By Chengxin, Brazil
A chance opportunity in 2011 allowed me to come to Brazil from China. When I had just arrived, I was overwhelmed with fresh and new experiences and filled with curiosity, and I had a good feeling about the future. But after some time, this fresh and new feeling was quickly replaced by the loneliness and pain of finding myself in a far-off foreign land. Every day I went back home all alone and ate by myself, staring at the walls around me day by day without anyone even to talk to. I felt so lonely, and would often cry in secret. Just when I was feeling at my most distressed and helpless, the Lord Jesus brought me into a gathering by means of a friend. Through reading the word of the Lord, singing hymns, and praying in gatherings, my lonely heart was consoled by the Lord. I learned from the Bible that the heavens and earth and all things were created by God, and that man too is God’s creation. I also learned that the Lord Jesus was crucified for the redemption of mankind, that it was the Lord Jesus who redeemed us from sin, and that He is the only Redeemer of mankind. Having come into the presence of the Lord’s salvation, which is greater than all else, I felt deeply moved and resolved to follow the Lord for the rest of my life. I was therefore baptized on Thanksgiving and formally became a Christian. Because I liked singing, especially singing hymns in praise of God, after I was baptized I became actively involved in working for the church by joining the choir. Because of God’s guidance and blessings, I lived in peace and happiness. Every time I went to a gathering or praised God in worship, I felt suffused with energy.
But good times don’t last forever, and as I entered the ranks of the church ministry, I gradually came to see that the brothers and sisters in the church appeared on the surface to care for and look after one another, and they all seemed to get along well together, but that actually everything they said and did was for their own self-interest. They didn’t want to suffer any personal loss while working in the ministry of the church, and often gossiped behind each other’s backs about who was doing more and who was doing less. Even the pastor was extremely snobby. He treated people based on the amounts of their donations, and made special mention of donations whenever he gave a sermon. Every time he came to a gathering, the issue the pastor was most concerned with was whether or not people were giving donations and how much they were giving, and he didn’t want to hear anything about the lives of the brothers and sisters. He talked about love but I never saw him take any real action. Whenever a brother or sister had a difficulty, the pastor wouldn’t help them or support them. But what was even more outrageous was that he would still criticize people and look down on those powerless and penniless brothers and sisters. When I saw this situation in the church, I was disappointed but also confused: How had the church changed to become no different than society at large? Slowly, I lost the love and faith I’d had in the beginning, and I no longer participated so actively when I went to church on Sundays. I didn’t even want to sing. Every week when I went to church, I would either stand outside drinking coffee or take a quick nap in the pews. When the sermon was over, I’d hand over a donation and head out, and I would always leave with a feeling of grief and helplessness in my heart.
One Sunday in August of 2016, I met Sister Li Min in a park. She had come from America and had been the classmate of sisters Gao Xiaoying and Liu Fang. We all believed in the Lord, and got to chatting while sitting on the grass. We talked and talked and got on to the topic of the situation in the church, and I told them everything I had seen in the church. After I’d finished talking, Sister Li Min nodded thoughtfully and said, “Nowadays, not only has your church become this way, but the whole religious world has lost the work of the Holy Spirit, and it has fallen into darkness and desolation. The Lord Jesus once prophesied: ‘And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold’ (Matthew 24:12). We are now at the end of the last days, and lawlessness is growing ever more rampant in religion. The pastors and elders don’t abide by the Lord’s commandments, they don’t practice the way of the Lord, and they think it is not a big deal to live in sin like that. We all know that the flourishing of the church is the result achieved by the work of the Holy Spirit. Today, God has already performed new work, and the work of the Holy Spirit has shifted to a group of people who accept and obey God’s new work. The pastors and elders in religion don’t lead believers to seek and investigate God’s work of the last days, but instead they resist and condemn God’s new work by disseminating all kinds of rumors and fallacies to stop people from turning to God. They meet with God’s hatred and rejection, and so the entire religious world is without God’s blessing, has completely lost the work of the Holy Spirit, and has been cast aside and eliminated by the Lord. The church therefore becomes more and more desolate and darkened. It is just like the time when the Lord Jesus incarnated to perform His work. The work of the Lord Jesus began the Age of Grace and put an end to the Age of Law. Because those who followed the Lord Jesus accepted and obeyed the new work of God, they then gained the work of the Holy Spirit, whereas the Holy Spirit did not work among those who did not accept the Lord Jesus and who remained in the temple. And so, the temple that once was filled with the glory of God and where believers worshiped God became a place for doing business and a den of thieves. In other words, there are two reasons for the desolation of the church: The first is because the pastors and elders do not adhere to God’s commandments or practice the, and because they constantly commit sins and do evils; the second reason is because God is performing a new work, because the work of the Holy Spirit has shifted, and because people are not keeping up with the footsteps of God. However, God’s will is behind the desolation of the church, and there is a truth to be sought here. Through the desolation of the church, God compels all those who believe in Him with true hearts and who thirst for the truth to leave religion behind, so that they can search for the work of the Holy Spirit, keep up with the footsteps of God, come into the presence of God, and obtain God’s present work and salvation.”
