The "Return" Spoken of By the Prophets
Question. - Will you explain the subject of Return?
Answer. - Baha'u'llah has explained this question fully and clearly in the Iqan. Read it, and the truth of this subject will become apparent. But since you have asked about it, I will explain it briefly. We will begin to elucidate it from the Gospel, for there it is plainly said that when John, the son of Zacharias, appeared and gave to men the glad tidings of the Kingdom of God, they asked him, "Who art thou? Art thou the promised Messiah?" He replied, "I am not the Messiah." Then they asked him, "Art thou Elijah?" He said, "I am not." These words prove and show that John, the son of Zacharias, was not the promised Elias. But on the day of the transfiguration on Mount Tabor Christ said plainly that John, the son of Zacharias, was the promised Elias.
In chapter 9, verses 11-13, of the Gospel of Mark, it is said: "And they asked Him, saying, Why say the scribes that Elias must first come? And He answered and told them, Elias verily cometh first, and restoreth all things; and how it is written of the Son of man, that He must suffer many things, and be set at nought. But I say unto you, That Elias is indeed come, and they have done unto him whatsoever they listed, as it is written of him."
In chapter 17, verse 13, of Matthew, it is said: "Then the disciples understood that He spake unto them of John the Baptist."
They asked John the Baptist, "Are you Elias?" He answered, "No, I am not," although it is said in the Gospel that John was the promised Elias, and Christ also said so clearly. Then if John was Elias, why did he say, "I am not"? And if he was not Elias, why did Christ say that he was?
The explanation is this: not the personality, but the reality of the perfections, is meant - that is to say, the same perfections that were in Elias existed in John the Baptist and were exactly realized in him. Therefore, John the Baptist was the promised Elias. In this case not the essence, but the qualities, are regarded. For example, there was a flower last year, and this year there is also a flower; I say the flower of last year has returned. Now, I do not mean that same flower in its exact individuality has come back; but as this flower has the same qualities as that of last year - as it has the same perfume, delicacy, color and form - I say the flower of last year has returned, and this flower is the former flower. When spring comes, we say last year's spring has come back because all that was found in last year's spring exists in this spring. That is why Christ said, "You will see all that happened in the days of the former Prophets."
We will give another illustration. The seed of last year is sown, branches and leaves grow forth, blossoms and fruits appear, and all has again returned to seed. When this second seed is planted, a tree will grow from it, and once more those branches, leaves, blossoms and fruits will return, and that tree will appear in perfection. As the beginning was a seed and the end is a seed, we say that the seed has returned. When we look at the substance of the tree, it is another substance, but when we look at the blossoms, leaves and fruits, the same fragrance, delicacy and taste are produced. Therefore, the perfection of the tree has returned a second time.
In the same way, if we regard the return of the individual, it is another individual; but if we regard the qualities and perfections, the same have returned. Therefore, when Christ said, "This is Elias," He meant: this person is a manifestation of the bounty, the perfections, the character, the qualities and the virtues of Elias. John the Baptist said, "I am not Elias." Christ considered the qualities, the perfections, the character and the virtues of both, and John regarded his substance and individuality. It is like this lamp: it was here last night, and tonight it is also lighted, and tomorrow night it will also shine. We say that the lamp of this night is the same light as that of last night, and that it has returned. It refers to the light, and not to the oil, the wick or the holder.
This subject is fully and clearly explained in the Kitab-i-Iqan.(`Abdu'l-Baha: Some Answered Questions, Pages: 132-134)
A Short Section from the Kitab-i-Iqan (Book of Certitude)
. . . O brother, behold how the inner mysteries of "rebirth," of "return," and of "resurrection" have each, through these all-sufficing, these unanswerable, and conclusive utterances, been unveiled and unravelled before thine eyes. God grant that through His gracious and invisible assistance, thou mayest divest thy body and soul of the old garment, and array thyself with the new and imperishable attire.
