Chapter 3 You Must Know the Truths About the Three Stages of God’s Work
3. Knowing the Purpose and Significance of Each of the Three Stages of God’s Work.
Relevant Words of God:
The significance, purpose, and step of Jehovah’s work in Israel were to begin His work on the whole earth, gradually spreading to Gentile nations from its center in Israel. This is the principle according to which He works throughout the universe—to establish a model, then broaden it until all people in the universe have accepted His gospel. The first Israelites were the descendants of Noah. These people only had the breath of Jehovah, and could take care of the basic necessities of life, but they did not know what kind of a God Jehovah was, nor did they know His will for man, much less how they should revere the Lord of all creation. Adam’s descendants did not know what rules and laws they must obey, or what work the created must do for the Creator. All they knew was that the husband must sweat and labor to provide for his family, and that the wife must submit to her husband and perpetuate the race of humans that Jehovah created. In other words, this people had only Jehovah’s breath and His life, but did not know how to follow God’s laws or how to satisfy the Lord of all creation. They understood far too little. So although there was nothing crooked or cunning in their hearts, and though they seldom had jealousy and strife, they did not know or understand Jehovah, the Lord of all creation. These ancestors of man knew only to eat what Jehovah made, to enjoy what Jehovah made, but they did not know to revere Jehovah; they did not know that they should worship Him on bended knee. How could they be called His creatures? And so, were not the words, “Jehovah is the Lord of all creation” and “He created man as an expression of Himself, to glorify Him and represent Him,” spoken in vain? How can people who do not revere Jehovah be a testament to His glory? How can they be expressions of His glory? Do not Jehovah’s words “I created man in My image” then become a weapon in the hand of Satan—the evil one? Do these words not then become a mark of humiliation to Jehovah’s creation of man? In order to complete that stage of work, Jehovah, after creating mankind, did not instruct or guide them from Adam to Noah. It was not until after the flood that He formally began to guide the Israelites, who were the descendants of Adam and of Noah. His work and words in Israel guided the lives of all the people across the land, showing them that Jehovah was not only able to blow breath into man, so that he had His life, and was resurrected from the dust and made a creature of God, but could also scorch mankind with flames, and curse mankind, using His rod to govern mankind. So, too, did they see that Jehovah could guide man’s life on earth, and speak and work among them by day and by night. He did the work only so that His creatures might know that man came from dust picked up by Him, that man was made by Him. Furthermore, the work He began in Israel was meant so that other peoples and nations (who in fact were not separate from Israel, but had branched off from the Israelites, yet were still descended from Adam and Eve) might receive the gospel of Jehovah from Israel, so that all creatures in the universe would revere Him and hold Him to be great. Had Jehovah not begun His work in Israel, but instead, having created mankind, let them live carefree lives on the earth, then because of man’s physical nature (nature means that man can never know the things he cannot see, that is, that he does not know that Jehovah created mankind, let alone why He did so), he would never know that Jehovah created mankind and is the Lord of all things. If Jehovah had created man and placed him on the earth as His enjoyment, then simply dusted off His hands and left rather than leading among man for a period of time, then all humanity would have returned to nothingness; even the heaven and earth and all things that He created, including all humanity, would have returned to nothingness and been trampled upon by Satan. And so Jehovah’s wish that “He should have a place to stand on earth, a holy place among His creation” would have been shattered. So instead, after God created mankind, He guided them in their lives, and spoke to them, all in order to realize His desire, to achieve His plan. God’s work in Israel was meant only to execute the plan He had set in place before His creation of all things, and therefore His working first among the Israelites and His creation of all things were not at odds with each other, but were both for the sake of His management, His work, and His glory, deepening the meaning of His creation of mankind. He guided the life of mankind on earth for two thousand years after Noah, during which He taught them how to revere Jehovah the Lord of all things, taught them how to conduct themselves and live their lives, and most of all, how to act as a witness for Jehovah, obey Him, and revere Him, and to praise Him with music like David and his priests.
