The distinctiveness of this age is that two Manifestations of God were called by their Creator to establish completely independent religions one after another in quick succession. These Manifestations were both anointed to write scriptures and books in Their own Hands. They revealed new laws and dispensations and, at His Will, abrogated the entirety of the laws, power, and authority of former dispensations. Their revelations are inspired and unique, and anyone hearing Them while They were revealing Their Books or Tablets or Prayers testified to the overwhelming spirit and rapidity with which They wrote them out from start to finish without stopping and without planning for an instant the outcome. These Revelations can be investigated by anyone who cares to read Their Writings, which constitute the Sacred Scriptures of Their independent religions.
The Bab came first. His name means the “Door” or “Gate.” His mission was to close the Age of Promises made by God and conveyed to humanity by all the previous Prophets and Messengers of God. The Bab proclaimed that a New Day had come. That it was the dawn of the Age of Fulfillment and that all the promises made by God to His Messengers in previous dispensations would be fulfilled by “Him Whom God shall make manifest.”
The Bab was the forerunner of Baha’u’llah. In a sense He was like John the Baptist, who came before Christ, and worked to make way for the coming and teachings of Jesus. Likewise, the Bab worked to prepare people for the Manifestation who would follow Him in quick succession and establish an independent world religion that would in due time be adopted by all of humanity of their own free will and volition.
The Bab declared that the Revelation of “Him Whom God shall make manifest” was so great that it would revolutionize the lives of men and establish the Kingdom of God on earth. The Bab, who also revealed His own books and laws, said that the revelation of “Him Whom God shall make manifest” would be so much greater than His own – that the Bab’s revelation, as extensive as it was, was “like the black in the eye of an ant” compared to the grandeur of the Manifestation of God that would succeed Him.
The importance of the Bab, however, can never be underestimated. He said, “I am the Primal Point from which have been generated all created things.” Abdu’l-Baha explains that the Manifestations of God are the focal point of knowledge and the perfect reflection on earth of the Primal Will. He wrote, “It is the Primal Will which appeareth respondent in every Prophet and speaketh forth in every revealed Book.” In other words, the Manifestations of God are the Word of God, and Their responses are the Word of God, and Their revealed works are the Word of God. There is no division between them. They have different names but they are equal. They share the station of being the chosen Manifestations of God, They are the Anointed and Chosen Ones of God. No fair-minded person can refute this, because God chooses His Manifestations – not humanity – and the only role humanity has in this unfolding spiritual drama is that upon hearing the call of God, the individual must investigate it. After a careful, independent and dispassionate examination of the claims, one must either choose to accept or deny them. As John 6:29 reports, Jesus said, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.” So anyone who wants to do God’s work must believe in the Manifestation whom God has sent. And the only way to determine belief is to investigate.
Some months before His execution, while in the prison inside the Castle of Chihriq, the Bab gathered some of His private possessions, including His signet ring and His letters, seals, and other documents, and placed them in a chest. He also placed inside the chest a delicate, supernal light-blue scroll on which He had in His own hand written 500 derivatives of the name “Baha.” In all the history of the world there has never been such a testament of allegiance and fealty made by one Manifestation of God to another. Every master calligraphist who sees this masterpiece of calligraphic art marvels at it because the Bab wrote the derivatives of the word “Baha” within a star shape that looks like a single quick wash of ink wherein there is no sign of a start or ending point. The Bab gave these possessions to a trusted apostle and asked that the chest be delivered to Baha’u’llah, one of the Bab’s own followers, whom the Bab had never met, but whom He apparently recognized as His successor, “Him Whom God shall make manifest.”