The Misplaced Serpent

 Part 1 - A Refutation of the Snake Handling Movement

2 Ki 18:4  He removed the high places, and brake the images, and cut down the groves, and brake in pieces the brazen serpent that Moses had made: for unto those days the children of Israel did burn incense to it: and he called it Nehushtan.

Alright, let’s get started.  I want to say thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule to listen to this C.D.  I want you to know, first and foremost, I love you with all my heart.  Though I am very ashamed of my association with snake handling, I am not ashamed of my association with the snake handlers.  At a very troublesome time in my life they befriended me and treated me with kindness and compassion.  I in no wise blame them for me getting into snake handling.  I should have been stronger than what I was.  I should have kept my guard up.  I should have resisted the pressures I felt from being around them.  Ultimately, they were only trying to convince me of what they thought to be the truth.

In many ways, this teaching is bitter sweet.  I love them and wouldn’t intentionally hurt them for all the money in the world.  I guess the problem is, I know most will take everything I say personally and accuse me of fighting them.  Some may never talk to me again, but this I can deal with because my love for their souls is much greater than my love of their friendship.  If I lose their friendship here on earth, but perhaps stand a chance of gaining it for eternity, I’m O.K. with that.
I want you to know that I have no ulterior motives for this teaching series.  Regardless of how you perceive these lessons they are full of love and compassion.  Don’t take me wrong, but I don’t care if you get mad and dislike me.  If you get mad enough to actually think about what you are doing, I have accomplished my mission.  If I can stir your heart and mind to such a degree that you go before God with His holy Word in your hands, asking Him what the truth is, I have achieved my desired results.  I have no doubt that if you honestly go to God, laying aside your pride and family traditions, He will show you the truth of His Word and the proper way to do things.

From past experiences with snake handlers, I know that most don’t take opposition very well.  The accepted idea is that when someone mentions snake handling in a negative manner it is perceived to be in a harsh and unloving fashion.  I also know, as it is with all false doctrines, there are many that won’t have the guts to listen to all of this lesson.  You will be terribly offended and eject this C.D. and end up throwing it away.  If you do that, I want you to know that I know what’s really happening.  You are no different than I used to be.  You are afraid of change.  You are afraid of being wrong.  Perhaps you are too proud to admit that you are wrong.  You are afraid to admit that your family, friends, and preachers are all wrong.  You would rather be accepted than Biblically sound!  You cannot stand the thought of those around you being deceived by a powerful spirit. 

I also know that there will be a handful of people that God is already dealing with.  Those that are already questioning what is right and what is not.  Those that know deep down in their hearts that something isn’t quite right about all this.  Those that are questioning the sanity of raising their children in such an atmosphere.  Those that are brave souls.  Those that will do what’s right regardless of what it costs!

I want you to understand that, in the state of Florida, snake handling is basically non-existent.  Outside a few curious inquiries here and there it is never mentioned.  As a matter of fact, this teaching series was made exclusively for the mountain regions of Appalachia in which I come from.  I know of noone in this state that this teaching would benefit.  Snake handling doesn’t effect me, or my church in even the slightest bit.  Noone in my church has even been to a snake handling church, much less contemplate joining their ranks.  So, it wouldn’t make sense for me to spend this many hours studying, reading, and preparing this material if all I wanted to do was fight with you!  God’s Miracle Mission keeps me very busy and, though snake handling is not one of them, I have an abundant supply of false doctrines down here to keep me occupied.  I come to you because I love you and want to help you. 

I pretty much have only one goal in mind and that is to convince you that Mark 16:18 has nothing to do with going into the woods, flipping up a rock, picking up a rattle snake, giving it a bath, putting it in a box, taking it to church, entertaining the people, getting bit and dying, or at least swelling up so bad you wish you were dead.  I am in no wise fighting you.  Why would I?  I personally have nothing to gain from this teaching - for heaven’s sake, I’m giving this C.D. away, so you can’t accuse me of trying to make money off of it.  Though I am not fighting you, I am going to war with this terribly deceitful doctrine that is physically and spiritually killing people left and right. 

At times I may sound harsh or mean spirited, but I am not.  It’s just that I am strongly against this doctrine of devils and desperately wish to see you come away from it.  Instead of getting mad at me, why don’t you take the Word of God (not mama’s or papa’s teachings; and not what you think or have felt) and refute what I’m saying.  If you can take God’s Word and show me an example of anyone handling snakes in today’s snake handling fashion I will openly repent.  If you can take God’s Word and show me Scriptural evidence proving that it is a Biblically sound practice, I promise you, I will reverse this teaching and do a series on the opposite viewpoint.

I have a unique opportunity - I have been on both sides of the fence.  I have looked at the snake handlers with awe and amazement, wondering if it was God’s will to do what they were doing.  I have also been amongst their ranks, handling rattlesnakes and copperheads and preaching that it was God’s will for everyone else to do the same.  Today, I stand before you, without fear or favor, to tell you it is not God’s will to catch a poisonous snake, put it in a box, take it to church, stroke and caress it, put inside your shirt, wrap it around your neck, lay it upon the top of your head, or anything else.  There is great danger in what the snake handlers do - and not only in the physical realm, but in the spiritual realm as well.

