“TONGUES” – What does this mean?
The very FIRST TIME the word “TONGUE” is used in the Bible is found in Genesis 10:1-5 – “Now these are the generations of the sons of Noah, Shem, Ham, and Japheth: and unto them were sons born after the flood. The sons of Japheth; Gomer, and Magog, and Madai, and Javan, and Tubal, and Meshech, and Tiras. And the sons of Gomer; Ashkenaz, and Riphath, and Togarmah. And the sons of Javan; Elishah, and Tarshish, Kittim, and Dodanim. By these were the isles of the Gentiles divided in their lands; every one after his tongue, after their families, in their nations.
The word “TONGUE”, in this instance means that every one of the sons of Noah were, at some distant time after the flood, given certain lands or property that would be exclusively theirs. Each family spoke a different language or TONGUE.
Each family who spoke a particular LANGUAGE/TONGUE were given their own land to migrate to.
Please note that a bit later, in Genesis 10:10, the son NIMROD inherited a place called “BABEL”. Babel, however, was not called Babel until Genesis 11. Although Genesis 11 comes AFTER Genesis 10, the writings were not designated into chapters and verses in those days, so there is no chronology based on chapters and verses. Instead, one has to read the whole book of Genesis to determine the chronology of events.
Babel came about in Genesis 11, so let’s discover that first, and then we will know that Genesis 10:5 would make sense – because, before Genesis 11, the population of the earth had ONE LANGUAGE OR TONGUE, yet Genesis 10 tells us that each of Noah’s descendants were given lands to go to – “each family after their own language”
Genesis 11:1 - “And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech.” We can safely say – “ONE TONGUE”.
Verse 2-7 – “And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar; and they dwelt there. And they said one to another, Go to, let us make brick, and burn them thoroughly. And they had brick for stone, and slime had they for mortar. And they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth. And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men builded.
And the LORD said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do. Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another's speech. (TONGUE). So the LORD scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth: and they left off to build the city. Therefore is the name of it called Babel; because the LORD did there confound the language of all the earth: and from thence did the LORD scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth.”
From all that, we should be able to comprehend that the entire population of the earth was of a single TONGUE/Language/Speech. Once they tried to build a tower to get to God, God confused them so that each did not understand the language/speech/tongue of the other.
From there, they were scattered BY GOD to different places around that area…but far enough from one another so that they could live in harmony with their offspring who understood only THEIR language/tongue/speech. Nimrod got to stay in Babel. We get the word, ”Babble” from that very incident at the tower of Babel where everyone spoke incoherently. Merriam-Webster defines “Babble” as – “to utter meaningless or unintelligible sounds.”
Back to Genesis 10:8-10 for the correct chronology: Noah had three sons: Shem, Ham and Japeth. Cush was a son of Ham….. Verse 8 - “And Cush begat Nimrod: he began to be a mighty one in the earth. He was a mighty hunter before the LORD: wherefore it is said, Even as Nimrod the mighty hunter before the LORD. And the beginning of his kingdom was Babel, and Erech, and Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar.”
From this, we should be able to understand that Nimrod was given Babel, but babel did not exist until AFTER the tower was built and God confounded their language/speech/tongue so that not one of the families understood the other…even though they were all related through the genealogy of Noah.
This will be important to note because in the modern “Tongues Movement” in some “religions”, Tongues means exactly that…”to utter meaningless or unintelligible sounds.” Those who practice “speaking in TONGUES” utter unintelligible or meaningless sounds” to others around them, and they believe that they are speaking to God or on behalf of God in a divine manner….as if to say to those around them, “I have this special gift from God to speak in TONGUES…to utter meaningless and unintelligible words that nobody can understand – except God and maybe one other in the congregation who claims to be able to interpret this language/speech/tongue.”
You would have to ask yourself, “Why would God want people to speak to Him in a “foreign language”? Do you think that God hears Chinese prayers? I know He does. Do you think that God answers Chinese Christian’s prayers? Of course He does, and without the use of an “interpreter”.
The “Tongues Movement” came about in the 1800s by a church in Scotland. The last time “TONGUES” was spoken of was in Paul’s epistle (letter) to the church at Corinth who misused their “gift” of being able to speak in languages/speech/tongues to those who were “foreigners”, and that gift was meant to be used only to speak to those who did NOT know Christ….and not to those who DID know Christ.
