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Gospel Reader

Breaking Through Satan’s Tight Encirclement (Audio Essay, Part 1)

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By Zhao Gang, China

It was bitterly cold this past November in Northeast China, none of the snow that fell to the ground melted away, and many people who walked outside were so cold that they stuffed their hands into their armpits and walked along cautiously, bodies bent over. The other day in the early morning the winds were blowing from the northwest, when I, my brother-in-law and his wife and about a dozen brothers and sisters were sitting in my home on the warm bed. Everyone had a copy of the Bible beside them, and in their hands everyone was holding a copy of the book of God’s words, Judgment Begins With the House of God. Two sisters from The Church of Almighty God were fellowshiping on the truth concerning God’s three stages of work. The two sisters were drawing pictures of the three stages of work as they fellowshiped: “God’s work for the salvation of mankind can be divided into three stages. From the Age of Law to the Age of Grace and then to the Age of Kingdom, each stage of work is higher and more profound than the previous stage. The work done in the last days is the final stage of work, in which God expresses words to judge and cleanse man….” We nodded our heads as we listened, and our hearts filled with light: Who would’ve thought that God’s management plan for the salvation of mankind would have so many mysteries! Besides God Himself, who else could speak of the mysteries of these three stages of God’s work so clearly? This truly is the work of God! We fellowshiped into the evening of the following day, and our whole group expressed a willingness to seek out and look into Almighty God’s work of the last days.

Afterward, the two sisters then fellowshiped on the truth regarding the significance of the incarnation of God, and the rest of us were listening attentively when, all of a sudden, our church leader Wang Ping showed up. As soon as she entered the house, she pointed her finger at the two sisters from The Church of Almighty God and asked me: “What are these two doing?” I spoke frankly: “They are Sister Zhang and Sister Mu—” But before I could even finish speaking, she said in an exasperated tone, “Who are Sister Zhang and Sister Mu? I can see they are preachers of Eastern Lightning, they are sheep-stealers….” After Wang Ping finished talking, we all sat there in shock. I thought to myself: “Sister Wang Ping has almost always talked about loving our neighbors as we love ourselves and about loving our enemies; why is it that today she comes in here saying such unreasonable things? Why is she judging and condemning these two sisters?” I was thinking this over when I heard Sister Zhang calmly say to Wang Ping, “Sister, there are no hidden intentions in us coming here today. The Lord Jesus has already returned. We just want to spread God’s gospel of the last days to you—” Wang Ping interrupted Sister Zhang and yelled out: “The Lord has returned? Not even those of us who serve as leaders know anything about the Lord’s return, so how could you know anything about it? That is not possible! The Lord Jesus said: ‘All that ever came before Me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them’ (John 10:8). You both need to leave right now and never come back here.” When I heard Wang Ping say this, I felt disgusted inside: Her sermons are usually always so reasoned and well-argued; how is it that she can be so compassionless all of a sudden? So I asked Wang Ping: “Sister Wang, it’s late. Where do you want them to go? The Lord teaches us that we must love our enemies, to say nothing of these two sisters who believe in God. If we treat these two in this way, we would in no way resemble believers in the Lord—” But before I could even finish what I was saying, Wang Ping anxiously grabbed the hand of my brother-in-law’s wife and said to her and her husband, “If Zhao Gang doesn’t want these two women to leave then let’s go. Don’t listen to them anymore!” She then furiously grabbed hold of these two and walked out.

