Who Are the Pharisees Today? Getting the Answer From My Debate With Pastor Jin
By Li Xianghe, South Korea
In the eleven years my husband and I have been believers, we always attended gatherings at Pastor Jin’s church. He’s really well versed in the Bible and is quite well known in our area. In Bible studies he always explained things very systematically and I would go to him every time there was an issue I didn’t understand, and he’d resolve it using passages from the Bible. Every holiday I would take some fruit to pay a visit to him and he was always really warm with our entire family. He would always pray for us when something cropped up in our family and he was always very loving with the other believers, as well. I felt that Pastor Jin was genuinely serving the Lord so I looked up to him; I adored him. I felt that he was our spiritual father.
Then, I had the good fortune of hearing Almighty God’s gospel of the last days, and after a period of time of reading Almighty God’s words and hearing brothers’ and sisters’ fellowship, I came to understand all sorts of truths: the mysteries of God’s six-thousand-year management plan to save mankind, the purpose of His three stages of work, the mysteries of God incarnating and doing work, how Satan corrupts people, how God judges and cleanses people through His words, as well as how God sorts people according to their kind and reveals every type of person’s destination and outcome, plus how to seek to attain full salvation and enter the kingdom of heaven. I saw how Almighty God’s words open up all the mysteries of the Bible, allowing me to understand truths I had never understood in all my years of faith. I became certain within my heart that Almighty God is the returned Lord Jesus. I accepted God’s work of the last days and also brought my two children before God; I began running my business while also performing my duty as well as I could.
Once I was watching a gospel film on The Church of Almighty God website, and there was a pastor in it who wouldn’t accept Almighty God’s work of the last days and even used all sorts of tactics to crazily disrupt and hinder other believers from seeking and accepting it. I didn’t really dare to believe it because I felt that pastors were all people who devoutly served the Lord and always told members of their congregations to be watchful in their prayers to make sure they didn’t miss their chance at being raptured. If they heard that the Lord Jesus had returned wouldn’t they accept it joyfully? Why would they stand in the way? But not long after that, the plot of the movie played out in my own life….
The Start of the Debate: Seeing the Pastor Scorn the Lord’s Return
That day I was working at our fruit stand and listening to hymns of God’s words. Pastor Jin came by, smiled and greeted me, and then right away asked me why I had joined The Church of Almighty God. He said some things condemning it and advised me to go back to our former church. Hearing this angered me a bit, and I thought “You haven’t even looked into Almighty God’s work of the last days and you don’t understand the church, so how can you just condemn it like that?” But then I thought, “Pastor Jin probably hasn’t heard Almighty God’s words so he doesn’t know that it’s the true way. But he does understand a lot about the Bible and has served the Lord for many years and has always been awaiting the Lord’s coming. If he hears that the Lord Jesus has returned and has expressed truths to fully save mankind, he’d certainly happily accept it, right? If Pastor Jin accepted God’s work of the last days he could lead the other brothers and sisters in the church to accept it as well.” At this thought, I wanted to share the gospel with Pastor Jin, but because of my own limited understanding, I was afraid my fellowship wouldn’t be clear. I prayed to God within my heart, asking for His guidance. I then asked him, “Pastor Jin, how do you think the Lord will return and take us into the kingdom of heaven?”
Utterly confident, he replied, “Isn’t it clearly stated in the Bible? ‘And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory’ (Matthew 24:30). So, when the Lord returns He’ll descend on a cloud in great glory for all mankind to see….”
