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The Book Unsealed
The Bible states that the meaning of scripture is sealed until the last times:
And he said, Go thy way, Daniel: for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end. (dan 12:9)#47
Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God. (1co 4:5)
The New Testament tells us Who will open the seals:
And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, Who is worthy to open the book, and to loose the seals thereof?
And one of the elders saith unto me, Weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Juda, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof. (rev 5:2,5)
Baha'u'llah is a direct descendant of King David and from the tribe of Judah (see Chap 17).
Baha'u'llah has unsealed the book with one of His major Writings, The Book of Certitude (the Kitab-i-Iqan). The circumstances of the revelation of this book are extraordinary. Revealed in Baghdad about two years before His exile to Constantinople, the book was a response to questions posed to Baha'u'llah, Who wrote it within the space of forty-eight hours. This book "broke the 'seals' of the 'Book' referred to by Daniel, and disclosed the meaning of the 'words' destined to remain 'closed up' till the 'time of the end.'" (gpb 139)
In this book, Baha'u'llah proclaims that there is only one God, "unknowable, inaccessible, the source of all Revelation, eternal, omniscient, omnipresent and almighty," asserts that Divine revelation has been progressive throughout the ages, "confirmed the unity of the Prophets, the universality of their Message, the identity of their fundamental teachings, the sanctity of their scriptures, and the twofold character of their stations," refers to and explains the symbolic passages of the New Testament, "enumerates the essential prerequisites for the attainment by every true seeker of the object of his quest;.. upholds the purity and innocence of the Virgin Mary.. Well may it be claimed that of all the books revealed by the Author of the Baha'i Revelation, this Book alone, by sweeping away the age-long barriers that have so insurmountably separated the great religions of the world, has laid down a broad and unassailable foundation for the complete and permanent reconciliation of their followers." (gpb 139)
To see how Baha'u'llah explains the meaning of scripture in The Book of Certitude, let us look at two verses from Matthew in which Jesus speaks of His Return, followed by Baha'u'llah's Words.
Words of Jesus:
Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: (mat 24:29)
Words of Baha'u'llah:
And now, concerning His words-'The sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give light, and the stars shall fall from heaven.' By the terms 'sun' and 'moon,' mentioned in the writings of the Prophets of God, is not meant solely the sun and moon of the visible universe. Nay rather, manifold are the meanings they have intended for these terms. In every instance they have attached to them a particular significance. Thus, by the 'sun' in one sense is meant those Suns of Truth Who rise from the dayspring of ancient glory, and fill the world with a liberal efeusion of grace from on high. These Suns of Truth are the universal Manifestations of God in the worlds of His attributes and names. Even as the visible sun that assisteth, as decreed by God, the true One, the Adored, in the development of all earthly things, such as the trees, the fruits, and colours thereof, the minerals of the earth, and all that may be witnessed in the world of creation, so do the divine Luminaries, by their loving care and educative influence, cause the trees of divine unity, the fruits of His oneness, the leaves of detachment, the blossoms of knowledge and certitude, and the myrtles of wisdom and utterance, to exist and be made manifest. Thus it is that through the rise of these Luminaries of God the world is made new, the waters of everlasting life stream forth, the billows of loving-kindness surge, the clouds of grace are gathered, and the breeze of bounty bloweth upon all created things. It is the warmth that these Luminaries of God generate, and the undying fires they kindle, which cause the light of the love of God to burn fiercely in the heart of humanity. It is through the abundant grace of these Symbols of Detachment that the Spirit of life everlasting is breathed into the bodies of the dead. Assuredly the visible sun is but a sign of the splendour of that Day-star of Truth, that Sun Which can never have a peer, a likeness, or rival. Through Him all things live, move, and have their being. Through His grace they are made manifest, and unto Him they all return. From Him all things have sprung, and unto the treasuries of His revelation they all have repaired. From Him all created things did proceed, and to the depositories of His law they did revert. (kiq 33-34)
Hence, it is clear and manifest that by the words 'the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven' is intended the waywardness of the divines, and the annulment of laws firmly established by divine Revelation, all of which, in symbolic language, have been foreshadowed by the Manifestation of God. (kiq 41)
O concourse of bishops! Ye are the stars of the heaven of My knowledge. My mercy desireth not that ye should fall upon the earth. My justice, however, declareth: 'This is that which the Son [Jesus] hath decreed.' And whatsoever hath proceeded out of His blameless, His truth-speaking, trustworthy mouth, can never be altered. (tbh 14)
And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. (mat 24:30)
Words of Baha'u'llah:
