Jesus Christ did not leave His followers without the guidance they needed to spread His Message throughout the world. According to the Gospel of Matthew (16:15-19): “He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but My Father Which is in heaven. And I say unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven...”
This belief was the foundation of the church. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá says:
“Christ wished by suggestion, or an allusion, to confirm the words of Peter; so on account of the suitability of his name, Peter, He said: "and upon this rock I will build My church," meaning, thy belief that Christ is the Son of the living God will be the foundation of the Religion of God, and upon this belief the foundation of the church of God - which is the Law of God - shall be established.” (“Some Answered Questions”, p. 135)
Peter or Petros, is the Greek for “Rock”. In the language which Jesus spoke, Aramaic, this is Cephas. The Popes of western Christendom have used this verse to show that Peter is Christ’s successor and that they themselves are Peter’s successors and the vicars of Christ. History sheds doubt on this assumption. The existence of the tomb of Peter in Rome is doubtful. Furthermore, the attitudes of a great many Popes, their wealth and temporal sovereignty, their opposition to science and the killing of many innocent people are totally at odds with the teachings of Christ. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá says:
“Among the Popes there are also some blessed souls who followed in the footsteps of Christ, particularly in the first centuries of the Christian era when temporal things were lacking and the tests of God were severe. But when they came into possession of governmental power, and worldly honor and prosperity were gained, the Papal government entirely forgot Christ and was occupied with temporal power, grandeur, comfort and luxuries. It killed people, opposed the diffusion of learning, tormented the men of science, obstructed the light of knowledge, and gave the order to slay and to pillage. Thousands of souls, men of science and learning, and sinless ones, perished in the prisons of Rome. With all these proceedings and actions, how can the Vicarship of Christ be believed in?” (“Some Answered Questions”, pp. 136-137)
Nevertheless, the Bahá’í Faith recognises the primacy of Peter. Shoghi Effendi says:
“As to the position of Christianity, let it be stated without any hesitation or equivocation that its divine origin is unconditionally acknowledged, that the Sonship and Divinity of Jesus Christ are fearlessly asserted, that the divine inspiration of the Gospel is fully recognized, that the reality of the mystery of the Immaculacy of the Virgin Mary is confessed, and the primacy of Peter, the Prince of the Apostles, is upheld and defended.” (“The Promised Day is Come”, p. 109)
There was no clear statement from Christ as to how the church would be organised, or who His successor should be. The primacy of Peter was intended but not made explicitly clear in His teachings. Therefore, after the ascension of Christ there was no leader of the church. Unity was maintained by co-operation between the Apostles and other early followers. After the death of Judas Iscariot, one hundred and twenty believers came together and elected a twelfth Apostle named Matthias. (see: Acts 1:21-26) The organisation of the church was based on unity, co-operation and brotherhood.
The Message of Christ spread throughout the Roman Empire. The early Christians suffered horrendous persecutions and many became martyrs to their Faith. Eventually the Christian Message was adopted as the official religion of the Empire by Constantine the Great. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá relates:
“One demonstration of the excellent character of the Christians in those days was their dedication to charity and good works, and the fact that they founded hospitals and philanthropic institutions. For example, the first person to establish public clinics throughout the Roman Empire where the poor, the injured and the helpless received medical care, was the Emperor Constantine. This great king was the first Roman ruler to champion the Cause of Christ. He spared no efforts, dedicating his life to the promotion of the principles of the Gospel, and he solidly established the Roman government, which in reality had been nothing but a system of unrelieved oppression, on moderation and justice. His blessed name shines out across the dawn of history like the morning star, and his rank and fame among the world's noblest and most highly civilized is still on the tongues of Christians of all denominations.” (“Secrets of Divine Civilization”, p. 85)
Christianity became the foundation of a great civilisation. For several hundred years the Christian message of philanthropy, love and brotherhood reigned over the most outstanding of empires at that time. Belief in Christ ennobled the peoples of Europe. This was the Golden Age of the Christian era, just as Judaism had experienced a Golden Age during the reigns of Solomon and David, when even the ancient Greek philosophers sought wisdom from the Prophets of Israel. But inevitably, as the season of Spring eventually becomes winter, as the civilisation of Moses which was once so glorious had fallen, so too did the spirit of Christianity depart from the world. The Christian message became enshrined in man-made institutions and meaningless ceremonials. Blind imitation and creeds obscured the splendour of the teachings of Christ. Christianity entered the Dark Ages. Only an intervention of God could raise His church to the heights it had once attained.
Christ had promised that such a thing would come to pass. He said that the Spirit of Truth, the Comforter, would come and guide His followers (John 16:13-14): “I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit when He, the Spirit of truth, is come, He will guide you into all truth: for He shall not speak of Himself; but whatsoever He shall hear, that shall He speak: and He will shew you things to come. He shall glorify Me: for He shall receive of Mine, and shall shew it unto you.” He said that the “Comforter” would come to “teach you all things”. (see: John 14:26) In the Book of Genesis, it is prophesied that the sceptre of Prophethood would remain with the descendants of Judah, until the coming of “Shiloh” (Genesis 49:10): “The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be.”
Jesus Christ was a descendant of Judah. Therefore, after Jesus a Prophet would come Who would not be a descendant of Judah. God gave Abraham promises about the greatness of Ishmael’s descendants. Perhaps the next Prophet would be a descendant of Ishmael. This would be a fulfilment of the promise that God made with Abraham. Although the Covenant was made with Jacob, there was also a more general promise of the greatness of all Abraham’s descendants, including the descendants of Ishmael.
