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Facilitating Spiritual Joy:
Workshop on Christianity

by Ted Brownstein

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Chapter 1

Facilitating Spiritual Joy

Part I



Purpose

"Facilitating Spiritual Joy" is a curriculum designed to help Bahá'í teachers introduce the person and teachings of Bahá'u'lláh to people of Christian background. Its methods are modeled after the loving example of 'Abdu'l-Bahá. In his talks to Christian audiences, such as those recorded in Promulgations of Universal Peace, `Abdu'l-Bahá was kind, cautious and passionate. He served the cause of religious unity by lavishing praise on the Bible as the Word of God and Jesus Christ as the Son of God.

Like a skilled farmer, he prepared the soil before planting the seed. He took great pains to establish a rapport with his listeners. He did not rush to proclaim the station of Bahá'u'lláh, but first built common ground with Christians by speaking at length about Moses and Christ and by general discussion of Biblical themes, such as unity, reverence for God and divine education. His approach was gradual, gently unfolding the verities of the Faith in a warm and logical manner. His expositions on the station of Bahá'u'lláh incorporated proofs from the Bible, especially the prophecies of Daniel and Revelation.

This curriculum seeks to follow Abdu'l-Bahá's methods and to build skills that will allow Bahá'í teachers to follow suit. Through the use of individual and interactive group exercises, it provides instruction in how to locate verse in the Bible, identifies verses useful for teaching and provides practice in their use.

"Facilitating Spiritual Joy" has four distinct goals:


* To help Bahá'ís appreciate the spiritual value of Christ and the Christian Bible as revealed in the Bahá'í Writings.

* To help familiarize Bahá'í teachers with the various parts of the Old and New Testaments and help them acquire the skills needed to locate key Bible verses.

* To explain basic doctrines of modern Christian Churches and to show where they parallel and where they contrast with the teachings of the Bahá'í Revelation.

* To examine `Abdu'l-Bahá's teaching methodology and assist in the others to develop the attitudes and skills necessary for a productive Bahá'í / Christian dialogue,

It is truly hoped that these materials will assist Bahá'í teachers to cultivate a joy in teaching the Faith as well to grow in capacity to bring the joy of knowing and serving Bahá'u'lláh to others.

Bahá'í View of the Christian Bible

When Abdu'l-Bahá visited America in 1912 he had the opportunity to speak in various Christian Churches. Invariably he would use such opportunities to praise the Bible.

Fifty years ago no one would touch the Christian Bible in Persia. Bahá'u'lláh came and asked, "Why?" They said, "It is not the Word of God." He said, "You must read it with understanding of its meanings, not as those who merely recite its words." Now Bahá'ís all over the East read the Bible and understand its spiritual teaching. Bahá'u'lláh spread the Cause of Christ and opened the book of the Christians and Jews. (The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 212)

Likewise Bahá'u'lláh Himself taught that the Bible, as we have it today, contains the Word of God.

We have also heard a number of the foolish of the earth assert that the genuine text of the heavenly Gospel doth not exist amongst the Christians, that it hath ascended unto heaven. How grievously they have erred!...How could God, when once the Day-star of the beauty of Jesus had disappeared from the sight of His people... cause His holy Book, His most great testimony amongst His creatures, to disappear also? What would be left to that people to cling to from the setting of the day-star of Jesus until the rise of the sun of the Muhammadan Dispensation? What law could be their stay and guide? How could such people be made the victims of the avenging wrath of God, the omnipotent Avenger? How could they be afflicted with the scourge of chastisement by the heavenly King? Above all, how could the flow of the grace of the All-Bountiful be stayed? How could the ocean of His tender mercies be stilled? (The Kitáb-i-Íqán, p. 89-90)

Exercises

1) In your own word, explain the Bahá'í view of the Christian Bible.

__________________________________________________________________________________

__________________________________________________________________________________

__________________________________________________________________________________


2) What reasons does Bahá'u'lláh give for believing that the teachings of Jesus are accurately presented in the Bible?

_________________________________________________________________________________

_________________________________________________________________________________

_________________________________________________________________________________


Focusing Questions

A useful technique for studying quotations in a group is by the use of focusing questions. These are questions that are answered verbatim in the quotation. There purpose is to direct or focus attention on the specific wording of the quotation. Such questions are useful as a first step toward memorizing key phrases in a quotation.

In the first quotation on the preceding page, Abdu'l-Bahá comments on the value of the Christian Bible. Here are some examples of focusing questions and answers. Notice how the wording of the questions and the wording of the answers come directly out of the quotation.

Q: What was the situation in Persia fifty years ago?
A: In Persia, fifty years ago, no one would touch the Christian Bible.

Q: Why did people in Persia refuse to read the Bible?
A: They believed that it was not the Word of God.

Q: How did Bahá'u'lláh say that the Bible should be read?
A: It must be read with understanding of its meanings.

Q: What is the situation now?
A: Bahá'í all over the East read the Bible.
Exercises

1) Create a series of focusing questions and answers from the following quotation.

Once in about a thousand years shall this City be renewed and re-adorned ... That city is none other than the Word of God revealed in every age and dispensation. In the days of Moses it was the Pentateuch; in the days of Jesus the Gospel; in the days of Muhammad the Messenger of God the Qur'án. (The Kitáb-i-Íqán, p. 199)

Q: ________________________________________________________________________________

A: ________________________________________________________________________________


Q: ________________________________________________________________________________

A: ________________________________________________________________________________


Q: ________________________________________________________________________________

A: ________________________________________________________________________________


Q: ________________________________________________________________________________

A: ________________________________________________________________________________


Brief Overview of Christian Bible
The word "Bible" means "library." Originally, the Bible was written on scrolls. The entire collection of divine scrolls constituted the Holy Library. In the first or second century after Christ, Christians popularized the "codex" or book format in the course of teaching their Faith. It was easier to use a bound book to flip quickly from one verse to another than to locate the verses in scrolls.

The Christian Bible is divided into two main sections; the Old and New Testaments. The Old Testament contains the sacred writings of Judaism. Starting with the creation of the world, it relates the origin of the Israelite nation, the revelation of the Law to Moses and subsequent history of Israel up to approximately 400 BC (four hundred years before Christ). The writings of over a dozen prophets, such as Isaiah and Ezekiel, and sacred literature, such as the Psalms and Proverbs, make up the remainder of the Old Testament.

The New Testament is comprised of the additions to the sacred library made by Christians. The Gospels describe the life and teachings of Jesus and the spread of early Christianity up to about 60 AD. A large part of the New Testament contains letters which the apostles Peter, Paul and others wrote to various new Christian congregations in the major cities such as Ephesus, Corinth and Rome. One prophetic work, the Revelation of St. John, completes the New Testament collection.

Timeline of Key Events in Bible History.
(Traditional rather than modern scholarly dates are given).

