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INTRODUCTION

    A couple of passages from the Book of Mark Chapter 16 have been the source of some controversy over the years. Some theologians have suggested that these verses were valid for Christians at one time, but are no longer valid today. Others say that they are to be understood in a spiritual sense, and taken literally. And then there are those who reject the text from which it was taken (Textus Receptus) claiming that it's not the oldest and best copy and thus the verses (which are missing from some other copies) are probably a non-inspired addendum to the gospel that they shouldn't be taken seriously. While the validity of manuscripts from which this is taken is not the scope of this study, let me say that I have very carefully studied the issue of the 'Received Text,' and there is no doubt in my mind that these texts are valid. But we'll leave that's for another study, another day. It is however very unfortunate this theory of 'non-canonical inclusion' has been introduced, because even a sundry study of these verses in light of the rest of the Bible would reveal the truth about them. By the study of the Word through the Spirit of God is truth revealed, and in comparing scripture with scripture, the spiritual with spiritual, we see that these verses are in total agreement with all of scripture. When we do this, the understanding of what God has inspired to be written here, starts to become clear.

On the other hand, there are those theologians who have their own agenda, biases and traditions, which works in them the desire that these verses of Mark chapter 16 be taken literally. But this bias has nothing to do with sound hermeneutics or the careful exegesis of the word. There are many Churches already into the tongues movement, or are already enamoured with signs and wonders and so their desire is that this to be understood literally in order to give their doctrines of having healing power, and of speaking in tongues some biblical credibility. Likewise there are others who don't want it to be taken literally for fear that it will be used in support of these, and other cult-like movements. Many in this camp generally claim that it was to be understood literally, but that it is no longer valid for today. I don't mean to impugn the motives of these people, but the whole idea of rightly dividing scripture is to go to the Bible seeking it's truth, not to go looking for justification of doctrines that we already hold. Without going to the scriptures with all readiness of mind (an open mind to scripture) as the Bereans of Acts chapter 17 did, then we will never come to it's truth. The reason being because without this readiness of mind, we aren't looking for it. We're only looking to find what we want to find, and therefore we will find it, whether it's actually there or not. That is the wrong frame of mind with which to approach the Holy scriptures.

Another point we need to make is that no one can privately interpret the scriptures. The Bible is not subject to private interpretations. It is it's own interpreter. How could man even think that he of himself can figure out or define what God's Word really means? Man can't even understand the common cold, and can He understand the mind of God? It is only by being led by 'the Spirit of God' in the careful reading and receiving what He Himself has inspired written, do we in spirit have the mind of Christ to understand. Then is it made manifest to us that the Bible is it's own dictionary, it's own interpreter, and it's own witness. It defines itself, it interprets itself, and by the Holy Spirit it witnesses to it's own validity and truthfulness. In plain language, only the Bible can define what it means. And it does that by the Spirit working within us as we search through it. Seeking the truth is in 'receiving' all of what scripture says and ignoring none. It is in comparing scripture with scripture and finding what is in agreement, and reconciling all that appears in opposition. For the most basic of sound Biblical hermeneutics is that, 'no scripture contradicts itself, nor can it be privately interpreted.' The scriptures can only be our 'authority' if we allow it to define itself and interpret itself. If we attempt to define or interpret it ourselves, we will inevitably come to erroneous conclusions, for we are not qualified.

There is more in the Bible than can be learned in one lifetime, but it is not as complicated or as hard to discern as some would have you believe. God didn't inspire the Bible written simply for scholars, He wrote it for all of us. When we look at the words in the 16th chapter of Mark, let the Bible be the 'authority' in interpretation, and let us allow it to tell us what God is really teaching, and how we are to understand it. And may the Lord who is Gracious above all guide us all into His marvelous truths.



Understanding the Signs that follow Believers!
(Mark Chapter 16:17-18)

by Tony Warren


Mark 16:15-18
  • "And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.
  • He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.
  • And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues;
  • They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover."
In order to correctly get the flow of these verses, we need to pick up the context. Note carefully that in verse 15 Jesus commissioned them to go into all the world and be a witness to the gospel of Christ to every creature. This mirrors others scriptures such as Acts 1:7 where the Lord tells them that they should be witnesses to Him to the uttermost parts of the earth. We should also take notice that it continues in verse 16 saying that the witness is to some unto salvation, and to others unto damnation. Those who hear these believers witness, and are baptized into belief, shall be Saved, while those who hear these believers witness, and believe not, will be damned. Here we see the diverse aspects of the Word of God. In one sense the Word of God is a two edged sword (i.e., it cuts both coming and going) unto death, and in another sense it is the bread (i.e., that which nourishes the body) unto Life. The Word is as a well spring of Living waters to soothe the thirsty soul, but it is also as fire from the mouth of the witnesses to it, unto damnation. The witness of the Word brings both. Some are Saved by the Word, while others damned.

