Welcoming the Lord’s Return After Leaving a Desolate Catholic Church
Ever since I was little my mom would take me to church to read the sacred texts and attend Mass. We’d often leave at 3:00 or 4:00 a.m.; the church was really big and was always full, and sometimes there would even be parishioners standing at the entrance listening. After attending one Mass if I heard of another one being held I would really want to go to that one, too. I never failed to pray the Rosary every morning and evening and on the occasions I did forget I’d wake up halfway through the night and pray it before going back to sleep.
But after a few years, for some reason Mass attendance had dropped by half or more and while listening to the priests some people would fall asleep or chat with each other. Some went to church to sell cosmetics, while some went to set people up with each other or chat about their home lives. I wondered, why was that happening? Weren’t they going to church to worship God? Plus, the priests didn’t pay any mind to all of that, but just kept on talking about the same old spiritual principles corresponding to the same times of the year. When they started talking we’d know what was coming next—it was all platitudes without any new light or new harvest to reap. Services had become just going through the motions and didn’t seem to help us know God at all. Plus the priests would hold Mass for parishioners who had given offerings of 500 yuan or more and had really good relationships with them, but they’d make all sorts of excuses not to do that for poorer members of the church who gave less. I wondered why the church had become like a marketplace where even the priests were seeking money—they were blinded by greed, disdainful of the poor and solicitous of the rich. Where were they leading us? It felt like there was a big stone blocking my heart and my faith became tepid, just as most other church members. Without any enjoyment in services, I just waited for the Father to say “Go in peace” so I could get home a little early.
One time in 2003 when a Mass was about to begin, there was a dispute between two of the priests and that Mass was never held. The church ended up dividing into two factions. When I went somewhere else to attend a large Mass, everyone was talking about the church splitting up. I thought of something the Lord had said: “A new commandment I give unto you: That you love one another, as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one for another” (John: 13:34–35). We were taught by the Lord to get along in harmony and have love for each other, but not only were the priests failing to guide us to carry out the Lord’s words, but they were attacking each other and setting up separate factions. They really didn’t appear to be what a Catholic should be. When some parishioners were discussing whether splitting up the church was in line with God’s will, one of the priests said, “This isn’t a matter for your consideration. There’s just one God and all you have to do is follow Him.” There were even some who shamelessly boasted, “If a Father does something wrong that’s for God to manage. Don’t worry about it.” I thought to myself, isn’t that to prevent us from having our own discernment, but just blindly following along? Some of the younger parishioners with family and secular entanglements would look to the priests for help, but they’d just halfheartedly explain it away, “These are just crosses that we have to bear.” They’d make no effort at pointing out a path of practice. Hearing this left them helpless and they just continued to live in the pain of their worldly entanglements, without a path to take. What the cause of so many problems cropping up in the church? I felt really lost without a direction or target, and I didn’t want to go to church anymore.
I sat in my chair thinking back over the last few years of practicing my faith. I would get sleepy when reading the sacred texts and I wasn’t interested in attending Mass. I just observed the four major Catholic holidays, but I no longer enjoyed that feeling of peace and fullness from enjoying the Holy Spirit’s work. I thought of something I had memorized from the Catechisms: “Why are we in this world? We are in this world to worship God and to save our souls.” I couldn’t help but cry out in my heart, “Oh God, where are You, really? How should I follow You? God, where is the path You’re guiding me onto? If this continues on my soul will certainly end up in hell.” But no one could tell me the answer. In that moment, feelings of emptiness, sadness, distress, and helplessness all welled up. I was really suffering and on the verge of tears.
One day in October, my mom said to me, “The Lord we’ve been waiting for has already come. I’ve been listening to some sermons these past couple of days—do you want to go too?” I was pleasantly surprised. I had just been hoping for God’s guidance—I hadn’t imagined that the Lord had already returned! That meant there had to be a path to take and all of my problems could be resolved—I knew I had to go listen to that sermon. I happily went along.
The next day was rainy and cold; I went to the home of a friend from church with my mom, as planned. When we got to the entrance we saw that there were two sisters who had arrived early. They had come quite a ways, and in their hurry hadn’t brought any protection from the rain, so their clothing was soaked. In spite of that, their faces were full of happy smiles. Seeing this stirred my heart, and I thought back to the time I had the work of the Holy Spirit. I didn’t mind hardship or tiredness either, and it didn’t matter how far I had to go or how early I had to get up to attend a service—that kind of feeling can only be gained by the Holy Spirit’s work. I got a good feeling about them. We all went inside and then sat down, and my mom said quickly and straightforwardly, “The church has split into different factions and the priests are bickering with each other. Parishioners are also having conflict between them and their faith is fading. Why has the church become so desolate?”
