|Some Answered Questions index||View entire text||About the Sacred Writings online||Main directory|
REVELATION OF ST. JOHN
In the beginning of the eleventh chapter of the Revelation of St. John it is said:
"And there was given me a reed like unto a rod: and the angel stood, saying, Rise, and measure the temple of God, and the altar, and them that worship therein.
"But the court which is without the temple leave out, and measure it not; for it is given unto the Gentiles: and the holy city shall they tread under foot forty and two months."
This reed is a Perfect Man Who is likened to a reed, and the manner of its likeness is this: when the interior of a reed is empty and free from all matter, it will produce beautiful melodies; and as the sound and melodies do not come from the reed, but from the flute player who blows upon it, so the sanctified heart of that blessed Being is free and emptied from all save God, pure and exempt from the attachments of all human conditions, and is the companion of the Divine Spirit. Whatever He utters is not from Himself, but from the real flute player, and it is a divine inspiration. That is why He is likened to a reed; and that reed is like a rod--that is to say, it is the helper of every impotent one, and the support of human beings. It is the rod of the Divine Shepherd by which He guards His flock and leads them about the pastures of the Kingdom.
Then it is said: "The angel stood, saying, Rise, and measure the temple of God, and the altar, and them that worship therein"--that is to say, compare and measure: measuring is the discovery of proportion. Thus the angel said: compare the temple of God and the altar and them that are praying therein--that is to say, investigate what is their true condition and discover in what degree and state they are, and what conditions, perfections, behavior and attributes they possess; and make yourself cognizant of the mysteries of those holy souls who dwell in the Holy of Holies in purity and sanctity.
"But the court which is without the temple leave out, and measure it not; for it is given unto the Gentiles."
In the beginning of the seventh century after Christ, when Jerusalem was conquered, the Holy of Holies was outwardly preserved--that is to say, the house which Solomon built; but outside the Holy of Holies the outer court was taken and given to the Gentiles. "And the holy city shall they tread under foot forty and two months"--that is to say, the Gentiles shall govern and control Jerusalem forty and two months, signifying twelve hundred and sixty days; and as each day signifies a year, by this reckoning it becomes twelve hundred and sixty years, which is the duration of the cycle of the Qur'án. For in the texts of the Holy Book, each day is a year; as it is said in the fourth chapter of Ezekiel, verse 6: "Thou shalt bear the iniquity of the house of Judah forty days: I have appointed thee each day for a year."
This prophesies the duration of the Dispensation of Islam when Jerusalem was trodden under foot, which means that it lost its glory--but the Holy of Holies was preserved, guarded and respected--until the year 1260. This twelve hundred and sixty years is a prophecy of the manifestation of the Báb, the "Gate" of Bahá'u'lláh, which took place in the year 1260 of the Hejira of Muhammad, and as the period of twelve hundred and sixty years has expired, Jerusalem, the Holy City, is now beginning to become prosperous, populous and flourishing. Anyone who saw Jerusalem sixty years ago, and who sees it now, will recognize how populous and flourishing it has become, and how it is again honored.
This is the outward meaning of these verses of the Revelation of St. John; but they have another explanation and a symbolic sense, which is as follows: the Law of God is divided into two parts. One is the fundamental basis which comprises all spiritual things--that is to say, it refers to the spiritual virtues and divine qualities; this does not change nor alter: it is the Holy of Holies, which is the essence of the Law of Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Christ, Muhammad, the Báb, and Bahá'u'lláh, and which lasts and is established in all the prophetic cycles. It will never be abrogated, for it is spiritual and not material truth; it is faith, knowledge, certitude, justice, piety, righteousness, trustworthiness, love of God, benevolence, purity, detachment, humility, meekness, patience and constancy. It shows mercy to the poor, defends the oppressed, gives to the wretched and uplifts the fallen.
These divine qualities, these eternal commandments, will never be abolished; nay, they will last and remain established for ever and ever. These virtues of humanity will be renewed in each of the different cycles; for at the end of every cycle the spiritual Law of God--that is to say, the human virtues--disappears, and only the form subsists.
