What is Speaking in Tongues

Glossolalia or speaking in tongues is practiced by an estimated 100 million Christians in the world today and the number engaging in this practice is growing at a massive rate every year. That is approximately 20% of all Christians. These statistics originally included my family so note that we have had first hand experience with tongues. But what many are wanting to know is if what is seen in the Church today is always from God or are there other explanations. Note that speaking in tongues is also known as glossolalia, unknown tongues and ecstatic tongues.

History of Glossolalia

Throughout recorded history there have been many occasions where people have spoken in what was called ecstatic tongues. Note most of these accounts predate Pentecost and were of non-Christian origin. Christians therefore can not say with confidence that every occurrence of glossolalia must be an expression of the will of God even though many do subscribe to this view. Those practicing tongues today portray Pentecost as the supreme example of supernatural tongues; however, the recorded cases of glossolalia go back as far as 1100 B.C. On that occasion a young Amen worshiper attracted historical infamy when he became possessed by a god and began to make sounds in a strange ecstatic tongue.

Seven hundred years later, the Greek philosopher Plato demonstrated that he was well acquainted with the phenomenon of speaking in tongues as he referred to several families who practiced ecstatic speech, praying and utterings while supposedly possessed. He also pointed out that these practices had even brought physical healing to those who engaged in them. Plato and most of his contemporaries asserted that these occurrences were caused by divine inspiration. He suggested that God takes possession of the mind while man sleeps or is possessed and during this state, God inspires him with utterances which he can neither understand nor interpret. This does NOT mean of course that one practising speaking in tongues as seen today is possessed or not saved. That of course is just simply not true. When God confused the languages of His people who were rebelling at Babel in Genesis 11, they also spoke in “new tongues” and note this happened without the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

In the last century before Christ, Virgil described the speaking of ecstatic tongues of the Sybilline priestess on the Island of Delos as the result of her being unified with the god Apollo. This happened while she meditated in a haunted cave amidst the eerie sounds of the wind playing strange music through the narrow crevices in the rocks.

Several of the mystery religions of the Greco-Roman world record the same phenomenon of speaking in tongues. Some of those most often listed are the Mithra cult of the Persians; the Osiris cult originating in the land of the Pharaohs, and the lesser known Dionysian, Eulusinian, and Orphic cults cradled in Macedonia, Thrace and Greece. Another indication comes from Lucian of Samosata (A.D. 120-198) who in De Dea Syria describes an example of glossolalia as exhibited by a roaming believer of June, the Syrian goddess, stationed at Hierapolis in Syria. It is also interesting to note that the term glossolalia used so widely today comes from the Greek vernacular which was in existence long before the day of Pentecost. It should be frightening to all Christians that what we see now in the Church today, resembles these occurrences of ecstatic tongues that took place in these ancient cults before the day of Pentecost and that what took place at Pentecost does not in any way resemble these occurrences. At Pentecost, it was undoubtedly and unarguably the speaking of foreign languages.

Believe it or not, speaking in tongues as seen in the Church today is a fairly recent phenomenon in Christianity. It came about in four waves. The 1st wave started around 1901 and was founded in the traditional Pentecostal movement by Charles Parham of Bethel College, Kansas. The 2nd wave, neo-Pentecostalism or the Charismatic movement entered most Churches in the early 1960’s in Van Nuys, California, under Dennis Bennett, Rector of St Marks Episcopal (Anglican) Church. In ten years it spread to all major Protestant families of the world, reaching a total of 55 million people by 1990. It included the Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, Lutherans, Roman Catholics and many others. The 3rd wave, the Catholic Charismatic Renewal movement started in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1967 among students and faculty of DuQuesne University, and by 1993 it touched the lives of over 100 million Catholics in over 238 nations. And the 4th wave was the Evangelicals that started in 1981 at Fuller Theological Seminary with John Wimber. By 1990, 33 million in the world were moving in signs and wonders, though they play down labels such as “Pentecostal” and “Charismatic.”

