65. Regarding the Lord’s return, the Bible very clearly records, “But of that day and that hour knows no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father” (Mak 13:32). If you are saying that the Lord Jesus has already returned, how would you know?
The Answer from God’s Word:
At the break of dawn, unbeknownst to any, God came to earth and began His life in the flesh. People were unaware of this moment. Maybe they were all fast asleep, maybe many who were watchfully awake were waiting, and maybe many were praying silently to God in heaven. Yet among all these many people, not one knew that God had already arrived on earth.
from “Work and Entry (4)” in The Word Appears in the Flesh
The appearance of God refers to His personal arrival on earth to do His work. With His own identity and disposition, and in His inherent method, He descends among man to conduct the work of initiating an age and ending an age. This kind of appearance is not a form of ceremony. It is not a sign, a picture, a miracle, or a grand vision, and even less is it a kind of religious process. It is a real and actual fact that can be touched and beheld. This kind of appearance is not for the sake of following a process, or for the sake of a short-term undertaking; it is, rather, for the sake of a stage of work in His management plan. The appearance of God is always meaningful, and is always connected to His management plan. This appearance is completely different from the appearance of God’s guidance, leadership, and enlightenment of man. God carries out a stage of great work each time He reveals Himself. This work is different from that of any other age. It is unimaginable to man, and has never been experienced by man. It is work that starts a new age and concludes the old age, and it is a new and improved form of work for the salvation of mankind; moreover, it is work of bringing mankind into the new age. That is the significance of the appearance of God.
… As such, since we are searching for the footprints of God, we must search for God’s will, for the words of God, for the utterances of God—for where there are the new words of God, there is the voice of God, and where there are the footsteps of God, there are the deeds of God. Where there is the expression of God, there is the appearance of God, and where there is the appearance of God, there exists the truth, the way, and the life. While seeking the footprints of God, you ignored the words that “God is the truth, the way, and the life.” So when many people receive the truth, they do not believe that they have found the footprints of God and much less acknowledge the appearance of God. What a serious error that is! The appearance of God cannot be reconciled with the conceptions of man, much less can God appear at the behest of man. God makes His own choices and has His own plans when He does His work; moreover, He has His own objectives, and His own methods. It is not necessary for Him to discuss the work He does with man or to seek the advice of man, much less notify each and every person of His work. This is the disposition of God and, moreover, should be recognized by everyone.
from “The Appearance of God Has Brought a New Age” in The Word Appears in the Flesh
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. If man sees only His external appearance, and overlooks His substance, then that shows the ignorance and naivety of man. External appearance does not determine substance; what’s more, the work of God has never conformed with the conceptions of man. Did not the outward appearance of Jesus conflict with the conceptions of man? Were not His appearance and dress unable to provide any clues as to His true identity? Was not the reason why the earliest Pharisees opposed Jesus because they merely looked at His external appearance, and did not take to heart the words that He spoke?
from Preface to The Word Appears in the Flesh
God is silent, and has never appeared to us, yet His work has never stopped. He looks upon all lands, and commands all things, and beholds all the words and deeds of man. His management is conducted in steps and according to His plan. It proceeds silently, without dramatic effect, yet His footsteps advance ever closer to mankind, and His judgment seat is deployed in the universe at the speed of lightning, immediately followed by the descent of His throne among us. What a majestic scene that is, what a stately and solemn tableau. Like a dove, and like a roaring lion, the Spirit arrives among us all. He is wise, He is righteous and majestic, He quietly arrives among us possessed of authority and filled with love and compassion. No one is aware of His arrival, no one welcomes His arrival, and, moreover, no one knows all that He will do. Man’s life remains unchanged; his heart is no different, and the days go by as usual. God lives among us like an ordinary person, as a most insignificant follower and an ordinary believer. He has His own pursuits, His own goals, and, moreover, 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 we see Him as nothing more than 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 has any imagination of His function, and, moreover, no one has any suspicion about who He is. We merely continue our pursuits, as if He has nothing to do with us …
By chance, the Holy Spirit expresses a passage of words “through” Him, and though it feels very unexpected, we recognize that this is the utterance of God, and we 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 cannot deny them. The next utterance could be through me, it could be through you, or it could be through him. Regardless of who it is, all is the grace of God. Yet no matter who the person is, we should not worship them, for regardless of anything else, they cannot possibly be God; we can by no means choose an ordinary person such as this to be our God. Our God is so great and honorable; how could He be represented by someone so insignificant? What’s more, we are all awaiting the arrival of God to take us back to the kingdom of heaven, and so how could someone so insignificant be qualified for such an important and arduous task? If the Lord comes again, it must be upon a white cloud, visible to all. How glorious that will be! How could He quietly hide among an ordinary group of people?
