The Baha’i teachings make clear that the vast changes the world has experienced in the modern age are aspects of God’s plan for the unification of humanity.
These changes have been stimulated by the appearance of Baha’u’llah and his new world order, which is now in the earliest embryonic stages of its development. Baha’u’llah wrote, in his Most Holy Book:
The world’s equilibrium hath been upset through the vibrating influence of this most great, this new World Order. Mankind’s ordered life hath been revolutionized through the agency of this unique, this wondrous System—the like of which mortal eyes have never witnessed. – Baha’u’llah, The Most Holy Book, p. 85.
In other passages Baha’u’llah refers to the vast, mysterious forces that have been unleashed in the world as a direct result of his revelation. He laments that humanity as a whole seems oblivious to this reality:
A new life is, in this age, stirring within all the peoples of the earth; and yet none hath discovered its cause or perceived its motive. – Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 195.
Baha’u’llah foresees that humanity’s failure to recognize and accept him—all the more tragic because his advent had been anticipated for so many centuries— will lead to grave and prolonged sufferings. He exhorts the peoples of the world to heed his call or face God’s judgment:
Bestir yourselves, O people, in anticipation of the days of Divine Justice, for the promised hour is now come. – Ibid., p. 17.
Nonetheless, there are innumerable instances in which Baha’u’llah speaks of the inevitable triumph of his Cause. In certain passages he indicates that the present state of affairs is but a prelude to a revolutionary turn of fortune:
The whole earth is now in a state of pregnancy. The day is approaching when it will have yielded its noblest fruits, when from it will have sprung forth the loftiest trees, the most enchanting blossoms, the most heavenly blessings. – Baha’u’llah, quoted by Shoghi Effendi in The World Order of Baha’u’llah, p. 169.
The time is approaching when every created thing will have cast its burden. Glorified be God Who hath vouchsafed this grace that encompasseth all things, whether seen or unseen! – Ibid.
In another place Baha’u’llah writes:
The world is in travail, and its agitation waxeth day by day. Its face is turned towards waywardness and unbelief. Such shall be its plight, that to disclose it now would not be meet and seemly. Its perversity will long continue. And when the appointed hour is come, there shall suddenly appear that which shall cause the limbs of mankind to quake. Then, and only then, will the Divine Standard be unfurled, and the Nightingale of Paradise warble its melody. – Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, pp. 118-119.
Baha’u’llah envisioned a time in the future when the peoples of the world will live together in peace and unity as members of one faith. Universal justice will be established based on adherence to the law of God. A new civilization based on spiritual values will come into being. He referred to this as the Most Great Peace.
In his own time he called upon the rulers of the world to support his Cause and implied that had they done so, the Most Great Peace could have been established relatively quickly due to their leadership and influence. When they rejected him, Baha’u’llah exhorted them to establish the “Lesser Peace”—a political unity of the nations that would be a prelude to the Most Great Peace.
Because they ignored His summons, Baha’u’llah predicted divine retribution for these rulers. In subsequent years each of the dynasties Baha’u’llah addressed was swept away, including those in France, Germany, Russia, Turkey, Iran, and Austria. The only exceptions were Great Britain, whose government he praised for its constitution and representative government and for having abolished the slave trade, and the United States, which he indicated would play a special role in establishing justice in the world.
Abdu’l-Baha later explained that the Lesser Peace would be established over the course of time as the peoples of the world grow gradually more conscious that the world is our common homeland and that a system of international governance is indispensable for world stability. But He also made clear that political unity alone would not guarantee peace and prosperity in the long run. A higher level of unity must be achieved—one possible only through adherence to the spiritual verities taught by Baha’u’llah.
The Baha’i writings explain that there will be three stages leading to the new divine civilization. First will be a period of great turmoil and suffering, which we are now witnessing. Then will come the Lesser Peace, which is the political unity of nations. After that will come the Most Great Peace.