3. Knowing the Purpose and Significance of Each of the Three Stages of God’s Work.
Relevant Words of God:
At this time, the significance, purpose, and phases of Jehovah’s work in Israel were to initiate His work on the whole earth, which, taking Israel as its center, gradually spread into the Gentile nations. This is the principle according to which He works throughout the universe — to establish a model and then broaden it until all people in the universe shall have received His gospel.
The first Israelites were the descendants of Noah. These people were endowed only with the breath of Jehovah, and understood enough to take care of the basic necessities of life, but they did not know what kind of a God Jehovah was, or His will for man, much less how they should revere the Lord of all creation. As for whether there were rules and laws to be obeyed, and whether there was work that created beings should do for the Creator: Adam’s descendants knew nothing of these things. All they knew was that the husband should sweat and labor to provide for his family, and that the wife should submit to her husband and perpetuate the race of humans that Jehovah had created. In other words, this people, who had only Jehovah’s breath and His life, knew nothing of how to follow God’s laws or how to satisfy the Lord of all creation. They understood far too little. So even though there was nothing crooked or deceitful in their hearts and jealousy and contention seldom arose among them, nevertheless they had no knowledge or understanding of Jehovah, the Lord of all creation. These ancestors of man knew only to eat the things of Jehovah, and to enjoy the things of Jehovah, but they did not know to revere Jehovah; they did not know that Jehovah is the One they should worship on bended knee. So how could they be called His creatures? If this were so, what of the words, “Jehovah is the Lord of all creation” and “He created man in order that man might manifest Him, glorify Him, and represent Him” — would they not have been spoken in vain? How could people who have no reverence for Jehovah become a testimony to His glory? How could they become manifestations of His glory? Would not Jehovah’s words “I created man in My image” then become a weapon in the hands of Satan — the evil one? Would these words not then become a mark of humiliation to Jehovah’s creation of man? In order to complete that stage of work, Jehovah, after creating mankind, did not instruct or guide them from the time of Adam to that of Noah. Rather, it was not until after the flood destroyed the world that He formally began to guide the Israelites, who were the descendants of Noah and also of Adam. His work and utterances in Israel gave guidance to all the people of Israel as they lived their lives throughout the land of Israel, and in this way showed humanity that Jehovah was not only able to blow breath into man, that he might have life from Him and rise up from the dust into a created human being, but that He could also incinerate mankind, and curse mankind, and use His rod to govern mankind. So, too, did they see that Jehovah could guide man’s life on earth, and speak and work among humanity according to the hours of the day and of the night. He did the work only so that His creatures might know that man came from dust picked up by Him, and moreover that man had been made by Him. Not only this, but the work He began in Israel was meant so that other peoples and nations (who in fact were not separate from Israel, but rather had branched off from the Israelites, yet were still descended from Adam and Eve) might receive the gospel of Jehovah from Israel, so that all created beings in the universe might be able to revere Jehovah and hold Him to be great. Had Jehovah not begun His work in Israel, but instead, having created mankind, let them live carefree lives on the earth, then in that case, owing to man’s physical nature (nature means that man can never know the things he cannot see, which is to say that he would not know that it was Jehovah who created mankind, and even less why He did so), he would never know that it was Jehovah who created mankind or that He is the Lord of all creation. If Jehovah had created man and placed him on the earth to be an object for His own enjoyment, and then simply dusted off His hands and left, rather than remaining among mankind to give them guidance for a period of time, then in that case all humanity would have returned to nothingness; even heaven and earth and all the myriad things of His making, and all of humanity, would have returned to nothingness and moreover have been trampled upon by Satan. In this way Jehovah’s wish that “On the earth, that is, in the midst of His creation, He should have a place to stand, a holy place” would have been shattered. And so, after creating mankind, that He was able to remain in their midst to guide them in their lives, and speak to them from within their midst, all this was in order to realize His desire, and to achieve His plan. The work He did in Israel was meant only to execute the plan He had set in place before His creation of all things, and therefore His working first among the Israelites and His creation of all things were not at odds with each other, but were both for the sake of His management, His work, and His glory, and also in order to deepen the meaning of His creation of mankind. He guided the life of mankind on earth for two thousand years after Noah, during which He taught humanity to understand how to revere Jehovah the Lord of all creation, how to conduct their lives and how to go on living, and most of all, how to act as a witness for Jehovah, render Him obedience, and give Him reverence, even praising Him with music as did David and his priests.