This first lesson is a thesis refuting the Snake Handling Doctrine.

I.  Nehushtan - The Misplaced Serpent.
 Nu 21:4 And they journeyed from mount Hor by the way of the Red sea, to compass the land of Edom: and the soul of the people was much discouraged because of the way.
  5 And the people spake against God, and against Moses, Wherefore have ye brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? for there is no bread, neither is there any water; and our soul loatheth this light bread.
  6 And the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and much people of Israel died.

 We find a very interesting passage of scriptures in the book of Numbers.  Here, in Chapter 21, we are told of a plague of serpents that God sent upon the wilderness wandering Israelites in response to their continuous murmuring, complaining and unappreciativeness.

 The Bible describes the serpents as being “fiery serpents”.  I have, at times, heard snake handlers call their snakes fiery serpents because of their aggressiveness, but that is not the meaning of the word “fiery”.  The word “fiery” is a reference to the great fiery inflaming pain that they inflicted upon those they bit.  I am sure that the bite of a deadly viper would be like fire running through your veins.  So God sent deadly serpents among them and many of the Israelites died because of snake bite.  After seeing that it doesn’t pay to take God for granted, they repented.  The Bible says in:

 Nu 21:7 Therefore the people came to Moses, and said, We have sinned, for we have spoken against the LORD, and against thee; pray unto the LORD, that he take away the serpents from us. And Moses prayed for the people.
  8 And the LORD said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live.
  9 And Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived.
 Moses felt sorry for his people and he cried out to God for them.  God instructed Moses to have a serpent of brass made and placed upon a long pole.  When the Israelites were bitten they could look upon that serpent and God would heal them.  On a quick side note, I want you to notice that they did not put the snakes in a box, go down to the temple and show everyone how much power they have.  They desperately wanted God to do away with them.

 There is a lot of teaching that can be done out of this passage, but I really need to move on as quickly as I possibly can.  

 Evidently, the brazen serpent meant so much to them that they took it with them into Canaan, and in 2 Kings we discover that it eventually ended up in the temple of the Lord.

 We find that this brazen serpent had become an object of idolatry, and no doubt was supposed to possess, as a talisman or amulet, extraordinary powers, and that incense was burnt before it which should have been burnt before God and Him alone.  Man has always had a tendency to give more reverence and respect to the gift than the giver.  The Bible said that there would come a day when men worshiped the creature more than the creator.  This is exactly what those Israelites were doing with the brazen serpent.

 In 2 Kings we find the great King Hezekiah going into the temple and cleaning it out.  He desperately wanted the glory of God to return so he put away everything he thought didn’t belong.  Amongst those things was the brazen serpent. 

 As Hezekiah went to destroy it, he called it “Nehushtan” which means – "a piece of brass".  He was basically saying, “Get this piece of brass out the temple.”  He called it this out of sheer contempt and disgust, which even though it was set up by the Word of God, and miracles were wrought by it, when it was used for idolatry this good king destroyed it, not thinking it worthy to be called a serpent, but a piece of brass.
 Nehushtan was a symbol; a symbol of what was once holy and pure.  Nehushtan was type of Christ because John said, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up:”  Nehushtan was a symbol of that which was intended to be good, but was twisted and perverted.  And Nehushtan, my friend, is in existence in the snake handling churches today.  What was meant to be good has been twisted and perverted.  What was ordained of God has become the object of idolatry and wickedness.

 I understand that Hezekiah took the brazen serpent of Numbers and broke it into pieces and discarded of it - I am aware of that.  But I believe if we will look closely into the snake handling churches you’re going to find a Nehushtan within.  We are going to find some things that were intended to be holy things, but have been perverted and misplaced.

 When approaching other false doctrines I have been able to easily move through the scriptures and refute their erroneous positions.  When doing this teaching on the snake handling doctrine I found it to be somewhat aggravating.  Now, don’t take me wrong, it wasn’t that they had so many valid points and scripture references I couldn’t interpret them or refute them all.  The main problem I have come into is that there is almost nothing to work with. 

 For example, though the doctrine is absolutely ignorant, when teaching against the Holy Ghost or Nothing doctrine I had dozens of scriptures to use.  They have a system of beliefs that all rotate around a false principle - that one must speak in tongues in order to be saved.  Because they have a principle they then interpret every reference to the Holy Ghost as meaning speaking in tongues.  One only has to prove their principle wrong to prove their doctrine is wrong.

 When dealing with the Baptist’s doctrine of Eternal Security there was much to work with.  They have a principle that states you can’t lose your salvation after you have received it.  They can then take hundreds of scriptures and twist them slightly to achieve the desired results.  One only has to prove that our walk with God is based solely upon choice and desire - we are free will moral agents.  We serve God and go to heaven because we want to and we can walk away from God at any time.

 The snake handlers have no principle or extensive set of dogmas establishing their Theological ideology of snake handling.  They have 2, at the most 3, verses that they have interpreted to mean Christians are to take snakes to church in order to demonstrate their spiritual power over the enemy.  Men had not engaged in this spectacle for over 1,900 years.  Educated men and women never interpreted these passages as the snake handlers have.  Hundreds of thousands of men and women that were martyred and slain for the gospel of Christ never imagined doing something like picking up a rattlesnake and going to church with it.  They let their life testify.  The let they faith on the chopping block be their witness.

