It is like a big neon sign taped to the back of a fraternity pledge that says, “Kick Me,” some things just beg comment. Like the article about a Jonesville preacher, now pushing up daisies and in the running for the latest Darwin Award (a less-than-prestigious tribute given to bad seed whose actions argue that they shouldn’t reproduce). This particular “Rev.” Dwayne Long is proof that misunderstanding the Bible can kill you.
It has long been asserted that Mark 16:17-18 is directed to Christians in this century, ignoring both the purpose (1 Corinthians 1:6-7; Hebrews 2:3-4) and duration (1 Corinthians 13:8ff) of New Testament miracles. An ironic inconsistency has normally been most conspicuous in the selectivity with which false prophets have applied this text. Most modern-day miracle workers embrace the casting-out-devils and speaking-in-tongues sections to the neglect of the taking-up-serpents part. There are, occasionally, those rare, short-lived exceptions.
Dwayne found out the hard way that Mark 16:17-18 didn’t apply to him when he was bitten on the finger during a rattlesnake-handling service and promptly died. To his credit, he taught this false doctrine to his congregation so well that they didn’t bother calling for help; after all any member who died from snakebite during a service had received a sign from God that it was their time to go. And, so he went.
If my sense of humor holds too sharp an edge for you, consider God’s expression of disdain against those who defy, ignore, or pervert His Word. When God calls through His Word and men refuse, He says, “I also will laugh at your calamity,” even describing the demise of the wicked with disturbing clarity: “For the turning away of the simple shall slay them” (cf. Proverbs 1:26, 28-29, 31-32a). A dead snake is a powerful lesson.