Thornton Chase, the First Western Baha'i, in his Study
Copyright © 2010 Baha'i National Archives, Wilmete, Used With Permission

Saturday, May 10, 2014

All Things Made New

In the Book of Revelation in the Holy Bible it says:
"And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.  And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new."

This is in many of the Holy Books - that the creation will pass away, that the world will end, that there will be a new creation, and a new heaven and a new earth, that God was alone with none to worship Him, and that God will come to the earth. What do these things mean?

These are explained in the Sacred Texts of the Baha'i Faith.  The references to God being alone and God coming to the earth, refer to the Manifestation of God, not to the Deity; and the references to the creation ending and a new creation refer to human beings, to human souls, not to dirt and to the planets and the stars. One of the signs of the Prophethood of Baha'u'llah, is that He can convincingly explain the meaning of passages in the Scriptures that have remained mysterious for millennia. One of these mysterious expressions is that God was alone, and that He brought the creation into being so that He might be made known.  I remember as a child in Catholic school, one of the priests explained that God was lonely, and so He created man so that He wouldn't be lonely. Even though I was a child, this didn't make sense.  Baha'u'llah's explanation does.  He has explained that this concept of God being “alone” refers not to the Deity, but to the Manifestation of God in the world:

As to those sayings, attributed to the Prophets of old, such as, "In the beginning was God; there was no creature to know Him," and "The Lord was alone; with no one to adore Him," the meaning of these and similar sayings is clear and evident...Every discerning eye will readily perceive that the Lord is now manifest, yet there is none to recognize His glory.… Consider the hour at which the supreme Manifestation of God revealeth Himself unto men. Ere that hour cometh, the Ancient Being, Who is still unknown of men and hath not as yet given utterance to the Word of God, is Himself the All-Knower in a world devoid of any man that hath known Him. He is indeed the Creator without a creation. For at the very moment preceding His Revelation, each and every created thing shall be made to yield up its soul to God. This is indeed the Day of which it hath been written: "Whose shall be the Kingdom this Day?" And none can be found ready to answer!
(Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, p. 150)

That is, before the Manifestation of God is recognized, He is "alone" with no one to know Him.  And another aspect of this is the "death" of everyone - that everyone "yields up his soul" when the new Manifestation speaks.

As is explained in the Bible, a person being “dead” means that he is not a believer.  So great is the difference between life lived as a believer and life lived without the divine revelation, that the comparison to “life” and “death” is most apropos.  And when the new Manifestation of God comes to the world and begins His mission, from that point there are no believers.  All of the believers in the past Manifestations of God are deemed to be “dead,” to have "expired" and "yielded up their souls."  And during this time period, after all the believers in the former Dispensations have yielded up their souls and there are as yet no new believers, as no one has yet recognized the new Manifestation of God – during that time, the Manifestation of God is alone; and in this sense, “God was alone with none to know Him.”

This time of great spiritual tumult, when the new creation is brought into being, is symbolically presented in this marvelous passage depicting the divine tumult that accompanies every new Manifestation of God, every new utterance of the new Word of God in every age:

"I testify that no sooner had the First Word proceeded, through the potency of Thy will and purpose, out of His mouth, and the First Call gone forth from His lips than the whole creation was revolutionized, and all that are in the heavens and all that are on earth were stirred to the depths. Through that Word the realities of all created things were shaken, were divided, separated, scattered, combined and reunited, disclosing, in both the contingent world and the heavenly kingdom, entities of a new creation, and revealing, in the unseen realms, the signs and tokens of Thy unity and oneness. Through that Call Thou didst announce unto all Thy servants the advent of Thy most great Revelation and the appearance of Thy most perfect Cause." 
(Prayers and Meditations by Baha'u'llah, p. 295)

In this Tablet, in which Baha'u'llah describes His own public declaration in 1863, Baha'u'llah writes:

“Canst thou discover any one but Me, O Pen, in this Day? What hath become of the creation and the manifestations thereof? What of the names and their kingdom? Whither are gone all created things, whether seen or unseen? What of the hidden secrets of the universe and its revelations? Lo, the entire creation hath passed away! Nothing remaineth except My Face, the Ever-Abiding, the Resplendent, the All-Glorious. This is the Day whereon naught can be seen except the splendors of the Light that shineth from the face of Thy Lord, the Gracious, the Most Bountiful. Verily, We have caused every soul to expire by virtue of Our irresistible and all-subduing sovereignty. We have, then, called into being a new creation, as a  token of Our grace unto men. I am, verily, the All-Bountiful, the Ancient of Days.”
(Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, XIV p. 29)

Likewise the Bab wrote of the "new creation" on p. 172 of Selections from the Writings of the Bab.

And the "new creation" is the new community of believers.  The former things have passed away, and each of the Manifestations of God "makes all things new" - until the appearance of the next Manifestation of God, about every thousand years.

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