Tongues Have Ceased

Have Tongues Ceased?
(This answer represents my personal views and not necessarily those of everyone at Thirdmill).


Perhaps no other issue has so divided the modern church more than the gift of speaking in tongues. It’s not surprising as it also divided the church at Corinth. Though richly endowed with the gifts of the Spirit, the church at Corinth appears to have been one of the most immature of the New Testament churches. There seems to be trouble and correction in every chapter of their lives (1 Cor. 1:11; 3:1-4; 5:1-2; 6:1-8; 11:18; 15:12, etc.). Among Paul’s many corrective measures at Corinth are three chapters on the sign gifts, especially the misuse and abuse of tongues (1 Cor. 12-14).

The gift of tongues was the fulfillment of God’s promise in Joel 2:28-29 and was a temporary sign gift given by the Holy Spirit to the first-century church on Pentecost fifty days after our Lord was crucified (Mark 16:17-20; Luke 24:49; Acts 1:8; 2:1-4). Jesus had first empowered his apostles to preach the gospel to all nations (Matt. 28:18-20) but now came the empowerment of the church that was to worship in a new way without the ceremonial law (Heb. 8:1-7; 9:11-12).

The demonstration of sign gifts, including miracles, were not everyday occurrences during redemptive history. Miracles go against the natural laws, so miraculous signs are by their very nature very rare events. They are the extraordinary works of God, not ordinary. However, while God still does some miracles today, these aren’t on the same scale as he worked them in the three main miraculous periods recorded in Scripture: (1) Moses; (2) Elijah and Elisha; and (3) Jesus and his apostles. Between each of these were extensive periods of time.

New revelation from God characterized each time period above. Moses received the Law and became the mediator of the old covenant. Elijah and Elisha represent the formal institution of the prophetic office. Jesus and the apostles instituted the “renewed covenant.” [1] They also provided instruction for the church and laid its foundation. The extravagant period of miracles ceased in the first century of the New Testament church. Today, tongues cannot provide new revelation as the New Testament sign gift period is complete.

Seeing that these periods of biblical miracles were so restricted, it’s not surprising that the amazing gift of tongues wouldn’t continue indefinitely. The gift had a divine purpose and then ceased. Still, there are some (continuationists) who say that the sign gifts such as tongues have continued and still exist today and place heavy emphasis on them. Others (cessationists) correctly state tongues have ceased. While there are some other modified views, [2] this article will briefly discuss the cessationist point of view as opposed to the continuationist view.

What are tongues?

A Definition

God regarded tongues as necessary, valuable, and worthwhile for his purpose in the early life of his church. The Greek word glossa is found fifty times in the twenty-seven books of the New Testament and without exception is translated "tongues" or “language” in every occurrence. [3] In many places, it refers to a physical tongue as the organ of the body (Mark 7:33; Luke 15:24, et. al.). In other texts, the word “tongues” refers to a known language “from every tribe and language and people and nation” (Rev. 5:9; 7:9, etc.). In every New Testament instance of the latter, it was a known and operative human language to someone, however not known to the person speaking or interpreting them (Acts 2:7-11).

Biblical tongue-speaking was speaking in a genuine human language previously unknown to the speaker. It’s similar to Balaam’s donkey speaking a language that he had never known or spoken before (Num. 22:28). In the book of Acts, it is confirmed that the nature of tongues spoken there was an unlearned, intelligible human language and one spoken by some nation of people, not some mysterious language.

Acts 2:7-11 (MSG) And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.

In the pericope (section of verses) above, the assembled Jewish believers from various nations understood that believers were not speaking unintelligible words. They were literally speaking in the national languages of some assembled Jews in Jerusalem.

Gibberish Tongues

There are absolutely no instances of some heavenly language or unknown language, ecstatic gibberish or babbling in the entire New Testament. [4] In the Old Testament there is the occurrence of apparent babbling that took place. After the Flood God commanded humanity to "be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth" (Gen. 9:1), but the human race at this time in history decided not to obey God’s command. Instead, they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth” (Gen. 11:4). In rebellion against God, they decided to build their idea of a great city in one place and congregate there. The Tower of Babel was a symbol – an idol – against the command of the living God. In response, God confused their language so that they could no longer understandably communicate with one another (Gen. 11:7). What one spoke, another heard as mere babbling. This babbling in Genesis 11 is God's judgment, not a gift!

