In Mark 16:15-18
He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.”
Muslims zoom in on verse 18 (highlighted in bold) and challenge Christians to pick up snakes and/or drink poison to prove that they are true Christians.
Is this really what Jesus was saying?
What did He mean when He said “snakes”?
He had spoken about snakes before.
In Luke 10:19, Jesus said to His disciples:
“See, I have given you authority to tread on snakes and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy. Nothing will harm you.”
Was Jesus telling them to step on snakes and scorpions?
Jesus was talking about the power of the enemy. Snakes and scorpions were figurative of satan’s powers. And the poison spewed by the snakes and scorpions is satan’s ability to deceive.
Jesus said believers would be able to overcome this.
Snakes and scorpions are figurative. Not literal.
This is the thought in Mark 16:18 as well. It was not a command or a challenge to hike into the Amazon to catch a boa constrictor. Or to gulp down a bottle of cyanide and see if we are unharmed.
That’s just stupid. And yet there are cults with their false prophets who tell their followers they are to pick up snakes just as “Jesus commanded” and many are deceived.
There are “snakes” today even on the internet spewing their “poison” everyday!
John the Baptist condemned the “pious” religious leaders of his day, “You brood of vipers!” What was he saying?
He was calling them the offspring of satan.
Revelation 12:9 “…the ancient serpent called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world.”
In the Garden of Eden, the snake deceived Adam and Eve, and they drank up his poison.
In Mark 16:18, the word “pick up” in Greek is “arousin.” This word is used to mean: “to lift up”, “take away”, “remove”.
they will pick up (arousin) snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all
So here is what Jesus meant in Mark 16:18.
Believers have the authority to lift up, take away and remove the “snakes.” The “poison” that those snakes spew on believers cannot harm them.