Snakes, Snakes, My Goodness, Snakes!

This lesson looks at the end of Mark 16 which is often misinterpreted, leading to the controversial and dangerous practice of snake-handling. Bro. Jerry discusses why snake-handling, and the other signs found in these verses, have no place in the church age and are in fact precepts being given to his Jewish disciples for their ministry to the nation of Israel for the purpose of offering the kingdom of heaven.

Follow along with this outline:

Subject Verses – Mark 16:15-18

  1. And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.
  2. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.
  3. And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues;
  4. 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 recover.

Who is Jesus talking to here? The nation of Israel – not the church.

In these verses the Lord is still dealing with the nation of Israel; this is not meant for the church, the Body of Christ. The gospel mentioned here is the gospel of the kingdom, not the gospel of grace. The kingdom (promised to the Jews) is still being offered at this point in history, even after Jesus ascended to heaven. Peter offers the kingdom to Israel later in Acts 3:19-21: “Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord. And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you: Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.”

Compare his words to Paul, from whom the teaching of our doctrine should come, in Romans 16:25: “Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began,”

There are clearly two gospels: that of the kingdom, preached to Israel, which has been known since the world began, and that of grace, to the church, which has been kept secret.

How else do we know the “gospel” referenced in Mark 16 is the gospel of the kingdom meant for Israel? Because that is who Jesus sent his disciples to.

Matthew 10:5-8: “These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand. Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give.”

Jesus is clearly sending his twelve disciples to the nation of Israel; they continued Jesus’ ministry of preaching the kingdom, even after his death, burial and resurrection, until Israel rejects the message again and stones Stephen to death in Acts 7.

This takes the mystery out of Mark 16 when we realize that this is the twelve Jewish apostles preaching to the nation of Israel about the kingdom of heaven, and they were to work signs and wonders to accomplish this. 

Paul talks about signs in 1 Cor 1:22 – It was clearly Israel who required signs: “For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom:”

Israelites are found speaking in tongues in Acts 2:5, during a time period when the kingdom was being offered: “And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven.Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language…. Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judaea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia, Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes,”

So where does the Bible talk about the signs Jesus describes, and who are the recipients of those abilities?

“They shall take up serpents” – during the 1,000 year reign (not during the church age!)

Isaiah 11:6-9: “The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together: and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice’ den. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.”

“drink any deadly thing”

When Wormwood poisons water on earth (Revelation 8:11) God will miraculously preserve the remnant of Israel.