The Gospel Observer

"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations...teaching them to observe all that I commanded you, and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age" (Matt. 28:19,20).
May 30, 1990


1) Many Aids, No Substitutes (Gordon Wilson)
What Do You Believe, And Why? (Greg Gwin)
3) The 144,000 (David J. Riggs)


Many Aids, No Substitutes
by Gordon Wilson

In somebody's bulletin I read, "There are many aids to Bible study but no substitutes." This quote sums up quite succinctly what we have sometimes taken whole sermons to say. All of the helps in the world cannot take the place of the text of inspired Scriptures -- nor are they designed to do so.

A student needs to possess a concordance. But why? So that he may run BIBLE references; find things in the BIBLE. A good atlas serves as an aid to familiarizing oneself with BIBLE places and settings.  For one interested in deeper study, a lexicon will give him definitions of BIBLE words in the original language of Scripture. A Bible dictionary (which is not the same as an ordinary English dictionary) will tell one about people, places, and things in the BIBLE. You see, these things are all aids to Bible study, but cannot substitute for it.  In fact, they virtually force one back to the Bible itself.

And commentaries are a whole story in themselves. Some have made the mistake of thinking that a commentary is a substitute for Bible study, inasmuch as it gives us the results of someone else's study, already done and digested. But this is just not the purpose of a commentary at all. In order for one to use one effectively he must first know what the Scripture passage says, and have some tentative idea of its meaning. Commentaries disagree between themselves, and frequently a particular commentary will give several possible interpretations of a passage. This is right and proper, for the purpose of a commentary is NOT to tell us what a passage teaches, but to furnish us with a tool for ferreting out the meaning for ourselves. Some are designated as critical; meaning they show just what the original text says, along with the meanings of difficult lingual constructions. Others are called exegetical; meaning they give a connected exposition of how the thoughts of a passage are formally strung together. Still others are homiletical; meaning they outline the applications that can be made of a passage for purposes of teaching. Some commentaries are more general and combine all of these methods. In any case, they require, if used properly, that we do our own study (2 Tim. 2:15) of the BIBLE with their help.

There is nothing wrong with using aids in Bible study. Frankly, I never knew a really good Bible student who did not do so; and as a general rule, the very best and most scholarly students and teachers are those who use the most aids in the CORRECT way. The danger begins when one begins to think of aids as SUBSTITUTES, or is content to let others do his study for him. God expects us to do our own! Believe it, friend: there is no substitute for personal Bible study. May we help you in that study?


What Do You Believe, And Why?
by Greg Gwin

A recent poll by Roper's USA Reports showed that 74% of Americans believe there is a heaven and a hell. That's good news! We are glad that this high percentage of people believe these important truths.  But, the survey goes on to say that:
Given this additional information, we feel much less comfortable about the results concerning heaven and hell!

Our point here is a simple one. Believing in ESP, UFOs, reincarnation, and extraterrestrials requires faith of the "blind leap" variety.  There is simply no evidence to support those conclusions. It is sad to see that many folks apparently put belief in heaven and hell in that same category. It does not belong there.

We should believe what the Bible says about heaven and hell (or any other subject) because the claims are fully corroborated. God does not want a "blind leap" of faith. He has supplied "evidence of things not seen" (Heb. 11:1), and He expects us to use our logic and reasoning abilities to form firm conclusions about the truth.  Using this evidence, you should be able to tell others what you believe, and also to prove why -- "to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you" (1 Pet. 3:15).

Now, back to the survey. If 74% of Americans believe in hell, why aren't more of them doing something to avoid it? That's not logical either, is it?


The 144,000
by David J. Riggs

The number "144,000" is mentioned in two passages in the book of Revelation (Rev. 7:4; 14:1,3). In Rev. 7:3 the 144,000 were the faithful who were sealed on the earth as shown in verses 2 and 3. The seal signifies ownership and consequent protection (Ezek. 9:6; 2 Tim. 2:19; 2 Cor. 1:21,22; Eph. 1:13,14; 4:30). Chapter 7 of Revelation represents an interlude between the sixth and seventh seals (those on the book which the Lamb opened, chs. 5 and 6). As the seals were opened great plagues or judgments were brought upon the wicked. Those sealed of every tribe were the ones who would not be hurt or effected by God's coming judgments (compare 9:4). They were the spiritual Israel living in John's day (Rom. 2:28,29; 9:6-8; Gal. 3:6-9, 29; 6:15-16; Phil.  3:3) who were yet to die for their faith (Rev. 6:11).

The number of 144,000 is not to be made literal here (John said it was "signified" or given in symbols, 1:1). If one makes the number literal, he must also make the tribes literal meaning that only Jews would go to heaven. However, John is speaking of those sealed in his day which included many Gentiles. Furthermore, the number does not refer to those in heaven at all, but those sealed on earth.

In chapter 14 of Revelation the victorious Lamb stood on mount Sion and with him an 144,000 who had his Father's name written in their foreheads (14:1). These are those that were sealed earlier and are now also before the throne (14:5). The term "before the throne" is figurative of the place of comfort or paradise. Thus, the 144,000 represent the complete number of the martyred saints including the rest of those who were to come out of the great tribulation (6:9-11).  They were the holy city that would be tread under foot (11:2); the beast had made war with them and overcame them (13:7). They are now safe with God and thus sing a new victory song (14:3). They had gotten victory over the beast (15:2) and their blood would soon be avenged (16:5-6; 17:6; 18:24; 19:2). They were the martyrs living and reigning with Christ (20:4).    

Again, the number "144,000" must not be taken literal. It simply represents the complete number of the martyred saints. If one makes the number literal, he must also make their description literal. This would mean that only virgin men will go to heaven (14:4). On the contrary, these were the "firstfruits" unto God and the Lamb (14:4) indicating others would follow. The Bible speaks of heaven for every faithful child of God (2  Cor. 5:1-2; Phil. 3:20-21; 1 Pet.1:4-5).

The Steps That Lead to Eternal Salvation

1) Hear the gospel, for that is how faith comes (Rom. 10:17;  John 20:30,31).
2) Believe in the deity of Christ (John 8:24; John 3:18).
3) Repent of sins (Luke 13:5; Acts 17:30).
4) Confess faith in Christ (Rom. 10:9,10; Acts 8:36-38).
5) Be baptized in water for the remission of sins (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Rom. 6:3,4; Gal. 3:26,27; 1 Pet. 3:21).
6) Continue in the faith; for, if not, salvation can be lost (Heb. 10:36-39; Rev. 2:10; 2 Pet. 2:20-22).

First published for the Tri-state church of Christ in Ashland, Kentucky, at 713 13th Street.

evangelist/editor: Tom Edwards