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If you are just being introduced to the Baha’i Faith and you are a Christian and follow the teachings of Jesus, would it be challenging to learn about the claims of Bahá’u’lláh?
If I’m the Christian in this scenario, I believe I would find challenging, compelling, and scary—all at the same time — Bahá’u’lláh’s claim to be my Lord returned, “in the Glory of the Father,” fulfilling the deepest, inmost desire of my heart.
However, I’m not certain that I am brave enough to really act on this and consider His claim with care and fairness. Familiarity, comfort, habit, and feeling at-home in a specific religious tradition and community is not something I want to leave behind.
I hope the Bahá’í would be a true friend, patient and loving—but not in a patronizing way of “I’m saving you”—but rather a “I have what I believe to be a vastly important message to share with you” while I work through these feelings. I would try to imagine back and try to summon the same kind of courage that a first century Palestinian Jewish person must have needed to really check out Jesus as Messiah rather than dismissing him as just a meshugana (Yiddish for “crazy/trouble-maker”) teacher and supposed miracle-worker who didn’t do at all what I expected of the mashiach (Hebrew for “Messiah” or “anointed one”): freeing my people and Holy Land from the Roman hegemony. The possibility to follow Jesus would have been very frightening, likely disrupting much with my Jewish family, community, and many of the traditions in which I was raised and delighted to practice. I would have to remind myself of my gratitude that some of my ancestors of hundreds of years ago had the courage to consider Jesus.
I hope through all this I would feel cared about, respected, and my own religious identity not threatened. It would be reassuring to me to learn that the Bahá’í Faith celebrates in the Bible the inspired words of God, venerate its many prophets, and loves Jesus, recognizes Him to be the Son of God who dedicated and sacrificed His life so we may live in grace and be quickened by the Spirit with eternal life in heavenly nearness to God. I would be fascinated to learn that Bahá’ís also open the doors of their hearts to God and strive every day to grow the vitality of one’s inner relationship with the Lord through His tender mercy.
I would be delighted to hear that Bahá’ís also ask, “What would Jesus Do?” and that they believe that to truly live the life of a Bahá’í is to also be a good Christian and a dedicated Christian lives with the same morals as a Bahá’í, as we follow Jesus’ example of living in the world but not of the world, friendship to everyone, a sin-covering eye that looks for the good in others, caring for the downtrodden and sorrowful, healing the sick, and feeding the hungry. I would be fascinated to learn that Baha’u’llah in His own life became known as the “Father of the Poor” and His wife Asiyih “the Mother of the Downtrodden” as they cared for and sheltered the poor and grieving in northern Persia.
I may be interested to learn that Bahá’ís believe the Bible speaks of Jesus returning with a new name which may be “the glory of God” (which is also “Bahá’u’lláh” translated), that He would come “like lightning” from the East—perhaps from Baghdad (where Bahá’u’lláh first declared His mission)—unto the Holy Land (to which Bahá’u’lláh was exiled), and in the year 1844 (the year the Bahá’í Faith began).
That the Bahá’í Faith affirms the truths of the Bible and Christianity, that the Bible seems to prophesize that Jesus would return with a new name, that He would return in “the glory of God,” come from the East, perhaps from Baghdad itself, and end up in Akka, that He would possibly return in 1844: all this may be convincing for a Bahá’í. But, perhaps for me, after all this, the most I know is that the Bahá’í has some good reasons to believe in Bahá’u’lláh. I know that there are many prophecies in the Bible and that they are often difficult to interpret and can possibly mean different things. What I do know for certain is that when I read the Bible, I hear the voice of my Lord who created and fashioned me with love and nurtures me with His holy word—“sweeter than honey… a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path,” which quickens me (Psalm 119:107-110). I know that as I learn about God through the Bible, Christ rises before me in the awesome majesty and glory of God but also kind, gentle, and as the dearest Friend. Nothing is so convincing that I have indeed found God than having experienced actually finding God through the Bible and its teachings which are as wings to my soul.
Just as the Gospel of John says, “…and the sheep hear his voice…and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice… And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers.” (10:3-5).
Thus, perhaps the only way I may know with certainty whether the claim of Bahá’u’lláh is true is to read Bahá’u’lláh’s own writings with an open, pure, sincere heart, not prejudging for Him or against Him, and find what I shall find. When I read them with care, if I do not find that I encounter in Bahá’u’lláh’s words and history of His life, the same majestic and glorious, yet also tender and loving God that I encounter in the Bible, then I need not worry about this claim any longer. But if I do encounter my Lord shining in His boundless glory, love, and wisdom in the writings, teachings, and life of Baha’u’llah, then I have found the deepest desire of my heart: my Lord returned.
Such a journey to investigate this claim takes enormous courage, discernment, and trust in God to guide me. Individually, I am not sure that I am up to the challenge, but I trust God will guide me, knowing “The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake” (Psalm 23:1-3).
