A Priest’s Road Home
By Zhang Jian, China
My family have been Catholics for generations. When I was 20, I decided to devote myself to the Lord and spend my life serving Him. Later, after seven years of systematic theological training in the seminary, I was consecrated as a priest at 27, and at 30, I was promoted to be the abbot of a monastery. At that time, I was quite arrogant. On one hand, I felt I had become the abbot of a monastery at a very young age, but also, after hearing my sermons, the priests and monks all said they were quite beneficial, so I felt that I understood the Bible and had knowledge of the Lord, and that when the Lord came, I would have God’s approval and enter the kingdom of heaven.
That was in June 2001, One evening, Deacon Wang came to me in a hurry to say two Christians had come, and they spoke very profoundly of faith. When I heard they were Christians, I didn’t take them seriously at all. I thought the Catholic Church is the true church, and possesses the full truth of Jesus’ salvation. I had many years of theological training, and had studied each chapter of the Bible line by line. Since they had come, I thought I might as well discuss the question of faith with them and see if I could convert them to the Catholic faith. Then, Deacon Wang took me to meet them. One was named Brother Cheng, the other named Brother Gao. After I met them, when I learned they had only believed in God for six or seven years, I took them even less seriously, but to get them to join the Catholic church, I still talked to them patiently about Catholic history. I also said to them, “If you want to be sure of entering the kingdom of heaven, you should join the true church, the Catholic church.” But after the two brothers heard it, not only did they not want to convert, they fellowshiped with me about the state of the church. Brother Gao said, “For both Catholics and Christians, the state of the church is desolate now. Preachers read scripture and preach without light, they can’t deliver any new or profound sermons, and some preachers have begun to pursue worldly things and left the path of service. And believers feel negative and weak, their faith has gone cold, and during meetings, they discuss their daily lives or how to make money, and introduce each other to jobs, boyfriends, and girlfriends. Many believers pursue worldly trends, and some have even returned to the world. How is the current state of the church any different from the state of the temple in the latter days of the Age of Law? At the end of the Age of Law, the temple was clearly desolate. People exchanged money openly in the temple, bought and sold cattle, sheep, and doves, and the temple became a den of thieves. The Holy Spirit was no longer working in the temple. Where did the Holy Spirit work? At that time, the Lord Jesus started new work outside the temple, and the work of the Holy Spirit had shifted to the work of the Lord Jesus. It’s like having a stove in a room in winter. It feels warm in that room, but if the stove is removed, the room will become cold. The same is true of the church. When the Holy Spirit works in the church, the brothers and sisters have faith and pursue passionately, but once the work of the Holy Spirit is lost, the church becomes desolate. Churches everywhere are in the same state as that of the temple in the latter days of the Age of Law. All are desolate. Have you considered whether the work of the Holy Spirit has shifted? Where does the Holy Spirit work today?” After hearing what the brother said, I was very surprised. I didn’t expect they would connect the temple’s desolation with the Lord Jesus’ work. This understanding was new to me. We had never understood things this way in our church. And I agreed with their appraisal of the state of the church. Just considering reading scripture and keeping the Lord’s day, many church members no longer kept them. They were just like unbelievers, pursuing money and worldly pleasures, and there were fewer and fewer people in the church. This was a fact. The church was indeed desolate. I saw that their fellowship was in line with the Bible and the facts, and there was some depth in their understanding, so I thought, “I have studied the Bible for so many years without this understanding, but they have reached it after only a few years of belief. It seems I’ve underestimated them.” When I saw that I couldn’t persuade them, and couldn’t answer their questions, to avoid embarrassing myself, I simply added a few words, made excuses, and went home.
But I thought that the Holy Spirit is the soul of the church, so if the Holy Spirit didn’t work in the church, where else could He work? I didn’t understand it at the time, so I didn’t think much about it. Later, those two brothers came to see me a few more times. Following on from the last topic of fellowship, they said, “The Lord has returned incarnate to express new words, do the work of judging and purifying people, deliver us from the bondage of sin, and bring us into the kingdom of heaven.” I was very conflicted when I heard that. I thought, “Do you really understand the Bible? The Lord Jesus has completed the work of redemption, and He will return as a spiritual body on a cloud to determine people’s endings. How could it be possible for Him to come incarnate again to do new work?” At this moment, I suddenly remembered that someone told me not long ago, about people preaching Eastern Lightning. They claimed that the Lord had returned incarnate to do new work, and their sermons were quite profound. I felt that they probably believed in Eastern Lightning. I felt that the Catholic Church was the orthodox church, and since no one had heard of Eastern Lightning before, it couldn’t be an orthodox church. Since it wasn’t an orthodox church, their sermons were definitely wrong. So, I interrupted them and asked, “Do you believe in Eastern Lightning? You say the Lord has returned incarnate and is doing new work. This is impossible. I don’t believe it. If you mean to preach this gospel to me, save yourselves the effort!” The two brothers were still very patient in giving me fellowship, but because my notions were too strong, I didn’t listen to them at all. I angrily told them, “What you preach conflicts with the traditional beliefs, and I don’t want to hear it anymore!” When the two brothers saw my attitude, they stopped fellowshiping with me. Later, they came two more times, but because of my inner resistance to them, no matter how they fellowshiped, everything they said went in one ear and out the other. Finally, they left me a copy of the book The Word Appears in the Flesh, and asked me to investigate it. When I saw their earnest attitude, I was too embarrassed to refuse, so I allowed them to leave the book.
