10. The Kingdom of Heaven Is Actually Upon the Earth
By Chen Bo, China
The greatest longing we believers have is to be able to enter the kingdom of heaven, and to enjoy the eternal bliss bestowed upon man by the Lord. Every time I heard a pastor say in a sermon that the place the Lord will prepare for us in the future is up in the heavens, that there will be fields of gold and walls of jade, gems will glisten everywhere, we’ll be able to eat the fruit of the tree of life and drink the water of the river of life, there will be no more pain, tears, or sorrow, and all will be free and liberated, I would feel this incredible surge of emotion and joy. This is a place I longed for so much, and my life on earth of toil and sorrow truly left me so weary within my heart. And so, I ran around preaching the gospel and expending myself enthusiastically for the Lord; I would spread the gospel and establish churches, and I never stopped to catch a breath no matter how painful or difficult it got. Especially since I knew that we’re in the last days and that the Lord would soon return to take us all into our heavenly home, I worked and expended myself that much more proactively.
One day, I went to my sister’s house to visit our mom, and just as I was about to leave, my sister gave me a book and urged me to read it carefully. I thought to myself: “This book that my sister gave me has to be something spiritual, and it just so happens that my spirit feels quite parched right now. I’m not feeling the presence of the Lord. When I read the Bible I’m not gaining any illumination. When I get back, I have to give this book a good read. Perhaps I’ll gain some sustenance from it.” After returning home, I opened up the book and started reading—I was sucked in before I knew it. The more I read it, the more I wanted to read, and the more I felt that there was light within these words, that they contained the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit and there was no way that these words could be uttered by a regular person. After reading that book I came to understand truths that I had never understood before from reading the Bible, and I felt a sense of internal clarity and enjoyment. It made me want to pray and grow closer to the Lord—my faith grew and my spiritual state got better and better. I thought: “Only the work of the Holy Spirit can provide man with faith and strength, and provide nourishment and sustenance for man’s spirit. The words in this book certainly come from the Holy Spirit.” As a result, the first thing I did every morning after getting up was read this book.
One day, I opened the book and read the following passage: “God entering into rest means that He will no longer carry out His work of humanity’s salvation. Humanity entering into rest means that all of humanity will live within God’s light and under His blessings, devoid of Satan’s corruption, and no more unrighteousness will occur. Under God’s care, humans will live normally upon earth” (“God and Man Will Enter Into Rest Together” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). My heart skipped a beat when I read this, and I thought to myself: “In the future man is going to live upon the earth? Didn’t the Lord Jesus promise that in the future we would live in heaven? Why does this say we’ll be on earth? How could this be possible? Am I misreading this?” So, I carefully re-read the passage; it really did say that in the future man would live upon the earth. I wondered, what does that actually mean? This wouldn’t do—I knew I had to understand what this actually meant. I continued reading: “God has God’s destination, and humanity has humanity’s destination. While resting, God will continue to guide all humans in their lives upon earth, and while in His light, they will worship the one true God in heaven. … When humans enter into rest, it means that they have become true objects of creation; they will worship God from upon the earth, and live normal human lives. People will no longer be disobedient to God or resist Him, and will return to the original life of Adam and Eve” (“God and Man Will Enter Into Rest Together” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). The more I read the more confused I felt: Man will worship God from upon the earth? How is this going to happen? Doesn’t the Bible mention being in heaven? How could it be on earth? I rushed over to my Bible, opening it to John 14:2–3, and read these words from the Lord Jesus: “In My Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.” The Lord Jesus clearly says that His resurrection and ascent into heaven was to prepare a place for us, so our destination should be up in heaven. This is the Lord’s promise! I thought to myself: “What this book is saying is different from what the Lord says, so I cannot keep reading it.” After closing the book I was in a very confused state of mind and didn’t know what the right thing to do was, so I prayed to the Lord over and over: “Oh Lord, please guide me and lead me. Should I read this book, or not? Oh Lord, please enlighten me, guide me….” After praying I thought about how after reading this book, I felt closer in my relationship with the Lord, more enthusiastic about my faith, and that my spirit had gained sustenance. I felt that if I put it down and stopped reading it, I’d return to my previous state of feeling spiritually parched. Since that book had been so incredibly edifying for me, and since I could confirm that it had come from the Holy Spirit, and anything from the Holy Spirit could not possibly be in error, I knew I shouldn’t reject it and refuse to read it, even though some of its content wasn’t in line with my notions. After thinking through all of this, I decided I should keep reading before making up my mind.
