"As to the words -'immediately after the oppression of those days'- they refer to the time when men shall become oppressed and afflicted,...when the reins of mankind will have fallen into the grasp of the foolish and ignorant [i.e. the literalistic minded religious leaders], when the portals of divine unity and understanding -the essential and highest purpose in creation- will have been closed, when certain knowledge will have given way to idle fancy, and corruption will have usurped the station of righteousness. Such a condition as this is witnessed in this day when the reins of every community [religion], have fallen into the grasp of foolish leaders, who lead after their own whims and desire. On their tongue the mention of God hath become an empty name; in their midst His holy Word a dead letter... Though they recognize in their hearts the Law of God to be one and the same, yet from every direction they issue a new command, and in every season proclaim a fresh decree. No two are found to agree on one and the same law, for they seek no God but their own desire, and tread no path but the path of error... With all their power and strength they strive to secure them- selves in their petty pursuits, fearful lest the least discredit undermine their authority or blemish the display of their magnificence. Were the eye to be anointed and illumined with the collyrium of the knowledge of God, it would surely discover that a number of voracious beasts have gathered and preyed upon the carrion of the souls of men. What 'oppression' is greater than that which hath been recounted? What 'oppression' is more grievous than that a soul seeking the truth, and wishing to attain unto the knowledge of God, should know not where to go for it and from whom to seek it?
And now, concerning His words -'the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give light and the stars shall fall from heaven.'- By the terms 'sun' and 'moon', mentioned in the writings of the Prophets of God, is not meant solely the sun and moon of the visible universe. Nay rather, manifold are the meanings they have intended for these terms. In every instance they have attached to them a particular significance. Thus, by the 'sun' in one sense is meant those Suns of Truth Who rise from the dayspring of ancient glory, and fill the world with a liberal effusion of grace from on high. These Suns of Truth are the universal Manifestations of God, [the Messengers of God like Krishna, Buddha, Zoroaster, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, Muhammad, The Bab, Baha'u'llah and future Messengers], in the worlds of His attributes and names, even as the visible sun that assisteth, as decreed by God, the true One, the Adored, in the development of all earthly things, such as the trees, the fruits, and colors thereof, the minerals of the earth, and all that may be witnessed in the world of creation, so do the divine Luminaries, [the Messengers of God], by their loving care and educative influence, cause the trees of divine unity, the fruits of His oneness, the leaves of detachment, the blossoms of knowledge and certitude, and the myrtles of wisdom and utterance, to exist and be made manifest. Thus it is through the rise of these Luminaries of God the world is made new, the waters of everlasting life stream forth, the billows of living-kindness surge, the clouds of grace are gathered, and the breeze of bounty bloweth upon all created things. It is the warmth that these Luminaries of God generate, and the undying fires they kindle, which cause the light of the love of God to burn fiercely in the heart of humanity. it is through the abundant grace of these Symbols of Detachment, [the Messengers of God], that the Spirit of life everlasting is breathed into the bodies of the dead [i.e. and the Resurrection results]....
The term 'suns' hath many a time been applied in the writings of the 'immaculate Souls' unto the the Prophets of God, those luminous Emblems of Detachment. Among those writings are the following words recorded in the 'Prayer of Nudbih' -Prayer of Lamentation-, 'Whither are gone the resplendent Suns? Where unto have departed those shining Moons and sparkling Stars?' Thus it hath become evident that the terms 'sun', 'moon' and 'stars' primarily signify the Prophets of God, the saints, and their companions, those Luminaries, the light of Whose knowledge hath shed illumination upon the worlds of the visible and the invisible.
In another sense, by these terms is intended the divines of the former Dispensation, [Religion], who live in the days of the subsequent Revelations, and who hold the reins of religion in their grasp. If these divines be illumined by the light of the latter Revelation, [the new religion], they will be acceptable unto God, and will shine with a light everlasting. Otherwise, they will be declared as darkened, even though to outward seeming they be leaders of men, inasmuch as belief and unbelief, guidance and error, felicity and misery, light and darkness, are all dependent upon the sanction of Him Who is the Day-star of Truth, [the Messenger of God].... That the term 'sun' hath been applied to the leaders of religion is due to their lofty position, their fame, and renown. Such are the universally recognized divines of every age, who speak with authority, and whose fame is securely established....
In another sense, by the terms 'sun', 'moon', and 'stars' are meant such laws and teachings as have been established and proclaimed in every Dispensation,... Moreover, in the traditions the terms 'sun' and 'moon' have been applied to prayer and fasting, even as it is said: 'Fasting is illumination, prayer is light.' [Qur'an 67:2].