Therefore, those who in every subsequent Dispensation preceded the rest of mankind in embracing the Faith of God, who quaffed the clear waters of knowledge at the hand of the divine Beauty, and attained the loftiest summits of faith and certitude, these can be regarded, in name, in reality, in deeds, in words, and in rank, as the "return" of those who in a former Dispensation had achieved similar distinctions. For whatsoever the people of a former Dispensation have manifested, the same hath been shown by the people of this latter generation. Consider the rose: whether it blossometh in the East or in the West, it is none the less a rose. For what mattereth in this respect is not the outward shape and form of the rose, but rather the smell and fragrance which it doth impart.
Purge thy sight, therefore, from all earthly limitations, that thou mayest behold them all as the bearers of one Name, the exponents of one Cause, the manifestations of one Self, and the revealers of one Truth, and that thou mayest apprehend the mystic "return" of the Words of God as unfolded by these utterances. Reflect for a while upon the behaviour of the companions of the Muhammadan Dispensation. Consider how, through the reviving breath of Muhammad, they were cleansed from the defilements of earthly vanities, were delivered from selfish desires, and were detached from all else but Him. Behold how they preceded all the peoples of the earth in attaining unto His holy Presence -- the Presence of God Himself -- how they renounced the world and all that is therein, and sacrificed freely and joyously their lives at the feet of that Manifestation of the All-Glorious. And now, observe the "return" of the self-same determination, the self-same constancy and renunciation, manifested by the companions of the Point of the Bayan. Thou hast witnessed how these companions have, through the wonders of the grace of the Lord of Lords, hoisted the standards of sublime renunciation upon the inaccessible heights of glory. These Lights have proceeded from but one Source, and these fruits are the fruits of one Tree. Thou canst discern neither difference nor distinction among them. All this is by the grace of God! On whom He will, He bestoweth His grace. Please God, that we avoid the land of denial, and advance into the ocean of acceptance, so that we may perceive, with an eye purged from all conflicting elements, the worlds of unity and diversity, of variation and oneness, of limitation and detachment, and wing our flight unto the highest and innermost sanctuary of the inner meaning of the Word of God.
From these statements therefore it hath been made evident and manifest that should a Soul in the "End that knoweth no end" be made manifest, and arise to proclaim and uphold a Cause which in "the Beginning that hath no beginning" another Soul had proclaimed and upheld, it can be truly declared of Him Who is the Last and of Him Who was the First that they are one and the same, inasmuch as both are the Exponents of one and the same Cause. For this reason, hath the Point of the Bayan - may the life of all else but Him be His sacrifice! -- likened the Manifestations of God unto the sun which, though it rise from the "Beginning that hath no beginning" until the "End that knoweth no end," is none the less the same sun. Now, wert thou to say, that this sun is the former sun, thou speakest the truth; and if thou sayest that this sun is the "return" of that sun, thou also speakest the truth. Likewise, from this statement it is made evident that the term "last" is applicable to the "first," and the term "first" applicable to the "last;" inasmuch as both the "first" and the "last" have risen to proclaim one and the same Faith.
Notwithstanding the obviousness of this theme, in the eyes of those that have quaffed the wine of knowledge and certitude, yet how many are those who, through failure to understand its meaning, have allowed the term "Seal of the Prophets" to obscure their understanding, and deprive them of the grace of all His manifold bounties! Hath not Muhammad, Himself, declared: "I am all the Prophets?" Hath He not said as We have already mentioned: "I am Adam, Noah, Moses, and Jesus?" Why should Muhammad, that immortal Beauty, Who hath said: "I am the first Adam" be incapable of saying also: "I am the last Adam"? For even as He regarded Himself to be the "First of the Prophets" - that is Adam - in like manner, the "Seal of the Prophets" is also applicable unto that Divine Beauty. It is admittedly obvious that being the "First of the Prophets," He likewise is their "Seal."
The mystery of this theme hath, in this Dispensation, been a sore test unto all mankind. Behold, how many are those who, clinging unto these words, have disbelieved Him Who is their true Revealer. What, We ask, could this people presume the terms "first" and "last" - when referring to God - glorified be His Name! - to mean? If they maintain that these terms bear reference to this material universe, how could it be possible, when the visible order of things is still manifestly existing? Nay, in this instance, by "first" is meant no other than the "last" and by "last" no other than the "first."