I was a little curious when I first received the book, and I wanted to see exactly what was in it. So, I opened the book, looked through the table of contents, and then flipped to a few random pages, and I found some writing, such as whether the Trinity exists and the ending and destination of humankind. That was different from our traditional teachings, so I closed the book and didn’t look at it again. I thought as the abbot of the monastery, it was my duty to protect the flock, I had to tell the priests and monks so they wouldn’t be deceived. So, during one of the novice retreats, I said, “We are in the last days, and many false Christs are appearing. A few days ago, I met people from Eastern Lightning. They said that the Lord has returned incarnate, and is doing new work. How could this be possible? I skimmed through a few pages of their book, and what it teaches is different from our traditional beliefs. I am certain that Eastern Lightning doesn’t come from God!” I also instructed them to take precautions and not to contact them, to not read their books or listen to their words, and be sure to protect church members from being deceived by them. At that time, after they heard me, the priests and monks said this was a critical matter of saving souls, and that the church members must be protected. At the time, I saw that everyone was very obedient after hearing me, and I felt I had done a very righteous thing, or at least fulfilled the responsibility of an abbot to protect the flock, so I didn’t realize that I was resisting God at all.
A few days after this incident, Brother Gao came to see me and asked me if I had read the words of Almighty God. I said, “Almighty God’s words differ from our traditional teachings, so I won’t investigate them, and I won’t let anyone else investigate them, because this is a matter of faith. We will never betray the Lord by listening to your preaching.” After Brother Gao heard this, he patiently fellowshiped with me, saying, “You haven’t read Almighty God’s words. You’ve only found a few things different from the traditional teaching of your church, so you’ve decided that this is not the Lord’s word and work, and you’ve refused to investigate. Don’t you think this is too reckless? Almighty God says, ‘I advise you to tread the path of belief in God with care. Do not jump to conclusions; what is more, do not be casual and thoughtless in your belief in God. You should know that, at the very least, those who believe in God should be humble and reverential. Those who have heard the truth and yet turn their nose up at it are foolish and ignorant. Those who have heard the truth and yet carelessly jump to conclusions or condemn it are beset by arrogance. No one who believes in Jesus is qualified to curse or condemn others. You should all be someone with sense and who accepts the truth’ (The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. By the Time You Behold the Spiritual Body of Jesus, God Will Have Made Heaven and Earth Anew). We can see that to believe in the Lord, we must have hearts that fear God. We can’t blindly condemn when we see that God’s words and work don’t conform to our notions or imagination. If we don’t have an attitude of humbleness and seeking before God, and we always evaluate God’s new words and new work with our imaginations, it is all too easy to commit the great sin of resisting and condemning God. This is just like when the Lord Jesus came to work, and the Pharisees saw that His words and work went beyond the law. They deliberately found something against the Lord Jesus, condemned Him, and finally deceived the crowd into nailing the Lord Jesus to the cross. This seriously offended God’s disposition, and they were ultimately cursed and punished. This was a lesson learned in blood. Today, in the matter of the Lord’s return, we must treat it cautiously, because if we condemn it wrongly, we may blaspheme the Holy Spirit. The Lord Jesus said long ago, ‘Every sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven men, but the blasphemy of the Spirit shall not be forgiven’ (Mt 12:31). It would be a terrible thing to commit this sin! Since Almighty God has appeared and worked, many leaders of various denominations have blindly condemned Almighty God’s work. Some have even slandered and blasphemed Almighty God. Many of those who seriously resisted were punished. If we are not careful, we could easily lose our destination.”
At the time, I thought, “I am thinking of my church members and protecting them from being deceived. How could this offend the Lord?” But when I thought about it carefully, I felt what that brother said was reasonable. I really didn’t know much about Eastern Lightning, yet I was so quick to condemn it, and I preached the same to the priests and monks. If I had mistakenly condemned it, like he said, it would offend God. The consequences of that were unthinkable. So, I said to Brother Gao, “I never thought about what you’ve said, but I will be cautious in the future.” But then something happened in our church that made me reflect. Once, I saw our bishop, and he said to me sadly that many priests in our diocese were looking for excuses not to hand in the offerings, and there were some priests who indulged in licentiousness and refused to repent. An old priest had revealed in private that he secretly misappropriated the offerings for someone else, who set up a factory. When I heard these things, I thought, “As a priest, squandering and embezzling offerings and indulging in licentiousness are grave sins against the Lord. The Lord said, ‘Unless you shall do penance, you shall all likewise perish’ (Lk 13:3). If priests live in sin and never repent, how will they enter the kingdom of heaven? In the past, only a very few priests did such things, but now, so many priests have fallen into depravity.” I couldn’t help but think of the desolation in the church that Brother Gao talked to me about. I thought, “In the past, when the Holy Spirit worked in the church, when we sinned, we were disciplined by the Holy Spirit. But now, with so many priests sinning against God, why is there no discipline from the Holy Spirit? Does the Holy Spirit really no longer work in the church?” I couldn’t understand it.
Later, after a while, Brother Gao and the others came to me again. I still had some resistance to them at the time. I thought, “You always testify the Lord has returned incarnate to do new work. Is there any biblical basis for saying this? I think I’ll just ask you some direct questions today. If you can’t answer them, then let’s not talk anymore.” So, I asked them, “The Bible says that in the last days, the Lord will return as a spiritual body on a cloud, but you testify that He has returned incarnate to do new work. What is your basis for saying this?” Brother Gao replied, “In the last days, the coming of the incarnate God was arranged long ago by God, and there is evidence in the Lord Jesus’ own prophecies. For example, Luke 17:24–25 says, ‘For as the lightning that lighteneth from under heaven, shineth unto the parts that are under heaven, so shall the Son of man be in His day. But first He must suffer many things, and be rejected by this generation.’ ‘Wherefore be you also ready, because at what hour you know not the Son of man will come’ (Mt 24:44). ‘And as in the days of Noe, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be’ (Mt 24:37). As you can see, these verses all mention ‘the Son of man.’ What does ‘the Son of man’ refer to here? We all know that the Lord Jesus is the Son of man and God incarnate. There is no doubt about this. The Son of man refers to God’s Spirit clothed in flesh to become an ordinary man, which is to say, it refers to the incarnation of God. So, the Lord prophesying ‘the coming of the Son of man’ shows that when He returns, it will be as incarnate flesh. In addition, the scriptures also say, ‘But first He must suffer many things, and be rejected by this generation.’ What does this mean? It means when the Lord returns, people won’t know or recognize Him, and the entire generation will condemn and reject Him. This shows that only when the Lord becomes the Son of man, can He suffer these things and be rejected by this generation. If He returned in a spiritual body with the image of a Jew, majestic and appearing to all in great glory, who would see Him and not bow down and worship? How, then, would He endure great suffering? How would He be rejected by this generation? So, it is certain that the Lord will return as the incarnate Son of man in the last days.”