 Modern day snake handlers want to compare themselves to the mighty men and women of old.  Those who were crucified and thrown to the lions, but there is no comparison.  Snake handlers aren’t being persecuted for the gospel.  They aren’t being persecuted for the faith of Jesus Christ.  They are being persecuted for their faith in their right to handle snakes!  They are being persecuted over their rattlesnakes and copperheads!  They are being persecuted because they are doing things today, that are so ridiculous, the New Testament church couldn’t imagine doing.

 The old saints were thrown into viper pits by the enemy.  Today’s snake handlers bring the viper pits to church themselves.  The old saints were thrown into fiery furnaces.  Today’s snake handlers bring their own fiery furnaces to church, via blow torches and coal oil lamps.  The old saints were protected from poisoning when the enemy tried to kill them.  Today’s snake handlers bring their own strychnine to church.  The old saints survived scorpion bites in the wilderness.  Today’s snake handlers go do to the pet store and buy their scorpions and bring them to church on Sunday.  Signs and wonders truly followed the old saints.  The snake handlers follow signs and wonders.  And in all actuality they don’t even follow signs, they do everything their power to force signs and wonders. 

 Mt 12:38, Master, we would see a sign from thee.

 Do these sound like the words of the followers of Jesus?  Some have hastily answered, "Oh yes, I just love to see the signs worked, the hard to believe operating in the church."  Well, let me point out to you that the opening quotation is from Mt 12:38, and the words were spoken by people, who in verse 34, Jesus called a generation of vipers, and in verse 39, "An evil and adulterous generation." An evil and adulterous generation seeks after signs and wonders.  Real Christians don’t have to seek after signs and wonders, signs and wonders naturally follow true Christians.

 I could soundly refute snake handling in under 5 minutes, but in order to have a good hours worth of teaching, I am going to do more than interpret their 2 verses of scripture.   I am going to show you how snake handling got started, who started it, why it’s wrong, and exactly what Mark 16:18 means.

II.  The History of Snake Handling.

 Who was this holy man that received such a revelation from God?  Though 1900 years of Christianity didn’t reveal this practice of snake handling, there came a man who claimed that God showed him the true meaning of Mark 16:18 - his name was George Went Hensley.  George Went Hensley is generally recognized as the founder of snake handling and the source of its spread.  Hensley claimed to be the first person in the 20th century to handle a deadly snake in response to Mark 16:17-18 which states:

 Mr 16:17 And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues;
  18 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. 

 I have read numerous corresponding accounts concerning this occurrence.  Around 1908, after reading Mark 16:18, George Went Hensley climbed White Oak Mountain in Tennessee and after some hunting found a large rattlesnake in a rocky gap.  Though I have heard some snake handlers try to glamorize this story by saying Hensley was in the mountains seeking God about the meaning of Mark 16:18, when a rattle snake appeared before him, but that is not the case.  He had his mind made up before he ever went up there. 

 After returning from the Mountain he took the snake into the Grasshopper Church of God.  After entering with the snake, he handled it in the presence of the congregation and they did likewise. 

 Snake handling quickly spread throughout the region and even was accepted by A.J. Tomlinson who was the first general overseer of the Church of God of Prophecy.  In 1928, the Church of God of Prophecy revoked Hensley’s license to preach and forbade all its members from further handling of snakes. 

 George Went Hensley sure seemed like a great man.  What suffering he underwent.  What tribulation he suffered!  Poor, pitiful Little George was incarcerated numerous times for his faith in snake handling.  He was mocked and ridiculed by many.  Sounds just like the Apostles of old doesn’t it?  But the question is, did he suffer for the gospel sake, as did the Apostle Paul?  Or did he actually suffer for his desire to hold and caress snakes?

 One of the biggest embarrassments to the Jehovah’s Witness’ is their founder - Charles Taze Russell.  They actually denounce him now, because he was such a joke.  One of the biggest problems with the Mormon church is their founder - Joseph Smith.  They can’t understand why people keep bringing their founders up in reference to their doctrine.  But I think common sense should tell us that a building is only as good as its foundation, or in a doctrinal sense, its founder.  A movement is only what its founder is!  Snake handling and snake handlers are merely a reflection of the man who’s teachings they follow.

 After reading Thomas Burton’s book titled “Serpent Handling Believers”, Weston La Barre’s book ,“They Shall Take Up Serpents”, Dennis Covington’s book, “Salvation on Sand Mountain”, and many other articles and documents, I found some very interesting facts about “Little George” Went Hensley - the founder of snake handling; the man who got the revelation from God to handle snakes.  The first man in the history of earth to take a snake to church in a box or container to be handled by its members.

 This great spiritual, insightful man was actually a very shady character that wasn’t even qualified to preach much less start an entirely new movement. 

