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 (Manna 85: TJC at 100 – Towards the Triumphant Church)
A Century of Grace and Spirituality
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HH Ko—Heidelberg, Germany


In English, “a century” is a neutral term, bringing to mind a long period of time. However, the Chinese idiom “a century later”[1] carries somewhat negative connotations. For one thing, the crossing of the centennial mark evokes uncertainty. For another, “after a century” or “after a hundred years of age” is a euphemism for death—it is an inauspicious phrase, according to Chinese tradition. This century metaphor is used in a Chinese proverb to highlight the reality of death: In the mountains there are thousand-year-old trees; but in the world, hundred-year-old men are rare.[2]

King Solomon was famed for his wisdom. But he realized that, despite his great achievements, no accomplishment under the sun can stave off death. On one’s deathbed, wealth and wisdom are completely useless. When Solomon was close to death, he summarized his life in frustration and grief:

            Therefore I hated life because the work that was done under the sun was distressing to me, for all is vanity and grasping for the wind. (Eccl 2:17)

            Therefore I turned my heart and despaired of all the labor in which I had toiled under the sun. (Eccl 2:20)

Indeed, a century of life on earth is often filled with despair. However, for the True Jesus Church, the century milestone is neither about the brevity of life nor about the inevitability of death. In her early years, there were skeptics who did not think this small church, established in China, would last beyond fifty years. However, the church has now enjoyed one hundred years of spirituality and grace—a century of God’s spiritual grace encapsulated in His redemptive plan. 

As heirs to this blessed heritage, there are important aspects to these one hundred years of grace that we must always cherish.


            [J]ust as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love. (Eph 1:4)

            [God] has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began. (2 Tim 1:9)

            [I]n hope of eternal life which God, who cannot lie, promised before time began. (Tit 1:2)

The first aspect that we must treasure is the amazing grace of our election by God. Nothing existed before the foundation of the world. But God already knew us and had already chosen us in Christ. His redemption plan began even before the foundation of the world; His grace was given to us even before the beginning of the world. He promised us eternal life even before life began.


            [T]hat in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth—in Him. (Eph 1:10)

The second aspect is that the entire execution of God’s plan occurs in Christ.

What is the significance of this to us, as individuals? We have been chosen in Christ. Then after we are baptized into Christ, we must remain in Christ. To this end, the Bible urges us to marry in the Lord. Finally, those who die in Christ are blessed. In other words, God’s entire redemption began with Christ and, if we remain in Christ, we will eventually return to Christ.

As a church, what does this process of redemption mean? 

The Truth Shall Prevail

            Another parable He put forth to them, saying: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. (Mt 13:24)

In this parable of the kingdom of heaven, the man who sowed good seed represents Jesus, who came to plant His word in the hearts of man. However, while the people were unaware or not vigilant (Mt 13:25), Satan sowed tares—a weed that looks similar to wheatand went on his way. The grain sprouted and produced a crop (Mt 13:26), a reference to the establishment of the apostolic church after Jesus Christ’s ascension. The apostles knew that there were tares, and that they had to be pulled out. But the Lord Jesus, their Master, had told them not to, for they might also uproot the wheat (Mt 13:29). So the tares had to remain till the time of harvest, at the end of the age.

This parable is not directed at individuals, but applies to the church as a whole. In terms of God’s redemptive plan, the sprouting of seed and crop production was the apostolic era. The apostolic era started off perfect. After the first downpour of the Holy Spirit, three thousand people were baptized, and another five thousand shortly after. The New Testament writings had not yet been completed and canonized, alongside the Old Testament, into the Bible we know today. So the believers listened to the teachings and the doctrines of the apostles (Acts 2:42). The latter had been directly taught by the Lord Jesus for three years, and thus conveyed His teachings to the believers. This in itself was a miracle. Even without modern recording devices, they were able to teach accurately by holding on to Jesus’ promise that the Holy Spirit would bring to remembrance all that He had spoken to them (Jn 14:26).