However, Christians did not believe that any intervention of God would happen in the world, except a literal Resurrection and last Judgement at the end of time. As George Townshend says:
“In spite of Christ's promise of further revelation of Truth, through the Comforter, through His own return, through the Spirit of Truth, the Christian Church regards His revelation as final, and itself as the sole trustee of true religion. There is no room for the Supreme Redeemer of the Bible to bring in great changes for the establishment of the Kingdom of God. In fact this Kingdom is often described as a world-wide Church.
“Having thus closed God's Covenant with the Bible, sacred history -- God-directed – came to an end, and secular history, having no sense of divine destiny nor unity, began.” (“Christ and Bahá’u’lláh”, p. 28)
The Jews had also closed off the doors to divine intervention in the time of Christ. They did not believe that after Moses anyone could come and renew the Law. The coming of Moses was the decisive intervention of God in the affairs of human history. By following the Law, salvation could be obtained. The idea of a Messiah was revealed through the teachings of the Prophets of Israel but His coming was regarded as a physical event whereby Israel would be re-established and rule over all her enemies. The coming of Christ was not like this. By renewing the teachings of Moses, Christ re-established the edifice of the Faith of Moses. Christ often associates Himself with Moses. A true believer in Moses would recognise the same Light in Jesus Christ, because although the Lamps are different, the Light is the same. Moses and Jesus only differ in the intensity of their Revelation. He says (John 5:46): “For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed Me: for He wrote of Me.” Therefore, He did not teach that His coming was the final, decisive event in human history before the coming of the Day of Judgement.
God does not work according to the wishes of His creatures. He does not conform to man-made dogma or institutions. Christ’s words will never pass away, and His church will always stand, but these have a spiritual significance, not a literal one. The fact that there could be other Dispensations after Christianity does not abrogate the Faith of Christ. It fulfils the Message of Christ, just as Christ fulfilled the Message of Moses. When the Dispensation of Christ had come to its end, God sent another Prophet to the world, Muhammad—peace be upon Him. Muhammad re-established the principles of Christ and gave new laws and teachings suitable to the time and conditions in which He appeared. God’s mercy to mankind had not ended. He sent the Spirit of Truth, the Comforter, to guide His people. Muhammad did not deny that Christ was the Son of God. He denied the Christian understanding of what that meant. Christ is the perfect Mirror of God and although we see the Sun in the Mirror, the Sun does not Itself descend into the Mirror. This is the meaning of Christ, when He said (John 14:11): “Believe Me that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me...” This same Mirror returned, this same Christ, in the person of Muhammad. A symbolic, rather than a literal understanding of the New Testament makes this clear. Townshend describes the life of Muhammad:
“Born in Mecca, the capital city of Arabia, about 570, He found Himself in the midst of a people consisting of a hundred warlike tribes, inheriting a tradition of polytheism, who had resisted all efforts at evangelization and who regarded battle as the only occupation fit for men. Such was the race whom Muhammad was to convert to monotheism and to unify into an unbreakable band of brothers, their unity being based on their religious faith.
“Muhammad was already about forty years old when He began to teach ethical principles similar to those of the Old Testament and to proclaim the succession of the Prophets, including His own succession to Jesus Christ, Whose divinity and Whose Gospel he called His believers to accept. But after a few years He found Himself forced by severe and continuous persecution to leave His native town for Medina where He at once began the execution of the real mission of His life, the building of a spiritual nation.” (“Christ and Bahá’u’lláh”, pp. 32-33)
Muhammad was a friend of the Christians in Arabia, whether or not they accepted His Message:
“To the Christians Muhammad showed the greatest kindness. Insisting that all Muslims should fully accept both Jesus Christ and His Gospel and assuring them in the Qur'án (Sura 5 verse 85) that they would find the Christians nearest of all men to them in affection, He took the Christians under his express protection.” (“Christ and Bahá’u’lláh”, p. 39)
Unfortunately, many Christians have become biased against Islám, the religion which Muhammad revealed. Many misconceptions have developed, such as a belief that Muhammad promoted violence or taught about a different God. Many believe that He denied the true Station of Christ. This is not true. Muhammad accepted great persecutions against Himself. His followers were greatly persecuted. He went to Medina to remove His followers from the attacks of the pagans, but the pagans would not relent in their violence against the early Muslims. Muhammad took the only possible step to ensure that Islám, the renewal of Christianity, could survive. In self-defence, the Muslims fought against the pagans of Arabia. Muhammad did not advocate using war for conquest, and the Qur’án, the Holy Book of Islám, specifically forbids forced conversions.
Muhammad taught that there is only one God. The Arabic word for God is Alláh. Many Muslims, when speaking English, use the word Alláh, rather than God. This could confuse non-Muslims, because they might think that Alláh is the specific name of an Arabian God. This is not true. Alláh literally means “the God”. Persians, the majority of whom are Muslims, call God Khoda. So Muslims do not worship a different God from Christians. The root of the word Alláh is the same as the root of the word El in the Old Testament. Islám is strictly monotheistic. It worships the exact same God as Judaism and Christianity.
Neither did Muhammad deny the Station of Jesus Christ. He frequently praises Christ and His mother Mary in the Qur’án. It is true that He did not emphasise the Divinity of Christ but He did not deny it. He simply denied the man-made understanding of the Divinity of Christ and the Trinity, which Christians adopted. When the Qur’án denies that God has a son, it is referring to the traditional belief of Christians that Jesus Christ is equal with the Essence of God Himself. The Qur’án instead emphasises the oneness and absolute unity of God.
