The introduction to the sefer אחרית כראשית continues:
We find a similar idea in the Zohar on Parshas Vayishlach (קא ע”א) on the verse ויאמר שלחני כי עלה השחר – “[The angel said to Yaakov,] send me for the dawn has risen” :
Rabbi Yehuda began and said (Shir Hashirim 6), “Who is this looking out like the dawn, [beautiful as the Moon, clear as the Sun, awesome as the bannered hosts of kings.]” But “Who is this” refers to the people of Israel at the time when Hashem will stand them up and take them out of exile, then He will open an opening of Light for them, fine and small. Then He opens another opening that is larger, [continuing] until He opens a breach Above, open to the four directions of the World. And similarly, all Hashem does for the people of Israel and the righteous among them is done completely in this way, and not all at once.
This is comparable to a person who was placed in darkness, and his habitat was constantly dark. When they want to provide him with light, it’s necessary to begin first with a light the size of a needle’s eye, and then a larger light, continuing thus until he is lit completely as is needed. So too will it be with the people of Israel, like the verse says (Shemos 23), “Slowly I will remove them [your enemies] from before you, until you become great…” Similarly, one who [is sick and] comes to be cured is not taken care of all at once, rather bit by bit until he regains his strength.
Esav, however, will not be dealt with in this way. Rather, the Light will shine on him all at once and he will slowly be destroyed; whereas the people of Israel, their light strengthens slowly until they gain strength and Hashem lights up the worlds. Then all will ask them, “Who is this looking out like the dawn?” There is the darkness of morning, then a small light, followed by [a light] “beautiful as the Moon,” because its light is brighter than dawn; then [a light] “clear as the Sun,” because its light is strong and shines more than the Moon; then [a light] “awesome as the bannered hosts of kings,” strongly shining in full force.
Similarly, we find in the Yerushalmi Berachos (פ”א ה”א) and Yoma (פ”ג ה”ב) and similarly in Shir Hashirim (פ”ו אות י) as well as the Shocher Tov on Tehillim, chap. 22:
The great Rabbi Chiya and Rabbi Shimon ben Chalafta were walking together in the valley one morning and they saw the morning light beginning to burst forth. The great Rabbi Chiya said to him, “This is how the redemption of the people of Israel will be. It will start little by little, and as it goes it will get increasingly greater.” From where do we know this? From the verse, “When I sit in darkness, Hashem is my light.”
Similarly, it says that Mordechai first sat in the king’s gate, then Haman took the royal clothes and horse, then Mordechai went out before the king dressed in royalty, and finally the Jews experienced the light (ליהודים היתה אורה).
The truth is that this concept is explicitly brought by the Gemara in Megilla (17B) in regards to the order of the brachos in the Amidah, which teaches that the redemption happens step by step:
Why did they decide to place the bracha of Geulah seventh? Rava says: since they will be redeemed in the Seventh year… How can that be so? Didn’t Mar say that the sixth year would experience ‘voices,’ the seventh would experience wars, and after the seventh Ben Dovid comes? The answer is that the wars are the beginning of the Geulah (redemption)…
Why did they place the bracha of Kibbutz Galios (ingathering of the exiles) after birchas hashanim (where we ask for material blessings)? This is based on the verse that says, “And you hills of Israel will sprout branches and carry your fruits for my nation of Israel, for they are coming soon.”
Once the exiles have returned (kibbutz galios), there is a judgment for the evil ones (Hashiva shoftenu), as the verse says, “And I will place my hand on you, and purify you of your dross,” and the verse says, “And I will return your judges as before…” And once Jerusalem is built (V’lirushalayim), Dovid comes (Es Tsemach) as the verse says, “After the children of Israel return, they will seek out Hashem their God and their king Dovid…”
When we think about it, we can see that the order of the redemption of the people of Israel is set up in stages, and even when the redemption began, many difficulties came upon them, as will be explained further. From the order [of the previous redemptions] we will be able to discern how it will be in the final redemption. And even though these matters are hidden, we find that the Ramchal and the Gra revealed pieces of information and opened the concept for us as will be explained later be’H.