After hearing this fellowship from him, I was shocked. His fellowship was entirely reasonable and logical! None of the theologians and spiritual figures in the religious world could clearly explain this prophecy of the Lord Jesus. They all said this is the Lord’s mystery, which humans cannot fully understand. I studied the Bible for so many years, yet every time I saw this verse, I didn’t understand. I didn’t know why the Lord had to suffer, since He came in spirit form. It shocked me that the people from Eastern Lightning could explain the mystery of this prophecy. That they could see things so clearly completely changed my image of them! I wondered, “Could it be that the Lord really returns incarnate?” However, when I thought of many prophecies in the Bible that the Lord will come on a cloud, I still couldn’t figure it out. So I asked again, “Many prophecies in the Bible say in the last days, the Lord will come down in spirit form to judge all people publicly. For example, the Lord said, ‘And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all tribes of the earth mourn: and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with much power and majesty’ (Mt 24:30). ‘Behold, He cometh with the clouds, and every eye shall see Him, and they also that pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth shall bewail themselves because of Him’ (Rev 1:7). If the Lord’s return truly is as incarnate flesh, how are these prophecies fulfilled?”
Brother Gao fellowshiped, “The Lord Jesus does prophesy that when He returns in the last days, He will come down on a cloud in spirit form, and publicly judge all nations and peoples. These prophecies are sure to be fulfilled. But the incarnate God secretly comes first, and later publicly appears to all on a cloud. In other words, the Lord returns in two ways. First, He comes in the flesh to express the truth, as well as to judge and purify people to make a group of overcomers. Then, the great disaster descends, and the work of God’s incarnation in secret is complete. After the disaster, God appears publicly to all in glory, and rewards the good and punishes the evil. Therefore, during the period of God’s incarnation and secret work, those who resist and condemn God, and then refuse to repent, completely lose their chance of salvation and finally weep and gnash their teeth in the disaster. This fulfills the prophecy in the Book of Revelation: ‘Behold, He cometh with the clouds, and every eye shall see Him, and they also that pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth shall bewail themselves because of Him’ (Rev 1:7).”
After hearing his fellowship, it felt as if my heart was brightened. The second coming of the Lord is not merely publicly descending on a cloud. Before coming openly, He first comes incarnate in secret. These are the two ways in which the Lord appears. In the past, I only knew one way in which the Lord appeared. I realized I had a one-sided understanding. This is when I saw that Eastern Lightning revealed the mystery of prophecy in the Bible, and their explanation was reasonable and logical, so I felt that it was probably from God and it was worth investigating. After that, I was willing to fellowship with them and read Almighty God’s words without resistance. After reading Almighty God’s words for a period of time, from the bottom of my heart, I felt certain that the Lord would return as incarnate flesh, but I was still confused. I was sure about the matter of the incarnation, but how could I be sure that Almighty God was the returned Lord Jesus? I recalled that Catholic church is the true church, and possesses the full truth of Jesus’ salvation. I knew that only in Catholicism could we enter God’s kingdom, If I accepted Almighty God, and went astray in my belief, I would be betraying the Lord. How would I enter God’s kingdom? I didn’t understand this question, so I still felt a little uneasy. I heard Priest Yuan had also accepted Almighty God’s work in the last days, so I wanted to go to see him. He was previously a Catholic, and our teachings and views were the same, so I wanted to hear how he understood the issue. A few days later, I saw Priest Yuan and I told him all of my concerns.
After listening, Brother Yuan fellowshiped with me, saying, “I had the same concerns as you before. I worried that believing in Almighty God is betraying the Lord Jesus. But where this question is concerned, most important is to know whether Almighty God and the Lord Jesus are the same Spirit, whether They are the same God at work. In the Age of Law, it was Yahweh at work, and in the Age of Grace, it was the Lord Jesus at work. Although God’s name changed and the work He did was different, can you say that Jesus and Yahweh are not one God? Can you say that to believe in the Lord Jesus is to betray Yahweh? Certainly not. So, to determine whether They are the same God isn’t based on Their names. The most important thing is to see whether Almighty God can express the truth and do the work of saving humankind. As long as He can express the truth and God’s voice, and do the work of saving people, then He is God Himself. We all know in the Age of Law, Yahweh promulgated laws and commandments to lead people in living on earth, so that they could know what sin is, how to offer sacrifices to atone for sins, and how to worship God. But at the end of the Age of Law, people committed more and more sins, and no amount of offerings could atone for them. Everyone was in danger of being condemned and executed by the law, so Yahweh prophesied through the prophets, ‘Behold a virgin shall be with child, and bring forth a son, and they shall call His name Emmanuel’ (Mt 1:23). ‘For a CHILD IS BORN to us, and a son is given to us, and the government is upon His shoulder’ (Is 9:6). Yahweh told the Israelites through prophecy that the Messiah would come to be the sin offering that redeems humankind, After that, God came incarnate as the Lord Jesus as promised, and on the basis of the work of the law, did the work of redeeming humankind. The Lord Jesus expressed many truths and gave people the way of repentance, and then was crucified for humankind as an eternal sin offering, thereby completing the work of redeeming all humankind. After that, people only needed to accept Jesus Christ as their Savior. When they sinned, they only needed to repent to the Lord Jesus, and then the Lord would forgive their sins, they would not be put to death for violating the law, and people were also qualified to come before God to pray to seek God’s grace and blessings. So, the work of the Lord Jesus fulfilled the prophecies of the Old Testament prophets. It delivered people from the bondage of the law, ended the Age of Law, and brought humankind into the Age of Grace. This proves that the Lord Jesus was the Savior, that the Messiah came, and that Jesus and Yahweh were one Spirit and one God. Just as the Lord Jesus said, ‘I am in the Father, and the Father in Me’ (Jn 14:11). ‘I and the Father are one’ (Jn 10:30). After the Lord Jesus finished the work of redemption, those who believe in the Lord are forgiven their sins, but people’s sinful nature has not been resolved. They can still constantly sin and resist God, and are not completely free from the bondage of sin. Consider that we can still lie and deceive for personal gain. We can still be jealous, hate others, and contend for power. When sickness or calamity comes, we can still blame God, deny God, and betray God. It’s said in the Bible, ‘Whosoever committeth sin, is the servant of sin. Now the servant abideth not in the house for ever; but the son abideth for ever’ (Jn 8:34–35). ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy’ (1P 1:16). God is holy, and what He wants is someone who can fully listen to His words and achieve holiness, but we are still often sinful, filthy, and corrupt, not free from the bondage of sin, and unqualified to enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, the Lord Jesus prophesied many times that He would return to express the truth and do the work of judgment in the last days, save us from sin and the influence of Satan, and take us into God’s kingdom. Just like the Lord Jesus said, ‘I have yet many things to say to you: but you cannot bear them now. But when He, the Spirit of truth, is come, He will teach you all truth’ (Jn 16:12–13). ‘And if any man hear My words, and keep them not, I do not judge him: for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world. He that despiseth Me, and receiveth not My words, hath one that judgeth him; the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day’ (Jn 12:47–48). And in 1 Peter 4:17, it says, ‘For the time is, that judgment should begin at the house of God.’ In the last days, the Lord Jesus returns in the flesh, as promised, as Almighty God to express all the truth required to purify and save humankind, and based on the Lord Jesus’ work, He does the work of judgment starting with God’s house to resolve people’s sinful nature and lead humankind into all truth. This completely fulfills the Lord Jesus’ prophecy.”
Then, Brother Yuan read a passage of Almighty God’s words to me. Almighty God says, “Though Jesus did much work among man, He only completed the redemption of all mankind and became man’s sin offering; He did not rid man of all his corrupt disposition. Fully saving man from the influence of Satan not only required Jesus to become the sin offering and bear the sins of man, but it also required God to do even greater work to rid man completely of his satanically corrupted disposition. And so, now that man has been forgiven of his sins, God has returned to the flesh to lead man into the new age, and begun the work of chastisement and judgment. 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 they shall gain the truth, the way, and the life” (Preface to The Word Appears in the Flesh). After reading God’s word, Brother Yuan fellowshiped, “In the Age of Grace, the Lord Jesus did the work of redemption and forgave people’s sins, but that was only half of the work of salvation. Almighty God’s work of judgment is the work that completely saves humankind. Only by accepting God’s judgment in the last days, being cleansed of our corruption, freeing ourselves from sin, and being no longer controlled by devils can we be truly saved and be qualified to be brought into the kingdom of heaven by God. Therefore, Almighty God’s work of judgment continues the Lord Jesus’ work of redemption, and is also the work that concludes the age. Almighty God is the return of the Lord Jesus, and Almighty God and Jesus are one Spirit and one God.”
His fellowship on the three stages of work accorded with the Bible and the facts, and my heart felt very brightened. I now knew that the Lord’s return is to do the work of judgment to resolve our sinful natures and save us from the bondage of sin. I realized that we indeed live in sin and are powerless to extricate ourselves. We sin, then confess, and after our confession, we sin again. We spend our lives trapped in this endless cycle. Putting aside ordinary believers, even the priests can’t escape the bondage of sin. This is an undeniable fact. In the past, I could never grasp the reason for this, but now I understood. We really need the Lord’s final stage of work to fully purify people in the last days. It seemed entirely plausible that Almighty God’s work of judgment originates with God. Then, Brother Yuan read me another passage of Almighty God’s words, Almighty God says, “The work of today has pushed forward the work of the Age of Grace; that is, the work under the entire six-thousand-year management plan has moved forward. Though the Age of Grace has ended, there has been progress in God’s work. Why do I say time and again that this stage of work builds upon the Age of Grace and the Age of Law? Because the work of this day is a continuation of the work done in the Age of Grace, and an advance over that done in the Age of Law. The three stages are tightly interconnected, with each link in the chain closely tied to the next. Why do I also say that this stage of work builds on that done by Jesus? Supposing that this stage did not build on the work done by Jesus, another crucifixion would have to take place in this stage, and the redemptive work of the previous stage would have to be done all over again. This would be meaningless. And so it is not that the work is completely finished, but that the age has moved forward and the level of the work has been raised higher than before. It can be said that this stage of work is built on the foundation of the Age of Law and upon the rock of Jesus’ work. God’s work is built stage by stage, and this stage is not a new beginning. Only the combination of the three stages of work may be deemed the six-thousand-year management plan. The work of this stage is done on the foundation of the work of the Age of Grace. If these two stages of work were unrelated, then why is the crucifixion not repeated in this stage? Why do I not bear the sins of man, but instead come to judge and chastise man directly? If My work to judge and chastise man did not follow the crucifixion, with My coming now not conceived of the Holy Spirit, then I would not be qualified to judge and chastise man. It is precisely because I am one with Jesus that I come directly to chastise and judge man. The work at this stage is built entirely on the work in the preceding stage. That is why only work of this kind can bring man, step by step, into salvation. Jesus and I come from one Spirit. Even though We are unrelated in Our fleshes, Our Spirits are one; even though the content of what We do and the work that We take on are not the same, We are alike in essence; Our fleshes take different forms, but this is due to the change in era and the differing requirements of Our work; Our ministries are not alike, so the work We bring forth and the dispositions We reveal to man are also different. That is why what man sees and understands this day is unlike in the past, which is because of the change in era. For all that They are different in the gender and the form of Their fleshes, and that They were not born of the same family, still less in the same time period, Their Spirits are nonetheless one. … The Spirit of Jehovah is not the father of the Spirit of Jesus, and the Spirit of Jesus is not the son of the Spirit of Jehovah: They are one and the same Spirit. Similarly, the incarnate God of today and Jesus are not related by blood, but They are one, this is because Their Spirits are one. God can do the work of mercy and lovingkindness, as well as that of the righteous judgment and of chastisement of man, and that of calling down curses on man; and in the end, He can do the work of destroying the world and punishing the wicked. Does He not do all of this Himself? Is this not the omnipotence of God?” (The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. The Two Incarnations Complete the Significance of the Incarnation). Brother Yuan continued, “Although the content of each of the three stages of work done by God is different and God’s name is different in every age, they are all done by one Spirit and one God. The three stages of work are closely linked, and each stage builds on the work of the previous stage, deeper and higher than the last, until people are finally saved from Satan’s dominion and brought into God’s kingdom. Therefore, we do not betray the Lord by accepting His new work. Instead, we are keeping pace with His work.”