Regarding “tongues of angels” that Paul mentions while discussing love in 1 Corinthians 13:1, in every instance of angels speaking in Scripture they spoke in the known language of the person hearing them (Exod. 23:20-21; Dan. 9:21-22; Zech. 1:19; Rev. 5:11-12, etc.). Since this is the case and it is not recorded anywhere in the Bible that angels even have their own language, it must refer to the eloquence by which angels spoke in known human languages. So, Paul is using hyperbolic language. This is even clearer when he further writes of having “all faith so as to [literally] remove mountains” (1 Cor. 13:2) and giving “my body to be burned” (1 Cor. 13:3). In context, the phrase “tongues of angels” is hyperbolic, exaggerated speech to make a point.

Paul was definitely not an advocate of any kind of speech that was not intelligible (1 Cor. 14:9). All true languages have meaning; sounds and syllables without meaning are useless (1 Cor. 14:10-11). The gift of tongues was given in part to build up the church (1 Cor. 14:5), but the church couldn't be built up without understanding. Paul, led by the Holy Spirit, thus insisted that tongues should be interpreted (1 Cor. 14:13), and if there was no interpreter, they should not use the gift (1 Cor. 14:27-28).

Tongues, a Temporary Sign Gift of the Holy Spirit

There are numerous illustrations of temporary events in the Bible. The tent in the wilderness was temporary until it was replaced by the temple. And after the death of Christ, the new temple, the church (1 Cor. 3:16, etc.), replaced the old temple. The sign of circumcision was temporary until it was replaced by the sign and seal of baptism (Col. 2:11-12). The apostles were temporary as well. Tongues by their biblical nature were temporary too (1 Cor. 13:8).

The Apostles & Prophets Fading Out

That the apostles faded out after the first century is especially interesting. Like tongues, they too were a gift to the church. They appear in two lists of the churches’ gifts (1 Cor. 12:28; Eph. 4:11), and both times they are first in the sequence of the lists because they were foundational to the church (Eph. 2:19-20; 3:5).

The sign gifts, including tongues, (Mark 16:17) are called the “signs of an apostle” (2 Cor. 12:12). There were others who, by the grace of God, also possessed the sign gifts, however they served under the authority of the apostles. Tongues being one of the signs of the apostles reveals that the gift was particularly associated with the ministry of The Twelve and Paul. It also implies that once the apostles had passed away, the accompanying sign gifts drifted from the church as well. Hebrews 2:3-4, written around 70 A.D., even refers to the sign gifts in the past tense.

One of the qualifications of being an apostle was to have literally seen the Lord (Acts 10:39-40; 1 Cor. 9:1; 15:5-7). Physical experiences like this don’t happen today! Miraculous signs and wonders also accompanied the apostles to confirm their unique position and the gospel delivered (2 Cor. 12:12). Paul was the last apostle that Christ personally appeared to and commissioned (1 Cor. 15:8-9). While the apostles still speak to us today through the Scriptures, there are no new apostles in the church today.

Since there is no apostolic succession in the New Testament, the gift of apostleship has ceased. When James was put to death (Acts 12:2), he wasn’t replaced by another. And this makes sense since Paul was the last apostle (1 Cor. 15:8-9).

The church, however, wasn’t built upon only the apostles (including those infrequently spoken about such as Apollos, Barnabas, Matthias, and Silas), but upon the New Testament prophets as well (Eph. 2:20; 3:5). Both apostles and prophets assisted in laying the foundation for the church. However, since the foundation of the church was established during the first century, there is no more need for speaking apostles and foretelling prophets (i.e. Rev. 1:3) or speaking in tongues. The church now has the closed canon of Scripture as its final and sole authority.

Tongues and Partial Knowledge

The Old Testament was perfect for the old covenant (Psa. 19:7). It presented the shadow and type of what was to come (Col. 2:16-17; Heb. 10:1), but it was to be superseded (Luke 16:16) because in these last days God has spoken to us by his Son (Heb. 1:2). The entire canon is a “more sure” word of testimony (2 Pet. 1:19). It is the perfect law of liberty (Jas. 1:25; cf. 2 Tim. 3:16-17). The canon of the whole Bible was completed by adding the new revelation of the New Testament to that of the Old.

Biblical tongues and their interpretation at best delivered only partial revelation. When the authors of the New Testament finished their work on the canon, they had developed the complete revelation of God this side of glory. Thus, the need for partial revelation, such as tongues, ended.

