcome and speculate about everything that will come to pass. Yet God has kept His silence throughout, never appearing to us, never speaking to us. And so, following the Bible and in accordance with signs, we willfully make judgments about God’s will and disposition. We have become accustomed to the silence of God; we have become accustomed to measuring the right and wrong of our conduct by means of our own way of thinking; we have become accustomed to relying on our knowledge, conceptions, and moral ethics in place of the demands God makes of us; we have become accustomed to enjoying the grace of God; we have become accustomed to having God provide assistance whenever we need it; we have become accustomed to holding out our hands to God for all things, and to ordering God about; we have also become accustomed to conforming to regulations, not paying attention to how the Holy Spirit leads us; and, even more, we have become accustomed to days in which we are our own master. We believe in a God such as this, whom we have never met face to face. Questions such as what His disposition is like, what He has and is, what His image is like, whether or not we will know Him when He comes, and so on—none of these are important. What is important is that He is in our hearts and that we all await Him, and it is enough we are able to imagine that He is like this or that. We appreciate our faith, and treasure our spirituality. We look on all things as dung, and tread all things underfoot. Because we are followers of the glorious Lord, no matter how long and arduous the journey, no matter what hardships and dangers befall us, nothing can halt our footsteps as we follow the Lord. “A pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeded out of the throne of God and of the Lamb. On either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bore twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. And there shall be no more curse: but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and His servants shall serve Him: And they shall see His face; and His name shall be in their foreheads. And there shall be no night there; and they need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God gives them light: and they shall reign for ever and ever” (Revelation 22:1–5). Every time we sing these words, our hearts brim with boundless joy and satisfaction, and tears flow from our eyes. Thanks be to the Lord for choosing us, thanks be to the Lord for His grace. He has given us a hundredfold in this life, has given us eternal life in the world to come. If He were to ask us to die now, we would do so without the slightest complaint. Oh Lord! Please come soon! Considering how we yearn for You so desperately, and have forsaken everything for You, do not delay even a minute, a second, longer.
God is silent, and has never appeared to us, yet His work has never stopped. He surveys the whole earth, and commands all things, and beholds all the words and deeds of man. He conducts His management, with measured steps and according to His plan, silently, and without dramatic effect, yet His footsteps advance, one by one, ever closer to mankind, and Hisseat is deployed in the universe at the speed of lightning, following which His throne immediately descends into our midst. What a majestic scene that is, what a stately and solemn tableau! Like a dove, and like a roaring lion, the Spirit comes into our midst. He is wisdom, He is righteousness and majesty, and He comes surreptitiously into our midst, wielding authority and filled with love and mercy. No one is aware of His arrival, no one welcomes His arrival, and, what is more, no one knows all that He is about to do. Man’s life goes on as before, his heart no different, and the days go by as usual. God lives among us, a man like other men, as one of the most insignificant of the followers and an ordinary believer. He has His own pursuits, His own goals, and, what is more, He has divinity not possessed by ordinary men. No one has noticed the existence of His divinity, and no one has perceived the difference between His substance and that of man. We live together with Him, unconstrained and unafraid, for in our eyes He is but an insignificant believer. He watches our every move, and all of our thoughts and ideas are laid bare before Him. No one takes an interest in His existence, no one imagines anything about His function, and, what is more, no one has the faintest suspicion about His identity. All we do is carry on our pursuits, as if He has nothing to do with us …
By chance, the Holy Spirit expresses a passage of words “through” Him, and even though it feels very unexpected, we nevertheless recognize it as an utterance coming from God, and readily accept it from God. That is because, regardless of who expresses these words, as long as they come from the Holy Spirit, we should accept them and may not deny them. The next utterance could come through me, or through you, or through him. Whoever it is, all is the grace of God. Yet no matter who it is, we may not worship this person, for no matter what, this person cannot possibly be God, nor would we by any means choose an ordinary person like this to be our God. Our God is so great and honorable; how could such an insignificant person stand in His place? What is more, we are waiting for God to come and take us back to the kingdom of heaven, and so how could someone so insignificant be up to such an important and arduous task? If the Lord comes again, it must be upon a white cloud, that all the multitudes may see. How glorious that will be! How is it possible that He can hide surreptitiously among a group of ordinary people?
