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Opinions of Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Columnist: Bennedy Otu Ansah

The return of Christ, must it not be Baha’u’llah?

In a previous article, “Welcome Jesus”, I had designated Jesus Christ, as the most unwelcome guest of our time, because many people wished he returned after their lifetime. Recently I have been asking people if they sincerely believed Christ would return.

The answers have mostly been affirmative. As to the question of how one will recognize Him when He returns, many are conversant with various pointers in the bible.

The answers I got from the generality of people have been my motivation for this piece. Suffice it to say, that one Catholic told me that when He returns, the Pope would know and announce it to all Catholics. Generally, not many people believed the clergy; not excluding the “men of God” of today, would be in the forefront of His recognition.

The religion of the day at His first coming, was more unitarian than it is today, but it still could not help the laity, what more of today, when there are multiplicity of religions, churches and “men of God” each vying for attention and membership, using all forms of marketing tactics, politics, tricks, voodoo, and occultism.

How are you going to recognize His return?

Instinctively many said the bible says nobody knows but the Father. I have had to draw their attention to the fact that it is not about when He is coming, which admittedly nobody knows, but when He actually arrives, since His return is also not in doubt.

He will come through the clouds and every eye shall see Him. All eyes shall see Him. Yes, if he is coming as a physical human being like you and I.

All eyes see us because we are not spirit beings. The clergy and the “men of God” are not going to act as intermediaries between the “returned” Jesus and us.

Jesus made this clear in the scripture below.

1. 1 John 4:2 Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God:

2. 4:3 and every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is in the world.

3. Math. 24:26. Wherefore if they shall say unto you, Behold, He is in the desert; go not forth: behold, He is in the secret chambers; believe it not.

4. 24:27. For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. Why these warnings? The reason for these warnings is that He is not coming to hide anywhere. He is coming to live with us, amongst us, as He did before. Like the lightning He cannot be hidden nor confined. Coming through the cloud? Yes, just as he descended from the cloud the first time. Wait! What is a cloud? The cloud shuts the light of the sun from reaching the earth. It conceals the sun, the sun of truth. It therefore represents anything that conceals the truth, a veil. The lowly social class, in which Christ was born, was a great test for the acceptance of the people. His lowly class was therefore a “cloud” which prevented the emission of His light from reaching or penetrating the hearts of the people. His divine birth was a thick cloud that again shut the luminous Jesus from the generality of the people. Being born out of wedlock was an abomination in that Jewish society He came to. It is important to note that the divine announcement to Mary and Joseph was kept secret. It was all right for that society to overlook that illegitimate relationship between Mary and Joseph, but it would have been something else if Joseph had announced to the community that Mary’s child was by the Holy Spirit. He would have been accused of blasphemy, punishable by stoning, how much more to declare a product of such a marriage as the Messiah they were waiting for.

It is thus clear that the cloud is anything that goes contrary to general expectations. Simply stated, Christ will return in a manner that the people do not expect.

What are the general expectations of the return of Christ today?

He will not be born again. He will arrive here an adult. What? If He is born? Do we have any right to question God about that? The Jews are still waiting for the messiah of their own fancy who will not be born but come from an unknown city, more than two thousand years after His coming, as Jesus Christ. T

hey are still waiting. Are we also going to wait for a returned Jesus created by our own fancy? If Jesus will not be born but appear from the clouds, then He will in fact come from an unknown city or a plcae. Our expectations today are not different from the Jews two thousand years ago. Two thousand years has not been able to cure the age-old prejudice and fantasy in both Christian and Jewish expectations.

He will judge the world

Many people believe that when He returns, He is coming to judge the world, so His return and the Day of Judgment are synonymous. Their belief is that he will come and sit on a mighty seat and call people one by one to account for their deeds. This type of judgment is akin to human judgment and does not befit the divinity of Jesus. Why? Does not God know who we are? What we have done and have not done? Why does Jesus have to ask anyone? Is it just to give us an opportunity to lie?

On the other hand, did Jesus not judge the world the first time He came? Did he not rebuke the clergy for their omissions and commissions? Is that not judgment? Did he not distinguish false beliefs from the truth? Is that not judgment? Sure, He judged the world.