Interpreted tongues were also meant in part to edify the church (1 Cor. 14:5). However, expounding of the completed canon was considered far greater than putting forth the partial revelation of tongues (1 Cor. 14:1). In fact, all of 1 Corinthians 14 emphasizes that tongues were a lesser means of communication (1 Cor. 14:1-12), worship (1 Cor. 14:13-19), and delivering the gospel message (1 Cor. 14: 20-25). Paul sums up the limitations of tongues by saying, “Nevertheless, in church I would rather speak five words with my mind in order to instruct others, than ten thousand words in a tongue” (1 Cor. 14:19). So, when the complete canon arrived, tongues were no longer necessary.

With regards to the gift of prophecy, the prophets of old helped make the canon of Scripture. For instance, Isaiah foretold the crucifixion of Christ in Isaiah 53. This is “foretelling.” Indeed, the Book of Revelation is foretelling as well (Rev. 1:3). However, there’s another type of prophecy, which is the expounding and teaching of the closed canon. This is called “forthtelling.” There is nothing new under the sun, so foretelling has ceased. Ministers today still expound the closed canon of Scripture (forthtelling), but they don’t add new revelation to it – at least they shouldn’t! (cf. Deut. 4:2; Rev. 22:18-19).

We now have God’s complete revelation in his canon [5], and God has necessarily put away the partial revelation of tongues. This is not saying that the canon is “the perfect” (i.e., the eternal state) of 1 Corinthians 13:10, but when the canon did come, there was no more need for the partial revelation of tongues and their interpretation.

Judgment on Unbelieving Israel

Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 14:22, “Thus tongues are a sign not for believers but for unbelievers, while prophecy is a sign not for unbelievers but for believers.” Paul’s main point here is tongues were a judicial sign of judgment against Israel as Isaiah informed us previously (Isa. 28:11-12). Therefore, according to Scripture, the main purpose of tongues was a judgment upon unbelieving Israel. [6]

According to Paul and others, the Jews were hungry for signs (1 Cor. 1:22; cf. Matt. 12:38; 16:1; John 2:18; 6:30, etc.). They desired signs and wonders to prove things. A sign was a miracle that authenticated a special message. However, they were more than just miracles; they were miracles that pointed to and authenticated the gospel message. [7] Signs confirmed and pointed to the gospel message spoken. Now that we have the complete canon, tongues as an authentication sign have ceased.

When Paul informed us that tongues were a judicial sign of judgment against the unbelieving Israelites and a message of divine grace to the Gentile unbelievers who heard the gospel in their own tongues, this also meant that God had broken down the middle wall of partition between the Jews and Gentiles (Eph. 2:11-18). Gentile believers were to be grafted into the olive tree (Rom. 11:11-24) and God’s church would now have congregants of both Jews and Gentiles (1 John 2:2).

In 70 A.D., the future emperor Titus Vespasian destroyed Jerusalem, devastated the temple (cf. Mark 13:1-2), and scattered the Jews among all nations. Thousands were killed. The Temple was plundered with many of the temple's sacred relics taken to Rome where they were symbols of Rome’s victory – and God’s promised judgment! At this time, Judaism became a shadow religion. It could no longer make its required temple sacrifices. The Old Testament priesthood came to naught when they could no longer perform their specific old covenant duties. Without its temple, furniture or priests, Old Testament Judaism disappeared and was unable to be biblically resurrected. Thus, tongues as a judgment sign to unbelieving Israel also went away.

Tongues and the Canon

According to Paul, to prophesy in the language of one’s audience is better than merely speaking in tongues (1 Cor. 14:19). The interpretation of tongues was a necessity in the church, and without it the church wouldn’t be edified.

The interpretation of sign gifts is important. The Old Testament offers some examples. For instance, Joseph credited God for his ability to interpret dreams (Gen. 41:14-16) and Daniel his visions (Dan. 2:45; 4:24-25; 5:14-16). The interpretation of these dreams and visions were by the Spirit. They were true. And they were added to the Old Testament canon of Scripture.

A person speaking in tongues spoke by divine utterance; it was God empowering them, therefore, when interpreted, this was considered authoritative as prophecy (1 Cor. 14:5). So, in an argument to reveal how much the canon matters with regard to tongues, we can say:

  • (1) since tongues were revelatory,
  • (2) and since the canon of scripture, or special revelation, is now closed,
  • (3) then tongues are no longer necessary or authorized.

