There are plenty of Bible-believing evangelicals and fundamentalists who say they believe the Word of God, but sadly you’ll not find nearly as many who believe the words of Mark 16:15-20. Some people stop at verse 15 in their believing, some at verse 16 but if it really is the Word of God, God wants us to believe it all, right up to the end of verse 20. Here is the passage in the New King James Version:
And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.
“He who believes and is baptized shall be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.
“And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues;
“they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will be no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”
So then, after the Lord had spoken to them, He was received up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God.
And they went out and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word through the accompanying signs. Amen. (Mark 16:15-20)
Just imagine for a moment what would happen if this passage meant what it says, and was acted upon today! What if every believer sought to bring the good news to as many as possible in the world? They could easily obtain open doors for their message by releasing the power of the Holy Spirit into sick bodies of people who “will recover” through the laying on of hands (verse 18). If any demon opposed, they could bind it and eventually cast it out. They would have the same power that the 120 disciples received in Acts 2:4where they spoke in tongues, of which Paul speaks in1 Corinthians 14:2 and 14:18. They would be able to do it as Jesus told the 70 disciples to do it in Luke 10:9. With this power, believers would share and demonstrate the gospel to person after person. Revival would sweep the world.
If this passage was believed without qualification by Christians everywhere we would finish the task of world evangelisation within a year. For this reason Satan has done his worst to throw this passage out of your Bible, as well as other power packed verses likeMatthew 17:21 “this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting”, which the NU-text omits altogether (have a look in your NIV if you have one). But even if the passage is still in your Bible, Satan will still work hard to keep that passage out of your heart, lest somehow, you believe and act on it, and destroy his works.
I have learned by experience that these things do work. I used to doubt those declarations in Mark 16, but then I discovered you could prove all the most important declarations in the passage from other Bible portions. I saw it worked for others, then I believed it and it worked for me. I like Mark 16 because it is so direct. It comes right to the point and describes real spirit-filled evangelistic activity. Since believing in these things, I have seen demons go out, have spoken in tongues, and have seen many miracles follow as I have preached the gospel. I have dealt with metaphorical snakes, and IF I have taken any poison – I have no reason to believe I have until now – but if I have, it hasn’t harmed me.
But what does the NIV say? One reason I have little time for the NIV is the unbelief they publish in every edition. Just before Mark 16:9-20 they felt obliged to draw a line, and include the following, not as a footnote but right there where everyone could read it:
[The most reliable early manuscripts and other ancient witnesses do not have Mark 16:9-20]
This kind of scholarship has done plenty of damage to the cause of Christ. Just who are these scholars to tell us that these ‘early’ manuscripts are more reliable than the VAST majority of texts that we have containing Mark’s gospel? Who are they to affirm that we only really discovered the truth about Mark’s gospel when Tischendorf found the Codex Sinaiticus (Aleph) at the convent of St. Catherine on Mount Sinai in 1848? If they are right, then Christians never had a reliable Bible before that time!
These scholars are following in the tradition of unbelieving liberal scholars Wescott and Hort, concocters of the NU-text, which just happens to leave out many of the key verses which teach Christians to cast out demons. If the NU-text is to be accepted, we may as well admit that the New Testament was a corrupted book for most of Christian history. You can do that if you are a liberal unbeliever, but not if you respect the Bible as God’s Holy Word.
The system adopted by these unbelieving scholars begins by rejecting the VAST MAJORITY OF MANUSCRIPTS! Though they are on record as saying that “the only safe criticism is that which throughout takes account of all existing evidence” (Page 561, Comparative Criticism, Schrivener), what Westcott and Hort meant by ‘all’ is really only 5% to 10% of the manuscripts, since on page 554 they state that the vast majority of manuscripts termed “Syrian or Post Syrian” — “MAYBE SAFELY REJECTED AT ONCE!”
The early scribes apparently knew better than modern scholars, because they made so few copies of these defective manuscripts so treasured by the 19th century apostles of unbelief, and they made many copies of the manuscripts that these liberals reject.
The whole issue of which manuscripts are REALLY reliable is important. For a good FREE Bible translation please visit http://www.churchesofchrist.net/bibles/MLV/mlvindex.htm
In the footnotes of my New King James Version, which is based on the Greek Textus Receptus and Majority Texts, the following footnote is found:
Verses 9-20 are bracketed in the NU-Text as not original. They are lacking in the Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Vaticanus, although nearly all other manuscripts of Mark contain them.
