By Aixi, Malaysia
When I was 12, I began believing in theand became a Christian. After I began believing, I actively and persistently participated in Sunday worship and study groups. At Bible study meetings, we often discussed 2 Timothy 4:7–8, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: From now on there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness.” We thought that, as Christians, we should imitate Paul and strive to run around and do works, because the Lord would bestow crowns of righteousness upon us. Our pastor also often encouraged us by saying the kingdom of heaven is entered through effort, and as long as we make efforts to pursue and diligently do the Lord’s work, when the Lord returns, He would rapture us up to the kingdom of heaven. These teachings became the cornerstone of my belief in God, and I swore to myself that I would do all in my power to participate in church service work so that I could accrue enough “value” to satisfy God, so that when He came, I could be raptured up into the kingdom of heaven.
In university, my pastor spoke about fostering more talent in the church, so that the church could expand everywhere. When I saw the church needed people to participate and serve, I thought, “If I can resolutely work for the Lord, labor, and expend, God will undoubtedly bless me, and I can accrue awards for myself in heaven.” Even though I was very busy with my course work during that period, each week, I spent all of my time outside of class doing service work, leading study groups, visiting and supporting my brothers and sisters, as well as planning church activities, taking part in church training, and so on. Wherever the church needed my service, I was sure to be found. Even though I was so busy I scarcely found time to breathe between church service and my classes, when I thought of how my labor and works would be traded for a good future and the Lord’s blessings, I felt like all my sacrifices were worth it.
But, gradually, I began to become aware that the church leaders often had disputes over the offerings, that they were split into factions over interests, and that the church workers fought amongst themselves over status. I also often lived in sin, and I was very enthusiastic toward the brothers and sisters who cared for and helped me, but when brothers and sisters unfamiliar to me needed me to care for and help them, I didn’t want to lovingly come to their aid. I also deliberately said and did things to become the leader of a study group, thereby struggling for reputation and interest against my co-workers. All these circumstances made me very confused. The church leaders and workers, including myself, could labor without complaint, as well as expend and sacrifice a great deal, in service to the Lord. Why was it that even though the Lord Jesus taught us to be tolerant, patient, and love others as we love ourselves, we couldn’t do it?
By chance, one of my sisters from university invited me and another brother to participate in an online Bible study group. At one meeting, we examined these verses of scripture, “Not every one that said to Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that does the will of My Father which is in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name? and in Your name have cast out devils? and in Your name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess to them, I never knew you: depart from Me, you that work iniquity” (Matthew 7:21–23). My brother said, “These people mentioned in the Scripture who prophesy and work in the Lord’s name, according to most people’s notions, are the people who expend and sacrifice the most for the Lord. They should be the people the Lord approves of most, and are assured a place in the kingdom of heaven. But why does the Lord say He does not approve of them, and instead condemn them for their sins?”
After reading these verses and hearing my brother’s question, I thought: We talked about this in our Bible study group a year ago. At the time, a brother asked the same question. Why does the Lord Jesus say these people who labored and worked can’t? And why does that seem to conflict with our belief that we are called righteous because we believe, and that we can enter the kingdom of heaven through labor and work? Even though we discussed these questions, we didn’t find any resolution to these mysteries. Later, I sought answers with a friend in the church who was very familiar with the Bible, Mr. Huang, but he wasn’t able to explain the reasons either, and he maintained his belief that diligent labor and work allows us to enter the kingdom of heaven. That day, this brother raised the same question, which made me curious. I wanted to hear how my brother would fellowship.
