Jeremiah 8:7 says, “Even the stork in the sky / Knows its appointed times, / And the turtledove and the swallow and the crane / Keep the time of their coming; / But My people do not know / The ordinance of Jehovah.” Daniel 9:2-4 says, “In the first year of his reign I, Daniel, understood by means of the Scriptures the number of the years, which came as the word of Jehovah to Jeremiah the prophet, for the completion of the desolations of Jerusalem, that is, seventy years. So I set my face toward the Lord God to seek Him in prayer and supplications with fasting and sackcloth and ashes. And I prayed to Jehovah my God and confessed; and I said, Ah, Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps covenant and lovingkindness with those who love Him and keep His commandments.” Daniel was like a stork in the sky that knows the appointed time.
I am very burdened to share with you concerning the time that we are in. As the Lord’s children, we need to be keener than the stork, the turtledove, the little swallow, and the crane. They know the time, so should we not know?
We must know the time, taking the world situation into consideration before the Lord. We are not referring to the way the worldly people talk about the world situation. Rather, we need to spend time with the Lord to study the world situation and bring it into His presence with a prayerful consideration and with the help of history. We, the Lord’s children, read the newspapers only because we need to know the time we are in.
When Daniel was in captivity, he read the book of Jeremiah and came to know the time. He gained the knowledge to understand the time, discovering that the captivity would end after the completion of seventy years. For this reason he went to the Lord to pray, taking the Lord’s word and standing on it. He realized that the Lord’s people had sinned against Him, and he confessed their sins, but the most important thing is that he took the Lord’s word, stood on it, and prayed for what the Lord had promised. He did not pray foolishly but in a meaningful way. Often our prayers are like noise to the Lord, because we do not know the time. We should not come to someone at one o’clock in the morning and knock on his door. In order to come in a proper way, we need to know the time. If we know the time, we will act in a timely way.
We need to know the time according to the present situation of the world. Although I do not like to talk much about the world, there is one matter that is very serious, that is, whether or not any “ism” will succeed. Some countries are trying to convert the entire world and wholly replace its civilization with a new one. From the point of view of the Scriptures, this thought is devilish. It is something from Hades. It is an imitation of the work of God. God’s work in His redemption is to regenerate people for His eternal plan. However, the devil intends to remake the human race for his own plan. From about 1925 I began to study the world situation. At that time I was in college, and many of my schoolmates were indoctrinated by these “isms.” I praise the Lord that by His grace I was saved by Him. I was regenerated, and I did not need those people to “remake” me.
This movement was very prevailing in northern China. Because of the word of the Lord, I paid attention to their movement, propaganda, and literature, and I came to know much about them and what was in their heart. I do not believe that they will succeed. Rather, I have strong ground from the Bible to say that any devilish “ism” will not be successful.
Nevertheless, the inclination of many people is to fear that they will succeed. When I went to Europe in 1958, I was invited to take part in a conference in Denmark attended by a number of people from the surrounding countries, including Norway, Sweden, Germany, Switzerland, France, and England. We talked much about the world situation. Almost all of them feared that a certain “ism” would be successful. They told me that they were preparing to be taken over. The ones from England in particular told me that by 1959 the whole of Europe would be taken over. I listened to them in an objective manner. After they expressed their feelings, I said, “Friends, I do not claim to be a prophet who can foretell the future, but I wish to let you know what I feel in my heart. I come from a place where that “ism” is prevailing today, and I have studied and learned something about it. From my study of world history and the world situation, I have come to a realization that they will not take over your country. Be at peace.”
I took the risk to say this in 1958, but several years have passed, and the Lord has maintained the line against the spread of this world system. I do not believe that anything contrary to God’s plan will succeed. No matter how prevailing it is, I know that the Lord is sovereign. The Lord has preserved the free world for the accomplishment of His eternal purpose. After the American president blockaded Cuba, some American friends told me that they could not sleep well out of fear that Russian ships would come. I told them, “Go home and sleep well. Be assured that nothing will happen.”
I would ask you to pray for this matter. As the Lord’s servants in 1952, taking care of the Lord’s work and interests in the world, we stood at the frontier. We prayed to the Lord and dealt seriously with Him. We became clear that the Lord would reign over the situation. When I was with some brothers in Manila in the fall of that year, I told them, “I am very clear. Please be at peace.” In 1953 there was much talk and fear. Again I said, “Go home, be at peace, and sleep well.”
The situation today is once more very serious. We cannot merely sit here. What is happening now affects thousands of souls, even whether or not the church here will remain. This is a great matter. However, I believe even more today that the Lord will maintain the line and keep half of the world free for the accomplishment of His eternal plan. We need to pray for this. We should not think merely about our own goodness and spirituality. We must consider the Lord’s interest, kingdom, and work on the earth. Our heart must be enlarged.
We need to know the time related to the preaching of the gospel. The gospel has now been preached to every part of the world. It is difficult to find a nation where the gospel has not been preached. In cities of every kind there are at least small groups of believers. This is very different from the way it was one and a half centuries ago. At the beginning of the nineteenth century, there were many nations in which the gospel had not been preached. Since that time the gospel has been widely preached in almost every part of the world. The Lord has done much during this time. Many missions were formed, and many missionaries were sent out. The China Inland Mission alone sent hundreds of missionaries to China. This is the present situation concerning the preaching of the gospel.
