Church Snake Handlers
by Terry Wane Benton
I am sorry that a preacher died due to his misunderstanding of the promise of Jesus in Mark 16:15-20. But, the promise was to the apostles who had just been rebuked for "their" unbelief. The miracles that would "follow" those apostles who believed included the promise of protection from taking up serpents and if they drink any deadly poison was also inclusive of miraculous power to heal the sick.
Mark assures us that these promises were fulfilled as they went everywhere preaching the word, "the Lord working with them and confirming the word through the accompanying signs"(Mark 16:20). That word was confirmed once for all time. The signs happened until that word was completely revealed and confirmed for all time. This special protection and special power was not promised to all men for all time, nor even unconditionally to the apostles. They had to believe and teach the word of God. These powers would not help them preach "another gospel" (Galatians 1:6-10) nor "another Jesus" (II Corinthians 11:3-4). It was protection and power for a certain work, that of revealing and confirming the finished New Testament of Jesus Christ. Once fully revealed and confirmed, the powers would cease (I Corinthians 13:8-13).
The Lord never commanded anyone to "take up serpents". He mentioned only the kind of protection He would give them till the mission was accomplished. The point was that even taking up serpents or drinking deadly poison would not prevent the mission from being accomplished. But, modern preachers cannot extend those promises to themselves because the word has been completely revealed and confirmed for all time. God is not giving men those powers today. Eventually, even the apostles began to die out as the complete revelation was finished and left in written form. They never tested God by intentionally holding a snake-handling service or holding a poison-drinking service.
Further, when the apostles worked miracles, they were not cheap imitations easily mimicked by false teachers. They were obvious and indisputable miracles like raising the dead and restoring lame people to walk and leap immediately. None of that is seen today. Only cheap imitations. Snake handling is just staging cheap shows that often backfire. Don’t be too impressed with such. They are nothing like the real Holy Spirit power we read of in the Bible.