Prior to the two thousand years during which Jehovah did His work, man knew nothing, and almost all humanity had fallen into depravity, until, before the destruction of the world by the flood, they had reached a depth of promiscuity and corruption in which their hearts were empty of Jehovah, and even emptier of His way. They never understood the work Jehovah was going to do; they lacked reason, had even less of knowledge, and, like a machine that breathes, were consummately ignorant of man, God, the world, life and alike. On earth they engaged in many seductions, like the serpent, and said many things that were offensive to Jehovah, but because they were ignorant Jehovah did not chastise or discipline them. Only after the flood, when Noah was 601 years old, did Jehovah formally appear to Noah and guide him and his family, leading the birds and beasts that had survived the flood along with Noah and his descendants, until the end of the Age of Law, in all 2,500 years. He was at work in Israel, that is, formally at work, for a total of 2,000 years, and at work simultaneously in Israel and outside of it for 500 years, together making 2,500 years. During this period, He instructed the Israelites that to serve Jehovah, they should build a temple, put on priestly robes, and walk barefoot into the temple at dawn, lest their shoes sully the temple and the fire be sent down on them from the top of the temple and burn them to death. They carried out their duties and submitted to Jehovah’s plans. They prayed to Jehovah in the temple, and after receiving Jehovah’s revelation, that is, after Jehovah had spoken, they led the multitudes and taught them that they should show reverence to Jehovah — their God. And Jehovah told them that they should build a temple and an altar, and at the time set by Jehovah, that is, on Passover, they should prepare newborn calves and lambs to place on the altar as sacrifices to serve Jehovah, so as to restrain them and put reverence for Jehovah in their hearts. Whether they obeyed this law became the measure of their loyalty to Jehovah. Jehovah also ordained the Sabbath day for them, the seventh day of His creation. The day after the Sabbath He made the first day, a day for them to praise Jehovah, to offer Him sacrifices, and to make music for Him. On this day, Jehovah called together all the priests to divide the sacrifices on the altar for the people to eat, so that they could enjoy the sacrifices on Jehovah’s altar. And Jehovah said that they were blessed, that they shared a portion with Him, and that they were His chosen people (which was Jehovah’s covenant with the Israelites). This is why, up to this day, the people of Israel still say that Jehovah is only their God, and not the God of other peoples.
During the Age of Law, Jehovah laid down many commandments for Moses to pass on to the Israelites who followed him out of Egypt. These commandments were given by Jehovah to the Israelites, and bore no relation to the Egyptians; they were meant to restrain the Israelites. God used the commandments to demand of them. Whether they observed the Sabbath, whether they respected their parents, whether they worshiped idols, and so forth: these were the principles by which they were judged sinful or righteous. Among them, there were some who were stricken by Jehovah’s fire, some who were stoned to death, and some who received Jehovah’s blessing, and this was determined according to whether or not they obeyed these commandments. Those who did not observe the Sabbath would be stoned to death. Those priests who did not observe the Sabbath would be stricken by Jehovah’s fire. Those who did not show respect to their parents would also be stoned to death. This was all commended by Jehovah. Jehovah established His commandments and laws so that, as He led them in their lives, the people would listen to and obey His word and not rebel against Him. He used these laws to keep the newborn human race under control, the better to lay the foundation for His future work. And so, based on the work that Jehovah did, the first age was called the Age of Law. Though Jehovah made many utterances and did much work, He only guided the people positively, teaching these ignorant people how to be human, how to live, how to understand Jehovah’s way. For the most part, the work He did was to cause the people to observe His way and follow His laws. The work was done on people who were shallowly corrupted; it did not extend as far as transforming their disposition or progress in life. He was only concerned with using laws to restrict and control the people. For the Israelites at that time, Jehovah was merely a God in the temple, a God in the heavens. He was a pillar of cloud, a pillar of fire. All Jehovah required them to do was obey what people today know as His laws and commandments — one could even say rules — because what Jehovah did was not meant to transform them, but to give them more things that man ought to have, to instruct them from His own mouth, because after being created, man had nothing about what he ought to possess. And so, Jehovah gave to the people the things they ought to possess for their lives on earth, making the people that He had led surpass their ancestors, Adam and Eve, because what Jehovah gave them surpassed what He had given Adam and Eve in the beginning. Regardless, the work Jehovah did in Israel was only to guide humanity and make humanity recognize their Creator. He did not conquer them or transform them, but merely guided them. This is the sum of Jehovah’s work in the Age of Law. It is the background, the true story, the essence of His work in the whole land of Israel, and the beginning of His six thousand years of work — to keep mankind under the control of Jehovah’s hand. Out of this was born more work in His six-thousand-year management plan.