Before the two thousand years during which Jehovah did His work, man knew nothing, and almost all degenerated to the depth of promiscuity and corruption that preceded the flood; their hearts were devoid of Jehovah, let alone His way. They never understood the work Jehovah was going to do; they lacked reason, much less knowledge, like living, breathing machines, ignorant of man, God, the world, and life alike. On earth they engaged in much seduction, like the serpent, and said many things that were offensive to Jehovah, but because they were ignorant Jehovah did not chastise or discipline them. After the flood, when Noah was 601 years old, Jehovah formally appeared to Noah and guided him and his family, leading him, the birds, and the beasts that survived the flood, and his descendants until the end of the Age of Law, a total of 2,500 years. He was formally at work in Israel for 2,000 years, and the period for which He was at work both in Israel and outside of it was 500 years, which together makes 2,500 years. During this period He instructed the Israelites that to serve Jehovah, they should build the temple and wear priests’ robes, and walk barefoot into the temple at dawn, lest their shoes sully the temple and the fire be sent down on them from the top of the temple and burn them to death. They carried out their duties and submitted to Jehovah’s plans. They prayed to Jehovah in the temple, and after they were inspired by Jehovah, that is, after Jehovah had spoken, they led the people and taught them they should revere Jehovah—their God. And Jehovah told them that they should build the temple and the altar, and at the time set by Jehovah, that is, on Passover, they should prepare newborn calves and lambs on the altar as sacrifices to serve Jehovah, so as to restrain them and put reverence for Jehovah in their hearts. Whether they obeyed this law would be the measure of their loyalty to Jehovah. Jehovah also set the Sabbath day for them, the seventh day of His creation. The day after that He made the first day, a day for them to praise Jehovah, to offer Him sacrifices, and to make music for Him. On this day, Jehovah called together all the priests and divided the sacrifices on the altar for the people to eat so that they could enjoy the sacrifices offered to Jehovah. And Jehovah said that they were blessed and had a part with Him, and that they were His chosen people (which was Jehovah’s covenant with the Israelites). This is why, up to this day, the people of Israel still say that Jehovah is only their God, and not the God of other peoples.
During the Age of Law, Jehovah laid down many commandments for Moses to pass on to the Israelites who followed him out of Egypt. Jehovah gave these commandments to the Israelites, which were unrelated to the Egyptians, and they were meant to restrain the Israelites, and were His requirements for them. Whether one observed the Sabbath, whether one respected one’s parents, whether one worshiped idols, and so forth, these were the principles by which one was judged sinful or righteous. Whether one was struck by Jehovah’s fire, or stoned to death, or received Jehovah’s blessing, was determined according to whether one obeyed these commandments. Those who did not observe the Sabbath were stoned to death. Those priests who did not observe the Sabbath were smitten by Jehovah’s fire. Those who did not respect their parents were also stoned to death. This was all commended by Jehovah. Jehovah established His commandments and laws so that as He led their lives, the people would listen to and obey His word and not rebel against Him. He used these laws to control the newborn human race, to lay the foundation for His work to come. And so, because of the work that Jehovah did, the first age was called the Age of Law. Though Jehovah spoke much and did much work, He only guided them positively, teaching these ignorant people how to be human, how to live, how to understand Jehovah’s way. For the most part the work He did was intended to allow the people to observe His way and follow His law. The work was done on people who were shallowly corrupted; it was not concerned with the transformation of disposition or the growth in life. He was only concerned with using laws to restrict and control the people. For the Israelites at that time, Jehovah was merely a God in the temple, a God in the heavens. He was a pillar of cloud, a pillar of flame. All Jehovah required them to do was obey what people today know as His laws and commandments—one could even say rules—because Jehovah’s work was not meant to change them, but to give them more things that man ought to have, to tell them from His own mouth, because after man was created, man knew nothing about what he ought to possess. And so Jehovah gave them the things they ought to possess for their lives on earth, made the people that He had led surpass their ancestors, Adam and Eve, because what Jehovah gave them surpassed what He had given Adam and Eve in the beginning. Regardless, the work Jehovah did in Israel was only to guide humanity and make humanity recognize their Creator. He did not conquer them or change them, merely guided them. This is the sum of Jehovah’s work in the Age of Law. It is the background, the true story, the essence of His work in the whole land of Israel, and the beginning of His six thousand years of work—to control mankind by Jehovah’s hand. Out of this came more work in His six-thousand-year management plan.
