Reading 4 – Tuesday, December 11, 2018
“THESE SIGNS SHALL FOLLOW THEM THAT BELIEVE”
By D. Francis, Sri Lanka/India/U.S.A.
“But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal…. to another miraculous powers” 1 Corinthians 12:7, 10.
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 re- cover.” Mark 16:17, 18.
We praise the Lord for this beautiful text that we find in the Bible along with many other scriptural references indicating that the signs from heaven will follow those who believe. The word “sign” comes from the Greek word “sēmeíon.”1 Thayer’s defines this word as a sign, mark, or token by which a person or a thing is distinguished from others.2
However, the above verses can be fully understood only by reading them in context with the two previous verses: “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.” Mark 16:15, 16. Those who hear the witness, believe, and are baptized will be saved.
When Jesus commissioned His disciples to preach the gospel (Matthew 28:20), He assured them that He would accompany them. The signs would be God’s signature–Heaven’s endorsement of the gospel message carried by these believers. It is in this context that Christ said, “… These signs shall follow them that believe.” Their message would be accompanied by signs such as:
- Those who believe will cast out devils in Christ’s name.
- They will speak with new tongues or languages.
- They shall take up serpents.
- No deadly, poisonous drink will be able to harm them.
- They will lay hands on the sick, and they will be healed.
Signs vs. the gospel
The apostle Paul wrote: “For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness.” “For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.” 1 Corinthians 1:22, 23, 18. In other words, the plan of salvation is the gospel. Therefore, the emphasis will be given to the proclamation of the gospel as the believers’ primary mission.
The neediest people on the earth are not necessarily the poor, but the sick, because with time they may become helpless and their minds may grow weak, lessening their ability to lay hold of the gospel and eternal realities. When they reach the end of their lives, their probation may be over, and their opportunity for salvation may be lost forever. Therefore, our primary mission today is to find the neediest, yet without neglecting the rest. “They shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.” Miracles and signs complement the gospel ministry.
Improper actions lead to presumption
Unbalanced people frequently misinterpret Mark 16:17, 18. For example, there are snake-handling services in some of the Southern churches in the United States. A news report on CNN, February 18, 2014, was head- lined, “Reality show snake-handling preacher dies of snakebite.” The report went on to say that “A Kentucky pas- tor who starred in a reality show about snake-handling in church has died–of a snakebite. Pastor Jamie Coots died Saturday evening after refusing to be treated, Middlesboro police said.”3
Such incidents are not few. This promise was fulfilled when the apostle Paul who was bitten by a serpent on Malta while tending a fire after a shipwreck; he simply shook off the snake into the fire and was not harmed, according to Acts 28:1-6. How- ever, he did not devote church services to handling deadly snakes as a reality show. Jesus rejected such an application of Scripture. After Jesus fasted in the desert for 40 days, Satan tempted Him to prove that He was God’s Son by throwing Himself down from the pinnacle of the temple. The adversary quoted the text, “He shall give His angels charge over thee, to keep thee: And in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone.” Luke 4:9-12; Psalm 91:12. Jesus set an example for us never to act presumptuously, as if God desired His children to do foolish things to “test” Him. Many who came to Jesus want- ed Him to show them a sign. However, Jesus did not grant such requests.
“Then certain of the scribes and of the Pharisees answered, saying, Master, we would see a sign from Thee.” Mat- thew 12:38. It is interesting to note that the scribes and Pharisees asked to see a sign so they could believe in Jesus. But He refused to do this, because, even if He had given them a sign, they would not believe in Him. They would continue to give excuses and criticism.
According to the Scriptures, Jesus Himself is the sign. There was no need for the people to look for another. Matthew 12:38-41. Likewise, some- times people expect God to think and act as human beings do. Our prayers may contain many requests, including petitions for signs. Are we looking for some new sign?
There is a beautiful statement made by Ahaz, found in the book of Isaiah, “… If ye will not believe, surely ye shall not be established. Moreover, the Lord spake again unto Ahaz, saying, Ask thee a sign of the Lord thy God; ask it either in the depth, or in the height above. But Ahaz said, I will not ask, neither will I tempt the Lord. And he said, Hear ye now, O house of David; Is it a small thing for you to weary men, but will ye weary my God also? Therefore the Lord Himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call His name Immanuel.” Isaiah 7:9-14. Jesus Christ Himself being reflected in His children’s lives is a sign of His divinity.
The ultimate sign is genuine personal conversion
“In My name shall they cast out devils.” A true believer would be able to apply this statement to his own life. “The Saviour was pointing for- ward to the time when the Holy Spirit should come to do a mighty work as His representative. The evil that had been accumulating for centuries was to be resisted by the divine power of the Holy Spirit.” –The Acts of the Apostles, pp. 47, 48. The gospel that believers receive sets them free from the devil’s spiritual captivity. God uses them as vessels to accomplish His marvelous work of salvation.
“They shall speak with new tongues.” Today the Bible is available in many languages, not just in the original Hebrew, Greek, or Aramaic. “New tongues” are a gift from God. The miracle of speaking in tongues does not mean that the Christians should speak babbling–some language that is unknown on earth. On the day of Pentecost, the disciples either spoke in their own language and the listeners heard it in their languages, or the disciples spoke in languages that were new to them and the listeners understood. This was a wonderful miracle and the gift of the Holy Spirit.
The great commission that Christ gave to His followers was to go into all the world and proclaim the gospel. If we believe in Him, we may be given the gift of speaking new lan- guages. Then the gospel that we pro- claim will no longer stay foreign to the listeners. A good example of this was the apostle Thomas, who traveled to and worked in India. He received the gift of tongues to give the gospel to the Gentiles.