* Creation of Adam. (4000 BC)

* Noah's flood. (2400 BC)

* The nomadic wanderings of the Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. (2000 BC)

* The enslavement of the Israelites in Egypt. (1600 BC)

* Their liberation from slavery under Moses. (1500 BC)

* The revelation of the Ten Commandments. (1500 BC)

* The conquest of Canaan. (1450 BC)

* The Kingdom of Israel under Kings David and Solomon. (1050 BC)

* The division of the Kingdom into Judah and Israel. (1000 BC)

* The histories of their kings until conquest and exile of Jewish nation to Assyria & Babylon. (1000 BC to 580 BC)

* The return from exile. (530 BC)

* Malachi, last of Hebrew prophets. (400 BC)

* Birth of Jesus (1 BC)

* Crucifixion (33 AD)

* Imprisonment of St. Paul in Rome. (60 AD)

* Destruction of Jerusalem by Roman armies. (70 AD)

* Writing of last books of New Testament. (98 AD)

Exercise

1. Rearrange the following list and put it into chronological order.


* Jesus

* David

* Adam

* Paul

* Noah

* Moses

* Malachi

2. Describe the contents of the Old Testament.

_____________________________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________________________


3. Describe the contents of the New Testament.

_____________________________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________________________




Becoming Familiar with the Bible

The charts on the following pages list the various books of the Old and New Testaments.

As you examine the charts, do the following exercises.
1. Identify the five books of Moses, (also known as the Torah or Pentateuch).

2. Notice the description of the contents of the various books in the right hand column.

3. Using the column labeled "Literary Type" identify the divisions of the Old Testament into three categories, historical, instructional and prophetic books.

4. List the starting and ending books of each category.

5. Using the Pronunciation column as a guide, read aloud the names of the OT books.

6. Notice that some books have a 1 or a 2 in front of them, such as 1 Kings and 2 Kings. These are pronounced "First Kings" and "Second Kings". Originally these books were too long to fit on one scroll, so they were divided into two. List all the books which are split into part I and part II in this way.

7. Repeat for New Testament.

8. Notice there are 4 books called John. There is the gospel of John, which has no number in front of it, located between Luke and Acts. Almost at the end of the New Testament there are three books which are letters written by John called, 1 John, 2 John and 3 John. When looking up verses in "John" be sure to use the correct book.

9. Most Bibles contain a table of contents in the front showing the starting page number for each book. What is the starting page number in your Bible for:

a. The Gospel according to John _____
b. The first letter of John _____
c. The second letter of John _____
d. The third letter of John _____

Books of the Old Testament

In the Christian Bible, there are 39 books of the Old Testament. Originally, written in Hebrew with small sections in Aramaic, they are organized into three groupings; historical books, poetic and instructional writings and prophetic books.

The histories begin with a narrative of the creation of the world and span the history of Israel up to about 400 BC (Before Christ). The first five books of this section are the Torah (Hebrew for "law"), also called the Pentateuch (Greek for "five rolls") or the Five Books of Moses. They are Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy.

The poetic and instructional books include Psalms and Proverbs. The prophetic books contain the writings of over a dozen divine prophets.

Name of Book
Pronunciation
Traditional Author
Traditional Date
Literary Type
Contents / Highlights
Genesis
jen-e-sis
Moses
c. 1500 BC
History
Creation, flood, Abraham, Joseph
Exodus
ek-se-dus
Moses
c. 1500 BC
History
Israelite slavery and salvation from Egypt, Moses receives ten commandments & other divine laws at Sinai
Leviticus
li-vit-i-kus
Moses
c. 1500 BC
History
Law especially those concerned with priests & Levites
Numbers

Moses
c. 1500 BC
History
Israelites wandering in the wilderness
Deuteronomy
doo-te-ron-o-my
Moses
c. 1500 BC
History
Summary of law, Song of Moses, Death of Moses
Joshua

Joshua
c. 1450 BC
History
Conquest of Canaan
Judges

Samuel (?)
c. 1100 BC
History
Tribal affairs before Israelite Kings
Ruth

Samuel (?)
c. 1100 BC
History
Tale related to ancestry of David
1 Samuel

Samuel & others
c. 1100 BC
History
Samuel's affairs, Saul, David & Goliath
2 Samuel

Nathan & others
c. 1050 BC
History
Kingship of David
1 Kings

Jeremiah
c. 580 BC
History
King Solomon, division of kingdom, kings of Judah and Israel
2 Kings

Jeremiah
c. 580 BC
History
Later kings, Elijah, conquest of kingdoms
1 Chronicles

Ezra
c. 450 BC
History
Genealogy of Israel, history of Israel and Judah until Solomon
2 Chronicles

Ezra
c. 450 BC
History
Histories from Solomon through conquest of Judah and exile
Ezra

Ezra
c. 450 BC
History
Restoration after Babylonian exile
Nehemiah
ne-uh-mi-ah
Nehemiah
c. 400 BC
History
Restoration of Jerusalem
Esther

Mordecai
c. 400 BC
History
Salvation of Jews in Persian Empire






Writings: Poetic and Instructional and Poetic Books





Job
jôb
Moses
c. 1500 BC
Poetic epic
Sufferings of Job, why the innocent suffer
Psalms
salmz
David & others
c. 450 BC
Poetry
Prayers and songs
Proverbs

Solomon & others
c. 450 BC
Poetic essay, wise sayings
Wise advice to "son"
Ecclesiates
i-klee-zee-as-tes
Solomon
c. 1000 BC
Essay
Futility and the Meaning of life
Song of Solomon

Solomon
c. 1000 BC
Love poetry
Allegory for the love of God






Prophetic Books





Isaiah
ii-zay-uh
Isaiah
c. 700 BC
Prophecy
Denunciation of corruption, prophecies of Messiah and Israel's redemption
Jeremiah
jer-uh-mi-uh
Jeremiah
c. 580 BC
Prophecy
Denunciation of corruption, prophecies of Messiah and Israel's redemption
Lamentations

Jeremiah
c. 580 BC
Poetry
Lament over destruction of Jerusalem
Ezekiel
ee-zee-kee-el
Ezekiel
c. 600 BC
Prophecy
Denunciation of corruption, prophecies of Messiah and Israel's redemption
Daniel

Daniel
c. 500 BC (?)
Prophecy
Tales of Daniel and Three Hebrews, end time prophecies
Hosea
hô-zay-uh
Hosea
c. 750 BC
Prophecy
Denunciation of corruption, prophecies Israel's redemption
Joel

Joel
c. 800 BC
Prophecy
Denunciation of corruption in Judah, end time prophecies
Amos

Amos
c. 800 BC
Prophecy
Denunciation of corruption in Israel
Obadiah
ô-buh-die-uh
Obadiah
c. 600 BC
Prophecy
Denunciation against Edomites
Jonah

Jonah
c. 800 BC (?)
Prophecy
Tale of wayward prophet, denunciation against Nineveh
Micah
mi-cuh
Micah
c. 700 BC
Prophecy
Denunciation against Judah, end time prophecies
Nahum
nay-hum
Nahum
c. 600 BC
Prophecy
Denunciations against Judah
Habakkuk
ha-back-kuk
Habakkuk
c. 600 BC
Prophecy
Denunciations against Judah
Zephaniah
zef-uh-nii-uh
Zephaniah
c. 600 BC
Prophecy
Denunciations against Judah
Haggai
hag-guy
Haggai
c. 500 BC
Prophecy
Post-exilic exhortation, restoration prophecies
Zechariah
zek-uh-rii-uh
Zechariah
c. 500 BC
Prophecy
Post-exilic exhortation, restoration prophecies
Malachi
mal-uh-kii
Malachi
c. 400 BC
Prophecy
Post-exilic exhortation, restoration prophecies


Books of the New Testament

The New Testament contains 27 books, originally written in Greek. They are organized into the same groupings as the Old Testament. The four gospels and the Acts of the Apostles make up the history books. The letters of the Apostles Paul, Peter and others make up the instructional writings. Revelation is the only prophetic book in the New Testament.