Thus among the Jews, at the end of the cycle of Moses, which coincides with the Christian manifestation, the Law of God disappeared, only a form without spirit remaining. The Holy of Holies departed from among them, but the outer court of Jerusalem--which is the expression used for the form of the religion--fell into the hands of the Gentiles. In the same way, the fundamental principles of the religion of Christ, which are the greatest virtues of humanity, have disappeared; and its form has remained in the hands of the clergy and the priests. Likewise, the foundation of the religion of Muhammad has disappeared, but its form remains in the hands of the official ulamá.
These foundations of the Religion of God, which are spiritual and which are the virtues of humanity, cannot be abrogated; they are irremovable and eternal, and are renewed in the cycle of every Prophet.
The second part of the Religion of God, which refers to the material world, and which comprises fasting, prayer, forms of worship, marriage and divorce, the abolition of slavery, legal processes, transactions, indemnities for murder, violence, theft and injuries--this part of the Law of God, which refers to material things, is modified and altered in each prophetic cycle in accordance with the necessities of the times.
Briefly, what is meant by the term Holy of Holies is that spiritual Law which will never be modified, altered or abrogated; and the Holy City means the material Law which may be abrogated; and this material Law, which is described as the Holy City, was to be trodden under foot for twelve hundred and sixty years.
"And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and three-score days, clothed in sackcloth." [Rev. 11:3.] These two witnesses are Muhammad the Messenger of God, and `Alí, son of &Abu Talib.
In the Qur'án it is said that God addressed Muhammad, the Messenger of God, saying: "We made You a Witness, a Herald of good news, and a Warner"--that is to say, We have established Thee as the witness, the giver of good tidings, and as One bringing the wrath of God. [This sentence is the Persian translation of the Arabic text of the Qur'án which has been quoted.] The meaning of "a witness" is one by whose testimony things may be verified. The commands of these two witnesses were to be performed for twelve hundred and sixty days, each day signifying a year. Now, Muhammad was the root, and `Alí the branch, like Moses and Joshua. It is said they "are clothed in sackcloth," meaning that they, apparently, were to be clothed in old raiment, not in new raiment; in other words, in the beginning they would possess no splendor in the eyes of the people, nor would their Cause appear new; for Muhammad's spiritual Law corresponds to that of Christ in the Gospel, and most of His laws relating to material things correspond to those of the Pentateuch. This is the meaning of the old raiment.
Then it is said: "These are the two olive trees, and the two candlesticks standing before the God of the earth." [Rev. 11:4.] These two souls are likened to olive trees because at that time all lamps were lighted by olive oil. The meaning is two persons from whom that spirit of the wisdom of God, which is the cause of the illumination of the world, appears. These lights of God were to radiate and shine; therefore, they are likened to two candlesticks: the candlestick is the abode of the light, and from it the light shines forth. In the same way the light of guidance would shine and radiate from these illumined souls.
Then it is said: "They are standing before God," meaning that they are standing in the service of God, and educating the creatures of God, such as the barbarous nomad Arab tribes of the Arabian peninsula, whom they educated in such a way that in those days they reached the highest degree of civilization, and their fame and renown became worldwide.
"And if any man would hurt them, fire proceedeth out of their mouth, and devoureth their enemies." [Cf. Rev. 11:5.] That is to say, that no one would be able to withstand them, that if a person wished to belittle their teachings and their law, he would be surrounded and exterminated by this same law which proceedeth out of their mouth; and everyone who attempted to injure, to antagonize and to hate them would be destroyed by a command which would come out of their mouth. And thus it happened: all their enemies were vanquished, put to flight and annihilated. In this most evident way God assisted them.
Afterward it is said: "These have power to shut heaven, that it rain not in the days of their prophecy," [Rev. 11:6.] meaning that in that cycle they would be like kings. The law and teachings of Muhammad, and the explanations and commentaries of `Alí, are a heavenly bounty; if they wish to give this bounty, they have power to do so. If they do not wish it, the rain will not fall: in this connection rain stands for bounty.
