By Sheila, Kenya
Planting the Seed of the Kingdom of Heaven Dream
I was born into a Catholic family, and from the time I was little, my grandmother taught me how to pray and how to observe Catholic rituals. When I was 15, I started to take on the doctrines of Catholicism such as doing good deeds and loving others, and I was participating in all sorts of rituals in the church. The priest would often say that only by being equipped with these doctrines could we be true believers in God, and then when He came we’d be taken up into the kingdom of heaven. So I would frequently tell myself that I absolutely had to observe the church’s rites and actively participate in church activities so I could become someone loved by God, gain His blessings, and be raptured into the kingdom of heaven.
Can I Get Into the Kingdom of Heaven If I’m Unable to Escape the Bonds of Sin?
When I was in college, I noticed that my church friends always seemed very devout when they attended mass, but in their regular lives frequently did things that were offensive to God, like smoking, drinking, and having wild parties. I felt both shock and irritation at this, thinking, “Thetaught us that we have to love our God with our whole hearts, minds, and bodies, and that we should stay away from the enjoyments, tests, and temptations of the world. My church friends appear to on the surface, but in reality they don’t pay any attention at all to working for Him. They even crave worldly things and seek out secular pleasures—isn’t that violating the Lord’s teachings? I can’t be like them. I have to focus on expending myself and working for God.” For that reason, I felt like I loved God more than my church friends did.
However, I discovered that my own spiritual state could not meet the Lord’s requirements. Even though at church I actively participated in all activities and worked enthusiastically, in my regular life I couldn’t keep God’s commandments. For example, whenever I saw that a church friend who was pursuing enjoyments of the flesh seemed happy and free while I was encountering all sorts of difficulties and adversities, I couldn’t help but blame the Lord. When I made a mistake and was scolded by my family, I would usually make excuses and quibble on my own behalf, and I’d get angry about being rebuked. Sometimes my mom would reproach me, saying, “God taught us to be humble and forgiving but you’re not abiding by His words!” Her words were like a slap in the face; I realized that I wasn’t actually upholding God’s words and I felt a lot of self-reproach, that I was a believer in name only. I couldn’t help but begin to reflect, “Why can’t I triumph over sin? Even though I always confess to the priest after sinning and do lots of good deeds to make up for it, after the fact I just commit the same sin. Having faith this way, can I really obtain the Lord’s blessings?” But then I would think of how the priest has taught us: “If we confess to the priest after sinning, our sins will be forgiven. As long as we expend ourselves and work for God and do a lot of good deeds, we can once again attain the His mercy and blessings. As it says in the Bible, ‘I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith. As to the rest, there is laid up for me a crown of justice…’ (2 Timothy 4:7–8).’” I would then feel somewhat comforted—as long as I went to confession often and continued to work and expend myself for God, I still had hope of getting into the kingdom. So, I continued on busily performing good deeds, working hard and making sacrifices.
A Facebook Post Gives Me Food for Thought
One day in 2017, I opened up Facebook to see what was new that day and was scrolling through just like always when I saw that a sister named Betty had made this post: “Though many people believe in God, few understand what faith in God means, and what they must do to be after God’s heart. … ‘Belief in God’ means believing that there is a God; this is the simplest concept of faith in God. What’s more, believing that there is a God is not the same as truly believing in God; rather, it is a kind of simple faith with strong religious overtones. True faith in God means experiencing the words and work of God based on a belief that God holds sovereignty over all things. So you shall be freed of your corrupt disposition, shall fulfill the desire of God, and shall come to know God. Only through such a journey can you be said to believe in God. Yet people often see belief in God as something very simple and frivolous. The belief of such people is meaningless and shall never gain the approval of God, because they tread the wrong path. Today, there are still those who believe in God in letters, in hollow doctrines. They are unaware that their belief in God has no substance, and that they are unable to gain the approval of God, and they still pray for peace and sufficient grace from God. We should stop and ask ourselves: Could believing in God really be the easiest thing on earth? Does believing in God mean nothing more than receiving much grace from God? Can people who believe in God but do not know Him, and believe in God yet oppose Him, really fulfill the desire of God?” (Preface to The Word Appears in the Flesh). These words were really new and different and immediately took hold of my heart. I’d never heard anything like them before, and particularly the last few sentences were things I had never considered before. I thought, “These words are wonderful! Who said them? They reveal the significance of faith and our goals in believing in God in such a short passage!” I pondered these words, and for the first time quieted my heart and considered my own faith. I thought of how over these years of being a Catholic, even though I frequently participated in all sorts of activities and rituals organized by the church, proactively worked for the church, did good deeds in the community, had suffered a bit and paid a bit of a price, I really had been doing all of that so that I and my family would be blessed and protected by God. Even more, it was so that I could get into the kingdom of heaven in the future. I had always thought that seeking that way was correct and that that kind of faith was acceptable to God and would gain His blessings and approval. But after reading this passage, I started to have a faint sense that the significance of believing in God is very profound, and working hard, giving things up, and expending myself just in return for the blessings of the kingdom of heaven wasn’t truly loving God. How could that kind of faith gain God’s approval? This was like a wake-up call for my heart—I couldn’t help but develop doubts regarding my own dream of the kingdom of heaven. But then I thought back to the 20-odd years I had been a believer. I had persisted in working for the church; could all my hardship and the price I’d paid really all be in vain?
