Afterward, he appeared to the eleven themselves as they were reclining at table, and he rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart because they had not believed those who saw him after he had risen. And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up serpents with their hands; and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.”
So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God. And they went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by accompanying signs.
Understanding And Applying the Text
Matthew and Luke give us more details about Jesus’ last days on earth. This section summarizes them in a few short sentences. The writer did not record them in chronological order. Rather he divided them into three parts. In the first part, Jesus appeared to the women. In the second part, He appeared to His disciples. In the third part, Jesus establishes His apostles.
Jesus rebuked His disciples for not believing he rose from the dead. Unbelief is a sin. They refused to believe Jesus has risen. Thomas earned the name doubting Thomas. He refused to believe until he saw Jesus with his own eyes. But this was true of all the disciples. They did not believe until they saw Jesus with their own eyes.
Jesus said He would rise from the dead. There was testimony to the fact. Jesus had done what He said. But the disciples refused to believe. Men today are the same. They refuse to believe Jesus rose from the dead. Why? It does not fit our experience. Dead men stay dead. But Jesus was more than a man. He was God incarnate. Unbelief is a sin. We sin when we doubt the resurrection.
Jesus rebuked their unbelief, They did not need to earn their way back into his grace. They repented and He forgave.
Then, He charged them with spreading the good news. They were to preach the gospel everywhere. They were then to seal their doctrine with baptism. They were to baptize every one that believed. Salvation is through faith and baptism. All who believe and are baptized will be saved. Those who do not believe will not be saved. This is regardless rather they baptized or unbaptized.
Their apostleship was not an empty title. It was a laborious office. Many hypocrites claim the same office today. They live like kings rather than servants. They disregard the task of teaching. Look at how the Pope lives. Look at the leaders of the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR). Look at other so-called Christian leaders. They disregard the truth of the Gospel. To quote St. Jerome: “Shun, as you would the plague, a cleric who from being poor has become wealthy, or who, from being nobody has become a celebrity.”
What is the job of an Apostle? An Apostle is to preach the Gospel. They are to preach Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection for the remission of sin. If they do not do that they are false apostles. If they preach anything else they are false apostles. An Apostle has one job and one job only. They are to preach Christ.
We are to preach the Gospel to everyone. We are not to limit it to those who are like us. We are not to limit it to those who are close to us. We are to preach the gospel to every single person. Otherwise, the Apostles would never have preached the Gospel to the Gentiles.
The disciples were not only to preach the Gospel, but they were also to baptize. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved. Those who do not believe are condemned. Christ commands those who professed to be his disciples to be baptized. Baptism is a pledge of eternal life from God. It is also an outward sign of faith. God confirms His grace and we ratify our faith through baptism.
Signs follow this command. While Jesus lived on earth He ratified His gospel by miracles. Now He extends the same power into the future. The separation of His body did not end the sign of miracles.
But, we are not commanded to drink poison on handle snakes. We are not to test God’s faithfulness. (Matthew 4:7, Deuteronomy 6:16). Presumption is not greater a faith. It is no faith at all.
Everything Chjrist predicted here occurred. You can find them in Acts, Roman 15:19, and Hebrews 2:3, 4. There are extra-biblical sources as well. These stories tell how some apostles survived after they forced to drink poison.
Jesus then ascended and sat down at the right hand of God. God is not human. He is a spirit. He does not have a right hand. The writer is saying the Father exalted Christ above everything else. He exalted Christ above angels and other all creatures. Through Christ, the Father governs the world. And, before Christ, every knee will bow, (Philippians 2:10.)
We should not think this means Christ is in any one place. The right hand is a metaphor. It denotes the power that is next to God. Christ went up into heaven, not to enjoy blessed rest. He is not some place that is away from us. Rather, He is in heaven to govern the world for the salvation of all believers.
The Apostles then went out and preached the Gospel to the world. Praise God.