Saturday, December 26, 2009

Speaking in Tongues: The Language of Hell?

There is a video series on Youtube that some have asked us about where the presenter declares that the gift of Tongues is a language of Hell. There were so many errors in that video series that I couldn't even begin to respond to them all. Thankfully, I haven't had to do so because the following brother provides a sound and most importantly Scriptural review of this topic.

There are clearly false spiritual manifestations in the churchworld, including false tongues. However, that does not negate the reality of the true gift of God. A great confusion about this gift is often articulated when evaluating the Day of Pentecost as depicted in Acts Chapter 2. The explanation provided by David in this video is exactly what God revealed to me years ago regarding what happened on that day.

Each Heard "Them" in "His" Language

Acts 2:6 says, "Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard THEM speak in his own language."

The miracle was not that the disciples were speaking known languages or that everyone heard them speaking in earthly languages. EVERY man (each individual man) heard THEM (the group of disciples) speaking in his OWN language (singular).

By way of example, it is like saying that, one person heard all of the disciples speaking Greek. Another heard them all speaking in Italian. Another heard everything in Chinese...(I am making up the languages here, but you get my point.).

They were astounded because each person heard what was being said in their own language (not languages, plural). The text goes on to say:

"And they were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans? And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born?" Acts 2:7-8

Again, they wondered how it was that they heard every disciple speaking in their own tongue (singular). How is it that I hear them speaking English, you hear them speaking Spanish, etc. We all hear what is being said, but we hear their sayings in our own language (singular).

Scripture does not say which language was actually spoken. Instead, we are only told what each person heard. The text is clear that "each" heard them "all" speaking in "his" own language (singular). The assertion that they heard the disciples speaking all of the different earthly tongues is false and unsupported by the text.

Scripture Disproves the "Earthly Languages" Error

Not only does the text in Acts Chapter 2 never say that the people heard all of the disciples speaking these earthly languages (plural), this idea also conflicts with other Scriptures about the gift of tongues.


I Corinthians 14:2 says, "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."

According to this text, the very reason unknown tongues are spoken unto God and NOT man is because no man understands what is spoken. If these are earthly languages, how can God say definitively that "no man" understands it? Surely if these are earthly languages, someone might possibly know that language?

Some assert that the tongue being "unknown" only refers to the speaker not knowing the language. Yet the phrase "no man" is clearly contrasted against the "him" who is speaking. The text does not say "And he does not understand himself".

Others try to diminish the relevance of the word "unknown" by saying it was not in the original Greek. But that does not change the context of the text. It specifically states that "no man understandeth him". In other words, it is an incomprehensible tongue to man whether the word "unknown" is used or not.

Consider also how it butchers the text to remove the attribute of this tongue being "unknown". It would essentially say, "No one understands a man who speaks in a language"?? Of course, this is ridiculous. Whether explicitly stated or not, the gift of tongues being "unknown" or not understood is an essential attribute to the gift.

Further, the verse goes on to say that tongues is the way in which man's spirit is speaking mysteries unto God. Mysteries is the Greek word mystērion meaning a hidden or secret thing; the secret counsels which govern God in dealing with the righteous; religious secrets confided only to the initiated and not to ordinary mortals. Is there some mystical power associated with speaking foreign earthly languages that gives one access to secret knowledge? Does speaking French supernaturally impart to me the mysteries of God?

The text indicates that the gift of tongues is a supernatural event outside of man's understanding where individuals are speaking mysteries unto God.

Only The Speaker is Edified

Scripture elaborates further about no man understanding the unknown tongue by stating that only the one speaking is edified when the gift is in operation, unless there is also gift of interpretation.

"He that speaketh in an unknown tongue edifieth himself; but he that prophesieth edifieth the church. 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. 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?" I Corinthians 14:4-6

"For thou verily givest thanks well, but the other is not edified." I Corinthians 14:17

God says with certainty that, when the gift of tongues is in operation, no one else but the speaker is edified. It is of no profit to others. Why is this?? Surely, if these are only earthly languages, there might exist someone who knows the language and could be edified by what is said? God could only say conclusively that only the speaker is edified without interpretation if He knows that "no man" understands what is being said.

Corinth, A Multilingual Trading City

In trying to assert that the tongues referenced in I Corinthians were earthly languages, people point to Corinth as a multilingual international trading center. The church at Corinth - they say - was comprised of a multitude of people of varying ethnicities speaking a wide variety of earthly languages. Of Corinth, it is stated:

"It was really a mammoth mongrel of all nationalities." William Baxter Godbey

They were "chattering speechmakers" preoccupied with "bombastic language" John Calvin, Calvin's New Testament Commentaries

Considering this, it begs the question, "Why is God telling a widely multicultural city that if someone speaks in earthly languages no man can understand him and no one else but the speaker can be edified by what is said?" If there is any place where a variety of earthly languages would be understood it would be in such a place as this, a linguistically diverse international trading center.