from “The Work in the Age of Law” in The Word Appears in the Flesh
In the Age of Grace man had been corrupted by Satan, and so the work of redeeming all humanity required an abundance of grace, infinite forbearance and patience, and even more, an offering adequate to atone for humanity’s sins. What people saw in the Age of Grace was merely My sin offering for humanity, Jesus. And they knew only that God could be merciful and forbearing, saw only Jesus’ mercy and lovingkindness. This was because they lived in the Age of Grace. So before they could be redeemed, they had to enjoy much grace that Jesus bestowed on them; only this was beneficial to them. This way, they could be forgiven of their sins through their enjoyment of grace, and could have the chance to be redeemed through enjoying Jesus’ forbearance and patience. Only through Jesus’ forbearance and patience were they capable of receiving forgiveness and enjoying the abundance of grace bestowed by Jesus—just as Jesus said, “I have come not to redeem the righteous but sinners, allowing their sins to be forgiven.” If Jesus had been incarnated with the disposition of judgment, curse, and intolerance of man’s offenses, then man would never have had the chance to be redeemed, and would have remained forever sinful; and so the six-thousand-year management plan would have progressed no farther than the Age of Law. The Age of Law would have gone on for six thousand years, man’s sins would have grown greater in number and more grievous, and the creation of humanity would have been for naught. Men would only have been able to serve Jehovah under the law, but their sins would have exceeded those of the first created humans. The more Jesus loved mankind, forgiving them of their sins and giving them enough mercy and lovingkindness, the more mankind was capable of being saved, called the lost lambs that Jesus bought back at a great price. Satan could not meddle in this work, because Jesus treated His followers as a loving mother treats the infant in her arms. He did not grow angry at them or despise them, but was full of consolation; He never got furious among them, but forbore with their sins and turned a blind eye to their foolishness and ignorance, such that He said, “Forgive others seventy times seven times.” So His heart reformed the hearts of others, and in this way did the people receive forgiveness through His forbearance.
from “The Truth Concerning the Work in the Age of Redemption” in The Word Appears in the Flesh
Because that was a different age, He often bestowed plentiful food and drink upon the people so that they could eat their fill. He treated all His followers kindly, healing the sick, driving out demons, raising the dead. In order that the people would believe in Him and see that all that He did was done earnestly and sincerely, He went so far as to resurrect a rotting corpse, showing them that in His hands even the dead could come back to life. In this way He endured silently among them and did His redemptive work. Even before He was nailed to the cross, Jesus had already borne the sins of humanity and become a sin offering for mankind. He had already opened the way to the cross in order to redeem mankind before He was crucified. At last He was nailed to the cross, sacrificed Himself for the sake of the cross, and He bestowed all of His mercy, lovingkindness, and holiness upon mankind.
from “The Truth Concerning the Work in the Age of Redemption” in The Word Appears in the Flesh
Without Jesus’ redemption, mankind would forever live in sin, and become the children of sin, the descendants of demons. If that continued, Satan would take up residence on earth, and all the earth would become its habitation. But the redemptive work required mercy and lovingkindness toward mankind; only through it could mankind receive forgiveness and at last be qualified to be made complete and fully gained. Without this stage of work, the six-thousand-year management plan would not have been able to go forward. If Jesus had not been crucified, if He had only healed the people and exorcised their demons, then the people could not have been completely forgiven of their sins. The three and a half years that Jesus did His work on earth completed only half of His redemptive work; then by being nailed to the cross and becoming the likeness of sinful flesh, by being handed over to the evil one, He completed the work of crucifixion and mastered mankind’s destiny. Only after He was delivered into Satan’s hands was mankind redeemed. For thirty-three and a half years He suffered on earth, was ridiculed, slandered, and forsaken, was even left with no place to lay His head, no resting place; then He was crucified, His whole being—an immaculate and innocent body—being nailed to the cross, and underwent all manner of suffering. Those in power mocked Him and whipped Him, and the soldiers even spat in His face; yet He remained silent and endured until the end, submitting unconditionally to the point of death, whereupon He redeemed all of humanity and thereby was permitted to rest.
