There is a dramatic difference between what is today called a miraculous “visitation of God” and the miraculous phenomenon mentioned in the final verse of Mark.
Mark 16:20 Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it.
Miraculous signs and healings accompany the evangelistic preaching of the gospel to the lost. In contrast, the glory of God associated with a visitation can be manifest during a gathering of believers, especially in connection with the praise and worship of God. The latter took place at the Dedication of Solomon’s Temple in the time of the Old Testament.
2 Chronicles 5:13 The trumpeters and singers joined in unison, as with one voice, to give praise and thanks to the LORD. Accompanied by trumpets, cymbals and other instruments, they raised their voices in praise to the LORD and sang: “He is good; his love endures forever.” Then the temple of the LORD was filled with a cloud, 14 and the priests could not perform their service because of the cloud, for the glory of the LORD filled the temple of God.
When this happens in a church today, the presence and glory of God can be felt and the miraculous can take place. Such an occurrence is often called a “visitation of God.”
Let’s make an important distinction between such a miraculous visitation of God and the miraculous signs that accompany the preaching of the gospel.
A visitation is a sovereign act of God. We will not have them every day or whenever we like at every meeting. While there are things that we might do to increase the likelihood of a visitation, we cannot reliably predict when God will visit nor can we plan or orchestrate it with precision. We can only hope that God will visit us. When He does, it is generally for the sake of blessing His people.
Miraculous signs that accompany the preaching of the gospel, in contrast, are for a different purpose and are not sovereign occurrences.
Luke 10:9 Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God is near you.’
The Lord sends us out and commands us to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick. The miraculous healings are for the purpose of confirming the truth of the gospel to the lost, and not for the sake of believers. They should accompany the preaching of the gospel to the lost. How in fact do they occur?
The miraculous healings happen when believers lay hands on the sick and heal them in Jesus’ name. Therefore they are not sovereign acts of God. They are things that we perform. The Lord has already given authority to His disciples to preach the gospel, to heal the sick, and to cast out demons.
Luke 9:1 When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, 2 and he sent them out to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick.
Therefore believers can plan when to go out to preach the gospel, and when they do, believers will heal the sick with the authority already given to them by the Lord. It is the Lord’s will to use them to perform the miraculous when the gospel is preached to the lost. We do not need special leading from the Lord to do this. He has already told us to “go.”
We can in fact obey the Lord’s command to preach the gospel and heal the sick anytime we choose. The miraculous can take place whenever we are reaching the lost. It is the Lord’s will to work with us and to confirm His word with miraculous signs for the lost to witness.
Visitations of God, by contrast, are sovereign occurrences according to God’s will and time. They can be rare, and they may require waiting on the Lord in a meeting. They are generally for the benefit of believers. But healing the sick and proclaiming the kingdom to the lost can be planned and orchestrated with precision.