The Essence of the Flesh Inhabited by God
The first incarnate God lived upon the earth for thirty-three and a half years, yet He performed His ministry for only three and a half of those years. Both during the time He worked, and before He began His work, He was possessed of normal humanity. He inhabited His normal humanity for thirty-three and a half years. Throughout the last three and a half years He revealed Himself to be the incarnate God. Before He began performing His ministry, He appeared with ordinary, normal humanity, showing no sign of His divinity, and it was only after He began formally performing His ministry that His divinity was made manifest. His life and work during those first twenty-nine years all demonstrated that He was a genuine human being, a son of man, a flesh; for His ministry only began in earnest after the age of twenty-nine. The meaning of incarnation is that God appears in the flesh, and He comes to work among man of His creation in the image of a flesh. So, for God to be incarnated, He must first be flesh, flesh with normal humanity; this, at the very least, must be true. In fact, the implication of God’s incarnation is that God lives and works in the flesh, God in His very essence becomes flesh, becomes a man. His incarnate life and work can be divided into two stages. First is the life He lives before performing His ministry. He lives in an ordinary human family, in utterly normal humanity, obeying the normal morals and laws of human life, with normal human needs (food, clothing, shelter, sleep), normal human weaknesses, and normal human emotions. In other words, during this first stage He lives in non-divine, completely normal humanity, engaging in all the normal human activities. The second stage is the life He lives after beginning to perform His ministry. He still dwells in the ordinary humanity with a normal human shell, showing no outward sign of the supernatural. Yet He lives purely for the sake of His ministry, and during this time His normal humanity exists entirely in service of the normal work of His divinity; for by then His normal humanity has matured to the point of being able to perform His ministry. So the second stage of His life is to perform His ministry in His normal humanity, is a life both of normal humanity and of complete divinity. The reason that, during the first stage of His life, He lives in completely ordinary humanity is that His humanity is not yet equal to the entirety of the divine work, is not yet mature; only after His humanity grows mature, becomes capable of shouldering His ministry, can He set about performing His ministry. Since He, as flesh, needs to grow and mature, the first stage of His life is that of normal humanity, while in the second stage, because His humanity is capable of undertaking His work and performing His ministry, the life the incarnate God lives during His ministry is one of both humanity and complete divinity. If from the moment of His birth the incarnate God began His ministry in earnest, performing supernatural signs and wonders, then He would have no corporeal essence. Therefore, His humanity exists for the sake of His corporeal essence; there can be no flesh without humanity, and a person without humanity is not a human being. In this way, the humanity of God’s flesh is an intrinsic property of God’s incarnate flesh. To say that “when God becomes flesh He is entirely divine, is not at all human,” is a blasphemy, because this is an impossible stance to take, one that violates the principle of incarnation. Even after He begins to perform His ministry, His divinity still inhabits the human outer shell when He does His work; it is just that at the time, His humanity serves the sole purpose of allowing His divinity to perform the work in the normal flesh. So the agent of the work is the divinity inhabiting His humanity. It is His divinity, not His humanity, at work, yet it is a divinity hidden within His humanity; His work is in essence done by His complete divinity, not by His humanity. But the performer of the work is His flesh. One could say that He is a man and also is God, for God becomes a God living in the flesh, with a human shell and a human essence but also the essence of God. Because He is a man with the essence of God, He is above any of created humans, above any man who can perform God’s work. And so, among all those with a human shell like His, among all those who possess humanity, only He is the incarnate God Himself—all others are created humans. Though they all have humanity, created humans are nothing but human, while God incarnate is different: In His flesh He not only has humanity but more importantly has divinity. His humanity can be seen in the outer appearance of His flesh and in His everyday life, but His divinity is difficult to perceive. Because His divinity is expressed only when He has humanity, and is not as supernatural as people imagine it to be, it is extremely difficult for people to see. Even today it is most difficult for people to fathom the true essence of the incarnate God. In fact, even after I have spoken about it at such length, I expect it is still a mystery to most of you. This issue is very simple: Since God becomes flesh, His essence is a combination of humanity and divinity. This combination is called God Himself, God Himself on earth.