Name of Book
Pronunciation
Traditional Author
Traditional Date
Literary Type
Contents / Highlights
History





Matthew

Matthew
c. 40 AD
History
Gospel (history of Jesus' ministry)
Mark

Mark
c. 60 AD
History
Gospel
Luke

Luke
c. 55 AD
History
Gospel
John

John
c. 100 AD
History
Gospel
Acts

Luke
c. 60 AD
History
History of early Christian Church






Letters





Romans

Paul
c. 60 AD
Letter/essay
Wide discussion of Christian teachings; e.g. sin & salvation
1 Corinthians
kuh-rin-thee-ans
Paul
c. 55 AD
Letter/essay
Unity, cleanness of Church
2 Corinthians

Paul
c. 60 AD
Letter/essay
Warning against false teachers and apostates
Galatians
guh-laa-shunz
Paul
c. 50 AD
Letter/essay
Abrogation of law of Moses
Ephesians
i-fee-zhunz
Paul
c. 60 AD
Letter/essay
Unity of believers
Philippians
fi-lip-peenz
Paul
c. 60 AD
Letter/essay
Humility of Christ
Colossians
kuh-losh-enz
Paul
c. 60 AD
Letter/essay
Love as perfect bond of union
1 Thessalonians
thes-uh--neenz
Paul
c. 50 AD
Letter/essay
Endurance through tribulation
2 Thessalonians

Paul
c. 50 AD
Letter/essay
Warning against apostasy
I Timothy

Paul;
c. 60 AD
Letter/essay
Instructions for appointments of Church leaders
2 Timothy

Paul;
c. 65 AD
Letter/essay
Urgency of teaching
Titus
ti-tus
Paul
c. 60 AD
Letter/essay
Warning against sectarian divisions
Philemon
ffi-lee-mon
Paul
c. 60 AD
Letter
Personal forgiveness & reconciliation
Hebrews

Paul (??)
?
Essay
Typology of Christ in Law of Moses
James

James
c. 60 AD
Letter/essay
Faith without works
1 Peter

Peter
c. 65 AD
Letter/essay
Christ as exemplar
2 Peter

Peter
c. 65 AD
Letter/essay
End time prophecies
1 John

John
c. 100 AD
Letter/essay
Warning against antichrist, God is love
2 John

John
c. 100 AD
Letter/essay
Exhortation to love God & Christ, warning against antichrist
3 John

John
c. 100 AD
Letter
Exhortation to love God & Christ, warning against antichrist
Jude

Jude
c. 65 AD
Letter/essay
Warnings against antichrist






Prophecy





Revelation

John
c. 100 AD (?)
Prophecy
Prophetic visions and end time prophecies


How to Find Bible Verses

When speaking with Christians who are serious Bible students and who readily quote chapter and verse, it is often helpful for the Bahá'í teacher to know a few Bible verses and know how to look them up and read them from the Christian's own copy of the Bible.

In the front of most Bibles there is a Table of Contents that lists the 66 books of the Old and New Testaments, either in alphabetical or traditional order. Memorizing these books in traditional order may be helpful, but it is not necessary. Our goal at this time is to learn how to locate a few key passages and this can be accomplished by knowing whether the verse you seek is toward the front, back or middle.

Let's say we want to find John 16:12-13, where Christ foretells the coming of the Promised One. Open the Bible and locate the Table of Contents. Often there are two, one that lists the books in consecutive order and another that uses alphabetical order.

Find the page number in your Bible where the gospel of John starts. (The one with no number in front of it.) Turn to that page.

Now we want chapter 16. (John 16:12-13 indicates the sixteenth chapter, verses twelve through thirteen.) The chapter numbers are large and located at the beginning of each chapter. The verse numbers are smaller and begin anew in each chapter. After you have located the beginning of chapter 16, scan down the columns until you find the smaller 12, indicating verse 12.

Read the verse aloud.

Next practice by looking up the following Bible verses. Identify each one a pertaining to a) Prophecies that foretell to the Coming of the Promised One, b) Verses that teach the unity of mankind, c) Verses that provide guidance in distinguishing true and false prophets. Indicate your choice by marking the list below or create notes on the back inside cover of your Bible.

1) Ezekiel 43:4 ___________
2) Matthew 7:15-20 ___________
3) Luke 6:32, 35 ___________
4) Titus 2:11 ___________
5) Jeremiah 49:38 ___________
6) 1 John 4:1-4 ___________
7) Isaiah 11:6-9 ___________
8) Revelation 3:12 ___________
9) Isaiah 35:1-2 ___________
10) 1 John 4:20-21 ___________

The Promised One of the New Testament

In the Gospel of John, we find Jesus' promise that someone would come after Him who would further His teaching.

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. He shall show you things to come. (John 16:12-13)

This promised teacher would come after Christ. His teachings would be new, things that Jesus' disciples had not heard and were not ready for yet. This new teacher would guide the people into "all truth." He would be faithful to God and teach God's word in truth. He would be no false prophet. He would give reliable prophecies about things yet to come. Notice Abdu'l-Bahá's comments on this verse from John:

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. (Some Answered Questions, p. 109)

Shoghi Effendi identified Bahá'u'lláh as the one who fulfilled Jesus' promise:
Did not Christ Himself, addressing His disciples, utter these words: "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"? ... from the words of Christ, as attested by the Gospel, every unprejudiced observer will readily apprehend the magnitude of the Faith which Bahá'u'lláh has revealed, and recognize the staggering weight of the claim He has advanced. (The World Order of Bahá'u'lláh, p. 25)

Bahá'u'lláh also referred to John 16:12-13 and publicly proclaimed that the prophecy has been fulfilled in Himself.
Announce thou unto the priests: Lo! ... 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. (Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh, p. 12)



Exercises on John 16:12-13

1) I have ______ many things to say unto you, but ye cannot ________ them now. Howbeit when He, the ____________ of _________, is come, He will __________ you into all __________: for ______ shall not __________ of Himself; but whatsoever He shall ________, that shall ______ speak. He shall show you ____________ to ________.

2) Memorize these verses.


3) Paraphrase the meaning of these verses in your own words:

___________________________________________________________________________________

___________________________________________________________________________________

___________________________________________________________________________________



4) Explain how we can tell that these words apply to a new revelation to come after Jesus:

___________________________________________________________________________________

___________________________________________________________________________________

___________________________________________________________________________________


5) What phrases in the verse indicate that these words must refer to a human prophet?

___________________________________________________________________________________

___________________________________________________________________________________

___________________________________________________________________________________




Teaching by Using Questions

Questions can be powerful teaching tools. Instead of directly explaining a point to a seeker, the use of questions can involve the seeker in the discussion. These questions can be focusing questions, that highlight key phrases in the sacred Word, or they can be teaching questions that involve the seeker in the discussion and help to uncover the spiritual meaning of the verses.

What impact does the uses of questions have on the mind and heart of the seeker? When we use questions to draw out our seekers, we help them discover the truth for themselves. Also, we learn what she is thinking and can address her concerns more precisely.

Note the following examples which contrast straight forward explanation with teaching by using questions.

Explaining:
Bahá'í: Jesus was a divine educator. He taught the way of salvation and eternal life. However, he knew that the spiritual capacity of his disciples was limited. He told them that there were many things that He wanted to tell them, but that they were not ready to hear those things yet. He foretold another one, who would come after Him, who would reveal those things.

