Question: What is speaking in tongues?

What is speaking in tongues?


Speaking in tongues was a known language designed to gain attention and to warn of coming judgment. There are only two books of the Bible that address “speaking in tongues” with a third that references that tongues will occur.  This subject has created great confusion in the church and divided many believers, contrary to God’s desire.  The subject matter of speaking in tongues occurs in the book of Acts and 1 Corinthians.  Isaiah prophesied about speaking in tongues in Isaiah 28.

The first time speaking in tongues is mentioned in Scripture is Isaiah prophesies of that speaking in tongues is a warning that judgment is coming. It is prophesied in Isaiah 28:1-11 and records in the context of Israel’s downward spiral and judgment to come,

Woe to the crown of pride, to the drunkards of Ephraim, Whose glorious beauty is a fading flower Which is at the head of the verdant valleys, To those who are overcome with wine!
 2 Behold, the Lord has a mighty and strong one, Like a tempest of hail and a destroying storm, Like a flood of mighty waters overflowing, Who will bring them down to the earth with His hand.
 3 The crown of pride, the drunkards of Ephraim, Will be trampled underfoot;
 4 And the glorious beauty is a fading flower Which is at the head of the verdant valley, Like the first fruit before the summer, Which an observer sees; He eats it up while it is still in his hand.
 5 In that day the LORD of hosts will be For a crown of glory and a diadem of beauty To the remnant of His people,
 6 For a spirit of justice to him who sits in judgment, And for strength to those who turn back the battle at the gate.
 7 But they also have erred through wine, And through intoxicating drink are out of the way; The priest and the prophet have erred through intoxicating drink, They are swallowed up by wine, They are out of the way through intoxicating drink; They err in vision, they stumble in judgment.
 8 For all tables are full of vomit and filth; No place is clean.
 9 “Whom will he teach knowledge? And whom will he make to understand the message? Those just weaned from milk? Those just drawn from the breasts?
 10 For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept, Line upon line, line upon line, Here a little, there a little.”
 11 For with stammering lips and another tongue He will speak to this people,
12 To whom He said, “This is the rest with which You may cause the weary to rest,” And, “This is the refreshing”; Yet they would not hear. (Is. 28:1-12)

Isaiah rebuked Israel for their emotional revolt of the soul toward God and that the glory of Israel was fading – a fading flower (28:1). They once were greatly blessed, but because of their rebellion and lack of trust in the Lord, God would bring judgment of hail, storm and flooding disasters (28:2).  The drunkards of Ephraim refers to their occupation with this world rather than worshiping the Lord (28:3; cf. Eph. 5:18).  Justice was coming on Israel in judgment, but that was not what God wanted (28:6). But because of their wickedness God would drive them out of the land of Israel. Because of their drunken occupation with this world, their lives were a mess – tables full of vomit – and they no longer thought divine viewpoint (28:8).  Isaiah asked who he could teach, because everyone lacked the ability to comprehend (28:9).  They acted like children, so the prophet made a drunken like statement that God will only provide basic truth, because they were spiritual babes (28:10).  The point is in 28:11, “For with stammering lips and another tongue He will speak to this people.”  When you look at someone who purportedly speaks in tongue, it looks like they are stammering in syllables that do not make sense.  Actually, when you go to another country today and you hear a foreign language, it looks and sounds like – “stammering lips.”  At the judgment, Israel would be forced to rest (28:12), because she would be destroyed as a nation.  Unfortunately, Israel would reject the prophecy.

            God pronounced that prior to the judgment, there would be stammering lips.  That is, when Israel hears stammering lips, they better prepare for God’s judgment. There will be a rest that comes, but not the rest they would want.  When the stammering lips come, there will be nothing the Jews can do, because the judgment IS coming. 

            This passage of Scripture in Isaiah was quoted in 1 Corinthians 14:21. Paul writes,

20 Brethren, do not be children in understanding; however, in malice be babes, but in understanding be mature.
 21 In the law it is written: “With men of other tongues and other lips I will speak to this people; And yet, for all that, they will not hear Me,” says the Lord. (1 Cor. 14:20-21)

What is the subject Paul is discussing in 1 Corinthians 14?  Paul is discussing tongues and prophesying.  Tongues was a spiritual gift God used to warn Israel that judgment was coming (Is. 28), but God also used tongues as a means of communicating truth, until the Scripture, or the Canon, was complete.