And now, concerning His words: 'And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven.' By these words it is meant that when the sun of the heavenly teachings hath been eclipsed, the stars of the divinely-established laws have fallen, and the moon of true knowledge-the educator of mankind-hath been obscured; when the standards of guidance and felicity have been reversed, and the morn of truth and righteousness hath sunk in night, then shall the sign of the Son of man appear in heaven. By 'heaven' is meant the visible heaven, inasmuch as when the hour draweth nigh on which the Day-star of the heaven of justice shall be made manifest, and the Ark of divine guidance shall sail upon the sea of glory, a star will appear in the heaven, heralding unto its people the advent of that most great light. In like manner, in the invisible heaven a star shall be made manifest who, unto the peoples of the earth, shall act as a harbinger of the break of that true and exalted Morn. These twofold signs, in the visible and the invisible heaven, have announced the Revelation of each of the Prophets of God, as is commonly believed. (kiq 61-62)
And now regarding His words, that the Son of man shall 'come in the clouds of heaven.' By the term 'clouds' is meant those things that are contrary to the ways and desires of men.. 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.' (kiq 71-72)
Were these men, therefore, to discover suddenly that a Man, Who hath been living in their midst, Who, with respect to every human limitation, hath been their equal, had risen to abolish every established principle imposed by their Faith-principles by which for centuries they have been disciplined, and every opposer and denier of which they have come to regard as infidel, profligate and wicked-they would of a certainty be veiled and hindered from acknowledging His truth. Such things are as 'clouds' that veil the eyes. (kiq 74)
Baha'u'llah has shown us how we might understand the symbolic verses in the Bible, if we take the time and care to study and ponder them in light of His Words. He has not explained every single verse of the Bible-the Bible does not tell us that the Spirit of Truth will explain everything; it says that He will guide us. Understanding does not come to us without effort on our part. Referring to The Book of Certitude, Baha'u'llah states:
In fact, all the Scriptures and the mysteries thereof are condensed into this brief account. So much so, that were a person to ponder it a while in his heart, he would discover from all that hath been said the mysteries of the Words of God, and would apprehend the meaning of whatever hath been manifested by that ideal King. (kiq 237)
It is not only in The Book of Certitude that Baha'u'llah explains the meaning of Scripture and helps us to understand it. Many of His other Writings shed light on the spiritual significance of the Word of God. Here is an example in which Baha'u'llah addresses the meaning of certain passages from the Book of Revelation:
Verses from Revelation:
His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire; And his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters.
And he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went a sharp twoedged sword: and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength. (rev 1:14-16)
And unto the angel of the church in Thyatira write; These things saith the Son of God, who hath his eyes like unto a flame of fire, and his feet are like fine brass. (rev 2:18)
And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. (rev 19:15)
An explanation by Baha'u'llah from a book entitled Gems of Divine Mysteries: Meditate then upon the utterance of one of the Prophets as He intimated to the souls of men, through veiled allusions and hidden symbols, the glad-tidings of the One Who was to come after Him, that thou mayest know of a certainty that their words are inscrutable to all save those who are endued with an understanding heart. He saith: 'His eyes were as a flame of fire,' and 'brass-like were His feet,' and 'out of His mouth goeth a two-edged sword.' How could these words be literally interpreted? Were anyone to appear with all these signs, he would assuredly not be human. And how could any soul seek his company? Nay, should he appear in one city, even the inhabitants of the next would flee from him, nor would any soul dare approach him! Yet, shouldst thou reflect upon these statements, thou wouldst find them to be of such surpassing eloquence and clarity as to mark the loftiest heights of utterance and the epitome of wisdom. Methinks it is from them that the suns of eloquence have appeared and the stars of clarity have dawned forth and shone resplendent.. Know then that He who uttered these words in the realms of glory meant to describe the attributes of the One Who is to come in such veiled and enigmatic terms as to elude the understanding of the people of error. Now, when He saith: 'His eyes were as a flame of fire,' He alludeth but to the keenness of sight and acuteness of vision of the Promised One, Who with His eyes burneth away every veil and covering, maketh known the eternal mysteries in the contingent world, and distinguisheth the faces that are obscured with the dust of hell from those that shine with the light of paradise. Were His eyes not made of the blazing fire of God, how could He consume every veil and burn away all that the people possess? How could He behold the signs of God in the Kingdom of His names and in the world of creation? How could He see all things with the all-perceiving eye of God? Thus have we conferred upon Him a penetrating vision in this day. Would that ye believe in the verses of God! For, indeed, what fire is fiercer than this flame that shineth in the Sinai of His eyes, whereby He consumeth all that hath veiled the peoples of the world?..