"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?" I Corinthians 14:23

Further, why would someone entering the church at Corinth (a multilingual city) and hearing people speaking in different earthly languages conclude that the people were out of their minds? What is insane about people in this diverse of a city being heard speaking earthly languages? Wouldn't such be happening all over the city as people go about their daily lives and communicate?

It simply does not make sense that speaking different earthly languages would cause such chaos in what was a largely multilingual city, and that is precisely because it wasn't so.

What About Pentecost?

Although we have already shown that the text in Acts Chapter 2 does not support a belief that the disciples were literally speaking varying earthly languages, this assertion presents other problems for the Biblical text on tongues.

If that which is spoken in an unknown tongue can be understood by no man and can edify no one else without interpretation, then how can people assert that what was spoken in Acts Chapter 2 was earthly languages? How did those nearby hear and understand that the disciples were praising the Lord?

Either individuals can hear and be edified by a natural understanding of the tongues spoken or they cannot. These issues all stem from a false understanding of what tongues is.

What is the Big Deal Anyway?

I am not proposing that tongues is the "sign" of salvation; such an allegation is false. The issue being addressed here is whether tongues is in fact a valid gift from the Lord for His people...and WHAT exactly is that gift?

We cannot stand against perversion by mocking the things of God. It is the carnal mind which prompts one to do so and the same which even prevents understanding in the first place. In such cases, we must pray for understanding and not start unScriptural tirades against things which we know not.

Common Misconceptions About the Gift of Tongues

  1. If we cannot understand the language spoken in tongues, it is a false tongue.
    It is clear from the above text that there are tongues from God which are unknown to man. It is unScriptural to claim that this is a basis for identifying false tongues. Further, we are also told that there are earthly tongues (languages) and Heavenly tongues (languages), and the Apostle Paul spoke both kinds of tongues (languages). "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." I Corinthians 3:1

    To call an unrecognizable tongue a false tongue is to run the risk of denying a true work of the Holy Spirit. If there are tongues from God that are unknown to man, then using one's own understanding as a basis for determining its validity is in error. Who can say what a "heavenly tongue" sounds like? Scripture does give us one example, "Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered." Romans 8:26 Some may say, "This is not a reference to the gift of tongues." That may or may not be the case. However, it certainly is a reference to a "heavenly" language for it is spoken by God Himself.

    According to God, His Spirit intercedes for us with a language that cannot be translated into words. The word "uttered" here does not mean it is silent. It is the Greek word alalētos meaning: "not expressed in words". Notice as well that this happens when man lacks the understanding of what to pray for. "For if I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prayeth, but my understanding is unfruitful. 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." I Corinthians 14:14-15 Paul states that praying in an unknown tongue is the same as praying with his spirit. Further, he says that such is praying without understanding. He says that he will do both.

  2. The benefit of tongues is only for the unbeliever.
    I Corinthians 14:3 states, "He that speaketh in an unknown tongue edifieth himself; but he that prophesieth edifieth the church." Speaking in an "unknown tongue" edifies the one who is speaking. To edify means to build up, to establish, to restore, to grow. There is a specific and direct benefit to the believer for speaking in an unknown tongue.

  3. The use of tongues must always be accompanied by interpretation.
    This is usually an understanding stemming from I Corinthians 14:27-28, "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. But if there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in the church; and let him speak to himself, and to God." The text does not say that tongues should be forbidden or are disallowed if there is no interpreter. It states that tongues without interpretation must be spoke to one's self and to God - as opposed to speaking them generally to the church congregation. Please notice that the command to "be silent" does not refer to a cessation of speaking. It simply refers to how and to whom one is speaking.

    The purpose for such an admonition is given above in I Corinthians 14:2-3. Only the speaker is edified when speaking an unknown tongue because no man understands it. Since no man understands it, what is said must be interpreted so that everyone (not just the speaker) may be edified. This is not done to put gag on the use of tongues, but it is an exhortation for things to be done properly and in order, which is consistent with the context of that chapter. Our goal in all should be to edify all. It is a common sense teaching on how to speak, not a command to speak not.

  4. The use of tongues is no longer for today.
    When the gift of tongues was given at Pentecost, the Scripture says, "For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call." Act 2:39 Some will say, "But that is speaking about the gift of the Holy Spirit, not the gift of tongues." Yet, this is illogical. The gift of tongues IS a gift of the Spirit. If the Holy Spirit is promised to all who is far off, then so are His gifts.

    Jesus also told us, "And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues" Mark 16:17 He did not say that these signs would only follow the Apostles or these signs would be given only as a witness unto Israel. These signs shall follow them that believe.