And it's in this context that in the next verse Jesus tells them that 'and these signs shall follow them that believe.' In other words, these are the things which they should expect to be seen when they preach the gospel. In Christ's name those who become believers will cast out devils, they will speak with new languages, they shall take up serpents, there will no deadly drink that can hurt them, and they will lay hands on the sick and the sick will recover. This is what we all should expect to see as a result of the believers going unto the world with the gospel. These are the signs or 'evidences' which will be seen to follow Salvation.

The Greek word translated sign is [semeion], meaning a token of, or something as an 'indication' which signifies whatever is in view. When the believers go into the world with the gospel, these are the indications that will be seen as evidence conversions. In Christ's name those who believe will do these things that Jesus lists. If these signs or indicators were to be taken literally, then all of the greatest Christians of our time were not believers, because these signs did not 'literally' follow them in that sense. By contrast, they all did follow them 'if' we understand this Biblically.

Let's consider first what this doesn't say. It doesn't say maybe these signs will follow those that believe. It doesn't say if the Spirit is just right these signs will follow them that believe. It doesn't say some of these signs will follow them that believe, and the others won't. And it doesn't say, If believers have enough faith, these signs will follow them that believe. To be honest and truthful, what it actually says is, 'go preach the gospel to the world baptizing them, and these signs shall follow them that believe.' i.e., These evidences are the tokens that will be an indication that a person is a true Believer.

And so we must ask pointedly, what believer do you know who can pick up a deadly poisonous serpent in the name of Christ, and the serpent won't hurt him? Better yet, do you know any Believers that are going around picking up these snakes? Yet that is exactly what it says there. The 'sign' of a Believer is that in Christ's name they shall pick up serpents. I don't take up literal serpents (snakes) in Christ's name, do you? And yet clearly, that is what it says we will do. And so the question is not one of, 'is it true' (all scripture is), the question is one of how are we to understand it in the light of the scripture? Not in the light of our own eyes, but in the light of other scriptures which will interpret this symbolism of serpents.

And in that vein we also note that verse 18 of Mark chapter 16 picks right up on this same theme of the safety of believers among the harmful saying, 'and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them.' Not just that if they might drink something poisonous, but if they drank something deadly [thanasimos] poisonous, it would never hurt them. That Greek word literally means, to bring death! God is telling us that if we should drink something which would bring us death, we would not die. So we must ask again pointedly, 'what believer do you know who can drink a 'deadly' poison and not be hurt?' If someone were to slip some highly toxic nerve poisons (one drop will kill), do you really think you would physically survive? The truth of course is that if you or I, Christian or non-Christian, strong or weak, drink that deadly poison, we'll not only be hurt ..we'll be Dead! And it has nothing to do with faith, it has to do with our God given mortality.

So what do we have here, a enigma or mystery? Yes, but only to those who have not studied the scriptures carefully, or those without eyes to see and ears to hear what God is illustrating. And no, I'm not talking about literal eyes nor literal ears. ..and neither is this passage talking about literal serpents or literal deadly poisonous drinks. We're both talking in the exact same spiritual, cryptic or symbolic language of the Holy Bible. Not in a language I dreamed up to support my own views, but in the exact same language God Himself uses all throughout the Bible, old testament and New. These two verses of Mark are giving us a marvelous spiritual picture of the gospel going forth to the world, and how as a result of this, in Christ's name the believer's will show forth the fruits of that gospel, and God will keep them in Peace and safety. There are five signs spoken of in mark 16 that is said to follow those who believe. We will go over each one a give a brief synopsis, letting God reveal (uncover) His secrets.


The first sign or signification of a believer:

"In my name they shall cast out devils,"

In the literal this reads, 'they will expel demons.' Does this sign follow the believers? Indeed it does! Not in the sense that they will possess power over some little red being with a pitchfork and arrowhead tail. And no, we're not talking about the power of an exorcist here. This is addressing something infinitely more serious than a bad B movies. It addresses the power of the gospel which believers possess which sets free those who are controlled by the spirit of Satan which abides within him. When we become believers, we come with the power of God to spread the gospel of Salvation which casts out devils. We are the vessels which God uses to accomplish His marvelous work of salvation. It is our commission to go forth with the Word of God that the evil spirit of bondage be expelled from the people whom God hath chosen out of the world. If we have the 'faith of Christ,' all things are possible and we come with power. This is the faith which is lacking in unbelief, but which is seen in those who truly believe. As also Christ illustrated in Matthew chapter seventeen in his casting out demons:

Matthew 17:18-20

In unbelief, Satan is not cast out and our own faith cannot ever cast out Satan. By our own faith it is impossible to be Saved. By our own faith it is impossible to do works which please God. But in true belief, we have power of the 'faith of Christ' wherein all things are possible, and man is set free from bondage (satan cast out). Faith as a grain of mustard seed is faith of Christ, which as a seed starts out small, and grows into a mighty tree. So the kingdom of God through believers grows into a mighty tree.

We can't literally make mountains cast themselves into the sea by 'our faith,' but we can make kingdoms (mountains = kingdoms) be cast into the sea by 'the faith of Christ.' The mountain is symbolic of the kingdom of satan cast into the sea. Just as the demons were cast out into a herd of swine and ran into the sea. The Demon or devil is symbolic of the spirit of Satan dwelling within man. He who has a devil, has the spirit of Satan in him. And we cast him out by the testimony of Christ which we bring. And it was for this purpose were we sent by Christ.

