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Is God’s Kingdom Not in Heaven?
From when I believed in the Lord, I’d often heard Pastor Liu explain 1 Thessalonians 4:17, “Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.” He said, “Now there are so many disasters. The Lord Jesus’ prediction has already been fulfilled. He might someday suddenly return and take us to the air to meet with Him. When the time comes, the Lord will catch up His churches on the one hand while bringing down disasters on the other hand. All those who are lifted into the air won’t suffer disaster.” At this, I thought to myself: I must listen to him and be diligently preparing; then I’ll be brought to the heavenly home when the Lord comes. So, in order to meet the Lord in the air, I continued in my pursuit tirelessly …
One day, when my husband and I were husking corn, Sister Li Hua of our church came to help. While husking corn, we talked about thethat Pastor Liu preached on Sunday: There was not knowing when the Lord’s return would come, at midnight or at the cock-crowing; in addition, how should we watch to prayer so that we wouldn’t be forsaken? Later, we went back to the house to pray and discussed how to watch and pray to behold the return of the Lord. Just then, I heard someone calling me. After going out, I found it was my close classmate Wang Li. Her sudden arrival made me very happy. I took her hands, saying happily, “Long time no see, old classmate. I missed you so much. How come you’re free to come to our house? Get in.” After she entered the room and sat down, I introduced her to my husband and Li Hua, saying, “This is my old classmate Wang Li. She’s also a believer in the Lord.” They exchanged greetings warmly and I served apples and tea. We ate and talked together. After a while, I said, “Wang Li, you’re just in time. We were just talking about a question and wondering how to solve it.” Wang Li asked, “What’s it?” I told her, “Pastor Liu of our church often preaches to us about 1 Thessalonians 4:17, ‘Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.’ He told us the Lord’s return would take us to the air. We worry that we don’t know His return if He comes at midnight or at the cock-crowing. What should we do to avoid being forsaken? Because of this, we’re unable to sleep well every day, afraid that we’ll miss the moment when the Lord Jesus suddenly arrives on the clouds and appears in the air if we’re asleep. I wonder how you practice in this matter. Could you share with us?”
Wang Li smiled and said, “We all think that the Lord’s return will bring us into the air to meet Him. I had also kept adhering to it all these years. But, have you ever thought whether this viewpoint is correct or not? Does it conform to the Lord’s will?” Her questions surprised all three of us. I thought: How could you say such words? Isn’t being lifted up into the air what all believers of the Lord seek? We casting perplexed looks at her, I said hastily, “Wang Li, the pastors often talk about being lifted up into the air to meet with the Lord; how could you say this viewpoint isn’t correct? Every Christian recognizes that. How could it be that there is a problem with such understanding?”
She faintly smiled, asking me, “Who said this verse?” I replied, “Brother Paul.” She continued, “Paul, like us, is a corrupt human being. Can his words represent the Lord’s will? Did Lord Jesus ever say anything of this kind? Since we believe in the Lord, practicing according to the Lord’s word is the only right way. Let’s see what the Lord said. We all know the Lord’s Prayer that the Lord requires us to memorize.” As she spoke, she took the Bible out of her bag, opened and handed it to me, saying, “Old classmate, please read it for us.” I looked at her in wonder, not knowing why she let us read the Lord’s Prayer. I took the Bible and read, “Our Father which are in heaven, Hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, Your will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For your is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen” (Matthew 6:9-13). After I finished reading, she said, “The Lord let us pray every day, ‘Your kingdom come, Your will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.’ Although we recite it every day, we don’t understand what the Lord meant by this. It says plainly that God will come to earth. The Lord let us pray in this way every day to wait for His return, but we hope that the Lord appears in the air when He returns. The Lord has told us that thewill descend to earth and that His will also be done on earth. Now we’re in the last days and the Lord has returned as predicted, yet we still lift up our heads to the sky all day, looking forward to the Lord’s coming. Isn’t this perspective worth our suspicion? The Lord’s words cannot be wrong. Heaven and earth shall pass away, but God’s words shall never disappear, and all shall be fulfilled and accomplished one by one.” Li Hua said, “The pastors and elders always charge us to simply hold on to the Lord’s way and they say that God’s return will surely lift us up to the kingdom of heaven. Is this right or not?” Wang Li replied, “As believers, we must believe the words of the Lord rather than those of humans. The Lord said, ‘Your kingdom come, Your will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.’ Sister, God clearly told us that His will is done on earth and that His kingdom will descend upon the earth. Isn’t it at odds with the Lord’s words that we seek to ascend to heaven? Further, the Lord Jesus also said ‘And no man has ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven’ (John 3:13). Therefore meeting with God in the air is just man’s imagination. We have faith in the Lord, so we must go forward in accordance with His teachings and guidance. When man’s words and the Lord’s words are opposed, we should act on the basis of the Lord’s words. Otherwise, we can’t live in God’s care but are the ones forsaken by God in the end.” Hearing her fellowship, I dared not cling to my views of the past any longer. Rather, I thought I needed to seek seriously. Besides, my husband also said that Wang Li’s words made sense. And Li Hua was also mute. We all approved with a slight nod. At that moment, Wang Li looked at us, saying, “It’s late now. Shall we continue to fellowship tomorrow?” We all agreed.