Even as in the "Beginning that hath no beginnings" the term "last" is truly applicable unto Him who is the Educator of the visible and of the invisible, in like manner, are the terms "first" and "last" applicable unto His Manifestations. They are at the same time the Exponents of both the "first" and the "last." Whilst established upon the seat of the "first," they occupy the throne of the "last." Were a discerning eye to be found, it will readily perceive that the exponents of the "first" and the "last," of the "manifest" and the "hidden," of the "beginning" and the "seal" are none other than these holy Beings, these Essences of Detachment, these divine Souls. And wert thou to soar in the holy realm of "God was alone, there was none else besides Him," thou wilt find in that Court all these names utterly non-existent and completely forgotten. Then will thine eyes no longer be obscured by these veils, these terms, and allusions. How ethereal and lofty is this station, unto which even Gabriel, unshepherded, can never attain, and the Bird of Heaven, unassisted, can never reach!(Baha'u'llah: The Kitab-i-Iqan, Pages: 159-164)
"As to the Return. . ."
As to the Return, as God hath purposed in His sacred and exalted Tablets wherein He hath made this theme known unto His servants; by this is meant the return of all created things in the Day of Resurrection, and this is indeed the essence of the Return as thou hast witnessed in God's own days and thou art of them that testify to this truth.
Verily God is fully capable of causing all names to appear in one name, and all souls in one soul. Surely powerful and mighty is He. And this Return is realized at His behest in whatever form He willeth. Indeed He is the One Who doeth and ordaineth all things. Moreover, thou shouldst not perceive the fulfilment of the Return and the Resurrection save in the Word of thy Lord, the Almighty, the All-Knowing. For instance, were He to take a handful of earth and declare it to be the One Whom ye have been following in the past, it would undoubtedly be just and true, even as His real Person, and to none is given the right to question His authority. He doeth what He willeth and ordaineth whatsoever He pleaseth. Moreover, in this station take thou heed not to turn thy gaze unto limitations and allusions, but rather unto that whereby the Revelation itself hath been fulfilled and be of them that are discerning. Thus do We explain for thee in a lucid and explicit language that thou mayest comprehend that which thou didst seek from thine ancient Lord.(Baha'u'llah: Tablets of Baha'u'llah, Pages: 183-184)
The Day of the Return
Know thou moreover that in the Day of His Manifestation all things besides God shall be brought forth and placed equally, irrespective of their rank being high or low. The Day of Return is inscrutable unto all men until after the divine Revelation hath been fulfilled. He is in truth the One Who ordaineth whatsoever He willeth. When the Word of God is revealed unto all created things whoso then giveth ear and heedeth the Call is, indeed, reckoned among the most distinguished souls, though he be a carrier of ashes. And he who turneth away is accounted as the lowliest of His servants, though he be a ruler amongst men and the possessor of all the books that are in the heavens and on earth.
It behoveth thee to look with divine insight upon the things We have revealed and sent unto thee and not towards the people and that which is current amongst them. They are in this day like unto a blind man who, while moving in the sunshine, demandeth: Where is the sun? Is it shining? He would deny and dispute the truth, and would not be of them that perceive. Never shall he be able to discern the sun or to understand that which hath intervened between him and it. He would object within himself, voice protests, and would be among the rebellious. Such is the state of this people. Leave them unto themselves, saying: Unto you be that which ye desire and unto us that which we desire. Wretched indeed is the plight of the ungodly.(Baha'u'llah: Tablets of Baha'u'llah, Page: 186)
The True Meaning of the Prophesies Concerning the Coming of Christ
In the Bible there are prophecies of the coming of Christ. The Jews still await the coming of the Messiah, and pray to God day and night to hasten His advent.
