When the Lord returns, how can we recognize His voice and welcome Him?
By Anwei, Canada
In the last days today, all the devout Christians are quietly waiting and longing for the’ return. Many of them, according to the verse in , “You men of Galilee, why stand you gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as you have seen Him go into heaven,” think that when the Lord returns, He will surely descend with the clouds to take believers up into the heavenly kingdom. But is this understanding correct? Will the Lord really come to us according to our notions and imaginings? Will we really be able to greet the Lord by just waiting blindly for Him to come with clouds? Let’s seek on this issue through Sister Anwei’s experience of awaiting the Lord and welcoming Him.
In gatherings, the pastor often said to us, “The Bible says, ‘You men of Galilee, why stand you gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as you have seen Him go into heaven’ (Act 1:11). We all know that the Lord ascended into heaven upon a white cloud, and therefore when He returns He will certainly come to us on a white cloud. So we must pray watchfully, spread the gospel and work for the Lord more, making ourselves ready. Only then can we be brought into the kingdom of heaven when the Lord returns.” Hearing what the pastor said, I thought of the splendid scene of the Lord coming to us on a cloud, and I felt a surge of such emotion and very excited. From then on, in order to welcome the Lord’s return, I listened to more sermons and attended more meetings according to the pastor’s teachings. Afterward, since my family opened a factory, I often donated money and actively spread the gospel in the factory. In addition, I attended watchful prayer sessions organized by the church every week, I often went to help and support the weak brothers and sisters, and I also taught my brothers and sisters to sing hymns. … At the time, I was incredibly enthusiastic. Later, because the church expanded and the brothers and sisters actively spread the gospel, the number of people in the church increased from about a dozen to more than one hundred. Every brother and sister had so much enthusiasm and worked for the Lord with complete faith, waiting for Him to descend on clouds to bring us to our home in heaven.
Later on, I didn’t know why, but everybody started to wane in his faith. Fewer and fewer people were coming to gatherings, and even though they came, they were not serious. They just came to find a partner or make friends, to find jobs or to talk about business opportunities. When listening to sermons, some of them played with their phones and some even dozed off. Facing all this, there was nothing else the pastor could do but to shake his head on the podium. What’s more, what he preached was always the same old stuff—it was dry and dull, and we did not gain the least bit of sustenance. The sights of the desolation in the church made me very upset. When I went to the church meetings, I felt I couldn’t obtain nourishment for my life, but if I didn’t go, I felt indebtedness to the Lord. I could only pray to the Lord and ask Him to rejuvenate the church, and I also longed for the Lord to soon return to receive us into the heavenly home.
Once, my daughter, who ran a factory in Guangzhou, called me to say that there were preachers giving sermons at her place, which she found quite good and helpful and edifying for our lives, and asked me if I would like to go and have a listen. I thought happily, “Ah! I haven’t been able to hear any sermons that bring life sustenance to me for a long time, and my spirit is parched and starved. If the preachers there really give so good sermons, I can’t miss this opportunity. No matter how busy my work in the factory, I must go to Guangzhou to listen to the sermons.” Therefore, I, together with my daughter-in-law and her 8-month-old son, flew to my daughter’s place in Guangzhou.
When I met the two preaching brothers, I saw that they dressed elegantly and they looked modest and upstanding, without any arrogance of being preachers, which gave me a good impression of them. After some pleasantries, I talked to them about the desolate state of my church. Hearing it, Brother Liu smiled and said, “Sister, nowadays it’s not just certain churches in a desolate situation, it prevails among the whole religious community. The churches are universally devoid of the work of the Holy Spirit, and many people’s faith and love have cooled—this has already become an accepted fact. Do you know why the world of religion has become so bleak?” I said, “No. Brother, please communicate with us.” The brother went on to say, “If we know the reason why the temple became desolate in the latter days of the Age of Law, we will then be able to understand thoroughly the cause of the religious world’s desolation in the last days. In the latter days of the Age of Law, the Jewish leaders didn’t keep God’s commandments. They walked their own path and went against God; this is the main reason of the desolation of the temple. Another was that God’s work had already shifted. The incarnate Lord Jesus had launched the work of redemption in the Age of Grace outside of the temple. The focus of God’s work had moved onto the new work. Therefore, all those who followed and accepted the work of the Lord Jesus were able to gain the guidance of the Holy Spirit, while those who stubbornly held on to the words of Scripture and refused to accept God’s new work could only be forsaken by the Holy Spirit. The desolation in the religious world at present is because of the same reasons. The Lord Jesus has returned, coming in the flesh as Almighty God, and God is building on the foundation of the Lord Jesus’ work of redemption to express His words and perform His new work of judgment beginning in God’s family, so the work of the Holy Spirit has departed from the churches of the Age of Grace and has begun to support God’s new work. Only if we keep up with God’s new work can we be provided with the living water of life and a way forward, and resolve our spiritual drought from its very root.”
