Dear Abby


‎[Dear Abby]

So, I opened up the newspaper this morning and read this letter by a guy named “John.” No other information was given about him but apparently he wrote about these dreams he had from God on an island about an impending change to the world and the end of this current age. He also had some great insight from God on how my church should change to live more rightly before God.

I was actually very excited and encouraged because it would seem that the tribulation we are enduring will be coming to an end, and the very first line of his letter said that all of this stuff would take place soon.

[Dear Reader]

Don’t get too excited. None of this was meant for you. All those things John was talking about won’t happen for at least another 2,000 years or more. “Soon” doesn’t mean “soon,” darling. It means at a minimum 2,000 years. Get your facts straight!

Those churches he was speaking about aren’t your churches. He was just using the same names, you silly goose. They were metaphorical language for “ages.” The tribulation you Christians are going through at the hands of the Roman authorities you think will end… forget about it. Why do you people think it’s always about YOU? Can’t you see this letter was not written for YOU?

One piece of advice I have for you: Get your time indicators straight. “Soon” doesn’t mean “soon”. It means it might actually happen quickly when it starts. “You” means “them”. “This” generation means “that” generation. “At hand” means…. well something that’s not soon. If you simply take the time indicators and make them the opposite of what they mean, things will make much more sense. So, don’t be encouraged by this [man]’s letters. They’re not for you.

This dialogue above was posted early this morning by Robert Woodrow in a Facebook forum devoted to the subject of eschatology. I felt it was quite creative. Robert said he wanted to imagine that “someone from one of the seven churches [of the first century] actually wrote into an advice column,” and received a response that reflects the way the book of Revelation is often viewed today.

This imagined dialogue is both humorous and thought-provoking. I know that I once gave very little (if any) thought to what the book of Revelation meant to those who first received it into their hands (i.e. God’s people living in the first century). As I was trained, I jumped straight to what it could mean to me and to my generation. In doing so, I got way off track.

No doubt this great book does speak to our generation, but, because that’s so often our first and only consideration, we miss out on what John (and Jesus, through John) wanted to communicate to God’s people at that time. On the other hand, if we will first take into account audience relevance, we are then far more likely to grasp the relevance of this book for our own time. And it does speak to us in a very powerful and hope-filled way.

All of our Revelation chapter-by-chapter studies, and any other posts related to the book of Revelation, can be found here.

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4 thoughts on “Dear Abby

  1. This was an excellent to the point post. Hopefully as people read this, they will begin to think for themselves and let the Holy Spirit teach them.

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  2. In celebration of Purim, let’s have some fun with the OT.

    Dear hyper-preterist Abby 1 B.C.–I’ve got the Purim blues again. I trust in the Lord with all my heart and I believe His word, but when is He going to fulfill His promises? Ever since our exile we have been passed from one foreign overlord to another. And, sin is ever much alive in Israel as it was before the captivity. When is God going to forgive and return to us?

    Dear concerned remnant of Israel–Cheer up, Charlie. Look no further. The promises have been fulfilled. If you carefully examine the Hebrew Bible and connect all the dots, you will see we are living in the new Heavens and Earth right this very minute, and have been for the past 500 years. Everything took place when Babylon was destroyed and Israel returned to the Promised Land. Let’s take a look, shall we?

    We all know that sin was our problem. Our sin was so bad God decided to punish us once and for all:

    Ezek 5:9: Because of all [Israel’s] idols, I will do to you what I have never done before and will never do again (cf Jer 30:7).

    He laid on us the ultimate fire of His wrath, with an army the likes of which we would never see again (Joel 2:2).

    It would be so bad that He would never have to do it again

    Jer 31:40 the city will never be uprooted or demolished again. (cf. Isa 54:9; 51:17; Ezek 36:12; 37:28; Joel 2:19)

    There is no doubt that this is a reference to our destruction by the Babylonians.

    But, he did not leave us to be totally destroyed; He made promises to us that we would be forgiven, return to the land, have the Law put on our hearts, He would be our God, and we would be His people.

    If 500 years after our return from exile you are looking to the future for this fulfillment then you are not taking seriously the words of the Bible. Observe:

    Isa 46:13 I am bringing my righteousness near,
    it is not far away;
    and my salvation will not be delayed.
    I will grant salvation to Zion,
    my splendor to Israel.

    The context is the fall of Babylon. If salvation still has not come 500 years later, “will not be delayed” simply makes no sense.

    Again:

    Isa 56:1 my salvation is close at hand and my righteousness soon revealed.

    The context is about God’s blessing on those who are righteous, even foreigners. They will receive an everlasting name that will not be cut off. Again, how could Isaiah say “soon” if we are 700 years later and it still hasn’t happened?

    Not to beat a dead horse, but let’s look at another example:

    Isaiah 51 says:

    4 “Listen to me, my people;
    hear me, my nation:
    Instruction will go out from me;
    my justice will become a light to the nations.
    5 My righteousness draws near speedily,
    my salvation is on the way,
    and my arm will bring justice to the nations.
    The islands will look to me
    and wait in hope for my arm.
    6 Lift up your eyes to the heavens,
    look at the earth beneath;
    the heavens will vanish like smoke,
    the earth will wear out like a garment
    and its inhabitants die like flies.
    But my salvation will last forever,
    my righteousness will never fail.

    With this language of “on the way,” “draw near speedily,” “at hand,” “soon,” “will not be delayed” we cannot expect this to be something to happen today or in the future. Seven hundred years after Isaiah is a mockery of the biblical language. It must have happened in the past. So when did it happen?

    Notice Isa 13. Here we have an oracle against Babylon. Look at verse 6 and see when Isaiah predicts the day of the Lord. It says, “the day of the Lord is near.” Obviously, we are not still waiting for Babylon to fall. If we put the prophet Isaiah around 700 B.C. and the fall of Babylon around 539 B.C, we are talking roughly 150-200 years.