    There will come a time when the gifts cease, and we are told that, "Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men...Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ" Ephesians 4:8, 13 The gifts [plural] given to men by God remain until the Body has reached the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. So when does this happen? Scripture tells us:

    "Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. 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." I Corinthians 13:8-10

    Tongues (along with prophecies and knowledge) shall NOT pass away until that which is perfect has come. When all things are perfected in Christ - including His Body, the church - then will these things pass away (Revelation Chapter 21).

  5. Everyone gets the gift of tongues.
    I Corinthians 12:30 states, "Have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret?" This is a rhetorical question whose answer is, "No." Scripture states that not all speak in tongues (even though Paul wished that they did, I Corinthians 14:5).

  6. Tongues is the most important gift.
    Not true, and for reasons stated above: because only the speaker is edified in its use (unless there is interpretation). This is why those with this gift should also pray for the gift to interpret so that they can edify others besides themselves. "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." I Corinthians 14:5

  7. If a person speaks in tongues, someone else has to be the interpreter.
    Look once more at the text above. I Corinthians 14:5 says that he who prophesies is greater than he who speaks in tongues "except" he interpret. Who is the "he" being referenced regarding interpretation? It is the same person who is doing the speaking.

    Further, I Corinthians 14:12-13 says, "Even so ye, forasmuch as ye are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the church. Wherefore let him that speaketh in an unknown tongue pray that he may interpret." The one who speaks in an unknown tongue (a tongue that no man understands) should also pray that he (the one speaking) may interpret. Why? Again, so that all of the church may be edified and not just himself.

    There is no command that the interpreter of tongues has to be someone other than the speaker. "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." I Corinthians 14:27 The word "one" in that text could be the speaker himself, "one" of the 2-3, or any other "one". The command is that there be interpretation when tongues is spoken to the church; God makes no requirement on who should do the interpreting. In fact, the multiple text indicates that it may often by the one speaking himself.

  8. What about the person who was speaking in an "unknown" tongue and someone nearby who actually spoke that language was shocked to hear him cursing God.
    This is one of the more disappointing arguments I have heard against tongues, primarily because it is ignorantly repeated by those who claim to be Christians.

    I have yet to meet anyone who has first-hand knowledge of such an account. It is always "something" that happened to "someone" in "someplace" at "sometime". It bears the characteristics of urban myths which sustain themselves for years being spoken and reiterated so many times, people just assume it is true.

    The reason I say that Christians who repeat this story do so ignorantly is because in repeating this "story", they are inadvertently demonizing the very gift that God has given.

    First, the definition of a tongue being "unknown" is not that the person speaking is not familiar with the language. According to God, the "unknown" tongue is understood by NO man. So the premise that one is speaking in an "unknown" tongue that is "understood" by another is false.

    Second, if God gives an unknown tongue as a gift from His Spirit to edify the believer, then believers should feel free to partake of that gift (as the Spirit wills). To cite an unsubstantiated story implying that people praying in an unknown tongue may be cursing God is to twist the Scriptures and use fear as a means of stopping people from exercising that God-given gift. There is nothing strange or demonic about speaking an "unknown" tongue from the Lord. Indeed, there may in fact be something demonic about those who tend to stifle the operation of that gift (I Corinthians 14:39).

  9. There are false tongues and abuses of the use of tongues in church.
    This is true. Yet, we must be careful not to malign the things of God in a zeal to expose error. Just as satan tries to counterfeit the things of God, he can produce false spiritual manifestations as well (II Thessalonians 2:9). We know false tongues NOT because it is an unknown tongue being spoken, but by the spiritual discernment God gives.

    Yes, and there are even abuses to the gift of tongues in churches. Isn't this exactly what Paul was addressing with the church at Corinth? However, Paul does not say the people are operating in a false or demonic gift. He admonishes the people for being "children in understanding" in their use of the gift. The gift being of Heavenly origin is never questioned, only the maturity of the believers operating the gift. Simply put, misuse of a gift does not mean the gift is false. It simply means the individual is immature, or as David said in the video, ignorant.


  1. This is good. The videos helped clarify and refresh this gift. A sister and I were just talking about this. Thank you for posting this.

  2. I believe that this is a very good way of getting to people who are unsure of what speaking in tongues really is or what it even means.

    I posted an arguement on here earlier where I was stubborn about the topic of Twilight, but after a while of thinking about it I don't really see why anyone should corrupt their minds with such garbage anyway. Twilight is evil and I have accepted it.

    Thanks again

  3. This was a pretty awesome break down. I have NEVER heard the gift of tougues and the Baptism of the Holy Spirit explained in such a Biblical and concise manner. Good Post.