In addition to this, according to http://inerrancy.org,Mark 16:9-20 is referred to in
170-202 A.D. Irenaeus Against Heresies 3:11
110-155 A.D. (disciple of Polycarp, disciple of John)
c.170 A.D. Tatian’s Diatessaron
200 A.D. Tertullian Treatise on the Soul
At least 38 ancient Bible texts
120-150 A.D. The Didache
c.450 A.D. Alexandrinus
~700 A.D. on Extensive Byzantine text family
400-500 A.D. Ephraemi Rescriptus Manuscript
5th century Freer Gospels
3rd-4th century Bohairic Coptic
3rd-4th century Sahidic Coptic
400-600 A.D. Codex Bezae manuscript
325-350 A.D. Vaticanus: blank space there
340-350 A.D. Sinaiticus: blank space there
So the reality is, most of the thousands of extant Greek manuscripts have this passage, only two don’t. And there are blank spaces in those manuscripts indicating that perhaps the manuscripts were incomplete! Are we to believe that the Christian church did not have access to the inerrant word of God for 1400 years, but that false scriptures had crept into our Bibles? Are we to believe that the Bible which we had for all this time was falsely teaching that it is God’s will for us to speak in tongues, preach the gospel, cast out demons and heal the sick, as Mark 16:15-20 implies? If we are to follow the unbelieving liberal scholars Westcott and Hort, who came up with the NU-text, that is exactly what we must believe.
Now either this passage is really part of the Word of God or it isn’t. If it isn’t, why don’t the publishers of the NIV leave it out altogether? Why don’t they admit that we never had a reliable New Testament for 1400 years or more? They should come out and say it, rather than subtly cast doubt on a passage that has been accepted as part of the Word of God for centuries. It is just so like that serpent to say, “Did God really say…” (Genesis 3:1) concerning this passage or anything else God says.
What is really at stake here is the kind of way Christians should do evangelism. It is in the devil’s interests to keep believers powerless, and this includes unbelieving Pentecostals and charismatics. For quite a while I excused my powerlessness in ministry by rejecting the words of Mark 16:9-20. My prayers for the sick gave little if any results, and I had neither the discernment nor the power to cast out a demon. As a result, the numbers of people I could win to Christ was quite limited compared to what it is today. Thank God that I have realised now that if I believe the promises in Mark 16:17, 18 it will work and bring good results for our Lord Jesus Christ.
Can we say, “Amen” (literally, “So be it!”) to the idea of God confirming the preaching of the gospel TODAY with accompanying signs, as Mark 16:20 does? Or can we only say “So was it!” (as conservative evangelicals) or “so Christian legend has it” (as liberals)? If we affirm that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday today and forever (Hebrews 13:8), why would He show less mercy to the sick and demonically oppressed than He did in the days of His earthly ministry? God wants us to agree and desire his Word to be preached to unbelievers, with accompanying signs, so that they will have no reason to doubt the goodness and power and reality of the Lord. Eternity will reveal that those who taught us to reject the words of Mark 16:15-20 were sabotaging the implementation of the plan of evangelism given by the Holy Spirit.
Those Believing these things…
God generally doesn’t do these miracles any more through people who don’t believe or expect them. A very literal translation of the Greek passage says, “And these signs shall follow those believing these things…”. Is someone prepared to say, “I believe these things, but they never work for me!” Incidentally, I certainly would NOT argue that the true mark of a real Christian is that these miraculous signs follow them. However, I WOULD argue that if a real Christian believes these things in Mark 16:17,18 and acts on them, as they remain committed to preaching the gospel (verse 15), these signs will happen. God intended for them to happen. It should be obvious to anyone why a God interested in the spread of his message of redemption would want them to happen.
Some people get hung up about the bit about picking up serpents. There are actually churches out in the hills of America (where else?) in which people pick up poisonous snakes to prove they are real believers. (A lot of people die of snake-bites in these churches). Clearly these words were supposed to be metaphorically interpreted. The snake is a metaphor for the devil and his demons. Jesus used this metaphor when he said in Luke 10:19, “I give you power over serpents and scorpions and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you.” We should not be afraid to take on the devil and throw him and his works out of our paths. God promises us we can do this if we believe. But if a literal snake should bite me, as happened to Paul on the island of Malta in Acts 28:3-5, I am not averse to claiming the promise of Mark 16. No poison shall harm me, as long as I don’t drink it deliberately. I am not drinking too much Coca-cola these days anyway.
Why this is Relevant
It is estimated that 95% of Christians in the Western world last century never led anyone to Christ. How seriously did this 95% take the commandment of Jesus in verse 15 about preaching the gospel to everyone? Is the gospel so without power that a Christian, preaching to all men he find, cannot win even one in his entire life? Has the Holy Spirit now left us to struggle on our own, and lead fruitless lives while the devil takes multitudes to hell daily?
Many Christians were never baptized as believers, disobeying verse 16. Instead they followed the traditions of men handed down by a special class of priests of which the Bible knows nothing. I am not of the school that says you must be baptized properly to be saved, but I question the discipleship of anyone who refuses full immersion baptism as a believer once the truth on the matter has been clearly laid out.
The shocking unbelief in the church concerning the revealed will of God concerning healing and deliverance is something only the enemies of Christ and his cross can rejoice in. Thank God this is changing. But little thanks for this goes to the authors of the NIV translation of the Bible, and other versions which tell us that Mark 16:15-20 are not really part of the gospel.
If you are a disciple of Jesus Christ, you must take a stand on this issue. Either it is God’s Word or it isn’t. Either it is God’s plan for you, or it isn’t. It doesn’t matter what people have done with it in the past. It matters a great deal what YOU will do with it. Eternal souls hang in the balance.