Then it is said: "They have power over water to turn it to blood," [Cf. Rev. 11:6.] meaning that the prophethood of Muhammad was the same as that of Moses, and that the power of `Alí was the same as that of Joshua: if they wished, they could turn the water of the Nile into blood, so far as the Egyptians and those who denied them were concerned--that is to say, that that which was the cause of their life, through their ignorance and pride, became the cause of their death. So the kingdom, wealth and power of Pharaoh and his people, which were the causes of the life of the nation, became, through their opposition, denial and pride, the cause of death, destruction, dispersion, degradation and poverty. Hence these two witnesses have power to destroy the nations.
Then it is said: "And smite the earth with all plagues, as often as they will," [Cf. Rev. 11:6.] meaning that they also would have the power and the material force necessary to educate the wicked and those who are oppressors and tyrants, for to these two witnesses God granted both outward and inward power, that they might educate and correct the ferocious, bloodthirsty, tyrannical nomad Arabs, who were like beasts of prey.
"And when they shall have finished their testimony" [Rev. 11:7.] means when they should have performed that which they are commanded, and should have delivered the divine message, promoting the Law of God and propagating the heavenly teachings, to the intent that the signs of spiritual life might be manifest in souls, and the light of the virtues of the world of humanity might shine forth, until complete development should be brought about among the nomad tribes.
"The beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit shall war against them, and shall overcome them, and kill them": [Cf. Rev. 11:7.] this beast means the Umayyads who attacked them from the pit of error, and who rose against the religion of Muhammad and against the reality of `Alí--in other words, the love of God.
It is said, "The beast made war against these two witnesses"2--that is to say, a spiritual war, meaning that the beast would act in entire opposition to the teachings, customs and institutions of these two witnesses, to such an extent that the virtues and perfections which were diffused by the power of those two witnesses among the peoples and tribes would be entirely dispelled, and the animal nature and carnal desires would conquer. Therefore, this beast making war against them would gain the victory--meaning that the darkness of error coming from this beast was to have ascendency over the horizons of the world, and kill those two witnesses--in other words, that it would destroy the spiritual life which they spread abroad in the midst of the nation, and entirely remove the divine laws and teachings, treading under foot the Religion of God. Nothing would thereafter remain but a lifeless body without spirit.
"And their dead bodies shall lie in the street of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified." [Rev. 11:8.] "Their bodies" means the Religion of God, and "the street" means in public view. The meaning of "Sodom and Egypt," the place "where also our Lord was crucified," is this region of Syria, and especially Jerusalem, where the Umayyads then had their dominions; and it was here that the Religion of God and the divine teachings first disappeared, and a body without spirit remained. "Their bodies" represents the Religion of God, which remained like a dead body without spirit.
"And they of the people and kindreds and tongues and nations shall see their dead bodies three days and a half, and shall not suffer their dead bodies to be put in graves." [Rev. 11:9.]
As it was before explained, in the terminology of the Holy Books three days and a half signify three years and a half, and three years and a half are forty and two months, and forty and two months twelve hundred and sixty days; and as each day by the text of the Holy Book signifies one year, the meaning is that for twelve hundred and sixty years, which is the cycle of the Qur'án, the nations, tribes and peoples would look at their bodies--that is to say, that they would make a spectacle of the Religion of God: though they would not act in accordance with it, still, they would not suffer their bodies--meaning the Religion of God--to be put in the grave. That is to say, that in appearance they would cling to the Religion of God and not allow it to completely disappear from their midst, nor the body of it to be entirely destroyed and annihilated. Nay, in reality they would leave it, while outwardly preserving its name and remembrance.
Those "kindreds, people and nations" signify those who are gathered under the shadow of the Qur'án, not permitting the Cause and Law of God to be, in outward appearance, entirely destroyed and annihilated--for there are prayer and fasting among them--but the fundamental principles of the Religion of God, which are morals and conduct, with the knowledge of divine mysteries, have disappeared; the light of the virtues of the world of humanity, which is the result of the love and knowledge of God, is extinguished; and the darkness of tyranny, oppression, satanic passions and desires has become victorious. The body of the Law of God, like a corpse, has been exposed to public view for twelve hundred and sixty days, each day being counted as a year, and this period is the cycle of Muhammad.