Townshend says that “No Christian student reading Muhammad's teachings can miss the fact that His ethical system corrected many of those corruptions which had crept. . .” into “the Christian Faith of the seventh century. For instance Muhammad preached an emphatic monotheism in place of a trinitarian Godhead. He left no room for that sacerdotalism which had so enervated and distorted the spirit of the Gospel. He encouraged and promoted in the strongest way the pursuit of science and in which had become anathema to Christian orthodoxy; He is believed to have said that the ink of the scholar was more holy than the blood of the martyr and to have bidden believers to go as far as China for knowledge if necessary. Instead of endorsing celibacy He honored marriage, home life and home duties and by the stress He said on the oneness of all believers and the paramount duty of brotherly loyalty He showed His horror of schism.” (“Christ and Bahá’u’lláh”, p. 41)
Had the Christian priests of the seventh century not kept the people in a state of ignorance, they would have no doubt accepted the teachings of Muhammad. Europe would have experienced a glory greater than that which it attained during the Renaissance, which itself was inspired by the knowledge brought back from Muslim civilisation during the Crusades. Similarly, the Jews of Palestine would have attained a great station and been endowed with manifold blessings had they accepted Christ. But the Will of God works in mysterious ways. It was to the distant Arabian people, who had once been idolatrous pagans, that the Messenger of God came. Bahá’u’lláh comments on the failure of Christian priests to accept Muhammad:
“Inasmuch as the Christian divines have failed to apprehend the meaning of these words, and did not recognize their object and purpose, and have clung to the literal interpretation of the words of Jesus, they therefore became deprived of the streaming grace of the Muhammadan Revelation and its showering bounties. The ignorant among the Christian community, following the example of the leaders of their faith, were likewise prevented from beholding the beauty of the King of glory, inasmuch as those signs which were to accompany the dawn of the sun of the Muhammadan Dispensation did not actually come to pass. Thus, ages have passed and centuries rolled away, and that most pure Spirit hath repaired unto the retreats of its ancient sovereignty. Once more hath the eternal Spirit breathed into the mystic trumpet, and caused the dead to speed out of their sepulchres of heedlessness and error unto the realm of guidance and grace. And yet, that expectant community still crieth out: When shall these things be? When shall the promised One, the object of our expectation, be made manifest, that we may arise for the triumph of His Cause, that we may sacrifice our substance for His sake, that we may offer up our lives in His path? In like manner, have such false imaginings caused other communities to stray from the Kawthar of the infinite mercy of Providence, and to be busied with their own idle thoughts.” (Bahá’u’lláh: “the Kitáb-i-Íqán”, pp. 26-27)
But Islám also suffered the same fate as Judaism and Christianity. Muhammad verbally appointed His nephew and son-in-law, ‘Alí, to be His successor. He said that His two great gifts to His followers were His Book and His Family. But after His ascension, ‘Alí was not accepted as the legitimate successor of Muhammad. The followers of ‘Alí and the hereditary Imáms which succeeded him are known as Shí‘ah Muslims. The followers of the Caliphs which usurped the Faith of Muhammad are known as Sunnís. Deprived of the divine guidance of ‘Alí, Commander of the Faithful, the majority of Muslims, although exalted by the teachings of Muhammad, began to stray from the Spirit of His Faith. War was used as a means of conquest and the followers of ‘Alí were severely persecuted. Many of the Imáms, ‘Alí’s descendants, were martyred.
Nevertheless, despite this conflict, Islám did attain a Golden Age, when science and learning dominated the Arabian peninsula and the Law of God gave new life to the peoples of the East. The light of Islám spread across Asia, as far as India, and across the north of Africa. It even reached Spain. Most of these Muslims were of the Sunní sect. The Shí‘ah sect became the religion of Persia. Persia experienced a Golden Age of its own, because it was faithful to the hereditary heirs of Muhammad. But Muslims everywhere experienced the benefits of the just teachings of Muhammad, which were embraced by a significant portion of the human race. It is tragic that, because of this split in the Faith of Muhammad, Islám never came to be embraced by the majority of Christendom. Townshend says:
“Deprived of the guidance of Muhammad's family and ruled by descendants of Muhammad's enemies, Islám was transformed into a secular state whose rulers used religion for secular ends. Muhammad's plans remained unknown and so remain to this day, though it is easy to surmise their general character. This heinous violation swept away all possibility of Muhammad's love for Christendom, so conspicuously displayed in His lifetime, from developing, and thereafter the relationship of these two chief civilizations followed its tragic course, continuing right down to our own day to disturb the order of the world and to prevent the establishment of that unity in brotherhood which was the desire of both Christ and Muhammad.” (“Christ and Bahá’u’lláh”, p. 44)
After the succession of the Imáms ended, Shí‘ah Islám also lost its spirit. Its Springtime ended, and a spiritual winter began. By the nineteenth century, Persia, the stronghold of Shí‘ah Islám, had become a corrupt, despotic state. The rule of justice had ended, the teachings of Muhammad were extinguished in men’s hearts. The Message had gone. Once again a divine intervention was necessary. Now the Muslims would oppose the Truth, just as the Jews and Christians had opposed it before them. But this time there was a significant difference. Throughout history, all of the Prophets and Messengers had prophesied that the Day of Judgement would come. The Promised One of all ages would manifest Himself. The Return of Christ would come to judge the world. Muhammad was the last Founder of a world religion before the Day of God. That is one of the reasons why He has the title, “Seal of the Prophets”. This has been misinterpreted by Muslims to mean that He is the last Prophet and that after Him there would not be divine intervention in human affairs until a literal end of the world.