 Hensley preached and handled snakes from 1909 to about 1919 before his true colors came out.  While out preaching, he heard that his wife and a neighbor were having an affair.  I can’t say that I absolutely blame him, but Hensley attacked his friend with a knife.  But then he fled to the hills and turning his back on the faith, he rebuilt his whiskey still.  A short time later, the law apprehended "Little George" and sent him to work on a chain gang.  But Hensley executed a brilliant escape to Cleveland, Ohio, where he remarried and resumed preaching the Oneness Pentecostal message.  Before long, he was again handling snakes and heading back to Kentucky.  Hensley’s fame spread far and wide even though He married and divorced four times.  It is well documented that Hensley, while preaching and handling snakes, abandoned more than one family.  He was notorious for not working and supporting his children, but all for the gospel’s sake of course!

 You may say, “What does George Went Hensley have to do with me?”  If you’re a snake handler, it has everything to do with you.  Had it not been for George Went Hensley preaching and practicing it, there would be no snake handling today.  How’s that make you feel?  Really, how does it make you feel to know that the founder of your religion was a quadruple married man, a perpetual backslider, and a man that the Bible calls worse than an infidel?

 B.  It’s Not About the Gospel; It’s About Snakes.

 I have noticed that snake handling isn’t about the gospel at all - it’s about mystery!  It’s about danger, enigma, and excitement.  It’s that one thing in some Pentecostal Holiness people’s life that pushes the envelope.  You see, other men play chicken, or Russian Roulette.  Some men have illicit affairs with married women because of the thrill it gives them to do the forbidden.  Some men steal, even though they have a pocket full of money.  They throw the stolen property away after they leave the store.  It wasn’t about the stolen article, it was for the thrill of pushing the envelope.  Snake Handlers handle rattlesnakes because they are flirting with death and it stirs an untamed, inward emotion that nothing else touches.

 It isn’t about the gospel or sound Theology at all.  George Went Hensley was a documented Jesus Only preacher.  Did you know that George helped found and build the Dolly Pond Church of God With Signs Following in 1945?  Dolly Pond Church of God With Signs Following is the famous Jesus Only church where Dewey Chafin (that is if he’s still alive) attends.  Dewey Chafin is the guy that claims to have been bitten over 150 times.  I was in a service with him at the East London Holiness Church in London Kentucky.  Dewey Chafin is Jesus Only but the members of the East London Holiness Church say they are Trinitarians.  Now, I know that we can’t do anything about who visits our churches, but we sure can do something about who we allow in our pulpits and we they let sing and preach.  

 My point is that it’s basically all about snakes.  The founder of snake handling wasn’t even Biblically qualified to preach.  He was Jesus Only.  He was a low life that wouldn’t support any of his four families, yet people are still adhering to his interpretation of Mark 16:18.

 Recently, a friend of mine told me about a snake handler that I know from Kentucky, who claims to be a Trinitarian, but has pictures with a bunch of Jesus Only guys down in Jolo, Tennessee handling a cobra together.  He doesn’t care that they deny the tri-unity of the godhead as long as they believe in handling snakes.  You mark this down, his spirit and the spirit of those Jesus Only people are the same spirit. 

 I don’t know of one snake handling church that doesn’t fellowship the Holy Ghost or Nothing people.  At their big Sunday meetings half of the church will claim the blood saves and half will say you have to speak in tongues to go to heaven.  They shout, dance, and sing together.  They allow Holy Ghost or Nothing preachers to preach and prophesy in their services!  They don’t care that the Son of God is blasphemed.  They don’t care that His blood sacrifice is trampled under the feet of every Holy Ghost or Nothing person.

 They aren’t united by the gospel, they are united by their common faith in handling snakes.  They aren’t going to jail for the gospel; they’re going to jail because of snakes.  They aren’t dying on the mission field as martyrs; they’re dying at the bite of a snake that they fed, they kept in a box under their bed, and put in the trunk and brought to church!  They are committing suicide my brothers and sisters!

 There is no more scripture for taking a snake to church in a box than there is for putting a bullet in a revolver, spinning the chamber, putting the gun to your head and pulling the trigger.  What would you say to that?  What would you say to that man or woman who said that God would protect them from the deadly bullet?  What would you say when his brains were splattered on the wall beside you?  Would you call that suicide?  The only difference is that a snake bitten snake handler normally has a few hours to repent.  The question is, are they repenting because they moved to quickly or because they put a gun to their head tempting God?

III.  Mark 16:17-18.

 I want to read and dissect the passages of scripture that the snake handlers use to prove their practices.  I will go from the easiest to the less easy:

 A.  Handling Fire.

 Heb 11:34 Quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens.

 The stress is on the statement “quenched the violence of fire”.  I have heard this verse used to support the practice of them bringing a blowtorch to church and putting it under their chins to prove they are anointed.  They use this verse to prove it is a Biblical practice to put their hands in the flames of a coal oil lamp.

 First of all, there isn’t one instance in the entire Bible where anyone built a fire and then jumped in it to prove they were anointed.  We do find the story about the 3 Hebrew boys being thrown into a fiery furnace because they wouldn’t worship a idolatrous image.  God protected them and they came out of the furnace without even the smell of smoke upon them.  If you would actually take the time to read the entirety of the 11th chapter of Hebrews you will find that every person mentioned can be found in the pages of Scripture. 