The more I mulled over what Sister Betty had posted, the more I hoped that she would put more words like this up to resolve the misgivings in my heart. I decided to send her a chat request and establish a friendly relationship. She responded very quickly and introduced me to Sister Lily as well, saying we could have online gatherings. I agreed very happily.
Figuring Out the Relationship Between Hard Work and Entering the Kingdom of Heaven
While we were gathering, we first shared our own experiences of faith, and then I shared my feelings from reading what Betty had posted. I said, “That passage is really well put and it’s very practical. I realized that my faith in God was just to gain blessings, not out of true love for God. But I’m still a bit confused, because in the Bible it says, ‘I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith. As to the rest, there is laid up for me a crown of justice …’ and the priest often tells us that as long as we continue on working and expending ourselves for God and do many good deeds, in the future we’ll be blessed by God and get into the kingdom of heaven. All these years I’ve been a believer, I’ve persisted in working hard and giving what I have; could it be that none of that will be commemorated by God?”
Sister Lily said, “It’s really not easy for us to recognize that we believe in God to gain blessings instead out of real love for Him. This is God’s enlightenment and guidance—thanks be to God! We don’t fully understand the truth regarding what kind of person really can get into the kingdom of heaven, which is why these kinds of confusions arise. In fact, many believers think that even though we frequently sin and cannot uphold God’s teachings, as long as we confess to the priest, do a lot of good deeds, and continue to work, give things up, and expend for God we will be accepted by God. Then when He comes, we’ll get into the kingdom of heaven. But is this perspective correct? Is there any basis for this in God’s word? By looking through the Bible we can readily discover that neither Yahweh nor the Lord Jesus said anything like that, nor did the Holy Spirit. Those were Timothy’s words; they are human words, and they just represent a personal opinion. The only portions in the Bible that are the word of God, that are the truth are those spoken by Yahweh, those spoken by Yahweh through prophets, and those from the Lord Jesus. The disciples’ and apostles’ words are not the truth and in spite of the fact that they’re recorded in the Bible, they are just words of man and they only represent their personal experiences and understandings of God’s words, and their own views. Even though they do contain the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit, they can’t be referred to as the words of God. This is why we have to go by the words of God on something so important as entering the kingdom of heaven. If we act according to the words of man we’ll very likely stray from the Lord’s way.
“So then what kind of person can actually get into the kingdom of heaven? The Lord told us very clearly: ‘Not every one that saith to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven: but he that doth the will of my Father who is in heaven, he shall enter into the kingdom of heaven’ (Matthew 7:21). We can see from God’s words that when God weighs whether people meet the standards for entering the kingdom of heaven, it’s not according to how much they gave up or expended themselves, but it’s according to whether they follow the heavenly Father’s will. That is, those whomust be people who cast off sin and achieve purification, who adhere to God’s way, and are able to obey, love, and worship Him. If we work hard, give things up, and expend ourselves a lot but don’t adhere to God’s words, instead frequently sinning and opposing God, then we are evildoers and cannot enter the kingdom of heaven. Just like the Jewish Pharisees who opposed the Lord—they were always in the temple serving God and they traveled to the ends of the earth spreading the of Yahweh. In people’s eyes, they worked very hard, gave up a lot, and gave everything they had and should have been most worthy of God’s approval. However, God condemned them as hypocrites and cursed them, saying that they were the ilk of poisonous snakes and sons of hell. The Pharisees had that kind of outcome mainly because, in spite of their hard work, behind it all they were conducting transactions with God in exchange for God bestowing blessings upon them. It was particularly to maintain their own status and their living. The Pharisees were arrogant by nature and lacking any reverence for God. They didn’t exalt or bear witness to God in their sermons, but instead always showed themselves off and used their superficial good behavior to hoodwink believers. They brought believers in front of themselves to have them worship, look up to, and follow them instead of God. When the Lord Jesus was working, the Pharisees became open enemies of the Lord to protect their status and