By Zhou Jing
One day I saw a lively discussion online; people were saying that four blood moons appearing at night in the Western hemisphere is a warning of the end times, and that major earthquakes are becoming more frequent across the entire globe. I thought to myself, “The four blood moons have already happened, celestial phenomena have appeared, disasters are occurring frequently all over the world, terrorist incidents are increasing, wars are constantly breaking out…. All the signs show that the prophecies of the Lord’s return have basically been fulfilled, so why haven’t I seen Him coming down on a cloud to meet us? Is it that the Lord hasn’t returned yet or that He has returned, but I haven’t seen Him? How can I welcome His return?” This confusion wound itself around my heart leaving me baffled. Trying to get some clarity on this issue, I started praying and praying to the Lord, asking for Him to enlighten and guide me so that I’ll be able to welcome His return and not be cast out by Him.
After a period of time Sister Gan, who I hadn’t seen for a few months, came to see me; I knew this was arranged by the Lord. Sister Gan had been working for the Lord for a number of years and she was a thoughtful, insightful person. I thought she might be able to resolve this issue of mine, so I said, “Sister Gan, there’s something I’m a little confused about that I’d like to pursue. It is recorded in the Bible, ‘And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory’ (Luke 21:27). ‘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. Even so, Amen’ (Revelation 1:7). It says that when the Lord comes He’ll come down on a cloud with great glory and power; He’ll openly appear and everyone will be able to see Him. So, we’ve always been waiting for Him to come on a cloud to bring us into heaven. Across the world now there are constant disasters, earthquakes, famines, and frequent outbreaks of wars, plus lots of celestial phenomena. All the signs show that the prophecies of the Lord’s return have basically been fulfilled, so why is it that we still haven’t seen Him coming down on a cloud to meet us? What’s really going on?”
Sister Gan listened to what I had to say, gave it a little thought, and then said, “This question of yours is something that all of us who are hoping to greet the Lord’s second coming want to understand. If we want to welcome His return, first we have to know how the Lord will really come in the last days—this is crucial! In fact, there are prophecies in the Bible about another way that the Lord will come, not just coming on a cloud as you mentioned. For example, there’s Revelation 16:15: ‘Behold, I come as a thief.’ And in Revelation 3:3 it says, ‘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.’ Plus Matthew 24:44: ‘Therefore be you also ready: for in such an hour as you think not the Son of man comes.’ These prophecies state that He’ll come in secret, like a thief, and no one will know. Sister, take a look at the scriptures we’ve just talked about: In some places it says the Lord will return openly on a cloud, in some places it says that He’ll come in secret and nobody will know. Have we ever given thought to this? Why would prophecies about the same thing, the Lord’s return, say different things?”
I didn’t quite grasp what she said, and thought to myself, “That’s right. Revelation 1:7 says ‘He comes with clouds; and every eye shall see Him, and they also which pierced Him,’ but Revelation 16:15 says ‘I come as a thief.’ What does it mean? How will the Lord really come?”
Confused, I responded to Sister Gan, “Some of these prophecies say that the Lord will openly come down, while some say that He’ll come in secret. They appear to be contradictory, but I know that there aren’t any holes in the Lord’s words and it’s just that I don’t understand this now. Please share some fellowship with me on this.”
Smiling, Sister Gan said, “The Lord is faithful and these prophecies will be fulfilled—they will come to pass. Though they appear to be in conflict, they’re not at all. ‘As a thief’ says that the Lord will return secretly, and ‘comes with clouds’ refers to Him coming openly. That is, when He returns He’ll first come in secret, and after that He’ll appear openly.”
“First in secret and then openly!” I exclaimed in surprise.
“Yes, when the Lord returns, first He’ll come secretly by incarnating as the Son of man, and then once He’s finished that work He’ll come on a cloud and openly appear to all peoples of all nations,” she patiently explained.
I said eagerly, “So He’ll incarnate as the Son of man first, coming in secret, and then appear on a cloud? That’s the first time I’ve heard of that!”