Yet, in today’s churches that practice “babbling”, the one (usually a woman- who is to “keep silent in the church”) only edifies themselves when they practice this “babbling”.
(1) Paul predicts to the church who had problems with tongues that they will cease.
(2) This epistle is one of the earlier epistles. (2st Corinthians only)
(3) We see no mention of tongues nor presence in the second epistle to this church.
(4) In the forty years after this epistle, several different authors wrote epistles and inspired books of the Bible and none of them mention tongues.
(5) In the years after this, we see no mention of tongues among any of the churches which would be considered mainline Christianity, except for a heretical group around Montanus in 150 A.D. which died with him, until the 1800s. - So we must conclude that during this lapse of approximately 1800 years was a cessation of TONGUES. - The burden of proof then falls on those who wish to revive tongues.” Courtesy of DavidCox.com.
Just after Paul admonishes the congregation at Corinth (always KNOW who it is that the speaker, whether Jesus or Paul or Peter or anyone else delivering words in the Bible is talking TO), Paul states, to the church congregation at Corinth - in 1 Corinthians 14:21-22 – “In the law it is written, With men of other tongues and other lips will I speak unto this people; and yet for all that will they not hear me, saith the Lord. Wherefore tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not: - - - but prophesying serveth not for them that believe not, but for them which believe.”
note – prophets were still alive and well…like all of the apostles who would complete the prophecy at the writing of the last book of prophecy – and that was the Book of The Revelation - written by John.
Jesus told us that The Law (The Ten Commandments) and the PROPHETS would no longer be necessary after John…..Luke 16:16 – Jesus Himself said, “The law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it.”
A complete fool would have to interpret what Jesus said meant anything other than, “The Law will cease because I bring a NEW COVENANT with just two commandments (shown next) and there will not be any need for prophets after John finishes what I am going to instruct him and the other apostles (and the writer of Hebrews) to write, which is the NEW COVENANT or NEW TESTAMNENT.“
Jesus backs this up with more words found in Matthew 22:35- “ A Pharisee, which was a lawyer, asked Jesus a question, tempting him (trying to trick Him), and saying, “Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”
In plain English, “I give you just TWO COMMANDMENTS now, and that is why I said (in Luke 16:16, and recorded by my faithful servant Luke) “The Law was – until John” (When John finishes writing the last Book of the NEW COVENANT), and that is why I told you that PROPHETS WILL ALSO CEASE to exist…because when I have my servants write the NEW COVENANT, there will not be one more jot or tittle that anyone can add to my prophetic statements contained within that NEW COVENANT, and if anyone adds to or takes from my NEW COVENANT and my prophetic statements of what is to come…now and in the end of the age, they will be cursed. Revelation 22:19 – “And if anyone takes words away from this book of prophecy, God will take away from him his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book. – NIV
Paul, a hand-picked 12th apostle of Christ, scolded the church members at Corinth (he never brought this TONGUES problem up to any other church that he preached to, nor did he ever have to mention it to Corinth again…not even in his second letter to them…2nd Corinthians).
Before we go there, I want to EMPHASIZE that the word TONGUE means language. There are many (160) times in the Bible that the word TONGUE is used, so let me just quote from the Book of Ezra 4:7 - “And in the days of Artaxerxes wrote Bishlam, Mithredath, Tabeel, and the rest of their companions, unto Artaxerxes king of Persia; and the writing of the letter was written in the Syrian tongue, and interpreted in the Syrian tongue.”
Paul addresses the church at Corinth in 1st Corinthians 13:1 – “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.”
Paul had been given the gift of speaking in the language of men who were not Greek or Hebrew (both languages that Paul was schooled in), but he EMPHASIZED that. Although he had this same gift as those early Christians, through the power of the Holy Spirit, he wanted to EMPHASIZE that LOVE is the greatest of the gifts (Those were Jesus two commandments…love God and your neighbor), and without love, his gift of speaking in other languages (for the good of the UNSAVED ONLY) was useless, and were no more than vain babblings which he illustrated as banging on a “sounding brass or tinkling cymbal”…a loud noise.