After hearing his fellowship, my heart felt even brighter. The three stages of work are closely linked, each progresses upon the last, and no stage of work is independent of the others. Isn’t this precisely the three stages of work done by the same God? Yahweh, the Lord Jesus, and Almighty God seem to truly be the same God. I had always thought that the Catholic church was the true church, only Catholicism could save souls and bring them into the kingdom of heaven, and to leave Catholicism is to betray the Lord and lose your chance at salvation. Now I understood that what I kept was only the work of redemption done by the Lord Jesus. If I accepted Almighty God’s work of judgment, I would be following the footsteps of the Lamb, and I wasn’t betraying the Lord. However, if I remained in Catholicism and clung to the salvation of the Lord Jesus, then I would not receive God’s salvation in the last days, and wouldn’t enter the kingdom of heaven. At this point, in the depths of my heart, I was certain that Almighty God’s work of judgment is God’s new work in the last days. Then, Brother Yuan fellowshiped with me on the truth of God’s names, the inside stories of the Bible, how God determines the ending and destination of humankind, and so on. After listening to his fellowship, I was filled with emotion. I had believed in the Lord for so many years, yet I had never heard such good preaching. I felt that what I gained that day was too great. I understood more on that day than I had in years of belief in the Lord!
That day, Brother Yuan read many of Almighty God’s words to me. I saw that Almighty God has revealed many truths and mysteries, and I felt deeply that the words of Almighty God were the voice of God. After I returned home that day, I read a passage of Almighty God’s words. “It is not difficult to inquire into such a thing, but it requires each of us to know this one truth: He who is God incarnate shall possess the essence of God, and He who is God incarnate shall possess the expression of God. Since God becomes flesh, He shall bring forth the work He intends to 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 him, and point the way for him. Flesh that does not have the essence of God is decidedly not the incarnate God; of this there is no doubt. If man intends to inquire into whether it is God’s incarnate flesh, then he must corroborate this from the disposition He expresses and the words He speaks. Which is to say, to corroborate whether or not it is God’s incarnate flesh, and whether or not it is the true way, one must discriminate on the basis of His essence. And so, in determining whether it is the flesh of God incarnate, the key lies in His essence (His work, His utterances, His disposition, and many other aspects), rather than external appearance. If man scrutinizes only His external appearance, and as a result overlooks His essence, this shows that man is benighted and ignorant” (Preface to The Word Appears in the Flesh). I understood from this passage that to determine whether Almighty God is the appearance of the Lord, I primarily had to look at the words He expressed and the work He did. If He can express the truth and do the work of saving and purifying people, then He must be the appearance of the Lord. The Lord Jesus once said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No man cometh to the Father, but by Me” (Jn 14:6). Therefore, except for God, no one can express the truth to save people. After that, I took time every day to read Almighty God’s words. Two months later, I understood many more things, like the mystery of the incarnation and God’s name, the difference between God’s work and human’s work, how to discern true Christs from the false ones, and so on. I saw that Almighty God’s words are rich and diverse, which opened my eyes. At the time, I thought, “Aside from the returned Lord, who can express so many truths and reveal so many mysteries? The Lord has indeed returned, and is doing the new work of judging and purifying people.” I was now entirely certain that Almighty God’s work of judgment was the Lord’s new work, and that Almighty God is the Lord’s return!