I quickly responded, “Pastor Jin, when investigating the Lord Jesus’ return we can’t just base it on one Bible verse. In fact, the Bible doesn’t just prophesy Him returning on a cloud; there are also a lot of prophecies about Him coming in secret, like ‘If therefore you shall not watch, I will come on you as a thief, and you shall not know what hour I will come on you’ (Revelation 3:3) and ‘Behold, I come as a thief’ (Revelation 16:15). These two verses very clearly prophesy that the Lord will return like a thief, which refers to Him coming in secret, so He wouldn’t let us know. So will the Lord’s coming be a secret, or will He openly come down on a cloud? On the outside, it looks like these passages are contradictory but the reality is that they aren’t. That’s because the Lord is trustworthy and His words cannot fail to come true. Since it was prophesied it absolutely has to come to be, so we can be certain that the Lord’s return will occur in two stages. First He’ll come in secret, and then He’ll appear openly. He has already become flesh and has been secretly working among mankind; He is Christ of the last days, Almighty God. Almighty God has already done the work of judgment beginning with the house of God and has uttered millions of words to purify and save mankind. He is separating the sheep from the goats, the wheat from the tares, and He is going to complete a group of overcomers before the great disaster. Once God’s secret work has been completed He’ll begin to rain down great disasters, rewarding good and punishing evil in accordance with every person’s deeds. He will then appear to all peoples on a cloud. At that time, everyone who has resisted, condemned, and refused to accept God’s work of the last days will fall into disaster, weeping and gnashing their teeth. This will fulfill this prophecy in Revelation 1:7: ‘Behold, He comes with clouds; and every eye shall see Him, and they also which pierced Him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of Him.’ But the people who recognized God’s voice from Almighty God’s words, returned before His throne, accepted His work of judgment in the last days and were cleansed will remain and will enter into God’s kingdom. It’s evident that the Lord Jesus’ period of time of working in secret is the time that God saves mankind, and by the time He openly appears it will be too late to accept His work. That will be the time of punishment! Pastor Jin, I didn’t understand any of this until I read Almighty God’s words. Only God can express the truth and unveil mysteries; Almighty God is the return of the Lord Jesus. You really should look into Almighty God’s work of the last days.”
After I had finished, Pastor Jin said disdainfully, “You’re trying to debate with me with your level of Bible knowledge? Haven’t I been the one to teach you everything you know about the Bible?”
Seeing that attitude from him, I felt like a bucket of cold water had been poured over me. I thought, “Is this the same Pastor Jin I’ve known all these years? I always thought of him as a very humble person. He was always telling us that we had to be the wise virgins and watchfully await the Lord’s coming. Now that he’s heard that the Lord has returned, why wouldn’t he seek it at all, but have such a scornful attitude?” I couldn’t really make sense of it, but I still wanted to advise him to look into it, so I responded, “Pastor Jin, God’s wisdom surpasses all and we as humans cannot fathom it. How can we just arbitrarily delimit how the Lord should come and work? We all know that the Pharisees knew the Scripture like the backs of their hands, but when the Lord Jesus came to work, not only did they not recognize Him as the Lord but they didn’t even seek or investigate His new work. Instead, they arrogantly clung to the letter of the Scripture and delimited the Lord Jesus’ work and words based on their own notions and imaginings. Ultimately, they nailed the Lord Jesus to the cross and were punished by God. Pastor Jin, do you really think that knowing a lot about the Bible is the same as knowing God? We should learn a lesson from the Pharisees, and seek and investigate God’s work of the last days with an open mind. That’s the only way we can welcome the Lord’s appearance!”
Pastor Jin was at a loss for a response to that, so he just said bitterly, “Since you’ve been an enthusiastic seeker over your years of belief in the Lord, I’ll be praying for you. You have to get out of that church as soon as possible!” He then left in a huff.
After he was gone I thought about his attitude about the Lord’s coming and felt that he didn’t remotely seem like someone who was eagerly awaiting His return. But then I thought of how he had served the Lord for many years and had expended so much in his work for the Lord—wasn’t that out of hope for the Lord’s return? Maybe it was because I wasn’t adequately equipped with the truth and my fellowship wasn’t clear enough. I figured that when he came by again I’d do my best to talk with him about God’s work of the last days.
