Did you catch the Worldwide Church Report in the April-June 2000 issue of Manna? Coming from a 136-member local church, I was much encouraged that, officially, there are 85,557 of us. However, as I weighed this number against the backdrop of the current world population, which already numbered well over six billion persons at the turn of the twenty-first century, it dawned on me that the body of believers is very small. Yet, as Scripture verses came to my mind, I realized that, at the appointed time, the body of believers will become a great multitude.
I don't know if you've already had a chance to study Revelation. Filled with symbols and imagery, this last book in the Bible gives us a sense of God's master plan. Written by the apostle John, Revelation is a record of the vision that the Lord Jesus revealed to this beloved disciple. According to John, the Lord was very specific: "Write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after this," He commanded (Rev 1:19). Although no one knows for certain when John wrote it, scholars agree that it was sometime during the second half of the first century.
Revelation is a fascinating book. At once alarming and enlightening, this book spurs the repentant to belief and action and counsels the believer to understanding and patience.?One of the astounding scenes John saw was "...a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried in a loud voice: 'Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb'" (Rev 7:9-10, NIV).
I'm a believer. What John saw assures me of God's great love for humanity, whom He created in His own image. They tell me that though our society is in disarray, the repentant will stop sinning and mend their ways to live in obedience to Christ. In the end, "a great multitude" of souls will be saved. Sometimes, however, the skeptic in me casts a sweeping glance at statistics and taunts the believer. I am startled and confused. I hang my head and shuffle along in my Christian journey. But suddenly, another Scripture verse comes to my mind. I straighten up and look for my Bible. And I read,
In the last days... peoples will stream to [the mountain of the Lord]. Many nations will come and say, "Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob. He will teach us His ways, so that we may walk in His paths." (Mic 4:2, NIV).
I stride forward. The skeptic in me does not give up. But the prophet Micah was not alone, I find myself thinking. The prophet Isaiah said it, too: "... it shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow to it" (Isa 2:2). I summon my powers of imagination to see how this is possible. But another verse comes to my mind: "With men it is impossible, but not with God; for with God all things are possible" (Mk 10:27). I pick up my pace and quicken my step.
So I wondered about the church.
No, this is not wishful thinking. It is true that in the eighty-four year history of the True Jesus Church, we have been regarded as a "Chinese church." But even though it was not always apparent during this period, the Lord has been moving the hearts and minds of men and women of other nations, inspiring them to seek His face and learn His ways. As documented in the April-June 2000 issue of Manna, our church family now includes men, women, and children whom the Lord has called out from various nations to worship Him. It is a beautiful
But I see an even more beautiful picture when I read the TJC Internet Report in the July-September 2000 issue of Manna. Through the wonders of modern technology, people of all nations from around the world are learning about the True Jesus Church. They are making their way to our church website and asking questions. It's as if this very significant passage is coming to life: "Many people shall come and say, 'Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, and we shall walk in His paths'" (Isa 2:3).
I was about ten when I made my first official visit to a True Jesus Church Sabbath worship service. As I look back on my nearly forty-year association with the True Jesus Church-the first half of which I spent looking in and the second half looking out-I realize that the Lord has been firmly in control all the while. I wasn't always aware of this. In fact, it wasn't so long ago that I despaired of our ever being able to cross geographical and cultural boundaries to share doctrinal truths in all the nations.
But nothing's impossible with God. The maker of heaven and earth, He has control of the situation (Is 45:18-25). A just and merciful God, the Lord will not allow the repentant to perish (Jer 18:7-10). God's sense of time, too, is unlike ours (Ps 90:4). He works in ways we do not know and cannot anticipate (Is 55:8-9). God will have mercy on whomever He will have mercy (Rom 9:15). He will surprise us. He already has. Listen to how this online visitor began his email: "Today, by the direction of the Holy Ghost, we came upon your web site and [were] overwhelmed by the amount of information in it..."
"I am searching for answers to other questions that I had for a long time..." wrote another.
One of our visitors had this to say: "I am thankful beyond words for the doctrinal truths that are restored in your church!"
One wrote, "I'd really like to set a time to fellowship together in person."
And yet another wrote, "Please send more information on how our church can join the True Jesus Church."