My brother said, “Many people read that Paul said, ‘I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: From now on there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness’ (2 Timothy 4:7–8), and make this their own motto. They pursue labor, work, suffering, and expending, and they believe if they persist in these things, they will be raptured up to the kingdom of heaven by the Lord. But, is this in accord with? Did the Lord Jesus say that labor and work alone are enough to enter the kingdom of heaven and be rewarded? God controls who enters the kingdom of heaven, so we should base our understanding of what kind of people can enter on the Lord’s words, not our own notions and imaginations. The Lord Jesus said, ‘Not every one that said to Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that does the will of My Father which is in heaven’ (Matthew 7:21). ‘And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength’ (Mark 12:30). The Lord very clearly says that only those who do the Father’s will can enter the kingdom of heaven, that the people who enter the kingdom of heaven are those who do God’s will, love God with all their hearts, souls, and minds, and those who obey God. He does not say those who labor and work will enter the kingdom of heaven. The chief priests, scribes, and Pharisees in the Age of Law served barefoot in the temple, and even traveled to the far corners of the earth to preach the . From the outside, they appeared to expend, forsake, and bear suffering and complaint for God, but when the Lord Jesus came to work, to safeguard their own positions and incomes, they fabricated all kinds of rumors, frantically resisted and condemned the Lord Jesus, and stopped the ordinary believers in Judaism from turning to the Lord Jesus. They believed in God but did not know God, and were even capable of resisting and condemning God. No matter how much work they did, God would never allow such people to enter His kingdom.
“I recall how at our church, even though many people were able to forsake everything for the Lord’s work, do it heedless of wind or rain, and even lay down their lives to serve the Lord, it was undeniable that we often couldn’t keep the Lord’s teachings. Our work and expending often carried our own ambitions and desires, and were not at all done purely out of love for the Lord or to satisfy Him. At times, in their service of God, some people stole the offerings given by our brothers and sisters to God, keeping them for themselves to supplement their material lives. Other people labored and worked to exchange these for rewards from the Lord, not out of consideration for God or to repay God’s love. Some people often exalted and testified themselves in their work and preaching, rather than exalting and testifying the Lord, so believers worshiped and looked up to them, and had no place in their hearts for God, but had a place for them. Some people passionately expended to gain leadership positions or gain prestige among the believers. Some people, even as they labored and worked, also struggled for fame and fortune, ostracized those with different opinions, formed factions and cliques, and tried to set up their own kingdoms…. Could people like that possibly do God’s will? Were they really loving and satisfying the Lord? Such people could never do God’s will, and even less could they enter the. We always thought labor and work would allow us to enter the kingdom of heaven, but that was entirely based on our own notions and imaginations.”
After I heard my brother’s fellowship, several scenes flashed through my mind: the church leaders and workers fighting over their reputations and their interests, my unwillingness to help brothers and sisters in need who I didn’t know, the things I said, did, and showed off to become a study group leader and how I fought my co-workers for my reputation and interests…. We truly were living in sin, and not people who were doing God’s will!
The next day, I couldn’t stop thinking about my brother’s fellowship. I turned his words over in my mind, thinking, His fellowship was indeed in accordance with the Lord’s words. While we labored, worked, and expended, we also fought for our own reputation, interests, and status, squabbled amongst ourselves over benefits, lied and deceived each other, and often sinned and resisted the Lord. Our deeds weren’t at all doing the Father’s will. The Lord said, “But he that does the will of My Father which is in heaven.” How could people who sacrificed and expended the way we did possibly enter the kingdom of God? But on the other hand, even though many of the intentions behind our work and expending were wrong, and we could still sin and resist God, our pastor often said that the Lord had forgiven our sins, and when He came, we would be raptured directly into the kingdom of heaven. What was going on here? I was very confused. I looked forward to the next meeting, when I could fully discuss these questions with my brother.
The next time I went online for fellowship, I asked my brother, “It’s true that we harbor many incorrect intentions as we labor, work, and enthusiastically expend, that we often sin and resist God, and that we aren’t doing the Father’s will. The Lord Jesus said, “But he that does the will of My Father which is in heaven,” so by that reasoning, we are still unworthy to enter the kingdom of God. But this question still confuses me, because our pastor often says the Lord Jesus has already forgiven all our sins, that we are not sinful, that we are called righteous because we believe, and when the Lord comes, we will be directly raptured into heaven. Why does he say that? I’d like to hear your fellowship on this.”
