(Hazrat Maulvi Sher Ali’s letter to the Madras Mail regarding the advent of the Promised Messiah)
The Review of Religions [English], January, February & March 1923
Meaning of the second advent
I will now try to show how the prophecy has been fulfilled. In the first place, we must remember that by “the Second Advent of Jesusas” is not meant the advent of the self-same Jesusas who was born on this earth about 1900 years ago. For this statement, I have very cogent reasons.
The first reason is that Jesusas did not bodily ascend to heaven and therefore he cannot descend from heaven. His so-called death on the cross was only a swoon. He was alive when he was laid in the sepulchre and came out of it alive, as he had himself prophesied, saying, “An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall be no sign given to it but the sign of Prophet Jonas, for as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly, so shall the son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” [Matthew 12:39-40] As Jonas went into the whale’s belly alive and came out of it alive, so did Jesusas go into the heart of the earth alive and came out of it alive. God saved him from the accursed death on the cross. He did not forsake him but heard his prayer and delivered him from the hands of his enemies. From Syria, he came to Afghanistan and Kashmir to preach the Gospel to the “lost” [Matthew 15: 24] tribes of Israel who were settled in these countries and his tomb is still to be found in the Khan Yar Street of Srinagar [India].
Take the case of a man who is nailed to a cross and remains there for only a few hours. Two other men are similarly nailed to crosses and remain there for the same short period and when they are taken down, they are alive. So their bones are broken that they may die, but the bones of the first man are not broken, for it is said that he has already died. Yet when a man thrusts the point of a spear into his side, blood flows out. A friend of that man goes to the governor and asks for the body of the man and the governor wonders why the man should have died so soon, but the body is given to that friend, who takes it to a garden and lays him in a cave-like sepulchre spacious enough to contain a number of men and a stone is rolled to its mouth.
On the third day, it is found that the stone has been rolled away and the body is not in the sepulchre.
The man, however, is seen in the garden disguised as a gardener [He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?” Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.” (John 20:15)]. He takes every precaution not to attract notice, lest he be re-arrested by his enemies, sends a secret message to his friends, travels incognito to his native district [“As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them.” (Luke 24:15)], where he secretly meets his friends, assures them of his having escaped alive from the cross by asking them to put their fingers into the wounds, and feels hungry and partakes of food. What will every sensible person say about such a man? Will he not say that he had not died on the cross and that he had been mistaken for dead?
In short, Jesusas cannot come down from heaven, for he never rose to heaven.
The second reason that shows that Jesusas will not descend from heaven is that he himself said, “And no man hath ascended up to heaven but he that came down from heaven.” (John 3:13). But Jesusas did not come down from heaven, he was born on this earth like all other human beings. So according to his own words, he cannot be said to have bodily ascended to heaven and his second coming will be like his first coming.
The third reason which shows that Jesusas will not descend from heaven is that in Matthew 24:4-5, we read, “And Jesus answered and said unto them, ‘Take heed that no man deceive you, for many shall come in my name, saying, ‘I am Christ; and shall deceive many.’’” If he was to really come down from heaven, why did he give a warning that people should not be deceived by the fulfilment of a few signs and must wait till all be fulfilled? Would he not in that case have said, “They shall appear from the earth, but I shall come from heaven, so that there can be no mistake.” Why does he ask his disciples to endure and to wait? Why does he not say, “Accept him who comes from heaven and reject all others?” Why does he appoint any other sign but this? If he was to descend from heaven, why did his disciples ask him, “What shall be the sign of thy coming?” [Matthew 24:3] Was this not a sign enough that he would come down from heaven with a host of angels? And could there be any mistake about him?