Jesus told the apostles in John 20:21, 'As my Father hath sent me, even so send I you.' The same commission that Mark 16:16 gives. We are the messengers of the Church, sent to baptize and preach the gospel that many may not any longer have Satan as ruler in lives. When he is cast out by the Word we testify of, they are being set free from the bondage whereby he held them. They will no longer have his spirit abide in them, but the Spirit of God will come to dwell there. Satan has vacated your person, and God has filled that void that we become a Holy Temple of the Lord. i.e., we are delivered from Satan dwelling within us, and Blessed by Christ dwelling within us. From one Kingdom to another. From the Power and rule of darkness to the Power and rule of Light.

    Colossians 1:13

By this deliverance, Satan is cast out of us. We go from being one type servant to being another type servant. What agreement hath the Temple of God with the Temple of Idols? There is none. Therefore are we made a Temple of God and Satan cast out. Jesus told the people (John 8:36) that, 'If I shall make you free, you shall be free indeed?' The freedom He was talking about is not earthly freedom from any earthly slave master, captivity, prison, or rule, but freedom from the bondage to Satan and the sin which he holds us in. When we preach the gospel and someone becomes saved, we are Loosing of the bonds that Satan holds all of the unsaved in. When we come with the gospel of the Kingdom, We come to loose the bonds of Satan. The same principle Jesus illustrated in,

    Matthew 16:19

In your 'translation' this may read, '..shall be bound' but in the Greek, this literally reads Shall 'having been' bound in heaven, and shall 'having been' loosed in heaven. It is Not shall be, as a future tense, but shall 'having been,' as a past tense. In other words, it's telling us that whatever we Christians do for the Kingdom of God here on earth, has already been done in heaven. We are merely the tools or vessels God uses to get His predetermined will done on earth. When we become believers, we are given the keys of the kingdom. This is spiritual or symbolic language which means that by our bringing the gospel, we open the kingdom of God to people whom He has chosen. We loose the bonds of Satan with that Gospel message we bring. The gospel truth brings about a dramatic change in the lives of some who hear, whereby Satan is cast out. That is what the promise of Mark chapter 16, of the sign of casting out devils in Christ's name is illustrating. This sign follows believers because they're the ones (Church) coming with the power of the Word which does this.

Of course that is what all the literal miracles that Jesus did were a 'picture' or snapshot of. They 'pointed' to the fact that we (as the bearers of the gospel) bring the Word which has Power to cast out devils. Not by our faith, but by the faith of Christ! The faith which only those in Him (true believers) can have. A faith which will move mountains (kingdoms).

The miracle of Matthew 17:18-20 is to illustrate that it is only the 'faith of Christ' which can cast out Satan, and and deliver us from his kingdom. It is only 'His' faith which could possibly justify that Satan be cast out of us. His work on the cross, not our ability to choose who shall be loosed of Satan.

    Galatians 2:16

No amount of man's faith can cast out the devil, only Christ's faith can. For that (casting out Satan) is the loosing of men by Justification in the work of Christ. This is the work of the gospel, and this is the Isaiah 58:6-7 These are synonyms for bringing the gospel to those in need. To loose them from the clutches of Satan, to feed them with the bread of the Word, to bring them into the house of the Lord, and to clothe their nakedness of sin with the righteousness of Christ. This is the cryptic language that God uses all throughout His Word. The miracles that Jesus and the early Apostles performed were for proofs and illustrations of these Spiritual truths. They weren't to prove that we can also do miracles if we have enough faith (as some suppose), they shows that it is only by 'the faith of Christ' will we understand the spiritual significance in them. In this instance it signifies we go to the whole world with power as witnesses (Acts 1:8) in the Word of Christ's faith, that many people come to Salvation and have Satan cast out of their lives.

So we see that this sign indeed does follows those who believe. Because every believer comes with the power of the Gospel of Salvation whereby men are justified by the faith of Christ, and Satan is cast out. Whereever you find true believers, you will find the sign of devils being cast out in Christ's name, because you'll find those who are being Saved by the gospel that we bring.


The second sign or signification of a believer:

"They shall speak with new tongues."

The Greek word tongues [glossa] simply means languages. Unfortunately there are some theologians who don't seem to care about that 'fact,' even though they know it. In scripture it is used to mean an un-acquired language of another nations. For example one might say, 'I speak in the Hebrew tongue, or I speak in the Egyptian tongue, or I speak in three different tongues.' It simply is a word used in scripture meaning languages. It is implied, because we the tongue is what we speak with. e.g.:

    Revelation 14:6

    Revelation 10:11 That is the way the word is used in scripture. Unfortunately, in our day some would like to mean more than it actually does. For one to speak in an unknown tongue simply means they spoke in an unknown language. Speaking in different tongues simply means speaking in different languages. Likewise, here in Mark the phrase 'speak with new tongues,' simply means that the gospel is going to the whole world, and those who believe will not only be Jewish, but will speak in new languages. Don't think more of the word 'tongues' than what it signifies, or more than what is qualified by the scriptures in their context. Believers now speak with new languages, for Salvation is now to all the Gentile nations with every language.