And yet it is this ordinary person, hidden in the midst of people, who is doing the new work of saving us. He offers us no explanations, nor does He tell us why He has come, but simply does the work He intends to do with measured steps and according to His plan. His words and utterances become ever more frequent. From consoling, exhorting, reminding, and warning, to reproaching and disciplining; from a tone that is gentle and mild, to words that are fierce and majestic—none but confer mercy on man and instill trepidation in him. Everything that He says hits home at the secrets hidden deep within us, His words sting our hearts, sting our spirits, and leave us filled with unbearable shame, hardly knowing where to hide ourselves. We begin to wonder whether the God in this person’s heart truly loves us, and what exactly He is up to. Perhaps we can only be raptured after enduring these sufferings? In our heads we are calculating … about the destination to come, and about our future fate. Still, as before, none of us believe that God has already assumed flesh to work in our midst. Even though He has accompanied us for such a long time, even though He has already spoken so many words face to face with us, we remain unwilling to accept such an ordinary man as the God of our future, and still less are we willing to entrust control of our future and our fate to this insignificant person. From Him we enjoy an unending supply of living water, and through Him we live face-to-face with God. But we are only thankful for the grace of the Lord Jesus in heaven, and have never paid any heed to the feelings of this ordinary person who is possessed of divinity. Still, as before, He does His work, humbly hidden in the flesh, giving expression to His inmost heart, as though insensible to mankind’s rejection of Him, as though eternally forgiving of man’s childishness and ignorance, and forever tolerant of man’s irreverent attitude toward Him.
Unbeknownst to us, this insignificant man has led us into one step after another of God’s work. We undergo countless trials, bear innumerable chastenings, and are tested by death. We learn of God’s righteous and majestic disposition, enjoy, too, His love and mercy, come to appreciate God’s great power and wisdom, witness the loveliness of God, and behold God’s eager desire to save man. In the words of this ordinary person, we come to know the disposition and substance of God, to understand God’s will, to know the nature and substance of man, and see the way to salvation and perfection. His words cause us to “die,” and again they cause us to be “reborn”; His words bring us comfort, yet also leave us wracked with guilt and a sense of indebtedness; His words bring us joy and peace, but also infinite pain. Sometimes we are as lambs to the slaughter in His hands; sometimes we are like the apple of His eye, and enjoy His tender love; sometimes we are like His enemy, and under His gaze are turned to ashes by His wrath. We are the human race saved by Him, we are the maggots in His eyes, and we are the lost lambs that, day and night, He is bent on finding. He is merciful toward us, He despises us, He raises us up, He comforts and exhorts us, He guides us, He enlightens us, He chastens and disciplines us, and He even curses us. Night and day, He never ceases to worry about us, and protects and cares for us, night and day, never leaving our side, but spills His heart’s blood for our sake and pays any price for us. Within the utterances of this small and ordinary body of flesh, we have enjoyed the entirety of God and beheld the destination that God has bestowed upon us. Notwithstanding this, vanity still stirs up trouble within our hearts, and we are still unwilling to actively accept a person like this as our God. Though He has given us so much manna, so much to enjoy, none of this can take the Lord’s place in our hearts. We honor this person’s special identity and status only with great reluctance. As long as He does not open His mouth to ask us to acknowledge that He is God, we will never take it upon ourselves to acknowledge Him as the God that is soon to arrive and yet has long been working in our midst.
God continues His utterances, employing various methods and perspectives to admonish us about what we should do while at the same time giving voice to His heart. His words carry life power, show us the way we should walk, and enable us to understand what the truth is. We begin to be drawn by His words, we begin to focus on the tone and manner of His speaking, and subconsciously we begin to take an interest in the innermost feelings of this unremarkable person. He spits up His heart’s blood in working on our behalf, loses sleep and appetite on our account, weeps for us, sighs for us, groans in sickness for us, suffers humiliation for the sake of our destination and salvation, and our numbness and rebelliousness draw tears and blood from His heart. This way of being and of having belongs to no ordinary person, nor can it be possessed or attained by any corrupted human being. He shows tolerance and patience possessed by no ordinary person, and His love is not something with which any created being is endowed. No one apart from Him can know all of our thoughts, or have such a clear and complete grasp of our nature and substance, or judge the rebelliousness and corruption of mankind, or speak to us and work among us like this on behalf of God in heaven. No one apart from Him is endowed with the authority, wisdom, and dignity of God; the disposition of God and what God has and is are brought forth, in their entirety, in Him. No one apart from Him can show us the way and bring us light. No one apart from Him can reveal the mysteries that God has not disclosed from creation until today. No one apart from Him can save us from Satan’s bondage and our own corrupt disposition. He represents God. He expresses the inmost heart of God, the exhortations of God, and God’s words of judgment toward all mankind. He has begun a new age, a new era, and ushered in a new heaven and earth and new work, and He has brought us hope, ending the life we led in vagueness and enabling our whole being to behold, in total clarity, the path to salvation. He has conquered our whole being, and gained our hearts. From that moment onward, our minds have become conscious, and our spirits seem to be revived: This ordinary, insignificant person, who lives among us and has long been rejected by us—is this not the Lord Jesus, who is ever in our thoughts, waking or dreaming, and for whom we long night and day? It is He! It really is He! He is our God! He is the truth, the way, and the life! He has enabled us to live again and to see the light, and has stopped our hearts from wandering. We have returned to the home of God, we have returned before His throne, we are face-to-face with Him, we have witnessed His countenance, and we have seen the road that lies ahead. At this time, our hearts are completely conquered by Him; we no longer doubt who He is, no longer oppose His work and His word, and we fall down prostrate before Him. We wish for nothing more than to follow the footprints of God for the rest of our lives, and to be made perfect by Him, and to repay His grace, and repay His love for us, and to obey His orchestrations and arrangements, and to cooperate with His work, and to do everything we can to complete what He entrusts to us.
