By Yu Jia
After rain, the air was extraordinarily fresh. Yuxi carefully adjusted her clothes and her hair before going out and then hurriedly rode a bike to Sister Lin’s home to attend a gathering. On her way there, she saw that there were rice fields on each side of the lanes, in which the rice seedlings were especially verdant and vigorous as if they had just been watered. Seeing this scene, she thought: Brothers and sisters are all passive and weak now. If only we can be watered and fed like the rice seedlings! We are watching and waiting for the return of the Lord, yet how should we be watchful so as to welcome the Lord’s arrival? We have already had two fellowships on this subject but none of us has any new light. In pondering these, she arrived at the sister’s home.
Sister Li, a co-worker who was trained by the church, also came to attend the meeting. When they began the meeting, Lin Fang, a preacher, came straight to the point: “The subject of this meeting is still about how to be watchful in welcoming the return of the Lord. All of us are free to express our personal views about it or how we understand it according to .”
Sister Lin said: “The gospel of the has spread to the ends of the universe, and the prophecies of the Lord’s return in the Bible have basically been fulfilled. Nowadays, the moral degeneration of the world is getting worse and worse; men are getting more and more vicious and degenerate; calamities are happening from place to place and there appears wonders in heaven. The Lord should have returned. We must be watching and waiting all the time, for we could be received by the Lord at any time. It seems that we could welcome the return of the Lord in our lifetime!”
Brother Yang, another preacher, said seriously: “It’s true. It’s a pity that many people have anticipated the Lord will come soon, yet they are not watchful in preparing for and awaiting His return!”
Yuxi said: “Then how exactly should we watch and wait so as to welcome the return of the Lord? We have discussed this subject twice, but have no new light, so we must seek the Lord more on this matter in order not to miss the return of the Lord and lose the opportunity to be brought into the kingdom of heaven.”
Nodding her head, Sister Li said thoughtfully: “We are really supposed to watch and wait for the return of the Lord. Recently, such thoughts often crossed my mind: How should we wait to be after the Lord’s will? What does ‘being watchful’ actually refer to?”
Brother Yang said: “In my opinion, ‘being watchful’ mainly refers to praying and reading the Bible frequently, working hard, and moderation in all things. Just as it is said in the Bible: ‘And now, little children, abide in him; that, when he shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming’ (1 John 2:28). As Christians, if we are cautious and self-disciplined like this every day, we will face the Lord with confidence when He returns. Now we are watching and praying in turn around the clock, and our church has set up the watchtower. Only when we constantly watch and wait in this way can we not be abandoned by the Lord at His return.”
At that moment rang the bell. Sister Lin opened the door only to find it was Co-worker Wang of the branch church. She entered into the house and said to Sister Lin breathlessly: “Two days ago, there were two witnesses from Eastern Lightning coming to Sister Cai’s home to testify that the Lord has returned, and that He has expressed a lot of truths and done the work of judgment beginning from the house of God. What they testified was well-founded and we all felt it very good. But Sister Cai drove them away because you had told her that anyone who testifies that the Lord has returned is false and must not be received. We felt it improper for her to do so, and thus I come to discuss this matter with you. What do you think we should do to be after the Lord’s will?”
Brother Yang said: “Thank the Lord. From my perspective, what Sister Cai did is nothing improper because any Lord Jesus who doesn’t come with clouds is a false . When we encounter such things, we should be watchful like this.” Sister Lin agreed: “It’s true!” Hearing these words, Co-worker Wang gave a glance at Yuxi. Then, Sister Li said: “We have been longing for the return of the Lord for so many years. Now since Eastern Lightning is testifying the Lord has returned, we should earnestly seek and investigate it. Yet we just blindly drove them away. I don’t think we did the right thing.” Brother Yang arrogantly said: “There is nothing wrong with driving them away, as it is said in the Bible: ‘he comes with clouds; and every eye shall see him’ (Revelation 1:7). It can be seen that the Lord will return with clouds. We haven’t witnessed this fact, so how could the Lord have returned?”