This prophesy of speaking in new languages I believe is fulfilled in two ways. Number one, the Gospel message is going into all the world unto all kindreds and nations, therefore they speak with the new languages of these nations. And Number two, in the spiritual sense, those who believe speak with the new language of God, a spiritual language which only those in Christ can understand. In Christ's Name those who believe do speak in new languages as the gospel of the Kingdom is preached to every nation and in every tongue. And no matter what tongue or language the people of those nations hear it in, they will understand. Because the gospel message is a language that transcends cultures and peoples and nationalities. It is the only Universal language that 'only' those who believe can understand. For unbelievers will think it foolishness.

Salvation before the cross was 'primarily' (but not exclusively) of the people of the nation of Israel. But after the cross there is a new dispensation where it is poured out of waters gloriously to every tongue or language. And every tongue understands, because the gospel message is one which is not based on intelligence, or memory, or learning ability, or nationality, all languages can understand. In any new language (tongue) that we preach it in, the people can understand.

We might readily understand the preaching in the languages of different nationalities, but let's look deeper into the spiritual nature of this prophecy. Before we were Saved, we didn't understand the Bible. It was like a closed or sealed book. Very much as a foreign language to us. In other words, it's written in a different language from that of the world even though it uses many of the same words. The hidden or covered things of the scriptures are not seen by us. But when we are in Christ, we have revealed the spiritual language of God that we can understand. No matter what tongue we originally speak or heard it in.

    Isaiah 50:4

Ears to hear this language or tongue, that is our praise. We are the Sent, whom God has given the tongue or language of the learned that we speak a Word in due season. It is because we are born from above that we speak in these new languages to those of the world that they also receive Salvation, and prophecy again. Before salvation, they cannot understand the things of God. But after they are in Christ, it's a totally different story. Things that they never understood before, they now understand. Where once the Bible was as a contradiction, it is now one of the the few things in this world which is not hypocritical but consistent, true, and trustworthy. Where once scripture read like a stammering or repeating language of foolishness, it now reads as of great Wisdom and with the smoothness of honey, consistent, flowing, and so sweet. Believers have become a NEW man and a NEW creation going forth to the world speaking with new languages that others might know things that they could not before understand.

    1st Corinthians 2:11-12

No matter what new tongue (language) we speak, we now know these things because we now speak and know the things of God by the Spirit, and not in our own worldly wisdom. It is the language of all who believe.

God illustrated this speaking in new languages and having all nations understand the Word of God when the Holy Spirit was poured out at Pentecost. There was the miracle of a mighty rushing wind signifying the Spirit, and there appeared to the Apostles fire in the shape of cloven tongues, and each one of them were filled with the Holy Spirit.

    Acts 2:2-8

The fire was like cloven or divided tongues to illustrates that now every nation will now feel the fire of God's cleansing upon their language and will be witnesses to Him. God is now sending the Gospel message to the divided languages of the whole world and they all as one will hear. God's Spirit as tongues of fire signifies (was a token) that the Word is going out to every tongue (language). This 'miracle' will not follow everyone who believes, but the sign which this miracle represents will. The believers shall speak with new languages, for God will baptize every tongue with fire that they too shall be made clean and righteous.

Note also that when they received the Spirit of this tongue upon them, that they began to speak in other languages as the Spirit spoke to them, and the people were amazed because these people of different nations all heard the Apostles in their own tongue (language). In other words, those of Hebrew origin heard them speak in Hebrew, those who understood only Greek heard them speak in Greek, etc. This is not the babbling nonsense which you might hear in Churches today, it was a miracle that what the Spirit of God inspired these men to say was MIRACULOUSLY translated into the language of any person of any nation hearing it. Those there all heard the gospel truth in their own language no matter what tongue they spoke. That is what this signifies (is a sign) of. It's a sign that believers will speak with new tongues or languages, and the gospel is universally understood, no matter what language it's translated into. Because hearing is of God, and understanding is of God.

    Romans 10:17

    Ephesians 2:8     Ephesians 3:7 All languages or tongues will understand because it's not a matter of our intelligence, it is a gift of God. This miracle in Acts of tongues was not Christians babbling incoherently, or pretending God is speaking in unearthly or unknown sentences as some people claim today. The miracle was that all heard (and understood in their own language) what was said. This bears no resemblance to what some people today call speaking in tongues. It was to signify that the gospel was going forth to every tongue, nation, people, and they all would understand it.

The commission was to go into all the world with the gospel and this sign would be seen. They would speak with new languages. No more is Israel of a foreign language to the Gentile nations, for they in their own tongue would spread the word. It is an unknown language to them that 'believe not,' but not to them that believe. In this sense, tongues are for those who Believe not, because the Gospel is gone to the Gentiles and we (believers) speak in new languages, that those who believe not, might believe.