And yet it is this ordinary person hidden among people who is doing the new work of saving us. He does not clarify anything for us, nor does He tell us why He has come. He merely does the work He intends to do in 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 kind, to words that are fierce and majestic—they all instill both compassion and trepidation in man. Everything that He says hits home at the secrets hidden deep within us, His words sting our hearts, sting our spirits, and leave us ashamed and humiliated. We begin to wonder whether the God in this person’s heart really loves us, and what exactly He intends to do. Perhaps we can only be raptured after enduring such pain? In our heads we are calculating … about the destination to come, and about our future fate. Still none of us believes that God has assumed flesh and works among us. Even though He has been with us for so long, even though He has already spoken so many words face to face with us, we are still unwilling to accept someone so ordinary as the God of our future, much less are we willing to entrust control of our future and fate to someone so insignificant. From Him we enjoy an unending supply of living water, and thanks to Him we live face-to-face with God. We are only thankful for the grace of the Lord Jesus in heaven, and have never paid any attention to the feelings of this ordinary person who is possessed of divinity. He still does His work humbly hidden in the flesh, expressing His heart’s voice, seemingly insensible to mankind’s rejection of Him, apparently eternally forgiving of man’s childishness and ignorance, and forever tolerant of man’s irreverence toward Him.
Unbeknownst to us, this insignificant man has led us into step after step of God’s work. We undergo countless trials, are subjected to innumerable chastenings, and tested by death. We learn of God’s righteous and majestic disposition, enjoy, too, His love and compassion, 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, come to understand God’s will, come to know the nature and substance of man, and see the way of salvation and perfection. His words cause us to die, and 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 great pain. Sometimes we are as lambs to the slaughter in His hands; sometimes we are like the apple of His eye, and enjoy His love and affection; sometimes we are like His enemy, turned to ashes by His wrath in His eyes. We are the mankind saved by Him, we are the maggots in His eyes, and we are the lost lambs that He thinks of finding day and night. 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. He worries for us night and day, He protects and cares for us night and day, He never leaves our side, and He devotes all His care to us and pays any price for us. Among the words of this small and ordinary flesh, we have enjoyed the entirety of God, and beheld the destination that God has bestowed upon us. Yet despite this, vanity still stalks within our hearts, and we are still unwilling to actively accept a person such as this as our God. Though He has given us so much manna, so much to enjoy, none of this can usurp the Lord’s place in our hearts. We honor this person’s special identity and status only with great reluctance. If He does not speak up to make us acknowledge that He is God, then we will never take it upon ourselves to acknowledge Him as the God that is soon to arrive yet has been working among us for so long.
The utterance of God continues, and He employs various methods and perspectives to admonish us what to do and express His heart’s voice. His words carry life power, and show us the way we should walk, and allow us to understand what the truth is. We start to be drawn to His words, we begin to focus on the tone and manner of His speaking, and subconsciously begin to take an interest in the heart’s voice of this unremarkable person. He makes painstaking efforts for us, loses sleep and appetite for us, weeps for us, sighs for us, groans in sickness for us, suffers humiliation for the sake of our destination and salvation, and His heart bleeds and sheds tears for our numbness and rebelliousness. Such being and possessions of His are beyond an ordinary person, and cannot be possessed or attained by any of the corrupted. He has tolerance and patience possessed by no ordinary person, and His love is not possessed by any created being. No one apart from Him can know all of our thoughts, or have such a 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 the God of heaven. No one except for Him can possess the authority, wisdom, and dignity of God; the disposition of God and what He has and is are issued forth, in their entirety, from Him. No one apart from Him can show us the way and bring us light. No one apart from Him can reveal the mysteries God has not disclosed from creation until today. No one apart from Him can save us from Satan’s bondage and our corrupt disposition. He represents God, and expresses the heart’s voice of God, the exhortations of God, and the words of judgment of God toward all mankind. He has begun a new age, a new era, and brought a new heaven and earth, new work, and He has brought us hope, and ended the life we led in vagueness, and allowed us to fully behold the path of salvation. He has conquered our whole being, and gained our hearts. From that moment onward, our minds 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 He not the Lord Jesus, who is ever in our thoughts, and whom we long for night and day? It is He! It’s really Him! He is our God! He is the truth, the way, and the life!
from “Beholding the Appearance of God in His Judgment and Chastisement” in The Word Appears in the Flesh
a. The original text reads “as for.”