The life that Jesus lived on earth was a normal life of the flesh. He lived in the normal humanity of His flesh. His authority—to do God’s work and speak God’s word, or to heal the sick and cast out demons, to do such extraordinary things—did not manifest itself, for the most part, until He began His ministry. His life before age twenty-nine, before He performed His ministry, was proof enough that He was just a normal flesh. Because of this, and because He had not yet begun to perform His ministry, people saw nothing divine in Him, saw nothing more than a normal human being, an ordinary man—as when at first some people believed Him to be Joseph’s son. People thought that He was the son of an ordinary man, had no way of telling that He was God’s incarnate flesh; even when, in the course of performing His ministry, He worked many miracles, most people still said that He was Joseph’s son, for He was the Christ with the outer shell of normal humanity. His normal humanity and His work both existed in order to fulfill the significance of the first incarnation, proving that God had entirely come into the flesh, become an utterly ordinary man. That He had normal humanity before He began His work was proof that He was an ordinary flesh; and that He worked afterward also proved that He was an ordinary flesh, for He performed signs and wonders, healed the sick and cast out demons in the flesh with normal humanity. The reason that He could work miracles was that His flesh bore the authority of God, was the flesh in which God’s Spirit was clothed. He possessed this authority because of the Spirit of God, and it did not mean that He was not a flesh. Healing the sick and casting out demons was the work that He needed to perform in His ministry, an expression of His divinity hidden in His humanity, and no matter what signs He showed or how He demonstrated His authority, He still lived in normal humanity and was still a normal flesh. Up to the point that He was resurrected after dying upon the cross, He dwelt within a normal flesh. Bestowing grace, healing the sick, and casting out demons were all part of His ministry, were all work He performed in His normal flesh. Before He went to the cross, He never departed from His normal human flesh, regardless of what He was doing. He was God Himself, doing God’s own work, yet because He was the incarnate flesh of God, He ate food and wore clothing, had normal human needs, had normal human reason and a normal human mind. All of this was proof that He was a normal man, which proved that God’s incarnate flesh was a flesh with normal humanity, not a supernatural one. His job was to complete the work of God’s first incarnation, to fulfill the ministry of the first incarnation. The significance of incarnation is that an ordinary, normal man performs the work of God Himself; that is, that God performs His divine work in humanity and thereby vanquishes Satan. Incarnation means that God’s Spirit becomes a flesh, that is, God becomes flesh; the work that He does in the flesh is the work of the Spirit, which is realized in the flesh, expressed by the flesh. No one except God’s flesh can fulfill the ministry of the incarnate God; that is, only God’s incarnate flesh, this normal humanity—and no one else—can express the divine work. If, during His first coming, God had not had the normal humanity before the age of twenty-nine—if as soon as He was born He could work miracles, if as soon as He learned to speak He could speak the language of heaven, if the moment He first set foot upon the earth He could apprehend all worldly matters, discern every person’s thoughts and intentions—then He could not have been called a normal man, and His flesh could not have been called human flesh. If this had been the case with Christ, then the meaning and the essence of God’s incarnation would have been lost. That He possessed normal humanity proves that He was God incarnated in the flesh; the fact that He underwent a normal human growth process further demonstrates that He was a normal flesh; and moreover, His work is sufficient proof that He was God’s Word, God’s Spirit, becoming flesh. God becomes flesh because of the needs of the work; in other words, this stage of work needs to be done in the flesh, done in normal humanity. This is the prerequisite for “the Word becoming flesh,” for “the Word appearing in the flesh,” and is the true story behind God’s two incarnations. People may believe that Jesus’ entire life was accompanied by wonders, that up until the end of His work on earth He did not manifest normal humanity, that He did not have normal human needs or weaknesses or human emotions, did not require the basic necessities of life or entertain normal human thoughts. They simply imagine Him to have a superhuman mind, a transcendent humanity. They believe that since He is God, He should not think and live as