I was surprised at his words and thought to myself, “The Lord Jesus has returned? How could it be? The Bible says that the Lord will come as He departed—clearly He left upon a white cloud, so if He comes back, it shall be with Him riding on a white cloud. We haven’t seen the Lord coming with clouds yet, so how could it be possible that He’s returned? But what they have said is practical and conforms with the facts. Is there something that I don’t understand?” I felt puzzled and told them about my confusion. Brother Liu replied, “Sister, in the past, I was just like you, thinking that when the Lord returns He would arrive upon a cloud. After my aunt testified to me of Almighty God’s work of the last days, I finally realized that I’d made a grave mistake by waiting to welcome the Lord Jesus’ return.”
My daughter-in-law and I asked together, “What’s that?”
Brother Liu then said, “We are only waiting for the Lord’s return based on the prophecies of His descent upon a cloud, but we have overlooked other prophecies about the Lord’s return.” My daughter-in-law and I exchanged looks, both anxious for the answer.
The brother continued, “Many parts of the Bible contain prophecies about the Lord’s return. Besides the prophecies of the Lord descending on a cloud, there are actually many other verses that prophesy that the Lord will return incarnate. Just as it says in Luke 12:40: ‘Be you therefore ready also: for the Son of man comes at an hour when you think not.’ And in Luke 17:24–25: ‘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.’ These prophecies all mention the coming of the Son of man, and Son of man means someone who was born of man and who possessed normal humanity. Just like the Lord Jesus was called the Son of man and Christ because He was the incarnation of God’s Spirit and so became an ordinary, normal man, living in the company of other men. And because Jehovah God is Spirit, He cannot be called the Son of man; angels are also spiritual beings, so they cannot be called the Son of man. That is to say, only the flesh of God incarnate—not any other things—can be called the Son of man. So, ‘the Son of man be in His day’ and ‘the Son of man comes’ as spoken by the Lord Jesus are referring to God returning incarnate in the last days. Especially when He said, ‘first must He suffer many things, and be rejected of this generation,’ this proves even more explicitly that when the Lord comes again, He comes by becoming flesh. If He didn’t come in fleshly form but rather as a spiritual body, no one would dare resist Him, then He certainly wouldn’t be able to suffer many things or be rejected by this generation. Therefore, the Lord Jesus’ return is definitely in the form of the incarnation. In addition, the Bible prophesies that when the Lord returns in the last days, He is going to undertake the work of separating people according to their kind, such as separating the sheep from the goats, the wheat from the tares, the good servants from the evil servants. If the Lord comes in great glory, descending on a white cloud and everyone sees it, then wouldn’t everyone fall to the ground and obey and follow Him? Who would resist Him? That way, how would the sheep and the goats, and the good servants and the evil servants be differentiated?”
I thought, “What the brother fellowshiped makes sense. So it seems it is very likely that in the Lord’s, He will be incarnated as the Son of man to do His work. My understanding was so one-sided. The Lord has a lot of work to do in the last days—it won’t be just to rapture His believers into the heavenly kingdom. How can we humans possibly fathom God’s work?”
Then Brother Yang continued the fellowship, saying: “Furthermore, we all know that the Bible predicts that God will perfect a group of overcomers in the last days. Actually, Almighty God is incarnated and descends secretly among humans, to express His word and perform the work of judgment beginning from the house of God, so that a group of overcomers may be made before the disasters, and after perfecting them into a group of overcomers, the incarnate God’s work of the hidden advent will come to an end. At that time, God will descend openly with clouds to make Himself known to all nations and peoples. Thus will be fulfilled the prophecies of the Bible: ‘And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory’ (Matthew 24:30), and ‘Behold, He comes with clouds; and every eye shall see Him, and they also which pierced Him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of Him’ (Revelation 1:7). We all know that, when the Lord openly descends from the clouds, in theory man should be excited and happy, but why do the peoples wail? This is because, when God publicly descends with the clouds, those who heard Almightyand saw His work but didn’t seek and examine while His incarnation was working in secret and who even resisted and judged on purpose, all see that the Almighty God that they have been resisting and condemning is precisely the Lord Jesus whom they have been longing for to come upon a cloud, and thus they beat their chests, weep and gnash their teeth.”
My daughter-in-law and I looked at each other, as I thought, “So the Lord will first become flesh and arrive in secret, performing the work of saving mankind, and making a group of overcomers before the disasters, and only then will He publicly descend with the clouds to reward good and punish evil. This way, the prophecies of the Lord’s second coming will all be fulfilled! These two brothers’ communication is very clear. We’ve actually read these prophecies before, how come we weren’t able to gain this understanding by ourselves? Why did we not figure it out before?”
At this time, Brother Liu said, “Sisters, let me read to you a passage of Almighty God’s words. Almighty God says, ‘Throughout the universe, all those who know of the salvation of Jesus the Savior have been desperately yearning for the sudden arrival of, to fulfill the words of Jesus when on earth: “I shall arrive just as I departed.” Man believes that, following the crucifixion and resurrection, Jesus went back to heaven upon a white cloud, and took His place at the Most High’s right hand. Man conceives that similarly, Jesus shall descend, again upon a white cloud (this cloud refers to the cloud that Jesus rode upon when He returned to heaven), among those who have desperately yearned for Him for thousands of years, and that He shall bear the image and clothes of the Jews. After appearing to man, He shall bestow food upon them, and cause living water to gush forth for them, and shall live among man, full of grace and love, living and real. And so on. Yet Jesus the Savior did not do this; He did the opposite of what man conceived. He did not arrive among those who had yearned for His return, and did not appear to all men while riding upon the white cloud. He has already arrived, but man does not know Him, and remains ignorant of His arrival. Man is only aimlessly awaiting Him, unaware that He has already descended upon a “white cloud” (the cloud which is His Spirit, His words, and His entire disposition and all that He is), and is now among a group of overcomers that He will make during the last days.’