The fourth reason that shows that Jesusas was not to come back in person is that his coming back in person is against his own interpretation of a similar prophecy. A prophecy in Malachi 4:5, said, “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.” Now here was a prophecy of the Second Advent of Elijah, who was believed to have bodily ascended to heaven. But how did Jesusas interpret this prophecy? Did he not say, “If ye will receive it, this is Elias, which was for to come. He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.” [Matthew 11:14-15]
In short, in the prophecy about the Second Advent of Elijah, we have a precedent that is exactly applicable to the present case. According to Jesus’ own explanation, the Second Advent of a person means not the advent of the self-same person but the advent of a second person in the spirit and character of the first. If that is a true interpretation of a prophecy with regard to the Second Advent of a person, then the prophecy with regard to the Second Advent of Jesusas must also be interpreted in the same way; in other words, Jesusas himself cannot come back, but another person must come in the spirit and character of Jesusas.
The fifth reason is to be found in the words of the angel who appeared to Zacharias and said concerning John, “And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias.” (Luke 1:17). These words corroborate the interpretation which Jesusas put on Malachi 4:5, and leave no doubt as to the fact that by the Second Advent of a person is meant the advent of a second person in the spirit and power of the first.
From the Gospels, it further appears that Jesusas likens his case to that of Elias, which shows that his Second Advent will be like that of the Second Advent of Elias, and that he who would come in the spirit of the son of man will be denied on the same ground on which the second Elias was denied in the days of Jesusas.
He says: “But I say unto you that Elias is come already, and they know him not, but have done unto him whatsoever they listed. Likewise, shall the son of man suffer of them.” [Matthew 17:12] Here it is plainly hinted that the case of Elias in his Second Advent was to be similar to that of the son of man in his second coming, i.e., just as they did not recognise John because he did not appear according to their expectations, similarly they shall not recognise the son of man at his Second Advent because his appearance will not accord with their hopes. Elias came for the second time, but the Pharisees did not recognise him because they expected that the self-same Elijah who was believed to have ascended to heaven would come down in person from heaven. The same will be the case with the son of man. His Second Advent will also be, in accordance with the unchangeable law of God, like the Second Advent of Elias, but the Pharisees of the day will reject him for the same reason for which the Scribes and Pharisees of the days of Jesusas had rejected Elijah at his Second Advent and will consequently oppose and persecute him as they had done in the case of the Second Elijah.
The sixth reason that shows that Jesusas will not come in person but that another will come in his name is to be found in the memorable and touching words of farewell that he addressed to Jerusalem and to the Jews and which run thus:
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee; how often would I have gathered thy children together as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, and ye would not: Behold, your house is left unto you desolated, and verily I say unto you, ye shall not see me until the time come when ye shall say, ‘Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.’” (Luke 13:34:35; Matthew 23:37-39)
Here he is evidently referring to his Second Advent which is to be fulfilled not by the coming of the Lord himself, but by the advent of one who will come in his name.
The seventh reason that conclusively proves that Jesusas will not descend from heaven is that he himself says that the Second Advent of the Lord will be like the coming of the thief. He says: “Watch therefore, for ye know not what hour your lord doth come. But know this that if the good man of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken up.” [24:42-43] This shows that his coming would be like the coming of a thief. He will not come in person from heaven, but he will come in disguise like a thief, just as Elias came in the guise of John. This saying of Jesusas cuts at the root of the theory that Jesusas will come down in clouds from heaven with hosts of angels and with trumpets sounding. The above statement of Jesusas has created serious doubts in the minds of many Christians as to the personal coming back of Jesusas. The learned author [John Liddell Kelly], whom I have already quoted [see Part 1], says in his booklet entitled, “The Last Days”:
“The signs in the heavens and the earth will be apparent only to the few; the great majority will be scoffers and sceptics almost to the last, when they will suddenly realise that the kingdom of heaven has come ‘as a thief in the night.’” [The Last days, or, Time of the End! by John Liddell Kelly, 1913]
Thus, it is as clear as day that Jesusas cannot come back in person; his second advent must be fulfilled by the appearance of a representative, just as the promise of the second advent of Elias was fulfilled by the appearance of a representative. That representative has already appeared and he was Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmadas of Qadian.
(Transcribed by Al Hakam from the original, published in The Review of Religions [English], January, February and March 1923)