normal humans do, that only a normal person, a bona fide human being, can think normal human thoughts and live a normal human life. These are all man’s ideas, and man’s notions, which run counter to the original intentions of God’s work. Normal human thinking sustains normal human reason and normal humanity; normal humanity sustains the normal functions of the flesh; and the normal functions of the flesh enable the normal life of the flesh in its entirety. Only by working in such flesh can God fulfill the purpose of His incarnation. If the incarnate God possessed only the outer shell of the flesh, but did not think normal human thoughts, then this flesh would not possess human reason, much less bona fide humanity. How could a flesh like this, without humanity, fulfill the ministry that the incarnate God ought to perform? Normal mind sustains all aspects of human life; without a normal mind, one would not be human. In other words, a person who does not think normal thoughts is mentally ill. And a Christ who has no humanity but only divinity cannot be said to be God’s incarnate flesh. So, how could God’s incarnate flesh have no normal humanity? Is it not blasphemy to say that Christ has no humanity? All activities that normal humans engage in rely on the functioning of a normal human mind. Without it, humans would behave aberrantly; they would even be unable to tell the difference between black and white, good and evil; and they would have no human ethics and moral principles. Similarly, if the incarnate God did not think like a normal human, then He would not be a bona fide flesh, a normal flesh. Such non-thinking flesh would not be able to take on the divine work. He would not be able to engage in the normal activities of the flesh, much less live together with humans on earth. And so the significance of God’s incarnation, the very essence of God’s coming into the flesh, would have been lost. The humanity of God incarnate exists to maintain the normal divine work in the flesh; His normal human thinking sustains His normal humanity and all His normal corporeal activities. One could say that His normal human thinking exists in order to sustain all the work of God in the flesh. If this flesh did not possess a normal human mind, then God could not work in the flesh, and what He needs to do in the flesh could never be accomplished. Though the incarnate God possesses a normal human mind, His work is not adulterated by human thought; He undertakes the work in the humanity with a normal mind, under the precondition that He possesses the humanity with a mind, not by the exercise of normal human thought. No matter how lofty the thoughts of His flesh are, His work does not bear the stamp of logic or thinking. In other words, His work is not conceived by the mind of His flesh, but is a direct expression of the divine work in His humanity. All of His work is the ministry He needs to fulfill, and none of it is conceived by His brain. For example, healing the sick, casting out demons, and the crucifixion were not products of His human mind, could not have been achieved by any man with a human mind. Likewise, the conquering work of today is a ministry that must be performed by the incarnate God, but it is not the work of a human will, it is the work His divinity should do, work of which no fleshly human is capable. So the incarnate God must possess a normal human mind, must possess normal humanity, because He must perform His work in the humanity with a normal mind. This is the essence of the work of the incarnate God, the very essence of the incarnate God.
Before Jesus performed the work, He merely lived in His normal humanity. No one could tell that He was God, no one found out that He was the incarnate God; people just knew Him as a completely ordinary man. His utterly ordinary, normal humanity was proof that God was incarnated in the flesh, and that the Age of Grace was the age of the work of the incarnate God, not the age of the Spirit’s work. It was proof that the Spirit of God was realized completely in the flesh, that in the age of God’s incarnation His flesh would perform all the work of the Spirit. The Christ with normal humanity is a flesh in which the Spirit is realized, possessing normal humanity, normal sense, and human thought. “Being realized” means God becoming man, the Spirit becoming flesh; to put it plainly, it is when God Himself inhabits a flesh with normal humanity, and through it expresses His divine work—this is what it means to be realized, or incarnated. During His first incarnation, it was necessary for God to heal the sick and cast out demons because His work was to redeem. In order to redeem the entire human race, He needed to be compassionate and forgiving. The work that He did before He was crucified was healing the sick and casting out demons, which presaged His salvation of man from sin and