In John 16:12-13 Jesus said: "I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. However when He, the Spirit of Truth has come, He will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears, He will speak."

We can tell that Jesus was referring to another prophet, because He hears and He speaks. He has a will of His own. When the time is right, He uses His free will to teach the people the things that Jesus wants them to learn.

Teaching with questions:
Bahá'í: Did you know that Jesus spoke about a divine teacher who would come after Him?

Seeker: No, I have always believed that Jesus was the only one.

Bahá'í: No spiritual teacher could ever replace Jesus, but He explained that there were things He wanted to tell His disciples that they were not ready to learn yet. Are you familiar with that scripture?

Seeker: Not really! Where is that in the Bible?

Bahá'í: In the 16th chapter of John it says, "I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. However when He, the Spirit of Truth has come, He will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears, He will speak." Isn't it logical that God would continue to give us the guidance we need through the centuries?

Seeker: I guess so, but I never thought about how that would happen.

Bahá'í: When we read these words carefully, we notice that it says that the one called the Spirit of Truth would hear, speak and accurately give God's message. He would prophesy about the future. Wouldn't that have to be a person?

Seeker: I guess so.

Bahá'í: Here's a compilation of what the Founders of the Bahá'í Faith had to say about this prophecy.

Seeker: Thanks! I'll read it later.

Exercise on Focusing Questions and Teaching Questions

The next exercise works with two distinct types of questions, focusing questions and teaching or leading questions.

Focusing questions direct the seeker's attention to a particular key word or phrase in a quote. Teaching or leading questions help the seeker reason on the quote and leads them to the teaching point that will help them see the Bahá'í perspective. Read carefully Jesus' description of the Promised One and Bahá'u'lláh's fulfillment of that description.

He will glorify me for He will take what is mine and declare it to you. (John 16:14)

Know thou that when the Son of Man (Christ) yielded up His breath to God, the whole creation wept with a great weeping. By sacrificing Himself, however, a fresh capacity was infused into all created things... We testify that when He came into the world, He shed the splendor of His glory upon all created things. (Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, p. 85-86)

Below there is a series of questions that draws the connection between the words of Christ and Bahá'u'lláh. (It is not necessary to answer the questions.) Mark each question to indicate what type of question it is. Use either an F for focusing questions and a T for teaching questions.

1. Who would the Promised One glorify? _____

2. Would the Promised One belittle Christ? ____

3. What happened to creation when the Son of Man died? ____

4. What did Christ's sacrifice accomplish? ____

5. Did Bahá'u'lláh glorify Christ? ____

6. Would the Promised One replace Christ or be independent of Him? ____


Worksheet for Teaching by Using Questions on Specific Texts

Fill out the following worksheet based on John 16:12-14.

1. Identify two or three teaching points you want to make about the verse:

_________________________________________________________________________

_________________________________________________________________________

2. Select key phrases from the verse that support your teaching points.

_________________________________________________________________________

3. Write an explanation of your teaching points based on the key phrases you have selected.

_________________________________________________________________________

_________________________________________________________________________

_________________________________________________________________________

4. Create questions based on the text that lead the seeker to understand the points you want to make.

_________________________________________________________________________

_________________________________________________________________________

_________________________________________________________________________

5. Write out the answers to your questions.

_________________________________________________________________________

_________________________________________________________________________

_________________________________________________________________________

6. On the reverse side of this sheet, create a dialogue between a Bahá'í teacher and a seeker based on the above questions and answers. Allow students the opportunity to present their answers and their dialogue to the class.

The Role of Rational Proofs in Spiritual Growth

Recognizing the station of Bahá'u'lláh is like falling in love. It is a magical experience that goes beyond thought or reason. Mysterious feelings excite the heart and unequaled passions are stirred up.

When the true lover... reacheth to the presence of the Beloved, the sparkling beauty of the Loved One and the fire of the lover's heart will kindle a blaze and burn away all veils. (The Seven Valleys and the Four Valleys, p. 36)

What then is the role of the spiritual teacher? In some ways, it is like the role of a matchmaker, who introduces the prospective bride and groom. The matchmaker sets the stage, create expectation about the first encounter, boasts about the wonderful qualities of the proposed partner, arranges a romantic meeting place and explains why this would be a good match. Eventually, the matchmaker must step aside and allow the relationship between the couple to develop.

Similarly, spiritual teachers must do more than simply explain the station of Bahá'u'lláh or give rational proofs of His Sovereignty. The seeker needs to be introduced to the person and grandeur of the Blessed Beauty. Rational reasons for accepting Bahá'u'lláh as Lord play only a partial, but necessary, role in effecting a match.

When Abdu'l-Bahá presented proofs, he often set the stage with words that exalted the person of Bahá'u'lláh in ways that would aid the seeker to fall in love with Him. Notice in the passages below, how Abdu'l-Bahá accomplishes this.

Let us speak for a little of proofs. If you had come to this blessed place in the days of the manifestation of the evident Light, if you had attained to the court of His presence, and had witnessed His luminous beauty, you would have understood that His teachings and perfection were not in need of further evidence.

Through the honor of entering His presence, many souls became confirmed believers; they had no need of other proofs. Even those people who rejected and hated Him bitterly, when they had met Him, would testify to the grandeur of Bahá'u'lláh, saying, "This is a magnificent man." (Some Answered Questions, p. 36)

1. What was it like to be in the presence of Bahá'u'lláh?

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2. How does `Abdu'l-Bahá's description of Bahá'u'lláh help the seeker to fall in love with God's new messenger?

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Abdu'l-Bahá continued...

There are some people who, even if all the proofs in the world be adduced before them, still will not judge justly! ...

The state in which one should be to seriously search for the truth is the condition of the thirsty, burning soul desiring the water of life, of the fish struggling to reach the sea, of the sufferer seeking for the true doctor to obtain the divine cure, of the lost caravan endeavoring to find the right road, of the lost and wandering ship striving to reach the shore of salvation...

Furthermore, he must be able to endure all hardships. He must be absolutely pure and sanctified, and free from the love or the hatred of the inhabitants of the world. Why? because the fact of his love for any person or thing might prevent him from recognizing the truth in another, and, in the same way, hatred for anything might be a hindrance in discerning truth. (Some Answered Questions, p. 36-38)

3. What does Abdu'l-Bahá say about the necessary attitudes of the seeker?

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4. Why does Abdu'l-Bahá speak about the obstacles to recognizing truth before presenting proofs?

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More Prophecies Concerning Bahá'u'lláh

1) Jeremiah foretold that God's throne would be established in the last days in Elam, that is, in Persia. (Jeremiah 49:38, 39) Bahá'u'lláh was born and began his ministry in Persia. His kingdom was, like Christ's kingdom, a kingdom over the hearts of men.

2) Ezekiel foretold that the glory of God would appear from the East, coming to the house of God by way of the gate. (Ezekiel 43:4) The prophet appears in the form of man (43:6) and speaks the message of God (43:7). Bahá'u'lláh was born and began his ministry in Persia, and came to Israel from the East of Israel. Bahá'u'lláh's name means the "Glory of God."