Those who believe that tongues are still operating in the church today will attack point 2 above claiming that tongues revelation is different from the special revelation of the canon. However, in claiming this distinction, they are saying that one word of God is less authoritative than another word from God! Isn’t all revelation from God equally important? Isn’t all revelation from Lord the truth? Shouldn’t we obey all revelation from the Spirit? Weren’t the results of interpreting dreams and visions (i.e., sign gifts, Joel 2:28; Acts 2:17) placed within the very canon of Scripture itself? (Gen. 41:14-16; Dan. 2:45; 4:24-25; 5:14-16). As the Westminster Confession of Faith 1.1 (also see, 1689 Confession 1.1) states:

… Therefore it pleased the Lord, at sundry times, and in divers manners, to reveal himself, and to declare that his will unto his church; and afterwards, for the better preserving and propagating of the truth, and for the more sure establishment and comfort of the church against the corruption of the flesh, and the malice of Satan and of the world, to commit the same wholly unto writing: which maketh the Holy Scripture to be most necessary; those former ways of God’s revealing his will unto his people being now ceased.

Modern speaking in tongues is a de facto denial of the sufficiency of Scripture alone!

The Cessation of Tongues

1 Corinthians 13:8 & Tongues

Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away.

In 1 Corinthians 13:8, we observe that Paul himself states that the gift of tongues was temporary. He clearly says they will cease. However, the text doesn’t say when tongues would cease. In 1 Corinthians 13:9, he indicates prophecy and knowledge will cease when “the perfect” (i.e., the eternal state) comes. However, the text doesn’t mention tongues. So, what about tongues? When will they cease? To understand this, we need to look further into the Greek text.

The Greek text of 1 Corinthians 13:8 gives an indication of when the gift of tongues would cease. The word translated “cease” is from the Greek word pauo. It is in the middle voice. The idea is that tongues would cease in and of themselves. [8] There are two other nouns mentioned – the gift of prophecy and the gift of knowledge (“word of knowledge,” 1 Cor. 12:8) – that shall “pass away.” The verbs in both cases are in the passive voice (katargēthēsetai). This means someone or something will cause them to cease. [9]

So, what Paul is saying is that while prophecy and knowledge will be done away by “the perfect” (i.e., the eternal state), the gift of tongues will cease in and of itself prior to the time that “the perfect” arrives. I recall someone in seminary putting it this way: knowledge and prophecy will be rendered inoperative, but tongues will cease. So, though all three gifts cease, they cease in different ways and times.

Because tongues were to be replaced at an earlier date by something else, they would cease to be heard. Contrasting childhood with adulthood (Eph. 4:13-14), Paul explains in 1 Corinthians 13:11 why tongues would cease. The comparison is that of a child and an adult. He’s not implying that tongues were infantile. Rather, his point is that there is an appropriate age for particular activities. There comes a time when one is grown up and certain activities are no longer done (i.e., adults no longer play in sandboxes with crayons). Paul’s point relates to a child with partial revelation being replaced, as it were, by an articulate adult expounding the completed canon. Tongues were never to be regarded as something perpetual.

When did the cessation of tongues take place? The preponderance of the evidence reveals to us that tongues ceased during the first century of the church.

1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, and James & the Sign Gifts

Early in his ministry, Peter, through the Spirit, could heal by his shadow (Acts 5:12-16). Even Paul could heal with handkerchiefs (Acts 19:11-12). However, later Paul instructed Timothy to “use a little wine” for the sake of his “stomach and frequent ailments” (1 Tim. 5:23). Additionally, he left Trophimus sick at Ephesus (2 Tim. 4:20). Why did James call for the elders to use oil (medicine) if the sign gifts were still relevant? (Jas. 5:14-15).

As the history of the early church advanced, we observe some changes taking place. The sign gifts were at least beginning to make their exit from the New Testament church. A chart may help clarify what was happening. Please pay close attention to the years in which these events were written.

Year Written
55 A.D. Sign Gifts very active 1 Cor. 12-14
60-64 A.D. Paul’s last recorded miracle Acts 28:7-9
62-64 A.D. Timothy told to use wine 1 Tim. 5:23
44-64 A.D. James instructs church to use medicine Jas. 5:14-15
64-68 A.D. Trophimus left sick at Ephesus 2 Tim. 4:20
70 A.D. Sign Gifts referred to in past tense Heb. 2:1-4

When we look at the dating of the books in the chart above, we observe that the sign gifts are slowly making their exist from early church history. Even if the apostle James wrote at an earlier date, he appears to have perceived that the gifts of healing were not indefinite. While the gifts were very active in 55 A.D. in Corinth and other locations, by 64-68 A.D. they seem to have begun to be limited, and by the time of the book of Hebrews in 70 A.D. completely gone (Heb. 2:1-4). Even the ordination of elders (1 Tim. 3:1-7; Tit. 1:5-9) and deacons (1 Tim. 3:8-13) didn’t have a qualification for exercising the sign gifts. First Timothy and Titus were both written in 62-64 A.D.