 Verse 33 says the stopped the mouths of lions.  Verse 37 says they were stoned, and some were sawn asunder.  I don’t see anyone bringing a hungry lion to church.  I don’t see anyone being cut in two or taken outside church and stoning them.  Obviously, these passages are talking about Daniel, men like Stephen, and Isaiah who was placed in a log and sawn in two.  The reference to the violence of fire being quenched is a reference to the Hebrew boys.
 B.  Moses and the Serpent.

 Joh 3:14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up:

 This passage of Scripture is a direct reference to the brazen serpent that Moses raised up in the wilderness to heal the Israelites after being bitten by those fiery serpents.  If all snake handlers would handle brazen serpents they would stay healthier and live much longer.

 Ex 4:3 And he said, Cast it on the ground. And he cast it on the ground, and it became a serpent; and Moses fled from before it.
 4 And the LORD said unto Moses, Put forth thine hand, and take it by the tail. And he put forth his hand, and caught it, and it became a rod in his hand:

 I want you to notice the first thing that Moses did when the rod turned into a snake - he ran!  This is a God given, natural response to seeing a poisonous snake laying in front of you.  I am sure that seeing his rod changing into kitten, right before his eyes, would have scared him nearly to death, much more a snake.  It also made him respect the power of the rod!  This is one of the reasons God punished him so severely for misusing the rod to smite the rock when God hadn’t given him permission!  Misuse of God’s Word is serious.  When Moses walked by people saw a rod, he too saw a rod, but he also knew there was a serpent in that rod.  He handled it carefully.

 The second thing I want you to notice is that as soon as he placed his hand upon its tail it turned back into a rod.  This is a good passage of Scripture for the snake handlers to look at.  First, Moses started and ended with a rod - not a snake.  He threw a rod down and ultimately picked a rod up.  The sign wasn’t the handling of the snake, it was in the changing of the rod.  I think it could be Biblical to bring a rod to church and keep it over in the corner.  If God moved on someone to throw it on the ground and it turned into a snake we would know that God was present.  When Moses went to church he took a rod, not a snake.  The snake handlers have broken the rod and built a box with the scrap wood.  They then had to go into the wilderness to find a snake to put in their box.  This isn’t even remotely how Moses did it.  Let’s keep it like it was intended to be.

 C.  Paul on Melita.

 Ac 28:3 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.  

 This passage, like our previous one concerning Moses, should never be mentioned by a snake handler when defending their stance, but some still do.  Obviously, it has no semblance to their modern means of bringing a snake into church.  I will refer to this verse again, as I deal with Mark 16:18, but I want you to notice the scene in which this unfolds.  Paul was gathering a bundle of sticks out of necessity.  He wasn’t looking for the viper, rather the viper found him.  He was merely going about his business when tragedy struck.  God protected him from the viper’s venom.  Had Paul been out looking for the viper and gotten bitten, he may would have died. 

 It is also important to note that Paul shook the beast off into the fire.  He didn’t put it in a box, take it home, feed it, give it a bath and then take it to church with him.  He shook it off into the fire.  He destroyed the viper so it would not bite anyone else.  This is the perfect example of how a snake should be handled.  And it also takes me into my next set of verses:
 D.  They Shall Take Up Serpents.
 Let’s look at, really, the only 2 passages of scripture that they can even remotely use to support their doctrine:

 Mr 16:17 And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues;
 18 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.

 Lu 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.

 After the crucifixion of Christ, He appeared unto His disciples to give them further marching orders and encouragement.  He told them that there would be signs following them everywhere they went.  The snake handling preachers and believers have butchered these verses to where they are nearly unrecognizable.  There is a great need for them to be brought back into context.

 The snake handlers quote and sing about Mark 16:18 as much as the Jesus Only quote and sing about Acts 2:38.  One real fallacy evolving this passage is that they never read it in context.  They only quote verse 17 and 18, but they desperately need to back up and verses 15 and 16 which state:

 Mr 16:15 And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.
 16 He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.

 This was the great commission.  Read Mark 16's accompanying verses (Mt 28:16-20, Lk 24:36-53, Jn 20).  There is no mention signs and wonders.  Why?  Because they were not the focal point of Christ’s message.  The gospel of Jesus Christ being preached was the focal point.  When Jesus told His disciples that signs would follow them He was telling them several different things; some literal, some figurative.

 Let us break this down a little more.  Let’s look at the 5 signs that Jesus listed when talking to His disciples: 1) In my name shall they cast out devils; 2) they shall speak with new tongues; 3) They shall take up serpents; 4) and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; 5) they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.

 He said, “Preach the gospel to every creature and nation.  While you travel many different situations are going to unfold.  Many things are going to come at you that will try to destroy you.  The enemy will try and kill you; he will try to stop you from fulfilling this mandate.”  

 1.  Casting Out Devils.

 The first thing He told them they would encounter was demoniacs.  They were not to fear because He would empower them to cast the devils out.  We have many examples of this in the Word of God.  In Mt 8:32 Jesus cast a hoard of devils out of a man by the name of Legion.  In Mt 9:33 Jesus cast the devil out of the dumb mute.  In Mr 1:26 Jesus cast the unclean spirit of the child.  In Act 5:16 Peter and the Apostles cast out many devils.  In Acts 16:18 Paul cast the devil out of diviner who had the spirit of divination.  There are many other examples of devils being cast out in the Bible, these are just a few.