3) Isaiah foretold that the region of Israel around Mount Carmel would be especially blessed with the glory of God. (Isaiah 35:1-2)

Shoghi Effendi explained the fulfillment of these prophecies in Ezekiel 43 and Isaiah 35 in terms of Bahá'u'lláh's arrival in the Holy Land at the fortress city of Akká. "Akká, itself, flanked by the "glory of Lebanon," and lying in full view of the "splendor of Carmel," at the foot of the hills which enclose the home of Jesus Christ Himself.... and alluded to by Ezekiel as "the gate that looketh towards the East," whereunto "the glory of the God of Israel came from the way of the East," His voice "like a noise of many waters." (God Passes By, p. 184)

The prophet Isaiah also foretold that God would raise up a conquering king from the direction of the sunrise, the east. (Isaiah 41:2) The king would give his enemies to the sword (the word of God). Like Jesus, Bahá'u'lláh conquered his enemies with the sword of the Word of God (John 16:33, Romans 12:21, Hebrew 4:12) and renounced the use of physical weapons. (Matthew 26:52)

Bahá'u'lláh's spiritual conquests have been great. Despite forty years of persecution, imprisonment, exile and trials, he never showed any hatred to his enemies. He kept conquering evil with good. As a result, many victories have been won over the hearts of men. Now there are over 5 million followers of the teachings of Bahá'u'lláh living in 300 nations, islands and territories.

4) The returned king would have a new, strange name, one that God would give him. (Isaiah 62:2-3) The name of Bahá'u'lláh certainly sounds strange to many people and this strangeness has been like a cloud that blocks the vision of the beauty of the sun. Yet whoever receives the name recognizes that the kingly spirit of Christ has returned in the clouds with His new name. (Revelation 3:12)

When the King returns, he makes available "hidden manna", which is new spiritual food. (Revelation 2:17)




Worksheet for Teaching by Using Questions on Specific Texts

Break the group up into pairs. Assign one of the following verses to each pair. 1) Jeremiah 49:38; 2) Ezekiel 43:4; 3) Isaiah 35:1-2; 4) Isaiah 62:2-3; 5) Revelation 3:12. Fill out the following worksheet based on the assigned verses.

1. Text Source:____________________________________

2. Identify two or three teaching points you want to make about the verse:

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3. Select key phrases from the verse that support your teaching points.

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4. Memorize those key phrases.

5. Create two or three questions based on the text that lead the seeker to understand the points you want to make:

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6. Write out the answers to your questions.

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7. On the reverse side of this sheet, create a dialogue between a Bahá'í teacher and a seeker based on the above questions and answers. Allow students the opportunity to present their answers and their dialogue to the class.
Identifying True and False Prophets

Whenever God sends a new prophet, the majority of people oppose Him. Christ came with a message of love but only a few uneducated men put faith in Him. He offered divine healing to a world that was bruised and battered, but the followers of the established religion of that age called Him a false prophet.

It is easy to close our eyes to God's new messengers and to stay with the old established ways. But if everyone did that there would be no Christians today. It took courage to be an early disciple of Christ, just as it took courage to follow Moses when all the armies of Egypt were arrayed against Him. To follow God's new prophet means avoiding blind imitation of the beliefs of our family and friends. We must investigate reality for ourselves. Not every new prophet is false. God promises that He will continue to send messengers to "guide us into all truth."

The Bible provides the key to separating the true from the false prophets. The essential identifying mark of a true prophet is belief in Christ. False prophets make themselves known by disowning the LORD.

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you will know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus has come in the flesh is not of God. (1 John 4:1-3)

No one can say that Jesus is LORD except by the Holy Spirit. (1 Corinthians 12:3)

Bahá'u'lláh glorified and honored Christ throughout His life. He could never be a false prophet. He clearly affirmed everything that the Bible teaches about Christ, stating that Jesus was the Son of God, the Word of God made flesh and LORD of creation. Thus Bahá'u'lláh clearly meet the qualifications for true Prophethood.

Therefore Christ... for man needs from time to time a voice upon earth to bring God to him... had to become flesh, so that with our earthly ears we should be able to hear and understand." (God Passes By, p. 391)

The Lord of the Kingdom, Jesus Christ... (God Passes By, p. 151)

Another clear sign testifying to the divine spirit behind Bahá'u'lláh's mission is the impact that His teachings have had on people. They have fostered a spirit of divine love and brotherhood that now spans the globe. False prophets cannot bear such fruit.

Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits... every good tree bears good fruit but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit... Therefore by their fruits you will know them. (Matthew 7:15-20)

A true prophet will promote reverence for God, love of neighbor, honesty, kindness, and forgiveness. Bahá'u'lláh consistently affirmed the divine principles that Jesus taught. In return He was persecuted and imprisoned, just as Christ had been. Despite the hatred of His enemies, He always responded by showing love and mercy.
Exercises

1) Beware of __________ prophets, who come to you in ______________ clothing, but inwardly they are ________________ wolves. You will know them by their ____________... every good ________ bears good ____________ but a bad ________ bears ______ fruit. A good tree ____________ bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit... Therefore by their fruits you will ________ them.

2) Memorize Matthew 7:15-20.

3) What two signs does the Bible give for identifying true prophets?

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4) How did Bahá'u'lláh manifest those two signs?

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The Fruitage of Love and Religious Unity

St. Paul wrote that "the fruitage of the spirit is love, joy, peace..." (Galatians 5:22) and Jesus Christ taught the power of universal love, a love that goes beyond those who think or look like ourselves. It extends to every human being, since all are made in the image of God. Even our enemies are to be treated with love and kindness.

If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them... But love your enemies. Do good... and your reward will be great and you will be sons of the Most High." (Luke 6:32, 35)

Obedience to Christ means to do good to all. If everyone on earth would live up to that high moral standard, love and peace would cover our planet. There would be no more prejudice, injustice or war. This is precisely what the Bible foretells for the future, a transformed world where everybody will get along.

The wolf shall dwell with the lamb...
They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain,
For the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea. (Isaiah 11:6, 9)

Nevertheless, the modern world still contains much hatred and division. People are divided by race, religion and nationality. Racial and national differences continue to provoke tensions all around the globe. But the most intense troubles seem to center around religion, which should rather be a force for peace. The various religious sects and denominations continue to fight verbal and bloody wars over theological differences. Each one claims to be the true path to God. Yet, Protestants fight Catholics, Muslims fights Jews, Hindus fights Muslims. Even Protestant denominations often bitterly disagree and question one another's loyalty to God. Religious disputes do not honor God but rather cause people to doubt the value of religion. Distrust, estrangement and death are the bitter fruitage of disobedience to the divine law of love.

Bahá'u'lláh brought a message of love applies the teachings of Christ to the situation in the world today. Bahá'u'lláh called upon the religious leaders of the world to give up their claims to supremacy and to work together for the common good. The power of the Sacred Word to heal and bring about real change in the lives of people is one of the surest signs that a message is truly of God. Just as Christ broke with the tradition of His day by associating with Samaritans and Gentiles, Bahá'u'lláh taught that we should set past animosities behind us and freely associate with peoples of all religions in a spirit of friendship,

The doors of love and unity have been unlocked and flung open to the face of men. We have erewhile declared --and Our Word is the truth--: "Consort with the followers of all religions in a spirit of friendliness and fellowship." Whatsoever hath led the children of men to shun one another, and hath caused dissentions and divisions amongst them, hath, through the revelation of these words, been nullified and abolished... "It is not his to boast who loveth his country, but it is his who loveth the world." (Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, p. 95)

What have been the practical results of these inspirational teachings? Peoples of all backgrounds have set aside their rivalries and established a worldwide brotherhood under the banner of Bahá'u'lláh.

