Someone asks about the “signs” that Jesus said would accompany his gospel as it spreads through the world. Mark 16:17-18 mentions casting out demons, speaking with new tongues, healing the sick and immunity from snakebite and from poison. Do these things still happen today?
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In the oldest Greek manuscripts, Mark 16 ends at verse 8. The rest of the chapter has some ancient textual authority, however, and it is consistent with other New Testament teaching. Anyone who quotes Mark 16:15-16 should accept verses 17-18 as equally genuine. Jesus is not here describing “Reverend Barnum’s Traveling Miracle Show.” He is promising his own powerful presence, “sign-i-fied” by these unusual events. (“I am with you always” is Matthew’s parallel version.) Wherever Jesus is, the supernatural kingdom is likely to break through from time to time. Reputable accounts of such signs abound today where the Gospel is invading territory held by Satan — whether that be in Asia and Africa or the inner cities and villages of America. Jesus is also promising that God will protect anyone who goes out in faith to proclaim the Good News, according to his own purpose for that individual.
I have not encountered murderous plots, to my knowledge, but I have been wondrously spared from near-fatal automobile collisions, found ample gasoline during fuel shortages, and once had faulty windshield wipers begin working during a snowstorm for a trip of 3-1/2 hours back home after a day of ministry, only to stop again as I drove into my driveway. Those were rather tiny works of power by comparison with the ones Mark describes, but they were sufficient to get my attention and to make me very grateful. I also have first-hand knowledge of some of the larger signs, God being my witness.
This does not mean that believers will never die while doing God’s work. Eleven of the Twelve Apostles were martyred for their faith. My friend Wes Whitt, a Church of Christ prison evangelist, was killed in an auto collision. Another friend, Henry Redman, a Pentecostal pastor and world missionary, was struck by a car and killed. Around the world today, believers are being tortured and murdered for their faith in Jesus Christ. But not one of them ever dies before God is ready, or without his notice, or apart from his consent. Our times are in his hands, and we may obey him in confidence that he will be glorified by our life — or by our death — if we seek his glory. Such unassuming faith, to onlookers, just might be the most impressive sign of all.