On my first Christmas in America, I remember, when I clicked on the Internet some videos on Christmas celebrations held by overseas churches, almost all that I saw was in a similar way: The believers were in Christmas garments and sang the hymns. Then the pastor preached a verbatim sermon by simply reading texts and led them to pray to the Lord for blessings. Afterward, all the people scattered. I heard from a friend that they spent more time on Christmas dinner and travel. At my friend’s words, I felt greatly surprised. Never had I expected that the overseas churches had also fallen to being so worldly. In the last days when the Lord comes back, we believers should have waited for His return watchfully, or actively searched for the footsteps of the Holy Spirit’s work and thereby kept pace with God’s work. Yet what surrounded us and filled our eyes were tinsel religious ceremonies, and meanwhile festivals also became a proper opportunity to eat, drink and enjoy ourselves.
At that moment, when I looked at the sumptuous church and the sanctimonious faces, some sense of desolation suddenly rushed upon me. I couldn’t help thinking of the Jewish Pharisees at that time. They served as the chief priests, priests, and scribes in the temple throughout generations. Just like the people dressed in Christmas garments, they preached the law and commandments in sumptuous clothing. Some even wrote scriptures on the tassels of their garments to show their piety. Yet in the end of the Age of Law, the essence of the Pharisees’ hypocrisy was totally revealed. They connived at the common people’s selling and buying things, such as oxen, sheep, doves, and so on within the temple, changing the temple that had been used to offer sacrifices to God into a den of thieves. And what’s more, they themselves made inferior offerings to God. They also prayed in a loud way at the crossroads, deceiving people into believing that they were the most devoted to God, but they took possession of widows’ property in secret. They repeatedly proclaimed that they would not repeat their ancestors’ mistake of shedding the blood of the prophets, but in reality, they had killed many prophets and apostles. … So the scolded these Pharisees who appeared devout on the outside, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you are like to white washed sepulchers, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness” (Matthew 23:27).
Today in the last days, what is the condition of our churches? And how do the leading sheep care for the Lord’s churches and the flock? In Mainland China, I once saw and heard what many pastors, elders, and preachers had done. In order to have the believers support and look up to them, and thereby to preserve their respective absolute authority in the church, and more importantly, to firmly control the right to dominate and use the church offerings, they disputed with each other, and even scrambled for the lectern in public, making no concession to each other. In the end, the ones failing in the scramble always took a group of the believers who supported them away from the church and made a fresh start. Whereas, those who consolidated their leadership positions in the church, they did not lead the believers to practice and experience the Lord’s words and commandments, nor led them to seek a way out of sins, or to watch for and seek the Lord’s return; rather, they continued to speak words and doctrines of the which had not the slightest enlightenment and illumination of the Holy Spirit. In their sermons and work, they never exalted God or bore witness to God, nor did they help the believers understand the Lord’s will or demands on the basis of His words so as to resolve real problems. Though they often expounded on the Bible and exalted the Bible, they only explained man’s words in it. They used man’s words to replace God’s words, leaving God’s words behind, so that the believers did not come to know God after listening to their sermons for many years, much less obtained the supply of life. Therefore, the believers all became passive and weak, and their spiritual condition sank downward. Moreover, some of them even followed the wicked trends of the world, such as coveting money, focusing on eating, drinking, and pleasure-seeking, having sexual liaisons, and so forth, deeply caught up in sin. So what difference was there between the churches without the presence of the Lord and the original temple which was reduced to being a den of thieves? What was different about such a group of church leaders and the hypocritical Pharisees before?
After I came overseas, through observing and understanding, I saw there was no essential difference between the situation of the local churches and that of the churches in Mainland China. Due to the excellent economic conditions, people here paid more attention to comfort and pleasures, treating faith in God as a religious belief. It was just a certain rule for them to go to church weekly. Regardless of the solemn religious rituals, the magnificent ornamentation of the churches, or the believers’ donating money enthusiastically, they couldn’t cover up the fact that there was similarly no work of the Holy Spirit here.
A friend who has lived abroad for many years told me, though many brothers and sisters around him as well as he continue to go to meetings, they have been unable to feel the presence and work of the Lord long ago. Very few people in the church focus on practicing the Lord’s requirements and commandments or how to pursue so as to solve the rising problem of their committing sins. The pastors become accustomed to interpreting those fixed verses in the Bible literally. They pay attention to giving sermons about offerings, or like laying hands upon believers, and praying for and blessing them. Yet faced with the believers’ negative condition of being incapable of practicing the Lord’s words, lusting for the trend of the world, and becoming cold in faith and love, they were powerless to do anything. In recent years, with the disasters like earthquakes, pestilences, floods, droughts, famines, and wars growing around the world, and especially the prophecy of the four blood moons having come true, in fact, many people know it in their guts that now is the day of the Lord’s return. However, none of the pastors talk about how to seek the Lord’s footsteps or the work of the Holy Spirit; instead they try by every possible means to seal off the churches, not allowing the believers to seek any messages about the Lord’s return. They often warn the believers: All beliefs beyond the Bible are the heresies. Whoever does not descend on a heavenly white cloud is not the return of the Lord. The returned Lord is to take man into the sky to meet with Him, and so on, using such notions and fallacies to hinder believers from looking for the church with the work of the Holy Spirit. Even if they know perfectly well that there is no presence of the Lord in religion, they would rather confine the believers there and cause them to die of hunger and thirst than lead them to search for the footprints of the Lord’s work and receive the new provision of the living water of life from God. After hearing this, I once again felt surprised. I had thought only Chinese churches were like this, but never thought that it was the same in the overseas churches. My friend said that they had learned that the condition of Christian churches in many countries, including North and South America, Europe, and East Asia were mostly like this.