And so this sign indeed also follows those who believe. Not in the way some professing Christians of our day might want, but in the way God intended. The believers go to the whole world and to every kindred, and they now speak with new languages spreading the gospel to all peoples. As our Lord instructed us to do in the great commission.


The third sign or signification of a believer:

"They shall take up serpents"

The serpent is of course symbolic of Satan. That is no real mystery to most Christians, but what is the mystery is why some people have such a hard time accepting this 'fact' when God has illustrated it so prominently throughout scripture. It's not as if it's a man made idea or because it is an ambiguous reference. Perhaps it's because they don't really want to accept God's Biblical definition of the serpent when it would mean that the other signs are not to be taken literally either? The serpent is seen throughout God's Word to 'signify' or be a token of Satan. Satan is this serpent that believers can take up without being harmed. That is the security that every soul who believes possesses.

    Revelations 12:9

It's not even debatable, God uses the sign of the serpent to signify Satan. Even from the very beginning the serpent in the garden of Eden was illustrative of Satan. No faithful Christian would deny that Satan is the serpent in scripture, and yet somehow this is their last resort in understanding him here. Likewise, those who are of Satan are also pictured as serpents. And there are also many illustrations of this.

    Matthew 23:33

And so anyone having a problem with serpents 'signifying Satan, and also those who are of Satan, must argue with God who has designated them that. Comparing scripture with scripture we can begin to understand what is being taught in Mark chapter 16. How when we believe, we come to rule over the serpent without fear.

An analogy might be seen in the middle east today where there are still snake handlers that take up snakes. They are the ruler of the snake, not the snake ruler over them. That may be an imperfect analogy, but it is precisely the message in Mark chapter 16. For the unbeliever, the serpent (Satan) has rule over them. He will bite him because he desires man to fall into lawlessness. He is the adversary. Unbelievers are like slaves to Satan where he holds sin (transgression of the law) as the power of death over them. But to the believer, the serpent Satan is a conquered foe. Christ freed us from bondage to him at the cross where he no longer is ruler in our lives. He is like a defanged serpent who can't harm us for he no longer has that power of death over us. So why should we who believe fear him? But don't take my word for it.

    Hebrews 2:14-15

Before we were Saved, we were in bondage to Satan and had death hanging over our heads, but now we have no more fear of that old serpent, because we have been delivered from him, and he no longer holds the 'power of death' over us. By Christ's death we have conquered that fear of that old serpent, that we can handle him without fear of harm.

Luke chapter 10 verses 19 and 20 gives us an illustration of this same principle which is concise and pointed. The lord sends the 'seventy' out with the gospel to Witness two by two (signifying truthful witness). And we read,

    Luke 10:19

Is this the Lord giving them the power and commission to go around the countryside stomping on literal (reptilian) snakes and scorpions? No, that's ridiculous. If you walk through the desert, will literal snakes and scorpions clear a path for you because you are Christian? How many Christians will even see a snake or scorpion? Is that what the Lord is really concerned about, securing them that they might not get bitten by a snake in the grass? Not at all! That is not the power of the enemy. The power of the enemy Jesus speaks about here is the power of Satan. Serpents and Scorpions in scripture 'signify' Satan. Those who are spiritually serpents and scorpions (those of satan) is who God is concerned that these His servants are not harmed by. God is illustrating something far more important than mere snakes and scorpions who by chance we might come upon. But the spirit satan whom we might come upon.

And this is the same way that we are to understand Mark chapter 16. The serpent that the believers will take up and not be harmed, is Satan. The principle demonstrated in verses such as,

1st Peter 3:12-13

The answer of course is no one and nothing can harm us. So yes, again, this sign indeed does follows them that believe. In Christ's Name they take up Serpents without fear because that serpent Satan has no power to harm them anymore.


The fourth sign or signification of a believer:

"If they shall drink any DEADLY thing it shall not hurt them."

Deadly drink (poison) in scripture is often illustrative of the false words of the wicked who come speaking against God. It is this type poison that is deadly, but which cannot harm the true believer. Not literal poison. If you give anyone (believer or non believer) a cup of deadly poison, he'll be hurt. And if it's strong enough, he'll be Dead. God is not telling believers that if we drink a literal cup of cyanide our body will not die, God is telling us that the poison of wicked men's words cannot harm us. That is what the deadly drink 'signifies.' Let us get our Biblical definitions from the scriptures, not from Webster's dictionary, for the Bible is it's own interpreter.

    James 3:8

I didn't equate the tongue or speech of men as an unruly evil full of deadly poison, God did. And this is the deadly poison that God is talking about which cannot harm those who believe. The unruly evil in teachings of unlawfulness. It's just as substantive as any literal poison and it's twice as deadly, because it leads to 'the second death.' Yet this deadly poison cannot hurt those who believe, for they are immune from this. Man's teachings, no matter how deceiving, blasphemous, slanderous, or evil, cannot harm those who believe, for we are secured by the Holy Spirit of Promise.

    Ephesians 1:13

That Greek word translated sealed is [sphragizo], meaning a sign or stamp of security. For example, a seal on a letter establishing it's security. That is exactly what those who believe have when the Spirit seals (secures) them. We are secure from the deadly poison of false gospels as we keep God's word faithfully by the faith of Christ.