Humankind was divided into believers and unbelievers. He will surely do the same on His second coming. He will distinguish truth from falsehood through His pronouncements.

One day I looked directly into the eyes of one of the victims of my inquisition and asked, must not Baha’u’llah of the Baha’i Faith be the Christ Returned? I could feel the perplexity and agitations of his mind, not that he was considering that possibility.

He wanted to tell me equally in the face that I was a liar, but felt shy to say so. An opposing scripture had popped up in his mind and he started murmuring something like the false prophets… who will come in the last days.. . I urged him on, but since he was not forthcoming, I finally completed the quote for him.

“Take heed that ye be not deceived: for many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and the time draweth near: go ye not therefore after them” (King James Bible, Luke 21:8)

By his understanding, perhaps Baha’u’llah is one of the many who shall come in His name claiming to be the Christ. The clergy has managed to turn the meaning of this scripture upside-down. The scripture above does not suggest many claimants to His return, but many adherents of his name coming to us.

Two thousand years on, only Bahaullah, has made that stupendous statement of a return of the Lord Jesus Christ; a return, which is synonymous with the coming of the Lord spoken of by Mica (7:2). A return whose divine impart is at par with that of Jesus, Muhammad, Moses, Krishna, Buddha, and the other Messengers. Not many, but only one has made this statement so far in two thousand years.

On the other hand, many adherents to His name (Christians) come to us every day. Coming in His name means performing acts in honour of Him, because of ones “faith” or “love” or “acceptance” of Him or just flatter Him as is happening today.

They heal in the name of Christ, cast demons in the name of Christ, and spread the message of the Kingdom in the name of Christ. In the name of “Jesus” is everything done. In the scripture above, Christ also predicted their message, i.e. the time is near which is one of the key themes of Christian propagation.

How can a claimant of the “return of Christ” also warn that the time of His return is near when He himself is that return? It is interesting that this contradiction has not dawned on bible preachers yet. Therefore, this scripture refers to Christians coming to us to affirm that Jesus is the Christ but deceiving us that the time is near even when He had already “returned.”

Yes! Baha’u’llah affirmed Christ as the son of the living God but His appeal was different. Listen to some of His messages to humankind. O kings of the earth! He Who is the sovereign Lord of all is come. The Kingdom is God's, the omnipotent Protector, the Self-Subsisting. Worship none but God, and, with radiant hearts, lift up your faces unto your Lord, the Lord of all names. (Baha'u'llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, p. 210) O kings of the earth! We see you increasing every year your expenditures, and laying the burden thereof on your subjects. This, verily, is wholly and grossly unjust. Fear the sighs and tears of this wronged One, and lay not excessive burdens on your peoples. Do not rob them to rear palaces for yourselves; nay rather choose for them that which ye choose for yourselves. (Provisional Translations, Tablet to Queen Victoria) If ye pay no heed unto the counsels, which, in peerless and unequivocal language, We have revealed in this Tablet, Divine chastisement shall assail you from every direction, and the sentence of His justice shall be pronounced against you. On that day ye shall have no power to resist Him and shall recognize your own impotence…. (Baha'u'llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, p. 251) There is no doubt from these statements that He was not warning humanity about a day to come, but a day, which had arrived.

He will not come like a lamb again; He will come like a lion.

There is general agreement to the symbolic interpretation of this verse; therefore, we must look at the qualities of the lamb and the lion. The clearest attribute of the lamb, which also fits Jesus’ first coming, is the sacrifice the lamb is usually offered as. In this wise the martyrdom of Jesus makes Him a symbolic lamb.

Perhaps His humble social class resulting in His being born in a manger, the sleeping place of the lamb is also significant. The lamb is a non-aggressive animal and is virtually defenseless before its enemies. In this wise also Jesus’ first coming is very significant. With all the powers of heaven and earth entrusted to Him, He allowed himself to be molested and even killed without any retribution.

What about the lion? It does not only roar and puts fear in its prey, but actually devours them when need be. Must not Baha’u’llah then be the Christ Returned?