            Let’s turn to the first occurrence of tongues in Scripture.  The passage is found in Acts 2.  Fifty days after the resurrection of Jesus, the Day of First Fruits, the Day of Pentecost, God the Holy Spirit came down on the disciples and they spoke in tongues.  The context was Jewish men and families came to Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast. of First Fruits.  These were Jewish families who spoke a variety of languages, yet they came to worship together.  Luke records in Acts 2,

2 And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting.
 3 Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them.
 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.
 5 And there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven.
 6 And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together, and were confused, because everyone heard them speak in his own language.
 7 Then they were all amazed and marveled, saying to one another, “Look, are not all these who speak Galileans?
 8“And how is it that we hear, each in our own language in which we were born?
 9“Parthians and Medes and Elamites, those dwelling in Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia,
 10“Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya adjoining Cyrene, visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes,
 11 “Cretans and Arabs– we hear them speaking in our own tongues the wonderful works of God. (Acts 2:2-11)

Tongues were known languages spoken by individuals who were not trained in those languages, but understandable by those who already understood that language.  It was a sign that caught the attention of people,

12 So they were all amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “Whatever could this mean?” (Acts 2:12)

They knew something special happened and they asked the right question, “Whatever could this mean?” but they did not go back to the prophet Isaiah to understand judgment was coming.  God had their attention specifically, so that they would listen to the gospel presentation by Peter,

21 And it shall come to pass that whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved. (Acts 2:21)

The two-fold purpose was to get their attention so they would listen to the gospel and secondly serve as a warning that judgment was coming.

            The secondtime speaking in tongues is mentioned is in Acts 10. Let’s look at that passage,

44 While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word.
 45 And those of the circumcision who believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also.
 46 For they heard them speak with tongues and magnify God. Then Peter answered,
 47 “Can anyone forbid water, that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” (Acts 10:44-47)

Note that again, they spoke in known languages, because it follows the precedent of Acts 2, for the purpose of magnifying God. The tongues were in a Gentile language, so the Gentiles would be drawn to the message of hope, the message of the gospel.

            The third time speaking in tongues is mentioned is in Acts 19. Luke records in Acts 19:1-6,

And it happened, while Apollos was at Corinth, that Paul, having passed through the upper regions, came to Ephesus. And finding some disciples
 2 he said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” So they said to him, “We have not so much as heard whether there is a Holy Spirit.”
 3 And he said to them, “Into what then were you baptized?” So they said, “Into John’s baptism.”
 4 Then Paul said, “John indeed baptized with a baptism of repentance, saying to the people that they should believe on Him who would come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus.”
 5 When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.
 6 And when Paul had laid hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke with tongues and prophesied. (Acts 19:1-6)

Again, they spoke in known languages rather than stuttering gibberish.

            Paul’s discussion on tongues is found in 1 Corinthians 12-14.  This article was not designed to address more than “What is tongues?” so I’ll leave a discussion of that for another article.

            In conclusion, speaking in tongues refers to known languages used to gain attention to two things.  First, tongues was used to gain attention of people in order to listen to the gospel message.  Secondly, speaking in tongues was designed as a warning to Israel that they would soon be judged.  That judgment came 40 years after the speaking in tongues first occurred.  That 40 years is not a coincidence.  It is a number of judgment, but also of grace.  Israel had 40 years to respond and join the body of Christ before the judgment and destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.

Question: Does God Elect or does man have Freewill in Salvation?


This is the first of several articles that will be included in the coming days.  Be careful about presuming on the content before you listen to understand and dialogue with someone on this important doctrine.


Does God Elect or does man have Freewill in Salvation?


            The question of Election versus Freewill has stirred up theological thinking for hundreds of years.  It’s not been totally settled, but many people have come with more clear answers than others.  Does God elect people separate and apart from the free will of man?  Or, does the free will of man determine his destiny for eternity? The Bible seems to address both aspects. 

            This will be the first of several articles to address this important question.  There is so much Scripture on the topic that it will not be addressed in a few short articles.  The purpose of this is to answer the question posed to me and to provide discussion points, so that we might arrive at a clearer understanding of God’s plan without causing division, schism, or even separation.  Jesus said oneness was a major purpose for His people in His prayer to the Father (John 17:20-23).  My intention is to preserve peace and rightly divide Scripture by renewing truth in the mind.