These messages let me know that the men and women who wrote them are the type of people who the Lord our God said would find Him, because they are the kind of people who seek Him with all their heart (Jer 29:13). You'll notice they're the type who are not afraid to ask hard questions that may have very hard answers. For instance, one of our visitors asked, "Are we saved when we accept Jesus and believe, or at water baptism?" It is as if these men and women are standing at the crossroads and asking for the ancient paths. It is as if they heard God say, "[A]sk where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls" (Jer 6:16, NIV).
When the Lord came down to earth two thousand years ago to live in the land of Palestine, He said in no uncertain terms that the gate to the way of salvation is narrow and that the way itself is a difficult one (Mt 7:13-14). The apostle Paul also warned that there would be people who would listen only to teachings that are pleasing to their ears (2 Tim 4:3-4). Yet, from what I've gathered so far, these men and women whom God has inspired to seek Him know all this and are not afraid to search for the Truth, to learn His ways, and walk with Him.
I've wondered, what then is our role in God's master plan? I suppose it is only a minor one, perhaps like that of Aquila and Priscilla's, that tactful couple in the first century church (Acts 18:18-28). This husband and wife were tentmakers. They were godly folks. When they settled in Corinth after leaving Italy, the apostle Paul, himself a tentmaker, lived and worked with them while preaching and teaching the good news in the area. Later, when Paul left Corinth, Aquila and Priscilla left that city with him. They then made their home in Ephesus, while Paul moved on.
Soon a new preacher, Apollos, came to town. He, too, was a godly man. Because he loved Christ with all his heart and soul, Apollos determined to share the story of Jesus and His love everywhere he went. Having lived and worked with Paul, Priscilla and Aquila realized that the new preacher's message was not complete. But this husband and wife also seemed to have had a grasp of the Lord's position that "he who is not against us is on our side" (Mk 9:40). We read, therefore, that rather than dismissing Apollos, Priscilla and Aquila reached out to him and "explained to him the way of God more accurately" (Acts 18:26).
Perhaps we could imitate the apostle Paul (1 Cor 4:16). After his conversion, Paul spent the rest of his life practicing his new faith and sharing it everywhere he went. He was what we'd call a man who "walked the talk." He put his beliefs into action. Paul was that kind of man. Before he believed in our Lord Jesus as the risen Christ who had come to save humanity from their sins, Paul regarded the believers as enemies of God and persecuted them with a vengeance. But after he met Christ personally and heard Him speak directly to him, Paul understood his true calling in life (Acts 26:1-23). As a result, he submitted to Christ and served Him, preaching and teaching the good news of salvation until the day he died. Scripture tells us that Paul first brought the gospel to people of his own ethnic background. Later on, under the direction of the Holy Spirit, he crossed geographical and cultural barriers to share the good news with people of other backgrounds.
If these roles are only minor ones, they nevertheless carry major responsibilities. The thing that grabs my attention is that Aquila, Priscilla, and Paul all seemed instinctively to know when and how to be firm and gentle. They are "a hard act to follow." For example, if we choose to imitate Paul, would we know when and how to speak boldly (Acts 19:8), and when and how to be graceful in speech (Col 4:6) Also, what did Paul mean when he said, "I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some" (1 Cor 9:22) And what was that... "Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers" (1 Tim 4:16, NIV)
I would venture to guess that you are already prayerfully adding to this partial list. Your list and those of your peers may be even longer than anything I can come up with because, coming of age at the turn of the twenty-first century, you understand present-day concerns better than I can. Surely your place in the world at this particular time is no mere accident; rather, it's that you have been called to speak of that which has been revealed to you. This society is in disarray, and many people are looking for a sense of direction that will point them back to God. Also, "[a]t the present moment, many churches are under extraordinary fiery ordeals and are facing various trials."
We must not look away and pretend that we do not care. Paul reminds us that everyone in the church has a contributing role because God has "called us with a holy calling ... according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began" (2 Tim 1:9). Therefore, whatever your role, do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord (2 Tim 1:8). Keep the faith and preach the Word, for every prophecy made long ago shall be fulfilled in its appointed time (2 Tim 4:1-8; Rev 22:12-21).
1. Bible Study Guide Series: Revelation (True Jesus Church, 1999), p. 9.
2. John Yang, The Book of Daniel (California: Word of Life Publishing House, 1997), p. 116.
Written as a mother would her child, "Letters from Mom" addresses the struggles of our young people as they step toward the threshold of adulthood. This column hopes to encourage, comfort, and urge the youth to continue living as children of God. Please send comments or questions to email@example.com.