Speaking in Tongues is not uniquely Christian

Tongues as we see it today did not come about as a result of studying the Bible. It just out of the blue happened. It should be of extreme concern to all Christians, because as already shown, it is not uniquely a Christian practice by any means. Various studies have revealed that speaking in tongues is present in non-Christian religions all around the world. It is practiced in China, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Indonesia, Siberia, Arabia, Burma, and Arctic regions just to name a few. Glossolalia is found among the Eskimos, Japanese séances in Hokkaido, in a small cult led by Genji Yanagide of Moji City, the shamans in Ethiopia in the zar cult and various spirits in Haitian Voodoo and is also found extensively in African tribal religions.

Since history records that the practice of tongues goes back well before Pentecost in Acts chapter two, which was speaking in foreign languages, is speaking in tongues as we see it today from God, or as some claim from demonic sources or are there other explanations? Does what Paul speak of in regards to spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians 12-14 relate to what we see in Churches today? Why do Christians that practice speaking in tongues as we see it today, now call it a heavenly language or the tongues of Angels?

What is the real Truth on Tongues?

Many Christians believe that speaking in tongues is the fulfilment of the Latter Rain promised in Joel 2:28-29 and that it is the final manifestation of the Holy Spirit before the Second Coming of Christ. It is also commonly taught that you have not received the Holy Spirit and are not saved unless you have demonstrated the gift of tongues and it seems to be the only sought after gift in the Church today.

So what is the real truth about tongues? Can we go by experience and feelings or do we go by the Word of God? The only way to find the truth to these questions of course has to be the Bible and the Bible alone. There is no other way. Everything we need to know for our Christian walk can be found in the Word of God and if not clearly taught in God’s Word, then we should not follow it lest we be deceived. The Bible warns us of this fact many times. In this document we will cover all aspects of speaking in tongues (glossolalia) from the Bible alone. We will not be going by experiences, feelings or so called “physical evidence.” We cannot afford to adopt an interpretation which demands a change in God’s Word. It is our interpretation that should change if necessary to fit the Bible – not the Bible changed to fit our interpretation. Since the enemy can and does counterfeit miracles of God we must follow the Bible alone.

2 Timothy 3:16 says, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:”

Many Christians that practice tongues as seen in the Church today exclaim it is not possible for this feeling not to be from God. They make this statement with absolute confidence as if it is totally impossible for them to be deceived despite the fact that Jesus Himself warns us ever so clearly that if possible, even the elect can be deceived.

Matthew 24:24 says, “For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.”

And hence the following warning must always be heeded and especially in regards to tongues as most commonly seen today where there can be no conclusive evidence of what one is saying. So how is this accomplished beyond all doubt, which of course means excluding personal thoughts and feelings?

1 John 4:1 “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God…”

The outpouring of the Latter Rain

The land of Israel had two main seasons of rain designated as the early or first rain, and the latter rain, and God promised that if Israel as a nation was faithful and obedient, these rainy seasons would never fail.

Deuteronomy 11:14 “That I will give you the rain of your land in his due season, the first rain and the latter rain, that thou mayest gather in thy corn, and thy wine, and thine oil.”

These terms early and latter rain are also used in the Bible figuratively to designate God’s blessing in His Church (Hosea 6:3; Zechariah 10:1) and in Joel 2:23-27 these terms are used in conjunction with the outpouring of God’s Spirit “before the great and the terrible day of the LORD come.” (Verses 28-32)

Joel 2:23-24 “Be glad then, ye children of Zion, and rejoice in the LORD your God: for he hath given you the former rain moderately, and he will cause to come down for you the rain, the former rain, and the latter rain in the first month. 24 And the floors shall be full of wheat, and the fats shall overflow with wine and oil.”

Joel 2:31-32 “The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and the terrible day of the LORD come. 32 And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the LORD shall be delivered: for in mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance, as the LORD hath said, and in the remnant whom the LORD shall call.”

So if then the first occurrence of speaking in tongues on the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2 is designated as the early rain by which the seed of the Gospel was planted and germinated and commenced its vigorous growth by the gift of tongues, then “before the great and the terrible day of the LORD come” we are according to Joel 2:28-29 to expect another or latter rain.

