([Longer Ending of Mark]) 15 And then he told them, "Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone. 16 Anyone who believes and is baptized will be saved. But anyone who refuses to believe will be condemned. 17 These miraculous signs will accompany those who believe: They will cast out demons in my name, and they will speak in new languages. 18 They will be able to handle snakes with safety, and if they drink anything poisonous, it won't hurt them. They will be able to place their hands on the sick, and they will be healed."
19 When the Lord Jesus had finished talking with them, he was taken up into heaven and sat down in the place of honor at God's right hand. 20 And the disciples went everywhere and preached, and the Lord worked through them, confirming what they said by many miraculous signs.
Having appeared to his disciples, Jesus commissions them to take the Good News to all the world, with belief in him determining one's eternal destiny. Certain signs will be associated with "those who believe." Then Jesus ascends into heaven and sits down "in the place of honor at God's right hand." The disciples are obedient to Jesus' commission, and Jesus confirms the truth of their message with miraculous signs.
Preach the good news to everyone (Mark 16:15)
"The Gospel of Mark is a record of the gospel (or Good News) from its beginning (1:1). As the book closes, the gospel does not end, but continues in the lives of Jesus' followers. Jesus' command is to go everywhere and preach the Good News."1849 Jesus commissioned his disciples to go forth "into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone," with baptism serving as "an outward sign of the inner faith that saves."1850 Notice "the universality of grace which is expressed so mightily in this command of Jesus': no human being is shut out from the gospel by Jesus; absolutely all are to hear this gospel with the one divine purpose that they all are to believe ... Note that 'the whole creation' cannot mean only the generation of men then living. The expression reaches to the end of time. If it is asked how the apostles could herald the gospel that far, the answer is that they did this through the New Testament and through the voice of every man who preaches and teaches that New Testament."1851 The disciples' disciple-making ministry would be centered on the Word and would include preaching, persuading, and proving. "Men become disciples, first, by hearing the Word; second, by believing the Word; and, third, by submitting to the Word. These men, then, were to make disciples by preaching the word that Christ had delivered to them, by persuading men to accept the word that they had preached, and then by exhorting those who believed to submit to the authority of the Word in their lives. The ones who became disciples were those who believed in, and committed themselves to, the Word."1852
Believes ... baptized ... saved (Mark 16:16)
"Baptism symbolizes submission to Christ, a willingness to live God's way, and identification with God's covenant people."1853 Belief and baptism go together, although we must be careful to note that baptism does not save. What Jesus describes here is "the inward, efficacious reception of the gospel by faith (believing) and the outward, public expression of that faith in water baptism. Though the New Testament writers generally assume that under normal circumstances each believer will be baptized, Mark 16:16 does not mean that baptism is a necessary requirement for personal salvation."1854 Salvation entails both deliverance from and deliverance to: "In [the word salvation] there lie the ideas of rescue and deliverance from the mortal danger of death and judgment (destruction) and the placing into a state of blessed security (life eternal)" ... making for "one of the greatest, most distinctive, and wonderful concepts of the Scriptures."1855
Condemned (Mark 16:16)
While belief brings salvation, unbelief brings condemnation or, as noted above, "death and judgment (destruction)." This is something far too few people think about in today's world. Along those lines, one source notes: "Jesus made it clear that belief in him is not a matter of individual preference or personal choice; instead, belief in him is a matter of life or death, a decision with eternal consequences. In our smorgasbord culture where we pick and choose among brands and features, the tendency is to treat Christianity as a life-enhancer or an added feature rather than the source of life itself. Don't treat belief in Christ lightly."1856
Miraculous signs (Mark 16:17)
Mark 16:17-18 provides