In the next chapter I have examined the prophecies of Jesus Christ concerning His Return “in the glory of his Father...” (Matthew 16:27)
Christ taught that He would return in the end of times. His disciples were curious to know when this great event would be. They said (Matthew 24:3): “Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of Thy coming, and of the end of the world?” In reply, Christ gave three promises that must be fulfilled. When each of these was fulfilled, they would know that the time had come. He said (24:33): “So likewise ye, when ye shall see these things, know that it is near, even at the doors.” He also said that no one would know the “day and hour” until He returned. (see: Matt. 24:36)
(1) The first promise was that the Gospel would be preached throughout the world:
“But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. And the gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.” (Matt. 24:13-14)
By the 19th century, the Gospel of Jesus Christ had been spread throughout the world. The only place where the Gospel had not yet reached was the African interior.
“A study of the spread of Christianity made by scholars of the 1840’s, convinced them that the message of Christ had, by their day, already encircled the globe. The Gospel was being taught in all continents. By 1844, it was being taught even in the interior of Africa, not by solitary missionaries, but on an organised
scale. A commercial history of East Africa states: ‘Christian missions began their activities amongst the African people in 1844.’”
(William Sears: “Thief in the Night”, pp. 8-9)
Thus the first promise of Christ was fulfilled in the year 1844.
(2) The second promise was that the Jews would begin to return to the Holy Land:
His disciples asked: “Master, but when shall these things be? and what sign will there be when these things shall come to pass?” (Luke 21:7)
He replied with the second promise: “And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles shall be fulfilled.” (Luke 21:24)
Jerusalem was destroyed in AD 70. The Jews were scattered and exiled. The Muslims conquered Jerusalem in AD 637. The Revelation of St. John says (11:2):
“...and the holy city (Jerusalem) shall they tread under foot forty and two months.”
Forty and two months equals 1260 days. This is confirmed in the next verse: “...a thousand two hundred and three-score days.”
In Biblical prophecy, a day is a year. Ezekiel says (4:6): “I have appointed thee each day for a year.” And (Numbers 14:34): “...even forty years, each day for a year, shall ye bear your iniquities..” Therefore, 1260 days in Biblical prophecy means 1260 years.
The year 1260 AH in the Islámic Calendar is the year 1844 AD. On the 21st of March 1844, the Ottoman Imperial Government issued the Edict of Toleration. For the first time in centuries, the Jews were allowed to return to Israel.
Therefore, the second promise was also fulfilled in the year 1844.
(3) The third promise was that the prophecies of Daniel would come to pass:
“When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:)” (Matt. 24:15)
This is the most important of the three promises. Daniel predicted the exact year when the Messiah would be crucified. He spoke of this in two ways: (1) as 70 weeks and (2) as 62 weeks, 7 weeks and 1 week in which the Covenant is confirmed. Both of them add up to 490 days. 490 days are 490 years in Biblical prophecy. This counts from the time of the decree of Artaxerxes in 457 BC. This is the third decree made by the Persian Emperors for the rebuilding of Jerusalem. It is the only one of those decrees to be fulfilled. The fourth decree was an extension of the third. If you add 490 years to 457 BC, you arrive at a date of 33 AD. (see: Sears: pp. 16-18)
If the prophecy of Daniel so accurately predicted the exact year of the crucifixion of Christ, surely it would also predict His second coming? Daniel does give an accurate prediction of the year in which Christ would return:
“Then I heard one saint speaking, and another saint said unto that certain saint which spake, How long shall be the vision concerning the daily sacrifice, and the transgression of desolation, to give both the sanctuary and the host to be trodden under foot. And he said unto me, Unto two thousand three hundred days; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed.” (Daniel 8:13-14)
2,300 days means 2,300 years. There were 456 years from the edict of Artaxerxes until the beginning of the AD period. When you add the remainder of the 2,300 years you arrive at a date of 1844 AD. Here, Daniel and Christ confirm that the Messiah would come another time in the year 1844 AD.
Therefore, the third promise was also fulfilled in year 1844.
At this moment, one should pause and reflect: How can this be? The Bible confirms the fact that the Messiah would come with great glory in the year 1844. Nevertheless, this was 160 years ago and that alone would be reason enough for most Christians to dismiss this claim. However, these three promises have been made by Christ Himself. It is only with an open mind and a hearing ear that this can be understood. Christ says (2 Peter 3:10): “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night...” and (Revelation: 16:15): “Behold, I come as a thief.”
Christ especially warned against the claims of false Messiahs and prophets. He taught that there would be many who tried to deceive Christians with their claims. That is why He gave these three promises. Only when these promises were fulfilled would Christ come “in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory” (Matthew 24:30). Christ gives another method to avoid false prophets. He says (Matthew 7:15-20):
“Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.”
Christ’s statement is quite clear. Evil people who try to deceive will only bring forth evil fruits. But a good person will bring forth good fruits and does not deceive. Therefore, everyone must first investigate with great care before labelling something ‘false’. If it is false, it will be evident from the fruit it produces!
Now that the three promises have been fulfilled, Christ must have returned. But how? Every open minded believer in Christ must investigate this question. One should have no fear, knowing that Christ has given clear statements to protect His followers from deception.