Sister Li said: “Brothers and sisters, the arrival of the Lord is an important matter. Isn’t it a bit arbitrary to leap to conclusions just according to one simple piece of scripture? At that time, the chief priests and Jewish Pharisees all looked forward to the arrival of the Messiah, and they had grown so familiar with the prophecies of the Messiah. However, when the Lord Jesus was preaching and working, because He did not conform to their conceptions and imaginations, not only did they deny the fact that the Lord Jesus was the Christ, the Messiah, but they even colluded with the Roman government to crucify the Lord Jesus. Consequently, they became the eternal sinners who resisted God, and were punished and cursed by God. In my opinion, we should be cautious in waiting for the return of the Lord so as to avoid offending God. We are not sure whether Eastern Lightning is the appearance and work of God, or whether it is the return of the Lord; if people of Eastern Lightning come to bear witness to the return of the Lord to us again, there is no harm in us actually investigating it before making a decision. What do you think?”
Nodding their heads, both Yuxi and Co-worker Wang said: “It’s true! The return of the Lord is a major event, so we must be cautious lest we lose the opportunity of being raptured into the kingdom of heaven.”
Brother Yang remained unconvinced in his heart, and he gave Sister Li a scornful glance.
Sister Lin said: “What you said makes sense, yet the Bible indeed foretells that the Lord will come with clouds. How do you explain that?”
Sister Li said calmly: “Recently, I’ve frequently studied the scriptures about the return of the Lord. I’ve discovered that these scriptures can be classified into two types. One kind foretells that the Lord will come with clouds, witnessed by all. The other predicts that the Lord will come as a thief, just as it is said in Revelation 3:3: ‘I will come on you as a thief.’ And Matthew 25:6 says: ‘And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom comes; go you out to meet him.’ We can know from these scriptures that there are two kinds of sayings about the return of the Lord: One is that He will come as a thief, and nobody will know it, which means He will, perhaps, come in secret；the other is that He will come with clouds and be seen by all, which means He will, perhaps, appear to all people publicly. My personal understanding is that the Lord may first come in secret, and after His work is finished, He will then publicly appear to all peoples and all nations. Just as when the Lord Jesus did His work: He was first incarnated as to do the work of redeeming mankind through the crucifixion. After the resurrection, He openly appeared to the disciples for 40 days, and then ascended to heaven. It is the fact acknowledged by all.”
Having read what was written in the notebook, Yuxi said with excitement: “It’s likely to be true!”
Sister Lin said: “Sister Li, what you said is wrong. The words ‘as a thief’ and ‘at midnight’ mean that no one knows when the Lord will come. They are not saying that the Lord will come in secret.”
Sister Li said with sincerity: “Sister Lin, my understanding of this is as follows: There are many prophecies in the Bible predicting the return of the Lord will be ‘the coming of the Son of man.’ Just as Luke 17:24-25 says: ‘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.’ When it comes to ‘the Son of man,’ it refers to God’s incarnation. What’s more, the Lord Jesus clearly told us ‘But first must he suffer many things, and be rejected of this generation.’ If the Lord directly appears to the myriad peoples and the myriad nations with clouds as we have imagined, then He will not suffer, much less will He be rejected by this generation. Thus, I think it’s probable that the Lord will be incarnated and descend in secret when He returns in . Just like when the Lord Jesus came to work at the time, no one knew that He was the promised Messiah; Rather, people regarded the Lord as an ordinary man, and even rejected and condemned Him. Therefore, I think ‘as a thief’ and ‘at midnight’ don’t simply mean that no one knows when the Lord will come. They could well be referring to how the Lord will return as the Son of man in secret. In my opinion, all the scriptures prophesying the return of the Son of man refer to the Lord’s descending in secret. For if, when the Lord comes, He becomes flesh as the Son of man instead of coming with clouds, people won’t know him even if they see Him just as when the Lord Jesus came to work, and only in this way can it be called returning in secret. Thus, it’s most likely that the Lord will return as the Son of man to appear and perform His work.”
While pondering these words, Yuxi quickly picked up the Bible and said: “Sister, it’s so good and enlightening that you fellowship it in such way! I’ve read this passage of scripture so many times, yet I haven’t got any light. It seems that only if we ponder and pray more when reading the Bible can we gain the enlightenment and illumination of the Holy Spirit.”