living, madly condemning and blaspheming the Lord Jesus. They did everything in their power to prevent believers from following Him, and ultimately even went into league with the Roman government to nail Him to the cross. This seriously offended God’s disposition and earned them punishment from God. This proves that even if people are able to work hard and give some things up, it doesn’t mean that they are those who follow . Without being cleansed of their sins, even if they do make sacrifices and expend themselves, they may still do evil and oppose God. If we hold ourselves up to this, we see that even though we seem to work hard on the outside and we are happy to be good Samaritans, helping and supporting our brothers and sisters, our aim is to be blessed and get into the kingdom of heaven. When God blesses us we give thanks and praise to Him, but when we encounter difficulties or disasters, we misunderstand and blame God, or even betray Him. We’re bombastic in our work and sermons, bragging about how much we’ve suffered and how much work we’ve done so that other believers approve of us, look up to us, and adore us. It’s not to repay God’s love or allow believers to understand God’s will and requirements, but it’s to seek name and status. When we encounter undesirable people, events, or things in our lives we lose our temper and cannot adhere to the word of God. The list goes on. We can see from this that our hard work, sacrifices, and efforts are not to love or satisfy God, but are just transactional, to exploit and cheat God to satisfy our own ambitions and desires. How could people like us who are constantly living in sin be considered those who follow the heavenly Father’s will? God is holy and He requires us to thoroughly cast off the binds of sin and achieve purification—that’s the only way we’ll be able to see His face. But we are currently filled with filth, so how could we be brought into the heavenly kingdom by God? Only by casting off sinfulness and becoming people who observe God’s will can we gain God’s approval and be worthy of entering the kingdom of heaven.”
While listening to this, I thought, “It’s true. God never said that people who work and suffer a lot will be able to get into the kingdom of heaven. Instead, He said that only those who follow the will of the heavenly Father will get in. It turns out that all these years of sticking to Timothy’s words we’ve been wrong, and it’s entirely contrary to what God requires. When I think of these past years, even though I’ve been toiling away in the church and doing lots of good deeds, it was all to be blessed and get into the kingdom of heaven—it was just to conduct transactions with God, not at all for the sake of loving and satisfying Him. In addition, I still blame God when I encounter adversity and after I do something wrong I still argue and lie on my own behalf. Even after confessing I continue to sin frequently. How could I be considered someone who follows God’s will?” At this point, I said to Sister Lily, “I always used to think that working hard would get me a ticket into the kingdom of heaven, but through today’s fellowship on these Scriptures I’ve realized that this kind of faith is not in line with God’s will. I’ve also come to see that only those who cast off sin and are cleansed, and become people who can uphold God’s will can enter into the kingdom of heaven. But I am still bound by sin and I don’t know how I can escape from this and be cleansed. Can you share more fellowship with me?”
The Path to Being Cleansed and Entering the Heavenly Kingdom
Sister Lily said, “Thanks be to God! You’re completely right. If we want to get into the kingdom of heaven, we absolutely have to resolve the issue of our sinfulness. So how can we escape from our sinful natures and be cleansed? For this, we have to understand the Lord Jesus’ work and the outcomes it achieved as well as the path to fully casting off sin. Let’s first read several passages of God’s words: ‘A sinner such as you, who has just been redeemed, and has not been changed, or been perfected by God, can you be after God’s heart? 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’ in The Word Appears in the Flesh). ‘Though Jesus did much work among man, He only completed the redemption of all mankind and became man’s sin offering, and did not rid man of all his corrupt disposition. Fully saving man from the influence of Satan not only required Jesus to take on the sins of man as the sin offering, but also required God to do greater work to completely rid man of his disposition, which has been corrupted by Satan. And so, after man was forgiven his sins, God has returned to flesh to lead man into the new age, and begun the work of chastisement and judgment, and this work has brought man into a higher realm. All those who submit under His dominion shall enjoy higher truth and receive greater blessings. They shall truly live in the light, and shall gain the truth, the way, and the life’ (Preface to The Word Appears in the Flesh).”