a summary of the miracles recorded in the book of Acts. As the disciples fulfilled their commission, and indeed as others believed and went on to spread the gospel, miraculous signs would accompany them. As with Jesus' miracles, these signs would authenticate the source of their power and draw people to belief. Driving out demons was a power already given to the disciples (3:14-15). This power proved that the believers were not from Satan, but from God. Speaking in tongues was a spiritual gift that enabled people to speak in foreign languages. This occurred at Pentecost when the disciples "began to speak in other languages" (Acts 2:4, NRSV). The disciples placed their hands on many sick people and healed them (Acts 3:7-8; 5:12-16).1857 The new era of salvation predicted by the OT prophets was now being inaugurated. The signs that were to accompany the messianic era included those with mute tongues speaking (Isaiah 35:5-6), and God's people bearing witness for him (Isaiah 43:10). Worth noting, too, is the fact that the powers listed here in Mark are very similar to those associated with the OT prophets.1858 Notice that "Jesus calls these miracles 'signs,' and uses the ethical term for them, which is far higher than 'wonders' or 'power works.' For a sign points beyond itself to something that is far higher, of which it is a specific indication. ... These signs were thus credentials for the apostles and their gospel message, seals that proved their message genuine and exhibited the fact that the living and risen Jesus was present with them and working through them."1859 One source offers some very helpful comments regarding these miraculous signs:
[Mark 16:17-18] list five kinds of signs (semeia; cf. comments on Mark 8:11) which would attend those who believe. "Signs" are supernatural events attesting the divine origin of the apostolic message (cf. Mark 16:20). The signs authenticated the faith the early believers proclaimed, not the personal faith that any one of them exercised. In light of this and historical evidence it is reasonable to conclude that these authenticating signs were normative only for the apostolic era (cf. 2 Corinthians 12:12; Hebrews 2:3-4).
In fulfilling their commission (cf. Mark 16:15) believers would be given the ability to do miraculous things in Jesus' name (cf. comments on Mark 6:7, 13; 9:38-40). They would drive out demons, thereby demonstrating Jesus' victory over Satan's realm. The Twelve (cf. Mark 6:13) and the Seventy had already expelled demons, and this ability continued in the apostolic church (cf. Acts 8:7; 16:18; 19:15-16). They would speak in new tongues, presumably a reference to intelligible foreign languages not previously known to the speakers. This was demonstrated at Pentecost (cf. Acts 2:4-11) and later in the life of the early church (cf. Acts 10:46; 19:6; 1 Corinthians 12:10; 14:1-24).
In the Greek the first two clauses in Mark 16:18 may be understood as conditional clauses with the third clause as the conclusion. An interpretive rendering would be, "And if they be compelled to pick up snakes with their hands and if they should be compelled to drink deadly poison, it shall by no means (ou mē, emphatic negative; cf. Mark 13:2) harm them." This promise of immunity by divine protection in either situation refers to occasions when persecutors would force believers to do these things. This does not warrant voluntary snake-handling or drinking of poison, practices not attested in the early church. Since Paul's encounter with a snake at Malta was unintentional (cf. Acts 28:3-5), the New Testament records no actual instance of either of the experiences described here.
As a final kind of authenticating sign they would put their hands on sick people and they would get well. Healing by this means is mentioned in Acts 28:8 and the gift of healing was exercised in the early church (cf. 1 Corinthians 12:30).1860 The view that the miraculous sign gifts ceased with the closing of the NT canon has been held by such highly influential Church leaders as:
John Chrysostom (c. 347-407). Early Church father.
Augustine of Hippo (354-430). Greatest of the Latin Church fathers.
Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758). Colonial Congregational minister and theologian.
B. B. Warfield (1851-1921). American Presbyterian theologian and educator.
Matthew Henry (1662-1714). English non-conformist minister and Bible commentator.
George Whitefield (1714-1770). Revivalist and well-known evangelist of the eighteenth century.
Charles H. Spurgeon (1834-1892). Baptist preacher.
Robert L. Dabney (1820-1898). American Presbyterian clergyman.
Abraham Kuyper, Sr. (1837-1920). Theologian and statesman of the Netherlands.