    Deuteronomy 32:32-33

This dragon is again illustrative of Satan (revelation 12) and those who come in the spirit of satan, and Poison is signifying their evil doctrines. And note it says there it's also as the venom of serpents or snakes. God has always used this 'symbolic' or illustrative language throughout the scriptures, both in old and new Testaments. It is nothing new. It is not some new way of interpreting, it's the Same Old Way of interpreting. The the Biblical way. Poison drink is illustrative of men's words of deception and wickedness. For example, in Revelation chapter 17 where we read of the Harlot (unfaithful Church) with the wine of her fornication that makes men drunken. This is false doctrines. Amos 5:7 speaks of the turning judgment to Wormwood. This is the same poisonous doctrines. Doctrines that cause the people who drink thereof to die. All false doctrines are a deadly Poison. Just as the true Gospel is pictured as the living waters. These are two exact opposites, two 180 degree opposing illustrations. One, a deadly drink that brings death. The other, a Living drink that bring Life. These 'significations' are certainly not some coincidence, they're God breathed. Because those who believe drink of the living waters, the deadly poison cannot hurt us (we have everlasting life). We are now of the resurrection and the Life, and can never die.

When Mark 16 says if they drink any deadly thing, they'll not be harmed, and it being one of the signs of a believer, it is illustrating how the believer has power not to be harmed by these false gospels of death, because they can never die. When Jesus met the woman of Samaria at the well and asked her for a drink, the outcome was ordained.

    John 4:10

This is the drink of Life which is spiritual water. Jesus said if you drink literal water, you'll be thirsty again; Because we're human beings with a God given mortality. That's why if we drink literal poison we'll be dead. God doesn't promise us everlasting 'earthly' life, nor immunity from 'literal' poisons. He promises us spiritual water. In verse 14 He says, 'but whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst;' Not literal water, but the water of Salvation. Blessed are those who thirst after 'this water.' When we (believers) bring the gospel, it is like we are bringing cool waters to a dry and thirsty soul.

    Matthew 10:42

By the same token, when a false prophet or teacher brings false gospels, he is bringing deadly poison. It is the drink which brings not life but death. But the believers need not fear, for the sign follows them that this deadly drink shall not harm them. Because they (by the faith of Christ through the Spirit of truth) will not follow after false doctrines. They follow only the voice of the good shepherd!

In other words, these who believe are those who do not turn aside after substitute doctrines not found in God's Word, so they are Safe and Secure in the true gospel of Christ. Nothing can separate them from the Love of God (Romans 8:35-39). While others may be deceived and duped by this false gospel, the sign following the true believer is that they shall not be hurt by this deadly drink. For they are the FAITHFUL witness.

This sign indeed also follows them that believe. Having drank from the living waters, they can thus never die, and so are safe from the deadly poisons of men's lips. They are Sealed (secured) by the Holy Spirit.


The fifth sign or signification of a believer:

"They shall lay hands on the sick and they shall recover."

First question is, do you 'honestly' know anyone who can lay hands on the 'physically' sick and they will recover? We know there are those who claim they can, and there are those who blindly believe every story that they hear about it, but truthfully speaking, who has such power? Claims of speaking in tongues or God languages, and of being able to physically heal by laying on of hands are trademarks of the Pentecostal and Charismatic movements. But if these are signs which follow those who believe, then we would have to say that the gospel is a MISERABLE failure, because these signs are non existent today. Where are they and where are the believers. Are they all in those movements? No, God has not promised those who believe that they can heal physically sick people by laying on of hands.

2nd Timothy 4:20

Why didn't this believer lay hands on Trophimus and miraculously heal him if he could? Why isn't this 'sign' following this believer? Simple, because this believer knows something that Charismatics and Pentecostals do not know, namely, that God has not given the Church power to lay hands on 'physically' sick people and have them healed. So many today are puzzled because God says that this is also a 'signification' of a Believer. i.e., when you see believers, you should see this 'sign' (signification) following.

The question is, are these promises to be taken in a strictly literal fashion today, or was the miracles of healing before the Bible was completed, a confirmation for the early Church with spiritual signification? If this is to literally be a sign, then it's one which is untrue, because as this Christian in 2nd Timothy, few of us even make the claim to be able to lay hands on anyone and heal them from physical sickness like Cancer, Aids, or any other terminal illnesses. The truth is that this is a promise by God that those who believe will go forth healing people in an 'infinitely more important' way, which is spiritually. Lets look at it carefully in light of scripture.

We know conclusively that those who are unsaved are pictured in the Bible as those who are sick, and in need of a doctor. For example; the Pharisees wanted to know why Jesus ate with publicans and sinners. Jesus answered,

    Matthew 9:12-13

Jesus said, 'Go learn what that meaneth,' and YET there are many today who still haven't learned what that means? It means He's not talking about a doctor, or about physical health or sickness. Jesus is talking about something far more important than physical health or physical healing. If we would go learn what Jesus means (as He said), then Christians wouldn't be thinking they can heal physically with the touch of a hand. They are deceiving themselves in egotistical vanity, and power hungry pride.