Being conquered by God is like a martial arts contest.
Each of God’s words strikes at one of our mortal spots, leaving us smarting and filled with dread. He exposes our notions, our imaginings, and our corrupt disposition. From all that we say and do, down to every one of our thoughts and ideas, our nature and substance are revealed in His words, putting us in a state of fear and trembling and with nowhere to hide our shame. One by one, He tells us about all of our actions, our aims and intentions, even the corrupt disposition that we ourselves have never discovered, making us feel exposed in all our wretched imperfection and, even more, completely won over. He judges us for opposing Him, chastises us for blaspheming and condemning Him, and makes us feel that, in His eyes, we have not one single redeeming feature, that we are the living Satan. Our hopes are dashed, we no longer dare to make any unreasonable demands or to entertain any hopes of Him, and even our dreams vanish overnight. This is a fact that none of us can imagine, and which none of us can accept. Within the space of a moment, we lose our inward equilibrium, and do not know how to continue on the road that lies ahead, or how to continue in our beliefs. It seems as if our faith has gone back to square one, and again as if we have never met the Lord Jesus or got to know Him. Everything before our eyes fills us with perplexity, and makes us vacillate indecisively. We are dismayed, we are disappointed, and deep in our hearts there is irrepressible rage and disgrace. We try to vent, to find a way out, and, what is more, to continue waiting for our Savior Jesus, that we may pour our hearts out to Him. Though there are times when we appear on the outside to be on an even keel, neither haughty nor humble, in our hearts we are afflicted with a sense of loss we have never felt before. Though sometimes we may seem unusually calm on the outside, our minds are roiling with torment like a stormy sea. His judgment and chastisement have stripped us of all our hopes and dreams, putting an end to our extravagant desires and leaving us unwilling to believe that He is our Savior and capable of saving us. His judgment and chastisement have opened up a gulf between us and Him so deep that no one is even willing to try and cross. His judgment and chastisement are the first time that we have suffered such a great setback, such great humiliation in our lives. His judgment and chastisement have caused us to truly appreciate God’s honor and intolerance of man’s offense, compared to which we are exceedingly base, exceedingly impure. His judgment and chastisement have made us realize for the first time how arrogant and pompous we are, and how man will never be the equal of God, or on a par with God. His judgment and chastisement have made us yearn to live no more in such a corrupt disposition, to rid ourselves of this nature and substance as soon as possible, and to cease being vile and detestable to Him. His judgment and chastisement have made us happy to obey His words, no longer rebelling against His orchestrations and arrangements. His judgment and chastisement have once more given us the desire to seek life, and made us happy to accept Him as our Savior…. We have stepped out of the work of conquest, out of hell, out of the valley of the shadow of death….has gained us, this group of people! He has triumphed over Satan, and defeated the multitudes of His enemies!
We are just such an ordinary group of people, possessed of a corrupt satanic disposition, the ones predestined by God before the ages, and the needy ones whom God has lifted from the dunghill. We once rejected and condemned God, but have now been conquered by Him. From God we have received life, the way of eternal life. Wherever we may be on earth, whatever persecutions and tribulations we endure, we cannot be apart from the salvation of Almighty God. For He is our Creator, and our only redemption!
The love of God extends forth like the water of a spring, and is given to you, and to me, and to him, and to all those who truly seek the truth and await the appearance of God.
Just as the moon follows the sun in unending alternation, so the work of God never ceases, and is carried out upon you, upon me, upon him, and upon all those who follow the footprints of God and accept His judgment and chastisement.
March 23, 2010
from The Word Appears in the Flesh