My brother said, “The Lord Jesus was crucified to redeem mankind’s sins, and when we pray to the Lord, confess our sins to the Lord, and repent, our sins are forgiven, but does having our sins forgiven mean that we can enter the kingdom of God? Let’s read this passage, ‘For you, you who are still of your old self, it is true that you were saved by Jesus, and that you are not counted as a sinner because of the salvation of God, but this does not prove that you are not sinful, and are not impure. How can you be saintly if you have not been changed? Within, you are beset by impurity, selfish and mean, yet you still wish to descend with Jesus—you should be so lucky! You have missed a step in your belief in God: You have merely been redeemed, but have not been changed. For you to be after God’s heart, God must personally do the work of changing and cleansing you; if you are only redeemed, you will be incapable of attaining sanctity. In this way you will be unqualified to share in the good blessings of God, for you have missed out a step in God’s work of managing man, which is the key step of changing and perfecting. And so you, a sinner who has just been redeemed, are incapable of directly inheriting God’s inheritance’” (“Concerning Appellations and Identity”).
He fellowshiped, “From God’s words, we learn that the fact that the Lord Jesus forgave our sins and we are not sinful only refers to our not being convicted under the law. When we accept the Lord Jesus’ saving grace, we are qualified to come before the Lord, pray to Him, confess our sins, repent, and enjoy the blessings of God’s grace. But it’s undeniable that our satanic natures are deeply rooted within us, and that corrupt dispositions such as arrogance, selfishness, and deceit still exist within us. If we don’t resolve these satanic natures and corrupt dispositions that resist God, we can still involuntarily sin and resist God, which means that we cannot enter God’s kingdom. It’s just as the Bible says, ‘For the wages of sin is death’ (Romans 6:23). ‘Jesus answered them, Truly, truly, I say to you, Whoever commits sin is the servant of sin. And the servant stays not in the house for ever: but the Son stays ever’ (John 8:34–35). ‘Be you holy; for I am holy’ (1 Peter 1:16). We are full of filth, we can still sin, and until we are purified, we cannot enter the kingdom of God, which is decided by God’s holy essence and righteous disposition. Therefore, we need to further undergo the step of God’s salvation, escape our sinful natures, and be completely purified before we are qualified to see God’s face. This is what is meant by these Bible verses, ‘Who are kept by the power of God through faith to salvation ready to be revealed in the last time’ (1 Peter 1:5). ‘For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God’ (1 Peter 4:17). This saving grace is God’s work of judgment in the last days beginning with the house of God. When we accept God’s work of judgment in the last days, achieve change in our corrupt dispositions, no longer suffer the bondage and constraints of sin, and become people who are truly obedient to God, only then are we qualified to enter the kingdom of heaven.”
After I heard my brother’s fellowship, my heart felt much brighter. We have the Lord Jesus’ redemption, are not sinful, and can work and suffer much for the Lord, but we haven’t been purified, and we still can’t keep the Lord’s teachings. The church leaders and workers can still struggle for status and often sin and offend the Lord, which means they are not qualified to enter the kingdom of God. In the past, I thought our sins had been redeemed, and that was enough to enter the kingdom of heaven, but now I understood that was based entirely on my own notions and imagination. The Lord Jesus redeemed us and no longer sees us as sinners, but the corrupt dispositions which cause us to sin still exist. We must undergo God’s work of judgment and chastisement in the last days and completely resolve the root cause of our sinning and repenting to enter the kingdom of heaven and gain eternal life. I then asked my brother urgently, “How does God do the work of judgment in the last days?”
