They Shall Take Up Serpents

‘Snake Handling’ is used in a few country Churches in order to prove, or as a sign of, their faith. The idea comes from an interpretation of Mark 16:18, where Jesus is giving His disciples a few parting words and instructions before He ascended into heaven, in which he mentions ‘taking up serpents’.

Mar 16:18 KJV They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them;

People have taken Jesus’ words to mean that we should take up serpents and drink deadly things. They believe that we should do these things in order to prove that we have faith. This, however, is a misinterpretation of Jesus’ words.

Jesus did not tell us to handle snakes. This situation would be similar to when Satan told Jesus to cast himself down to prove he was the son of God. Jesus told Satan not to tempt God.

Mat 4:6-7 KJV 6 And saith unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone. 7 Jesus said unto him, It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.

In a similar manner, people have understood Jesus’ words to mean “if you have faith, then take up serpents”. Jesus wasn’t telling us to prove our faith by handling snakes. He was referring to His miracle-power in having the ability to heal in times of need. These times of need would be an accidental snake bite or accidently drinking something harmful- not purposely tempting God by purposely handling deadly snakes and drinking poison. It is no different than playing Russian Roulette.

The only place in Scripture where this promise was fulfilled was when Paul was throwing sticks into the fire.

Act 28:3-6 KJV 3 And when Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks, and laid them on the fire, there came a viper out of the heat, and fastened on his hand. 4 And when the barbarians saw the venomous beast hang on his hand, they said among themselves, No doubt this man is a murderer, whom, though he hath escaped the sea, yet vengeance suffereth not to live. 5 And he shook off the beast into the fire, and felt no harm. 6 Howbeit they looked when he should have swollen, or fallen down dead suddenly: but after they had looked a great while, and saw no harm come to him, they changed their minds, and said that he was a god.

Paul did not purposely handle snakes. He did not pick up the snake and dance around with it, tempting God, while proving that he had faith for his healing or faith that he wouldn’t get bit. Paul was bit accidently. He did not know that snake was there. He simply shook the snake off of his hand and went about his business. He knew God would heal him because he had faith.

Jesus took those stripes so that we could have our healing.

Isa 53:5 KJV But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.

Mat 8:16-17 KJV 16 When the even was come, they brought unto him many that were possessed with devils: and he cast out the spirits with his word, and healed all that were sick: 17 That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, Himself took our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses.

Jesus wants us to be healed. God can heal anything, but that doesn’t mean we should tempt Him. Handling serpents and drinking deadly things are not part of God’s will. Having faith in God for deliverance is. We do not build faith through tempting God. Many lives have been destroyed by tempting God through snake handling. It serves no purpose in the Church or in the home. It actually harms families and Church attendance. We should not allow our Churches, Christianity, and faith to be ridiculed by doing something that is so obviously against God’s Word and will. And we should never give our children a reason to be afraid to go to Church.

4 Comments

  1. Excellent observations. Its good to see the scriptures addressed logically and reasonably.

  2. Thank you for this helpful article! It’s cogent. The Bible is the bedrock of the abundant life. Thank you for your valiant efforts to understand it properly.

  3. I tend to study the Road lest Traveled. There are very few things that scholars agree on when it comes to the bible. I have personally found that when most of them agree and It don’t really change anything, its probably the Truth. I am not saying that I can prove one way or another so do your own research. A lot of scholars believe that the last 12 verses of Mark may have been added at a later date. The early manuscripts show an abrupt ending either do to damage or who knows. Just take a close look at Mark 16:9-20, and ask God to lead You. Happy Seeking

  4. MARK CHAPTER 16
    On the surface Mark chapter 16 appears to clearly say that believers will speak in tongues. Upon further investigation however the following question arises.
    If Speaking in Tongues accompanies ALL believers, then the same must be said of the other four signs listed herein. How can this be rationalised in the scriptures?
    The answer becomes apparent upon close examination of the way in which these signs were apparent in the early church. Consider the following:

    The 5 Signs that follow Believers are:

    1) Casting out Devils
    2) Speaking in Tongues
    3) Taking up Serpents
    4) Drinking Poison &
    5) Laying hands on the sick

    Mar 16:15 And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. Mar 16:16 He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. Mar 16:17 And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they 1) cast out devils; they shall 2) speak with new tongues; Mar 16:18 They shall 3) take up serpents; and 4) if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall 5) lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.
    Mar 16:20 And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Amen.

    Looking in the word of God, especially New testament lets see the signs following doctrine in action.
    1) Casting out devils
    Act 16:17 The same followed Paul and us, and cried, saying, These men are the servants of the most high God, which show unto us the way of salvation.
    Act 16:18 And this did she many days. But Paul, being grieved, turned and said to the spirit, I command thee in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her. And he came out the same hour. (Clearly the Apostle Paul exercised this sign) This is not questioned. The fact is that those who are filled with his (God’s) Holy Spirit are filled with light. We read in 1 John…1Jo 1:5 This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.

