Mark 16:15-17: “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.”
The gospel Jesus speaks of here is the gospel of the kingdom. It’s not the gospel of His life, death, and resurrection. There’s a double application here. It’s for Jews, and it’s also for Christians. This is extremely important to understand. It is first and foremost for the Jews, but then it transitions to the Christians.
Mark 16 talks about baptism and signs. These are both things we deny as part of the Christian gospel. These things are for the Jews. As Christians, we don’t believe that baptism saves. Instead, it is an act of obedience after one finds salvation. Let’s look more into baptism.
Matthew 3:3-5: “Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judaea, and all the region round about Jordan, and were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins.”
In the first record of water baptism, the recipients all came from Jewish locations. Matthew 3 and 4 match up with Mark 16, showing us that the baptism and signs were meant for the Jews.
As Jesus begins to preach to these newly baptized people, let’s look at a couple of verses that show the context of His message:
Matthew 5:3: “Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
Matthew 5:10: “Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
Jesus repeatedly talks about the Kingdom of Heaven! The Kingdom of Heaven is the earthly kingdom the Jews were waiting for. This kingdom will require physical things such as water for baptism and physical signs and wonders. These things all match up with what we read in Mark 16.
We can’t say these things are just for Jews. We don’t deny water baptism: we only deny it as part of salvation. We believe that baptism is included for Christians because Jesus doesn’t only talk about the Kingdom of Heaven but also the Kingdom of God.
Matthew 6:31-33: “Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”
There’s a spiritual kingdom here. This spiritual kingdom is for Christians and is known as the Kingdom of God. Jesus’ message in this verse is that Christians need not worry about the physical things any longer: the focus in the Kingdom of God is spiritual. God will provide for our physical needs, but we must seek His spiritual Kingdom.
In John 3, Jesus famously speaks to Nicodemus about being born again. The Kingdom of God in John 3 is definitely spiritual, and it’s definitely Christian. It is very distinct from the Kingdom of Heaven, just even by the way Jesus speaks of it. Christians are applied to the Kingdom of God.
Mark 16 is talking about the Gospel of the Kingdom: the Kingdom of Heaven AND the Kingdom of God. How do we know which one in this passage applies to us and which one applies to the Jews?
Romans through Philemon are all addressed to the church. If anything contradicts what is taught there, it is not for us!
For example, in 1 Corinthians 1:17, Paul says, “For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect.” Paul said that water baptism is separated from the gospel. This tells us that baptism is not needed for salvation. So anything that contradicts that can be separated as a message for other people and time. This is dispensationalism.
Jesus told the disciples to preach the Gospel of the Kingdom throughout the world because it started with the Jews but transitioned to Christians. This transition is essential, and we learn of it through rightly dividing Scripture.