Baha’u’llah was born into a royal family in the year 1817; He is of the lineage of Abraham through Abraham’s third wife, Ketura. His father was in the court of the king of Persia, the home country of Abraham, and could have succeeded His father but for his divine mission. In this wise He was not a lamb by the description of social status. He also cannot be described as a lamb because He did not die a martyr’s death. Baha’u’llah! The “Lion?”

Baha’u’llah’s mission attracted the hatred and envy of the leadership of both the ecclesiastic and political order. In spite of the sermons and warnings against any association with Him, and the persecution of the followers, His influence in both the ecclesiastic and political order continued to increase. The Love, admiration, and devotion of His followers and even some dignitaries within these same institutions, was a source of envy and hatred.

Professor E G Browne of Cambridge University, who had the opportunity to visit Baha’u’llah in his prison in Israel, describes him as follows: “The face of him on whom I gazed I can never forget, though I cannot describe it. Those piercing eyes seemed to read one's very soul; power and authority sat on that ample brow; while the deep lines on the forehead and face implied an age which the jet-black hair and beard flowing down in indistinguishable luxuriance almost to the waist seemed to belie. No need to ask in whose presence I stood, as I bowed myself before one who is the object of a devotion and love which kings might envy and emperors sigh for in vain”. – This rare love and devotion struck envy and fear, in the hearts of His enemies. The fear that the increasing influence of Baha’u’llah may ultimately lead to their demise, in a form of a revolution or an uprising against the status quo. This is symbolical to the fear at the sight of a lion. The seeming punitive events that were visited on the Kings and Rulers of the World, who disobeyed His divine “Commands” or opposed Him at the time, are worth considering. A few months after Baha’u’llah was exiled to the prison city of Akka, in the holy land, Israel, the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister of the Ottoman Empire, who were instrumental in His exile under very difficult climatic conditions, were dismissed from office. The Sultan of the Ottoman Empire, who invited Baha’u’llah as his guest to the capital, Constantinople, but instead, subjected Him to confinement and later imprisonment, was himself overthrown and killed.

Napoleon III, who threw away the divine counsel of Baha’u’llah, saying that he was worth two prophets, if Bahaullah was a prophet, was defeated in a Franco-Prussian war, and overthrown.

William I, who defeated Napoleon, was counseled by Baha’u’llah to take cognizance of the fate of past victorious kings and avoid pride and turn to His Revelation. He ignored this counsel and was overthrown. Pope Pius IX, who refused to heed the counsel of Baha’u’llah to abandon his kingdom to the Kings and turn to His Revelation, was also overthrown. With all these events, would one not agree that a divine lion was left loose on the Kings and Ruler of the world at the time? The Great Expectations Other events worth serious consideration were the fervent expectations of the return of Jesus in those times. A few months before the arrival of Baha’u’llah in Akka, in Israel, a group of German Templers, guided by their understanding of the prophesy of the return of Jesus, had already assembled at the foot of Mt Camel in Israel waiting for His descent (obviously from the clouds) at that spot. Then there were the Millerite movement of the United States, from which have emerged the Seventh Day Adventists, and the Jehovah Witnesses, who expected the return (also from the clouds, obviously) of Jesus in 1844. In the Islamic world, the Shaykhi Movement was spreading the message of the coming of the Mahdi, and the return of the Masih (Jesus Christ). The last leader of the movement, Sayyid Qassim of Rast in Northern Iran, was reported to have dissolved the movement by the time of his death, in 1843, and instructed his followers, to disperse to every corner of the earth to find the Mahdi and the Masih, because they were already born and in the world. It is also recorded that Joseph Smith of the Mormons, had also predicted that Jesus would return immediately after his (Joseph Smith) passing. He died in 1844.

Are all these mere coincidences or fulfillments of prophesy. By 1844, which seem to be the decisive date for both Christian and Muslim seekers, Baha’u’llah was already twenty-seven years old, matured, and ready to take up His divine responsibility. He was in the world but the world knew Him not. Be fair, must Baha’u’llah not be the Christ returned.

Bennedy Otu Ansah.