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Prophecies point to the future—but at some point, the future arrives. Whether or not that future fulfills past prophecies is a matter of interpretation, of belief, of faith.

Obviously, a prophet, like Isaiah, can’t come back and proclaim, “Yes, that’s exactly what I meant!” Someone else has to do the job of interpreting whether a given prophecy from Isaiah has, or has not, come to pass—and that’s certainly true when we talk about the “Day of Judgment,” a major theme in Jewish, Christian, and Islamic apocalyptic scenarios.

In the Jewish tradition, it’s called “The Day of the Lord”—in Hebrew, Yom Ha Din. In the Christian tradition, people refer to that prophesied time as “the Last Judgment,” “the Final Judgment,” “the Day of Judgment,” “Judgment Day,” or even Doomsday. Muslims know it in Arabic as “Yawm al-Qiyamah” (which means “the Day of Resurrection”) or “Yawm ad-Din,” the Day of Judgment.

What do you think this Day of Judgment means?

Picture yourself on the Day of Judgment. To do this, you have to use your imagination, and place yourself in a scriptural, apocalyptic scenario. In the Bible and the Qur’an, chilling, frightening, and horrific descriptions of the Day of Judgment abound. But are those descriptions physical? Or are the physical descriptions intended to convey a spiritual meaning?

When a prophecy is fulfilled, then such fulfillment, in the words of the popular Hollywood movie, become “Days of Future Past.” Is it possible that we could be living in the “Days of Future Past?” Not sure? How can you tell? Well, that’s what this entire “Figuring out Prophecy” series is all about!

In an old poem I once wrote, I recall this line: “The Day of Judgment, all too punctual.” So what if the Day of Judgment has actually happened already? “Impossible!,” you might retort. “If I was judged, then I’d be the first to know.” Okay, fair enough—but just suspend your disbelief for a few minutes, then consider this alternative explanation for the “Day of Judgment” and see if it makes any sense.

Baha’is view Isaiah’s prophecies, as well as other prophecies from past revelations, as foretelling spiritual events. Spiritual events, of course, result in physical events as natural consequences. But, in the Baha’i perspective, spiritual events always precede physical events, just like thought and action. Let’s take a couple of interpretations of one prophecy about the Day of Judgment—Isaiah 43:10—as a prime example, as part of this broader passage in Isaiah 43:8–12:

Bring forth the blind people that have eyes, and the deaf that have ears.

Let all the nations be gathered together, and let the people be assembled: who among them can declare this, and shew us former things? let them bring forth their witnesses, that they may be justified: or let them hear, and say, It is truth.

Ye are my witnesses, saith the Lord, and my servant whom I have chosen: that ye may know and believe me, and understand that I am he: before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me.

I, even I, am the Lord; and beside me there is no saviour.

I have declared, and have saved, and I have shewed, when there was no strange god among you: therefore ye are my witnesses, saith the Lord, that I am God. – Isaiah 43:8–12.

Here, in Isaiah 43:10, “Ye are my witnesses” is stated twice, as if for emphasis. “Ye” (King James English for “you”) could actually include you (the reader)—and me (the writer)—if Isaiah 43:10 is universal in scope. So what does Isaiah mean by “Ye are my witnesses”? In Judaism, the Babylonian Talmud explains:

Perhaps thou wilt say: Who testifies against me? … But the Sages say: A man’s soul testifies against him, for it is said: Keep the doors of thy mouth from her that lieth in thy bosom. What is it that lies in a man’s bosom? You must say, it is the soul. … But the Sages say: A man’s limbs testify against him, for it is said: Therefore ye are My witnesses, saith the Lord, and I am God. – Talmud, Tractate Hagiga: Chapter 2.

Now I’m not a Talmudic scholar, but I think this passage speaks for itself. Here, judgment is not executed by God directly or by some prosecuting angel, before the judgment seat, reading from the “Book of Deeds”—but by the reflex of one’s own internal conscience, if indeed “limbs” represents the instruments of one’s actions performed during a person’s earthly lifetime.

Fast forward now to a similar passage in the Qur’an, the holy book of Islam:

On that day none shall be questioned about his sin, neither man nor jinn (spirit).

O which of your Lord’s bounties will you and you deny?

The sinners shall be known by their mark, and they shall be seized by their forelocks and their feet. – Quran 55:39–41.

Now pay close attention to Baha’u’llah’s explanation of this well-known passage:

And it came to pass that on a certain day a needy man came to visit this Soul, craving for the ocean of His knowledge. While conversing with him, mention was made concerning the signs of the Day of Judgment, Resurrection, Revival, and Reckoning. He urged Us to explain how, in this wondrous Dispensation, the peoples of the world were brought to a reckoning, when none were made aware of it. Thereupon, We imparted unto him, according to the measure of his capacity and understanding, certain truths of Science and ancient Wisdom. We then asked him saying: “Hast thou not read the Qur’an, and art thou not aware of this blessed verse: “On that day shall neither man nor spirit be asked of his Sin?” (Quran 55:39). Dost thou not realize that by “asking” is not meant asking by tongue or speech, even as the verse itself doth indicate and prove? For afterward it is said: “By their countenance shall the sinners be known, and they shall be seized by their forelocks and their feet.” (Quran 55:41).” Thus the peoples of the world are judged by their countenance. By it, their misbelief, their faith, and their iniquity are all made manifest. – Baha’u’llah, The Book of Certitude, pp. 172–173.

Judged “by their countenance”—how does that work? Ask yourself: can you tell when someone is happy or unhappy, content or disturbed? Yes, of course you can. On the Judgment Day—that day when all of us are held to account for our actions here on Earth—your own inner spiritual condition will shine through.

2 Comments

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  • Rosslyn and Steven Osborne
    Oct 25, 2018
    I found this very interesting Christopher, and easily understood. I too felt that the minute we drew our last earthy breath we would be shown/asked of our doings?
  • Mark David Vinzens
    Oct 24, 2018
    The final judgment is the final healing, in my opinion. A very positive and joyful event, a liberation from suffering. The judgment of God does not damn, it redeems. His holy Spirit comes only with healing. "Fear not!" the angels announced at Jesus' birth, "I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all People" (Lk 2:10) What does a loving father want for his children? He wants to embrace them forever in His everlasting arms.