Another Debate: The Pastor Threatens Me With Expulsion so I’d Give Up the True Way
Hardly a few days went by and Pastor Jin came back to the fruit stand. I was really excited at first, thinking that he had been looking through the Bible and had gained understanding of the Lord’s return. But to my surprise, he said smugly, “Deacon Li, the Bible says, ‘You men of Galilee, why stand you gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as you have seen Him go into heaven’ (Acts 1:11). This verse is very clear. The Lord Jesus went up into heaven on a white cloud, and when He returns He will certainly be on a white cloud as well.” Seeing that Pastor Jin was still so certain that the Lord would return on a cloud in the last days, I felt a little confused and thought, “Last time we talked about how the Bible also prophesies that He’ll come in secret. I thought that Pastor Jin would go back and engage in seeking, so why does he still think this?” Pastor Jin was going on and on about how the Lord should come on a cloud as if he were bound and determined to convince me of it, and I felt a bit of concern. “Although I’m totally certain that Almighty God’s work is the true way, I don’t understand enough the truth yet and he’s been a believer and a pastor for many years. He knows so much about the Bible. What if I don’t have enough discernment and I’m led astray by all those absurdities?”
I quickly made a silent prayer to God and asked for His guidance so that I wouldn’t be deceived by the fallacies Pastor Jin was spouting. I then thought of a passage of God’s words that brothers and sisters from The Church of Almighty God had read for me: “Man believes that, following the crucifixion and resurrection, Jesus went back to heaven upon a white cloud, and took His place at the Most High’s right hand. Man conceives that similarly, Jesus shall descend, again upon a white cloud (this cloud refers to the cloud that Jesus rode upon when He returned to heaven), among those who have desperately yearned for Him for thousands of years, and that He shall bear the image and clothes of the Jews. After appearing to man, He shall bestow food upon them, and cause living water to gush forth for them, and shall live among man, full of grace and love, living and real. And so on. Yet Jesus the Savior did not do this; He did the opposite of what man conceived. He did not arrive among those who had yearned for His return, and did not appear to all men while riding upon the white cloud. He has already arrived, but man does not know Him, and remains ignorant of His arrival. Man is only aimlessly awaiting Him, unaware that He has already descended upon a ‘white cloud’ (the cloud which is His Spirit, His words, and His entire disposition and all that He is), and is now among a group of overcomers that He will make during the last days” (“The Savior Has Already Returned Upon a ‘White Cloud’” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). God’s words clearly tell us that the “white cloud” is God’s Spirit, God’s words, and God’s disposition and all that He has and is. It’s not something physical at all. While God is working in secret we won’t see the Lord Jesus returning on a white cloud; it’s only after God’s secret work is completed that we’ll see that. This passage of God’s words is really clear; since I thought Pastor Jin would surely understand if he heard them, I read it out to him. Surprisingly, the moment I finished, before I could say another word, Pastor Jin pulled a long face and said with scorn, “The Bible is crystal clear on the issue of how the Lord will return. Why read another book? I’ve served the Lord as a pastor for many years—you really think you understand more than I do? Besides, if what you believe in were really the true way, why would leaders across the entire religious world condemn it? I urge you to turn back right away. At first I thought I could get Deacon Pu (my husband) to urge you to come back to our church—I never imagined you’d be so stubborn. If you insist on continuing to believe in Almighty God’s words, you can’t blame me for taking the necessary action. I’ll make a report in the church that you are believing in a heresy and I’ll have you expelled from the church. I’ll make sure everyone steers clear of you and casts you aside.”
Hearing this left me stunned. I thought, “I’ve been a member of that church for more than a decade and the brothers and sisters there feel like my own family. Now that I’ve welcomed the Lord Jesus’ return, I wanted to share the gospel of the last days with you so that you could accept it and lead them into the fold as well. However, not only did you not seek or accept it, but turned the truth on its head and falsely claimed that my belief is heretical, wanting to kick me out of the church. That’s not how someone who’s been serving the Lord for all these years should behave.” I then thought of how my husband had yelled at me a few days earlier, “Pastor Jin said in church that anyone who believes in Almighty God will be expelled from the church. Aren’t you afraid of being kicked out if you keep believing in this? What will we do if the other brothers and sisters won’t have anything to do with us anymore? Some of them have already found out and they won’t even acknowledge us when they walk by the fruit stand. From now on you can’t go to The Church of Almighty God!” With all these facts laid out clearly before me, I finally realized that Pastor Jin was stopping believers from investigating God’s work of the last days by using threats of expulsion. It was so despicable, so sinister. I used to always think that he had served the Lord for all these years, that he was humble, and had love in his heart for other believers. But it turned out, he was a fake; he was deceiving others. Then that film popped into my mind—those pastors and elders of religious circles were pretending to be humble and pious in front of believers, but behind all that they were using all sorts of tactics, all sorts of methods to keep them from investigating and accepting God’s work of the last days. Seeing that Pastor Jin’s behavior was exactly the same as the pastors in that film, I felt a sense of revulsion and the high esteem I had held him in came crashing down in an instant. At that moment, I just continued to do my business and no longer paid him any mind. Seeing I was no longer paying attention to him, he slunk off.