The Lord Jesus, whose coming I had hoped to see for so many years, had really returned, and I felt very fortunate to be able to accept God’s work in the last days, especially considering that these brothers and sisters had been preaching the gospel to me for nearly a year. During this period, I had been resisting and rejecting, and if it weren’t for God’s mercy and salvation, and the brothers and sisters who preached the gospel to me time and again, I wouldn’t have come before God at all, so I felt very grateful to God. But then I remembered I hadn’t investigated God’s work of the last days. I had blindly judged and condemned it, and even forbade it in the church to prevent the church members from investigating. When I thought about this, I felt very sorry, and I hated myself for being too blind to know God, having no fear of God, and resisting God. Wasn’t I the same as the Pharisees who resisted the Lord Jesus? Originally, I thought since I had studied theology for many years and had served the Lord, I knew a few things about the Lord. But I really didn’t expect that I would “welcome” the Lord this way. I felt very uneasy at that moment. I resisted the Lord and committed such a great sin, so how would the Lord treat me? I fell to my knees before God and prayed to confess my sins. “Almighty God, I was too arrogant. I do not know You, so I resisted and judged Your work, and I sealed the church and restricted church members from seeking and investigating. What I did was the same as the Pharisees, and I deserve Your punishment. I am truly unworthy of Your salvation!” Over those days, I was in a constant state of regret and anxiety. Each time I read Almighty God’s words that expose people’s resistance of God, I felt very distressed. I felt I had been condemned and that God would not save me. Later, I opened up to my brothers and sisters about my state, and they read me a passage of God’s word which gave me great comfort. God says, “Each person who has submitted to being conquered by God’s words will have ample opportunity for salvation; God’s salvation of each of these people will show His utmost leniency. In other words, they will be shown the utmost tolerance. As long as people turn back from the wrong path, and as long as they can repent, God will give them opportunities to obtain His salvation. When humans first rebel against God, He has no desire to put them to death; rather, He does all He can to save them. If someone really has no room for salvation, then God will cast them aside. The reason God is slow to punish certain people is that He wishes to save everyone who can be saved. He judges, enlightens, and guides people only with words, and does not use a rod to put them to death. Employing words to bring humans salvation is the purpose and significance of the final stage of work” (The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. You Should Put Aside the Blessings of Status and Understand God’s Will to Bring Salvation to Man). After they read God’s words, a brother said, “We have been corrupted by Satan, we all have corrupt dispositions, and we have no fear of God. When we see that God’s words and work do not conform to our notions, we will rebel and resist, and easily deny and condemn. But when we understand the truth, can turn back from the wrong path, and genuinely repent to God, God still gives us the chance to be saved. But those who are stubborn, unrepentant, and adamantly resist God are condemned by God, and in the end, they are all subject to punishment.” When I heard this, I was very moved. I thought, “I resisted God and did such great evil, yet God has mercy on me and saves me. God’s love truly is great! In the future, I must preach the gospel more and repay God’s love and tell the faithful of the good news of the Lord’s return, so that they can also hear God’s voice and welcome the Lord.” So, after that, I started spreading the gospel. One time, I testified to a church member about Almighty God’s new work. I was surprised when the bishop found out. He called me and asked me to go see him.
I remember when I arrived at the church, I met the abbot, who was in his eighties, at the door. He surreptitiously told me that the bishop was very opposed to my belief in Eastern Lightning, and persuaded me to admit my mistakes to the bishop, repent, and beg him to be lenient with me. When I heard what he said, I was very upset. So I quickly prayed to God. “Almighty God! I am faced with this environment today, and I don’t know how to face it. Please protect me, and give me faith and determination. No matter what happens next, I ask that You guide me so that I may stand firm on the true way.” After I prayed, I felt I was able to calm myself a bit. When I saw the bishop, he first asked me if I believed in Eastern Lightning, and I said yes. He became very angry and said, “I heard you were in contact with people from Eastern Lightning long ago, but I didn’t think anything of it. I thought since you are a priest and theological specialist, you would never accept Eastern Lightning. I can’t believe you actually accepted it!” I explained things to him patiently, saying, “I didn’t accept Eastern Lightning blindly. I’ve investigated it for more than half a year and read much of Almighty God’s word. These words are the truth, things which no human could say, and Almighty God is the returned Lord—” However, before I could finish speaking, the bishop was already very impatient. He said, “It’s for the Pope to decide whether Eastern Lightning is the returned Lord. The Pope can’t be wrong in matters of faith. If the Pope recognizes it, so will we. If he doesn’t, and says Eastern Lightning is heresy, then we can’t believe in it!” After hearing what he said, I thought, “The Pope is also a corrupt human being. If he doesn’t seek, he won’t be enlightened or illuminated by the Holy Spirit, and he won’t understand the Lord’s new work. You believe in the Lord, but instead of His words, you blindly listen to the Pope, a man. How is this belief in the Lord? Isn’t this just belief in a man?” With this in mind, I continued to testify Almighty God’s work in the last days, but he didn’t listen at all. He said, “The Pope does not say Eastern Lightning is the Lord’s work in the last days, so we can’t believe in it. Whether it is the true way depends on the Pope’s decision!”
That’s true. Originally, I also worshiped the Pope, and thought that the Pope represents the Lord, so we have to listen to the Pope in everything. But later, I read some of Almighty God’s words that changed my views on the matter. I remember one passage that said the following. Almighty God says, “There are several major religions in the world, and each has its own head, or leader, and the followers are spread across different countries and regions all over the world; almost every country, be it large or small, has different religions within it. However, regardless of how many religions there are across the world, all people within the universe ultimately exist under the guidance of one God, and their existence is not guided by religious heads or leaders. This is to say that mankind is not guided by a particular religious head or leader; rather, the whole of mankind is led by the Creator, who created the heavens and earth and all things, and who also created mankind—this is a fact. Although the world has several major religions, regardless of how great they are, they all exist under the dominion of the Creator, and none of them can exceed the scope of this dominion. The development of mankind, the supersedure of society, the development of natural sciences—each is inseparable from the arrangements of the Creator, and this work is not something that can be done by any given religious head. A religious head is merely the leader of a particular religion, and cannot represent God, nor can they represent the One who created the heavens and earth and all things. A religious head can lead all those within the entire religion, but they cannot command all creatures beneath the heavens—this is a universally acknowledged fact. A religious head is merely a leader, and cannot stand equal to God (the Creator). All things are in the hands of the Creator, and in the end they will all return to the hands of the Creator. Mankind was made by God, and regardless of the religion, every person will return under the dominion of God—this is inevitable. Only God is the Most High among all things, and the highest ruler among all creatures must also return under His dominion. No matter how high the status of a man, that man cannot take mankind to a suitable destination, and no one is able to class all things according to kind” (The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. Knowing the Three Stages of God’s Work Is the Path to Knowing God). I understand from this passage that the Pope is just a leader, a created being, and not a representative of God. God is the Creator. He created all things in the world, as well as human beings, and led humankind to the present. Only God has sovereignty over the destiny of humankind, and only God can express the truth to save people and lead us to a beautiful destination. This work cannot be done by any created being, nor by any Pope or leader. Although the popes have a high status, they are also corrupt human beings. They cannot express the truth, let alone do the work of saving humankind, so no matter how high their status, they cannot represent God. If God comes and does new work, and they do not seek, they will not be enlightened or illuminated by the Holy Spirit, and finally, they will be abandoned and eliminated by God. The chief priests and Pharisees, in ancient times, also had high status, but when the Lord Jesus came to work, they had no interest in seeking, they resisted and condemned the Lord Jesus, and in the end, they were cursed and punished by God.