Carefully consider, Jesus has clearly equated the publicans and sinners with those being 'sick.' Check it out carefully to see if that is true. They are the ones in need of a Saviour. They are the ones who need the 'true' physician. Jesus Christ is that physician that heals. These sinners were not physically sick, but they were sick spiritually. That's why Jesus ate with them. That's why the prophesies were of Messiah coming with healing in His wings. The sinners were the ones who needed the Physician Christ. They are the ones who needed their sin sick souls healed. Of course Jesus did many 'literal' miracles of healing the sick, but those miracles were to 'illustrate' something far more important, just as the Resurrection of Lazarus was illustrative of a far more important resurrection. Does the fact that Jesus and the Apostles did miracles mean that we can by miracle heal the sick? No more than the fact that Jesus raised lazarus from the dead means we can raise up a corpse that is rotting and stinking from decay, as Christ did. No more than Jesus and Peter walking on water illustrates that we also can walk on water, or that we can spit in someone's eye and make them see. That is not the lesson God is putting forth by these miracles. When we read in scripture of the people being healed, we are getting a spiritual 'picture' of the healing nature of Salvation. This is just as when we read in the scripture of the Lamb being slain. It is a picture of Christ. Or when we read of the fish and loaves feeding five thousand. It is a spiritual picture of the feeding of the Lords people with the bread of the gospel, and how it will be multiplied from a small start. i.e., a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump, or a tiny grain of mustard seed growing into a great tree. Its not there to illustrate that we can send thousands of swine running into the sea, or feed five thousand with a few fish, or cast a mountain into the sea, or walk on water, etc. It's there as a spiritual picture of Salvation, Security, and judgment. And that's the picture in Mark chapter 16 of believers laying on hands and healing.

We go forth with the healing gospel of Salvation and the sick (as Christ defines the sick) recover from the sickness of sin. The phrase, 'lay hands on the sick' is illustrating that it is by our hands these sick are made well. In other words, we are the ones who are bringing this healing gospel to the sick.

    2nd Timothy 1:6

God has sent us as his vessels or the tools He uses to get the job done. We come with the word of God in our hand to heal the sick. When they become Saved, they have been healed. They have been made whole. Do we think that Paul would have wrote Timothy to use some wine for medicinal purposes if a miraculous healing was in order?

    1st Timothy 5:23

Why didn't Paul say, we have the power to heal, have them lay hands on you to heal your stomach, and heal those often infirmities so you won't have them anymore? ..it is because Paul knew something that many today do not. We can pray for healing of our infirmities, we can take medicine for healing, but the only hand that can heal 'physically' is God's. And if He will not heal in answer to our by prayers, or our medication, then 'His Grace is sufficient for us." God has not such awesome power of physical healing in our hands. If that were true, we'd never die. For every time we got sick, we'd heal ourselves. The doctrine of being able to lay on hands physically sick and heal them is an ego trip cloaked in platitudes about having faith.

It is often said by those who profess supernatural healing that, 'Christ went to the cross to heal us,' and this is indeed true. But He didn't go to the cross to heal us 'physically' as they surmise, else the cross would have been a total failure. For we all get sick, and we all die from some sickness. That is 'NOT' what Christ went to the cross to heal us from.

    1st Peter 2:24-25

This isn't talking about any Physical healing, it's talking about healing us from our sin sickness. His stripes were for our Healing, but not physical healing. He was beaten because of our transgressions. He was bruised for our iniquity. That's the Healing (our sin) that came by His stripes (punishment). Not that He healed me or you from catching a cold, or gave us some power to cure aids, grow short legs longer, or cure cancer, but that He healed us from the sickness of sin which kept us from being whole. That is what 1st Peter is delineating.

This was confirmation of fulfillment of the scripture in Isaiah 53:5 which spoke of our healing from sin, as expounded in,

Matthew 8:16-17

This is a reference to that verse in Isaiah, this is what 1st Peter is talking about. The miracles of healing were for confirmation that this was indeed the fulfillment of the prophesied Messiah and the New Covenant. The Miracles confirmed this, it was not an indication that this is the normal power of believers.

Hebrews 2:3

These were a witness that this was the Christ, the sun with 'healing' in His wings (Malachi 4:2), and a token that the prophesied time had come. The Healings were spiritual confirmations. But with the completion of New Testament scripture the Word is sealed and not to be added to, nor taken away from. There is no more confirmation of additional Word of God! For there 'is no' additional Word. The New Covenant canon is Complete, not incomplete. He who adds to the Word now, by alleged divine revelation, is subject to the plagues of God written therein. It's not an insignificant matter as some suppose, it's a very serious matter.

The prayer of a righteous man availeth much in physical healings, but we have no power to lay hands on the physically sick and they will recover. The hospitals are full of people who could stand a healing very nicely, so why aren't these people who claim such power not there healing them instead of in contrived revival tents? Why aren't they healing the Aids patients, the Cancer patients, the terminally ill patients, the amputated patients, etc. Cure someone with an amputated leg, and all would say you've done a miracle, so why cannot they do this? The answer is quite obvious when we look at it honestly. Because to try and do so would show them for what they are. i.e., not able to heal or do the type miracles which the Apostles and Jesus did by the laying on of hands, or any other way.