Reflect also that in the short time since Bahá'u'lláh has appeared, people from all countries, nations and races have entered under the shadow of this Cause. Christians, Jews, Zoroastrians, Buddhists, Hindus and Persians all associate together with the greatest friendship and love, as if indeed these people had been related and connected together, they and theirs, for a thousand years; for they are like father and child, mother and daughter, sister and brother. This is one of the meanings of the companionship of the wolf and the lamb, the leopard and the kid, and the lion and the calf. (Some Answered Questions, p. 64-65)

The fruitage of peace is a great testimony to the spiritual potency of Bahá'u'lláh.


Questions for Discussion

1) What did Bahá'u'lláh teach about inter-religious fellowship?

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2) How did Christ and Bahá'u'lláh break with the religious traditions of their day?

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3) What was the fruitage of Bahá'u'lláh's teaching in terms of furthering the cause of love and peace?

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The Veil of Imitation
Blocks the Light of the Son of God
(Paraphrase from The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 198-200)

If Christians of all denominations would investigate reality, the foundations of Christ will unite them. No enmity or hatred will remain, for they will all be under the one guidance of reality itself. Likewise, in the wider field if all the existing religious systems will turn away from ancestral imitations and investigate reality, seeking the real meanings of the Holy Books, they will unite and agree upon the same foundation, reality itself. As long as they follow counterfeit doctrines or imitations instead of reality, animosity and discord will exist and increase.

Let me illustrate this. Moses and the prophets of Israel announced the advent of the Messiah but expressed it in spiritual language, in symbols. When Christ appeared, the Jews rejected Him, although they were expecting His manifestation and in their Temple and synagogues were crying and lamenting, saying, "O God, hasten the coming of the Messiah!" Why did they deny Him when He announced Himself? Because they had followed ancestral forms and interpretations and were blind to the reality of Christ. They had not perceived the inner significances of the Holy Bible.

They voiced their objections, saying, "We are expecting Christ, but His coming is conditioned upon certain fulfillments and prophetic announcements. Among the signs of His appearance is one that He shall come from an unknown place, whereas now this claimant of Messiahship has come from Nazareth. We know his home, and we are acquainted with his mother.

"Second, one of the signs or Messianic conditions is that His scepter would be an iron rod, and this Christ has not even a wooden staff.

"Third, He was to be seated upon the throne of David, whereas this Messianic king is in the utmost state of poverty and has not even a mat....

And so they spoke infamous words regarding Him. Now inasmuch as the Jews were submerged in the sea of ancestral imitations, they could not comprehend the meaning of these prophecies. All the words of the prophets were fulfilled, but because the Jews held tenaciously to hereditary interpretations, they did not understand the inner meanings of the Holy Bible; therefore, they denied Jesus Christ, the Messiah. The purpose of the prophetic words was not the outward or literal meaning, but the inner symbolical significance. For example, it was announced that the Messiah was to come from an unknown place. This did not refer to the birthplace of the physical body of Jesus. It has reference to the reality of the Christ--that is to say, the Christ reality was to appear from the invisible realm--for the divine reality of Christ is holy and sanctified above place. (John 3:13)

His sword was to be a sword of iron. This signified His tongue which should separate the true from the false (Hebrews 4:12) and by which great sword of attack He would conquer the kingdoms of hearts (Luke 17:21). He did not conquer by the physical power of an iron rod; He conquered the East and the West by the sword of His utterance. (Revelation 19:15)

He was seated upon the throne of David, but His sovereignty was neither a Napoleonic sovereignty nor the vanishing dominion of a Pharaoh. The Christ Kingdom was everlasting, eternal in the heaven of the divine Will. (Acts 2:34-36)

The purport is that all the meanings of the prophecies were fulfilled, but because the Jews were captives of ancestral imitations and did not perceive the reality of the meanings of these words, they denied Christ; nay, they even went so far as to crucify Him. Consider how harmful is imitation. These were interpretations handed down from fathers and ancestors, and because the Jews held fast to them, they were deprived.

It is evident, then, that we must forsake all such imitations and beliefs so that we may not commit this error. We must investigate reality, lay aside selfish notions and banish hearsay from our minds...

The truth is that Christ fulfilled the Mosaic law and in every way upheld Moses; but the Jews, blinded by imitations and prejudices, considered Him the enemy of Moses.

Questions for Discussion

1) What is a spiritual veil? _______________________________________________________________

2) What blessing does one who is veiled lose? _____________________________________________

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3) How is the Christian today who is hearing about Bahá'u'lláh for the first time like a Jew in the first century who heard about Christ?

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4) Write a dialogue between a first-century Jew and Christian to illustrate the obstacles blocking the recognition of a new prophet?

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Teaching About the Return of the Spirit of Christ

The Bahá'í teachings about the return of Christ should be introduced to seekers with special care. To some, the entire subject is "flaky" and associated with fanatical predictions of the end of the world. To others, who interpret the Bible literally, Christ is to descend from Heaven on a Cloud, so that "every eye will see Him." Such preconceived notions about the way God will fulfill His promises can serve as a thick veil blocking the illuminating light of the New Revelation.

`Abdu'l-Bahá's "cautious and gradual" approach to teaching the Faith is especially appropriate when discussing the subject of return of Christ. How can adequate groundwork be laid? It is often effective to refer to Bahá'u'lláh as the return of the spirit of Christ, since it was not the soul of Christ but His prophetic role that returned. The only other example of the "return" found in the Bible, that is the return of the spirit of Elijah.

The Return of Elijah
The Old Testament book Malachi refers to the return of prophet Elijah. Elijah had lived several hundred years previously. At the end of his prophetic mission, he was seen ascending to heaven in a chariot of fire (2 Kings 2:9-11), much as the disciples saw Jesus ascending in the clouds. Malachi wrote that Elijah was to return before the day of the LORD.

Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet
Before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD.
And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children
And the hearts of the children to their fathers. (Malachi 4:5,6)

The New Testament reports the fulfillment of this prophecy. However the fulfillment was much different from what the people had expected. When Jesus was asked when Elijah would come, he answered that Elijah had already come but the people had not been aware.

I say to you that Elijah has come already and they did not know him but did to him whatever they wished... And the disciples understood that they spoke to them of John the Baptist. (Matthew 17:12-13)

How strange Jesus' answer must have seemed to his disciples. The people had expected the same Elijah to return as had ascended to heaven. They expected that Elijah as a mature man would descend from the sky. Instead a different person was born into the world. How can this be understood? 'Abdu'l-Bahá explains:

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...

When spring comes, we say... 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." (Some Answered Questions, p. 133)

John the Baptist returned in the spirit of Elijah. He was Elijah-like in a number of important ways. He arose in the wilderness of Judah to preach an unpopular message. During both Elijah's and John the Baptist's time Israel's leaders had turned away from God. Both John and Elijah issued a call for repentance and healing. Thus God's promise for the return of Elijah was fulfilled according to God's will, by another individual with a mission and message similar to Elijah. This fulfillment was completely different from what one might anticipate from reading the original prophecy. (Compare Isaiah 55:9.)

Now the question confronts us... What about Jesus' promised return? Could his return follow the scriptural pattern of Elijah? Could it be that another individual, born of women, would come and symbolically fulfill all the prophecies of the second coming of Christ? Could it be that like the return of Elijah, people would be unaware of his arrival? Christ had after all said that he would come as a thief in the night. Could it be that he has come and gone and that we slept through the whole thing?