    2) Speaking in new tongues
    There are several accounts of this sign following believers: Acts 2:4, Acts10:44 and Acts 19:1-5 are obvious examples.
    3) They shall take up serpents
    Only one Biblical case of a serpent or viper confronting one of the Apostles in the NT Acts 28:3-7 Certainly there were no acts of “Taking up” serpents. Some translations translate Mark 16:18 {they will pick up snakes in their hands} ISV This flies in the face of verses like; Matt 4:7 (see below) Perhaps a better application can be found by exploring the Acts of the Apostles through whom these signs would be evident.

    Mat 4:6 And saith unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone. Mat 4:7 Jesus said unto him, It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.
    Further we read in Luke… Luke 10:17 And the seventy returned again with joy, saying, Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through thy name. Luk 10:18 And he said unto them, I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven. Luk 10:19 Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you.
    In this passage Jesus give a clear picture that a) “Power to tread on Serpents” is the defined as having “Power over the enemy” We all know who the enemy is don’t we! …Further we read in the Psalms…Psa 140:3 They have sharpened their tongues like a serpent; adders’ poison is under their lips. Selah. Psa 140:4 Keep me, O LORD, from the hands of the wicked; preserve me from the violent man; who have purposed to overthrow my goings.

    Here again the Psalmist defines the “Violent Man” as having Tongues like Serpents. If this seems unclear breaking the term up in the Greek can be helpfull.
    A) The Act { taking up}
    I have highlighted the translation I believe is supported by evidentury substance in the Bible
    αἴρω airo ah’ee-ro
    A primary verb; to lift; by implication to take up or away; figuratively to raise (the voice), keep in suspense (the mind); specifically to sail away (that is, weigh anchor); by Hebraism (compare [H5375]) to expiate sin: – away with, bear (up), carry, lift up, loose, make to doubt, put away, remove, expose, take (away, up).

    Above I have underscored the meaning “Make to doubt”. This is the way that the same word αἴρω was translated in John 10:24 as follows:
    John 10:24 Then came the Jews round about him, and said unto him, How long dost thou make us to doubt? ( αἴρω airo ) If thou be the Christ, tell us plainly.
    Further in Matthew we read:
    Mat 21:21 Jesus answered and said unto them, Verily I say unto you, If ye have faith, and doubt not, ye shall not only do this which is done to the fig tree, but also if ye shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed,( αἴρω airo ) and be thou cast into the sea; it shall be done.
    Thirdly in Luke we read:

    Luke 17:12 And as he entered into a certain village, there met him ten men that were lepers, which stood afar off: Luke 17:13 And they lifted up their voices, and said, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.
    Act 4:24 And when they heard that, they lifted up their voice ,( αἴρω airo )to God with one accord, and said, Lord, thou art God, which hast made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is:
    Act 21:36 For the multitude of the people followed after, crying, Away with him. And the very next chapter…Act 22:22 And they gave him audience unto this word, and then lifted up their voices, and said, Away with such a fellow from the earth: for it is not fit that he should live.

    I believe it is plain to see that the term “Take up” realy speaks to confronting and defeating the power of the enemy. This can ofen mean religious leaders.

    Next we will look at the Object being “Taken up”.

    B) The object { Serpents}
    When it comes to the term “Serpents I do not need to elaborate at all. A simple cursary glance at a handfull of scriptures clearly defines what Jesus was really talking about.

    Mat 23:33 Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?

    Luk 10:19 Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you.
    1Co 10:9 Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents.
    Rev 9:19 For their power is in their mouth, and in their tails: for their tails were like unto serpents, and had heads, and with them they do hurt.
    Gen 3:1 Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?
    Psa 58:4 Their poison is like the poison of a serpent: they are like the deaf adder that stoppeth her ear;
    Psa 140:3 They have sharpened their tongues like a serpent; adders’ poison is under their lips. Selah. I really do not need to say any more. Serpents are those who speak not according to God’s word. The things that they say is poison because it leads to death.
    4) Drinking any Deadly thing:
    The word used here for “Drink” is (πίνω, πίω, πόω pino pio poo) pee’-no, pee’-o, po’-o
    The first is a prolonged form of the second, which (together with the third form) occurs only as an alternate in certain tenses; to imbibe (literally or figuratively): – drink. To: imbibe; absorb; Take in & Keep mentally; {the deadly poison of the World!}
    Similar to “Serpents” the term “Poison” or “Drinking” are figurative terms representing the potentially deadly words of false teachers. Consider the following:

    Jam 3:5 Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth! Jam 3:6 And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity; so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell. Jam 3:7 For every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed of mankind: Jam 3:8 But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.

