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If I told you that the end times have arrived, when all people would be gathered together, and described all religions as rivers flowing to one ocean, you might ask “Where does scripture tell us that?”
I can assure you, it is there. Abdu’l-Baha, in a talk he gave in the United States in 1912, said it this way:
The ocean is one body of water, but different parts of it have particular designations — Atlantic, Pacific, Mediterranean, Antarctic, etc. If we consider the names, there is differentiation; but the water, the ocean itself, is one reality.
Likewise, the divine religions of the holy Manifestations of God are in reality one, though in name and nomenclature they differ. Man must be a lover of the light, no matter from what dayspring it may appear.
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To discover that theme as it runs through the scriptures of the world’s great religions, let’s start with the Judeo-Christian tradition, where the gathering of all people together in the end times is made rather plain. The prophet Isaiah wrote:
In the last days the mountain of the Lord’s temple will be established as the highest of the mountains; it will be exalted above the hills and all nations will stream to it. – Isaiah 2:2.
Here the metaphor is a mountain, not a river, but the message is the same: all nations will flow unto the mountain or the temple, just as rivers flow to the sea.
This mountain of the Lord’s House unto which all nations will come is a frequent symbol in the Bible. Here it is later in Isaiah, where what happens on this mountain is explained:
On this mountain the Lord Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine – the best of meats and the finest of wines. On this mountain he will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples, the sheet that covers all nations; he will swallow up death forever. The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears from all faces; he will remove his people’s disgrace from all the earth. The Lord has spoken. – Isaiah 25:6-8.
Did you catch the part that the feast is for all people and that God is going to remove the shroud – the cover – that separates us?
Consider what happens when fish from different rivers enter the sea. They are suddenly brought together, clearly visible to each other, with no separation between them. We can each see that happening now, at varying rates, all around the world, at a much faster rate than ever before.
Consider also this verse from the prophet Jeremiah:
O Lord, my strength and my fortress, my refuge in time of distress, to you the nations will come from the ends of the earth and say, “Our fathers possessed nothing but false gods, worthless idols that did them no good.” – Jeremiah 16:19.
This verse emphasizes that people will worship one idol-less God, but did you catch the part where the nations of the earth will be brought together?
The theme recurs again in this famous passage from the prophet Micah, echoing Isaiah:
In the last days the mountain of the Lord’s temple will be establishedas the highest of the mountains; it will be exalted above the hills, and peoples will stream to it. Many nations will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the temple of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.” The law will go out from Zion, the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He will judge between many peoples and will settle disputes for strong nations far and wide. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore. Everyone will sit under their own vine and under their own fig tree, and no one will make them afraid, for the Lord Almighty has spoken. All the nations may walk in the name of their gods, but we will walk in the name of the Lord our God for ever and ever. – Micah 4:1-5.
Here the divine promise of what will happen when we come together is revealed: justice under a common law will be established, peace among nations will be secured, and individual life and property protected.
The Qur’an, too, foretells collective gathering and judgment, announcing:
… one Day We shall summon all human beings [and judge them] according to the conscious disposition which governed their deeds [in life]: whereupon they whose record shall be placed in their right hand – it is they who will read their record [with happiness]. Yet none shall be wronged by as much as a hair’s breadth. – 17:71.
Some interpret this as the judgment that occurs at death when Christian law will judge Christians, Jewish law will judge Jews, and Muslim law will judge Muslims, etc. Up until our present age, this seems to be the right interpretation, but now a new interpretation is possible: It could mean that when we are brought together in this world, as is now happening, we will each be judged by one moral law that separates the wheat from the chaff of each religion. Indications in other places support this new interpretation.
The Qur’an speaks of a Day when the old ways will be put away, and when people will be brought together under a common law. It reads:
[God’s promise will be fulfilled] on the Day when the earth shall be changed into another earth, as shall be the heavens and when [all men] shall appear before God, the One who holds absolute sway over all that exists. – 14:48.
Here, we are brought together by God in life, not death, and charged with changing the old Earth into a new Earth, using the guidance of a new heaven – a new religion.
This earth-and-heaven-changing Day is referred to in many different ways in the Qur’an – as the Day of Resurrection, when the whole Earth will be in God’s grasp and God will judge between the religions (Qur’an 39:67-69; 22:17). It refers to the Day of Folding (Takwir) when the heavens and Earth are folded up and a new one is laid out. It includes the Day that arises out of darkness when the sun is folded up and the stars are taken away and the people are lost (Sura 81). In this Day things that were thought to be stable, like mountains, prove not to be, and things that need tending have to be abandoned. This Surah goes on to say that in this Day the rivers (or waters) that separate us and also carry our ships will drain chaotically into a common unordered sea, and that all people and beasts (which probably means men and women who act like beasts) will be brought together and asked of their doings.
When will these things happen? The verses say (81:10): when the books are spread abroad or laid open, or to use Daniel’s phrase, “when knowledge shall be increased.” That is happening now. In our media-connected world all is accessible and visible. Not only is knowledge a click away, so too are deeds. The books are open. Misdeeds and evil, as well as deeds of service and generosity, corruption and greed, as wells as right intent and action, are all clearly manifest. The Qur’an, however, says even more, completing the prophecy given to Daniel, saying that the Promised Day will come (51:6-7) when the heavens are full of numerous (some translations say “starry”) paths.
Look up into the sky and tell me: Do you not see the starry paths of airplanes and spaceships as many now run to and fro as Daniel foretold?
[Note: Because of a publishing error, this article was not included in its series in the correct order. We have now corrected the numbering so those who wish to read the entire series in sequence can do so. BahaiTeachings.org apologizes for the error.]