First of all, consider this question. Why did the Jews reject Jesus Christ? Why was He crucified for teaching love and brotherhood? Why do Jews still believe He was a false Messiah? The answer that one inevitably reaches is, because He did not literally fulfil the prophecies of the Old Testament, the Jewish Scriptures. Had He done so, who would have been able to reject Christ? Then the good would not be separated from the evil and the believer from the unbeliever. They expected a literal King on the throne of David, Who would overthrow the Romans. They expected Him to come down from the clouds of heaven with power and glory. To the blind, none of these were fulfilled. But to His followers, who had hearing ears and seeing eyes, Christ fulfilled all of the Jewish prophecies. He did come down from heaven with power and great glory. He did sit on the throne of David. But this was spiritual sovereignty, not physical sovereignty. Those that did not understand this, did not follow Christ.
Is it not possible that this could happen again? Are Christians themselves awaiting an entirely literal fulfilment of New Testament prophecy? Christ said He came down from heaven the first time. Jesus said: “For I came down from heaven, not to do Mine own will, but the will of Him that sent Me.” (John 6:38) The Jews “murmured at Him” (6:41) because of saying this. As far as they were concerned He was the son of Joseph and certainly didn’t come down from heaven.
Christ said that Elijah was the return of John the Baptist, even though this was not literal. Therefore, could not the return of Christ also be a symbolic, rather than literal event? If you unquestioningly answer ‘No’, then consider, what was the reaction of the Jews to the claims of Jesus Christ when He came the first time? It is vital that one does not make the same mistake. At least, it is essential that Christians investigate these claims with great care.
Two hours and eleven minutes after sunset on the 22nd of May 1844 AD, only two months after the Edict of Toleration allowing the Jews to return to Israel was issued, a Persian Youth by the name of Siyyid ‘Alí-Muhammad declared that He was a Messenger of God and the Forerunner of One greater than Himself. Like John the Baptist, He spoke of the coming of the Promised One. Siyyid ‘Alí-Muhammad became known as the Báb. I have written a section on the life of the Báb, which you can read here.
The Báb came from Persia (modern-day Írán). He taught that soon ‘He Whom God Shall Make Manifest’ would arise. He would be the Promised One of all religions and peoples, the Return of Christ in the Glory of the Father. Like John the Baptist, He was martyred for His beliefs. John the Baptist was killed by Herod, and similarly, the rulers and clergy of Persia oppressed the Báb and His followers. After being imprisoned in various fortresses, He was martyred at noon on Sunday, the 9th of July 1850.
His followers, called Bábís, relied on the hope that the Promised One would come soon. The three promises of Christ had been fulfilled by the year 1844. Now, the time for the coming of Christ in the Glory of the Father was near. Did Daniel also predict the year in which this would happen? Daniel says (12:11):
“And from the time that the daily sacrifice shall be taken away, and the abomination that maketh desolate be set up, there shall be a thousand two hundred and ninety days.”
1,290 days means 1,290 years. 1,290 years from the proclamation of the Mission of Muhammad is the year 1863 AD (1280 AH). Remember, Daniel and the Book of Revelation both speak of the 1,260 days (1844 AD), referring to the Islámic calendar. Similarly, this prophecy counts from the beginning of the Revelation of Muhammad. (see: ‘Abdu’l-Bahá: “Some Answered Questions”, pp. 43-44) So what happened in the year 1863?
Mírzá Husayn-‘Alí was a follower of the Báb. After the Ascension of the Báb, He helped to guide the Bábí Faith, which was then without a leader. He was a descendant of the pre-Islámic Kings of Persia and a descendant of Abraham through Keturah and through Jesse. Because He was a Bábí, He was imprisoned and eventually exiled from His homeland. In Baghdád, ‘Iráq, in April of 1863, He declared that He was ‘He Whom God Shall Make Manifest’, the Promised One. He became known as Bahá’u’lláh.
The Bible says that the Promised One would come from the east of Israel, in Elam (Persia). Jeremiah says (49:38): “And I will set My throne in Elam...” Ezekiel says (43:2-4):
“And behold, the glory of the God of Israel came from the way of the east: and his voice was like a noise of many waters: and the earth shined with his glory... And the glory of the LORD came into the house by the way of the gate whose prospect is toward the east.” (Ezekiel 43:2-4)
“But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.” (John 10:2)
To the east of Israel is Persia. The name Bahá’u’lláh means “Glory of God”. Bahá’u’lláh came from Persia. The Báb, the Forerunner of Bahá’u’lláh, means the “Gate”. Bahá’u’lláh is the Shepherd, Who entered in by the door, the Báb. These prophecies have been fulfilled.
Bahá’u’lláh is the Return of Christ in the Glory of the Father. Christ came down from heaven in the clouds of a physical body. These ‘clouds’ prevented the Jews from recognising the Messiah. And so, Bahá’u’lláh came down on the clouds of heaven, just as He came down the first time.
Remember, Jesus said: “For I came down from heaven, not to do Mine own will, but the will of Him that sent Me.” (John 6:38) The Jews “murmured at Him” (6:41) because of saying this. As far as they were concerned He was the son of Joseph and certainly didn’t come down from heaven. Bahá’u’lláh also had a father and mother, and now Christians should be careful that they don’t use the same arguments as the Jews. Bahá’u’lláh couldn’t have come from heaven because He had a father and mother! Jesus also had a mother! They both came down from heaven, but not physically, and they both ascended to heaven in the end. The spiritual meanings have far more importance than physical miracles. Christ says (John 3:31): “He that cometh from above is above all: he that is of the earth is earthly and speaketh of the earth: he that cometh from heaven is above all.” Christ was not earthly because He had a physical body. Bahá’u’lláh, as Christ, came down from heaven. The clouds upon which He came were His physical body, because they obscure His true Station, just as the physical body of Jesus was an obstacle for the Jews.