After supper, I said to my husband, “Think it over, Wang Li’s fellowship is right. Paul’s words are obviously different from the Lord’s. Paul, just like us, is a corrupt person. We should take the Lord Jesus’ words as the criterion. This is the right perspective. It seems as if there are some problems in those words Paul said.” He said, “What your classmate said makes sense. Since we believe in the Lord, we must honor Him as great and believe in Him in accordance with His words.” I said, “Yes. In the past, we’d always worshiped pastors and elders, thinking when the Lord returns, He should reveal to them first because they knew the Bible well. As a result, brothers and sisters continuously contribute and help them, hoping to benefit from them when the Lord comes back. It seems that this is the stupidity of man.” He continued, “Right. We can’t merely listen to the pastors and elders. Just as when the Lord Jesus came to work, those scribes and Pharisees all knew the Bible well, yet they didn’t acknowledge the Lord but even resisted Him, not allowing people to follow Him. So, regarding whether the Lord is in heaven or on earth when He returns, we can’t just listen to the pastors and elders. We have to figure it out.” I said, “Yes. When Wang Li comes tomorrow, we have to ask her carefully.” Then we fell on our knees and prayed, “O Lord, we believe in You. Before we were muddled in our faith, only paying heed to people. May You open our spiritual eyes and guide us to know Your will, so that we won’t miss the opportunity to be received by You. Amen!”
The next day, Li Hua and Wang li both came to my house. We all wondered whether God’s return is in heaven or on earth. So we repeated our confusion to Wang Li and wanted her to fellowship with us in detail. Wang Li said, “As we all know, God created man on earth. It’s recorded in Genesis 2:7-8, ‘And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. And the LORD God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed.’ From these verses, it can be seen that God created man on earth. After that, He allowed them to live in the Garden of Eden, which is on earth, not in heaven. After they sinned, God banished them from the Garden of Eden and then they lived a cursed life, which still was on earth. For thousands of years, God has been saving mankind. His work also progresses on earth. Just like in the Age of Law, Jehovah God issued laws to let people follow on earth. In the Age of Grace, the Lord Jesus came down to the earth from heaven and was crucified for man, which was also on earth. Moreover, the Lord Jesus taught His disciples to memorize the Lord’s Prayer, ‘Your kingdom come, Your will be done in earth, as it is in heaven’ (Matthew 6:10). The Lord required that of people in order for them to know that He will still do His work on earth when He returns. It’s just that we humans don’t have pure acceptance, but only listen to man’s explanation and ignore the Lord’s word, so we misinterpret God’s will. And then how will we welcome the Lord’s return?” Hearing her fellowship, I had more clarity within. I sighed with emotion, “That’s right. In the past, we weren’t earnest in pondering the Lord’s Prayer. These words are so clear yet we didn’t understand, nor do the pastors and elders. They still let us gaze at the heavens to await the Lord’s return every day. Apparently, no matter how many scriptures we read, without God’s guidance, all will be an exercise in futility! This just fulfills what the Lord said, ‘And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch’” (Matthew 15:14). Everyone said, “Yes. If we still listen to the pastors and elders, the consequence will be too terrible. Sister Wang, please talk more with us.”
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