Then the bishop ordered me not to have any more contact with the people from Eastern Lightning. I didn’t agree, so he became very angry and said, “Then consider your duties as abbot suspended. Hand off the monastery accounts and then go to the basement and reflect on what you’ve done.” When I heard him say that, I was very surprised. I didn’t expect him to dismiss me so quickly. I felt a little lost. In the several years I was an abbot, no matter where I went, I had priests and monks revolving around me, listening to my words and doing whatever I said, but after the bishop dismissed me, I knew it would never be the same again. I also thought of how much work I had done to become a priest and abbot. Once I began following Almighty God and made my choice, I could no longer be a priest and abbot. Although I had already been certain about the work of Almighty God in the last days, I still didn’t have the courage to completely cut myself off from Catholicism. I thought, “This choice is not a trivial matter. I have to think carefully before I make my decision.” Later, I went to the basement as the bishop asked. There, I met Priest Zhao, who was placed there to reflect on his fornication. I told him I was sent there because I accepted the work of Almighty God in the last days. He was very surprised when he heard this. He said he committed the sin of fornication in a moment of weakness, but if he confessed his sin to the Lord, he could still be saved. He thought my problem was more serious, and said it was a question of faith, that if our faith is misplaced, we can’t enter the kingdom of heaven.
After two or three days, Priest Wang brought the accountant to the basement to verify the accounts with me. I saw the contempt in Priest Wang’s eyes when he looked at me, and when he asked about the accounts, it was like he was interrogating a prisoner. It all felt very uncomfortable. After they left, I felt especially humiliated and miserable. Lying in bed, I thought of how, when I ran the monastery, everyone was always very respectful to me. No matter which host family I went to, the priests and monks came out to greet me without asking, and the host enthusiastically prepared fruit to entertain me. The priests and monks always looked forward to hearing me preach, and they usually waited for me to make a decision when discussing any work. Also, I often arranged their work, and they all listened to and obeyed me. But now, just after I had been dismissed, they looked down on me and didn’t respect me, and I had no one to speak with me in the basement. How were things so different from when I was an abbot? Then I thought if I chose to follow Almighty God, I would never be able to enjoy the life of an abbot again, and all of the status and enjoyment I received from it were gone. That thought made me a little disappointed. But then I thought, “Almighty God is indeed the returned Lord Jesus. If I don’t follow Almighty God for the sake of my status and enjoyment, am I still truly a believer in God? Can I still be saved by God?” I really didn’t know which path I should choose, and my heart was very tormented. I went on my knees and prayed to God to ask Him to guide me so that I would no longer be ruled by status and reputation and be able to follow God’s footsteps. After praying, I remembered a passage of God’s word that my brothers and sisters read to me. “God has humbled Himself to such a level that He does His work in these filthy and corrupt people, and perfects this group of people. God not only became flesh to live and eat among people, to shepherd people, and to provide what people need. More important is that He does His mighty work of salvation and conquest upon these unbearably corrupt people. He came to the heart of the great red dragon to save these most corrupt of people, so that all people may be changed and made new. The immense hardship that God endures is not only the hardship that the God incarnate endures, but most of all it is that God’s Spirit suffers extreme humiliation—He humbles and hides Himself so much that He becomes an ordinary person. God was incarnated and took the form of flesh so that people see that He has a normal human life and normal human needs. This is enough to prove that God has humbled Himself to a great extent. The Spirit of God is realized in the flesh. His Spirit is so high and great, yet He takes the form of a common human, of a negligible human, so as to do the work of His Spirit. The caliber, insight, sense, humanity, and lives of each of you show that you are really unworthy to accept God’s work of this kind. You are really unworthy to let God endure such hardship for your sake. God is so great. He is so supreme, and people are so lowly, yet He still works upon them. He not only was incarnated to provide for people, to speak to people, but He even lives together with people. God is so humble, so lovable” (The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. Only Those Who Focus on Practice Can Be Perfected). It’s true, no country resists God more seriously than China. God came incarnate to the country of the great red dragon to speak and work, but was persecuted and slandered by the Communist Party, and condemned and rejected by religious circles. God is so supreme, and so noble, yet He endured the great humiliation and came to earth, and everything God does is to save us. I saw then that God is truly humble and lovely! Then I thought of how I only wanted to enjoy the benefits of status, how I enjoyed others admiring and looking up to me, and how even when I knew I had found God’s work, I was still unwilling to give up my status and follow God. Wasn’t this knowing the true way but deliberately resisting? Wasn’t this just unconscionable? When I realized this, I felt very guilty and ashamed. At the same time, I prepared myself to let go of my position.
A few days later, my cousin came to the basement to persuade me and ask me to reflect. He said that if I didn’t repent, the bishop would expel me from the church. When I heard that, I was shocked. I had never heard of anything like excommunication at this church. At the time I thought, “If I am expelled, the church members I know and the entire diocese will reject me.” After my cousin left, I couldn’t stop struggling with myself. From the moment I believed in the Lord, it never occurred to me that I could be excommunicated. I thought about these things over and over during those days. Every time I saw the prophecies in the Bible about God’s work in the last days, I thought of the brothers and sisters who testified to me about Almighty God’s work and the passages of God’s word I read. These scenes flashed into my mind like they were from a movie. Almighty God is the returned Lord, and I couldn’t give up following Him! But at the thought of leaving the church or being expelled, I couldn’t make up my mind.
