Larry Ray Hafley

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Snake Handling

Another Snake Handling Preacher Dies

Editor's Note:  This article originally appeared in the August 2004 issue of Watchman Magazine.  Apparently, some Pentecostals are reading Watchman Magazine, as the article brought responses to brother Hafley.  We welcome our Pentecostal readers, and ask they seriously consider the material supplied in this article, and the resulting correspondence brother Hafley had with two individuals.

We take no joy in recounting the death of yet another Pentecostal preacher, Dwayne Long, who died while handling a rattlesnake during Easter Sunday church services.  Said the Richmond, VA, Times-Dispatch:

"Snake-handling preacher dies after bite from rattler.  The pastor refused medical treatment after a venomous bite during Easter services.

"Long, whose father was also a snake-handling preacher for more than 30 years, died at his home Monday after refusing medical treatment....‘There have been other members of that family who have died of snakebites in the past 30 to 40 years,' added...Sheriff Gary Parsons....

"Snake-handlers defend the practice by citing Mark 16:17-18: ‘And these signs shall follow them that believe: in my name they shall cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; 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.'

"The movement began in the early 1900s, and a Tennessee native, George Hensley, is considered the father of modern snake-handling.  According to some accounts, Hensley was preaching when someone dropped a box of snakes at his feet.  Hensley picked up the snakes and continued his sermon, and soon snake-handling spread to other churches.

"According to other accounts, Hensley brought the box of snakes to the pulpit himself as he preached from the book of Mark.  He died in 1955, of a snakebite."

Another report of the incident from Roanoke, VA, said, "Serpent-handlers believe that when people die of a snakebite they receive during a service, it was simply their time to go....

"(Sheriff) Parsons said another Lee County man died about two years ago after being bitten by a rattlesnake during service at a Pentecostal church in Tennessee."

Comments: First, this is another example of the power and deceit of false doctrine (Romans 16:17; Colossians 2:8).  It shows how deadly and lethal is the acceptance of error (2 Corinthians 11:3; James 5:19, 20).  It reveals how thoroughly and completely the devil has blinded the minds of many (2 Corinthians 4:4).  It also shows how great is the burden of those of us who know the truth.  May God grant us the wisdom to reach souls who are under the spell of those "whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders" (2 Thessalonians 2:10).

Second, observe that the pastor "refused medical treatment."  Why offer medical treatment?  Since Mark 16:17, 18, speaks of the fact that "they shall lay hands on the sick and they shall recover," as well as it speaks of their taking "up serpents," why did not someone lay hands on him and save him from the effects of the "venomous bite"?  Did that power fail, too?  Evidently.  Mr. Long is dead.  "Whoso boasteth himself of a false gift is like clouds and wind without rain" (Proverbs 25:14).

Third, if it is true "that when people die of a snakebite they receive during a service, it was simply their time to go," then every Pentecostal ought to take up serpents.  If it is "their time to go," they will "go" whether or not the snake bites them.  If it is not "their time to go," they will not die even if the serpent bites them, so why do they not all "take up serpents"?

Fourth, Dwayne Long, unlike his Pentecostal brethren in the trinitarian Assemblies of God and the "oneness," Jesus only, United Pentecostal Church, was consistent.  Assemblies of God and United Pentecostal Churches generally want only two of the five signs promised in Mark 16: 17, 18, speaking in tongues and miraculous healing.  Jesus said that those disciples would (1) "cast out devils" in his name, (2) "they shall speak with new tongues, (3) "they shall take up serpents, (4) and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them, and" (5) "they shall lay hands on the sick and they shall recover."  As noted, most Pentecostals claim "tongues speaking" and "healing" from that list.  Mr. Long took up serpents.  He was more consistent than they, but he is dead, and they are alive.

But why not all five signs?  The statement of the Lord is equally emphatic concerning tongues, healing, and the taking up of serpents.  The Lord did not say, "they might."  He said, "They shall."  If any of those signs are performed by believers today, why not all five?  A Pentecostal, speaking as the Spirit gives him utterance, needs to tell us (Acts 2:4; 1 Peter 4:11).  I doubt that any of them will respond.  They are afraid of being snake bit.

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