 I also want to say that the exorcism of devils from possessed persons is still in operation today.  I have personally had the opportunity to cast devils out of a couple of different people.  Although I will not go into all details, I must say, that it was very much like our Bible examples.

 2.  Speaking With New Tongues.

 The second thing he told them was that they would “speak with new tongues”. He is warning them that they would encounter barbarians that couldn’t speak their language.  This passage of scripture isn’t a reference to the unknown tongue, nor is it a reference to a saved man’s converted tongue as I have thought in the past.  This reference to a new tongue was demonstrated on the day of Pentecost.  Those men and women not only spoke in unknown tongues, but we see that they were also speaking in cloven tongues, or other languages. 

 Ac 2:6 Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language.

 All one must do is to look up the definitions of the words “speak with new tongues” to understand the meaning of this passage.
 The word “speak” simply means to talk.  The word “new” means new as in something fresh, or the beginning.  The word “tongues” means a language.  They would be empowered to talk languages they had never learned, even as they did on the day of Pentecost.

 I recently heard the story of a precious holiness man named Clifton Galliher.  He was on a Jordanian plane with a group of Christian tourists.  One of Brother Galliher’s friends fell out in the aisle, nearly dying.  Brother Galliher knelt over top of him and began praying in tongues.  God healed the man and he sat back up.  The flight attendant later asked Brother Galliher if she could ask him a couple questions.  He told her she could. 

 Weeping and crying, she asked him where he learned Arabic.  Brother Galliher’s an old country boy that can barely speak English.  He told her that he knew nothing of Arabic.  She told him that he had spoken perfect Arabic when he was praying for the man in the aisle.  He asked her what he said.  The best I can remember it was something along the lines of, “Jesus, have mercy and heal this man.”  He didn’t know the slightest thing about the Arabic language, but God empowered him to speak with a new tongues.

 3.  They Shall Take Up Serpents.

 The 3rd thing he told them they would do was take up serpents.  I want you to understand that He had just told them to preach the gospel in all the world.  How were they going to do that?  They didn’t have cars, trucks, or any vehicle for that matter.  There wasn’t paved roads as we know it.  They had to walk everywhere they went.  They walked through city streets, but they also had to walk through m4any miles of mountainous, wilderness, wooded areas.  Over 90% of all poisonous snakes are in that part of the world.  They were going to come across many wild beasts and snakes. 

 I want to bring to your attention that there’s not one instance in the entire Bible, nor in church history (up until quadruple married infidel George Went Hensley) of Christians taking snakes to church or any kind of assembly for the purpose of handling them to prove their power with God.  Though there isn’t any instances of doing the way they do it, there is evidence of what the Bible is talking about.  We find that in the book of Acts the Apostle Paul fulfilled God’s design for this scripture.

 Ac 28:3 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. 

 The words “take up” are translated from the Greek word “airo”, ah'-ee-ro.  It means to lift up; by implication, to take up or away; to put away.  The meaning of the phrase “take up” is to take up with intentions of doing away with.  The Apostle Paul fulfilled this passage of scripture.  He did not place the snake in a box and take it to church, he shook the snake off into the fire.  They shall “take up”, or “do away with” serpents.  Many occurrences like this are recorded in Bible history.

 4.  Drinking Any Deadly Thing.

 “...and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; “
 This passage is so obvious it shouldn’t be necessary to explain, but when you have people bringing strychnine to church and drinking it in the name of scripture, Bible teachers have no other choice but to rightly divide this word for the ignorant.

 First of all, Jesus said, “if”.  The word “if” is conditional.  It doesn’t mean that they were absolutely going to drink poison, but if they drank a deadly poison they would not be harmed.  Jesus is telling us that there could possibly be times, such as St. Patrick in the presence of those Irish pagans, the enemy could try and poison us, but He will protect us. 

 There is not even one isolated occurrence of anyone carrying poison in a bottle and subsequently drinking it in order to demonstrate the power of God.  Not one place!  Why?  It wasn’t scriptural, however we are given an instance of God’s people being poisoned and God protecting them.

 2Ki 4:40 So they poured out for the men to eat. And it came to pass, as they were eating of the pottage, that they cried out, and said, O thou man of God, there is death in the pot. And they could not eat thereof.
 41 But he said, Then bring meal. And he cast it into the pot; and he said, Pour out for the people, that they may eat. And there was no harm in the pot.

 God protected His people though they had eaten that which was poison.  This is the exact meaning of Mark 16:18, “if they drink any deadly thing.”

 5.  The Shall Lay Hands on the Sick.

 “...they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.”

 From my experience with snake handlers, most believe in laying hands on the sick, praying for them and them recovering.  It is needless for me to go into the many Biblical and historical examples of people being healed.

IV.  Miscellaneous Points.

 Although I feel that no further exposition should be necessary, I want to make a few more points before I quit.
 A.  There Are More Than 5 Signs.