Why wasn’t Jesus accepted as the Messiah by the Jewish people? Because the prophecies of the Hebrew Scriptures were not literally fulfilled. They were fulfilled nonetheless by Jesus Christ. Similarly, why isn’t Bahá’u’lláh universally recognised by the Christians? Because Bahá’u’lláh, like Jesus Christ, did not literally fulfil the prophecies of the Scriptures. The prophecies were fulfilled spiritually, in such a way that unbelievers who cling to the literal interpretations of the past were distinguished from believers who saw the Light of God in Bahá’u’lláh. Christ existed before the world was. Jesus says (John 8:58): “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am.”
And in the beginning of the Gospel of John (John 1:1) it says: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Christ is the Word of God who existed throughout eternity. And John says: “In Him was life; and the life was the light of men.” (John 1:4) Jesus Christ’s body was the Lamp. A new Lamp has now come, but the Light is the same. The Lamp does not endure, but the Light which is in the Lamp endures for all time.
The followers of Christ (Bahá’u’lláh) have a new name, as predicted by the Prophet Isaiah (62:2): “...and thou shalt be called by a new name.” (65:15) “The Lord GOD shall... call His servants by another name.” These “servants” of God are called Bahá’ís. In the Revelation of St. John it says (2:7): “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith to unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name is written, which no man knoweth save he that receiveth it.” Those who have an ear to hear are those who understand the spiritual rather than literal interpretation of this verse. The Bahá’í Faith is often called the Community of the Most Great Name”.
Jesus taught that in the end of times He would return. He also spoke of the coming of the “Comforter”, Whom He also calls the “Spirit of truth”. Jesus said that He had many other things to teach His followers, but they were not yet ready. The “Spirit of truth” would come to bring them those teachings when the appointed hour struck. Christ said:
“I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit when He, the Spirit of truth, is come, He will guide you into all truth: for He shall not speak of Himself; but whatsoever He shall hear, that shall He speak: and He will shew you things to come. He shall glorify Me: for He shall receive of Mine, and shall shew it unto you.” (John 16:13-14) The “Spirit of Truth” is Bahá’u’lláh, the Messiah and Return of Christ in the glory of the Father.
“Now consider carefully that from these words, "for He shall not speak of Himself; but whatsoever He shall hear, that shall He speak," it is clear that the Spirit of truth is embodied in a Man Who has individuality, Who has ears to hear and a tongue to speak. In the same way the name "Spirit of God" is used in relation to Christ, as you speak of a light, meaning both the light and the lamp.” (‘Abdu’l-Bahá: “Some Answered Questions”, p. 109)
Christ said: “And I will pray the Father , and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you forever. Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth Him not, neither knoweth Him: but ye know Him; for He dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.” (John 14: 16-18) Christ identifies Himself with the “Comforter” and yet refers to Him as “another”. Physically, Bahá’u’lláh does not have the same body as Jesus, so He is “another Comforter” but He is also Christ returned. In the same way, as I mentioned earlier, John the Baptist does not have the same physical body as Elijah, but Christ Himself said that John was Elijah.
Christ said that “the prince of this world cometh” (John 14:30), identifying Bahá’u’lláh with the prophecy of Isaiah:
“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counseller, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgement and with justice from henceforth even for ever.” (Isaiah 9:6-7)
Christ said: “I am the way, the truth and the life: no man cometh unto the Father but by Me.” (John 14:6) Bahá’u’lláh is Christ, and is thus still the One Way and the only-begotten Son of God. Bahá’u’lláh says that to be bereft of Him is to be bereft of all things.
“The Great Being saith: The Tongue of Wisdom proclaimeth: He that hath Me not is bereft of all things. Turn ye away from all that is on earth and seek none else but Me. I am the Sun of Wisdom and the Ocean of Knowledge. I cheer the faint and revive the dead. I am the guiding Light that illumineth the way. I am the royal Falcon on the arm of the Almighty. I unfold the drooping wings of every broken bird and start it on its flight.” Bahá’u’lláh (“Tablets of Bahá’u’lláh”, p. 169)
It is incumbent upon Christians to investigate with an open mind the life and Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, to judge the tree by its fruits and not to simply deny Him because of a literal interpretation of the Holy Scriptures, as the Jews did of old. It is essential that one endeavours to discover the truth of this Cause and thereby measure all things in the sight of justice, not by preconceived and man-made limitations. The true seeker after truth must not allow the Books of the past to withhold him or her from the Living Book (Bahá’u’lláh) and must empty him or herself from man-made knowledge which might hinder the independent investigation of truth.
