Someone asks: “What is the point of the signs that Jesus says will follow those who believe (Mk. 16:17-18)? Is this promise still applicable today?”
. . .
In some manuscripts of Mark’s Gospel, this promise is part of Jesus’ parting commission to his followers before he went back to heaven. Jesus promises that “signs” will follow “those who believe” — expelling demons, speaking with new tongues, healing the sick and immunity from snake-bite and poisonous drinks. Who are “those who believe” in this promise? When we consider the Apostles’ own persistent unbelief and hardness of heart following Jesus’ resurrection (Mark 16:11, 13, 14), it seems likely that they are the ones Jesus has in mind. Jesus is saying, in effect, “If you who claim to be my disciples ever truly believe in me enough to follow my steps, going out to seek and save the lost in the power of God’s kingdom, God will manifest his sovereign rule in your life in tangible ways which will ‘sign-ify’ his presence with you.”
This is essentially the same promise Jesus makes in Matthew’s account of the Great Commission when he says, “I am with you always, even to the end of the Age” (Matt. 28:20). Where the gospel is preached, there Jesus is. Where Jesus is, there is the Kingdom of God. Where the Kingdom of God is, there are such visible manifestations of it as God sees fit to display.
Someone may object that the better manuscripts of Mark conclude with verse eight and that these verses are not part of the original Gospel. That is a fair observation, if the person who raises it also avoids using Mark 16:16 in connection with other subjects. Whether verses 17-18 are authentic or not, we can know that “our God is in the heavens, and he does whatever he wishes” (Psalm 115:3). It is our part to trust God enough to go out obeying his commands in reliance on him. It is God’s part to manifest himself through whatever signs and works of power he may choose — whether many, some, or none at all — at any particular time and place.