            Scripture indicates God sovereignly makes choices apart from man. For example,

13 As it is written, “Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated.”
 14 What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? Certainly not!
 15 For He says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion1.”
 16 So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy.
 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth1.”
 18Therefore He has mercy on whom He wills, and whom He wills He hardens. (Rom. 9:13-18)

Is this black and white clear?  Remember this is only one text, which must be harmonized with 66 books of the Bible.  One text cannot be taken out of context, or it becomes a pretext.

            On the other hand, Scripture indicates that man has freewill.  For example,

“And if it seems evil to you to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” (Josh. 24:15)

If man didn’t have a choice, why would Joshua tell them to choose? Additionally, John wrote,

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)

If man didn’t have a part in salvation, then why does it say, “that whoever believes”?  Both God’s sovereignty and man’s freewill are indicated in Scripture, so how do we harmonize this to prevent any contradictions or pretexts in Scripture?

            This is best understood by the word “antinomy.” The word literally means “against the law” or the mutual incompatibility, real or apparent, of two laws.  The concept of antinomy holds that two subjects are both true, yet they contradict each other.  For example, the Trinity is an antinomy in that God is one and God is three. On the one extreme, God is one, which is modalism and states that God appears as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  On the other extreme, God is three and the extreme holds to three gods or tritheism.  If you go too far on either truth, you enter heresy. The same is true with sovereignty and free will.  Both are true and you end in heresy if you camp on one or the other.  Accept the antinomy by faith and you will be much closer to the truth.

             Does God elect? Yes.  Does man have freewill? Yes. Did God elect before the creation of the human race? Yes. Does man have to choose at the point of salvation to trust in Jesus Christ as Savior? Yes.

            Those who hold to extremes counter the other side’s argument. For example, those who camp on the sovereignty of God often say God regenerates man and then gives man faith to believe.  God does not give faith to those who do not believe.  Scripture does say, “I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy…” (Rom. 9:15).  Those who hold to the free will of man extreme often say that God knew who would believe and thus elected them. 

The key is to accept by faith that both are true and seek to understand Scripture so that no contradiction exists.  There can be no contradiction in Scripture, because it is inspired by God (2 Tim. 3:16) and the Holy Spirit carried along the writers of Scripture (2 Pet. 1:21), so that it is true (John 17:17).

            I will include a few more articles on the subject in the following days to stir up your thinking and to grasp the awesome infinity of God’s wisdom.

Question: Did the ancient people know what a half-hour was?

Question: Did the ancient people know what a half-hour was?

A question came from a reference in Revelation 8:1. It is the transition from the seal to the trumpet judgments. The seventh seal is the initiation for the seven trumpet judgments.  Revelation 8:1 states, “When He opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour. (Rev. 8:1)  Did the ancient people really know what a half hour was?  That does seem to be a small length of time, considering they didn’t have quartz or digital watches!

The Greek word for half hour is ἡμιώριον(haymiorion) (Rev 8:1).  It means literally, “half hour” according to a Scripture dictionary.  It comes from two words “haymi,” which means “half” and “horion,” which is a dimunitive form  “hora,” or “hour”  So it is half an hour to the lines on a sun dial.  It’s only used in this one location in Scripture.

A couple references in Isaiah 38:8; and 2 Kings 20:9 reference telling time by a sort of sun dial.  Half the distance between lines would be the half hour. Sun dials were well known in ancient times. They were common in B.C. 1500 and some say the obelisks were used to tell time back to B.C. 3500.

Always ask the questions; always trust the Scriptures.



Question: Are Sign Gifts operational today?

Question: Are Sign Gifts operational today?


Many good students of Scripture will rest on 1 Cor. 13:10, when it comes to answering the question whether the sign gifts are available today or not.  Basically, the perfect [the Bible] has been completed, so the partial [sign gifts] are removed. It is a valid thought process, but likely not the best supported interpretation of that passage.  There are many well-thought-out reasons why this simplistic approach is not a correct interpretation.  There are much better reasons taking into consider the context of 1 Corinthians 12-14, within which 1 Corinthians 13:10 is found and other explanation. 

For example, in the context of Ephesians 2:20, the gifts of apostle and prophets were the foundation for the building structure of the church.  Those gifts ceased during that first century foundational era with the completion of the canon of Scripture. However, you cannot argue the sign gifts have ceased because of that passage. 

There are other passages like Philippians 2:26-27 and 2 Timothy 4:20, in which Paul was present with very sick co-laborers in the gospel.  Paul, who had healed others, gave no indication that he was able to heal again as he did in Malta (Acts 28: 8,9).  Is it possible that God took away the gift of healing from Paul?  If so, why?  Was the purpose for which Paul had the gift of healing now completed?   