filth. Because it was the Age of Grace, it was necessary for Him to heal the sick, thereby showing signs and wonders, which were representative of grace in that age; for the Age of Grace centered around the bestowal of grace, symbolized by peace, joy, and material blessings, all tokens of people’s faith in Jesus. That is to say, healing the sick, casting out demons, and bestowing grace were instinctive abilities of Jesus’ flesh in the Age of Grace, they were the work of the Spirit realized in the flesh. But while He was performing such work, He was living in the flesh, He did not transcend the flesh. No matter what acts of healing He performed, He still possessed normal humanity, still lived a normal human life. The reason I say that during the age of God’s incarnation the flesh performed all the work of the Spirit, is that no matter what work He did, He did it in the flesh. But because of His work, people did not regard His flesh as having a completely corporeal essence, for this flesh could work wonders, and at certain special moments could do things that transcended the flesh. Of course, all these happenings occurred after He began His ministry, such as His being tested for forty days or being transfigured on the mountain. So with Jesus, the meaning of God’s incarnation was not completed, but only partially fulfilled. The life that He lived in the flesh before beginning His work was utterly normal in all respects. After He began the work He retained only the outer shell of His flesh. Because His work was an expression of divinity, it exceeded the normal functions of the flesh. After all, God’s incarnate flesh was different from flesh-and-blood humans. Of course, in His daily life, He required food, clothing, sleep, and shelter like anyone else, needed all the normal necessities, reasoned and thought like a normal human being. People still held Him to be a normal man, except that the work He did was superhuman. Actually, no matter what He did, He lived in an ordinary and normal humanity, and insofar as He performed the work His reasoning was particularly normal, His thoughts especially lucid, more so than those of any other normal man. It was necessary for the incarnate God to think and reason in this way, for the divine work needed to be expressed by a flesh whose reasoning was very much normal and whose thoughts were very lucid—only in this way could His flesh express the divine work. All throughout the thirty-three and a half years that Jesus lived on earth, He retained His normal humanity, but because of His work during His three-and-a-half-year ministry, people thought that He was very transcendent, that He was much more supernatural than before. In actuality, Jesus’ normal humanity remained unchanged before and after He began His ministry; His humanity was the same throughout, but because of the difference before and after He began His ministry, two different views emerged concerning His flesh. No matter what people thought, God incarnate retained His original, normal humanity the entire time, for since God was incarnated, He lived in the flesh, the flesh that had normal humanity. Regardless of whether He was performing His ministry or not, the normal humanity of His flesh could not be erased, for humanity is the basic essence of flesh. Before Jesus performed His ministry, His flesh remained completely normal, engaging in all ordinary human activities; He did not appear in the least bit supernatural, did not show any miraculous signs. At that time He was simply a very common man who worshiped God, though His pursuit was more honest, more sincere than anyone’s. This was how His utterly normal humanity manifested itself. Because He did no work at all before assuming His ministry, no one was aware of His identity, no one could tell that His flesh was different from all the others, for He did not work even a single miracle, did not perform one bit of God’s own work. However, after He began to perform His ministry, He retained the outer shell of normal humanity and still lived with normal human reason, but because He had begun to do the work of God Himself, assume the ministry of Christ and do work that mortal beings, flesh-and-blood humans, were incapable of, people assumed that He did not have normal humanity and was not a completely normal flesh but an incomplete flesh. Because of the work He performed, people said that He was a God in the flesh who did not have normal humanity. This is an erroneous understanding, for people did not grasp the significance of God’s incarnation. This misunderstanding arose from the fact that the work expressed by God in the flesh was the divine work, expressed in a flesh that had normal humanity. God was clothed in flesh, He dwelt within flesh, and His work in His humanity obscured the normality of His humanity. For this reason people believed that God did not have humanity.