Exercise on Spiritual Return

1. What Biblical example do we have of a prophet that returned centuries after his death?

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2. Read 2 Kings 2:9-11. Describe how Elijah went away.

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3. Read Malachi 4:5-6. What do these verse say about the return of the prophet?

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4. Read Matthew 17:10-13. How was the prophecy of Malachi fulfilled.

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5. In your own words, briefly describe the spiritual meaning of "return".

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Will Every Eye See the Thief in the Night?

Jesus told his disciples to stay awake and to watch for His return. He said He would come as a thief in the night. Those who were spiritually asleep would be unaware that the "thief" had come and gone.

But know this, that if the master of the house had known at what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into. Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man (Christ) is coming at an hour that you do not expect. (Luke 12:39-40)

In contrast to this description of a "quiet" second coming, Christians often speak of Christ's return as a public event accompanied by great fanfare. Certain verses, when first read, seem to support the idea of a "loud" second coming.

The stars will fall from heaven and the powers of the heavens will be shaken... Then all the tribes of the earth will mourn and they will see the Son of Man (Christ) coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. (Matthew 24:29-30)

Behold, He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see Him. (Revelation 1:7)

What, then, are we to expect? Will there be a "quiet" or a "loud" return of Christ? How can these two representations be reconciled? Consider: would a thief to sneak into a home and then turn on the lights and announce his presence? Hardly! If the householder were asleep, he would come in, do the "job" and go out quietly.

When Jesus spoke of earth-shaking events, he was speaking in symbolic language that must be understood spiritually. Note how 'Abdu'l-Bahá explains the deep meaning of Christ's symbols.

Among other things it is said that the stars will fall upon the earth. The stars are endless and innumerable, and modern mathematicians have established and proved scientifically that the globe of the sun is estimated to be about one million and a half times greater than the earth, and each of the fixed stars to be a thousand times larger than the sun. If these stars were to fall upon the surface of the earth, how could they find place there? It would be as though a thousand million of Himalaya mountains were to fall upon a grain of mustard seed. (Some Answered Questions, p. 111-112)

What is the meaning of the "stars" falling from Heaven? The stars represent religious leaders who should be guiding lights for the people. (Compare Daniel 12:3) The loss of proper guidance in this secular age is fittingly pictured by stars falling out of the sky.

'Abdu'l-Bahá sheds further light on true meaning of the prophecies by pointing out that Christ's first coming was described with many of these same symbols.

At His first coming Christ also came from heaven, as it is explicitly stated in the Gospel. Christ Himself says: "And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but He that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven." (John 3:13)

It is clear to all that Christ came from heaven, although apparently He came from the womb of Mary. At the first coming He came from heaven, though apparently from the womb; in the same way, also, at His second coming He will come from heaven, though apparently from the womb. The conditions that are indicated in the Gospel for the second coming of Christ are the same as those that were mentioned for the first coming. (Some Answered Questions, p. 110-111)

Heaven is a spiritual place, not a location in outer space. No one can travel from earth to heaven by flying up into the sky. "Flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom." (1 Corinthians 15:50) Word-pictures that portray humans ascending into the sky, or descending on clouds are spiritual expressions for transcending the barriers of the flesh and entering the divine presence. The spiritual heaven, the throne of God, is not literally up or down. Christ on his first coming did not physically descend from the sky. Neither does he physically descend on his second coming. Christ's "coming down from Heaven" is meant to indicate that the reality of Christ comes, not from earth, but from God.

The description of Christ's first coming matches the second coming in another way. The prophecies say that "every eye" would see Christ's return. With reference to the first coming it was also written that "all flesh" would "see the salvation of God". (Isaiah 40:3-5) St. Luke reports that fulfillment at Luke 3:3-6 and St. Paul confirmed that this universal "seeing" had already taken place when he wrote that "salvation has appeared to all men'." (Titus 2:11)

These verses could not mean that every single individual on the surface of the planet recognized Christ for who He truly was. That simply was not the case. There were thousands who saw Him, but did not believe Him when He claimed to be Messiah. Instead, the real meaning is that Jesus had a public ministry. His work was not secretive. He was known to all kinds of men, both believers and opposers. (Compare the usage of "all" in Ezekiel 20:48; Joel 2:28; John 12:32; Philippians 4:5; 1 Peter 2:17.) His appearance would bring joy to the believers but "mourning" to those who opposed His divine message.

Finally, what is the meaning of "coming on clouds"? Bahá'u'lláh explained that clouds represent all obstructions that block the people from recognizing their returned Lord.

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...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." (Kitáb-i-Íqán, p. 71-72)

Exercise on Symbols of Christ's Return

Write out the answers to the following questions. Then pair off and use role-playing to create a discussion between a Bahá'í and a Christian. Either read the questions and answers from your papers or ad-lib.

Q: Doesn't the Bible say that Christ will return by descending from Heaven? But Bahá'u'lláh was born from the womb of His mother. How can you explain that?

A: _________________________________________________________________________________

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Q: What about the fact that "every eye" will see Him? How can you explain that?

A: _________________________________________________________________________________

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Q: How do you understand the scripture that says, "The stars will fall"?

A: _________________________________________________________________________________

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Q: How do you understand the scripture that says, "He will come on clouds"?

A: _________________________________________________________________________________

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Time Prophecies of Christ and Bahá'u'lláh

One of the most intriguing evidences of Bahá'u'lláh's divine mission are the time prophecies in the book of Daniel. These time counts pinpoint the year for the coming of Christ as well as the coming of Bahá'u'lláh.

In the sixth century BC, the Jerusalem Temple lay in ruins. The ninth chapter of Daniel appoints seventy prophetic weeks from the rebuilding of Jerusalem to the martyrdom of Christ. Prophetic time is calculated in terms of "a day for a year" (Ezekiel 4:6), so that seventy weeks work out to 490 (7 x 70) years. The time count would start with the re-establishment of regular sacrifices at the sacred altar in 457 BC, when the Persian King Artaxerxes decreed that the priests and Levites should take the captured utensils and animals for sacrifice to the house of God and diligently do "whatever is commanded by the God of Heaven," as recorded in the seventh chapter of Ezra. The 490 years would run until the martyrdom of Christ in 33 AD when the sacrifice was accomplished and the altar's purpose fulfilled (457 years + 33 years = 490 years).

The third edict of Artaxerxes was issued four hundred and fifty-seven years before the birth of Christ, and Christ when He was martyred and ascended was thirty-three years of age. When you add thirty-three to four hundred and fifty-seven, the result is four hundred and ninety, which is the time announced by Daniel for the manifestation of Christ. (Some Answered Questions, p. 40-41)

After speaking about the death of Messiah, Daniel goes on to predict the final destruction of Jerusalem, "the city and the sanctuary" (Daniel 9: 26-27). In 66 AD the inhabitants of Jerusalem rebelled against the Romans. Four years later the Roman armies recaptured Jerusalem and destroyed its Temple.

Now that the appearance of Christ has been proved by the prophecies of Daniel, let us prove the appearance of Bahá'u'lláh and of His forerunner, the Báb.

It is noteworthy that the death of Messiah and the destruction of the Temple are so closely linked. For Jesus compared His own body to the Temple of God.

Jesus answered and said unto them, "Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up."

Then the Jews said, "It has taken forty-six years to build this temple and will you raise it up in three days?"