Brother Yang murmured with contempt: “Is the Son of man not the Lord Jesus? Has the suffering of the Lord Jesus not ended? How could He still return as the Son of man?” He shook his head: “It’s impossible, absolutely impossible!”
Listening with great interest, Yuxi said: “Sister Li, if the Lord really comes in secret as the Son of man as this passage of scripture says, then we can’t guarantee that we will recognize Him!”
Sister Li said: “Yes. If the Lord arrives as the Son of man when He returns, will He be resisted, condemned, and abandoned by the whole religious world like when the Lord Jesus worked? If so, we must be more careful as we watch and wait. If someone says that the Lord has returned, and especially if the way He preaches has been again condemned and abandoned by the religious world, then we must investigate it more closely.”
Yuxi asked anxiously: “It’s true. If the Lord really arrives in secret as the Son of man when He returns, then how should we be watchful to welcome His arrival?”
Sister Li said calmly: “With regard to this question, I don’t clearly understand it either. However, it’s mentioned many times in Revelation: ‘He that has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’ In my opinion, we shouldn’t ignore anything involving the return of the Lord. Especially, we should carefully investigate testimonies that the Lord has arrived and that He has spoken words. We should pray more and seek more, and listen to discern whether it is the voice of the Lord. And once we are certain that the Lord has really returned, we must accept Him as soon as possible. Just as Revelation says: ‘Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me’ (Revelation 3:20). This is what it means to be watching and waiting. Watching and waiting does not mean waiting for the Lord Jesus’ coming with clouds to receive us, but means listening out for the voice of the Lord. Only in this way can we find the appearance of the Lord and not miss the return of the Lord. What do you think?”
With little beads of perspiration appearing on her nose, Sister Lin talked to herself: “I also have read this passage of scripture, but how could I not gain this light? The Lord stands at the door and knock? ‘And knock’? Does the Lord knock whilst upon a white cloud? How could He knock at the door if He comes with clouds? I’m really unable to figure this out.”
Yuxi said with worry: “Sister Lin, I think what Sister Li fellowshiped makes sense.”
Sister Li said: “In the future, if people of Eastern Lightning bear testimony to the return of the Lord, we must investigate it carefully. We cannot blindly reject them and casually condemn them anymore. As 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), Eastern Lightning could well be the appearance and work of the returned Lord!”
Sister Lin replied unpleasantly: “The Lord Jesus said: ‘Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many’ (Mark 13:5-6). As far as I am concerned, anyone who does not come with clouds is false and there is no need for us to investigate. As long as we spend more time watching and praying, and having meetings to read the scriptures, we will be able to be received by the Lord when He comes with clouds.”
Brother Yang agreed: “It’s true. The Bible says that there shall arise false Christs during the last days. Therefore, I think we should be careful in such matters in order to avoid being deceived.”
Yuxi said reproachfully and anxiously: “Sister Lin, the words of the Lord Jesus are so clear. Why can’t you understand them? The Lord prophesied that He will return as the Son of man and asked us to be watchful and listen out for God’s voice, yet we just stubbornly hold the view that any Lord Jesus who does not come with clouds is a false Christ. Is it not running contrary to the Lord’s will? Will it not make us those who reject God?”
Sister Li sincerely said: “It’s true. Sister Lin, have we not believed in the Lord for so many years yearning for the Lord’s coming and taking us? If we condemn whoever bears testimony to the return of the Lord as a false Christ, isn’t it easy for us to condemn the Christ incarnate? How unimaginable the consequences will be!”
Sister Lin couldn’t say a word and hung her head in shame …
At dusk, Yuxi was especially delighted on her way home. Humming songs, she thought: I’ve really gained a lot at today’s meeting! I finally understand that the Lord will come in secret first, and then appear openly. More importantly, I finally know how to be watchful in welcoming the return of the Lord. I am no longer perplexed …
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Now, disasters are occurring frequently everywhere. In the Philippines, the pandemic and the famine have not passed yet and powerful Typhoon Molave, Goni and Tropical Storm Atsani have landed. Biblical prophecies of the coming of the Lord have been fulfilled. It stands to reason that the Lord has returned—so why have we yet to welcome His arrival? Will we not be plunged into the great tribulation if this carries on? And just what should we do to welcome the Lord’s coming?