Continuing on the True Way but Cursed by the Pastor
For the following two weeks, Pastor Jin would come to the fruit stand to talk to me from time to time, trying to convince me to return to his church, which I never agreed to. Seeing I wouldn’t listen to him, his humiliation morphed into anger.
One day Pastor Jin stormed over to my fruit stand and, no longer referring to me as “Deacon Li”, said, “Xiangming’s mother (my son’s name is Xiangming), don’t be such a fool! The Bible clearly states ‘This same Jesus … shall so come in like manner as you have seen Him go into heaven’ (Acts 1:11). So when the Lord returns He will definitely be on a white cloud—let go of this Almighty God stuff! On top of that, if you’re going to believe in that you can, but do you really need to drag your two kids into it? Deacon Pu has always had such a devout family, and even the kids’ grandparents were devout during their lives, too. I can’t let your family’s name be destroyed!” I was indignant hearing him say this and thought, “I’ve accepted Almighty God’s work of the last days which is keeping up with the footsteps of the Lamb and being raptured up before God’s throne. This is an incredibly wonderful thing, so how could you say I’m destroying my family’s name? What’s even more upsetting is that not only do you want to keep me from believing in Almighty God, but you’re even trying to control my children’s freedom of belief. How could you try to control our investigation of the true way?” I then rebuked him in my righteous anger: “God’s sheep heed God’s voice. No man can stand in the way of a person’s faith in God. My children have read Almighty God’s words and they understand that it’s God’s voice. That is the guidance of God! When I went to church before to seek and investigate, my children weren’t interested, but now they want to go to The Church of Almighty God with me. They have their own freedom of belief and I’m not putting limitations on them. Why would you try to restrict our children’s freedom of belief?” Pastor Jin couldn’t say anything to refute that, so he just said some angry, debased things to curse me and then stalked off. I was shocked by his behavior. Although I felt upset, I primarily felt confused. I thought, “Pastor Jin used to always pray for our family to be blessed, so why would he be so vicious today? Is it really because I’ve accepted Almighty God’s work of the last days that he’s so hateful and oppressive, that he’s cursing me this way?” I was really at a loss.
After some time I shared Almighty God’s gospel of the last days with two sisters from my old church. They were happy to listen to Almighty God’s words and got in touch with me frequently. But not long after, Pastor Jin learned that they were looking into God’s work of the last days. I don’t know what sort of tactics he used to threaten them, but they stopped contacting me and started intentionally avoiding me. I felt not only upset, but angry, and I couldn’t help but think the Lord Jesus’ words rebuking the Pharisees: “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for you neither go in yourselves, neither suffer you them that are entering to go in” (Matthew 23:13). Not only did Pastor Jin refuse to accept God’s work of the last days himself, but was doing everything in his power to stop the other brothers and sisters from seeking and investigating it. He was even threatening people with expulsion from the church to keep them from accepting Almighty God’s work of the last days. Isn’t that just like the Pharisees who stood in the way of believers accepting the Lord Jesus’ work of redemption? Not only did they refuse to accept God’s salvation themselves, but even dragged other brothers and sisters down into hell with them. That will certainly be damned by God!
