4. How do the three stages of God’s work gradually deepen for people to be saved and perfected?
Relevant Words of God:
The entire management of God is divided into three stages, and in each stage, fitting requirements are made of man. Furthermore, as the ages pass and progress, God’s requirements of all mankind become ever higher. Thus, step-by-step, this work of God’s management reaches its climax, until man beholds the fact of the “appearance of the Word in the flesh,” and in this way the requirements of man become even higher, and requirements of man to bear testimony become even higher. … In the past, man was required to comply with the law and the commandments, and was required to be patient and humble. Today, man is required to obey all of God’s arrangements and possess a supreme love of God, and is ultimately required to still love God amid the tribulation. These three stages are requirements that God makes of man, step-by-step, throughout His entire management. Each stage of God’s work goes deeper than the last, and in each stage the requirements of man are more profound than the last, and in this way, God’s entire management gradually takes shape. It is precisely because the requirements of man are ever higher that man’s disposition comes ever closer to the standards required by God, and it is only then that the whole of mankind gradually departs from the influence of Satan until, when God’s work comes to a complete end, the whole of mankind will have been saved from the influence of Satan.
from “God’s Work and Man’s Practice” in The Word Appears in the Flesh
The work of God’s management began at the creation of the world, and man is at the core of this work. God’s creation of all things, it can be said, is for the sake of man. Because the work of His management stretches over thousands of years, and is not carried out in the space of mere minutes or seconds, or a blink of an eye, or over one or two years, He had to create more things necessary for the survival of man, such as the sun, moon, all sorts of living creatures, and food and a living environment for mankind. This was the start of God’s management.
After that, God handed mankind over to Satan, man lived under the domain of Satan, and this gradually led to God’s work of the first age: the story of the Age of Law…. During several thousand years of the Age of Law, mankind became accustomed to the guidance of the Age of Law, and they began to take it lightly, and gradually left the care of God. And so, at the same time as sticking to the law, they also worshiped idols and committed evil acts. They were without the protection of Jehovah, and merely lived their lives before the altar in the temple. In fact, the work of God had left them long ago, and even though the Israelites still stuck to the law, and spoke the name of Jehovah, and even proudly believed that only they were the people of Jehovah and were the chosen ones of Jehovah, the glory of God quietly abandoned them …
As has always been the case, after the work of Jehovah in the Age of Law, God began His new work of the second stage: assuming the flesh, being incarnated as man for ten, twenty years, and speaking and doing His work among believers. Yet without exception, no one knew, and only a small number of people acknowledged that He was God become flesh after the Lord Jesus was nailed to the cross and resurrected. … As soon as the second stage of God’s work was completed—after the crucifixion—God’s work of recovering man from sin (which is to say, recovering man from the hands of Satan) was accomplished. And so, from that moment onward, mankind had only to accept the Lord Jesus as the Savior for his sins to be forgiven. Nominally speaking, the sins of man were no longer a barrier to his achieving salvation and coming before God and were no longer the leverage by which Satan accused man. That is because God Himself had done real work, had become in the likeness and foretaste of sinful flesh, and God Himself was the sin offering. In this way, man descended from the cross, being redeemed and saved thanks to the flesh of God, the likeness of this sinful flesh. And so, after being taken captive by Satan, man came one step closer to accepting salvation before God. Of course, this stage of work was the management of God that was one step on from the Age of Law, and of a deeper level than the Age of Law.