“God’s words expose the notion that we humans have clung to for thousands of years. They clearly tell us that the ‘white cloud’ written in the Bible is not a cloud in the sky as we think it is, but it refers to God’s Spirit, God’s words and God’s entire disposition and all that He has and He is. If we live within our own notions and imaginings, and go by the literal meaning of the verses to wait for the Lord Jesus to come and take us on a cloud in the sky, then we shall never be able to gain God’s salvation but instead be condemned by God. It’s just like the Pharisees from those days who were constantly longing for the coming of the Messiah but who were so arrogant and used the literal meaning of the Scripture to define God. When hearing and seeing the work of the Lord Jesus, they didn’t seek and investigate it at all, but compared the letters of the Scripture to the Lord Jesus’ work, and because it wasn’t in line with their notions and what they imagined, they condemned and resisted it. In the end, they nailed the Lord Jesus—the Messiah whom they yearned for day and night—to the cross, and thus suffered God’s damnation and punishment. Therefore, we should learn the lessons of the Pharisees while awaiting the Lord’s second coming, so as not to make the same mistake as they did. In the face of God’s work that doesn’t accord with our notions, we should have a heart of humility and seeking, and must not rely on our notions and imaginings to define and condemn God’s work. Only in this way will we have the chance to welcome the Lord!”
Through reading God’s words and listening to the brothers’ fellowship, I felt illuminated in my heart. What Almighty God was talking about was exactly what I’d always believed in my heart, and also what the pastors and elders had preached about to us believers. We all believed that the Lord left on a cloud and He would come back on a cloud, which we can see with our physical eyes, to rapture us into the heavenly home, but now by reading Almighty God’s words, I understood that was based entirely on our human notions and imaginings. I should take warning from the failure of the Pharisees who longed for the Lord yet resisted Him, and I can’t follow in their footsteps. I must put aside my conceptions and seek and investigate Almighty God’s work of the last days.
My daughter-in-law said, “Indeed! We’d always been thinking that when the Lord came back He would descend with the clouds to take us back to His home in heaven. Only after your fellowship do I see that this view is just our notions and imaginings, and that if we think like this, we will define God’s work and miss the chance of welcoming the Lord’s return! I’ve learned so much from today’s sermon—I haven’t come here in vain. Thank the Lord for preparing such a wonderful opportunity for us. We’ve heard His voice and welcomed Him.”
At that moment, I said, feeling deeply indebted, “Oh! I was too foolish before; I took the Lord’s return to be simple. There are so many prophecies in the Bible about the Lord’s return, but without diligently trying to figure them out, I delimited the way the Lord would return. Alas! It’s my fault for having not sought the truth in the Lord’s words and for having blindly believed the words of the pastors and elders. I used a few sentences from the Bible to define the work of the Lord—how arrogant and ignorant I am! We humans are merely tiny little creations, so how can we fathom God’s work? Ibut didn’t seek His will, and defined Him according to the words of the Bible and my own conceptions and imaginations. I am truly irrational and rebellious! How easy it can be to offend God’s disposition if we do not know God. Thank God for enlightening me and for giving me the good fortune of hearing His personal utterance.”
The two brothers said, “Thanks be to God! This really is God’s sheep hearing His voice!”
In the end my daughter-in-law and I both said excitedly, “We’ve gained a great deal from this sermon. We have finally welcomed the Lord who descends with the ‘clouds’!”
Next, the two brothers gathered with us for 5 or 6 days, and gave us fellowship on many aspects of the truth such as the mystery of, the three-stage work of God’s management plan, the mystery of and the significance of God using words to do the work of judgment. Their fellowship had deeply benefited me, and during those few days, I understood more than I did in my years of believing in the Lord. I had been certain in my heart that the words of Almighty God are the words spoken to the churches by the Holy Spirit as prophesied in the Book of Revelation.
Later, I did some self-reflection, and realized that although I had often read the Bible and diligently worked for the Lord in all my years of believing in Him, I’d had no true understanding of His will, and had always looked at His return through my own notions and imaginings. Through the brothers’ fellowship and Almighty God’s words clearly revealing the true meaning of the Lord coming with “clouds,” I was utterly convinced and understood that in the matter of welcoming the Lord’s return, we can’t blindly listen to the pastors and elders’ explanation and use several verses of Scripture to measure God’s work as this is too arrogant and ignorant. God said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” Almighty God is indeed the return of the Lord Jesus; I must humbly accept and read God’s words more and seek to know God. Thanks be to God!
Read more on our Return to God page, or in the recommended articles below.