Joel 2:28 “And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions:”

It was this very prophecy you will recall, that Peter quoted on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:16-21) but its completed and final fulfilment still awaits us when God cuts short His work in righteousness in “a short work” (Romans 9:28) in the last days when in tremendous power the whole earth will be “lightened with his glory” and the message of God is represented as crying “mightily with a strong voice.” (Revelation 18:1-2)

In Revelation 14:6, 14-20 God’s last message is described as going “to every nation, and kindred, and tongue and people.” Perhaps the real gift of tongues will play a significant role. The Church is now on the threshold of the most stupendous events ever witnessed. In the world; sin, degradation, misery, calamity, fear, violence, war and hatred such as the world has never seen before (Daniel 12:1; Matthew 24:7; Luke 21:25-26; 2 Timothy 3:1-5; Revelation 11:18); but in the church such power as the world has never seen before when the whole world will be “lightened with His glory” (Revelation 18:1)

Deceptions and Counterfeits of Satan

Christians should not be unmindful of the fact that Satan is a student of prophecy and can read all the above events with almost unerring accuracy. He knows better than we do, that in fulfilment of prophecy, God’s Holy Spirit is about to be poured out upon His people with the Pentecostal power of the Latter Rain. Satan would be untrue to his nature if he did not seek to counterfeit God’s outpouring of His Spirit in the last days with his own quick and early spurious revival and utterly false manifestations such as a counterfeit version of tongues in order to deceive millions in this world. The warnings are repeated all through God’s Word.

2 Thessalonians 2:9 says, “The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders.”

For those looking for signs, evidences, miracles, wonders, manifestations and proofs such as tongues, Satan can and will supply everything to satisfy the pride of the natural human heart. Sadly, the world today does not want to have to think. Its great lust is for a titivating of the senses. Alcohol, drugs, the discotheque, loud overpowering pulsating music all cater to this desire. Those in religious circles who are also looking for ecstasy of feeling, emotions release, uninhibited expression, and “feelings” of “being in the spirit”, Satan will also have something to please exactly so everyone possible will be swept into his net. The common desire shared in the drug world and the natural human heart is for feelings of power rather than purity, emotion rather than duty, ecstasy rather than obedience, feelings rather than faith, spiritual enlightenment rather than the discipline of earnest study of God’s Word verse by verse. To all such Satan has his counterfeit and speaking in tongues is no exception.

2 Timothy 4:3-4 “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; 4 And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.”

The Bible very clearly outlines its warnings of the deceptions of the last days. “Satan himself” we are told “is transformed into an angel of light” and “his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness.” (2 Corinthians 11:14-15). Matthew 24:24 foretells “false Christ's, and false prophets” showing “great signs and wonders” so clever and overpowering that “if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.”

Revelation 13:13-14 “And he doeth great wonders, so that he maketh fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men, 14 And deceiveth them that dwell on the earth by the means of those miracles which he had power to do in the sight of the beast...”

And who gave power to the beast?

Revelation 13:4 “And they worshipped the dragon [Satan] which gave power unto the beast: and they worshipped the beast, saying, Who is like unto the beast? who is able to make war with him?”

And Revelation 16:14 speaks again of “…spirits of devils, working miracles...” Satan will even go as far as to make one believe they have cast out demons just to deceive, and why wouldn’t he. Many have accepted the false gift of tongues believing it is genuine by such deceptions. He is after all the great deceiver which the majority all too often under estimate. So how do we safe guard against Satan’s deceptions? The scriptures below give some excellent guidance.

Isaiah 8:20 “To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.”

Matthew 22:29 “…Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God.”

Acts 17:11 “These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.”

1 John 4:1 “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God…”

Satan can present a counterfeit so closely resembling the truth that it deceives those who are willing to be deceived, who desire to shun the self-denial and sacrifice demanded by the truth; but it is impossible for Satan to hold under his power one soul who honestly desires at whatever cost to know the truth. Sadly, speaking in tongues is lustfully coveted. Before Jesus returns there will be a true revival but we are warned that the counterfeit will precede it. Satan has always worked by bringing the counterfeit ahead of the genuine because when the true comes it is much harder to accept when the counterfeit has already been accepted. All of the above are very serious warnings we cannot afford to ignore. We must be able to test the spirits to see if they are from God and we absolutely cannot go by our desires and feelings or experiences lest we fall victim to the enemy who will and does work on the desires and lusts of our hearts. I pray with all my heart that you will read on and consider these things very seriously.

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