Breaking Through Satan’s Tight Encirclement

After they left, Sister Mu turned to us and asked: “Brothers and sisters, how do you all feel about the scene that we just witnessed? Let’s discuss this together.” The brothers and sisters all turned toward me, without anyone saying a word. I said frankly, “Sister, through our readings of the word of Almighty God over these past two days, and through listening to your fellowship, I firmly believe that Almighty God’s words are the truth, and that Almighty God is the returned Lord Jesus. However, the things that Wang Ping said aren’t without reason. After all, she is our leader and she has had faith in the Lord for a long time. She is well-versed in the Bible and she has always busied herself and expended herself for the Lord. If the Lord has returned, she ought to be the first to know.” Sister Zhang replied kindly, saying, “People believe that God’s return should first be revealed to leaders who then tell believers about it, but is there really any basis in the Lord’s words for this kind of thinking? Does it conform to the truth and to the facts of God’s work? The Lord Jesus said: ‘My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me’ (John 10:27). ‘He that has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches’ (Revelation 2:7). The Lord Jesus clearly tells us that when He comes, He will surely utter words and express the truth, and that all who hear God’s voice and then seek and accept it will welcome the Lord’s return and be raised up before God. Did the Lord say He would enlighten any leader with the knowledge of His coming when He returns? No, He didn’t. Therefore, this view that people have simply misleads and confounds people, and if they wait for the Lord to enlighten them in line with this statement, then they are just waiting passively for the end to come. Let’s look at what it says in the words of Almighty God. Almighty God said: ‘There are even more who believe that whatever the new work of God might be, it has to be substantiated by prophecies, and that in each stage of such work, all those who follow Him with a “true” heart must also be shown revelations; if not, such work could not be the work of God. It is already no easy task for man to come to know God. Taken in addition to man’s absurd heart and his rebellious nature of self-importance and self-conceit, it becomes all the more difficult for him to accept God’s new work. Man neither gives careful consideration to the new work of God, nor accepts it with humility; instead, he adopts an attitude of contempt as he awaits revelations and guidance from God. Is this not the behavior of those who rebel against and resist God? How can such people gain God’s approval?’ (“How Can Man Who Has Delimited God in His Conceptions Receive the Revelations of God?” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). From God’s words we realize that, in the matter of the coming of the Lord, if people blindly hold to their own conceptions and imaginings and do not seek the truth or focus on hearing God’s voice, but instead merely wait for God to enlighten them, then they will never be able to welcome the return of the Lord. Only those who take care to listen to God’s voice are able to welcome the appearance of the Lord. In fact, not even one out of the people who followed the Lord Jesus in the Age of Grace was enlightened by God prior to following Jesus. They heard someone else bear witness to the Lord Jesus, or they heard the Lord speak or give a sermon, and they followed Him only after recognizing the voice of the Lord. Although Peter gained the enlightenment of God and recognized the Lord Jesus to be Christ and to be the Son of God, that only happened after he had followed the Lord Jesus for a time; only after he came to have some knowledge of the Lord from His words and work did he gain the enlightenment and illumination of the Holy Spirit—this is a fact. Now in the last days, the incarnate Almighty God expresses the truth, and does the work of judging, purifying and saving mankind. Many people accept and follow Almighty God, but there is not one among them who gained the enlightenment of God prior to following Him. God is righteous and He certainly does not favor anyone. God takes joy in kind-hearted people who thirst to seek out the truth. It’s just as the Lord Jesus said: ‘Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled’ (Matthew 5:6). ‘Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God’ (Matthew 5:8). Almighty God also said: ‘God seeks those who long for Him to appear. He seeks those who are able to hear His words, those who have not forgotten His commission and offer up their hearts and bodies to Him. He seeks those who are as obedient as babes before Him and do not resist Him’ (“God Presides Over the Fate of All Mankind” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). This allows us to see that, so long as man loves the truth and thirsts for the truth, regardless of whether or not he has any status, regardless of how much he understands the Bible, God will enlighten and guide him, and He will allow man to hear His voice and witness His appearance. If those who serve as leaders think that God must first enlighten them when He returns, then this shows that they do not have any understanding of the work of God and they do not know God’s righteous disposition. It also reveals them to be very arrogant. It is said in the word of Almighty God: ‘And so I say that those who claim to “fully understand” God and His work are an inept lot; they are all overweening and ignorant. Man should not define the work of God; moreover, man cannot define the work of God. In the eyes of God, man is as insignificant as an ant; so how can man fathom God’s work? Those who like to spout, “God does not work in this or that way,” or “God is like this or that”—are they not speaking arrogantly?’ (Preface to The Word Appears in the Flesh). God’s almightiness and wisdom are unfathomably profound. People are just tiny creations. Our minds and our thoughts are limited, so how could we fathom the work of the Creator? So, as we wait for the Lord to return, we ought to keep reverence for God in our hearts and search and investigate carefully. We ought not to use our own conceptions and imaginations to confine God and judge God arbitrarily, for this will offend God’s disposition, and it will also ruin our chances to attain true salvation.”