The recital of my friend made me think again of the religious world at the end of the Age of Law. When the Lord Jesus came to do His work at that time, the Pharisees still made the people keep tightly to the words of the laws and commandments of the Old Testament, not allowing them to seek the words and work of the Lord Jesus. They also tried every excuse to slander and attack the Lord Jesus based on their own notions and imaginings and absurd knowledge of the laws of the Old Testament. For example, they said that the Lord Jesus was not the manifestation of God because His name was not the Messiah. They also said that the Lord Jesus was the son of a carpenter from Nazareth, and was not conceived by the Holy Spirit. When He preached and did His work, He displayed many miracles and great power, so more and more people began to believe in and follow Him. The Pharisees were afraid that the common people would believe in Him and then no one would follow and obey them any longer. In order to preserve their own positions and jobs, they condemned Him more fanatically. They said that the Lord Jesus drove out demons by the prince of demons. In addition, they found fault with Him, saying that He had violated the law by healing on the Sabbath days. This happened all the way until they incited the people to crucify Him, committing a monstrous sin. In consequence, the entire Jewish nation later suffered the loss of its nation for nearly two thousand years, which was the irrefutable evidence of the Pharisees resisting God and devouring man’s soul. Till today, only a few Jews believe in the Lord Jesus; they are still obsessively waiting for the coming of the Messiah. As we can see, the Pharisees were really harmful. Accordingly, the Lord Jesus cursed them at that time. He said, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, you make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves” (Matthew 23:15). “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).
Now is the end of the last days. Yet the church which once belonged to God has become a desolate temple, religious places, and the actions of the so-called head sheep in the churches are the same as that of the Pharisees of the past. This situation makes us feel so strengthless, but arouses our thoughts: Why does the Holy Spirit’s work leave the religious world? Has the Lord returned? The Lord Jesus had promised before He ascended into heaven, “Teaching them to observe all things whatever I have commanded you: and, see, I am with you always, even to the end of the world. Amen” (Matthew 28:20). The Lord is faithful. He said He would be present with all those who kept His word and teachings. So, do these facts that people in the last days cannot hold on to the Lord’s teachings any longer, the churches have become wastelands, and Christians also have lost the Lord’s presence, indicate that the work of the Holy Spirit has shifted, or, more accurately the work of the Holy Spirit has moved forward? Feeling confused, I prayed to the Lord earnestly to seek His will. Thank the Lord. Not long after, He answered my problem.
The other day, a brother came to me and said excitedly that he saw a church was testifying that the Lord has returned on Facebook. They testified that the Lord has returned and expressed new words, that is “what the Spirit says to the churches” (Revelation 2:7) in the last days. Based on these new words of the Lord, they talked from God’s creation of the heavens and earth and all things to the work of both the Old and the New Testament, until they fellowshiped the mysteries in Revelation from the Bible clearly. The Lord’s newest utterances contain rich truths and mysteries, such as: the inside story and the truth of the Bible, the aim of God’s six-thousand-year management work, the mystery of the little scroll, the method by which the Lord does His work in the last days, working in secret first and then revealing Himself openly, the way for us to pursue to be thoroughly purified and then raptured and brought into the kingdom of heaven, how God does judgment work in the last days and rewards the good and punishes the wicked, mankind’s destination and outcome, etc. All these truths and mysteries not understood by man have been disclosed. The Lord has returned. He is waiting for us to seek His voice like the wise virgins, examine the way of truth, follow the footsteps of the Lamb, and welcome the Lord’s return joyfully! The brother also described his sensation of watching videos, dance videos, and the videos and articles on the testimonies of the overcomers when visiting the website of this Church. He and many brothers and sisters around him had confirmed that there is the work of the Holy Spirit in this Church; this should be the church of Philadelphia that appears in the last time as prophesied in Revelation.
Then I saw, from his excited expression, a long-forgotten joy we had experienced together merely when we first believed in the Lord many years ago. The wonderful news he delivered made me feel quite excited, like a good rain after a long drought. Soon, I could hardly wait to visit the official website of the Church of Almighty God according to the web address he told me. …