So, I picked up the book again and continued reading: “Humanity’s place of rest is on earth, and God’s place of rest is in heaven. While humans worship God in rest, they will live upon the earth, and while God leads the rest of humanity in rest, He will lead them from heaven, not from earth” (“God and Man Will Enter Into Rest Together” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). I ruminated on this over and over, thinking: “This passage says that God’s place of rest is up in heaven, and that in man’s rest, he will worship God upon the earth. Could it be that man’s place of rest really is on earth just as this says? That’s impossible! The Lord Jesus already said that we should be wherever the Lord is, and since the Lord Jesus was resurrected and ascended up into heaven, so we will also surely ascend into heaven!” I thought back over the past few years, how I had been pounding the pavement for the Lord, how I had endured so much suffering. Wasn’t all that suffering so that I could go up into heaven and no longer experience the suffering of the world? If it’s really like what this book is saying, that in the future man will still be living upon the earth, then wouldn’t my hopes come to nothing? I sat on my bed, unable to move, feeling weak from head to toe. The more I thought about it the more unsettled I felt. I wanted to get some clarity on this, so I rushed over to my sister’s house.
When I got there I saw a middle-aged woman, who was introduced to me as Sister Li by my sister. Shortly after, I opened up to them about my thoughts after reading this book. After hearing me out, Sister Li shared this fellowship with me: “Sister, all of us who believe in the Lord believe that the Lord Jesus has promised to prepare us a place, that wherever He is, we will be also. We think that since the Lord went back up into the heavens, when He returns in the future He will certainly welcome us into heaven where we will live, together with Him. But have we ever thought about whether this kind of imagining, this kind of extrapolation is tenable? If it were as we imagine, that the Lord is going to come and take us up into heaven to live, then wouldn’t the words in the Lord’s Prayer ‘Your kingdom come, Your will be done in earth, as it is in heaven’ (Matthew 6:10) and the prophecy in the Book of Revelation ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be with them, and be their God’ (Revelation 21:3) come to naught? How could they be fulfilled? If the final destination that God will give us was in heaven, then when God originally created man, what was the significance of Him having us live upon the earth?” I wasn’t remotely convinced, and retorted: “Although that’s what said in the Scripture, the Lord Himself said: ‘I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also’ (John 14:2–3). After the Lord Jesus was resurrected He ascended to heaven, and here the Lord is saying that He will go prepare a place for us. He says that where He is, we may also be. So, this proves that God promised us that we will ascend to heaven to obtain eternal life, not that we will obtain eternal life upon the earth. This is something that no one can deny!” Sister Li continued on patiently: “Sister, it is true that the Lord is preparing a place for those who believe in Him, but is this place actually on the earth or up in heaven? That’s not stated in these words from the Lord, so what are we basing it on when we say that the place He is preparing for us is in heaven? Is this actually the Lord’s promise or is it our own notions and imaginings? For those of us who believe in the Lord, all things should be based on the word of the Lord—we should not adulterate the Lord’s words with our own notions and imaginings and then claim that’s what He meant. Is this not going by our personal ideas and motives to explain the word of the Lord? Is this not distorting the word of the Lord? We cannot rely on what we imagine within our own heads or our own thoughts and preferences to explain the word of the Lord. This is making a mistake. In Genesis 2:7–8 it says: ‘And Jehovah 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 Jehovah God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there He put the man whom He had formed.’ It’s clear that in the beginning, God created man on the earth, and before God created man He first created all things in order to prepare an environment suitable for our survival. We can see that God’s will is for us to live upon the earth. In addition, in the Lord’s Prayer, the Lord has us pray to God that His kingdom come to earth. It is prophesied in the Book of Revelation, ‘The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of His Christ’ (Revelation 11:15) and ‘The tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them’ (Revelation 21:3). We can see from these verses and prophecies that the place that God is preparing for us is on the earth, and that our future destination is on the earth, not up in heaven.” Sister Li’s fellowship was entirely contrary to my notions. I simply did not listen to what she said. I stood up and said to her angrily: “I’ve heard enough! All these years I’ve been pounding the pavement, I’ve expended myself and suffered for the Lord so that I can go up into heaven! I’ve always longed for the Lord to take me home, up into heaven, so that I’ll no longer suffer on earth, but you’re saying that our final destination is on earth. This is simply unacceptable to me.” After saying this I turned around to leave. My younger sister rushed over to try to talk some sense into me: “Hey, how can you be so stubborn? Is this notion you’re clinging to right? You don’t know the true meaning of the Lord saying ‘go and prepare a place for you,’ but are just holding your own counsel. Isn’t that being foolish? This is not the kind of attitude that seekers of the truth should have! The Lord Jesus we have been longing for has already returned—Almighty God is the returned Lord Jesus! That book that I gave you to read contains the personal utterances and words of God! The Lord, whose return we have awaited every single day so that He can come receive us, has now returned. We must listen carefully. We absolutely cannot miss this opportunity of a lifetime!”
