Mark 16: 18 has sparked controversy over the years among Christians and theologians. Some take the verse to the extreme and deliberately test God by picking up snakes in religious services. The other extreme is to dismiss the verse altogether. To put verse 18 into context, you must read the verse before it.
[Jesus is speaking.] “These signs will accompany those who have believed: In My name they will cast out demons, they will speak with new tongues; they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover” (Mark 16: 17-18 NASB).
We find an application of verse 18 in Acts 28: 1-3 and 5-6. Paul and the survivors of the shipwreck (Acts 27) are on the Island of Malta. In verses 1-3, Luke, the author of Acts, writes “The natives showed us extraordinary kindness; because of the rain that had set in and because of the cold, they kindled a fire and received us all. But when Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks and laid them on a fire, a viper came out because of the heat and fastened itself on his hand.” Then in verses 5-6 we read, “However he [Paul] shook the creature off and suffered no harm. But they [the natives] were expecting that he was about to swell up or suddenly fall down dead. But after they waited a long time and had seen nothing unusual happen to him, they changed their minds and began to say that he was a god.”
I have heard that about 95 percent of the New Testament comes from the Old Testament (the Tenahk). This morning I opened the Bible to Psalm 91, which speaks of God protecting those who dwell “in the shelter of the most High.” According to verse 13, “You will tread upon the lion and the cobra, the young lion and the serpent you will trample down.”
Some say that the Old Testament foreshadows the New Testament, and the New Testament explains the Old Testament. I think that Psalm 91 illuminates Mark 16: 18.
- Psalm 91 and Bible at night. (littlechildofgod.wordpress.com)
- Psalm (Tehillim) 91–What Are the Wings of Protection? (lynleahz.com)