And (Jesus) said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up serpents with their hands; and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.” Mark 16:15-18 ESV
There are revisionist theologians who argue that these verses, as well as all of 9-20 of this chapter are not authentic and were added at a later date. Of course, even if that were true, it would still verify that miraculous works such as tongues and healing were still very much a part of the church’s belief and practice beyond the first century.
The fact is, however, that these verses are quite genuine and are perfectly at home in the Gospel narrative. Just because a passage may be missing from certain manuscripts does not mean it is not authentic. Many of the ancient documents ments are incomplete and had to be assembled by comparing them to other manuscripts. For example, one manuscript that omits these verses, Codex Vaticanus, still contains a blank space where the verse should be. Furthermore, there are literally thousands of manuscripts including Greek, Syrian, Latin, Gothic, Egyptian and Armenian versions which do contain these verses. They are also confirmed by the ancient church fathers, who repeatedly attribute these words to Mark’s Gospel (1) .
In addition, the sort of signs mentioned in this passage are seen prominently throughout the remainder of the New Testament Examples include:
- Casting Out Devils (Exorcism): Acts 16:16-18; 19:13-20
- Speaking in Tongues: Acts 2:1-4; 18:14-24; 10:44-46; 19:2-7;1 Corinthians 12:30; 4-15
- Protection from Snakebite: Acts 28:1-6 (see note 2 below)
- Healing the Sick: Acts 3:6-8; 5:15; 9:32-34; 14:8-10; 20:1-12; 1 Corinthians 12:9; James 5:14-18 (see note 3 below)
The miraculous works mentioned in Mark’s Gospel are simply describing the works which the Spirit had already been working in Jesus’ life and which we would see Him doing in the Book of Acts and beyond and into our day as well!
1-Edwards, Troy. Miracles Are For Today. © 2010. Victorious Word Christian Publishing, Central Falls, RI. pp 59-71.
2-This is does NOT refer to the erroneous practice of deliberately handling venomous snakes and drinking poison. As Pentecostal scholar Finis Dake observes:
“The whole idea is immunity from snake bites (as in Acts 28:1-5) and power over them in conflict (as in Luke 10:19; Psalm 91:13). Handling snakes in public is no more proof that one has faith or that he is a Christian than the snake charmers of India or Burma, who are better at this than Christians, and who do not even believe in Christ.” (taken from the Dake’s Annotated Referance Bible).
Those who practice these things are tiny fringe groups, and are certainly NOT endorsed by any mainline Pentecostal church or denomination. We can never forget the solemn command of Jesus “Thou shalt not tempt the Lord.” (Matthew 4:7).
3-This does not, in any way, preclude the use of doctors and medical science. God used a physician named Luke to write two books in the New Testament. Many believe he was one of the early medical missionaries.