As the apostolic church grew, the apostles had to grapple with the challenge of tares. For example, the apostle Paul established the church in Galatia during his first missionary trip. But by the time of his second missionary trip, the Galatian church was already full of tares:

            I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel. (Gal 1:6)

Paul was extremely puzzled by how quickly the Galatians were turning away. We often think the apostolic church was a glorious church, but that is only half the truth. The apostolic church certainly began with perfection, but when they began their missionary work, tares were also sown along with the good seed, and the tares could not be uprooted. Paul was well aware of this; he was very blunt about these false teachers (see Gal 6:12–13). 

            What do you want? Shall I come to you with a rod, or in love and a spirit of gentleness? (1 Cor 4:21)

The same thing happened in the church at Corinth. The Corinthians were not little children, but Paul sternly demanded, “Do you want me to come with a rod of discipline or with a heart of love?”

Such a tone of rebuke would not be well received in the modern church. However, if we read all the epistles, we would find very few which are free of rebuke. In all these epistolary books, we may find pleasant greetings at the beginning and warm farewells at the end, but there are also many words of rebuke in between.

In general, it is believed that the apostolic age did not last more than a hundred years. Rodney Stark, a professor of Sociology and Comparative Religion, estimated that by the end of the first century, the total Christian population was 7,530.[3] How can this be possible when the apostolic church—in the early years of her establishment—had baptized thousands? Even if the members of the apostolic church did not preach, their offspring alone would have swelled their numbers beyond ten thousand. So, it can only be that, although many people believed, many also left.

Do Not Be Discouraged by Desertion

The last years of Paul’s life were a sad time for him. He was probably in tears when he wrote the following:

            At my first defense no one stood with me, but all forsook me. May it not be charged against them. (2 Tim 4:16)

The letters to Timothy and Titus reveal how many individuals deserted Paul. He could not hold them back. Everyone in Asia left him. This was how the apostolic church declined. We may think this an inglorious end to a church that had begun so perfectly. But this was God’s plan, and beyond human control. His thoughts are higher than ours (Isa 55:8–9). We can only accept things as they are, according to God’s plan. The apostles were well aware of this. They could not uproot the tares; the apostolic church was eventually overwhelmed by these tares. Yet, Professor Stark estimated that beyond A.D. 300, the Christian population had reached thirty million. This is closely related to what Jesus said in Matthew 13:31–32.

The apostolic church declined, the apostolic age ended, and the true church was revived in the last days; these three different stages are outlined in the Scriptures.

1.       People will be hard of hearing (Isa 6:9–10)

The prophet Isaiah foretold the state of the late apostolic church. The Lord Jesus made a similar prophecy by citing the passage from Isaiah chapter 6. At the end of the apostolic age, Paul stated the same truth (Acts 28:26–27)—the hearts of the people had grown dull and their ears were hard of hearing. Paul repeated this warning to Timothy (2 Tim 4:3–4).

2.       There will be confusion (Mt 13)

Among the series of parables spoken by Jesus in Matthew chapter 13, six started with the phrase: "The kingdom of heaven is like…" These six parables pertain to the kingdom of heaven. Of these six, the first three prophesied the development and degeneration of the apostolic church, the infiltration of heresies and the ultimate downfall of the apostolic church. The present state of the True Jesus Church is captured by the sixth parable—the parable of the dragnet (Mt 13:47–50).

3.       It is the time of harvest (Rev 14:14–20) 

The Book of Revelation describes the True Jesus Church today. We are at the time of harvest. A century ago, the True Jesus Church was established in Beijing, China. In the beginning, the church grew towards increasing perfection. However, in the last ten to fifteen years, there appears to have been a lot of confusion and chaos in the church. Yet, when we carefully consider the statistics, the church has actually expanded the fastest in the past fifteen years. Almost every year, we hear of the gospel reaching a new country. Today, we have churches in more than sixty countries. In the first fifteen years of the church, she certainly did not grow this fast. Importantly, throughout this expansion, the church has never wavered from her articles of faith. With better exposition of her beliefs, the truth of the True Jesus Church remains pure.