The history of the early church shows that the sign gifts were temporary, confirming what Paul stated in 1 Corinthians 13:8 — tongues would cease.

Hebrews 1:1-4 & Tongues

Hebrews 1:1-4 informs us that God’s final word to us is his Son.

Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.

What does this mean? F.F. Bruce wrote, “His word was not completely uttered until Christ came; but when Christ came, the word spoken in Him was indeed God’s final word ... The story of divine revelation is a story of progression up to Christ, but there is no progression beyond Him.” [10] Philip Hughes states, “The past tense of the verb spoke indicates, further, that God’s speaking is complete: this is true not only of the past era of the Old Testament prophets but also of the present age of messianic fulfillment. God’s word in Christ has been spoken, fully and finally.” [11]

The Son is the complete canon of Scripture incarnate (John 1:1, 14). As the Son, Jesus is the foundation and chief cornerstone of his church (1 Cor. 3:11; cf. Matt. 21:42; 1 Pet. 2:6-7). However, he wasn’t the only person building the foundation, as he also commissioned New Testament apostles and prophets (Eph. 2:20; 3:4-5). To enable them in his revelatory work, they were given the gift of Holy Spirit. And to confirm the gospel message delivered he gave them the ability to perform various sign gifts (Mark 16:15-18; Heb. 2:3-4).

After the apostles and foretelling prophets passed into glory, their offices passed with them. Because of the completed canon, any new revelation is unauthorized and therefore biblical tongues and their interpretation today don’t exist.

Hebrews 2:3-4 & Tongues

How shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard, while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.

The Greek word for "heard" is akouo. In Hebrews 2:3, "heard" is in the aorist tense. This is indicating a past time. This text becomes even more intriguing when we understand that the author is speaking of the word being confirmed by signs in the past, and not his present day. So, the author of Hebrews is not highlighting the present reality of these gifts (i.e., past tense), but ascribing the working of sign gifts to only the first generation of believers. If the sign gifts still existed, why didn't the author of Hebrews simply write that the Holy Spirit was still confirming his word with such present-day sign gifts?

Combining Hebrews 1:1-4 above and Hebrews 2:3-4, it appears that the temporary sign gifts had already ceased. The Son and his apostles had spoken. But when they faded off the scene during the first century, then new revelation was no longer required or even authorized!

False Signs

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world (1 John 4:1).

Scripture instructs us to test the spirits so we may determine if they are from God or not (1 John 4:1-6; cf. 1 Thess. 5:2). To do this we must be firmly grounded in God’s truth. We shouldn’t just accept the word of a man as to what is true or not. Why? “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths” (2 Tim. 4:3-4).

As Christians, we not only have the right, but the obligation to test doctrine. We must test its origin. Where did it come from? Our understanding should be from Scripture (Gal. 1:11-12; cf. John 17:16; Tit. 1:2) and not just a person’s opinion. We should test its authority (Acts 17:11) and consistency (Heb. 13:9; 1 Tim. 1:3, 6:3). Sound doctrine leads to godly living (2 Tim. 3:16-17) and identifiable spiritual growth (1 Tim. 4:6). Leaders of churches and movements should be scrutinized accordingly.

While some do this more so than others, sign gifts are emphasized the most in Charismatic, Holiness, and Pentecostal circles. While handling snakes and drinking poison (Mark 16:17-18) may be faked [12], it’s much easier to counterfeit speaking in tongues, and everyone can join in, not just a chosen few. As mysterious languages that aren’t spoken by any other people group, people can just blabber some mysterious words and say it is tongues. But just claiming this doesn’t make them biblical tongues.

Modern false tongues had a beginning around January 1, 1901. Charles Fox Parham is regarded as the founder of Pentecostalism. Agnes Ozman, a student at Charles Fox Parham's Bethel Bible School in Topeka, Kansas, "was considered as the first to speak in tongues in the Pentecostal revival when she was 30 years old in 1901.” [13] She, Parham and others allegedly spoke in tongues. There was no record of interpretation when they spoke (1 Cor. 14:28). Since there was no interpreter, why didn’t they hold their tongues? Disobedience to Scripture isn’t the Holy Spirit’s way.