Later, the bishop came to the basement and asked how my reflection was going. When he saw that I continued to believe in Almighty God, he was very unhappy, and said, “Your belief in Eastern Lightning is not a trivial matter. You need to really reflect on yourself. If you can sincerely know yourself, repent, and reject Eastern Lightning, we can forget about your mistake and you can remain in your position as an abbot.” After the bishop left, Priest Zhao, who was there, also came over to persuade me. He said, “You need to write out the conclusions of your reflection. If you write it well, you can continue to be an abbot. If you don’t write it, the bishop won’t let you go!” After hearing that, I knew that the bishop had given me an ultimatum, and if I didn’t write out the results of my reflection, my abbot position was gone, and I faced being expelled from the church. Thinking of this, I felt a little sad. Although I knew I should choose to follow Almighty God, I was still a little unwilling to let go of my position. It was a painful time, so I earnestly cried to God, saying, “Almighty God, I face my final choice today. Please guide me and lead me to make the right choice.” After I prayed, I thought of a passage of God’s words that my brothers and sisters read to me. God says, “God will certainly never start again elsewhere. 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 will suffer 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 Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. The Millennial Kingdom Has Arrived). It was true. Now, the churches everywhere are desolate, and lack the work of the Holy Spirit. Bishops and priests preach without light, and can only talk about theological theories and religious doctrines or ask people to observe religious rituals and rules created by people. But clinging to these doesn’t offer the slightest supply and edification in people’s lives, and everyone lives in a cycle of committing sin, confessing sin, and sinning again. No matter how hard you try, you can’t solve the problem of sinning. Even the clergy can’t refrain from obvious sins like stealing offerings and fornication, just like Priest Zhao in the basement with me who wasn’t ashamed of committing such a great sin. Degeneracy to such a level was too pitiful. Catholicism today was nothing but a stagnant pond! The Church of Almighty God was different. We read the words of Almighty God at every meeting, which helped us understand the truth, and supplied and benefited our lives. If I didn’t keep up with Almighty God’s work and didn’t gain the truth expressed by God in the last days, I would never escape sin. I would be inextricably trapped in sin every day. What would be the point of having everyone’s support in religion?
Then I thought some of God’s word. Almighty God says, “Christ is man’s gateway to the kingdom during the last days, and there are none who can go around Him. None may be perfected by God except through Christ. You believe in God, and so you must accept His words and obey His way. You cannot only think of gaining blessings while being incapable of receiving the truth and incapable of accepting the provision of life. Christ comes during the last days so that all those who truly believe in Him may be provided with life. His work is for the sake of concluding the old age and entering the new one, and His work is the path that must be taken by all those who would enter the new age. If you are incapable of acknowledging Him, and instead condemn, blaspheme, or even persecute Him, then you are bound to burn for eternity and shall never enter the kingdom of God. For this Christ is Himself the expression of the Holy Spirit, the expression of God, the One whom God has entrusted to do His work on earth. And so I say that if you cannot accept all that is done by Christ of the last days, then you blaspheme the Holy Spirit. The retribution to be had by those who blaspheme the Holy Spirit is self-evident to all. I also tell you that if you resist Christ of the last days, if you spurn Christ of the last days, there will be no one else to bear the consequences on your behalf. Furthermore, from this day onward you will not have another chance to gain the approval of God; even if you try to redeem yourself, you will never again behold the face of God. For what you resist is not a man, what you spurn is not some puny being, but Christ. Do you know what the consequences of this will be? You will not have made a small mistake, but committed a heinous crime. And so I advise everyone not to bare your fangs before the truth, or make careless criticisms, for only the truth can bring you life, and nothing except the truth can allow you to be reborn and behold the face of God again” (The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. Only Christ of the Last Days Can Give Man the Way of Eternal Life). Almighty God gives us the truth, the way, and the life. These truths are the only way we can be purified and saved. That I could accept the truth expressed by Almighty God today and have a way to change my corrupt dispositions, was truly God’s exaltation and grace. If I chose to stay in Catholicism, coveted the enjoyment of status, and rejected God’s salvation in the last days, I would be condemned by God forever and completely lose my chance of salvation! I would be just like the former chief priests and Pharisees. They held a high status among the Jews, and enjoyed the high opinion and support of everyone, but when the Lord Jesus came, they clearly knew the Lord Jesus’ words had authority and power, but in order to protect their status and income, they refused to accept the Lord Jesus’ salvation, and even nailed Him to the cross, and in the end, they were cursed and punished forever by God. At this point, I knew I couldn’t follow in the footsteps of the Pharisees! I had accepted Almighty God’s new work, enjoyed the watering and supply of God’s word. I could reflect on myself in God’s word and find the root cause of my sin, and I understood how to be purified from corruption. Only by following this path could I achieve salvation and earn God’s approval. Wasn’t that more valuable and meaningful than having high status? Thinking of this, my heart felt very bright. I saw clearly that there was nothing worth clinging to in religion, and I didn’t need to stay there anymore. So, I let go of my positions as priest and abbot and resolutely decided to leave.
Although I suffered some hardship during those few days in the basement, the guidance and leadership of God’s word made me understand that status is not what I should pursue, nor does God approve of it, and I felt the road ahead was clear. In the past, I thought understanding Bible knowledge and theology was knowing God. I didn’t realize the theological theories I understood were all notions and imaginings about God. They don’t accord with the truth at all. They were an impassable barrier that caused me to delimit God and resist God’s work, and also made me ever more arrogant and self-righteous, without any humility to seek or fear of God. If it weren’t for Almighty God’s great love and mercy, it would be impossible for me to receive His salvation! Also, when I craved status and enjoyment and didn’t know what to choose, God used His words to enlighten me and guide me many times and lead me to put down my position and keep up with His work. If it weren’t for God’s care and support, I could never return to God, which is why I feel that God’s love is practical and real.
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