The first incarnate God did not complete the work of incarnation; He only completed the first step of the work that it was necessary for God to do in the flesh. So, in order to finish the work of incarnation, God has returned into the flesh once again, living out all the normality and reality of the flesh, that is, making God’s Word manifest in an entirely normal and ordinary flesh, thereby concluding the work that He left undone in the flesh. The second incarnate flesh is in essence similar to the first, but is even more real, even more normal than the first. As a consequence, the suffering the second incarnate flesh endures is greater than that of the first, but this suffering is a result of His ministry in the flesh, which is different from the suffering of corrupted man. It also stems from the normality and reality of His flesh. Because He performs His ministry in utterly normal and real flesh, the flesh must endure a great deal of hardship. The more normal and real this flesh is, the more He will suffer in the performance of His ministry. God works in a very common flesh, one that is not supernatural at all. Because His flesh is normal and must also shoulder the work of saving man, He suffers in even greater measure than a supernatural flesh would—all this suffering stems from the reality and normality of His flesh. From the suffering that the two incarnate fleshes have undergone while performing Their ministries, one can see the essence of the incarnate flesh. The more normal the flesh, the greater hardship He must endure while undertaking the work; the more real the flesh is that undertakes the work, the harsher are the notions that people get, and the more dangers are likely to befall Him. And yet, the more real the flesh is, and the more the flesh possesses the needs and complete sense of a normal human being, the more capable He is of taking on God’s work in the flesh. It was Jesus’ flesh that was nailed to the cross, His flesh that He gave up as a sin offering; it was by means of a flesh with normal humanity that He defeated Satan and completely saved man from the cross. And it is as a complete flesh that the second incarnate God performs the conquering work and defeats Satan. Only a flesh that is completely normal and real can perform the conquering work in its entirety and make a forceful testimony. That is to say, the work of[a] conquering man is made effective through the reality and normality of God in the flesh, not through supernatural miracles and revelations. The ministry of this incarnate God is to speak, and thereby to conquer and perfect man; in other words, the work of the Spirit realized in the flesh, the flesh’s duty, is to speak and thereby conquer, reveal, perfect, and eliminate man completely. And so, it is in the conquering work that God’s work in the flesh will be accomplished in full. The initial redemptive work was only the beginning of the work of incarnation; the flesh who does the conquering work will complete the entire work of incarnation. In gender, one is male and the other female; in this the meaning of God’s incarnation has been completed. It dispels man’s misconceptions of God: God can become both male and female, and the incarnate God is in essence genderless. God made both man and woman, and He does not differentiate between the genders. In this stage of the work God does not perform signs and wonders, so that the work will achieve its results by means of words. Moreover, this time the work of God incarnate is not to heal the sick and cast out demons, but to conquer man by speaking, which is to say that the native ability possessed by this incarnate flesh of God is to speak words and to conquer man, not to heal the sick and cast out demons. His work in normal humanity is not to perform miracles, not to heal the sick and cast out demons, but to speak, and so the second incarnate flesh seems to people much more normal than the first. People see that God’s incarnation is no lie; but this incarnate God is different from Jesus incarnate, and though They are both God incarnate, They are not completely the same. Jesus possessed normal humanity, ordinary humanity, but He was accompanied by many signs and wonders. In this incarnate God, human eyes will see no signs or wonders, neither healing the sick nor driving out demons, nor walking on the sea, nor fasting for forty days…. He does not do the same work that Jesus did, not because His flesh is in essence any different from Jesus’, but because it is not His ministry to heal the sick and cast out demons. He does not tear down His own work, does not disturb His own work. Since He conquers man through His real words, there is no need to subdue him with miracles, and so this stage is to complete the work of incarnation. The incarnate God you see today is completely a flesh, and there is nothing supernatural about Him. He gets sick as others do, needs food and clothing just as others do, being completely a flesh. If this time around, God incarnate performed supernatural signs and wonders, if He healed the sick, cast out demons, or could kill with one word, how could the conquering work be carried out? How could the work be spread among the Gentile nations? Healing the sick and casting out demons was the work of the Age of Grace, the first step in the redemptive work, and now that God has saved man from the cross, He no longer performs that work. If in the last days a “God” the same as Jesus appeared, one who healed the sick, cast out demons, and was crucified for man, that “God,” though identical to the description of God in the Bible and easy for man to accept, would not, in its essence, be the flesh worn by the Spirit of God, but by an evil spirit. For it is the principle of God’s work never to repeat what He has already completed. And so the work of God’s second incarnation is different from the work of the first. In the last days, God realizes the conquering work in an ordinary, normal flesh; He does not heal the sick, will not be crucified for man, but simply speaks words in the flesh, conquers man in the flesh. Only such flesh is God’s incarnate flesh; only such flesh can complete God’s work in the flesh.