Parham was a heretic:

  • 1. He was an advocate of annihilationism, a false doctrine that asserts that when the unsaved go to hell they will eventually be annihilated (destroyed) rather than endure eternal punishment. Jesus thought differently (Matt. 25:46). [14]
  • 2. He also believed in the false doctrine of British Israelitism. [15]
  • 3. Parham subscribed to a heretical view of creation. He believed God required two days to create humans; non-whites on day “six” and whites on the “eighth” day. [16] The Trinity disagrees (Gen. 1:31; 2:1).
  • 4. While he believed in the race of Adam and Eve, he asserted there was a different race of people who lived outside of the Garden of Eden. He believed the race outside the Garden was unsouled beings that later perished in the Flood.
  • 5. He believed in a partial rapture composed of only tongues speakers.
  • 6. In 1907 in San Antonio, Parham was arrested on charges of sexual misconduct. The charges were later dropped. [17]

In Houston, Parham met William Joseph Seymour. Seymour was the pastor of the Azusa Street Mission in Los Angeles, CA. During the Azusa Street Revival, Seymour became one of the most prominent men in the birthing of the modern Pentecostal movement. There was mass pandemonium and utter chaos during this three-year revival. Dr. Billy C. Sichone, Deputy Vice Chancellor-Academic Affairs at Central Africa Baptist University remembers the uncontrolled mayhem in Africa. G. Campbell Morgan stated the Azusa Street Revival was the “last vomit of Satan.” [19] However, “within nine months, many missionaries were already being sent throughout the West Coast of the United States, and thirteen missionaries departed for Africa.” [20] The gift of tongues was the centerpiece of Seymour’s teaching.

There were two other large events that spurred forth from the Azusa Street Revival: (1) The Toronto Blessing of 1994 and (2) the Brownsville Revival or Pensacola Outpouring of 1995. At the Toronto Airport Vineyard Church, some of the congregants were jumping and dancing, while yet others were laughing or crying. No scripture supports this type of chaotic activity and Paul through the Spirit actually condemns it saying, “all things should be done decently and in order” (1 Cor. 14:40). Contrary to the glossolalia movement, tongues aren’t an uncontrollable experience. 1 Corinthians 14:32 states, “the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets.” There’s a danger of offending the Spirit with counterfeit sign gifts, including counterfeit tongues.

The Pentecostal church was founded with a heretic at its helm. It's interesting to note similarities to Montanism, a heretical charismatic movement of the second century. [18]

Satan is a deceiver. He comes but “to steal and kill and destroy” (John 10:10). He’s a liar (John 8:44). He likes nothing better to distract even true Christians from properly understanding and applying God’s Word. Think of the wasted thousands of hours in genuine prayer and gospel preaching that have been replaced with false tongue speaking.

The spirit of antichrist “is in the world already” (1 John 4:3; cf. 1 John 2:18; 2 John 1:7) and “the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders” (2 Thess. 2:9). Satan can inspire one to speak with false tongues too; consider the talking serpent in the Garden of Eden (Gen. 3). Can tongue speakers today prove that their tongues aren’t from Satan himself? Can they prove from Scripture that tongues even exist today?

The cure for such deception and delusion is not more tongues, which according to Scripture have ceased, but more sound doctrine from the whole counsel of God.

Cessationist Conclusion

In closing, no one argument above taken by itself in this article emphatically states that the sign gifts have disappeared. However, when the preponderance of the evidence is considered and we study the totality of Scripture, such a conclusion is most likely true.

References and Notes

[1] The Re-Newed or New Covenant? ( Last Accessed, 3 June 2022.

[2] Have the Gifts of the Spirit Ceased? ( Last Accessed, 3 June 2022.

[3] Bill Mounce. γλῶσσα. ( Last Accessed, 3 June 2022.

The main word translated “tongue” is glossa, from which the term “glossolalia” is derived (Acts 2:4, 11; 10:46; 19:6; 1 Cor. 12-14). But a synonymous word is dialektos meaning “language.”