from “The Work in the Age of Law” in The Word Appears in the Flesh
In the Age of Grace, man had already undergone Satan’s corruption, and so the work of redeeming all humanity required an abundance of grace, infinite forbearance and patience, and even more, an offering sufficient to atone for humanity’s sins, in order to arrive at its effect. What humanity saw in the Age of Grace was merely My offering of atonement for the sins of humanity, that is, Jesus. All they knew was that God could be merciful and forbearing, and all they saw was Jesus’ mercy and lovingkindness. This was entirely because they lived in the Age of Grace. And so, before they could be redeemed, they had to enjoy the many kinds of grace that Jesus bestowed on them; only this was beneficial to them. This way, they could be forgiven of their sins through their enjoyment of grace, and could also have the chance to be redeemed through enjoying Jesus’ forbearance and patience. Only through Jesus’ forbearance and patience did they win the right to receive forgiveness and enjoy the abundance of grace bestowed by Jesus — just as Jesus said, “I have come to redeem not the righteous but sinners, to allow sinners to be forgiven of their sins.” If Jesus had been incarnated with the disposition of judgment, curse, and intolerance of man’s offenses, then man would never have had the chance to be redeemed, and would then have remained forever sinful. Had this been so, the six-thousand-year management plan would have come to a stop in the Age of Law, and the Age of Law would have been prolonged for six thousand years. Man’s sins would only have grown more numerous and more grievous, and the creation of humanity would have been for naught. Men would only have been able to serve Jehovah under the law, but their sins would have exceeded those of the first created humans. The more Jesus loved mankind, forgiving them their sins and bringing unto them enough mercy and lovingkindness, the more mankind gained the capacity to be saved, to be called the lost lambs that Jesus bought back at a great price. Satan could not meddle in this work, because Jesus treated His followers as a loving mother treats the infant in her bosom. He did not grow angry at them or despise them, but was full of consolation; He never flew into a rage in their midst, but forbore with their sins and turned a blind eye to their foolishness and ignorance, to the point of saying, “Forgive others seventy times seven times.” So His heart transformed the hearts of others. It was in this way that the people received forgiveness of sins through His forbearance.
from “The True Story Behind Work in the Age of Redemption” in The Word Appears in the Flesh
Because that was a different age, He often bestowed plentiful food and drink upon the people so that they could eat their fill. He treated all His followers with grace, healing the sick, driving out demons, raising the dead. In order that the people might believe in Him and see that all that He did was done earnestly and sincerely, He went so far as to resurrect a rotting corpse, showing them that in His hands even the dead could come back to life. In this way He endured silently and did His work of redemption in their midst. Even before He was nailed to the cross, Jesus had already taken upon Himself the sins of humanity and become a sin offering for mankind. Even before being crucified, He had already opened the way to the cross in order to redeem mankind. At last He was nailed to the cross, sacrificing Himself for the sake of the cross, and He bestowed all of His mercy, lovingkindness, and holiness upon mankind.
from “The True Story Behind Work in the Age of Redemption” in The Word Appears in the Flesh
Without Jesus’ redemption, mankind would forever have lived in sin, and become the children of sin, the descendants of demons. Going on in this way, the entire earth would have become a lodging place for Satan, a place for its habitation. But the work of redemption required showing mercy and lovingkindness toward mankind; only by this means could mankind receive forgiveness and at last win the right to be made complete and fully gained. Without this stage of work, the six-thousand-year management plan would not have been able to go forward. If Jesus had not been crucified, if He had only healed the people and exorcised their demons, then the people could not have been completely forgiven of their sins. In the three and a half years that Jesus spent doing His work on earth, He completed only half of His work of redemption; then, by being nailed to the cross and becoming the likeness of sinful flesh, by being handed over to the evil one, He completed the work of crucifixion and mastered mankind’s destiny. Only after He was delivered into Satan’s hands did He redeem mankind. For thirty-three and a half years He suffered on earth, being ridiculed, slandered, and forsaken, even to the point where He had no place to lay His head, no place of rest; then He was crucified, with His whole being — an immaculate and innocent body — nailed to the cross, and underwent all manner of suffering. Those in power mocked and scourged Him, and the soldiers even spat in His face; yet He remained silent and endured until the end, submitting unconditionally to the point of death, whereupon He redeemed all of humanity. Only then was He permitted to rest.