Much of church history shows a vacuum of sign gifts until the beginning of the 1900s.  It was in the modern Charismatic movement in Los Angeles, California, in 1904, when the power seemed to be restored.  Yet with all the writing, there have been objective investigations to verify the veracity of “the miracles.”  The dead were not raised, the lame were not healed.  The blind did not receive sight.  The modern tongues movements seemed to be questioned because modern tongues are a repetition of a small number of phrases, in contrast to the biblical examples of Acts 2 and 10. The miraculous do not match the miracles presented in the New Testament.

I’m very open to the presence of sign gifts, but I see that with the provision of greater amounts of the canon or “measurement” of Scripture, sign gifts were not recorded as in the initial apostolic days of beginning the church.  The reason may be because of the purpose of sign gifts.  The reason is the same reason as any of the miracles in Scripture.   

God allowed miracles in order to draw attention to the truth.  Moses was one who worked many miracles (Ex. 4:1-5)

Then Moses answered and said, “But suppose they will not believe me or listen to my voice; suppose they say,`The LORD has not appeared to you.'”
 2 So the LORD said to him, “What is that in your hand?” He said, “A rod.”
 3 And He said, “Cast it on the ground.” So he cast it on the ground, and it became a serpent; and Moses fled from it.
 4 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Reach out your hand and take it by the tail ” (and he reached out his hand and caught it, and it became a rod in his hand),
 5“that they may believe that the LORD God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has appeared to you.”  (Ex. 4:1-5)

God gave Moses miraculous powers, so “that they may believe that the Lord God…has appeared to you.” (Ex. 4:5).  God also worked the plagues and other miracles to give the entire nation of Israel reason to trust God was speaking through Moses. God gave Elijah miraculous powers, so Israel would believe God appeared to Elijah and was speaking through Him. 

God also worked miracles through Jesus, so the people would be attracted to Him and believe His words.  After Jesus fed 5000, people came back for more.  Sometimes when you give people what they want, they only want what they want rather than the truth, so Jesus didn’t give them more food.   

During one of the Passovers, Jesus had 5000 men and their families, who needed to eat.  Jesus directed the disciples to feed them (John 6: 4-10). They recognized they could make the provision, so God used the opportunity to reveal His ability to provide through Jesus and they should listen to Jesus. Jesus fed the people and an abundance was recovered (John 6: 11-13).  Those who saw the “sign” recognized Jesus as “the Prophet who is to come into the world.”  But when Jesus perceived the people were going to “take Him by force to make Him king, He departed…”(John 6: 15)  Jesus knew they only wanted Him to be a Bread King, not a Suffering Messiah Savior, so He withdrew from letting the “sign gift” or “miracle” from being a distraction.  The importance was the message, not the sign.  The sign was to lead to the message – Jesus Christ, sent from God for the world. 

If the message is clearly communicated in Scripture, are sign gifts needed today?  Jesus told the account of the rich man and Lazarus and how the rich man wanted Lazarus to go back to the world to tell the rich man’s brothers that they must repent.  The rich man was counting on the miracle of someone coming back from the dead waking his brothers up from their complacency,

27 “Then he said, `I beg you therefore, father, that you would send him to my father’s house,
 28 `for I have five brothers, that he may testify to them, lest they also come to this place of torment.’
 29“Abraham said to him, `They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.’
 30“And he said, `No, father Abraham; but if one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’
 31“But he said to him, `If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.'” (Luke 16:27-31)

Abraham was very clear, [“If they don’t believe what was written, they will not believe.”] The issue of the sign gifts is not having a great miracle.  The issue of the sign gifts is to draw attention to the truth of the Word.  If the Word is completed today, then is there a need for sign gifts?  I’m open to explanations, but I’ve found explanations for present activity wanting for substance.  

Maybe you have some Scriptural support that God is using sign gifts today.  I know they will begin again during the Tribulation and the Millennium, but I’m not seeing the need today.  Could God use sign gifts in primitive places?  I’ve heard some experiences that seem plausible.  I know God can do what He wants to do.  If He puts Himself in a box during this dispensation and restricts them because of the completed canon, I cannot change that.  Let us dialogue for unity and peace.  Let us also ensure we rely on the empowerment of the Holy Spirit to live godly lives in the discussion process.  We want to follow the excellent words:

In essentials, unity; in nonessentials, liberty; in all things, charity.  We should strive for unity in the sphere of love as we pursue the truth.