Sister Fang said, “Your question has to do with the ability to welcome the Lord’s return and it’s a major issue that every single believer should understand. There’s actually a reason for the desolation of the church. Let’s look back for a bit—in the Age of Law the temple was full of glory for God, and everyone would worship Yahweh and observe the law. But towards the end of the Age of Law the temple became a den for thieves, a marketplace for buying and selling livestock and changing money. People no longer observed the law and when they violated the law they weren’t disciplined by Yahweh. What was that? One reason was that since the Lord Jesus had brought about the Age of Grace and God’s work had shifted, the Lord Jesus wasn’t in the temple, but was in the hills, by the sea, and in the fields preaching and working. All those who followed the Lord Jesus could obtain the grace and blessings bestowed by God, and by listening to His sermons they could enjoy the Holy Spirit’s guidance. Their spirits were satiated. However, those who rigidly clung to the law and stayed in the temple, rejecting the Lord Jesus, couldn’t gain God’s grace, but instead fell into darkness. Now looking again at the current desolation of the church, it’s also because God is no longer working within the church, but He has expressed truths and done a step of the work of judgment. That would be ‘The Particular Judgment’ in the Catechisms. All those who follow God’s footsteps can gain the watering and nurturing of the truth and enjoy the Holy Spirit’s work, while all those who don’t thirst for and accept God’s new work and words fall into darkness. This fulfills the prophecy: ‘Behold the days come, saith the Lord, and I will send forth a famine into the land: not a famine of bread, nor a thirst of water, but of hearing the word of the Lord’ (Amos: 8:11).
“Another reason for the desolation in the church is that the religious leaders aren’t keeping to God’s way, which has led to God distancing Himself from them. It’s just like the Pharisees; they were hypocrites, waving the flag of worshiping God but not guiding believers to keep to God’s way. They swallowed up widows’ assets, expounded upon scriptural knowledge and theory, and elevated themselves so that others would look up to them. They didn’t seek or investigate the Lord Jesus’ work, but clung to their notions and would not accept the truths spoken by the Lord Jesus. They resisted His work, resulting in the Holy Spirit no longer working within the temple. And today the priests and bishops and other clergy members are just like the Pharisees—they don’t uphold God’s way, but fawn over the rich while disdaining the poor, squabbling over status and breaking off into factions. In their work and sermons they just elevate themselves instead of God; they don’t guide believers to understand God’s will and put His words into practice, and as a result they all worship and look up to the clergy. God no longer has a place in their hearts. On top of that, all they talk about is theological knowledge and biblical theories, bringing people into rules and rituals, into worldly things instead of searching for a church that has the work of the Holy Spirit. They don’t seek and investigate God’s work of the last days, and as a result they’ve been cast aside by God.
“In fact, God’s will is contained within the desolation of the church. Let’s read a passage of God’s words to understand this: ‘God will accomplish this fact: He will make all people throughout the universe come before Him and worship the God on earth, and His work in other places will cease, and people will be forced to seek the true way. It will be like Joseph: Everyone came to him for food, and bowed down to him, for he had things to eat. In order to avoid famine, people will be forced to seek the true way. The entire religious community will suffer severe famine, and only the God of today is the wellspring of living water, possessed of the ever-flowing wellspring provided for the enjoyment of man, and people will come and depend on Him.’ God’s will is evident within this; God has us go out to seek His footsteps through the desolation of the church. It’s just like when there was a famine in the land of Canaan and people could only find grain to eat if they went to Joseph in Egypt—that was the only way they could survive. Now that God is no longer working in the churches but is expressing the truth and doing a new stage of the work of salvation, as long as we come out from the churches to seek and follow God’s footsteps, we’ll be able to gain the watering and nurturing of the truth and enjoy the Holy Spirit’s work. All those who fail to seek or accept God’s new work and words will gain no sustenance in their lives, but will just fall into darkness.”
Hearing this sister’s fellowship really brightened my heart. I saw that the current state of the church was primarily the result of the clergy failing to follow God’s way, but instead they were seeking money and status. That incited God’s disgust and loathing. It was also because God was no longer working within the church, but was doing a new stage of work. When we don’t keep up we lose the Holy Spirit’s guidance and live in hunger and thirst; our souls are in darkness with no path to take. No wonder we didn’t have the kind of drive in our faith that we used to have.
I asked her, “Sister, you’re saying that God is doing a new stage of work and that if we follow it we’ll be able to enjoy the Holy Spirit’s work. Can you tell us how He’s working to save us now? How should we follow Him?”