And then came the Age of Kingdom, which is a more practical stage of work and yet is also the hardest for man to accept. That is because the closer that man comes to God, the nearer God’s rod approaches man, and the more clearly God’s face appears before man. Following the redemption of mankind, man officially returns to the family of God. Man thought that now was the time for enjoyment, yet he is subjected to a full-frontal assault by God the likes of which has not been foreseen by anyone. As it turns out, this is a baptism that the people of God have to “enjoy.” Under such treatment, people have no choice but to stop and think to themselves, I am the lamb, lost for many years, that God spent so much to buy back, so why does God treat me like this? Is it God’s way of laughing at me, and revealing me? … After years have passed, man has become weather-beaten, having experienced the hardship of refinement and chastisement. Although man has lost the “glory” and “romance” of times past, he has unconsciously come to understand the truth of being a man, and has come to appreciate God’s years of devotion to saving mankind. Man slowly begins to loathe his own barbarousness. He begins to hate how feral he is, and all the misunderstandings toward God, and the unreasonable demands he has made of Him. Time cannot be reversed; past events become the regretful memories of man, and the words and love of God become the driving force in man’s new life. Man’s wounds heal day by day, his strength returns, and he stands up and looks upon the face of the Almighty … only to discover that He has always been at my side, and that His smile and His beautiful countenance are still so stirring. His heart still holds concern for the mankind He created, and His hands are still as warm and powerful as they were at the beginning. It is as if man returned to the Garden of Eden, yet this time man no longer listens to the enticements of the serpent, no longer turns away from the face of Jehovah. Man kneels before God, looks up at God’s smiling face, and offers his most precious sacrifice—Oh! My Lord, my God!
from “Man Can Only Be Saved Amidst the Management of God” in The Word Appears in the Flesh
The work done by Jesus was merely a stage higher than the Old Testament; it was used to begin an age, and to lead that age. Why did He say, “I have not come to destroy the law, but to fulfill”? Yet in His work there was much which differed from the laws practiced and the commandments followed by the Israelites of the Old Testament, for He did not come to obey the law, but to fulfill it. The process of fulfilling it included many actual things: His work was more practical and real, and, furthermore, it was alive, and not the blind adherence to doctrine. Did the Israelites not keep the Sabbath? When Jesus came He did not observe the Sabbath, for He said that the Son of man was the Lord of the Sabbath, and when the Lord of the Sabbath arrived, He would do as He wished. He had come to fulfill the laws of the Old Testament and to change the laws. All that is done today is based upon the present, yet it still rests upon the foundation of the work of Jehovah in the Age of Law, and does not transgress this scope. To watch your tongue, and not commit adultery, for example—are these not the laws of the Old Testament? Today, what is required of you is not only limited to the Ten Commandments, but are commandments and laws that are higher than those of before, yet this does not mean that what came before has been abolished, for each stage of God’s work is carried out upon the foundation of the stage that came before. That which Jehovah introduced to Israel, such as giving sacrifice, honoring your father and mother, not worshiping idols, not assaulting others, not cursing others, not committing adultery, not smoking, not drinking, not eating the dead, and not drinking blood, is it not the foundation for your practice even today? It is upon the foundation of the past that the work has been carried out up until today. Though the laws of the past are no longer mentioned, and new requirements have been made of you, these laws have not been abolished, and instead, they have been uplifted. To say that they have been abolished means that the previous age is outdated, yet there are some commandments that you must always honor. The commandments of the past have already been put into practice, have already become the being of man, and there is no need to reiterate commandments to not smoke, not drink, and so on. Upon this foundation, new commandments are laid down according to your needs today, according to your stature, and according to the work of today. Decreeing commandments for the new age does not mean abolishing the commandments of the old age, but lifting them higher upon this foundation, to make the actions of man more complete, and more in line with reality. If, today, you were only required to follow the commandments and abide by the laws of the Old Testament, in the same way as the Israelites, and if, even, you were required to memorize the laws laid down by Jehovah, there would be no possibility that you could change. If you were only to abide by those few limited commandments or memorize innumerable laws, your old nature would remain deeply embedded, and there would be no way to uproot it. Thus you would become increasingly depraved, and not one of you would become obedient. Which is to say that a few simple commandments or countless laws are incapable of helping you know the deeds of Jehovah. You are not the same as the Israelites: By following the laws and memorizing the commandments they were able to witness the deeds of Jehovah, and give their devotion to Him alone, but you are unable to achieve this, and a few commandments of the Old Testament age are not only incapable of making you give over your heart, or of protecting you, but will instead make you lax, and will lower you to Hades. For My work is the work of conquest, and is aimed at your disobedience and old nature. The kind words of Jehovah and Jesus fall far short of the severe words of judgment today. Without such severe words, it would be impossible to conquer you “experts,” who have been disobedient for thousands of years. The laws of the Old Testament lost their power on you long ago, and the judgment of today is far more formidable than the old laws. Most suitable for you is judgment, and not the trifling restrictions of laws, for you are not the mankind of the very beginning, but a mankind that has been corrupt for thousands of years. What man must achieve now is according to the real state of man today, according to the caliber and actual stature of present-day man, and it does not require that you follow doctrine. This is so that changes may be achieved in your old nature, and in order that you may cast aside your conceptions.