 Snake handlers always call this passage in Mark “The 5 Bible Signs”.  They say this to mean that these were 5 distinctive Bible signs that would follow believers.  The first thing that I want to say is that Christ wasn’t listing 5 distinctive signs that would follow believers.  He was merely summarizing what they would go through.  He was more or less giving them a pep rally.  He was warning them of the dangers they would encounter, yet the great miracles that they we see happen in order for them to continue the preaching of the gospel.  He wasn’t making a distinct list, He was just talking to them.

 He was saying, “Brothers, you’re going to face many dangers.  Your faith will be tested, but I will protect you.  If you need power over demons, it will be there.  If you have language barriers you cannot cross, I will help you.  If you encounter dangerous beasts, I will be there.  If you are poisoned, I will be there.  If you encounter sick people who need my healing power, I will be there.”

 When He said they shall take up serpents, He wasn’t just talking about snakes.  He was talking about any wild beast that would come upon them.  David Livingstone was famous for walking upon lions, tigers, cobras and many dangerous animals, yet without harm.  He didn’t put the cobra in a box, or the lion in a cage and take them to church - that’s a circus, not the house of worship!  These 5 things were a summarization of God’s protective power over them. 

 I will prove this by showing you that there are many different signs and wonders that will be manifested on our behalf.  This must be, because Mark 16 gives no provision for bears, lions, or wicked men.  What about St. John the Divine?  His enemies tried to boil him in hot oil, but the oil wouldn’t boil.  They tied him in between to horses and tried to pull him into pieces, but they couldn’t.  What about Poly Carp?  They tied him to a post and set him on fire, but he wouldn’t burn.  History even states that when they pierced him through with a sword his blood put the fire out!  These signs weren’t necessarily listed by name, but they were absolutely included in Mark 16.

 There are more than 5 Bible signs.  St. John 20 is a parallel passage to Mark 16.  This is what the Bible says:

 Joh 20:27 Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing.
 28 And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God.
 29 Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.
 30 And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book:
 31 But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.

 Jesus allowing Thomas to put his fingers into His side was here called a sign.  Joel and Peter talked about signs in the heavens and in the earth beneath.  There are many more than 5 signs, Jesus just happened to stop with 5.  It could have easily been 50 signs listed.  The stress isn’t on the particular sign, but on the broad scope of what Jesus is telling us.  I will protect you and empower you while you fulfill my will.

 I want to look at the statement, “They shall take up serpents. . .” in comparison to a couple of other verses.  I take it to have a ver broad meaning, but I take this passage to be literal.

 Isa 40:31 But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles;

 If we use the same principle to interpret this passage as the snake handlers use to interpret Mark 16:18, one would have to perhaps stand upon a tall cliff and jump off expecting God to give them wings.  Now, I’m not being outrageous.  The terminology is the exact same.  “They shall take up serpents”, and “they shall mount up with wings as eagles.”
 That about what David said in:

 Ps 18:29 For by thee I have run through a troop; and by my God have I leaped over a wall.

 Using the snake handlers method of interpretation, when the anointing comes upon us, we would need to try to jump over walls and run through armies unscathed.  Now, this is exactly what David is saying.  Yes, he is saying that if we were to need to jump over a wall to survive he would empower us, but he is saying more than that.  He is saying that through God we can do all things.  He doesn’t mean to stand in front of a wall and jump, and jump, until we are anointed enough to get over the top.

 B.  Believers.

 I want to further prove that most snake handlers care more about snakes than they do the true gospel.  Snake handlers refer to people who don’t believe in snake handling as unbelievers.  Listen to what the Bible says about unbelievers:

 Joh 3:18 He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

 This passage says that unbelievers are condemned and are lost.  But the thing about it is, the lack of belief is in Christ, not the means in which snake handlers handle snakes.  If a man doesn’t believe in the rapture, does that make him an unbeliever?  Did you know that there are less than 100 snake handling churches in the world?  One 2001 study said that there were about 40.  Did you know that it is thought there are no more than 1,000 snake handlers in the world?  Did you know that the Jesus Only make up about 60 or 70 percent of that?  Really think about it?  How many snake handlers do you really know?  How many snake handling churches do you really know about?  The sad thing about it is, the same people will attend 2 or 3 different churches. 

 1,000 snake handlers on the planet.  Think about the study habits and preaching and teaching abilities of the vast majority of snake handling preachers.  1,000 snake handlers are the only people on the planet that really know the truth?  Over 1,900 years of the greatest Christian scholars to ever live and George Went Hensley got the revelation?

 C.  Anointing Oil Bottles and Running the Pews.

 One silly thing snake handlers like to say about the fact a snake box isn’t mentioned in the Bible is that carrying anointing oil in a bottle isn’t mentioned either.  The problem is, the Bible does mention putting oil in a vessel. 

 1Sa 16:1 And the LORD said unto Samuel, How long wilt thou mourn for Saul, seeing I have rejected him from reigning over Israel? fill thine horn with oil, and go, I will send thee to Jesse the Bethlehemite: for I have provided me a king among his sons.

  1Sa 16:13 Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the midst of his brethren: and the Spirit of the LORD came upon David from that day forward. So Samuel rose up, and went to Ramah.

  1Ki 1:39 And Zadok the priest took an horn of oil out of the tabernacle, and anointed Solomon. And they blew the trumpet; and all the people said, God save king Solomon.