“Thomas Christians, also called St. Thomas Christians or Malabar Christians, [are] indigenous Indian Christian groups who have traditionally lived in Kerala, a state on the Malabar Coast, in southwestern India. Claiming to have been evangelized by St. Thomas the Apostle, Thomas Christians ecclesiastically, liturgically, and linguistically represent one of the old- est Christian traditions in the world, particularly in Christianity outside the West.”4
Many Western and Eastern missionaries travelled to the ends of the world, having hope in this miracle. They succeeded in their missions be- cause, with the help of the Holy Spir- it, they learned the native language in very little time and even translated the Bible into local languages. This miracle still exists in the church and will be present until the very end. We are so thankful to the Lord for this special gift!
“Behold, I give unto you pow- er to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you.” Luke 10:19. The Lord has given all power to the believers to handle whatever dangers they face in their ministries. The power of the Lord is not limited simply to the literal meaning
of this verse. It extends to a far deep- er meaning. Evil men and demons are compared to serpents and scorpions in the Scriptures. Furthermore, the apostle James compared the tongue, when misused, to a promoter of evil and a source of spiritual poison. “But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.” James 3:8. None of these evils can harm the gospel ministries when the power of the Lord is present. The enemy will seek to destroy the lives and ministry of His people at every level, but God’s merciful hand will miraculously save them.
“Those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus will feel the ire of the dragon and his hosts. Satan numbers the world as his subjects, he has gained control of the apostate churches; but here is a little company that are resisting his supremacy. If he could blot them from the earth, his triumph would be complete. As he influenced the heathen nations to destroy Israel, so in the near future he will stir up the wicked powers of earth to destroy the people of God…. Their only hope is in the mercy of God; their only defense will be prayer.
“The trying experiences that came to God’s people in the days of Esther were not peculiar to that age alone. The revelator, looking down the ages to the close of time, has declared, ‘The dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keeps the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.’ Revelation 12:17. Some who today are living on the earth will see these words fulfilled.” –Maranatha, p. 32.
The ultimate signs that follow, after one accepts and believes the gospel of Jesus Christ, are conviction and conversion. To have our evil hearts changed so that kindness and the love of Christ always dwell in us is the supreme miracle and the ultimate sign.
Now we are left with two important unanswered questions. First, are the miracles and signs that are seen today in the Christian world from the Lord? Are they sanctioned by Him? And, second, what miracles and signs will be performed by God’s remnant people?
“Persons will arise pretending to be Christ Himself, and claiming the title and worship which belong to the world’s Redeemer. They will perform wonderful miracles of healing and will profess to have revelations from heaven contradicting the testimony of the Scriptures….” –Last Day Events, p. 157. Thus, many miracles and signs broad- cast in the Christian world are not sanctioned by God.
Signs and miracles in God’s remnant church
Miracles, including healing, will take place in God’s remnant church, not in competition with health education but in support of it. Reports come from all over the world about miraculous healing. The Lord does remarkable things in many different ministries and in the most dangerous places. This will continue and will be especially prominent during the later rain.
“They shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.” “This world is a vast lazar house, but Christ came to heal the sick, to proclaim deliverance to the captives of Satan.” –The Desire of Ages, p. 823.
“It is with an earnest longing that I look forward to the time when the events of the Day of Pentecost shall be repeated with even greater power than on that occasion. John says, ‘I saw another angel come down from heaven, having great power; and the earth was lightened with his glory.’ Revelation 18:1. Then, as at the Pentecostal season, the people will hear the truth spoken to them, every man in his own tongue.” –Last Day Events, p. 202.
“In visions of the night, representations passed before me of a great reformatory movement among God’s people. Many were praising God. The sick were healed, and other miracles were wrought. A spirit of intercession was seen, even as was manifested be- fore the great Day of Pentecost.” –Testimonies for the Church, vol. 9 (1909), p. 126.
“The great work of the gospel is not to close with less manifestation of the power of God than marked its opening. The prophecies which were fulfilled in the outpouring of the former rain at the opening of the gospel, are again to be fulfilled in the latter rain at its close…. “Servants of God, with their faces lighted up and shining with holy consecration, will hasten from place t place to proclaim the message from heaven. By thousands of voices, all over the earth, the warning will be give- Miracles will be wrought, the sick will be healed, and signs and wonders will follow the believers.” –The Great Controversy (1911), pp. 611, 612.
The signs and wonders per- formed by the early church were the key to the proclamation of the gospel (Acts 3 and 4), indicated the divine Power’s presence and approval (Acts 19:17-19), confirmed the work of the Holy Spirit (Romans 15:18-20), present- ed the kingdom of God to humanity (Acts 4:29-31; 7:35-37; 14:2-4), granted freedom from spiritual bondage (Acts 16:16-18), and led the people to have faith in God. Acts 9:40-42; 13:6-12.
Dear brothers, sisters, youth, and children, God desires every one of us to have and reveal the sign of a converted heart–to follow Jesus because we believe in Him. “Every character will be fully developed; and all will show whether they have chosen the side of loyalty or that of rebellion.
“Then the end will come.” –The Desire of Ages, p. 763. “Even so, come, Lord Jesus. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.” Revelation 22:20, 21. Amen!
1 Strong’s Concordance no. 4592.
2 THAYER’S GREEK LEXICON, Electronic Database. (Strong’s Code 4592) Copyright © 2002, 2003, 2006, 2011 by Biblesoft, Inc.
3 CNN News Report of February 18, 2014.
4 Encyclopedia Britannica [Electronic Version] “Thomas Christian”article written by Prof. Robert Eric Frykenberg,