This is the purpose underlying the symbolic words of the Manifestations of God... Hence, it is clear and manifest that by the words 'the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven' is intended the waywardness of the divines, and the annulment of laws firmly established by divine Revelation, all of which, in symbolic language, have been foreshadowed by the Manifestations of God. None except the righteous shall partake of this cup, none but the godly can share therein....
And now, with reference to His words: 'and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.' These words signify that in those days men will lament the loss of the Sun of of the divine beauty, of the Moon of knowledge, and of the Stars of divine wisdom. Thereupon, they will behold the countenance of the promised One, the adored beauty, descending from heaven and riding upon the clouds. By this is meant that the divine Beauty, [the Promised One], will be made manifest from the heaven of the will of God, and will appear in the form of the human temple, [the Son of Man]. The term 'heaven' denoteth loftiness and exaltation, inasmuch as it is the seat of revelation of those Manifestations of Holiness, the Day-springs of ancient glory. These ancient Beings, though delivered from the womb of their mother, have in reality descended from the heaven of the will of God. Though they be dwelling on this earth, yet their true habitations are the retreats of glory in the realms above. Whilst walking amongst mortals, they soar in the heaven of the divine presence... By the term 'clouds' is meant those things that are contrary to the ways and desires of men... These 'clouds' signify, in one sense, the annulment of laws, the abrogation of former Dispensation, the repeal of rituals and customs current amongst men, the exalting of the illiterate faithful above the learned opposers of the Faith, [i.e. Peter the fisherman as opposed to Caiaphas the high priest within the context of the Christian Dispensation]. In another sense, they mean the appearance of that immortal Beauty [i.e. the Messenger of God] in the image of mortal man, with such human limitations as eating and drinking, poverty and riches, glory and abasement, sleeping and waking, and such other things as cast doubt in the minds of men, and cause them to turn away. All such veils are symbolically referred to as 'clouds'... by 'trumpet' is meant the trumpet-call of... Revelation [i.e. the new Religion], which was sounded in the heart of the universe... ." -Baha'u'llah, Book of Certitude, pp. 29-116
Explanations, such as this one, challenge literalistic interpretations and understandings. As more and more people accept the Baha'i interpretation of scripture in the light of science, reason and historic example they will not only increasingly understand what these passages are actually saying, but they will also begin to see the inherent similarities between Baha'u'llah's Revelation and those of Moses, Jesus and Muhammad. Viewed from this perspective, it is easy to see the interconnectedness of these religions and the oneness of the overall purpose of God's Prophets, Messemgers and Manifestations.
C- As Baha'u'llah's Teachings are increasingly accepted by the people of the world, others who cling to traditional, literalistic viewpoints will arise with vehemence to oppose the Baha'i Faith. What will be the eventual result of this opposition?
Such opposition has occurred in every cycle of religious history and, as such, is something which Muslims, Jews and Christians should clearly be able to identify with. In the past, this opposition has never achieved it's intended purpose. Instead of destroying God's religion, opposition has always served to promote it and to spread it even further.
For example: "The Prophet which prophesieth of peace -when the word of the Prophet shall come to pass, then shall the Prophet be known, that the Lord hath truly sent him." -Jeremiah 28:9
In the past, each new Revelation has created a community of believers. In this day however, the Revelations of Mahdi and Maseeh [the Bab and Baha'u'llah] are destined to accomplish much more. The purpose of their Revelations is to establish the unity and the well being of the entire human family. Baha'u'llah has written much on the subject of the peace which will follow the era of opposition to His Teachings and He has established the necessary steps that mankind needs to take to in order achieve this long promised peace.
Baha'u'llah revealed: "These fruitless strifes, these ruinous wars shall pass away, and the 'Most Great Peace' shall come." -Pen Portrait of Baha'u'llah by Prof. E. G. Brown cit. Traveller's Narrative, vol. 2, pp 39-40
D- The Christian Scriptures speak of yet another sign why the Lord will be recognized:
"He that entereth by the door [gate] is the shepherd of the sheep.....he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice." -John 10:2,4
In this verse, Jesus is referring to the Divine Shepherd Who is to appear through the Door or the Gate. This prophecy is consistent with the prophecy of Ezekiel:
"And the glory of the Lord came into the house by the way of the GATE whose prospect is toward the EAST." -Ezekiel 43:4
Note: The title Baha'u'llah is Arabic for "the glory of the Lord". The title Bab is Arabic for "the Gate".
To those who have eyes to see, the meanings of passages such as these are explicitly obvious. This will be yet another reason why the Returned Maseeh will be recognized by those who belong to the Semitic religions (i.e. Jews, Christians and Muslims).