DOES MARK 16:18 TEACH THAT CHEMOTHERAPY WILL NOT HARM US?
by Shawn Brasseaux
Recently, a friend who claims to have the “spiritual gift of healing” was telling me that Christians battling cancer could withstand the effects of chemotherapy because the Bible says we can drink any deadly thing and it will not hurt us. She cited Mark 16:18: “They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.” We can endure cancer treatments because no deadly thing can harm us? Is that really what the verse is teaching?
The above scenario is just another example of the deception and confusion in the Charismatic Movement. There is no logic or sound Bible thinking in this religious system. Firstly, if God were still operating the gift of healing (which He is not), then why do we have cancer threatening our lives in the first place? Before we claim the “drink any deadly thing” as referring to chemotherapy, we need to read the whole verse. “They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.” If the “drinking any deadly thing” part of the verse is to be claimed, why not also follow the “lay hands on the sick and they shall recover” portion? See, we are following bits and pieces of verses, not entire verses. If God has given us the ability to heal the sick, including those stricken with cancer, why do they have to endure the poison of chemotherapy at all? Would not their cancer be healed, and be totally nondependent upon drugs anyway? It does not make any sense; it is nothing but a terrible mishandling of the Scriptures.
Secondly, the verse says that “drinking” deadly things will not harm Jesus’ audience. Chemotherapy does not necessarily involve drinking anything. The drugs can be administered on the skin, as an injection, or as an infusion. According to the United States National Cancer Institute, chemotherapy is: “Treatment that uses drugs to stop the growth of cancer cells, either by killing the cells or by stopping them from dividing. Chemotherapy may be given by mouth, injection, or infusion, or on the skin, depending on the type and stage of the cancer being treated. It may be given alone or with other treatments, such as surgery, radiation therapy, or biologic therapy.” In that case, if you have the gift of healing, chemotherapy is totally unnecessary! (Dear friends, you can only fake it so long before reality catches up with you.)
The Lord Jesus Christ spoke of “drinking any deadly thing” in light of a future period. Mark chapter 16 is the commission Israel’s Little Flock will carry out during the seven-year Tribulation. These various signs and wonders are not to or about us as members of the Church the Body of Christ. “The Jews require a sign,” 1 Corinthians 1:22 says. However, we are not Jews. Never once does our Apostle Paul, in the Books of Romans through Philemon, tell us that drinking a deadly thing will not hurt us. That is because Mark 16:18 is not God’s Word to or about us. Mark chapter 16 has a special place on the Bible timeline and it not our Dispensation of Grace. It is Israel’s end-time commission. Confusion and duplicity will result when we fail to “rightly divide the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).
Revelation chapter 8 explains why Jesus spoke of drinking deadly things: “ And the second angel sounded, and as it were a great mountain burning with fire was cast into the sea: and the third part of the sea became blood;  And the third part of the creatures which were in the sea, and had life, died; and the third part of the ships were destroyed.  And the third angel sounded, and there fell a great star from heaven, burning as it were a lamp, and it fell upon the third part of the rivers, and upon the fountains of waters;  And the name of the star is called Wormwood: and the third part of the waters became wormwood; and many men died of the waters, because they were made bitter.”
In His righteous judgment, God will poison the waters—particularly in the Middle East, and especially the Mediterranean Sea—during the future seven-year Tribulation. As per Mark 16:18, Israel’s believing remnant will be able to survive this lack of potable water. It will be a sign that they are believers in Jesus Christ. They will be able to drink the poisoned waters and it will not hurt them, exactly as the Lord Jesus said! Friend, do you see how much more sense the Bible makes if we leave religious tradition out of it and just let the Scriptures interpret themselves? The commission in Mark chapter 16 has nothing to do with us.