After listening to Sister Li’s fellowship, I nodded and said, “What you say is right. It’s certainly just as you say. I was never able to understand this problem. The church was originally a place for worshiping God, but there is no difference anymore between the church and society at large. Furthermore, there is no new light in what the pastors preach, nor any enjoyment in listening to them, and people all now live in darkness. As it turns out, it’s because we have not kept up with God’s new work, so what must we now do to keep up with God’s new work?” Sister Li said, “The Lord Jesus has long since returned. In the last days, God has incarnated as the Son of man to express the truth under the name of, and to perform the stage of the work of judging and purifying mankind. We have to keep up with God’s work in the last days and accept the judgment of God’s word, and only then will we be able to obtain the work of the Holy Spirit.” When I heard that the Lord Jesus had already returned and was performing the work of judgment, I was astonished. I thought: “Isn’t judgment to punish a person after he is declared a sinner? God comes in the last days to judge those who don’t believe in God, and we who believe in the Lord Jesus have already been absolved of our sins and have been graced with salvation. We don’t need to receive God’s judgment, for when the Lord comes He will directly raise us up to the heavenly kingdom. How could He come to judge us?” With that thought, I gave voice to my opinion, at which point Sister Liu Fang said, “Brother, I have already been looking into Almighty God’s work of the last days with Sister Gao for a week. By reading the word of Almighty God, we have recognized it to be the voice of God. Almighty God is indeed the returned Lord Jesus. Read the word of Almighty God, and then you will understand. The reason why the Lord Jesus has returned to perform the work of judgment is because, although we who believe in the Lord have been forgiven of our sins, we are still always living in sin from which we cannot free ourselves. We are incapable of freeing ourselves from the bondage and control of sin, and we really do need God to express the truth to judge and purify us, and to root out our sinful nature and satanic corrupt dispositions. Almighty God’s work of judgment in the last days is a newer and higher work built on the foundation of the redemptive work of the Lord Jesus. It completely purifies and saves man through the judgment of the word, and leads people to a wonderful destination.” Afterward, they patiently fellowshiped about many more truths with me. But no matter what they said, I just couldn’t accept that the Lord had returned to judge those who believed in Him. While I was dealing with this inner conflict, I also felt bewildered: Sisters Gao and Liu were very pious believers, and everyone acknowledged their belief and love for the Lord, so how could they believe that the Lord Jesus was returning to judge those of us who believed in Him, and that He would not raise us up directly into the kingdom of heaven? Could it be that there was some mystery or truth in this matter that I did not know?
As I was thinking, Sister Li Min took out a book and said earnestly to me, “Brother, the Lord Jesus said: ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven’ (Matthew 5:3). Don’t jump to conclusions, OK? Let’s first see if the word of Almighty God is the voice of God, and whether it can provide for our lives, and whether it can purify and save us, and then we will know whether Almighty God is the returned Lord Jesus or not. I trust that God’s sheep will hear the voice of God, so let’s read God’s word together!” I felt a little reluctant and didn’t answer her. The three sisters were a little saddened to see my attitude. Sister Liu suddenly suggested: “First let’s pray, and then read the word of God.” The three sisters then began to pray, and I had no choice but to follow along with them. Still, as I was praying, I could hardly quiet my heart. Even though I couldn’t hear what the sisters were praying about, I was moved by the way they conducted themselves. Their attitude toward God was so sincere, and they sought God’s will in everything. They hoped that I would investigate God’s work of the last days, and this hope was also born of God’s love. After praying, Sister Li handed me a book and said earnestly to me, “Most of the questions in this book, A Hundred Questions and Answers on Investigating the True Way, are asked among people of all denominations. Related passages have been chosen from the word of God to answer each question. Go ahead and take a look.” I didn’t want to take the book, but seeing how sincerely she had spoken, I looked again at Sister Gao and Sister Liu, and saw how much they hoped I would investigate and seek this. I thought how crucial a matter it was to welcome the coming of the Lord, and that I shouldn’t treat it carelessly. At that, I accepted the book and said, “Alright, I’m willing to accept this book. Let’s not talk any more about it today. I’ll read the book first, and then we’ll talk some more.”
After I went back home, I set the book to one side—my mind was in turmoil. I thought about what Sister Li Min had fellowshiped and it all felt clear and transparent to me. Everything she had said was true, but what I couldn’t understand was why the Lord would perform the work of judgment upon His return? I contemplated it carefully, but still didn’t understand. As for the matter of the Lord’s second coming, however, since I had now heard about it, I couldn’t just blindly make my own decisions about it and sit resigned to my fate. I thought it would be a good idea to take a look at the book and develop some discernment. I therefore spent six days reading that book from cover to cover. I saw that Almighty God had made known many, many truths and mysteries that I had never heard of before and I was greatly sustained by reading them. Also, when I read the words of Almighty God, I felt that there were many things that were said in the same tone as that of the Lord Jesus. The words were possessed of authority and power, as if God Himself was speaking. And so, after I finished reading the book, I wanted to better understand what the work of judgment done by Almighty God was all about, and I decided to go find Sister Gao to ask her about it.