Sister Gan smiled and said, “Let’s look at more verses of Scripture and then you’ll understand! The Lord Jesus said, ‘For as the lightning comes out of the east, and shines even to the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be’ (Matthew 24:27). ‘For as the lightning, that lightens out of the one part under heaven, shines to the other part under heaven; so shall also the Son of man be in His day. But first must He suffer many things, and be rejected of this generation’ (Luke 17:24–25). These verses mention ‘the Son of man’ and ‘the coming of the Son of man.’ The ‘Son of man’ is born from a person, possesses normal humanity, and eats, wears clothing, lives, and acts just like a regular person; He looks just like an average person on the outside. However, He possesses a divine essence, is able to express the truth, and do work to save mankind. It’s just like the Lord Jesus was called ‘the Son of man’ because He was the spirit of God incarnated in the flesh, and even though from the outside He looked normal, regular, that flesh was God in essence and possessed full divinity. This is why the Lord Jesus was Christ, why He was God Himself. That’s why the Lord Jesus mentioned ‘the Son of man’ and ‘the coming of the Son of man.’ That was all referring to God returning in the last days in the flesh. The Bible also says, ‘But first must He suffer many things, and be rejected of this generation.’ We all know that only when God clothes Himself in the flesh as the Son of man and comes among mankind in secret do people fail to recognize Him as God; they take the Son of man incarnate as a regular person, and that’s why they reject, slander, and judge God, or even rebel against and oppose God in the flesh. That’s why God will ‘suffer many things.’ Just like when the Lord Jesus appeared and worked in the flesh, He suffered rejection, slander, mockery, blasphemy, and condemnation from humanity and was ultimately nailed to the cross. If the Lord were to come down on a cloud and openly appear to people when He returns, everyone would see that, tremble with fear, and prostrate themselves before God in worship. No one would dare rebel against or oppose God. So then how would ‘But first must He suffer many things, and be rejected of this generation’ be fulfilled? So we can be certain that the Lord’s return will first be in secret, in the flesh, and after that He will openly appear on a cloud.”
After hearing what she had to say, I mulled it over to myself. “So there is a biblical basis for the claim that when the Lord returns He’ll first come in secret, and after that He’ll openly appear on a cloud. How is it that I’ve been reading the Bible all these years but never found out that He’ll return in two different ways? Wow! But why would He first become flesh and come in secret, and then openly appear? What is that about? I have to ask.” I then said, “Sister Gan, from your fellowship I’ve understood that the Lord’s return will first be in secret and then He’ll openly appear, and taking it this way, the biblical prophecies no longer appear to be in conflict. But I don’t really understand why He would first come in secret and then appear openly. What is the Lord’s will in this?”
Sister Gan responded, “The truth is that God first becoming flesh and working in secret and then openly appearing in the last days is entirely what is required for His work, and it’s something that we, corrupt human beings, also need. We believe in the Lord and we have been redeemed by the Lord Jesus; our sins have been forgiven. However, our sinful natures are still deeply entrenched and we can’t help but frequently sin, or even do things to rebel against or oppose God. That’s an undeniable fact. Jehovah God said, ‘You shall be holy; for I am holy’ (Leviticus 11:45). And in Hebrews 12:14 it says, ‘… holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.’ People like us who are constantly sinning and then confessing are absolutely unworthy of seeing the Lord’s face, and we’re not qualified to enter the kingdom of heaven. That’s why the Lord Jesus uttered these prophecies a long time ago: ‘I have yet many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. However, when He, the Spirit of truth, is come, He will guide you into all truth: for He shall not speak of Himself; but whatever He shall hear, that shall He speak: and He will show you things to come’ (John 16:12–13). ‘He that rejects Me, and receives not My words, has one that judges him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day’ (John 12:48). There’s also Revelation 2:7: ‘He that has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches; To him that overcomes will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the middle of the paradise of God.’ What I understood from these prophecies is that when the Lord comes in the last days He’s going to express more words and do the work of judgment beginning with the house of God. He’ll come to transform, purify, and save mankind and fully rescue us from Satan’s domain. His work of the last days will also include separating people according to their kind—He’ll reveal the true and the false believers, the wheat and the tares, the sheep and the goats, separating all according to their kind, and then He’ll reward good and punish evil. During the period of time that God is working in secret, those who accept God’s work of judgment will be raptured up before God’s throne. They will experience the judgment and chastisement of God’s words and gain true recognition of their own satanic natures and the root of their resistance to God. They’ll also come to have understanding of God’s righteous disposition that will tolerate no offence. Their corrupt dispositions will gradually be purified and transformed; they’ll step onto the path of seeking the truth and being fully saved by God. However, those who never seek God’s appearance during His period of working in secret or even reject and condemn God’s work and words will be those exposed as nonbelievers, as evil ones in God’s work of the last days. When God’s secret work has come to an end, He will rain down great disasters to begin rewarding good and punishing evil, and then after these disasters He will appear to all peoples. When those who rejected and opposed God see that the One they were rejecting and opposing truly was the returned Lord Jesus they will beat their chests, weep and gnash their teeth. This fulfills these words of the Lord: ‘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. Even so, Amen’ (Revelation 1:7). From this we can see that God’s work is full of wisdom, and this is also an expression of God’s righteous disposition.”