Through God’s Words I Clearly See the Pastor’s True Face
At a later gathering I related all of this to the brothers and sisters there, and Sister Li read a couple of passages of God’s words to me, “Do you wish to know the root of why the Pharisees opposed Jesus? Do you wish to know the substance of the Pharisees? They were full of fantasies about the Messiah. What’s more, they believed only that the Messiah would come, yet did not seek the truth of life. And so, even today they still await the Messiah, for they have no knowledge of the way of life, and do not know what the way of truth is. How, say you, could such foolish, stubborn and ignorant people gain God’s blessing? How could they behold the Messiah? They opposed Jesus because they did not know the direction of the Holy Spirit’s work, because they did not know the way of truth spoken by Jesus, and, furthermore, because they did not understand the Messiah. And since they had never seen the Messiah, and had never been in the company of the Messiah, they made the mistake of paying empty tribute to the name of the Messiah while opposing the substance of the Messiah by any means. These Pharisees in substance were stubborn, arrogant, and did not obey the truth. The principle of their belief in God is: No matter how profound Your preaching, no matter how high Your authority, You are not Christ unless You are called the Messiah. Are these views not preposterous and ridiculous?” (“When You Behold the Spiritual Body of Jesus Will Be When God Has Made Anew Heaven and Earth” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). “Those who read the Bible in grand churches recite the Bible every day, yet not one understands the purpose of God’s work. Not one is able to know God; moreover, not one is in accord with the heart of God. They are all worthless, vile men, each standing on high to teach God. Though they brandish the name of God, they willfully oppose Him. Though they label themselves believers of God, they are ones who eat the flesh and drink the blood of man. All such men are devils who devour the soul of man, head demons who purposefully disturb those who try to step onto the right path, and stumbling blocks that impede the path of those who seek God. Though they are of ‘robust flesh,’ how are their followers to know that they are antichrists who lead man in opposition to God? How are they to know that they are living devils who specially seek souls to devour?” (“All Who Do Not Know God Are Those Who Oppose God” in The Word Appears in the Flesh).
Sister Li shared this fellowship: “God’s words very clearly explain the root of the Pharisees and the current religious leaders condemning and resisting God. It’s primarily because of their arrogant nature, that they don’t understand God’s work, and don’t seek the truth at all. They really uphold themselves; they despise and hate the truth. They’re just like the Jewish Pharisees, who were always in the temple explaining the Scripture and praying for believers, even standing in the corners of the streets praying, so they seemed to be really devout. However, when the Lord Jesus came to work, even though the Pharisees clearly saw that His words contained authority and power, they remained arrogant, stubbornly clinging to their own notions and imaginings, thinking that anyone who wasn’t called Messiah couldn’t be God. They thought that anyone who wasn’t saving them from the Roman government wasn’t God, so they didn’t seek or look into it, much less accept the Lord Jesus’ work. And so they could maintain their own status and living, they wantonly fabricated rumors and bore false witness to madly condemn and frame the Lord Jesus. They did everything they could to stop believers from following the Lord, ultimately colluding with the people in power to nail Him to the cross. This was an enormous sin. Though the Pharisees waved the flag of serving God, they were secretly doing their own business, working and expending themselves for the sake of their status and their living. When the Lord Jesus came to work and save mankind, they became enemies to Him so they could keep believers firmly controlled within their own grasp. Looking at the facts of how the Pharisees treated the Lord Jesus, their attitude toward the truth, and the way they crazily wrested people away from God, it’s clear that in essence, they were antichrists who hated the truth.