from “The Vision of God’s Work (1)” in The Word Appears in the Flesh
Though the path that man walks today is also the path of the cross and one of suffering, what the man of today practices, eats, drinks and enjoys are greatly different from that of man under the law and in the Age of Grace. What is asked of man this day is unlike that in the past and even more unlike that asked of man in the Age of Law. And what was asked of man under the law when work was done in Israel? They were asked for no more than to keep the Sabbath and the laws of Jehovah. None were to work on the Sabbath or transgress the laws of Jehovah. But it is not so now. On the Sabbath, man works, gathers and prays as usual, and no restrictions are imposed. Those in the Age of Grace had to be baptized; not only that, they were asked to fast, break bread, drink wine, cover their heads and wash their feet. Now, these rules have been abolished and greater demands are made of man, for the work of God continuously deepens and the entry of man reaches ever higher. In the past, Jesus laid His hands upon man and prayed, but now that everything has been said, what is the use of the laying on of hands? Words alone can achieve results. When He laid His hands upon man in the past, it was to bless and heal man. This was how the Holy Spirit worked at that time, but it is not so now. Now, the Holy Spirit uses words in His work to achieve results. He has made His words clear to you, and you should just put them into practice. His words are His will and show the work He will do. Through His words, you can understand His will and that which He asks you to attain. You just put His words into practice directly without the need for the laying on of hands. Some may say, “Lay Your hands upon me! Lay Your hands upon me so that I may receive Your blessing and partake of You.” These are all previous outdated practices that are now prohibited, for the age has changed. The Holy Spirit works in accordance with the age, not just at will or according to set rules. The age has changed, and a new age must bring with it new work. This is true of every stage of work, and so His work is never repeated. In the Age of Grace, Jesus did much of that work, such as healing sickness, casting out demons, laying His hands upon man to pray for man, and blessing man. However, to continue to do so would serve no purpose in the present day. The Holy Spirit worked in that way at the time, for it was the Age of Grace, and man was shown enough grace for enjoyment. Man did not have to pay any price and could receive grace as long as he had faith. All were treated very graciously. Now, the age has changed, and the work of God has progressed further; through His chastisement and judgment, the rebelliousness of man and the unclean things within man will be cast away. As it was the stage of redemption, God had to do such work, showing man enough grace for man to enjoy, so that man could be redeemed from sin, and through grace be forgiven their sins. This stage is done to reveal the iniquities within man through chastisement, judgment, the smiting of words, as well as the discipline and revelation of words, so that they may afterward be saved. This is work more in-depth than redemption. In the Age of Grace, man enjoyed enough grace and has already experienced this grace, and so it is no longer to be enjoyed by man. Such work is now out-of-date and is no longer to be done. Now, man is saved through judgment by the word. After man is judged, chastised and refined, his disposition is thereby changed. Is this not because of the words I have spoken? Each stage of work is done in line with the progress of all mankind and with the age. All work has its significance; it is done for the final salvation, for mankind to have a good destination in the future, and for man to be divided according to their kind in the end.