from “The True Story Behind Work in the Age of Redemption” in The Word Appears in the Flesh
As for the work of the Age of Grace, Jesus was the God who saved man. What He had and was was grace, love, compassion, forbearance, patience, humility, care, and tolerance, and so much of the work that He did was the redemption of man. As for His disposition, it was one of compassion and love, and because He was compassionate and loving, He had to be nailed to the cross for man, in order to show that God loved man as Himself, so much so that He offered up Himself in His entirety. Satan said, “Since You love man, You must then love him to the ultimate extreme: You must be nailed to the cross, to deliver man from the cross, from sin, and You shall offer up Yourself in exchange for all of mankind.” Satan made the following wager: “Since You are a loving and compassionate God, You must love man to the ultimate extreme: You should then offer Yourself up to the cross.” Jesus replied, “As long as it is for mankind, I am willing to lay down My all.” And then He went up onto the cross without the slightest self-regard, and redeemed the whole of mankind. During the Age of Grace, the name of God was Jesus, that is to say, God was a God who saved man, and He was a compassionate and loving God. God was with man. His love, His compassion, and His salvation accompanied each and every person. Only by accepting the name of Jesus and His presence was man able to gain peace and joy, to receive His blessing, His vast and numerous graces, and His salvation. Through the crucifixion of Jesus, all those who followed Him received salvation and were forgiven their sins. During the Age of Grace, Jesus was the name of God. In other words, the work of the Age of Grace was done principally under the name of Jesus. During the Age of Grace, God was called Jesus. He undertook a stage of new work beyond the Old Testament, and His work ended with the crucifixion. This was the entirety of His work.
from “The Vision of God’s Work (3)” in The Word Appears in the Flesh
To man, God’s crucifixion concluded the work of God’s incarnation, redeemed all of mankind, and allowed Him to seize the key to Hades. Everyone thinks God’s work has been fully accomplished. In actuality, to God, only a small part of His work has been accomplished. He has only redeemed mankind; He has not conquered mankind, let alone changed the ugliness of Satan in man. That is why God says, “Although My incarnate flesh went through the pain of death, that was not the whole goal of My incarnation. Jesus is My beloved Son and was nailed to the cross for Me, but He did not fully conclude My work. He only did a portion of it.” Thus God began the second round of plans to continue the work of the incarnation. God’s ultimate intention is to perfect and gain everyone rescued from Satan’s hands….
from “Work and Entry (6)” in The Word Appears in the Flesh
The work of the last days is to speak words. Great changes can be effected in man by means of words. The changes now effected in these people upon their accepting these words are much greater than those effected in people upon their accepting the signs and wonders of the Age of Grace. For, in the Age of Grace, the demons were cast out from man with the laying on of hands and prayer, but the corrupt dispositions within man still remained. Man was healed of his sickness and forgiven his sins, but as for just how man was to be purged of the corrupt satanic dispositions within him, this work had yet to be done. Man was only saved and forgiven his sins for his faith, but the sinful nature of man was not extirpated and still remained within him. The sins of man were forgiven through the agency of the incarnate God, but this does not mean that man no longer has sin within him. The sins of man could be forgiven through the sin offering, but as for just how man can be made to sin no more, and how his sinful nature may be extirpated completely and transformed, he has no way of solving this problem. The sins of man were forgiven, and this is because of the work of God’s crucifixion, but man continued to live within the corrupt satanic disposition of old. This being so, man must be completely saved from his corrupt satanic disposition, so that his sinful nature may be completely extirpated, never to develop again, thus enabling the disposition of man to be transformed. This would require man to grasp the path of growth in life, to grasp the way of life, and to grasp the way to change his disposition. Furthermore, it would require man to act in accordance with this path, so that his disposition may gradually be changed and he may live under the shining of the light, so that all that he does may be in accord with the will of God, so that he may cast away his corrupt satanic disposition, and so that he may break free from Satan’s influence of darkness, thereby emerging fully from sin. Only then will man receive complete salvation. At the time that Jesus was doing His work, man’s knowledge of Him was still vague and unclear. Man always believed Him to be the son of David, and proclaimed Him to be a great prophet, the benevolent Lord who redeemed man’s sins. Some, on the strength of their faith, were healed just from touching the edge of His garment; the blind could see and even the dead could be restored to life. However, man was unable to discover the corrupt satanic disposition deeply rooted within himself, neither did he know how to cast it away. Man received much grace, such as the peace and happiness of the flesh, the faith of one member bringing blessing on an entire family, the healing of sickness, and so on. The rest were the good deeds of man and his godly appearance; if man could live on the basis of these, he was considered an acceptable believer. Only believers of this kind could enter heaven after death, which means that they were saved. But, in their lifetime, these people did not understand at all the way of life. All they did was to commit sins and then confess their sins in a constant cycle without making any path toward changing their disposition: Such was the condition of man in the Age of Grace. Has man received complete salvation? No! Therefore, after that stage of work was finished, there still remained the work of judgment and chastisement. This stage is to make man pure by means of the word and thereby give him a path to follow. This stage would not be fruitful or meaningful if it continued with the casting out of demons, for it would fail to extirpate man’s sinful nature, and man would come to a standstill at the forgiveness of his sins. Through the sin offering, man has been forgiven his sins, for the work of the crucifixion has already come to an end and God has prevailed over Satan. But the corrupt disposition of man still remaining within him, man can still sin and resist God, and God has not gained mankind. That is why in this stage of work God uses the word to expose the corrupt disposition of man, causing him to practice in accordance with the right path. This stage is more meaningful than the previous one, as well as more fruitful, for now it is the word that directly supplies man’s life and enables the disposition of man to be completely renewed; it is a much more thorough stage of work. Therefore, the incarnation in the last days has completed the significance of God’s incarnation and completely finished God’s plan of management for man’s salvation.