The people forfeited all that these two persons had established, which was the foundation of the Law of God, and destroyed the virtues of the world of humanity, which are the divine gifts and the spirit of this religion, to such a degree that truthfulness, justice, love, union, purity, sanctity, detachment and all the divine qualities departed from among them. In the religion only prayers and fasting persisted; this condition lasted for twelve hundred and sixty years, which is the duration of the cycle of the Furqan. [Another name for the Qur'án, signifying the Distinction.] It was as if these two persons were dead, and their bodies were remaining without spirit.
"And they that dwell upon the earth shall rejoice over them, and make merry, and shall send gifts to one another, because these two prophets tormented them that dwelt on the earth." [Cf. Rev. 11:10.] "Those who dwelt upon the earth" means the other nations and races, such as the peoples of Europe and distant Asia, who, when they saw that the character of Islam was entirely changed, the Law of God forsaken-- that virtues, zeal and honor had departed from among them, and that their qualities were changed--became happy, and rejoiced that corruption of morals had infected the people of Islam, and that they would in consequence be overcome by other nations. So this thing has come to pass. Witness this people which had attained the summit of power, how degraded and downtrodden it is now.
The other nations "shall send gifts to one another," meaning that they should help each other, for "these two prophets tormented them that dwelt upon the earth"-- that is, they overcame the other nations and peoples of the world and conquered them.
"And after three days and a half the spirit of life from God entered into them, and they stood upon their feet; and great fear fell upon them that saw them." [Cf. Rev. 11:11.] Three days and a half, as we before explained, is twelve hundred and sixty years. Those two persons whose bodies were lying spiritless are the teachings and the law that Muhammad established and `Alí promoted, from which, however, the reality had departed and only the form remained. The spirit came again into them means that those foundations and teachings were again established. In other words, the spirituality of the Religion of God had been changed into materiality, and virtues into vices; the love of God had been changed into hatred, enlightenment into darkness, divine qualities into satanic ones, justice into tyranny, mercy into enmity, sincerity into hypocrisy, guidance into error, and purity into sensuality. Then after three days and a half, which by the terminology of the Holy Books is twelve hundred and sixty years, these divine teachings, heavenly virtues, perfections and spiritual bounties were again renewed by the appearance of the Báb and the devotion of Jinab-i-Quddus. [Hájí Mullá Muhammad-Aliy-i-Barfurushi, one of the chief disciples of the Báb and one of the nineteen Letters of the Living.]
The holy breezes were diffused, the light of truth shone forth, the season of the life-giving spring came, and the morn of guidance dawned. These two lifeless bodies again became living, and these two great ones--one the Founder and the other the promoter--arose and were like two candlesticks, for they illumined the world with the light of truth.
"And they heard a great voice from heaven saying unto them, Come up hither. And they ascended up to heaven," [Rev. 11:12.] meaning that from the invisible heaven they heard the voice of God, saying: You have performed all that was proper and fitting in delivering the teachings and glad tidings; you have given My message to the people and raised the call of God, and have accomplished your duty. Now, like Christ, you must sacrifice your life for the Well-Beloved, and be martyrs. And that Sun of Reality, and that Moon of Guidance, [The Báb and Jinab-i-Quddus.] both, like Christ, set on the horizon of the greatest martyrdom and ascended to the Kingdom of God.
"And their enemies beheld them," [Rev. 11:12.] meaning that many of their enemies, after witnessing their martyrdom, realized the sublimity of their station and the exaltation of their virtue, and testified to their greatness and perfection.
"And the same hour there was a great earthquake, and the tenth part of the city fell, and in the earthquake were slain of men seven thousand." [Cf. Rev. 11:13.]
This earthquake occurred in Shiráz after the martyrdom of the Báb. The city was in a turmoil, and many people were destroyed. Great agitation also took place through diseases, cholera, dearth, scarcity, famine and afflictions, the like of which had never been known.
