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The Resurrection and Return of Jesus

The Resurrection and Return of Jesus

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Published by: BVILLAR on Jun 02, 2010
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Elucidations
The Resurrection and Return of Jesus
M E M O R A N D U M
 To: The Universal House of JusticeDate: 9 October 1989From: The Research Department
The Resurrection and Return of Jesus
In her letter dated ... to the Research Department, ... requestsexplanations of the Resurrection and return of Jesus. She hasread the relevant interpretations in "Some Answered Questions"and "The Wine of Astonishment", yet feels that herunderstanding is not sufficient to satisfy her Christian friends.The Research Department provides the following.
The Resurrection of Jesus
...'s Christian friends challenged the truth of Bahá'u’lláh bythe following argument:Where are Jesus Christ's remains compared toBahá'u’lláh's? Christ was God, that is why his remainsdisappeared. Bahá'u’lláh's remains are still here so he can'tbe God....then summarizes the issue by asking, "Why did Christ's bodydisappear and Bahá'u’lláh's didn't?"...'s friends regard the Resurrection of Christ and His Ascension into heaven as physical events involving His physicalbody, whereas the Bahá’í writings explain that these accountsshould be interpreted symbolically. The general issue ofsymbolism in the Bible is treated in great detail by Bahá'u’lláh inthe "Kitáb-i-Íqán" and on page 49 of that book [rev. ed.],(Wilmette: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1985), Bahá'u’lláh explainsthe purpose of symbolism in all the Holy Books:Know verily that the purpose underlying all these symbolic
 
416 Elucidations: Return of Jesus
terms and abstruse allusions, which emanate from theRevealers of God's holy Cause, hath been to test and provethe peoples of the world; that thereby the earth of the pureand illuminated hearts may be known from the perishableand barren soil. From time immemorial such hath been theway of God amidst His creatures, and to this testify therecords of the sacred books.In the days when the New Testament was written, and formany centuries thereafter, the accepted concept of creation wasthat the world in which we live was at the centre of the physicaluniverse, hell was literally below the earth, while heaven wasliterally above the clouds, beyond the spheres of the planets. Tothe people of those times there was nothing absurd in a literalunderstanding of the "harrowing of hell" (Jesus's descent intohell to bring up the souls of the virtuous of past ages) or of Hisphysical ascent into heaven. At the time of Jesus the ideas of the people about the nextlife were very vague, whether they were Jews or pagans. Eventhough they may have thought of the next world as a physicallocation to which the spirit went, they conceived of the lifethere as a shadowy, unreal, pale reflection of reality. Jesus wasable to teach them that the next life is as real as, indeed evenmore "real" than, this life; it is not surprising, therefore, thatChristian tradition over the centuries should have "concretized"what were meant to be spiritual teachings.Nowadays, when we have a clearer understanding of thenature of the physical universe, the idea of a physical bodydescending to the heart of the earth, or ascending beyond thestratosphere (except in a spaceship) is a ridiculous impossibility.The Bahá’í teachings make it clear, however, that even thoughwe cannot accept these accounts as literally true, this does notlessen the truth or importance of the spiritual realities that theyconvey.Moreover, if one reads the biblical accounts with an unbiasedmind, one can see that the events related are far from typical ofa physical body. It is true that Jesus tells doubting Thomas tofeel His wounds to demonstrate that it was really He, but justbefore that He had suddenly appeared in a room with lockeddoors. In a similar manner, after speaking with two followerson the road to Emmaus, Jesus suddenly disappears. He alsoappears suddenly in different parts of the Holy Land, inJerusalem, Galilee, and so forth.
 
Lights of ‘Irfán Book Nine 417
In this context we must remember St. Paul's statement in ICorinthians 15:50-54:Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannotinherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruptioninherit incorruption. Behold, I shew you a mystery; Weshall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In amoment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: forthe trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raisedincorruptible, and we shall be changed. For thiscorruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortalmust put on immortality. So when this corruptible shallhave put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have puton immortality, then shall be brought to pass the sayingthat is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.From this it is clear that, even in Christian thought, it is thespiritual that is vital and eternal, not the material. The ways inwhich Christian theologians have interpreted and understoodthese teachings vary, but the essential elements are in accordboth with Bahá’í teaching and with the accounts that we read inthe New Testament.In discussing these matters, 'Abdu'l-Bahá, in "Some AnsweredQuestions", rev. ed. (Wilmette: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1985),pp. 103-4, points out that Jesus states that He "came downfrom heaven", whereas it is known that from a physical point ofview He was born as a baby in this material world. Thus His"descent" from "heaven" was a spiritual event, and "likewise Hisascension to heaven is a spiritual and not material ascension".Concerning the location of the burial site of Jesus' sacredremains, a letter dated 22 March 1982 written on behalf of theUniversal House of Justice to an individual believer states:Pilgrims have recorded in their notes oral statements made by'Abdu'l-Bahá and Shoghi Effendi to the effect that the discipleshid the body of Christ by burying it under the wall ofJerusalem, and that it is now under the Church of the HolySepulchre. The House of Justice knows of nothing in theWritings of the Faith, however, explicitly confirming thesestatements.
The Return of Jesus
...poses a second question: "Why did Christ explain Hissecond coming with such detail in the book of Revelations if itwere all symbolical?" The "Kitáb-i-Íqán" identifies Christ's

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