from “The Mystery of the Incarnation (4)” in The Word Appears in the Flesh
In the Age of Kingdom, God uses the word to usher in a new age, to change the method of His work, and to do the work for the entire age. This is the principle by which God works in the Age of Word. He became flesh to speak from different perspectives, enabling man to truly see God, who is the Word appearing in the flesh, and His wisdom and wondrousness. Such work is done in order better to achieve the goals of conquering man, perfecting man, and eliminating man. This is the true meaning of using the word to work in the Age of Word. Through the word, man comes to know the work of God, the disposition of God, the essence of man, and what man ought to enter into. Through the word, the work God wishes to do in the Age of Word is brought to fruition in its entirety. Through the word, man is revealed, eliminated, and tried. Man has seen the word, heard the word, and become aware of the existence of the word. As a result, he believes in the existence of God, in the omnipotence and wisdom of God, as well as in God’s love for man and His desire to save man. … Throughout the Age of Kingdom, God uses the word to do His work and achieve the results of His work; He does not work wonders or perform miracles; He merely does His work through the word. Because of the word, man is nourished and supplied; because of the word, man gains knowledge and true experience.
from “The Age of Kingdom Is the Age of Word” in The Word Appears in the Flesh
The work done by God during this age is chiefly the provision of the words for the life of man, the disclosure of the substance of the nature of man and the corrupt disposition of man, the elimination of religious conceptions, feudal thinking, outdated thinking, as well as the knowledge and culture of man. This must all be laid bare and cleansed away through the words of God. In the last days, God uses words, and not signs and wonders, to make man perfect. He uses His words to expose man, to judge man, to chastise man, and to make man perfect, so that in the words of God, man comes to see the wisdom and loveliness of God, and comes to understand the disposition of God, so that through the words of God, man beholds the deeds of God.
from “Knowing God’s Work Today” in The Word Appears in the Flesh
In His final work of concluding the age, God’s disposition is one of chastisement and judgment, in which He reveals all that is unrighteous, in order to publicly judge all peoples, and to perfect those who love Him with a sincere heart. Only a disposition such as this can bring the age to an end. The last days have already arrived. All things in creation will be classed according to their kind, and divided into different categories based on their nature. This is the moment when God reveals humanity’s outcome and their destination. If people do not undergo chastisement and judgment, then there will be no way of exposing their disobedience and unrighteousness. Only through chastisement and judgment can the outcome of all creation be revealed. Man only shows his true colors when he is chastised and judged. Evil shall be put with evil, good with good, and all humanity shall be classified according to their kind. Through chastisement and judgment, the outcome of all creation will be revealed, so that the evil may be punished and the good rewarded, and all people become subject to the dominion of God. All this work must be achieved through righteous chastisement and judgment. Because man’s corruption has reached its peak and his disobedience become exceedingly severe, only God’s righteous disposition, one that is principally compounded of chastisement and judgment and is revealed during the last days, can fully transform and complete man. Only this disposition can expose evil and thus severely punish all the unrighteous. Therefore, a disposition such as this is imbued with temporal significance, and the revelation and exhibition of His disposition is made manifest for the sake of the work of each new age. It is not that God reveals His disposition arbitrarily and without significance.
from “The Vision of God’s Work (3)” in The Word Appears in the Flesh