From Jesus’ description and explanation of the parable of the tares, the “tares” do not refer to individual believers. Right after Jesus scattered the good seeds, at the beginning of the apostolic era, when no one took notice, the devil sowed tares among the wheat, which appeared when “the grain had sprouted and produced a crop.” The apostles realized that there were tares and wanted to destroy them but, according to Jesus’ salvation plan, these tares were to remain until “the harvest [at] the end of the age” (Mt 13:39).  

In short, the tares sown by the devil in Jesus’ parable do not refer to specific individuals, because none of the “sons” of the wicked one from the apostolic era are still alive. However, the tares the apostles warned against still exist, and we have to wait until the end of the age for the Lord Jesus to send His angels to pull them out. Therefore, the tares refer collectively to heresies and sons of the wicked one.

From Revelation chapter 14, we see that the time of the harvest is during the time of the True Jesus Church. Overall, the 144,000 people in verses 1 to 5 refer to the ark of the last days, the True Jesus Church; the six angels thereafter refer to the process of harvesting.

In this end time, the True Jesus Church will preach the complete gospel to the ends of the earth, as witnesses to all nations; then the Lord Jesus will come again. By that time, the gospel will be thoroughly pure. According to Revelation, in the process of church growth, there will be much confusion and chaos. In Revelation 16:13, we read of three mouths: the mouths of the dragon, the beast, and the false prophet. This reminds us of the power of the internet and mass media. But the chaos cannot, and will not, hinder the development of the true church. From Revelation chapter 14, as soon as Jesus thrusts in the sickle, the harvest will be complete. Therefore, the century that the True Jesus Church has come through was a century of spirituality and grace. Based on Revelation, we believe that we will receive the coming of the Lord Jesus.


Our church has reached her first centennial milestone. The one hundred years of the True Jesus Church is different from the pessimistic “one hundred years later” concept of the Chinese. “One hundred years” does not suggest ageing or decline. Human beings may age, but God does not age. The church has a bright future. In fact, I am very touched and encouraged to observe that some of our youths have surpassed our former generations in knowledge and zeal.

God’s grace will continue, and the gospel will continue to be preached. When we look back, we may be surprised at how this church was able to expand. But we must not be complacent. We have members in some countries where we have been unable to establish churches, because we do not have enough workers. Some denominations have to invest many resources to send missionary teams to expand their churches. But for us, there are people waiting. In one instance, in 2000, a church in Uganda put up a signboard proclaiming “True Jesus Church” before the church had even sent workers there. We are different. God is at work.

Individually, we are indescribably blessed. Our membership in the church is not pure chance. We were purposefully chosen before the foundation of the world. If we do not cherish this blessing and leave the church on a whim, we will not be able to return.

            And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire. (Rev 20:15)

In the world, we are taught to take charge of our destiny, to work hard, and put in every effort for success. We are told to have a world-changing dream, and then exert every sinew to make that dream come true. But when it comes to salvation, the Bible tells us that we were chosen by God before the foundation of the world. If our name is found in the Book of Life, it is not because we have written it in ourselves. The grace of salvation is truly grace; it is not given to us because of something we have done. But having received this divine and amazing grace, we must ensure our names remain in the Book of Life. Otherwise, we will be cast into the lake of fire. The Holy City, the New Jerusalem, the church, will be perfected. Do not be distracted by the minority who has been cast aside because of pride and sin. Let us treasure our status and boldly preach the truth.




[3] Rodney Stark, The Rise of Christianity: A Sociologist Reconsiders History (New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1996), 7.

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Author: H.H. Ko
Publisher: True Jesus Church
Date: 06/08/2018