    So, when Isaiah says “near” he means 200 years tops.

    But, what does this mean for us?

    Ezek 11:16 “Therefore say: ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Although I sent them far away among the nations and scattered them among the countries, yet for a little while I have been a sanctuary for them in the countries where they have gone.’
    17 “Therefore say: ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: I will gather you from the nations and bring you back from the countries where you have been scattered, and I will give you back the land of Israel again.’
    18 “They will return to it and remove all its vile images and detestable idols. 19 I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh. 20 Then they will follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. They will be my people, and I will be their God. 21 But as for those whose hearts are devoted to their vile images and detestable idols, I will bring down on their own heads what they have done, declares the Sovereign LORD.”

    God promised when we return from exile He will give us a new heart and spirit to follow Him. God brought us back from exile around 538 B.C. Therefore, all of these promises were fulfilled over 500 years ago (cf. Ezek 20:32-44)!

    Ezek 36 says He will “gather you from all the countries and bring us back to the land.” It is when this happens that he will “sprinkle you with clean water,” purifying Israel and giving them a new heart and spirit. When this happens we will follow God’s laws. And, in v. 33 God says “On the day I cleanse you from all your sins, I will resettle your towns, and the ruins will be rebuilt.”

    Our return from exile marked the day of forgiveness (cf. Ezek 24:13). We are the suffering servant that carried the sins of Israel and was cut off, but saw the light of day again (Isa 53). We are the dry bones that were revived (Ezek 37).

    This is language of the new covenant that we find in Jeremiah 31:31-34:

    31 “The days are coming,” declares the LORD,
    “when I will make a new covenant
    with the people of Israel
    and with the people of Judah.
    32 It will not be like the covenant
    I made with their ancestors
    when I took them by the hand
    to lead them out of Egypt,
    because they broke my covenant,
    though I was a husband to them,”
    declares the LORD.
    33 “This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel
    after that time,” declares the LORD.
    “I will put my law in their minds
    and write it on their hearts.
    I will be their God,
    and they will be my people.
    34 No longer will they teach their neighbor,
    or say to one another, ‘Know the LORD,’
    because they will all know me,
    from the least of them to the greatest,”
    declares the LORD.
    “For I will forgive their wickedness
    and will remember their sins no more.”

    Put Ezek 36 and Jer 31 together and we see that when God gathered us from exile, we entered into the new covenant and He has replaced our hardened hearts. And, this isn’t just another covenant to be broken; this is the everlasting covenant (Isa 59:21; Jer 32:30; Ezek 16:60).

    God promised to gather us as a shepherd and send us a seed of David (Jer 30:9; Ezek 34) and this was fulfilled by Zerubbabel and his descendants.

    And, that is not the glorious part. Isaiah 65 predicts again the return of Israel to the promised land (vv. 8-10), but then jump 7 verses and see how Isaiah describes this newly inhabited land: New Heaven and New Earth!

    The old things are forgotten because we have been forgiven, as indicated by our return from exile. Jerusalem is now a place of delight. We don’t have to worry about dying in another exile, because this time we are here forever (Jer 31:40). We build our own houses and live in them. God watches over us and is pleased, because he has given us a new heart.

    Wait, that’s not it. This blessing expands out into the Gentile world too.

    Look at Isa 29:17 “is it not yet a little while and Lebanon will be changed like Mount Chermel?”

    The context says Lebanon will become a fertile field and “in that day” the deaf will hear and the blind will see. This phrase links back to Isa 6 when he was commanded to close our ears and eyes, that is, to harden our hearts.

    But, when was our heart of stone turned to flesh? When we returned from exile.

    Also consider the phrase “not yet a little while.” It would be nonsensical to think this phrase means 700 plus years later. It must be synonymous with “soon,“ which we determined above meant the return from exile. Therefore, we can only conclude our forgiveness and return from exile coincided with the forgiveness for the whole world!

    And, look back up again to Isa 51:5. Once again Isaiah says “draws near speedily,” referring to the return from exile, but, look, His justice was given to the nations and islands. Israel has become a blessing to the Gentiles.

    We have become the blessing to the world that God promised Abraham!

    Last, but not least, Isa 51:6 says the heavens and earth will disappear causing death on the earth, but God’s salvation is forever. This is referring to the fall of Babylon where many died, but the return of the exiles is proof of God’s eternal salvation and that we are now in the new Heavens and Earth.

    In conclusion, if you can just look past what you see with your eyes, the fact that we are ruled by foreigners and sin is still alive in Israel, and take seriously the imagery and imminence of the prophetic language, you will see that we are in the New Heaven and the New Earth reaping the benefit of God’s forgiveness and blessing. Rejoice, again, I say Rejoice!

    Dear hyper-preterist Abby 1 B.C.–Sigh. I guess you are right. I see how all of the vocabulary and imagery connects. God has fulfilled all of His promises. I just kind of expected more. Thanks for your help.

    One year later…

    Dear hyper-preterist Abby 1 A.D.–My name is “Jerusalem Joshua” and I just came to town. I found this year old newspaper and thought your discussion was interesting. What you say certainly looks good on paper, but my hunch is that you have watered-down the hope given to God’s people in the Hebrew Bible. Something tells me that God still has some tricks up His sleeve and is going to shock the world in a big way the next time He acts. Keep your eyes and ears open. God is not done yet.

    Happy belated Purim.

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  3. Well, I meant for that to be funny lol. But, when I reread it I noticed it got a little serious. I was trying to make a point but didn’t mean to come off as a jerk. Please take this in the spirit that I wrote it, which is a spirit of trying to understand the truth.

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