As to the words 'brass-like were His feet,' by this is meant His constancy upon hearing the call of God that commandeth Him: 'Be thou steadfast as thou hast been bidden.' He shall so persevere in the Cause of God, and evince such firmness in the path of His might, that even if all the powers of earth and heaven were to deny Him, He would not waver in the proclamation of His Cause, nor flee from His command in the promulgation of His Laws. Nay rather, He will stand as firm as the highest mountains and the loftiest peaks. He will remain immovable in His obedience to God and steadfast in revealing His Cause and proclaiming His Word. No obstacle will hinder Him, nor will the censure of the froward deter Him or the repudiation of the infidels cause Him to waver. All the hatred, the rejection, the iniquity, and the unbelief that He witnesseth serve but to strengthen His love for God, to augment the yearning of His heart, to heighten the exultation of His soul, and to fill His breast with passionate devotion. Hast thou ever seen in this world brass stronger, or blade sharper, or mountain more unyielding than this? He shall verily stand upon His feet to confront all the inhabitants of the earth, and will fear no one, notwithstanding that which, as thou well knowest, the people are wont to commit..
And further He saith: 'Out of his mouth goeth a two-edged sword.' Know thou that since the sword is an instrument that divideth and cleaveth asunder, and since there proceedeth from the mouth of the Prophets and the Chosen Ones of God that which separateth the believer from the infidel and the lover from the beloved, this term hath been so employed, and apart from this dividing and separating no other meaning is intended. Thus, when He Who is the Primal Point and the eternal Sun desireth, by the leave of God, to gather together all creation, to raise them up from the graves of their own selves, and to divide them one from another, He shall pronounce but one verse from Him, and this verse will distinguish truth from error from this day unto the Day of Resurrection. (gdm 52-56)
Baha'u'llah's spiritual interpretations are in full harmony with the Bible. Let us look at one example of this.
The following prophecy of Joel from the Old Testament speaks of great outward signs. Although these outward signs did not occur, the New Testament states that this prophecy was fulfilled during the time of Jesus.
Prophecy of Joel:
And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions:
And also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit. And I will shew wonders in the heavens and in the earth, blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke.
The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and the terrible day of the LORD come. (joe 2:28-31)
In the Book of Acts, Peter refers to this prophecy and states that it was fulfilled. We know that Peter must have understood the prophecy spiritually, because many of the signs mentioned by Joel were not fulfilled literally:
But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and said unto them, Ye men of JudŠa, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem, be this known unto you, and hearken to my words:
For these are not drunken, as ye suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day. But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams:
And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy:
And I will shew wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath; blood, and fire, and vapour of smoke:
The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before that great and notable day of the Lord come. (act 2:14-20)
Knowledge Shall be Increased
A fascinating aspect of the unsealing of the books given to us in the book of Daniel, wherein it states:
But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased. (dan 12:4)
These words of Daniel have been fulfilled. Through the coming of Baha'u'llah, like a spiritual sun rising, the world has experienced a tremendous increase in knowledge. More people travel to and fro in this day than at any other time in history.
Jesus uses the analogy of the physical growth of a tree to explain how we will be helped to recognize the time of His Return:
Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh:
So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors. (mat 24:32)
When do we see that this change referred to by Daniel and Jesus began?
An astonishing fact of history is that the famous first message sent by Samuel B. Morse on his newly-constructed telegraph system, which ran between Washington D.C. and Baltimore, was sent on May 24, 1844-one day after the Baha'i Faith commenced in Persia. The words chosen for that telegraphic message were quoted from the Book of Numbers, 23:23: What hath God wrought! Morse was a born-again Christian. He felt "the assurance that his Creator had chosen him to be a great benefactor to mankind." (YL p. 113) His invention anchored the age of electronic communications. It was given to mankind by God to provide the means whereby humanity could live as one fold (joh 10:16), and to enable the birth of a world civilization wherein humanity could freely communicate.
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