Sister Zheng opened the book “The Scroll Opened by the Lamb” and said, “The Lord has returned in the last days with the name of Almighty God, opening up the Age of Kingdom and concluding the Age of Grace. He has expressed millions of words to judge, cleanse, and save us in the last days. This includes the mysteries of God’s name, the mysteries of the incarnation, how Satan corrupts people, how God saves mankind, what people God loves and saves, what people He detests and casts out, and how to cast off the corrupt dispositions. All of these words are truths that provide sustenance for our lives, that are a panacea for our corrupt dispositions. We have to read, practice, and experience Almighty God’s words more in order to escape from our corrupt dispositions, and be cleansed and saved. If we read a passage of God’s words we’ll understand it better. Almighty God said, ‘In the Age of Kingdom, God uses words to usher in the new age, to change the means by which He works, and to do the work of the entire age. This is the principle by which God works in the Age of Word. He became flesh to speak from different perspectives, so that man could truly see God, who is the Word appearing in the flesh, and could behold His wisdom and wondrousness. Such work is done in order better to achieve the goals of conquering man, perfecting man, and eliminating man, which is the true meaning of the use of words to work in the Age of Word. Through these words, people come to know the work of God, the disposition of God, the substance of man, and what man ought to enter into. Through words, the work God wishes to do in the Age of Word is brought to fruition in its entirety. Through these words, people are exposed, eliminated, and tried. People have seen God’s words, heard these words, and recognized the existence of these words. As a result, they have come to believe 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. The word “words” may be simple and ordinary, but the words spoken from the mouth of the incarnate God shake the universe, they transform people’s hearts, transform their notions and old dispositions, and transform the way the whole world used to appear. Through the ages, only the God of today has worked in this way, and only He speaks thus and comes to save man thus. From this time forward, man lives under the guidance of God’s words, shepherded and supplied by His words. People live in the world of God’s words, amid the curses and the blessings of God’s words, and there are even more people who have come to live under the judgment and chastisement of His words. These words and this work are all for the sake of man’s salvation, for the sake of fulfilling God’s will, and for the sake of changing the original appearance of the world of old creation. God created the world using words, He leads people throughout the universe using words, and He conquers and saves them using words. Ultimately, He shall use words to bring the entire world of old to an end, thus completing the entirety of His management plan.’
“God’s work in the last days is the work of words. These words include those that judge and expose people’s corrupt essence, those that point out a path of practice for people, those that comfort and exhort people, as well as those that provide people with blessings and promises. If we read more of Almighty God’s words we’ll be able to understand more of the truth, see God’s earnest and kind intent to save mankind, better understand God’s will, and have a path of practice when encountering an issue. Plus when we accept the judgment of Almighty God’s words we’ll be able to understand all sorts of our own satanic, corrupt dispositions. That includes being arrogant and self-aggrandizing, selfish and despicable, crooked and crafty, plus evil and greedy. There’s no human likeness whatsoever in what we live out. We can also recognize God’s holy essence as well as His righteous disposition which will tolerate no human offense, and thus develop a heart of reverence for Him. Once we’ve clearly seen our own ugly, satanic countenances, we will forsake and curse our corrupt dispositions and become willing to live by God’s words to satisfy Him, seeking to become people who obey and worship God, who live out a true human likeness and glorify God. This is the work of salvation that God does for us, corrupt mankind, in the last days, and it is the final work of His entire management plan. This is why our most urgent task is to keep up with God’s footsteps and accept His words of judgment in the last days. This is the only way we’ll be able to gain God’s salvation and cleansing and be taken into the kingdom of heaven by Him.”
Through reading God’s words and hearing this sister’s fellowship I came to understand that God is doing the work of judgment through words in the last days—He uses words to purify us and allow us to cast off the bonds of sin. This sister’s fellowship was so detailed and specific—it felt illuminating for me.
Sister Fang went on to say, “In fact, God’s work of judgment through words in the last days is built upon the foundation of the work of the Lord Jesus and Yahweh. God’s entire management plan is divided into three stages of work. During the Age of Law, Yahweh issued the law and the commandments to guide people in their lives on earth so that they would know their sins. In the Age of Grace, the Lord Jesus became flesh and was nailed to the cross, redeeming mankind from their sins. Now in the last days, the Age of Kingdom, the Lord Jesus has incarnated again and has expressed words to do the work of judgment; He uses words to cleanse and transform people. Ultimately, He will bring those who have been cleansed into the kingdom of heaven. God’s work is constantly developing, and each of His three stages builds upon the other. They all comprise the entirety of His six thousand years of management. All of His work is based on facts, as well—not only are His two previous stages of work recorded in the Bible, but His new work in the last days is prophesied in the Scripture as well. In Revelation 5:1–5 it says that there’s a scroll that only the Lamb can open, and today we’ve read from this book, ‘The Scroll Opened by the Lamb.’ These are words uttered by God in the last days.”
I thought: Is that prophecy really in the Bible? I had never noticed it. This sister went on to communicate more, and I felt that the fellowship that day had all been so wonderful—I really gained a lot.
Once I got home I dug out my Bible and opened up to the Revelation Chapter Five. I saw that it really did prophesy that only the Lamb could break the seven seals and open the scroll. I was shocked—it turned out that God’s work of the last days was foretold long before and those prophecies had been fulfilled. I felt at ease in my heart, and I hungrily read “The Scroll Opened by the Lamb.” I slowly started to understand a number of mysteries of the truth including the significance of God becoming flesh, the mysteries behind God’s names, how to discern between a false Christ and the true Christ, and how to discern between a false way and the true way. The more I read this text the more understanding I gained of God’s work and the more light and peace I felt in my heart. I was once again enjoying having God with me and once again felt the joy of the Holy Spirit’s work. From my heart, I gave thanks for God’s guidance for allowing me to follow His footsteps so that I could find a direction, no longer be confused or lost, and enjoy the sustenance of the inexhaustible spring of living water.
» You may be interested in reading more:
• Why Have the Churches Become Desolate? (I)
• How Will the Lord Jesus Return in the Last Days?