Now take a look at the pastors and elders within the religious world today. They’re very familiar with the Bible, they’re able to explain a lot of Scripture and theology, on the outside they appear very humble and devout, and believers all think of them as people who wholeheartedly serve the Lord and really adore them. However, now that God has returned in the flesh to work, the pastors and elders don’t recognize Him at all, but instead behave in an arrogant, self-aggrandizing way; they stubbornly cling to their own notions and imaginings and completely lack hearts of reverence for God. They refuse to seek or investigate Almighty God’s work of the last days. Just think—they are well aware that The Church of Almighty God has borne witness for years that the Lord has returned; the words expressed by Almighty God as well as gospel films and all sorts of other videos bearing witness to God’s work of the last days have been online for a long time. People from all denominations who love the truth have heard God’s voice, and one by one have come before Almighty God through seeking and investigating God’s work of the last days. But how many of the pastors and elders in religious circles have made the effort to seek and look into God’s work of the last days? And how many have accepted it? Most religious leaders have condemned Almighty God’s work of the last days just based on their own notions and imaginings and have used all sorts of tactics to ensnare and control believers under the guise of protecting their flocks. They don’t allow members of their congregations to look into or accept the true way, but try to play a mad tug-of-war with God over His people. Doesn’t this expose them as antichrists? Take this Pastor Jin, for example: When encountering God’s work of the last days, not only did he refuse to seek, but he trotted out his old qualifications, thinking of himself as so well versed in the Bible and so familiar with the Bible, so he just blindly clung to the Bible verses about the Lord Jesus descending on a cloud. He refuted and refused to accept the prophecies that the Lord Jesus would come in secret, even doing his utmost to condemn Almighty God’s work of the last days as well as hinder believers and keep them from investigating the true way. Plus, he tried to delude, intimidate, and threaten believers who had already accepted God’s work of the last days, even using the tactic of cursing in his efforts at disruption. He doesn’t want to allow anyone to follow Almighty God. We can see from how the pastors and elders approach the Lord’s return that they have arrogant nature and have intense hatred for the truth; they won’t remotely accept the truth. They are the antichrists revealed by God’s work of the last days—they are the modern-day Pharisees! However, God is almighty, and He employs His wisdom based on Satan’s trickery, so God has us gain discernment through the pastors’ and elders’ disruption and hindrances so we can see through their true faces as hypocrites who hate the truth. That’s the only way we’ll be able to completely reject them within our hearts, escape from the grasp of those antichrists, and unwaveringly follow Almighty God.”
Nodding, I said, “This fellowship really makes sense to me. I used to lack discernment in this area and was taken in by Pastor Jin’s apparent devoutness. I thought that he was genuinely serving the Lord, and when I saw that film where the pastors and elders clung to the Bible and stopped other believers from turning toward God, I still believed that Pastor Jin couldn’t possibly be that way, just relying on my own notions and imaginings. I thought that he has such a good understanding of the Bible and is a devoted servant of the Lord, so when he heard the news of the Lord’s return he would certainly seek with humility. But after experiencing his attempts at hindering and disrupting me time after time, I finally realized that God’s words reveal people’s nature and essence. It doesn’t matter if it’s a pastor or just a regular believer—as long as they refuse to accept the truth, are arrogant and resist God’s work based on their notions and imaginings, their essence is the same as the Pharisees’ was. I then became able to clearly see Pastor Jin’s deception and hypocrisy When he heard the Lord’s coming he didn’t have any intention of seeking or looking into it. Not only would he not accept it, but he just wildly condemned and resisted it, also standing in the way of other believers so they wouldn’t investigate or accept God’s work of the last days. When I refused to be constrained by him and still accepted God’s work of the last days, he did everything he could to disrupt me, even cursing me. He’s not genuinely serving the Lord at all! He doesn’t bring believers before God. On the contrary, he has believers follow him all the while resisting God’s work of the last days so that they miss out on God’s end-times salvation. He is a modern-day hypocritical Pharisee and is a roadblock, a stumbling block for others on the path of entering the kingdom of heaven. He’s an evil demon swallowing up our souls!”
Now when I think back on all of Pastor Jin’s attempts to stand in my way, I have a myriad of feelings, and I’m particularly grateful for God’s salvation! Every time he took Bible passages out of context in an attempt to mislead me, God enlightened and guided me to refute his fallacies. Also, the other brothers’ and sisters’ fellowship helped me see the pastors’ and elders’ essence of hating the truth and being enemies of God, keeping me from being confused by the fallacies Pastor Jin was spreading, and thus losing out on God’s salvation. I really give thanks for God’s protection so that I could escape from the deceptions and binds of the religious world’s Pharisees and antichrists, and return before God. I also have sympathy for those brothers and sisters who have been hoodwinked by the pastors and elders, who do not seek, investigate, or dare to accept Almighty God’s work of the last days. I’ve seen that as far as welcoming the Lord’s coming goes, we can’t just blindly follow another human being or believe whatever another person has to say—we must focus on hearing the voice of God, praying more and seeking the truth, and viewing things in accordance with God’s words. This is the only way we’ll be able to welcome the Lord’s return. Otherwise, we will lose God’s salvation!