    Rom 3:12 They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. Rom 3:13 Their throat is an open sepulcher; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips: Rom 3:14 Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness:
    Psa 58:3 The wicked are estranged from the womb: they go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies. Psa 58:4 Their poison is like the poison of a serpent: they are like the deaf adder that stoppeth her ear;

    Lastly I will repeat Psalm 140 in full:
    Psa 140:1 To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David. Deliver me, O LORD, from the evil man: preserve me from the violent man; Psa 140:2 Which imagine mischiefs in their heart; continually are they gathered together for war. Psa 140:3 They have sharpened their tongues like a serpent; adders’ poison is under their lips. Selah.

    5) They shall lay hands on the sick and they shall recover:

    Act 5:15 Insomuch that they brought forth the sick into the streets, and laid them on beds and couches, that at the least the shadow of Peter passing by might overshadow some of them. Act 5:16 There came also a multitude out of the cities round about unto Jerusalem, bringing sick folks, and them which were vexed with unclean spirits: and they were healed every one. Act 5:17 Then the high priest rose up, and all they that were with him, (which is the sect of the Sadducees,) and were filled with indignation,
    Notice that the religious leaders who did not possess the signs following “rose up” in “Indignation”
    Jam 5:14 Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: Jam 5:15 And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him. Jam 5:16 Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.
    Jesus went on to say… Mar 16:20 And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Amen. There are many doctrines being presented today and often they lack the signs that Jesus pronounced would “Confirm” the words being spoken as being from God. Jesus had similarly said in… Luke 10:19 Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you.
    Jesus did this by giving us “Power” he repeated this promise in Acts Chapter one…
    Act 1:4 And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me. Act 1:5 For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence. Act 1:6 When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? Act 1:7 And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power. Act 1:8 But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. This occurred on the Day of Pentecost when as we read in Acts Chapter two… Act 2:1 And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. Act 2:2 And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. Act 2:3 And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. Act 2:4 And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.
    This event marked the beginning of the Church. Just as Jesus had promised this event was confirmed as being from God by the “Sign” of Speaking in Tongues. A few verses later Peter standing up to explain what this meant says the following:

    Act 2:37 Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?
    This question could just as well be asked to day and the answer would not be any different today as it was on that day. Act 2:38 Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
    Act 2:39 For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call. Act 2:40 And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation. Act 2:41 Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. Act 2:42 And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. Act 2:43 And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles. Act 2:44 And all that believed were together, and had all things common; Act 2:45 And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. Act 2:46 And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, Act 2:47 Praising God, and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved. Those that were added to the Church in verse 41 could only have been added to the Church by the Spirit. As we read in 1Corinthians 12:13 For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.
    In the end it is up to the individual as to whether or not they wish to believe that Jesus confirms his word with EACH AND EVERY Christian with SIGNS FOLLOWING. The concept of God confirming his word by signs following is not a new one. This is exactly the way that God confirmed his word with Elijah in the Old Testament. In that case we read. 1Ki 18:21 And Elijah came unto all the people, and said, How long halt ye between two opinions? if the LORD be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him. And the people answered him not a word. 1Ki 18:22 Then said Elijah unto the people, I, even I only, remain a prophet of the LORD; but Baal’s prophets are four hundred and fifty men. 1Ki 18:23 Let them therefore give us two bullocks; and let them choose one bullock for themselves, and cut it in pieces, and lay it on wood, and put no fire under: and I will dress the other bullock, and lay it on wood, and put no fire under: 1Ki 18:24 And call ye on the name of your gods, and I will call on the name of the LORD: and the God that answereth by fire, let him be God. And all the people answered and said, It is well spoken. The New Testament equivalent of the confirmation by God with “Fire from Heaven” is the Baptism of the Holy Ghost. This is why when Jesus spoke of the Apostles receiving “Power” he referred to what John had said …Mat 3:11 I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire: So it comes as no surprise that shortly after Jesus recounted this for the Apostles in Act 1:5 For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence. That Fire from Heaven did indeed fall (figuratively speaking) “there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them” The question then must be Has God answered you “By Fire” has Jesus confirmed his word in you “By signs following” If the answer is NO. Then is just possible that you have fallen victim to what Jesus warned us in Matthew chapter 24 verse 11 would come in these last days…”And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many”. Remember that Paul warned us as well in 2nd Timothy 4:3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; 2Ti 4:4 And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.
    Don’t accept anything less than the Full, 100% sure Gospel that was preached and confirmed on the Day of Pentecost and is currently being experienced by millions worldwide today.

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