But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. – 2 Peter 3:10.
Verily this is the Day in which both land and sea rejoice at this announcement, the Day for which have been laid up those things which God, through a bounty beyond the ken of mortal mind or heart, hath destined for revelation. – Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 15.
In the Baha’i teachings, the phrase “the Day of God” denotes those rare periods in human history when a new prophet of God arises. Referred to in the holy books of multiple religions as “the day of the Lord” or “the day of resurrection,” the spiritual upheaval caused by the Day of God is often described as an apocalyptic event. “…the heavens will pass away with a great noise,” the Bible says, “and the elements will melt with fervent heat…” These purely symbolic terms refer to the inner and outer consternation and turmoil caused by the advent of a new era in human history—all ushered in by a set of new spiritual teachings brought by a new prophet.
Baha’is believe that each new dispensation opens a fresh, universal cycle on Earth—and that another one began with Baha’u’llah:
All glory be to this Day, the Day in which the fragrances of mercy have been wafted over all created things, a Day so blest that past ages and centuries can never hope to rival it, a Day in which the countenance of the Ancient of Days hath turned towards His holy seat. – Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 13.
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. – Ibid., p. 29.
This is a matchless Day. Matchless must, likewise, be the tongue that celebrateth the praise of the Desire of all nations, and matchless the deed that aspireth to be acceptable in His sight. The whole human race hath longed for this Day, that perchance it may fulfil that which well beseemeth its station, and is worthy of its destiny. – Ibid., p. 38.
“The whole human race hath longed for this Day,” Baha’u’llah wrote. Every Faith promises a return and a resurrection, that time of great transition when the world graduates from one level of understanding to the next, when a new messenger appears with a new message, when the Creator once again favors humanity with the light of knowledge and spiritual favor.
But when that happens, despite the fact that we have all “longed for this Day,” human beings invariably persecute the messenger:
Consider the past. How many, both high and low, have, at all times, yearningly awaited the advent of the Manifestations of God in the sanctified persons of His chosen Ones. How often have they expected His coming, how frequently have they prayed that the breeze of Divine mercy might blow, and the promised Beauty step forth from behind the veil of concealment, and be made manifest to all the world. And whensoever the portals of grace did open, and the clouds of divine bounty did rain upon mankind, and the light of the Unseen did shine above the horizon of celestial might, they all denied Him, and turned away from His face — the face of God Himself….
Reflect, what could have been the motive for such deeds? What could have prompted such behavior towards the Revealers of the beauty of the All-Glorious? – Ibid., pp. 17-18.
This strange story permeates human history. It has happened over and over again. A divine messenger arrives and begins to deliver a new message—and those in authority, whether in religion or government, persecute the messenger and reject the message. At first, only the humble, common people hear the message and follow it—but those in power violently reject it:
Consider the former generations. Witness how every time the Day Star of Divine bounty hath shed the light of His Revelation upon the world, the people of His Day have arisen against Him, and repudiated His truth. They who were regarded as the leaders of men have invariably striven to hinder their followers from turning unto Him Who is the Ocean of God’s limitless bounty. – Ibid., p. 56.
The Baha’i writings say that the divines—the clergy and religious authorities—bear the brunt of the responsibility for the terrible treatment meted out to the prophets of God:
Behold how the people, as a result of the verdict pronounced by the divines of His age, have cast Abraham, the Friend of God, into fire; how Moses, He Who held converse with the Almighty, was denounced as liar and slanderer. Reflect how Jesus, the Spirit of God, was, notwithstanding His extreme meekness and perfect tender-heartedness, treated by His enemies. So fierce was the opposition which He, the Essence of Being and Lord of the visible and invisible, had to face, that He had nowhere to lay His head. He wandered continually from place to place, deprived of a permanent abode. Ponder that which befell Muhammad, the Seal of the Prophets… How severe the afflictions which the leaders of the Jewish people and of the idol-worshipers caused to rain upon Him… in consequence of His proclamation of the unity of God and of the truth of His Message! – Ibid.
The Baha’i teachings ask every human being to resist this historical urge to ignore or reject the new messenger, and instead to examine his cause objectively and carefully:
God grant that, with a penetrating vision and radiant heart, thou mayest observe the things that have come to pass and are now happening, and, pondering them in thine heart, mayest recognize that which most men have, in this Day, failed to perceive. Please God, He may enable thee to inhale the sweet fragrance of His Day, to partake of the limitless effusions of His grace, to quaff thy fill, through His gracious favor, from the most great Ocean that surgeth in this Day in the name of the Ancient King, and to remain firm and immovable as the mountain in His Cause. – Ibid., pp. 58-59.