He scolded them for using this spiritual gift to “edify or puff up” their own egos. In 1st Corinthians 14:4, Paul makes this statement VERY CLEAR to those in the Corinthian church: -“ He that speaketh in an unknown tongue edifieth himself; but he that prophesieth edifieth the church.”
Simply put, Paul told them that TONGUES will cease…and so will the prophets (just like Jesus said in Matthew 22, and in Luke 16:16), but that this TONGUES gift was getting out of control and it was becoming a PRIDE ISSUE (I am better than you because I speak in an unknown language), so DO NOT DO THIS PRACTICE because it only puffs YOU up.
Instead, those who still prophesy (because the NEW COVENANT was not written yet, and they only had the OLD TESTAMENT to quote from) - - - and that prophesying was what was edifying or encouraging the church, and NOT this BABBLING.
Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary tells us that to “EDIFY” means, “to instruct and improve especially in moral and religious knowledge.”
And, we might as well give you the definition of PROPHECY at this point, so you will know what it is that Jesus and Paul both said will cease. ”an inspired utterance of a prophet” (emphasis on INSPIRED), and “a prediction of something to come.”
Jesus and Paul instructed us that PROPHECY would cease. The reason that it would cease is that it would not be necessary to tell of things to come ONCE THE NEW COVENANT WAS WRITTEN AND COMPLETED. This did not come to pass until about the year 100 A.D. when John wrote and finished the Book of the Revelation. Revelation itself means to reveal what is foretold that will happen in the future...to prophesy).
Paul was not finished with scolding the members of the Corinthian church. He said, in 1st Corinthians 14:5, “I would that ye all spake with tongues but rather that ye prophesied: for greater is he that prophesieth than he that speaketh with tongues, except he interpret, that the church may receive edifying.”
In English, :” I wish you could all speak in tongues, but even more I wish you could all prophesy. For prophecy is greater than speaking in tongues, unless someone interprets what you are saying so that the whole church will be strengthened.”
Paul continues to admonish those at Corinth by appealing to their common sense. “Now, brethren, if I come unto you speaking with tongues, what shall I profit you, except I shall speak to you either by revelation, or by knowledge, or by prophesying, or by doctrine?” – 1st Corinthians 14:6
English - “What good is it if I came to you speaking to you in another language? What does that do to profit you? If I speak to you prophetically - and reveal to you things that Jesus has instructed me to reveal to you - something to edify you - to help you…to profit you, or I bring you sound doctrinal teachings, then THIS is what will edify and profit this congregation..not vain babbling that nobody can understand.”
Paul continues to convince them that TONGUES is not useful. 1st Corinthians 14:9 - “So likewise ye, except ye utter by the tongue words easy to be understood, how shall it be known what is spoken? for ye shall speak into the air.”
“You are just moving wind by speaking in TONGUES that nobody can understand (which is by definition “to Babble”).
Paul continues to clarify that speaking in an unknown tongue has no common sense…In 1st Corinthians 14:13-14 he says, “Wherefore let him that speaketh in an unknown tongue pray that he may interpret. For if I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prayeth, but my understanding is unfruitful.” Paul tells us that even if he…Paul the apostle himself, speaks or prays in an unknown tongue/speech/language…his own understanding of it is of no value whatsoever.
Verse 15-16 reveals even more, the absurdity of speaking “in the spirit” for no reason whatsoever because nobody in the room understands what YOU, the one speaking in “tongues” is saying. Nobody gains here. . “What is it then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also: I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also. Else when thou shalt bless with the spirit, how shall he that occupieth the room of the unlearned say Amen at thy giving of thanks, seeing he understandeth not what thou sayest?”
Paul, one who understands and speaks in many languages, admonishes the Corinthians who were misusing their gift to edify or puff themselves up with by telling them, “I thank my God, I speak with tongues more than ye all: Yet in the church I had rather speak five words with my understanding, that by my voice I might teach others also, than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue.”
I don’t know how many times or in how many different scenarios Paul was teaching the Corinthians, but surely one can understand that “TONGUES” was a misused gift that helped nobody.
The Corinthians only used them for self-edification…PRIDE…and they lorded it over those who were not “gifted”….the same as it is today.
