A pastor who nearly died after a snake bit him during a sermon has sensationally vowed to keep handling snakes.

Shocking pictures show Cody Coots fighting to stay alive in hospital while on life support.

His face and airways were left badly swollen and bruised after he allowed a timber rattlesnake to bite him during a sermon.

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Cody knew better than anyone about the dangers of handling snakes as he took over his congregation from his father, after he died from a snake bite during a sermon in 2014.

In disturbing footage taken from the sermon in Middlesboro, Kentucky, Cody looks clearly unstable after the snake lunged at his ear, and he asks the congregation to take him to the mountaintop where God would judge whether he lives or dies.

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Fortunately, one of his congregation saw sense and took him to a hospital instead, where doctors said the snake came close to severing his temporal artery, which would have almost certainly killed him.

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Speaking from hospital, Cody said he will not stop handling snakes.

He said: ‘These snakes are part of the Bible, and I’m going to put that before anyone. But if you’ve not been raised up in it, you’ll look at it like “Man, those people are crazy”.

‘I’ve seen a lot of people bitten, I’ve seen them suffer, I’ve seen them come close to death.

‘But I do believe that if you get bit and you have to suffer, that there was something wrong, either that you didn’t move when God told you to, you went against what God said, I do believe that.’

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Nurse consultant Radwa Martin said: ‘When Cody first arrived at the ER, it was difficult for him to communicate.

‘Where the snake actually bit him was close to the temporal artery, so he’s lucky he didn’t bleed to death prior to arriving at the hospital.

‘After the ER physician was able to secure an airway for Cody, they airlifted him to the University of Tennessee hospital where he remained on life support for quite a while, they didn’t know if he would pull through.’

Cody admitted that he feels ‘like maybe there’s part of me missing’.

He said: ‘I’m always worn out. I don’t feel like I can go another day, I’m always having chest pains and puking my guts up. It’s taken a toll on me.’

The timber rattlesnake is the same species of snake that killed Cody’s father Jamie Coots, 42, during a sermon at the Full Gospel Tabernacle in Jesus’ Name.

It is renowned as one of North America’s most fearsome snakes, due to its long fangs, large size, and high venom yield.

The death of Cody’s father thrust him into the pastor’s role at the age of 21, making him the fourth generation to take up the snake-handling vocation.

In the disturbing footage of Cody being bitten, the snake’s top fangs entered above his ear and the lower fangs bit into the ear itself.

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Cody is left nauseous and visibly unsteady on his feet as blood spurts on to his shirt.

The church’s unique practice is inspired by biblical verse Mark 16:18 where Jesus says true believers will be able to ‘pick up snakes with their hands and when they drink deadly poison it will not hurt them at all’.

The literal interpretation of the verse has left many in the congregation to boast about how many snake bites they have survived.

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Snake-handling churches started appearing in the US more than 100 years ago.

The snakes used in the services are all caught and kept by the congregation.

Cody’s mother, Linda Coots, added: ‘We are a normal family, we love each other like normal families love each other. If a snake could bite you and never hurt you, it wouldn’t be a sign to the unbelievers.’

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