QUESTION: Herllo Teacher Scott!
I have changed my e-mail addrees so if it comes up, its not spam.
Well, I'm wondering about the passage in Mark 16 about handling snakes. I know obviously that it isn't meant to be taken literally, but what does it mean?
ANSWER: Hi Joyce,
In Mark 16:17-18, Jesus says, "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."
Jesus here is speaking about signs or supernatural events that would attest to the divine origin of the message revealed through Jesus and passed along primarily through the Apostles. They authenticated the faith of the early believers and were intended for the Apostolic Era, or the early formative years of the church.
As you study history, you will find that miracles are not the norm. (Interestingly, overt demonic activity, such as that seen in the gospels, is not the norm, either.) But miracles (and demonic activity) occurred during certain key periods of history. Those periods were times at which God chose to give direct revelation to mankind. Without supernatural signs to authenticate the message and the author of the message, it could have been assumed to be simply another religious claim or opinion. But, when God spoke, He "signed His name to the message" by doing what only He could do--provide miraculous signs. (And, during these crucial times, Satan is much more active as He tries to counter God's unfolding plan.)
Let's look at some examples. In the Old Testament, we read that God gave the Mosaic Law (the first five books of the Bible) to Israel through Moses. This new revelation was accompanied by signs that included the Egyptian plagues, the deliverance of Israel from Egypt, the parting of the Red Sea, God's provision for Israel in the wilderness (manna, quail, water from a rock, bitter water made palatable), the fiery bush, Moses' glowing countenance, Aaron's budding rod, etc.
Old Testament prophets spoke on God's behalf to both the nation of Israel as well as Gentile nations, and their message was often accompanied by miracles. Daniel's friends were spared from the fiery furnace, and Daniel was spared from the den of lions. Jonah was swallowed by a large fish and was transported to Ninevah after three days, alive. Elijah and Elisha performed miracles such as stopping the rain, raising the widow's son, calling down fire from heaven, healing Naaman's leprosy.
When Jesus was born, God authenticated His identity and message with numerous miracles and fulfilled prophecy. You have His virgin birth, perfect life, turned water into wine, walked on water, multiplied the loaves and fish, healed the sick, raised the dead, and Himself arose from the dead.
Reading Revelation and other passages that deal with future end-time events, there will be a further unfolding of God's plan for the ages, and new revelation. In order to prove that God is at work, these events will be accompanied by fulfilled prophecy and miraculous signs.
This was a crucial time in history. Jesus spent 33 years on earth showing God to the world. His message and work were important, and God wanted the entire world to know--for the message of the gospel to be spread to every corner of the world and passed along for all time. Not everyone living on the planet had witnessed Christ or His miracles firsthand. And, as time passed, evidence would be required to confirm that this was not just another "movement" but something that was of God. So, during this crucial period when this somewhat fresh, new revelation was being spread, and before the formation of the complete Bible, God used signs to make it abundantly clear to the entire world, and to us centuries later, that this is HIS message, not MAN's message--that God is up to something BIG, and revealing some very important information.
---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------
QUESTION: Ok. I think I get it. I think. You're saying it was meant for that time in history and not for today? Is that right?
Another thing is in 2nd Samuel. When David's wife Michal saw him dancing and "she despised him in her heart" My daughter wants to know why she felt that way? I don't partiucally worry about it, but sometimes I can't tell her anything.
The reason for Michal's contempt for David is uncertain. Perhaps she saw his behavior as unbefitting for a king. Maybe she was upset that his celebration focused on something other than her. The account doesn't really go into any detail to explain her feelings.