from “The Mystery of the Incarnation (4)” in The Word Appears in the Flesh
During the Age of Law, Jehovah led Moses out of Egypt with His words, and spoke some words to the Israelites; at that time, part of the deeds of God were made plain, but because the caliber of man was limited and nothing could make his knowledge complete, God continued to speak and work. In the Age of Grace, man once more saw part of the deeds of God. Jesus was able to show signs and wonders, to heal and cast out demons, and be crucified, three days after which He was resurrected and appeared in the flesh before man. Of God, man knew no more than this. Man knows as much as is shown to him by God, and if God were to show nothing more to man, then such would be the extent of man’s delimitation of God. Thus, God continues to work, so that man’s knowledge of Him may become deeper, and so that he may gradually come to know the substance of God. God uses His words to make man perfect. Your corrupt disposition is disclosed by the words of God, and your religious conceptions are replaced by the reality of God. God incarnate of the last days has chiefly come to fulfill the words that “the Word becomes flesh, the Word comes into the flesh, and the Word appears in the flesh,” and if you do not have a thorough knowledge of this, then you will still be unable to stand fast; during the last days, God primarily intends to accomplish a stage of work in which the Word appears in the flesh, and this is one part of God’s management plan. Thus, your knowledge must be clear; regardless of how God works, God does not allow man to delimit Him. If God did not do this work during the last days, then man’s knowledge of Him could go no further. You would only know that God can be crucified and can destroy Sodom, and that Jesus can be raised from the dead and appear to Peter…. But you would never say that God’s words can accomplish all, and can conquer man. Only through experiencing God’s words can you speak of such knowledge, and the more of God’s work that you experience, the more thorough your knowledge of Him will become. Only then will you cease to delimit God within your own conceptions.
from “Knowing God’s Work Today” in The Word Appears in the Flesh
In the work of the last days, the word is mightier than the manifestation of signs and wonders, and the authority of the word surpasses that of signs and wonders. The word reveals all the corrupt dispositions in the heart of man. You are unable to recognize them on your own. When they are revealed to you through the word, you will naturally come to the realization; you will not be able to deny them, and you will be utterly convinced. Is this not the authority of the word? This is the result achieved by the present work of the word. Therefore, man cannot be fully saved from his sins by the healing of sickness and casting out of demons and cannot be fully made complete by the manifestation of signs and wonders. The authority to heal and cast out demons only gives man grace, but the flesh of man still belongs to Satan and the corrupt satanic disposition still remains within man. In other words, that which has not been made clean still belongs to sin and filth. Only after man has been made clean through words can he be gained by God and become sanctified. If no more is done than casting out the demons within man and redeeming him, that is only seizing him from the hands of Satan and returning him to God. However, he has not been made clean or changed by God, and he remains corrupt. Within man still exists filth, opposition and rebelliousness; man has only returned to God through redemption, but man has no knowledge of Him and still resists and betrays God. Before man was redeemed, many of Satan’s poisons were already planted within him. After thousands of years of Satan’s corruption, man already has within him a nature that resists God. Therefore, when man has been redeemed, it is nothing more than redemption, where man is bought at a high price, but the poisonous nature within has not been eliminated. Man that is so defiled must undergo a change before being worthy to serve God. Through this work of judgment and chastisement, man will fully come to know the filthy and corrupt substance within him, and he will be able to completely change and become clean. Only in this way can man be worthy to return before the throne of God. All the work done this day is so that man can be made clean and be changed; through judgment and chastisement by the word, as well as refinement, man can cast away his corruption and be made pure. Rather than deeming this stage of work to be that of salvation, it would be more apt to say it is the work of purification. In truth, this stage is that of conquest as well as the second stage of salvation. Man is gained by God through judgment and chastisement by the word; through the use of the word to refine, judge and disclose, all of the impurities, notions, motives, and individual hopes within man’s heart are completely revealed. Though man has been redeemed and forgiven of his sins, it is only considered as God not remembering the transgressions of man and not treating man in accordance with man’s transgressions. However, when man lives in the flesh and he has not been set free from sin, he can only continue to sin, endlessly revealing the corrupt satanic disposition. This is the life that man leads, an endless cycle of sin and forgiveness. The majority of men sin in the day only to confess in the evening. As such, even if the sin offering is forever effective for man, it would not be able to save man from sin. Only half the work of salvation has been completed, for man still has corrupt disposition. For instance, when people knew that they were descended from Moab, they issued words of complaint, no longer sought life, and became utterly passive. Does this not show that they are still unable to fully submit under the dominion of God? Is