Whether in this stage God incarnate is enduring hardship or performing His ministry, He does so to complete the meaning of incarnation, for this is God’s last incarnation. God can only be incarnated twice. There cannot be a third time. The first incarnation was male, the second female, and so the image of God’s flesh is completed in man’s mind; moreover, the two incarnations have already finished God’s work in the flesh. The first time God incarnate possessed normal humanity, in order to complete the meaning of incarnation. This time He also possesses normal humanity, but the meaning of this incarnation is different: It is deeper, and His work is of more profound significance. The reason God has become flesh again is to complete the meaning of incarnation. When God has completely ended this stage of His work, the entire meaning of incarnation, that is, God’s work in the flesh, will be complete, and there will be no more work to be done in the flesh. That is, from now on God will never again come into the flesh to do His work. Only to save and perfect mankind does God do the work of incarnation. In other words, it is by no means usual for God to come into the flesh, except for the sake of the work. By coming into the flesh to work, He shows Satan that God is a flesh, a normal person, an ordinary person—and yet He can reign triumphant over the world, can vanquish Satan, redeem mankind, conquer mankind! The goal of Satan’s work is to corrupt mankind, while the goal of God’s is to save mankind. Satan traps man in a bottomless abyss, while God rescues him from it. Satan makes all men worship it, while God makes them subject to His dominion, for He is the Lord of creation. All this work is achieved through God’s two incarnations. His flesh is in essence the union of humanity and divinity and possesses normal humanity. So without God’s incarnate flesh, God could not achieve the results in saving mankind, and without the normal humanity of His flesh, His work in the flesh still could not succeed. The essence of God’s incarnation is that He must possess normal humanity; for it to be otherwise would run counter to God’s original intention in being incarnated.
Why do I say that the meaning of incarnation was not completed in Jesus’ work? Because the Word did not entirely become flesh. What Jesus did was only one part of God’s work in the flesh; He only did the redemptive work and did not do the work of completely gaining man. For this reason God has become flesh once again in the last days. This stage of the work is also done in an ordinary flesh, done by an utterly normal human being, one whose humanity is not in the least bit transcendent. In other words, God has become a complete human being, and it is a person whose identity is that of God, a complete human being, a complete flesh, who is performing the work. To the human eye, He is just a flesh who is not transcendent at all, a very ordinary person who can speak the language of heaven, who shows no miraculous signs, works no miracles, much less exposes the inside truth about religion in great meeting halls. The work of the second incarnate flesh seems to people utterly unlike that of the first, so much so that the two seem to have nothing in common, and nothing of the first’s work can be seen this time. Though the work of the second incarnate flesh is different from that of the first, that does not prove that Their source is not one and the same. Whether Their source is the same depends on the nature of the work done by the fleshes and not on Their outer shells. During the three stages of His work, God has been incarnated twice, and both times the work of God incarnate inaugurates a new age, ushers in a new work; the incarnations complement each other. It is impossible for human eyes to tell that the two fleshes actually come from the same source. Needless to say, it is beyond the capacity of the human eye or of the human mind. But in Their essence They are the same, for Their work originates from the same Spirit. Whether the two incarnate fleshes arise from the same source cannot be judged by the era and the place in which They were born, or other such factors, but by the divine work expressed by Them. The second incarnate flesh does not perform any of the work that Jesus did, for God’s work does not adhere to convention, but each time it opens up a new path. The second incarnate flesh does not aim to deepen or solidify the impression of the first flesh in people’s minds, but to complement it and to perfect it, to deepen man’s knowledge of God, to break all the rules that exist in people’s hearts, and to wipe out the fallacious images of God in their hearts. It can be said that no individual stage of God’s own work can give man a complete knowledge of Him; each gives only a part, not the whole. Though God has expressed His disposition in full, because of man’s limited faculties of understanding, his knowledge of God still remains incomplete. It is impossible, using human language, to convey the entirety of God’s disposition; how much less can a single stage of His work fully express God? He works in the flesh under the cover of His normal humanity, and one can only know Him by the expressions of His divinity, not by His bodily shell. God comes into the flesh to allow man to know Him by means of His various work, and no two stages of His work are alike. Only in this way can man have a full knowledge of God’s work in the flesh, not confined to one single facet. Though the work of the two incarnate fleshes is different, the essence of the fleshes, and the source of Their work, are identical; it is just that They exist to perform two different stages of the work, and arise in two different ages. No matter what, God’s incarnate fleshes share the same essence and the same origin—this is a truth no one can deny.
a. The original text omits “the work of.”