I was shocked to hear my sister say all of this. I simply didn’t dare believe my ears: The Lord has returned? Is this true? Then my sister said: “Didn’t you say before that the words in this book come from the Holy Spirit? You said reading it provided you with great sustenance, you gained the work of the Holy Spirit, and your relationship with the Lord grew closer. Now think about it: Apart from the Lord’s own words, who else can speak in a way that achieves this kind of effect? Now the Lord has returned to carry out work and utter new words, and we are able to savor the sweetness of the words of God. If we don’t seek and examine this, if we just blindly cling to our own notions and imaginings and to the literal meaning of the Bible, eventually we will do ourselves in. In their time, Pharisees who were well-versed in the Bible blindly clung to the letter of the Bible, but didn’t try at all to question whether their own understanding of the Bible was correct, or whether it conformed to God’s will. Instead, they just believed that anyone not called the Messiah was not the Savior who was to come. They simply did not examine whether the Lord Jesus’ way provided sustenance for the life of man, or if it could provide a path of practice. They just stubbornly held on to their notions and imaginings, blindly refusing the salvation of the Lord Jesus, ultimately committing the heinous sin of nailing the Lord to the cross. We cannot follow in the footsteps of the Pharisees and go down their path of resisting God!” After listening to my sister’s words I thought to myself that what she was saying was reasonable. Only the Lord’s words are the solution to parched spirit. I thought back to how, since I had started reading this book, my spiritual state really had been getting better and better. It had given me faith in God, and I was able to feel the Lord’s presence. I had even come to understand some truths. Could it be that the words in this book really were the utterances of the returned Lord? The Lord returning is a big deal. I knew I couldn’t blindly reject and judge this, but had to make an effort to look into it and seek. I couldn’t be like those Pharisees who did not seek the truth, but just held on to their notions and resisted God! At that moment I felt both pleasantly surprised and scared. I was pleasantly surprised because I believed in the Lord and longed for Him to return and accept me into the kingdom of heaven where I could live a carefree life, where I no longer had to live a life of hardship on the earth, and that day I heard news of the Lord’s return. It was truly a monumental, joyous thing. I was scared because if Almighty God is the returned Lord, then my dream of waiting for the Lord to take me into the kingdom of heaven would be shattered…. My heart was in utter turmoil—it was awash in different emotions. In this helplessness, all I could do was turn to the Lord in prayer: “Oh Lord! Every single day I have looked forward to You coming to take me into Your heavenly home, but they are saying that the place You have prepared for my final destination is here upon the earth. I really am incapable of confronting this fact. I really don’t want to continue living such a hard life on earth. Oh Lord! I’m really suffering within my heart now, please help me and guide me on the path ahead.” After praying, these words of the Lord Jesus came to mind: “Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3). It’s true! The Lord likes those who are poor in spirit, who seek the truth, and only they can enter the kingdom of heaven. I should be one who is poor in spirit—only carefully listening to their fellowship is in line with the will of the Lord.