this not precisely the corrupt satanic disposition? When you were not being subjected to chastisement, your hands were raised higher than all others, even that of Jesus. And you cried out in a loud voice: Be a beloved son of God! Be an intimate of God! We would rather die than submit to Satan! Revolt against the old Satan! Revolt against the great red dragon! Let the great red dragon completely fall from power! Let God make us complete! Your cries were louder than all others. But then came the times of chastisement and, once again, was the corrupt disposition of people revealed. Then, their cries ceased, and they no longer had resolution. This is the corruption of man; it runs deeper than sin, planted by Satan and deeply rooted within man. It is not easy for man to become aware of his sins; man is unable to recognize his own deeply rooted nature. Only through judgment by the word can such effects be achieved. Only thus can man gradually be changed from that point onward. Man shouted thus in the past because man had no understanding of his original corrupt disposition. Such are the impurities within man. Throughout such a long period of judgment and chastisement, man lived in an atmosphere of tension. Was this not all achieved through the word? Did you not also cry out with a very loud voice prior to the trial of service-doers? Enter the kingdom! All those who accept this name shall enter into the kingdom! All shall partake of God! When the trial of service-doers came, you no longer cried. At first, all cried out, “God! Wherever You place me, I shall submit to being steered by You.” Upon reading the words of God, “Who will be My Paul?” man said, “I am willing!” Then he saw the words, “And what of the faith of Job?” So he said, “I am willing to take the faith of Job. God, please test me!” When the trial of service-doers came, he collapsed at once and almost could not stand up again. After that, the impurities in man’s heart gradually diminished. Was this not achieved through the word? So, what you have experienced in the present are results achieved through the word, even greater than that achieved through Jesus’ working of signs and wonders. The glory of God and authority of God Himself that you see are not merely seen through the crucifixion, healing of sickness and casting out of demons, but more so through His judgment by the word. This shows you that not only the working of signs, healing of sickness and casting out of demons are the authority and power of God, but judgment by the word is better able to represent the authority of God and to reveal His almightiness.
from “The Mystery of the Incarnation (4)” in The Word Appears in the Flesh
In the work of man’s salvation, three stages have been carried out, which is to say that the battle with Satan has been split into three stages prior to the complete defeat of Satan. Yet the inner truth of the entire work of the battle with Satan is that its effects are achieved through bestowing grace upon man, and becoming a sin offering of man, forgiving the sins of man, conquering man, and making man perfect. As a matter of fact, the battle with Satan is not the taking up of arms against Satan, but the salvation of man, the working of the life of man, and the changing of man’s disposition so that he may bear testimony to God. This is how Satan is defeated. Satan is defeated through changing the corrupt disposition of man. When Satan has been defeated, that is, when man has been completely saved, then the ashamed Satan will be completely bound, and in this way, man will have been completely saved. And so, the substance of man’s salvation is the battle with Satan, and the war with Satan is primarily reflected in the salvation of man. The stage of the last days, in which man is to be conquered, is the last stage in the battle with Satan, and also the work of man’s complete salvation from the domain of Satan. The inner meaning of man’s conquest is the return of the embodiment of Satan, man who has been corrupted by Satan, to the Creator following his conquest, through which he will forsake Satan and completely return to God. In this way, man will have been completely saved. And so, the work of conquest is the last work in the battle against Satan, and the final stage in God’s management for the sake of Satan’s defeat. Without this work, the full salvation of man would ultimately be impossible, the utter defeat of Satan would also be impossible, and mankind would never be able to enter the wonderful destination, or get free from Satan’s influence. Consequently, the work of salvation of man cannot be concluded before the battle with Satan is concluded, for the core of the work of God’s management is for the sake of mankind’s salvation. Earliest mankind was in the hands of God, but because of Satan’s temptation and corruption, man was bound up by Satan and fell in the hands of the evil one. Thus, Satan became the object to be defeated in the work of God’s management. Because Satan took possession of man, and because man is the stock of all God’s management, if man is to be saved, then he must be snatched back from the hands of Satan, which is to say that man must be taken back after having been held captive by Satan. Satan is defeated through changes in man’s old disposition that restore his original sense, and in this way, man, who has been taken captive, can be snatched back from the hands of Satan. If man is freed from the influence and bondage of Satan, Satan will be shamed, man will ultimately be taken back, and Satan will be defeated. And because man has been freed from the dark influence of Satan, man will become the spoils of all of this battle, and Satan will become the object that will be punished once this battle has finished, after which the entire work of mankind’s salvation will have been completed.
from “Restoring the Normal Life of Man and Taking Him to a Wonderful Destination” in The Word Appears in the Flesh