 They also like to say that there is no scripture for running the pews, etc., etc.  Brothers, Sisters!  There’s a tad bit of a difference between running the tops of a pew than there is wrapping a snake around your neck like a necklace.  There is a slight difference between olive oil and snake venom too.  Come on!  Don’t be ridiculous!

 D.  Non-Christians Handle More Snakes Than Snake Handlers Do.

 I read about a Snake charmer named Khum Chaibuddee from Pattaya, Thailand. On Saturday, October 7,2006 he kissed 19 highly poisonous king cobras in an attempt to set a world record.  One by one, the cobras were released onto a stage set up in this Thai beach resort town, as the 45-year-old snake charmer kissed each beast on the head or on the mouth and then moved onto the next.

 On May 3rd, 53 year old Snake charmer and herpatologist T Velayudhan, died at the Medical College Hospital in the wee hours of the morning following a bite from a cobra.  He was very famous for having spent 683 hours with more than 100 poisonous snakes at a stadium in August 1980 creating a world record.

 Boonreung Bauchan, known as the "Snake Man," died after he was bitten by a black mamba.  Boonreung, 34, won a mention in the Guinness book after spending seven days in an enclosure with snakes in 1998 to set a new world record.  I remember seeing that documentary.  He had every type of poisonous snake worth mentioning in there; cobras, mambas, cotton mouths, coral snakes, rattlesnakes, and every other snake imaginable.  I remember seeing him place them in his lap and throw them up on his head.  He wrapped them around his neck and played with their heads without one bite.

 When a man places a blow torch underneath his chin and it doesn’t burn him, he is heavily covered in a demonic force.  The same goes for anyone that intentionally drinks deadly poisons without harm.  They are protected by a deceptive demonic force even as the snake charmers and fire walkers of the east.

 There are a few explanations for the intentional handling of a poisonous snake without harm; 1) it is proven that only 30 out of 100 venomous snakes will bite after being picked up.  This eliminates 70% percent of what is considered miraculous.  This number goes much higher when considering the posture many snake handlers hold the snake.  Most snakes are somewhat afraid of heights.  When held in the middle of their abdomen and lifted above the snake handlers head the snake hesitates to bite because to do so means it will be dropped.  It is also said to be very painful for a snake to inject its venom, and does so only when absolutely necessary.  It is also very common for a snake to withhold its venom when striking; 2) A demonic anointing which will eventually fail the snake handler and cause him to get bit; 3) the great mercy of God sparing the fool while He attempts to bring him or her out of the false doctrine.  Continuous rebellion against God’s mercy causes God to withdraw his mercy and allow the snake handler to be reprobate and eventually be bitten; 4) some people have an understanding of how to handle snakes, such as the snake charmers who have been handling snake for hundreds of years.

 I have a friend who demonstrated the ability to handle snakes without harm even though he was backslid at the time.  He was and still is a snake handler as far as I know, but at the time he was completely backslid with a pack of cigarettes on his person at the time.  I was visiting this young man when a couple of other snake handlers came by.  One boasted to my friend about this fiery little copperhead he had in his vehicle.  My friend told him that he could handle it and him backslid.  The guy with the snake didn’t believe it so he went out and got it.  My friend flipped that snake out of its box, picked it up, took his finger and rubbed its head, put it back in the box and said, “Next!” 

 They then proceeded to go out and bring in their fiery rattlesnake.  My friend did the same exact thing, right down to rubbing the rattlesnake on its head.  I noticed that the young man’s face went pale.  His lips puckered up like I had seen many snake handlers do before.  I realized then that snake handling had nothing to do with God, just humanities desire for the forbidden.  My friend demonstrated to those men and me that snake handling wasn’t a matter of anointing, but largely confidence and know how.

 I asked that young man what was on his mind when he handled snakes in church.  Was it God or the snake.  He said that it was the snake.  He didn’t think about  God when the snake was in his hands.

V.  God’s Intentions.

 I believe there is a place in our modern day for everything that the Bible has to offer us, but we must go about it in a Biblically sound, and logical manner.  At first, most of the snakes were brought to the church by unbelievers looking for a good show.  It has been documented that at times hecklers would throw a box full of cottonmouths, copperheads, and rattlesnakes in through the doors and windows of the church, often while the preacher was preaching - they called the snakes “preacher testers”.  The congregation would often run out of the building, but the preacher would simply bend down, pick the snakes up and throw them outside of the church, or destroy them.

 I can see where this could possibly bring glory to God.  The preacher and the church were attacked by wicked men, yet God empowered the preachers to protect his congregation and to show those men that they couldn’t stop the work of God from going on.  This is a far cry from today’s spectacle of church members bringing the snakes to church themselves.  Rarely is a sinner heard of being converted after seeing this circus spectacle in what is supposed to be a place of worship.

 If the snake handlers would spend as much time studying Theology and sending missionaries across the world as they do defending, preaching, and singing about handling snakes, their churches would have a revolution in which snakes in the church would be history.

 As far as I am concerned, there is as much scripture for taking a skill saw, tying back the blade, and putting it to your forehead as there is handling snakes.  There is as much Bible for loading a revolver to near full capacity and placing it to your head and seeing if you are anointed or not.

Last Updated (Monday, 03 May 2010 18:25)