“We, verily, see amongst you him who taketh hold of the Book of God and citeth from it proofs and arguments wherewith to repudiate his Lord, even as the followers of every other Faith sought reasons in their Holy Books for refuting Him Who is the Help in Peril, the Self-Subsisting. Say: God, the True One, is My witness that neither the Scriptures of the world, nor all the books and writings in existence, shall, in this Day, avail you aught without this, the Living Book, Who proclaimeth in the midmost heart of creation: “Verily, there is none other God but Me, the All-Knowing, the All-Wise.” Bahá’u’lláh (“the Kitáb-i-Aqdas”, p. 80)
Referring to the prophecies of the New Testament, Bahá’u’lláh says:
“Should they say: “These words are indeed from God, and have no interpretation other than their outward meaning”, then what objection can they raise against the unbelievers among the people of the Book? For when the latter saw the aforementioned passages in their Scriptures and heard the literal interpretations of their divines, they refused to recognize God in those who are the Manifestations of His unity, the Exponents of His singleness, and the Embodiments of His sanctity, and failed to believe in them and submit to their authority. The reason was that they did not see the sun darken, or the stars of heaven fall to the ground, or the angels visibly descend upon the earth, and hence they contended with the Prophets and Messengers of God.” (Bahá’u’lláh: “Gems of Divine Mysteries”, pp. 12-13)
We should not become so attached to the Lamp that we fail to recognise the Light that is within the Lamp. The Jews recognised the Lamp of Moses, but they did not recognize that the Light had come in a new Lamp, Jesus Christ. The Lamp is different, but it is the same Light, the same Christ and heavenly teachings. Simply to recognize the Lamp of Jesus is not sufficient. We must recognize that the same Light has returned in a new Lamp, Bahá’u’lláh, the Glory of God. Christ said: “For many are called, but few are chosen.” (Matthew 22:14) And: “Many will say to Me in that day, Lord, Lord... And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from Me, ye that work iniquity.” (Matthew 7:22-23)
Christ says: “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but My words shall not pass away.” (Matthew 24:35, Luke 21:33, Mark 13:31) Does this mean that the New Testament is the final Revelation of God to mankind? The words, the spirit which Christ taught shall never pass away. The principles He expounded shall never pass away. Bahá’u’lláh confirms that the Bible is the Word of God, because it is inspired by God. The words of Christ have not passed away. Rather, Bahá’u’lláh has come to renew the Word of God, to bring afresh those teachings which Christ brought to mankind. In the Bahá’í Faith, Christianity is renewed and fulfilled. Here are some quotes from Queen Marie of Rumania, the first crowned head to become a member of the Bahá’í Faith:
“It is a wondrous message that Bahá’u’lláh and His Son ‘Abdu’l-Bahá have given us! They have not set it up aggressively, knowing that the germ of eternal truth which lies at its core cannot but take root and spread . . . It is Christ’s message taken up anew, in the same words almost, but adapted to the thousand years and more difference that lies between the year one and today.”
“If ever,” wrote the Queen, “the name of Bahá’u’lláh or ‘Abdu’l-Bahá comes to your attention, do not put their writings from you. Search out their books, and let their glorious, peace-bringing, love-creating words and lessons sink into your hearts as they have into mine . . . Seek them and be the happier.”
“The Bahá’í teaching brings peace and understanding. It is like a wide embrace gathering all those who have long searched for words of hope . . . Saddened by the continual strife amongst believers of many confessions and wearied of their intolerance towards each other, I discovered in the Bahá’í teaching the real spirit of Christ so often denied and misunderstood.” (“God Passes By”, pp. 391-392)
Bahá’u’lláh claims to be none other than the Promised One of all peoples, nations and religions. He has come not just to Christians but to all peoples, to bring about the long-awaited millennium of which poets and seers have spoken for centuries. He is the Divine Physician Who has brought a medicine to cure the problems of the world. This medicine is the Bahá’í Faith, a universal religion which is destined to embrace the entire human race. Bahá’u’lláh said that the whole human race should be embraced by one common religion.
“Regard the world as the human body which, though at its creation whole and perfect, hath been afflicted, through various causes, with grave disorders and maladies. Not for one day did it gain ease, nay its sickness waxed more severe, as it fell under the treatment of ignorant physicians, who gave full rein to their personal desires, and have erred grievously. And if, at one time, through the care of an able physician, a member of that body was healed, the rest remained afflicted as before. Thus informeth you the All-Knowing, the All-Wise.
“We behold it, in this day, at the mercy of rulers so drunk with pride that they cannot discern clearly their own best advantage, much less recognize a Revelation so bewildering and challenging as this. And whenever any one of them hath striven to improve its condition, his motive hath been his own gain, whether confessedly so or not; and the unworthiness of this motive hath limited his power to heal or cure.
“That which the Lord hath ordained as the sovereign remedy and mightiest instrument for the healing of all the world is the union of all its peoples in one universal Cause, one common Faith. This can in no wise be achieved except through the power of a skilled, an all-powerful and inspired Physician. This, verily, is the truth, and all else naught but error.” Bahá’u’lláh (“Gleanings”, p. 255)
Jesus said to keep the doors of your hearts open. He says (Revelation 3:20, 22): “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear My voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with Me... He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.” It requires a spiritual “ear” to understand this verse, i.e. it cannot be understood literally. Christ has now returned and people should open the doors of their hearts to Him. Bahá’u’lláh says:
“Open the doors of your hearts. He Who is the Spirit verily standeth before them. Wherefore banish ye Him Who hath purposed to draw you nigh unto a Resplendent Spot? Say: We, in truth, have opened unto you the gates of the Kingdom. Will ye bar the doors of your houses in My face? This indeed is naught but a grievous error. He, verily, hath again come down from heaven, even as He came down from it the first time. Beware lest ye dispute that which He proclaimeth, even as the people before you disputed His utterances. Thus instructeth you the True One, could ye but perceive it.