[4] In the KJV, the translators on 1 Cor 14:2 added the word “unknown” to the actual text – “For he that speaketh in an unknown tongue speaketh not unto men, but unto God: for no man understandeth him; howbeit in the spirit he speaketh mysteries.” The word unknown is italicized in the KJV because it was an added word – it’s not part of the original Greek text. It was meant to clarify the fact that the language spoken was originally unknown by the tongue speaker. However, some have falsely assumed that it is an ecstatic language.

[5] No new books will be added to the canon. There will be no new revelation this side of glory. We await the coming of Jesus Christ to consummate the kingdom. When we see Christ face to face we will have even fuller revelation.

[6] Other reasons for the gift of tongues were to confirm the gospel message preached (2 Cor. 12:12) and to build up the church (1 Cor. 14:4).

[7] A sign points to something greater than itself. A McDonald’s sign points to the restaurant near it. The restaurant is where you can eat. The restaurant is greater than the sign that points to it.

[8] Middle voice, “means that the SUBJECT initiates the action and participates in the results of the action. In other words, the subject is both doing and receiving the action. The middle voice indicates the subject performs an action upon himself or herself (reflexive action) or for their own benefit. Precept Austin Greek Quick Reference Guide. “Middle Voice.” ( Last Accessed, 4 June 2022.

[9] “The passive voice conveys the idea that the SUBJECT is being ACTED UPON by an OUTSIDE force or power. SUBJECT is the RECIPIENT or the RECEIVER of the verbal action or effect.” Precept Austin Greek Quick Reference Guide. “Passive Voice.” ( Last Accessed, 4 June 2022.

[10] Bruce, F.F. (1964). The Epistle to the Hebrews. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, p. 3.

[11] Hughes, Philip E. (1977). A Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, p. 37.

[12] "The animals that I've seen that have come from religious snake handlers were in bad condition," says Kristen Wiley, curator of the Kentucky Reptile Zoo, a facility in the town of Slade that produces venom and promotes the conservation of snakes. "They did not have water. The cages had been left not cleaned for a pretty long period of time. And the other thing we noticed is there were eight or 10 copperheads in a container that was not very large." What's more, she says there was no fecal material in the container, which indicated the snakes were not being fed. Riley says a snake that may be dehydrated, underweight and sick from close confinement is less likely to strike than a healthy snake. Moreover, the venom it produces is weaker. NPR. Serpent Experts Try To Demystify Pentecostal Snake Handling. ( Last Accessed, 6 June 2022.

Mark 16:9-20 is a questionable text as to its authenticity. Please see, “Mark 16:9-20 and Textual Problems.” ( Last Accessed, 8 June 2022. Even if this text was written by Mark, it isn’t referring to modern-day snake handling, which is tempting God (see, Matt. 4:6 and Jesus’ reply to Satan in Matt. 4:7). It rather refers to such things as happened to Paul at Malta. He had gathered a bundle of sticks and put them on the fire when a snake came out and fastened on his hand (Acts 28:3). However, Paul “shook off the creature into the fire and suffered no harm” (Acts 28:5). He didn’t “handle it,” as in some churches today.

[13] Wiki. “Agnes Ozman.” ( Last Accessed, 4 June 2022.

[14] An Eternal Hell is for Real - The Heresy of Annihilationism? ( Last Accessed, 4 June 2022.

[15] What is British Israelitism? ( 40193). Last Accessed, 4 June 2022.

[16] Espinosa, Gaston (2014). William J. Seymour and the Origins of Global Pentecostalism. Duke University Press, p. 45.

[17] The 1st Pentecostal scandal. ( Last Accessed, 4 June 2022.

[18] Modern-day Pentecostalism is the reinvention of the heretical Montanist Movement of the second century. Montanus lived about c.101- c. 200. His followers called Montanists were criticized for expanding the realm of revelation beyond the apostolic age. Eusebius reported, ‘He fell into a state of possession, as it were, and abnormal ecstasy, insomuch that he became frenzied and began to babble and utter strange sounds.’ The two women ‘chattered in a frenzied, inopportune and unnatural fashion’ (Eusebius, HE 5:16:7, 9). Please see, Montanus: First Charismatic. ( Last Accessed, 5 June 2022.

[19] Brown, Michael L. (1996). From Holy Laughter to Holy Fire. Destiny. Image Publishers, p. 197-198.

[20] The Malachi Project. “William J. Seymour.” ( Last Accessed, 5 June 2022.

Answer by Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr.

Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr., D.D., M.Div. is the Theological Editor at Third Millennium Ministries (Thirdmill).