After hearing God’s word, I understood that we are so insignificant in the presence of God, more insignificant even than an ant. Furthermore, we have been corrupted by Satan to the point that we are full of the corrupt disposition of arrogance and conceit. We love to always rely on our imaginations and conceptions to confine God, and whenever God’s work does not conform to our conceptions, we even deny God, condemn God and resist God. Apparently, if man does not understand the truth and does not have a single speck of reverence for God in his heart, then he will dare to do whatever he wants. It’s so dangerous! This made me remember that the Lord Jesus once said: “I thank You, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because You have hid these things from the wise and prudent, and have revealed them to babes. Even so, Father: for so it seemed good in Your sight” (Matthew 11:25–26). It wasn’t until today that I saw that this really is how things are! The revelation of God’s word and Sister Zhang’s fellowship allowed me to recognize that this idea that “leaders ought to be the first ones to be enlightened to the knowledge of the Lord’s coming when He returns” is false and absurd, it simply does not conform to the truth, and it totally hails from the conceptions and imaginings of man. In reality, only those who thirst for the truth and seek the voice of God will have the opportunity to receive God’s work and His guidance and be brought before God. This gave me a new understanding of God’s fairness and righteousness. Thanks be to God!

new life, plan of salvation, everlasting gospel, prayer of faith

Early in the morning on the third day, after Sister Zhang and Sister Mu had left, my fellow Brother Guan, a co-worker from the upper echelons of our church, came to me and asked: “Brother Zhao, I heard that you both now believe in Eastern Lightning?” I told him earnestly, “Yes, I’ve accepted Almighty God’s work in the last days, because through the words of Almighty God I have come to understand many truths that I previously didn’t understand, such as the mysteries of His three stages of work and the significance of the incarnation of God. I see that the words of Almighty God are ‘what the Spirit says to the churches’ as prophesied in the Book of Revelation.” Brother Guan glanced over at me and said, “Brother Zhao, are you really going to follow what these people believe? Do you know what kind of people they are?” I said, “I see that they all have a great human nature and that they fellowship about the truth very clearly. Everything they discuss has to do with the truths of God’s work. I truly have gained a lot these past two days.” Brother Guan said to me angrily, “How can you be so stubborn? Hebrews 6:6–8 tell us: ‘If they shall fall away, to renew them again to repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put Him to an open shame. For the earth which drinks in the rain that comes oft on it, and brings forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, receives blessing from God: But that which bears thorns and briers is rejected, and is near to cursing; whose end is to be burned.’ You are a preacher, you enjoy so much of the Lord’s grace, but not only are you not leading brothers and sisters to believe in the Lord, but instead you are leading them to leave our church. Aren’t you afraid of being punished? If you do not turn back, you will lose the Lord’s protection, and you will not live a happy life. Your previous sicknesses will recur, and your two children will not have good jobs….”

After brother Guan left, I felt a little nervous, and I thought to myself: The things he said seem to have some reason to them, so what should I do just in case my faith in Almighty God causes me to lose the Lord’s grace? When I thought about this, I felt my heart grow weak, so I hurriedly got down on my knees and prayed to God: “Almighty God! Brother Guan’s words have made me feel a bit weak. God! Are the things he said actually true or not? I really don’t know what to do now….” As I was praying to God, my wife came back, and I told her about what had just happened. After hearing this, she said nervously, “Is that really what he said?” I nodded my head, and my wife said worriedly, “He has been a major leader who has believed in the Lord for many years, and he’s well-versed in the Bible. I don’t think he would tell lies. If it’s really going to be like what he says, then what should we do?” Just then, I suddenly thought of the truth of God’s three stages of work that Sister Zhang and Sister Mu had fellowshiped about: God’s work for the salvation of mankind is divided into three stages, but all three stages of work are carried out by one God. As I thought about this, it suddenly became clear to me, and I blurted out to my wife: “What Brother Guan said doesn’t seem right. He said that by accepting God’s work in the last days we are leaving the way of the Lord and betraying the Lord Jesus, but the words of Almighty God that we have been reading these last few days are truly God’s voice and Almighty God is the returned Lord Jesus. By following Almighty God, we are actually following the footsteps of the Lamb. We are the ones who are the wise virgins. Why would the Lord punish us? …” We were in the middle of fellowshiping about this when Sister Zhang and Sister Mu came in …

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