The brother read a passage of God’s words, “In the last days,uses a variety of truths to teach man, expose the essence of man, and dissect his words and deeds. These words comprise various truths, such as man’s duty, how man should obey God, how man should be loyal to God, how man ought to live out the normal humanity, as well as the wisdom and the disposition of God, and so on. These words are all directed at the essence of man and his corrupt disposition. In particular, those words that expose how man spurns God are spoken in regard to how man is an embodiment of Satan and an enemy force against God. In undertaking His work of judgment, God does not simply make clear the nature of man with just a few words; He exposes, deals with, and prunes it over the long term. These methods of exposure, dealing, and pruning cannot be substituted with ordinary words, but with the truth that man does not possess at all. Only methods of this kind are deemed judgment; only through judgment of this kind can man be subdued and thoroughly convinced into submission to God, and moreover gain true knowledge of God. What the work of judgment brings about is man’s understanding of the true face of God and the truth about his own rebelliousness. The work of judgment allows man to gain much understanding of the will of God, of the purpose of God’s work, and of the mysteries that are incomprehensible to him. It also allows man to recognize and know his corrupt substance and the roots of his corruption, as well as to discover the ugliness of man. These effects are all brought about by the work of judgment, for the substance of this work is actually the work of opening up the truth, the way, and the life of God to all those who have faith in Him. This work is the work of judgment done by God.”
He fellowshiped, “The words of Almighty God explain very clearly how God does the work of judgment in the last days. God uses His words to do the work of judgment, God expresses the whole truth that can purify and save mankind, as well as reveals His righteous disposition, which brooks no offense, and tells us the true fact of how we have been corrupted by Satan, the root of our rebelliousness and resistance to God, and which kind of people He will save and which He will punish and eliminate. At the same time, He points out the path by which we can attain salvation and be purified. Only when we accept God’s words of judgment and chastisement can we clearly see the true fact of our corruption by Satan. For example, under the control of our arrogant natures, when we see someone whose opinions don’t match our own, we can attack and ostracize them. We often show off, pursue rising above others, and having status in others’ hearts when we do church work. We always consider our own interests in our interactions with people, and we deceive and use others to achieve our own goals. We labor, work, suffer, and expend to trade these things for blessings in the kingdom of heaven, in an attempt to barter with God. We do many such things. When we truly see clearly that what we live out is only a satanic likeness, true repentance is produced within us, and we wish to accept more of God’s judgment and chastisement and pursue the truth. Gradually, through these acts, we escape the constraints and bondage of our corrupt dispositions and become purified. Only then are we qualified to enter the kingdom of God.”
After I heard my brother’s fellowship, I finally understood that we couldn’t escape the bondage of sin because we hadn’t undergone God’s judgment and chastisement of the last days. We had no understanding of the truth of our corruption by Satan, or of God’s righteous disposition which brooks no offense, so we could still involuntarily sin. No amount of labor, work, reading the Bible, or praying can resolve that problem, it requires accepting God’s punishment and chastisement of the last days. Through reading God’s words of judgment and chastisement of mankind’s corrupt natures, truly understanding the fact of our corruption by Satan, and truly understanding our own nature and essence, we are able to detest and betray Satan and genuinely turn to and obey God. When we do that, we have truly escaped the bondage of sin and been purified. I felt that I finally had a path to enter the kingdom of heaven!
After that, my brother sent me The Church of Almighty God app. After the meeting, I couldn’t wait to visit the official website of The Church of Almighty God. When I did, I was blown away. I never imagined that God has already expressed so many new words, words that reveal the mystery of God’s work, words that expose the satanic nature and essence of corrupt mankind, words that express God’s disposition and all that God has and is, words that express the aspects of truth into which mankind should practice entry…. As I read God’s words, my heart was truly moved. I also watched the gospel films and dance performance videos produced by The Church of Almighty God and read all kinds of articles of testimony. I felt I was truly at the wedding feast of the Lamb, and that my spiritual appetite had been sated as never before.
In what seems like the blink of an eye, I’ve believed in Almighty God for half a year, and perform what duties I can in the church. Through my experience, I have gained a little knowledge of God’s work. In the revelations of God’s words of judgment, I have come to understand my mistaken pursuits and views, as well as my satanic corrupt dispositions of arrogance and selfishness, and learned that being an honest person is the way to live out a true human likeness. Every time I feel negative and weak, God’s words supply and support me, and allow me to feel God’s mercy and genuine love. When I rebel against or resist God, God’s severe words come to me, and I see the truth of my own corruption. I have truly felt that God’s work of judging and purifying mankind in the last days is the only way for people to completely escape the bondage of sin, and the only path by which to enter the kingdom of heaven. All the glory be to Almighty God.