Sister Lily shared this fellowship: “We can see from God’s words that He works to save mankind based on His management plan and mankind’s need. Just as in the later stage of the Age of Law when we as humans were sinning more and more, we could not keep the laws or commandments, and we were faced with the danger of being put to death under the law, God incarnated as the Lord Jesus in accordance with the needs of the people of the time. He was crucified for the sake of mankind and redeemed humanity of sin so that we could be freed from the condemnation and curse of the law. By accepting the Lord Jesus’ salvation, as long as we confess our sins to God and repent, they will be forgiven and we will be able to bask in the grace and blessings bestowed by the Lord. These are the outcomes achieved by the Lord Jesus’ work. Although He redeemed us of our sins, He did not pardon our corrupt dispositions or sinful natures. Since we were corrupted by Satan our dispositions have become incredibly arrogant, crooked and deceitful, selfish and despicable, evil and greedy, annoyed with the truth and loving of unrighteousness. We’re controlled by these corrupt dispositions and we often can’t help but sin and oppose God, struggle with others over name and benefit, be jealous and divisive, lie and cheat, elevate and bear witness to ourselves, and so on. For example, we’re controlled by our selfish natures and in all things uphold our own interests. The moment someone else impinges upon our interests, we have conflict and lose our temper, or even start to hate them. We don’t have the slightest tolerance or patience for others, and even our work and sacrifices are just done in exchange for God’s blessings, to gain rewards and enter into the kingdom of heaven. Dominated by our arrogant natures we always want to be on top, and want others to follow what we say, cling to our own views, be unwilling to accept others’ suggestions, be jealous and discontent when we see others excel more than we do, and even stifle or rebuke others in order to maintain our own status. Controlled by our own crafty natures, we are often disingenuous, make false declarations, and cover up our own errors in order to protect our own interests, face, and status. We can see from this that these satanic natures are the root of what leads us to be sinful, and if we don’t get rid of them we’ll never stop sinning and opposing God; we’ll never be worthy of entering into the kingdom of heaven. God’s goal in developing His work of management is to fully save us from sinfulness so that we may gain God’s blessings and promises. This is why God of the last days is doing the step of the work of judgment beginning with the house of God on the foundation of the Lord Jesus’ work to thoroughly transform and cleanse us of our satanic dispositions so that we can cast off the bonds of sin and be gained by God, thus fulfilling our dream of heavenly kingdom. Just as the Lord once prophesied: ‘He that despiseth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him; the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day’ (John 12:48). He clearly told us that in the last days He will return and express many truths, and complete the work of judging and cleansing man with words, pointing out the path for us to rid ourselves of our corrupt dispositions. This will allow us to be completely cleansed and become people who truly obey and fear God. So only if we accept God’s work of judgment in the last days can our corrupt dispositions be cleansed; that’s our only hope for getting into the kingdom of heaven.”
After hearing Sister Lily’s fellowship I finally understood that the Lord did the work of redemption, and that because of our faith in Him we have been absolved of our sins, but our inner sinful natures have not been cleansed. This is why we still live within the vicious cycle of sinning, confessing, and sinning again. If we want to escape from sin, we must accept the judgment and cleansing work done by God in the last days as this is the only way our corrupt dispositions can be purified and we can become people who truly love and obey God and we can be qualified to enter the kingdom of heaven. I was thrilled to hear that God would return to express truths and do the work of judgment because God would tell us how to escape from the shackles of sin, and that would give me hope for getting into the kingdom of heaven. Thanks be to God! It was getting late, so I didn’t continue on with the fellowship, but set a time to fellowship with them again the next day.
God Returned Long Ago
In our fellowship the following day, Sister Lily played a recording of a recitation for me, “The Savior Has Already Returned Upon a ‘White Cloud.’” Hearing this was really moving for me; I felt that these words were really authoritative. These words clearly explain how God will return on a cloud and tell us that our hope for Him to descend from the skies on a cloud comes entirely from our own notions and imaginations; the white cloud that God speaks of is not a material cloud that we can see in the sky, but it refers to the words uttered by the Lord Jesus when He returns in the last days. Then, Sister Lily said to me excitedly, “Sheila, the truth is that the Lord Jesus we’ve been long awaiting returned some time ago. He is Almighty God in the flesh. He has expressed many truths and is doing the work of judgment beginning with the house of God. The words that I read for you in yesterday’s gathering as well as the recitation you heard today are all words personally uttered by Almighty God. Almighty God has come and broken the seven seals, opening up the scroll and unveiling the mysteries we’ve never understood all these generations. He has also bestowed upon us all truths for us to gain salvation and be cleansed. This is what the Holy Spirit spoke of to all the churches. Now, Almighty God’s work of the last days has spread all over the world, and His words have been translated into more than 20 languages and published online so that people from all over the world who hungrily seek God’s appearance can investigate them. Many from all denominations who truly believe in God and thirst for the truth have recognized the voice of God from reading Almighty God’s words and they have accepted His work of the last days in droves, returning before His throne and following God’s footsteps. That we are able to hear God’s voice today is entirely His guidance—we are all so blessed!”
