Mark 16: 16. Whoever believes and is immersed will live, and whoever does not believe will be condemned. 17. These signs will follow those who believe in my name: they will cast out demons and they will speak in new tongues, 18. And they will handle serpents, and if they should drink a deadly poison, it will not harm them. And they will place their hands on the sick, and they will be healed. (AENT)
Cool, huh? We can now cast out demons and handle poisonous snakes, just because we’re believers.
Or can we?
Let’s study this a little more, using the “Hebrew mindset.”
The reason I say “Hebrew mindset,” is because I know from experience that a “Greek” mindset reading this passage (Mark 16:16-18) would immediately tend to view it at the “pshat” level, or “plain meaning” which seems to suggest that, just because we “believe”, we are automatically imbued with special magical powers! (There are some cults that believe this and, as a result, some have died while handling poisonous snakes.)
The truth is, to properly understand Scripture, we must always remember to use some common sense – especially when it comes to the more hard-to-understand passages.
Here’s what I mean:
First of all, we must realize that WE aren’t like the Apostles in Yeshua’s time who were granted some special “gifts” and “authority”. (Remember, already before the Holy Spirit was given, the apostles received “power against unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease” (Matthew 10:1, Mark 3:15, Luke 9:1). Then later, in Luke 24:49 and Acts 1:8 we see after Yeshua’s ascension, the promise of being endued with power from on high via the Ruach haKodesh/Holy Spirit….)
Returning to the subject passage, YES, by all means, we MUST “believe and be immersed” … but we must also be careful to NOT become sucked into “religiosity” in passages such as this, which SEEM to suggest that, just because we ordinary folks “believe” we now have some special powers and can actually “handle” poisonous serpents and “cast out demons” all by ourselves.
NO! Not even Yeshua in his human body dared taunt satan while being “tempted” (Matthew 4:1-11).
What the above passage means for “ordinary folks” like you and me is that we, by being Believers in YHWH/Yeshua/Torah have the privilege of calling on YHWH/Yeshua to handle the situation for us! (“In the mighty Name of Yeshua, demons GET OUT of my house!”)
But don’t try this with a poison snake! (For instance, don’t be presumptuous enough to mess with one and then command YHWH to tell it not to bite you. That would be stupid – especially since normal people don’t have any reason to fiddle around with poison snakes! Furthermore, Mark 16:16-18 does NOT tell you to do that….)
So now, having said the above, let’s take another look at that passage with our “new mindsets”….
Mark 16: 16. Whoever believes and is immersed will live, and whoever does not believe will be condemned. 17. These signs will follow those who believe in my name: they will cast out demons and they will speak in new tongues, 18. And they will handle serpents, and if they should drink a deadly poison it will not harm them. And they will place their hands on the sick, and they will be healed. (AENT)
Many fail to notice that the imagery in that passage is from Psalm 91:13 which relates to our faith in YHWH that overcomes the obstacles of the world.
Psalm 91: 13 Also keep your servant from presumptuous sins, so that they won't control me. Then I will be blameless and free of great offense. (ISR)
You see, “presumptuousness” can be an absolute death knell. You don’t go around “testing” YHWH! Even Messiah Y'shua told haSatan, "you shall not test Master YHWH your Elohim" … In view of that, shouldn’t we assume that it is safe to say this admonition also applies to his followers?
As for that “snake handling” thing, yes, Paul recovered from a poisonous snakebite (Acts 28:3-6), and so did many Israelites who looked to the “fiery serpent” on the pole (Numbers 21:8, 9) – but NOT as “testing” of YHWH; but simply an exercising their Faith according to His will.
I hope this little mini-study has helped you to understand that the Word is “deeper” than we know….