If I want to begin to learn more about the Bahá’í belief of Biblical prophecies fulfilled
I would be anxious about “Baha’u’llah” having a different name than “Jesus.” However, I would be interested to learn that “Jesus” in His own lifetime wasn’t exactly called that but “Yeshua,” which means ‘God delivers/rescues/saves.’ I would be surprised to learn that the Book of Revelation 19:11-12 says that our Lord who is “Faithful and True” when He returns with “eyes…as a flame of fire” that He would have “a name” which “no one knew” but He himself and that Rev. 2:17 say that His followers would likewise be given “a new name.” Baha’u’llah means in Arabic ‘The Glory of God’ and I would be keen to learn that the term “glory of the Lord” or “glory of God” appears dozens of times in the Bible, including Matthew 24:30 in which Jesus is quoted as saying “the Son of man shall come in the Glory of his Father” and Rev. 21:23 that says “And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof.”
I may at first be skeptical that Baha’u’llah did not appear immediately in the Holy Land but Persia and then Baghdad but the Bahá’í may lovingly point out that Jesus says “For as the lightning cometh out of the East… so shall also the coming of the Son of man be” (Matt. 24:27). Likewise, the prophet Ezekiel had said, “Afterward he brought me to the gate, even the gate that looketh toward the east: And, behold, the glory of the God of Israel came from the way of the east: and his voice was like a noise of many waters: and the earth shined with his glory” (Ezek. 43:1-2). What an intriguing coincidence that Bahá’u’lláh’s (the Glory of God) forerunner—a Persian merchant—went by the title of The Báb, which means “the gate.”
I would be amazed to learn that it was the prophet Micah who spoke of the importance of Bethlehem (5:2) in Jesus’ first coming and that he also speaks in 7:12 of the importance of “Assyria” (modern day Syria, Iraq, and some Iran); Baha’u’llah first declared His mission in the heart of Assyria—Baghdad. And the “glory of the Lord” in the Holy Land is spoken of in Isaiah 35:2, “…the excellency of Carmel and Sharon, they shall see the glory of the LORD, and the excellency of our God,” and Baha’u’llah was exiled and imprisoned (just 12-miles north) across the bay in Akka, yet He later visited on many occasions Mount Carmel and the Plain of Sharon in the Holy Land. I would also find it almost uncanny that Hosea 2:15 promises that “Achor” or “Akka” would be a “a door of hope”—the very place that Baha’u’llah was imprisoned (persecuted for His religious beliefs) when exiled to the Holy Land.
Quite surprising to me would be to learn that Bahá’ís believe that Christ had already returned and so many people seemed to have missed it, especially since I know that three of the Gospels state that Jesus or “the Son of man” would return “in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory” and Rev. 1:7, “he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him.” When Jesus came the first time He was humble and as a “suffering servant,” but when He comes again He would immediately reap the harvest, exalting His true followers and defeating evil, sickness, and death once and for the rest of time. However, I know that Jesus also said that He would return “like a thief in the night” and many people would be caught sleeping through it. These two promises are difficult to reconcile, and so I would be surprised but fascinated to learn that Jesus did not just promise to return in this magnificent way, but that He claimed to have come the first time from heaven (John 3:13; 6:38, 51) with power (Matt. 28:18; John 17:1-5) and great glory (John 1:14, 17:1-4) healed whoever that came to Him sick (Matt. 8:16; Luke 4:40), and overcame physical death for all (1 Cor. 15:21-2, 42-4).
I guess it makes sense, hearing from the Bahá’í that God’s spiritual glory is so bright that each time He comes down from heaven, His Face illumines all and His Voice reverberates through all hearts, but not all eyes perceive, not all ears hearken, and not all hearts understand (Acts 28:6). This happened when Jesus came the first time. Are spiritual realities, and the challenge towards each soul to recognize God-manifest (rather than simply be attached to tradition/upbringing), not similar when He returns?
I would also be amazed to learn that many Christians expected Christ to return in the 1840s because of Daniel the Prophet who prophesized the time that Jesus would come the first time and the second time. First, he predicted 69-70 “weeks” or 483-490 years after the Edict (457 B.C.) that would rebuild the Jewish Temple (Daniel 9:24-6), making Jesus about 26 when He began His mission and about 33 when He was crucified. Daniel (8:13) also promised 2,300 “days” or years after that same Edict the “sanctuary” would be cleansed from being ruled by the forces of evil, conquered by the “Prince of Peace.” 2,300 years after the Edict (457 B.C.) is 1844 (Note: there was no year-O, that is why 2,300 – 457 is not 1843 but 1844)—the year the Bahá’í Faith began with the declaration of the Báb on May 23rd—the very same night Samuel Morse invented the telegram—that God’s promised Day had dawned!