"And the remnant was affrighted and gave glory to the God of heaven." [Cf. Rev. 11:13.]
When the earthquake took place in Fars, all the remnant lamented and cried day and night, and were occupied in glorifying and praying to God. They were so troubled and affrighted that they had no sleep nor rest at night.
"The second woe is past; and, behold, the third woe cometh quickly." [Rev. 11:14.] The first woe is the appearance of the Prophet, Muhammad, the son of `Abdu'llah--peace be upon Him! The second woe is that of the Báb--to Him be glory and praise! The third woe is the great day of the manifestation of the Lord of Hosts and the radiance of the Beauty of the Promised One. The explanation of this subject, woe, is mentioned in the thirtieth chapter of Ezekiel, where it is said: "The word of the Lord came again unto me, saying, Son of man, prophesy and say, Thus saith the Lord God; Howl ye, Woe worth the day! For the day is near, even the day of the Lord is near." [Ez. 30:1-3.]
Therefore, it is certain that the day of woe is the day of the Lord; for in that day woe is for the neglectful, woe is for the sinners, woe is for the ignorant. That is why it is said, "The second woe is past; behold the third woe cometh quickly!" This third woe is the day of the manifestation of Bahá'u'lláh, the day of God; and it is near to the day of the appearance of the Báb.
"And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of His Christ; and He shall reign for ever and ever." [Rev. 11:15.]
The seventh angel is a man qualified with heavenly attributes, who will arise with heavenly qualities and character. Voices will be raised, so that the appearance of the Divine Manifestation will be proclaimed and diffused. In the day of the manifestation of the Lord of Hosts, and at the epoch of the divine cycle of the Omnipotent which is promised and mentioned in all the books and writings of the Prophets--in that day of God, the Spiritual and Divine Kingdom will be established, and the world will be renewed; a new spirit will be breathed into the body of creation; the season of the divine spring will come; the clouds of mercy will rain; the sun of reality will shine; the life-giving breeze will blow; the world of humanity will wear a new garment; the surface of the earth will be a sublime paradise; mankind will be educated; wars, disputes, quarrels and malignity will disappear; and truthfulness, righteousness, peace and the worship of God will appear; union, love and brotherhood will surround the world; and God will rule for evermore--meaning that the Spiritual and Everlasting Kingdom will be established. Such is the day of God. For all the days which have come and gone were the days of Abraham, Moses and Christ, or of the other Prophets; but this day is the day of God, for the Sun of Reality will arise in it with the utmost warmth and splendor.
"And the four and twenty elders, which sat before God on their seats, fell upon their faces, and worshipped God.
"Saying, We give Thee thanks, O Lord God Almighty, Which art, and wast, and art to come; because Thou hast taken to Thee Thy great power, and hast reigned." [Rev. 11:16-17.] In each cycle the guardians and holy souls have been twelve. So Jacob had twelve sons; in the time of Moses there were twelve heads or chiefs of the tribes; in the time of Christ there were twelve Apostles; and in the time of Muhammad there were twelve Imams. But in this glorious manifestation there are twenty-four, double the number of all the others, for the greatness of this manifestation requires it. These holy souls are in the presence of God seated on their own thrones, meaning that they reign eternally.
These twenty-four great persons, though they are seated on the thrones of everlasting rule, yet are worshipers of the appearance of the universal Manifestation, and they are humble and submissive, saying, "We give thanks to Thee, O Lord God Almighty, Which art, and wast, and art to come, because Thou hast taken to Thee Thy great power and hast reigned"--that is to say, Thou wilt issue all Thy teachings, Thou wilt gather all the people of the earth under Thy shadow, and Thou wilt bring all men under the shadow of one tent. Although it is the Eternal Kingdom of God, and He always had, and has, a Kingdom, the Kingdom here means the manifestation of Himself; [i.e., His most complete manifestation.] and He will issue all the laws and teachings which are the spirit of the world of humanity and everlasting life. And that universal Manifestation will subdue the world by spiritual power, not by war and combat; He will do it with peace and tranquillity, not by the sword and arms; He will establish this Heavenly Kingdom by true love, and not by the power of war. He will promote these divine teachings by kindness and righteousness, and not by weapons and harshness. He will so educate the nations and people that, notwithstanding their various conditions, their different customs and characters, and their diverse religions and races, they will, as it is said in the Bible, like the wolf and the lamb, the leopard, the kid, the sucking child and the serpent, become comrades, friends and companions. The contentions of races, the differences of religions, and the barriers between nations will be completely removed, and all will attain perfect union and reconciliation under the shadow of the Blessed Tree.