Whenever this practice is challenged, we hear the same old excuses. 'Someone had no faith, and that's why it didn't work.' It's much more lucrative to feign healing in a evangelist's tent or at a so called revival where people go expecting to see a healing and so will see one whether there really is one or not. But the healing that God has in view is the job the believer does in bringing spiritual healing. To make one whole by being reconciled with God.

What good is it if you heal a man physically, and he is still sick spiritually where he is destined for Hell? The physical healing then profited Nothing! On the other hand, if a person is laying on their death bed physically, and you bring the gospel providing a spiritual healing, that person is INFINITELY better off than from any physical healing. The prayer of faith hath Saved him. Healed Him! by your hand! If he should still die physically, it's the best thing that could ever happen to him, for 'to live is Christ, but to die is gain' -Phil. 1:21. This is the healing that is important for the believer to bestow, and this is the sign that will follow those who believe. People become spiritually well because they come with the gospel.

When Jesus would heal, often times he would say, 'go and sin no more!' Was He saying they were physically sick because they sinned? No, rather He was 'equating' sins with a sickness. He was giving us a spiritual 'picture' of the sin sickness, and also of how that sickness could be healed. He bore our infirmities on the cross and healed us. It is He and only He who can do the real miracle which is the miracle of Salvation. In the spiritual language, He is the Physician that we are in need of, who will heal us. The Righteous need not this Physician, but we sinners do.

So, does this sign follow them that believe? Indeed it does. They lay hands on the sick, and they do recover because in their hands is the gospel which alone can heal the sick. They come with the power of the healing Word.


Conclusion

And so when examined carefully we see that all of these verses of Mark chapter 16, as understood in the light of God's Word are not a statement that believers will be able to do literal miracles, rather they are a statement that the miracles that accompany Salvation are infinitely more important than a lust for powers which belong to God alone! An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after signs (matthew 12:39). And the only sign that shall be given us is the sign of Jonah in the resurrection of Christ. i.e., the sign of Salvation. The Signs which shall follow those who believe are spiritually discerned. By the Holy Spirit of truth do we discern that these things are true.

We indeed (by the power of the gospel) in Christ's Name cast out devils, for Satan is evicted from He who is baptized in the Holy Spirit. We have been given the 'spiritual' keys of the Kingdom to loose on earth what 'has been' loosed in heaven. We are the vessels God uses to get that job done.

We indeed in Christ's name speak in new tongues or languages, for the gospel has gone out to every language in all the earth, and every people understands what was before a mystery. Our Commission to go to the ends of the earth with the gospel is faithfully being fulfilled in He who believes.

We Indeed In Christ's Name have the power to take up Serpents and not be harmed. For we have no fear of that old serpent Satan, nor his minions, for they have no power to harm us.

If we should drink any deadly thing it will not harm us. Because doctrines are like deadly poison, but we are sealed or secured by the Holy Spirit, wherein we are safe from being poisoned (deceived) by the false prophets and teachers of this world. We are those who by power of God keep the Word faithfully, that falsehoods not harm us.

And indeed, in Christ's name, through His Spirit and by our laying hands on the spiritually sick, they recover. By coming with the word of God in our hands those sinners (sick) are healed by the stripes of Christ, who died specifically for that purpose.

Yes, all these verses unquestionably belong in the Bible, for the Bible 'itself' testifies of their faithfulness. Every word of this is true. These signs do follow them that believe. And if you are of these who speak with the new languages of Christ, you should understand this, because you have the Holy Spirit of God dwelling within you that these things are Spiritually discerned.

These verses are a marvelous promise to the believers that where they are baptizing and preaching the gospel, there will signs or evidence of those who are being Saved. Where they are, there will be the gospel of Salvation preached. Where they are, Satan is being cast out and has no power to deceive them, as he does over the unbelievers. Either these verses are all literal, or they all are all speaking in spiritual terms. Either you can literally drink a cup of deadly poison and not be harmed, or that is simply not what God had in view. One or the other.

    2nd Timothy 2:15

I don't think any better words could be spoken here. Its not the way things seem that count, it's the way things really are. I've found that seeking the truth in God's Word is much better than leaning unto our own understanding, or going by what seems right in our own eyes, or in depending on what other mortal men claim is truth. Find out for yourself. Isn't that what 2nd Timothy 2:15 is really exhorting us to do? Do not be misled, do not take man's word, do not privately interpret, but study to shew yourself approved unto God "RIGHTLY" discerning the Word of truth. That tells us we can find the right answer, and that there is a right way to do it. ..by carefully studying the scriptures.

I hope that we have given you some food for thought in this brief study. May the Lord who is Gracious above all, guide you into the truth of His most holy Word.

Peace,

Copyright ©1991 Tony Warren
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Created 3/9/91 / Last Modified 8/3/99
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