W. G. T. Shedd (1820-1894). American systematic theologian.1861
While the "cessationist" view in no way claims that God has stopped working miracles, it does hold that the "spiritual gifts" of miraculous healing, etc. are no longer in effect.1862
Taken up into heaven (Mark 16:19)
This section (Mark 16:19-20) appears to parallel Luke 24:50-53.1863 Jesus' being "taken" into heaven alludes to "the fact that it was the Father who drew his Son to himself, being eager, as it were, to reward him for his accomplished mediatorial work."1864 "The bodily form of Jesus rose visibly toward heaven and was presently enveloped in a cloud. During the forty days the disciples had often seen Jesus leave by disappearing suddenly. He had never left in this way as he was now ascending into heaven. They now knew that he would not appear to them again as he had appeared during the forty days; they had seen him in bodily form here on earth for the last time."1865 While the idea of ascending into heaven was well-known both in the Greco-Roman world and among the Jews, the ascension of Jesus goes beyond these popular beliefs. "Both Jewish and Greek readers could relate to the idea of an ascension of a great hero to heaven, but for Jesus to sit at God's right hand goes beyond this idea - it means that Jesus reigns as God's agent (Psalm 110:1)."1866 While Jesus himself has returned to heaven, the "task of proclaiming the gospel still goes on through disciples empowered by the risen Lord."1867 "While Jesus' work on earth was completed, the disciples' work was just beginning. This verse compacts the book of Acts. These doubting, stubborn disciples turned into powerful preachers who went out and proclaimed the good news everywhere. God was with them - giving them peace, strength through persecutions, and confirmation of their message with miraculous signs (16:17-18; Hebrews 2:4)."1868
As mentioned previously, the available evidence indicates that vv. 9-20 were appended to Mark's Gospel. At the very least, this tells us that the early Church was not satisfied with the way the story ended. Knowing there was much more to it, they wanted future readers of Mark's gospel to know it, as well. These verses also form a commentary on the Church's self-understanding of its mission. The early Church believed that it had several God-given tasks, including preaching the Gospel, healing the sick, triumphing over life's demands and difficulties, and remembering that Christ dwells with his Church.1869 "Mark's Gospel emphasizes Christ's power as well as his servanthood. Jesus' life and teaching turned the world upside down. The world sees power as a way to gain control over others. But Jesus, with all authority and power in heaven and earth, chose to serve others. He held children in his arms, healed the sick, acted patiently with his hardheaded disciples, and died for the sins of the world. Following Jesus means receiving this same power to serve. As believers, we are called to be servants of Christ. As Christ served, so we are to serve."1870
THE RESURRECTION AND ASCENSION OF CHRIST: A PARALLEL ACCOUNT1871
Appearance to the 7 disciples while fishing (John 21:1–25)
Appearance to the 11 in Galilee (1 Cor. 15:6) (Matthew 28:16–20; [Mark 16:15–18])
Appearance to James, His brother (1 Cor. 15:7)
Appearance to the disciples in Jerusalem (Acts 1:3–8) (Luke 24:44–49)
Christ's parting blessing and departure (Acts 1:9–12) ([Mark 16:19–20]; Luke 24:50–53
The story is told of how Alexander the Great and a small company of soldiers approached a strongly fortified city and demanded its surrender.
The king of the city laughed and asked why he should surrender when it was obvious such a small force could do his city no harm.
Then Alexander offered a demonstration. He had his men line up single file and begin marching straight toward a sheer cliff. Ten soldiers marched without hesitation to their death before Alexander ordered the others to halt.
The townspeople and the king surrendered immediately, realizing that anyone with that much power was unstoppable.1872 As followers of Jesus Christ, we are called to take the Gospel to all the world. While Jesus isn't interested in conquering cities, he is very much interested in conquering hearts. As soldiers in his army, we are called to die to self - self-conceit and self-concern - in order to live for Christ. The world is watching, and how well we obey Jesus will have a profound influence on others' decision whether or not to surrender to him.
??? How can personally realizing that Jesus rose from the dead and lives for us today provide the determination to be a true and faithful witness for him?