"And the nations were angry," for Thy teachings opposed the passions of the other peoples; "and Thy wrath is come"2--that is to say, all will be afflicted by evident loss; because they do not follow Thy precepts, counsels and teachings, they will be deprived of Thy everlasting bounty, and veiled from the light of the Sun of Reality.
"And the time of the dead, that they should be judged" means that the time has come that the dead [Rev. 11:18.]--that is to say, those who are deprived of the spirit of the love of God and have not a share of the sanctified eternal life--will be judged with justice, meaning they will arise to receive that which they deserve. He will make the reality of their secrets evident, showing what a low degree they occupy in the world of existence, and that in reality they are under the rule of death.
"That Thou shouldst give reward unto Thy servants the prophets, and the saints, and them that fear Thy name, small and great" [Cf. Rev. 11:18.]--that is to say, He will distinguish the righteous by endless bounty, making them shine on the horizon of eternal honor, like the stars of heaven. He will assist them by endowing them with behavior and actions which are the light of the world of humanity, the cause of guidance, and the means of everlasting life in the Divine Kingdom.
"And shouldst destroy them which destroy the earth" [Rev. 11:18.] means that He will entirely deprive the neglectful; for the blindness of the blind will be manifest, and the vision of the seers will be evident; the ignorance and want of knowledge of the people of error will be recognized, and the knowledge and wisdom of the people under guidance will be apparent; consequently, the destroyers will be destroyed.
"And the temple of God was opened in heaven" [Rev. 11:19.] means that the divine Jerusalem is found, and the Holy of Holies has become visible. The Holy of Holies, according to the terminology of the people of wisdom, is the essence of the Divine Law, and the heavenly and true teachings of the Lord, which have not been changed in the cycle of any Prophet, as it was before explained. The sanctuary of Jerusalem is likened to the reality of the Law of God, which is the Holy of Holies; and all the laws, conventions, rites and material regulations are the city of Jerusalem-- this is why it is called the heavenly Jerusalem. Briefly, as in this cycle the Sun of Reality will make the light of God shine with the utmost splendor, therefore, the essence of the teachings of God will be realized in the world of existence, and the darkness of ignorance and want of knowledge will be dispelled. The world will become a new world, and enlightenment will prevail. So the Holy of Holies will appear.
"And the temple of God was opened in heaven" [Rev. 11:19.] means also that by the diffusion of the divine teachings, the appearance of these heavenly mysteries, and the rising of the Sun of Reality, the doors of success and prosperity will be opened in all directions, and the signs of goodness and heavenly benedictions will be made plain.
"And there was seen in His temple the ark of His Testament" [Rev. 11:19.]--that is to say, the Book of His Testament will appear in His Jerusalem, the Epistle of the Covenant [One of the works of Bahá'u'lláh, in which He expressly points to `Abdu'l-Bahá as being the One to Whom all must turn after His death.] will be established, and the meaning of the Testament and of the Covenant will become evident. The renown of God will overspread the East and West, and the proclamation of the Cause of God will fill the world. The violators of the Covenant will be degraded and dispersed, and the faithful cherished and glorified, for they cling to the Book of the Testament and are firm and steadfast in the Covenant.
"And there were lightnings, and voices, and thunderings, and an earthquake, and great hail," [Rev. 11:19.] meaning that after the appearance of the Book of the Testament there will be a great storm, and the lightnings of the anger and the wrath of God will flash, the noise of the thunder of the violation of the Covenant will resound, the earthquake of doubts will take place, the hail of torments will beat upon the violators of the Covenant, and even those who profess belief will fall into trials and temptations.