When Christ came they denounced and slew Him, saying: `This is not the One for whom we wait. Behold when the Messiah shall come, signs and wonders shall testify that He is in truth the Christ. We know the signs and conditions, and they have not appeared. The Messiah will arise out of an unknown city. He shall sit upon the throne of David, and behold, He shall come with a sword of steel, and with a sceptre of iron shall He rule! He shall fulfil the law of the Prophets, He shall conquer the East and the West, and shall glorify His chosen people the Jews. He shall bring with Him a reign of peace, during which even the animals shall cease to be at enmity with man. For behold the wolf and the lamb shall drink from the same spring, and the lion and the doe shall lie down in the same pasture, the serpent and the mouse shall share the same nest, and all God's creatures shall be at rest'.
According to the Jews, Jesus the Christ fulfilled none of these conditions, for their eyes were holden and they could not see.
He came from Nazareth, no unknown place. He carried no sword in His hand, nor even a stick. He did not sit upon the Throne of David, He was a poor man. He reformed the Law of Moses, and broke the Sabbath Day. He did not conquer the East and the West, but was Himself subject to the Roman Law. He did not exalt the Jews, but taught equality and brotherhood, and rebuked the Scribes and Pharisees. He brought in no reign of peace, for during His lifetime injustice and cruelty reached such a height that even He Himself fell a victim to it, and died a shameful death upon the cross.
Thus the Jews thought and spoke, for they did not understand the Scriptures nor the glorious truths that were contained in them. The letter they knew by heart, but of the life-giving spirit they understood not a word.
Hearken, and I will show you the meaning thereof. Although He came from Nazareth, which was a known place, He also came from Heaven. His body was born of Mary, but His Spirit came from Heaven. The sword He carried was the sword of His tongue, with which He divided the good from the evil, the true from the false, the faithful from the unfaithful, and the light from the darkness. His Word was indeed a sharp sword! The Throne upon which He sat is the Eternal Throne from which Christ reigns for ever, a heavenly throne, not an earthly one, for the things of earth pass away but heavenly things pass not away. He re-interpreted and completed the Law of Moses and fulfilled the Law of the Prophets. His word conquered the East and the West. His Kingdom is everlasting. He exalted those Jews who recognized Him. They were men and women of humble birth, but contact with Him made them great and gave them everlasting dignity. The animals who were to live with one another signified the different sects and races, who, once having been at war, were now to dwell in love and charity, drinking together the water of life from Christ the Eternal Spring.
Thus, all the spiritual prophecies concerning the coming of Christ were fulfilled, but the Jews shut their eyes that they should not see, and their ears that they should not hear, and the Divine Reality of Christ passed through their midst unheard, unloved and unrecognized.
It is easy to read the Holy Scriptures, but it is only with a clean heart and a pure mind that one may understand their true meaning. Let us ask God's help to enable us to understand the Holy Books. Let us pray for eyes to see and ears to hear, and for hearts that long for peace.
God's eternal Mercy is immeasurable. He has always chosen certain souls upon whom He has shed the Divine Bounty of His heart, whose minds He has illumined with celestial light, to whom He has revealed the sacred mysteries, and kept clear before their sight the Mirror of Truth. These are the disciples of God, and His goodness has no bounds. You who are servants of the Most High may be disciples also. The treasuries of God are limitless.
The Spirit breathing through the Holy Scriptures is food for all who hunger. God Who has given the revelation to His Prophets will surely give of His abundance daily bread to all those who ask Him faithfully.(`Abdu'l-Baha: Paris Talks, Pages: 54-57)
The Same is True Today
In the day of Christ all nations were expecting that His Holiness Christ should come from heaven, and He came from heaven, though outwardly He came from the womb of Mary. Hence, He hath said in the Gospels: "No one shall ascend to heaven except the one who hath come from heaven." Now all the people expect Him to come from heaven.
If thou wishest to find the truth, compare the days of the Manifestation of the Beauty of Abha (Baha'u'llah) with the days of Christ; consider this is identically like that and the same doubts and oppositions are put forth.
As to the proofs and arguments of the Beauty of Abha, these are manifest like the sun. If thou wishest a discerning eye and seekest for a hearing ear, set thou aside that which thou hast heard from fathers and ancestors, for such things are imitation -- and then seek for the truth with the utmost attention until the divine confirmation may reach thee and the matter may be properly disclosed unto thee.(`Abdu'l-Baha: Baha'i World Faith, Page: 387)
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