True then, as it is today, when a church member “babbles” (speaks incoherently so that none in the congregation understand what they are saying), it causes any visitors to assume they are “mad” or “out of their minds”. Fear sets in and the visitors won’t come back to that church in all likelihood. “If therefore the whole church be come together into one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in those that are unlearned, or unbelievers, will they not say that ye are mad?”
The true test that “TONGUES” – according to Paul’s instructions, should only be used to edify others (back then, not now). – “How is it then, brethren? when ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying”., and the Corinthians feel that they must use the gift, they shoud ONLY DO IT THIS WAY: “ (verse 27) “If any man* speak in an unknown tongue, let it be by two, or at the most by three, and that by course; and let one interpret.”
* Note the emphasis is if any MAN speak in an unknown language……then let two or three MEN (no more…no less) and let another MAN interpret what was said. In this way…all in attendance are lifted up spiritually (edified). Women (then and now) are instructed in the Bible (don’t shoot this messenger)…” Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience as also saith the law.”
In today’s post-1800 churches that have brought “TONGUES” back to life, it is generally a woman (not a man) who babbles incoherently, and nobody interprets. Some churches have instructed that at least one other (usually a woman) interpret, yet….it is my belief that the “interpreter” has no clue of what was just said, but babbles on in English about something spiritual sounding. Those situations are totally UNSCRIPTURAL, based on the only known speech given in the Bible about “TONGUES”, and that was in 1st Corinthians, and Paul was admonishing them all.
Remember, Corinth was the church that Paul had to chastise also because a young man was sleeping with his mother-in-law…not married, and this sin was being condoned by the body of believers.
“But if there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in the church; and let him speak to himself, and to God.” Therefore, there should always be at least four MEN involved if speaking in TONGUES at Corinth was to be used. Two or three must speak in the unknown language, and the 4th MAN would interpret, and this was to uplift or teach or edify the rest. TONGUES died at Corinth…never to be used again, and I’l get to that in a moment.
In 1st Corinthians 13, Paul tells us of the demise of PROPHETS and of other spiritual gifts, including TONGUES. “Verse 8 – “Love never fails (ceases) : but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail (cease); whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.” We will discover WHEN they SHALL CEASE in a moment.
The gifts that will NOT CEASE are Faith, Hope and Love. Verse 13 – “And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.” These will NOT cease.
Paul explains that, at the time of Corinth, there was only the OLD TESTAMENT. The NEW COVENANT was not written yet. It would be by 100 A.D., and then…after the apostle John finishes Revelation, there will be no need for PROPHETS anymore, nor TONGUES, nor a “WORD OF KNOWLEDGE” apart from God’s then-to-be-written Word.
There would only be, of those special gifts, THREE REMAINING - Faith, Hope and Love.
Who among us can “FORESEE” anything that is not covered in the NEW COVENANT/TESTAMENT?
A PROPHET is a “Foreseer of the future”. The Bible is VERY CLEAR about adding one jot or tittle to God’s Word. Revelation 22:18-19 - “For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.”
So, I would never call myself a PROPHET…out of sheer fear that I would have to answer to God for doing so. Nobody is authorized to predict what is NOT in the Book.
Let me get Luke 16:16 for you because Jesus..the author of the New Testament, and an eyewitness to all…the one who told His prophets (apostles and the writer of Hebrews) to write the words…..”The law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it.”
In ENGLISH: Jesus said, “The Law of Moses – The Ten Commandments existed – UNTIL JOHN (until he finishes the New Testament in 100 A.D.).
I am here now, and I bring you a NEW COVENANT, which means NEW TESTAMENT. But, the NEW COVENANT was not written yet, and would not be until John finished Revelation. Then, it would be COMPLETED – PERFECTED….FINISHED, and it is this NEW COVENANT that would be taught to the Gentiles…along with principles from the OLD COVENANT….a Jewish book primarily, but a teacher also.
When John finishes or COMPLETES the writing of Revelation…around the year 100 A.D., there will not be a need for “PROPHETS” any longer. Did Jesus lie to us? Did He NOT say the Law and the prophets WERE – until John?
Paul, the apostle of Jesus who never personally met Jesus (physically), told us that the spiritual gifts of prophecy and tongues would CEASE…” But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.”
