The news of Jamie Coots death is sad on many levels. For his family they are without a husband, father and friend. No matter the cause of death grief will fill the hearts of loved ones in the loss and separation. A second level of sadness will be the manner in which he died. Jamie Coots was the pastor of the Full Gospel Tabernacle in Jesus Name located in Middlesboro, Kentucky where snake handling is a common practice. Refusing treatment after a rattlesnake bite Coots went home where later his wife also refused treatment from the ambulance crew and later died from his injury. The family’s explanation was “when it’s your time to go, it’s just your time to go” (ABC News Nightline, February 17, 2014).
What is more tragic in this story is the bite people receive from “that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world” (Revelation 12:9). With respect to the grieving family the worst bite Coots and his followers are inflicted with is a false understanding of the word of God. Jesus warned of those who worshipped outside the bounds of the will of God (Matthew 7:21-23) and it is sad to find good and honest hearts deceived by the mockery of Satan.
Snake handling takes its teaching from the gospel of Mark: “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover” (Mark 16:15-18). An example of this can be found in Acts 28:1-6 when Paul was bitten by a viper and received no harm. The snake however suffered a righteous end by dying in the fire (much like the “serpent of old” will suffer – Revelation 20:10).
Today those who handle snakes (and are bitten frequently) believe they are showing the power of God in their lives to handle venomous snakes without being harmed. This has never been the case as even Coots lost a finger to a snake bite. Paul did not lose his arm when he was bitten by the viper. The purpose of the Lord’s admonition in Mark 16 was to confirm the Word through the accompany signs (like taking up serpents or drinking anything deadly). Snake handlers by their actions deny the Word of God has been confirmed. There are many snake handlers in the world today that do so without regard to religion. What these Pentecostals are doing is nothing more than handling dangerous snakes. Where is the practice of drinking deadly potions (Mark 16:18) among religious folk today? They died out immediately. What demons are cast out or speaking in foreign languages by the power of God or laying hands on the sick is done today? These miracles happened in the 1st Century to confirm the word of God “But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away” (1 Corinthians 13:10). “That which is perfect” is the Bible!
Snake handling is found in Mark 16:18 but obedience to the gospel is found in Mark 16:15-16 and is seldom (if ever) taught by Pentecostals. The way of salvation is still active and true today but the confirming of signs as found in Mark 16:17-18 has been done away with. Satan is filling the hearts of good people today with the lies of his deception to reject the word of God. Death by snake bite is a horrible way to die especially when a cure is available. The curse of the devil is a more horrible manner of death to be deceived into believing a lie that will bring about a more serious death than the first death. “Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:14-15).
Our prayers are with the Coot family. There is a need for greater prayer to help those blinded by the false teachings of the master liar to “open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in [Jesus Christ]” (Acts 26:18).