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Bahá’u’lláh and the New Era

  • Author:
  • J. E. Esslemont

  • Source:
  • US Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1980 edition
  • Pages:
  • 286
Go to printed page GO
Pages 229-234

Manner of Coming

As to the manner of His coming at the end of the age, Christ said:—
And they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet. … then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats.—Matt. xxiv, 30–31; xxv, 31–32.
Regarding these and similar passages Bahá’u’lláh writes in the Book of Íqán:—
… The term “heaven” denoteth loftiness and exaltation, inasmuch as it is the seat of the revelation of those Manifestations of Holiness, the Day-springs of ancient glory. These ancient Beings, though delivered from the womb of their mother, have in reality descended from the heaven of the will of God. Though they be dwelling on this earth, yet their true habitations are the retreats of glory in the realms above. Whilst walking amongst mortals, they soar in the heaven of the divine presence. Without feet they tread the path of the spirit, and without wings they rise unto the exalted heights of divine unity. With every fleeting breath they cover the immensity 230 of space, and at every moment traverse the kingdoms of the visible and the invisible. …
… By the term “clouds” is meant those things that are contrary to the ways and desires of men. Even as He hath revealed in the verse already quoted: “As oft as an Apostle cometh unto you with that which your souls desire not, ye swell with pride, accusing some of being impostors and slaying others.” [Qur’án 2:87.] These “clouds” signify, in one sense, the annulment of laws, the abrogation of former Dispensations, the repeal of rituals and customs current amongst men, the exalting of the illiterate faithful above the learned opposers of the Faith. In another sense, they mean the appearance of that immortal Beauty in the image of mortal man, with such human limitations as eating and drinking, poverty and riches, glory and abasement, sleeping and waking, and such other things as cast doubt in the minds of men, and cause them to turn away. All such veils are symbolically referred to as “clouds.”

These are the “clouds” that cause the heavens of the knowledge and understanding of all that dwell on earth to be cloven asunder. Even as He hath revealed: “On that day shall the heaven be cloven by the clouds.” [Qur’án 25:25]. Even as the clouds prevent the eyes of men from beholding the sun, so do these things hinder the souls of men from recognizing the light of the divine Luminary. To this beareth witness that which hath proceeded out of the mouth of the unbelievers as revealed in the sacred Book: “And they have said: ‘What manner of apostle is this? He eateth food, and walketh the streets. Unless an angel be sent down and take part in His warnings, we will not believe.’” [Qur’án 25:7.] Other Prophets, similarly, have been subject to poverty and afflictions, to hunger, and to the ills and chances of this world. As these holy Persons were subject to such needs and wants, the people were, consequently, lost in the wilds of misgivings and doubts, and were afflicted with bewilderment and perplexity. How, they wondered, could such a person be sent 231 down from God, assert His ascendancy over all the peoples and kindreds of the earth, and claim Himself to be the goal of all creation,—even as He hath said: “But for Thee, I would have not created all that are in heaven and on earth,”—and yet be subject to such trivial things? You must undoubtedly have been informed of the tribulations, the poverty, the ills, and the degradation that have befallen every Prophet of God and His companions. You must have heard how the heads of their followers were sent as presents unto different cities, how grievously they were hindered from that whereunto they were commanded. Each and every one of them fell a prey to the hands of the enemies of His Cause, and had to suffer whatsoever they decreed. …
… The All-Glorious hath decreed these very things, that are contrary to the desires of wicked men, to be the touchstone and standard whereby He proveth His servants, that the just may be known from the wicked, and the faithful distinguished from the infidel. …
And now, concerning His words: “And He shall send His angels. …” By “angels” is meant those who, reinforced by the power of the spirit, have consumed, with the fire of the love of God, all human traits and limitations, and have clothed themselves with the attributes of the most exalted Beings and of the Cherubim. …

As the adherents of Jesus have never understood the hidden meaning of these words, and as the signs which they and leaders of their Faith have expected have failed to appear, they therefore refused to acknowledge, even until now, the truth of those Manifestations of Holiness that have since the days of Jesus been made manifest. They have thus deprived themselves of the outpourings of God’s holy grace, and of the wonders of His divine utterance. Such is their low estate in this, the Day of Resurrection! They have even failed to perceive that were the signs of the Manifestation of God in every age to appear in the visible realm in accordance with the text 232 of established traditions, none could possibly deny or turn away, not would the blessed be distinguished from the miserable, and the transgressor from the God-fearing. Judge fairly: Were the prophecies recorded in the Gospel to be literally fulfilled; were Jesus, Son of Mary, accompanied by angels, to descend from the visible heaven upon the clouds; who would dare to disbelieve, who would dare to reject the truth, and wax disdainful? Nay, such consternation would immediately seize all the dwellers of the earth that no soul would feel able to utter a word, much less to reject or accept the truth.—Kitáb-i-Íqán, pp. 67, 71–73, 76, 78–79, 80–81.
According to the above explanation the coming of the Son of Man, in lowly human form, born of woman, poor, uneducated, oppressed and set at naught by the great ones of the earth—this manner of coming is the very touchstone by which He judges the people of earth and separates them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. Those whose spiritual eyes are opened can see through those clouds and rejoice in the “power and great glory”—the very glory of God—which He comes to reveal; the others, whose eyes are still holden by prejudice and error, can see but the dark clouds and continue to grope in gloom, deprived of the blessed sunshine.
Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in. … But who may abide the day of his coming? And who shall stand when he appeareth? for he is like a refiner’s fire, and like fullers’ sope. … For, behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: … But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings.—Mal. iii, 1–2; iv. 1–2.
NOTE—The subject of fulfillment of prophecy is such an extensive one that many volumes would be required for its adequate 233 exposition. All that can be done within the limits of a single chapter is to indicate the main outlines of the Bahá’í interpretations. The detailed Apocalypses revealed by Daniel and St. John have been left untouched. Readers will find certain chapters of these dealt with in Some Answered Questions. In the Book of Íqán, by Bahá’u’lláh, Bahá’í Proofs, by Mírzá Abu’l-Faḍl, and in many of the Tablets of Bahá’u’lláh and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá further explanation of prophecies may be found. 234 Prophecies of Bahá’u’lláh and