Hearing this fellowship from Sister Gan brightened my heart considerably; I realized that this is how the prophecies of the Lord’s return will be fulfilled. When the Lord returns He’ll first incarnate and come in secret to express the truth, do the work of judgment, and make a group of overcomers; only after that will He openly appear to mankind. Anyone who doesn’t accept God’s work during His period of working in secret, but wantonly judges and condemns God’s work and words is someone who hates the truth and can only fall into disaster and be punished when God openly appears. God will also use this method to expose the wheat and the tares, the sheep and the goats, the good and the evil servants, separating all people according to their kind. God really is so wise, so almighty! I never understood before how the Lord was really going to come, but only knew to stupidly gaze up at the clouds in the sky waiting for the Lord to come down on one of them. I never really sought or pondered all of the prophecies about His second coming and so I overlooked the prophecies about Him coming in secret. That was so dangerous! If I had kept waiting like that not only would I have been unable to welcome the Lord, but I would have lost my chance to be fully saved by God and enter the kingdom of heaven! This made me feel a bit anxious, so I rushed to ask, “Sister Gan, then what should we do to find the work of the Lord when He comes in secret, and welcome His return?”
She smiled and said, “We’ve just seen from what’s prophesied in the Bible that when the Lord returns in the last days He’ll utter more words and do the work of judging and cleansing mankind. So the key to welcoming His second coming is in accepting His words of the last days and keeping up with God’s new work. The Lord Jesus said, ‘And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom comes; go you out to meet him’ (Matthew 25:6). ‘My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me’ (John 10:27). God’s sheep are able to hear God’s voice; all those who hear God’s utterances and from them are able to recognize His voice will be able to welcome the Lord’s appearance. It’s just like the Lord Jesus’ disciples, Peter, John, Matthew, and the others. When they heard the Lord Jesus’ sermons on the gospel of the kingdom of heaven, they were able to determine from His work and words that He was the Messiah they had waited for, and so they followed Him without hesitation. They were wise virgins. If we want to welcome the Lord’s second coming, we also have to be wise virgins, focusing on hearing His voice. If we hear someone say that the Lord has already returned, that He has uttered new words and is doing the work of judging and purifying mankind, we can’t waste any time in looking into it. As long as we can confirm that it is God’s work and words, we must accept and submit to it. That way we’ll be able to welcome the return of the Lord and attend the feast with Him.”
Hearing Sister Gan’s fellowship, I responded excitedly, “Thanks be to the Lord! Now I finally know that the key to welcoming the Lord’s second coming is in being a wise virgin and being careful to hear God’s voice. As long as I can confirm that words are uttered by God, I must rush to accept this—that’s the only way to welcome His return. Oh, Sister Gan, it’s only been a few months since I saw you. How have you come to understand so much so quickly?”
She said happily, “Thanks be to the Lord! Everything that I’ve talked about today I only came to understand after reading a certain book. I brought a copy with me today. How about we take a look at it together?”
Thrilled, I nodded and said, “Wonderful!”