from “The Truth Concerning the Work in the Age of Redemption” in The Word Appears in the Flesh
In the work of the Age of Grace, Jesus was the God who saved man. What He had and was was grace, love, compassion, forbearance, patience, humility, care, and tolerance, and so much of the work that He did was the redemption of man. And as for His disposition, it was one of compassion and love, and because He was compassionate and loving, He had to be nailed to the cross for man, in order to show that God loved man as Himself, to the extent that He sacrificed Himself in His entirety. Satan said, “Since You love man, You must love him to the ultimate extreme: You must be nailed to the cross, to deliver man from the cross, from sin, and You shall offer up Yourself in exchange for all of mankind.” Satan made the following wager: “Since You are a loving and compassionate God, You must love man to the ultimate extreme: You must offer Yourself up to the cross.” Jesus said, “As long as it is for mankind, then I am willing to lay down My all.” Afterward, He went up onto the cross without hesitation and redeemed all of mankind. During the Age of Grace, the name of God was Jesus, which means that God was a God who saved man, and that He was a compassionate and loving God. God was with man. His love, His compassion, and His salvation accompanied each and every person. Man could only gain peace and joy, receive His blessing, receive His vast and numerous graces, and receive His salvation if man accepted the name of Jesus and accepted His presence. Through the crucifixion of Jesus, all those who followed Him received salvation and were forgiven their sins. During the Age of Grace, the name of God was Jesus. In other words, the work of the Age of Grace was done principally under the name of Jesus. During the Age of Grace, God was called Jesus. He did new work beyond the Old Testament, and His work ended with the crucifixion, and that was the entirety of His work.
from “The Vision of God’s Work (3)” in The Word Appears in the Flesh
To man, God’s crucifixion concluded the work of God’s incarnation, redeemed all of mankind, and allowed Him to seize the key to Hades. Everyone thinks God’s work has been fully accomplished. In actuality, to God, only a small part of His work has been accomplished. He has only redeemed mankind; He has not conquered mankind, let alone changed the ugliness of Satan in man. That is why God says, “Although My incarnate flesh went through the pain of death, that was not the whole goal of My incarnation. Jesus is My beloved Son and was nailed to the cross for Me, but He did not fully conclude My work. He only did a portion of it.” Thus God began the second round of plans to continue the work of the incarnation. God’s ultimate intention is to perfect and gain everyone rescued from Satan’s hands….
from “Work and Entry (6)” in The Word Appears in the Flesh
The work in the last days is to speak words. Great changes can be effected in man through the words. The changes now effected in these people on acceptance of these words are much greater than that of people in the Age of Grace on acceptance of those signs and wonders. For, in the Age of Grace, the demons went away from man with the laying on of hands and prayer, but the corrupt dispositions within man still remained. Man was healed of his sickness and forgiven his sins, but the work for just how the corrupt satanic dispositions within man could be cast away was not done in him. Man was only saved and forgiven his sins for his faith, but the sinful nature of man was not taken away and still remained within him. The sins of man were forgiven through God incarnate, but it does not mean that man has no sin within him. The sins of man could be forgiven through the sin offering, but man has been unable to resolve the issue of just how he can no longer sin and how his sinful nature can be cast away completely and be transformed. The sins of man were forgiven because of the work of God’s crucifixion, but man continued to live in the old, corrupt satanic disposition. As such, man must be completely saved from the corrupt satanic disposition so that the sinful nature of man is completely cast away and never again develops, thus allowing the disposition of man to be changed. This requires man to understand the path of growth in life, the way of life, and the way to change his disposition. It also needs man to act in accordance with this path so that the disposition of man can gradually be changed and he can live under the shining of the light, and that he can do all things in accord with the will of God, cast away the corrupt satanic disposition, and break free from Satan’s influence of darkness, thereby emerging fully from sin. Only then will man receive complete salvation. When Jesus was doing His work, man’s knowledge of Him was still vague and unclear. Man always believed that He was the son of David and proclaimed Him to be a great prophet and the benevolent Lord who redeemed man’s sins. Some, based on faith, became healed just by touching the edge of His garment; the blind could see and even the dead could be restored to life. However, man could not discover the corrupt satanic disposition deeply rooted within him and neither did man know how to cast it away. Man received much grace, such as the peace and happiness of the flesh, the blessing of the entire family upon the faith of one, and the healing of sicknesses, and so on. The rest were the good deeds of man and their godly appearance; if man could live based on such, he was considered a good believer. Only such believers could enter heaven after death, which means that they were saved. But, in their lifetime, they did not understand at all the way of life. They merely committed sins, then made confession in a constant cycle without any path toward a changed disposition; such was the condition of man in the Age of Grace. Has man received complete salvation? No! Therefore, after that stage was complete, there is still the work of judgment and chastisement. This stage makes man pure through the word so as to give man a path to follow. This stage would not be fruitful or meaningful if it continued with the casting out of demons, for the sinful nature of man would not be cast away and man would only stop upon the forgiveness of sins. Through the sin offering, man has been forgiven his sins, for the work of the crucifixion has already come to an end and God has prevailed over Satan. But the corrupt disposition of man still remains within them and man can still sin and resist God; God has not gained mankind. That is why in this stage of work God uses the word to reveal the corrupt disposition of man and asks man to practice in accordance with the right path. This stage is more meaningful than the previous one and more fruitful as well, for now it is the word that directly supplies man’s life and enables the disposition of man to be completely renewed; it is a stage of work more thorough. Therefore, the incarnation in the last days has completed the significance of God’s incarnation and completely finished God’s management plan for the salvation of man.