These special gifts would END…CEASE..when that which is PERFECT is come, then..those things that we now only know in part (because we don’t yet have the entire Word of God…until John finishes is, and the other writers, including Paul finish writing it….about 70 years after Jesus died on the cross and rose into heaven…after spending forty days educating His apostles what to write.
So, now we must discover what is meant when Paul said, “When that which is PERFECT arrives.”
Did he mean when Jesus comes? No, Jesus already came and died and rose again when Paul admonished the church at Corinth.
Did he mean all will exist until Jesus comes back again? If so, then it would imply that Jesus was the PERFECT that Paul spoke of, but it can’t be because Jesus already came. Paul would have clarified that when Jesus comes, all prophecy would cease.
We have a hint…and Jesus gave it to us in Luke 16:16 when He told us that the Prophets would CEASE with John. The reason Jesus told us that is because that is what He meant. When John is finished writing my COVENANT with the Gentiles, there will be no more need for prophets because I will instruct my writers…with John being the last of them, what to write. ALL prophecy – right up to the “end of the age” will be declared in my Book..the NEW TESTAMENT…by the time John finishes it.
So, what then, does Paul elude to when he tells us that those special gifts will CEASE “when that which is PERFECT comes”?
Let’s work our way back from Meriam-Webster’s definition of PERFECT. The definition of PERFECT is: “being entirely without fault or defect.” And “satisfying all requirements”, and we will add, “corresponding to an ideal standard.” And – “lacking in no essential detail” – along with, “legally valid”. We will also add the word PERFECTION for further clarification of PERFECT…and as a teaching aid.
PERFECTION: - “freedom from fault or defect” and “an unsurpassable degree of accuracy or excellence.”
One can argue that Jesus is PERFECT, and He is, but that rendering falls under, “Being entirely without fault or defect”- - - “sinless”, and that is where the rest of the definitions of PERFECT or PERFECTION indicates that Paul was speaking of that which has not yet been written – the Word of God known as Jesus’ NEW COVENANT, which is, by definition, ALL OF THE ABOVE DEFINITIONS OF PERFECT/PERFECTION.
Paul was declaring, as a prophet, that “When the NEW TESTAMENT is finished, PERFECTION will come to the people of the earth.” The NEW TESTAMENT will be perfect, without fault or defect, satisfying all requirements (as outlined to the writers by Jesus…the author of the NEW COVENANT). The NEW COVENANT will correspond to an ideal standard, lack in no essential detail, be a legally valid document, have an unsurpassable degree of accuracy. No contradictions.
It is clear that Jesus said the Law and the Prophets would cease “with John”.
Then, His hand-picked apostle, Paul, reiterated that, “the special gifts of Prophecy/prophets and other special gifts – like speaking in an unknown tongue (which only the church at Corinth had a problem with, and Paul rebuked them for it, would cease when PERFECT comes because “now we know only IN PART, but when we get to see and read the PERFECT – the finished NEW COVENANT that Jesus promised us…the NEW TESTAMENT that John would complete…..THEN, we will know in full, and not in part anymore. It is then that these special gifts will cease.
Paul – 1st Corinthians 13: 9-13 – “For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. (because the entire New Testament will be written, read and known by all peoples of the earth).
11 – “When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things”. (Little children understand things only as a child could understand because they have limited knowledge of things. But, when we grow into manhood, we mature . . we know much more and have a fuller knowledge of things and how they work.)
12 – “For now (at the church of Corinth) we see through a glass, darkly; (we do not see or know what has yet to be written at the inspiration of Jesus) but then face to face: (when we get to see the written, completed Words from Jesus, we will see it first-hand, touch it, read it, comprehend it, teach it, instruct from it) - now I know in part (because Jesus’s New Testament is not even started yet) but then (when His New Covenant is finished) shall I know (I will know all that Jesus wants me to know with that finished New Testament) even as also I am known. (Paul knew that he would also be known in that New Testament. He would write many of the books in it).
13 – “And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.” Now…at the time I am speaking with you Corinthians, All that is going to be left as gifts from God (of the ones I spoke to you about), only Faith, Hope and Love wil remain, and of those three girts, LOVE is the greatest gift.
John Tyler, Author of nine books.
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