But He was speaking of the temple of His body. (John 2:19-21)


Here we can see that Jesus was referring to the temple as a symbol of God's presence where people gather to worship. Jesus as God manifest in the flesh likewise represented the presence of God. Thus the return of Christ is inseparably connected with the restoration of a spiritual Temple.

In the eighth chapter of the Book of Daniel, we find another time count that identifies the year of Christ's return which is symbolically depicted as the day that the temple is restored. In a vision, Daniel overheard a conversation between to holy ones or angels. The question was asked, `When will be temple be returned to its proper condition?' meaning when would the LORD return and re-establish pure worship.

Then I heard a holy one speaking, and another holy one said to that certain holy one who was speaking, `How long will the vision be, concerning the daily sacrifice, and the transgression of desolation, the giving of both the sanctuary and the host to be trampled under foot?'" Then he said to me,: "For two thousand three hundred days; then the sanctuary shall be cleansed." (Daniel 8:13-14)

'Abdu'l-Bahá explained that the 2,300 days ended at the dawn of the Bahá'í era when the Báb, Bahá'u'lláh's forerunner appeared.

Briefly, the purport of this passage is that he appoints two thousand three hundred years, for in the text of the Bible each day is a year. Then from the date of the issuing of the edict of Artaxerxes to rebuild Jerusalem until the day of the birth of Christ there are 456 years, and from the birth of Christ until the day of the manifestation of the Báb there are 1844 years. When you add 456 years to this number it makes 2300 years. That is to say, the fulfillment of the vision of Daniel took place in the year A.D. 1844, and this is the year of the Báb's manifestation according to the actual text of the Book of Daniel. Consider how clearly he determines the year of manifestation; there could be no clearer prophecy for a manifestation than this. (Some Answered Questions, p. 42)

A full understanding of this topic requires much study as it corresponds to may other Biblical prophecies. For example, Malachi 3:1 depicts the LORD coming to His Temple to cleanse it as follows:

Behold, I will send my messenger. And He will prepare the way before Me.
And the LORD, whom you seek will suddenly come to His temple,
Even the Messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight.
`Behold, He is coming,' says the LORD of hosts...
He will purify the sons of Levi (the tribe of temple servants)
And purge them as gold and silver,
That they may offer to the LORD
An offering in righteousness. (Malachi 3:1,3)

In the years before 1844, these time calculations had been made. Many Christian groups in Europe, such as the German Templars, and in America, such as the Millerites, where expecting Christ to return in that year. Likewise, Shiite Muslim tradition had a time count that fixed 1844 as the date of the return of the Imam. Other religious traditions had similar expectations about the arrival of a spiritual liberator.

When the LORD returns, the Bible describes Him wearing many crowns. (Revelation 19:11-13) He comes to unify the peoples of the world just as the world was on the verge of becoming a global village through rapid transportation and communication. God's new messenger was bringing food in due season.

The Jews await the Messiah, the Christians the return of Christ, the Moslem the Mahdi, the Buddhists the fifth Buddha, the Zoroastrians Sháh Bahran, the Hindoos the reincarnation of Krishna, and the Atheists - a better social organization! Bahá'u'lláh represents all these, and thus destroys the rivalries and the enmities of the different religions; reconciles them in their primitive purity, and frees them from the corruption of dogmas and rites. (Introduction to Tablets of Abdu'l-Bahá)

Review Questions
1. Which chapter in Daniel contains the prophecy about the first coming of Christ? ______
2. How long is the "70 weeks"? _______________
3. In what year did the 70 weeks begin? ____________
4. In what year did they end? ___________
5. Which chapter and verse in Daniel contains the prophecy about the coming of the Báb? _______________
6. How long are the 2,300 days? _____________
7. In what year did the 2,300 days begin? _______________
8. In what year did they end? _______________
Bahá'í Resources on the Topic of Prophecy

The topic of prophecy is enormous and inexhaustible. In this course, we have only scratched the surface. As you have the opportunity to dialogue with Christians, many questions will come up which may be difficult to answer. This will prove to be a real blessing as it will give you the opportunity to do further study.

In general, you will find that among Bahá'u'lláh's Writings, Kitáb-i-Íqán contains the most information on Biblical prophecy. 'Abdu'l-Bahá's talks in Some Answered Questions and Promulgations of Universal Peace are also a wonderful source especially since they were given to American audiences of predominately Christian background. Shoghi Effendi's The Promised Day Has Come is likewise valuable.

Of course, it is best if we can find answers to our questions in the Sacred Writings themselves but it can also be helpful to read Bahá'í secondary books. It should be kept in mind, however, that these authors often express their own private interpretations which are not authoritative. Helpful secondary works include Christ and Bahá'u'lláh by George Townshend, Understanding Biblical Prophecy and Prophecies of Jesus by Michael Sours, Thief in the Night by William Sears and He Cometh with Clouds by Gary Matthews.

Below find some topics and references that should prove useful for further study and Bahá'í / Christian Dialogues.

1. Prophecies about the coming of Bahá'u'lláh, the Glory of God.

In God Passes By (184), Shoghi Effendi identifies several Biblical prophecies that speak of the advent of Bahá'u'lláh. (E.g. Isaiah 35:1-2; Ezekiel 43:4; Psalms 24:9-10)

In Thief in the Night, William Sears explores dozens of Biblical references to the Glory of God such as Ezekiel 43:4, Isaiah 35:1-2, etc.

2. Prophecies about the coming of Christ parallel prophecies about Bahá'u'lláh.

In Promulgations of Universal Peace 198-200, 'Abdu'l-Bahá explains the veils that hindered the Jews from accepting Christ. These were expectations that the prophecies would have a material rather than a spiritual fulfillment, such as the Messiah being a political king rather than a spiritual king.

3. Time prophecies pointing to the date that Christ, the Báb and Bahá'u'lláh would appear.

In Some Answered Questions 36-44, 'Abdu'l-Bahá explains the time prophecies from Daniel. He shows that the seventy weeks of years (Daniel 9) the pointed to Messiah's coming in 30AD, the 2,300 years (Daniel 8) that pointed to the Báb's arrival in 1844 AD, and the 1,290 years (Daniel 12) points to Bahá'u'lláh's advent in 1863 AD .

In Thief in the Night (16-31) William Sears discusses various prophecies that point to the spiritual significance of the date 1844.

4. The prophecy in Revelation 1:7 that Christ upon His return will descend in the clouds and every eye will see Him.

In Some Answered Questions 103, Abdu'l-Bahá explains the meaning of descending from Heaven.

In Kitáb-i-Íqán 71, Bahá'u'lláh explains that clouds represent veils.

In Understanding Bible Prophecy 119-122, Bahá'í author Michael Sours comments on the meaning of "every eye."

5. The prophecy in Matthew 24 concerning Christ's return and the end of the age.

In Kitáb-i-Íqán 24-42, Bahá'u'lláh dedicates many page to explain a single verse (verse 29) where it is written that the sun would grow dark and the stars would fall from heaven.

The entire book Prophecies of Jesus by Michael Sours is a verse-by-verse discussion of Matthew 24 which contains Christ's description of the sign of His return. Of particular note, is the discussion of verse 14, "The Gospel will be preached in all the inhabited earth and then the end (of the age) will come." On pages 55-60, Sours shows how the Christian Gospel had penetrated the heart of Africa, Asia and the other remote corners of the earth by the time of Bahá'u'lláh's declaration.
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