from “The Mystery of the Incarnation (4)” in The Word Appears in the Flesh
In the Age of Kingdom, God uses the word to usher in a new age, to change the means of His work, and to do the work for the entire age. This is the principle by which God works in the Age of Word. He became flesh to speak from different perspectives, enabling man to truly see God, who is the Word appearing in the flesh, and His wisdom and wonder. Such work is done to better achieve the goals of conquering man, perfecting man, and eliminating man. This is the true meaning of using the word to work in the Age of Word. Through the word, man comes to know the work of God, the disposition of God, the essence of man, and what man ought to enter into. Through the word, all the work God wishes to do in the Age of Word is accomplished. Through the word, man is revealed, eliminated, and tried. Man has seen the word, heard the word, and become aware of the existence of the word. As a result, man believes in the existence of God; man believes the almightiness and wisdom of God, as well as God’s heart of love for man and His desire to save man. … Throughout the Age of Kingdom, God uses the word to do His work and achieve the results of His work; He does not work wonders or perform miracles; He merely does His work through the word. Because of the word, man is nourished and supplied; because of the word, man gains knowledge and true experience.
from “The Age of Kingdom Is the Age of Word” in The Word Appears in the Flesh
The work done by God during this age is chiefly the provision of the words for the life of man, the disclosure of the substance of the nature of man and the corrupt disposition of man, the elimination of religious conceptions, feudal thinking, outdated thinking, as well as the knowledge and culture of man. This must all be laid bare and cleansed away through the words of God. In the last days, God uses words, and not signs and wonders, to make man perfect. He uses His words to expose man, to judge man, to chastise man, and to make man perfect, so that in the words of God, man comes to see the wisdom and loveliness of God, and comes to understand the disposition of God, so that through the words of God, man beholds the deeds of God.
from “Knowing God’s Work Today” in The Word Appears in the Flesh
In His final work of concluding the age, God’s disposition is one of chastisement and judgment, which reveals all that is unrighteous, publicly judges all peoples, and perfects those who truly love Him. Only a disposition such as this can bring the age to an end. The last days have already arrived. All things will be classed according to their kind, and will be divided into different categories based on their nature. This is the time when God reveals people’s outcome and their destination. If people do not undergo chastisement and judgment, then there will be no way of revealing their disobedience and unrighteousness. Only through chastisement and judgment can the end of all things be revealed. Man only shows his true colors when he is chastised and judged. Evil shall return to evil, good shall return to good, and people shall be classified according to their kind. Through chastisement and judgment, the end of all things will be revealed, so that the evil will be punished and the good will be rewarded, and all people will become subject under the dominion of God. All the work must be achieved through righteous chastisement and judgment. Because man’s corruption has reached its peak and his disobedience has been too serious, only God’s righteous disposition, which is principally one of chastisement and judgment and is revealed during the last days, can fully transform and complete man. Only this disposition can expose evil and thus severely punish all the unrighteous. Therefore, a disposition such as this possesses the significance of the age, and the revelation and exhibition of His disposition is for the sake of the work of each new age. God does not reveal His disposition arbitrarily and without significance.
from “The Vision of God’s Work (3)” in The Word Appears in the Flesh