Just at that moment, Sister Li said: “The Lord said: ‘Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God’ (Matthew 5:8). We should listen to the word of the Lord; we should be pure in heart to welcome the return of the Lord. Although the work that God carries out today does not conform to our notions or imaginings, everything that God does is good, it is all for the sake of mankind, and it all contains the will of God—there’s truth to be sought within it. If we don’t have a thorough understanding, we have to first set ourselves aside and make an effort to seek the truth so that we can receive the enlightenment of God and understand His will. Sister, please open up your heart and share whatever you’re still unclear on, and we can seek together in fellowship.” I felt like what Sister Li had said made sense and that I should calm down and seek, so I said: “Sister, there’s one thing I don’t understand. Why is it that our final destination wouldn’t be in heaven, but rather here on earth?” Sister Li found John 3:13 “And no man has ascended up to heaven, but He that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven” and Isaiah 66:1 “The heaven is My throne, and the earth is My footstool,” and gave me these two verses to read. She then fellowshiped on the meaning of these two passages. Her fellowship suddenly brought light into my heart—I was already familiar with these Bible verses, so hadn’t I ever really thought about them before? The Lord very clearly says that except for the Son of man who came down from heaven, no man can ascend up to heaven, for heaven is God’s throne and earth is God’s footstool, so how could man be worth of going up into heaven? God created man on earth and has us live on earth. From the very day that God created man, man has lived and multiplied on earth, generation after generation. All of God’s work to save mankind has also been carried out on earth. This was predestined by God long ago, and something that no one can change. She went on to tie the Bible into her fellowship, about how the Lord said He would prepare a place for us. She explained that this referred to God incarnate’s appearance and work on earth in the last days, and that He had predestined that we would be born in the last days, that we would hear God’s voice, be caught up before God’s throne, accept God’s judgment and purification of the last days, and finally be led into the kingdom of God. This is the true meaning of the words, “where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:3). I saw that God’s kingdom is actually upon the earth, and that mankind’s final destination is on the earth and not in heaven! That whole time I had been living within my own notions and imaginings, I had delimited God’s return to just taking me up into heaven to live, but that was not at all in line with the Lord’s will, or with the facts! However, I still wasn’t willing to live this kind of life on earth, being afflicted by Satan. I then explained the thoughts within me to Sister Li.
After hearing me out, Sister Li opened up The Word Appears in the Flesh, and read a passage from the word of Almighty God to me: “Living in rest means a life without war, without filth, and without any persisting unrighteousness. This is to say, it is a life devoid of Satan’s disruptions (here ‘Satan’ refers to enemy forces) and Satan’s corruption, and nor is it prone to the invasion of any force in opposition to God; it is a life in which everything follows its own kind and can worship the Lord of creation, and in which heaven and earth are entirely tranquil—this is what is meant by the words ‘restful life of humans.’ … After God and humanity enter into rest, Satan will no longer exist; likewise, those wicked people will also cease to exist. Before God and humanity rest, those wicked individuals who once persecuted God on earth, as well as the enemies who were disobedient to Him there, will already have been destroyed; they will have been eradicated by the great disasters of the last days. Once those wicked people have been utterly annihilated, earth will never again know Satan’s harassment. Only then will humanity obtain complete salvation, and God’s work be thoroughly finished. These are the prerequisites for God and humanity to enter into rest” (“God and Man Will Enter Into Rest Together” in The Word Appears in the Flesh).
Through reading the words of Almighty God I came to understand that, although we will continue to live on earth, once God finishes His final stage of work of saving mankind, Satan will be destroyed, and in our earthly lives, we will never again be disturbed by Satan, we will never again toil or be distressed, and there will be no tears or sighs. It will be just like when Adam and Eve lived in the Garden of Eden. We will be free to worship God, and we will live beautiful and blessed lives where God is with man. This is mankind’s final destination, and this is what God will ultimately accomplish in His work of the last days. It truly is great! At that moment I exclaimed: “Who could so clearly explain mankind’s final destination? Who could arrange mankind’s outcome? Only God could do this!” I recognized God’s voice within the words of Almighty God, and saw that the work of Almighty God is the appearance and work of God! The notions within me had finally been dispelled, and I joyfully accepted Almighty God’s work of the last days, returning before God’s throne.