“The river Jordan is joined to the Most Great Ocean, and the Son, in the holy vale, crieth out: `Here am I, here am I O Lord, my God!', whilst Sinai circleth round the House, and the Burning Bush calleth aloud: `He Who is the Desired One is come in His transcendent majesty.' Say, Lo! The Father is come, and that which ye were promised in the Kingdom is fulfilled! This is the Word which the Son concealed, when to those around Him He said: `Ye cannot bear it now.' And when the appointed time was fulfilled and the Hour had struck, the Word shone forth above the horizon of the Will of God. Beware, O followers of the Son, that ye cast it not behind your backs. Take ye fast hold of it. Better is this for you than all that ye possess. Verily He is nigh unto them that do good. The Hour which We had concealed from the knowledge of the peoples of the earth and of the favoured angels hath come to pass. Say, verily, He hath testified of Me, and I do testify of Him. Indeed, He hath purposed no one other than Me. Unto this beareth witness every fair-minded and understanding soul. . . .
“Announce thou unto the priests: Lo! He Who is the Ruler is come. Step out from behind the veil in the name of thy Lord, He Who layeth low the necks of all men. Proclaim then unto all mankind the glad-tidings of this mighty, this glorious Revelation. Verily, He Who is the Spirit of Truth is come to guide you unto all truth. He speaketh not as prompted by His own self, but as bidden by Him Who is the All-Knowing, the All-Wise.
“Say, this is the One Who hath glorified the Son and hath exalted His Cause. Cast away, O peoples of the earth, that which ye have and take fast hold of that which ye are bidden by the All-Powerful, He Who is the Bearer of the Trust of God. Purge ye your ears and set your hearts towards Him that ye may hearken to the most wondrous Call which hath been raised from Sinai, the habitation of your Lord, the Most Glorious. It will, in truth, draw you nigh unto the Spot wherein ye will perceive the splendour of the light of His countenance which shineth above this luminous Horizon ...
“Say: In the East the light of His Revelation hath broken; in the West have appeared the signs of His dominion. Ponder this in your hearts, O people, and be not of those who have turned a deaf ear to the admonitions of Him Who is the Almighty, the All-Praised. Let the Breeze of God awaken you. Verily, it hath wafted over the world. Well is it with him that hath discovered the fragrance thereof and been accounted among the well-assured.” Bahá’u’lláh (“Tablets”, p. 11-12)
“Incline your ears to the sweet melody of this Prisoner. Arise, and lift up your voices, that haply they that are fast asleep may be awakened. Say: O ye who are as dead! The Hand of Divine bounty proffereth unto you the Water of Life. Hasten and drink your fill. Whoso hath been re-born in this Day, shall never die; whoso remaineth dead, shall never live.” Bahá’u’lláh (“Gleanings”, p. 213)
“Say: The Books have been sent down for naught but My remembrance. Whosoever is receptive to their call shall perceive therefrom the sweet fragrances of My name and My praise; and he who hath unstopped the ear of his inmost heart shall hear from every word thereof: ‘The True One is come! He indeed is the beloved of the worlds!’” Bahá’u’lláh (“The Summons of the Lord of Hosts”, p. 86)
“This is the Day whereon the Rock crieth out and shouteth, and celebrateth the praise of its Lord, the All-Possessing, the Most High, saying: “Lo! The Father is come, and that which ye were promised in the Kingdom is fulfilled!” This is the Word that which was preserved behind the veils of grandeur, and which, when the Promise came to pass, shed its radiance from the Divine Will with clear tokens.” (p. 59)
“O followers of the Son! We have once again sent John unto you, and He, verily, hath cried out in the wilderness of the Bayán: O peoples of the world! Cleanse your eyes! The Day whereon ye can behold the Promised One and attain unto Him hath drawn nigh! O followers of the Gospel! Prepare the way! The Day of the advent of the Glorious Lord is at hand! Make ready to enter the Kingdom. Thus hath it been ordained by God, He Who causeth the dawn to break.
“Give ear unto that which the Dove of Eternity warbleth upon the twigs of the Divine Lote-Tree: O peoples of the earth! We sent forth him who was named John to baptize you with water, that your bodies might be cleansed for the appearance of the Messiah. He, in turn, purified you with the fire of love and the water of the spirit in anticipation of these Days whereon the All-Merciful hath purposed to cleanse you with the water of life at the hands of His loving providence. This is the Father foretold by Isaiah, and the Comforter concerning Whom the Spirit had covenanted with you. Open your eyes, O concourse of bishops, that ye may behold your Lord seated upon the Throne of might and glory.” (p. 63)
“Say: O concourse of Christians! We have, on a previous occasion, revealed Ourself unto you, and ye recognized Me not. This is yet another occasion vouchsafed unto you. This is the Day of God; turn ye unto Him. He, verily, hath come down from heaven even as He came down the first time, and He desireth to shelter you beneath the shade of His mercy. He, verily, is the Exalted, the Mighty, the Supreme Helper. The Beloved One loveth not that ye be consumed with the fire of your desires. Were ye to be shut out as by a veil from Him, this would be for no other reason than your own waywardness and ignorance. Ye make mention of Me, and know Me not. Ye call upon Me, and are heedless of My Revelation, notwithstanding that I came unto you from the heaven of pre-existence with surpassing glory. Rend the veils asunder in My name and through the power of My sovereignty that ye may discover a path unto your Lord.” (pp. 65-66)
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