Hearing the news that the Lord has returned, I felt elated and incredibly excited. It turned out that the recitation she had just played plus the words we had read the day before were all the words of God—no wonder they were so authoritative! I hadn’t imagined I’d be able to welcome the Lord’s return. I was so happy!
Sister Lily then shared more fellowship with me about how God uses words to do the work of judgment in the last days, and she read these words of Almighty God: “When God becomes flesh this time, His work is to express His disposition, primarily through chastisement and judgment. Using this as the foundation, He brings more truth to man, shows more ways of practice, and so achieves His objective of conquering man and saving man from his corrupt disposition. This is what lies behind the work of God in the Age of Kingdom” (Preface to The Word Appears in the Flesh). “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 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” (“Christ Does the Work of Judgment With the Truth” in The Word Appears in the Flesh).
After reading God’s words, Sister Lily shared this fellowship: “God’s words are very clear. Almighty God of the last days does the work of judgment and cleansing of man with words. God in the flesh has expressed all truths so that mankind can be fully saved—these truths are abundant and they reveal God’s righteous, majestic, and inviolable disposition to us, exposing our satanic dispositions as well as our nature and essence of opposing God. They judge and reveal our incorrect perspectives on faith as well as our notions and imaginings about God. They also tell us how to be honest people, what kind of service is in line with God’s will, and how to submit to and love God in all sorts of environments. They tell us how to achieve true fear of God, how to shun evil, and how to be compatible with Christ. By reading God’s words and undergoing His work and through what is revealed in our encounters with reality, we see that our satanic, corrupt dispositions of being arrogant, selfish, despicable, crooked, and deceitful are very deeply entrenched, and no matter what we do we always have our own motives and goals. Even in our work and sermons, it’s for the sake of name and status; we’re always showing off in front of others so that people look up to us. It’s not at all to exalt or bear witness to God. When God’s work isn’t in line with our notions, we delimit and judge Him. We are totally lacking true submission to God. In performing our duty we long for the comforts of the flesh, often muddling through and cheating God; we are totally lacking in devotion to Him. It’s only then that we see how deeply Satan has corrupted us, that we’re totally lacking conscience, reason, character, and dignity, and that we’re unworthy of being called human. Then we also begin to hate our own corrupt dispositions and become willing to forsake the flesh and put God’s words into practice. By undergoing God’s judgment and chastisement we come to know that God likes honest people and those who put the truth into practice, while He is disgusted by and hates deceitful people and those who are well aware of the truth but continue to rebel against and oppose God, relying on their corrupt dispositions. We come to understand God’s will and requirements and gain genuine understanding of His righteous disposition; our reverence for God gradually increases and we see that His judgment and chastisement of us are His love and salvation. By continuing to experience this way, we forsake the flesh and practice God’s words more and more, and our satanic, corrupt dispositions gradually fade. We start to live out the likeness of an honest person. All of this is the fruit of God’s judgment and chastisement.”
After hearing her fellowship I felt that God’s judgment work of the last days really is incredibly practical, it truly can transform and purify people, and my dream of the kingdom of heaven finally has hope of being realized! I also had a sense of God’s earnest intentions in saving mankind—I was very moved. I was looking forward to reading more of Almighty God’s words and coming to understand God’s work of judgment.
In a later fellowship, Sister Lily shared more fellowship with me on truths such as the mysteries of God’s incarnations, how Satan corrupts mankind, how God saves humanity step by step, the inside story of the Bible, and mankind’s future destination and outcome. These were all truths I had never heard before over more than two decades of faith. The more I read Almighty God’s words, the more certain I became in my heart that this was the voice of God, because only God in the flesh could express words with such authority and power. Aside from God, who could reveal the truth of our corruption by Satan? Who could point out the errors in our belief and direct us onto the correct path of faith? And who could reveal the mysteries of God’s 6,000-year management plan and tell us what our future outcome and destination are? Only God can save us from the forces of Satan so that we may escape from the bonds of sin, and point us onto the path of being cleansed and attaining full salvation. Only He can bring us to a beautiful final destination. I confirmed from my heart that Almighty God is the returned Lord, that He is the appearance of Christ in the last days. I very happily accepted Almighty God’s work of the last days.
I give thanks to God for selecting me; I am so fortunate to have heard His words in the last days, accepted His judgment work, and had the opportunity for my dream of the heavenly kingdom to be realized. I must earnestly pursue the truth and a change in disposition, and become someone who puts God’s will into practice so I can repay His great love!