If we want to know the time, we must also consider the situation of the church as a whole. Christians claim to have the Bible, and many say that they are fundamental and evangelical, believing in God and in Christ. However, many do not know and experience much of Christ, and they do not have the proper teaching of Christ as life in a practical way. This is a great problem. There are many so-called churches everywhere, but there is not much expression of Christ in a living way.
The world is divided into two. The preaching of the gospel has been accomplished almost to a full extent; but the condition of the church is poor in the experience of Christ, and as a result, there is almost no real expression of Christ. This is the situation today. By knowing this situation, we can know something of the Lord’s timing and see what He will do. There is no doubt that we need to preach the gospel, but this is not the most important matter today. One hundred fifty years ago this was quite important. Some needed to be sent to the inland provinces of China because there were not any believers to preach the gospel there. At that time there was a need, but there is not as much of a need today. The most urgent need today is that the Lord would be able to recover the living knowledge and genuine experience of Christ as life by His people in a living way to the full extent. This is what the Lord is recovering.
Wherever I go, I speak much with the Lord’s children, and I have found that nothing but this will satisfy them. I have been a Christian for forty years, and I have been studying the Bible all this time. I have been taught many things from the Bible by others, and I have read many books about prophecy, such as the seventy weeks in Daniel 9. When I try to talk with people about Bible knowledge and prophecies, they become weary, but when I speak about the living Christ with His living expression, they are stirred up. They say, “This is what we need. Please stay with us for a longer time.” This is something of the Spirit working in the Lord’s saints throughout the world today. There is a need, a cry, and a hunger and thirst deep within the saints. This is an indication, sign, and confirmation for us concerning the time and the Lord’s work. The Lord is not recovering the spread of the gospel, but He is recovering the genuine knowledge and living experience of the all-inclusive Christ as our life and the church as His expression. This is not the church in the future or the church in the heavens but the reality of the church today, in the place where we are, as the expression of the living Christ. The living Christ with a living expression as His fullness is what the Lord’s people are longing for today. This is the very matter that the Lord will recover, and the time for it is today. Let us be Daniels who know the time, go to the Lord, and pray, “Lord, we understand Your time. Recover the all-inclusiveness of Christ and the genuine expression of Christ.” We must be keen to realize the situation and the time. We must not let the Lord say that the stork in the sky knows the time but that we do not. We must know the time.
According to my study of the world situation today, the Lord will begin this recovery in the United States, taking this country as the center for His recovery. Look at a map; the United States today is the center of the populated world, between the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. Moreover, it is the first and strongest nation on the earth. The Lord arranged this for Himself in a meaningful way for His recovery. This is not for the United States but for the Lord and His work, just as Great Britain was for the Lord’s work in the nineteenth century. Four centuries ago Spain was the strongest nation in the world, but Spain was under the hand of the pope, which was not good for the preaching of the gospel. Because of this, the Lord put her down and raised up Great Britain to become the strongest nation. Under the influence of Great Britain, the preaching of the gospel spread to the entire world. Great Britain preserved freedom and maintained communications for people to travel around the world to preach the gospel in a free way. This was the Lord’s doing for the sake of the gospel.
After the Second World War the Lord has raised up the United States. The United Nations being established here is a sign that this country is the center of today’s world. This is not for the United States or for any person. This is for the Lord’s work. Therefore, we must pray that the Lord will go on from this country as the center, beginning to spread His recovery to the entire world. I believe that this is the time, and this is the situation. Again I say, do not be afraid of the spread of evil world systems. We must be faithful to the Lord concerning His recovery. Only the Lord’s work of recovery will be able to stand against evil world systems. If we are faithful to the Lord, pray for this, and take part in this, we can be at peace. The Lord will withstand the enemy. Let us be faithful, diligent, and prayerful for the Lord’s work of recovery, which is the recovery of the all-inclusiveness of Christ with His genuine expression. Bear this in mind and receive a burden in your heart and spirit to pray much for this purpose. We need to offer ourselves in consecration to the Lord for this purpose. We should not merely pray for this in an objective way. We must take a part in this recovery and pray for it in a subjective way. May the Lord be full of grace to us for this.
Bring this to the Lord and consider whether or not it is something of Him. We need to know where we are, where the church is, what the church needs, what the Lord’s timing is, what He will recover, and what He intends by making the United States the first nation and center of the populated world. The Lord means business. Let us be clear and burdened to pray for it. We are small, even the least, but the Lord has opened our eyes and showed us something. We cannot say that we have not seen it. Because I have come to the United States, I have seen it; I cannot forget it, and I cannot tell people that I have not seen it. The Lord has also opened our eyes to see the vision and revelation of the expression of the all-inclusive Christ. We know and have the assurance concerning what the Lord is doing today. Therefore, we must receive the burden and learn to pray for this (The Collected Works of Witness Lee, 1961-1962, vol. 4, pp. 499-504).