  4. This assessment of tongues is EXCEPTIONAL and is inspired by Spirit of God. I read it while I was at work and the worse part about this article was that it ended. I thought on the matters addressed and it caused me to deepen my meditation on how the Holy Spirit moves. Glory to God, glory to Jesus Christ!

    Our pastors should be preaching this doctrine to us. It would prevent a lot of present confusion going on in our churches. We must pray against the spirit of error, because it is a blinding agent that prevents many professed Christians everywhere to stumble. This truth is definitely revealed to as many as have ears to hear what the Holy Spirit is saying.

  5. Thank you so much for this article! I have been a Born-Again Christian for a little over 3 years now. I was your worldly typical woman born into a sinful world getting by. Whether through manipulation, charm, addictions and a multitude of things. However, Jesus wooed me and I came. A week after I decided to follow Jesus wholeheartedly, I was baptized in the Holy Spirit and spoke in tongues. My life was radically transformed. I had secret addictions that I was ably to pull off most of my life to cope. The moment I spoke in tongues no body had to tell me how to live. The Holy Spirit taught me about getting rid of the seductive music, TV, Dress, and Talk EVERYTHING to the last detail in my life and still is. I then ran into articles, videos, sermons, denying tongues and the like. I became perplexed confused and troubled about this. I heard people saying that they heard people were cursing GOD. That really through the curve ball. I pleaded with God and asked him how can he change me into a new creature to serve him and give me something that was not from him (that is impossible!)? On and off, for 3 years I ran into a variety of camps - both camps of Saints who loved the Lord. When I spoke in tongues I was also interpret in private and sing. I had asked others about this but it seemed like others were not solid on what I was talking about. I then stopped speaking in tongues for a while. I then told the Lord recently that I would just leave it in his hands amidst all this confusion and verses. It seems like ACTS and Corinthian were speaking of different TOUNGES. I then ran across the tongues video posted above on you tube. I told the Lord I did not want to be responsible on Judgment day if I was not speaking from him. I have to work out my salvation with fear and trembling! Work with me now Yahushua (Jesus) I pleaded. I posted a comment under 2010wilderness. He then forwarded me your blog article. It is absolutely am amazed that God answered my prayer (he usually does)!! It is a tragedy after 33,000 denominations, fighting, Confusion and possibly bloodshed all over mis-understood verses when the truth is so plain in view when the blinders are removed!! Not even theologians for centuries could see the clear truth blatant in our faces! I have never heard it so clear before. Tradition and programming which has been passed down has caused many of us to not see the truth. Thank you kindly and will spread the truth no longer in confusion but knowing what is truth! Speaking in tongues and interpreting truly edifies myself. Because even when I did not know all this I would get “Come out of Babylon” I would ask other what that meant. Or “I love you my son.” I will admit that I must test the spirits because there are times I can me speaking from self and thinking about other things, that is why it is important to test the spirits and truly PRAY IN THE SPIRIT. Thank you again!

  6. VERY GOOD assesment on tongues. I am excited to have just found your site and youtube, from what I have read and saw so far you lay out the information well and very clear in scripture.

  7. Hello adminstrators, I must say that I am tremendously blessed by the knowledge, wisdom and revelations of your site. In a matter of days, I have read every single article on your site and I am amazed that all of the things I have gleaned from studying scriptures and being taught by the Holy Spirit have been confirmed by your articles and posting.However, on this particular topic at hand, I have some differing revelations.From my studies, I have concluded that the bible speaks of two different tongues ie the tongues spoken on the day of pentecost, and the tongues spoken of in corinthians and elsewhere. The reason I believe these are two distinct types of tongues is that, in the book of acts, all the people who spoke the various languages that were heard were of one nationality and language and the miracle was that they were all empowered to speak known languages having never been taughtthese languages.This miracle of tongues were used to exhalt and exhort praises to God. The other gift of tongues spoken of in corinthians and elsewhere is a special form of communication that is only understood by God, although it can be interpreted via the gift of interpretation, and it builds up the speaker. Thanks for considering my views. Tarre Stanley

  8. Hi Tarre,

    Thank you for sharing your feedback. That must have been some heavy reading to get through it all in a few days. LOL

    I have heard people explain that understanding before about tongues and appreciate you sharing what you have learned from your studies. While that is not what God has shown me on the matter, the main point is that tongues is a valid gift from God that is still available today. If you know that then I thank God for it.

    Regardless of what happened on that day, we are here now and need His power now. May God continue to pour out His Spirit on His people as He prepares us for the days at hand.

    God Bless you Tarre!

  9. Thank you for this blog. It is great to see teaching on this subject that is consistent with the word. It is improperly taught or just plain flat out denied and that has caused a lot of ocnfusion for believers. Including me at one point in time. I just wanted to point out one thing. Under Common Misconceptions About the Gift of Tongues #1 the wrong scripture reference is there. I looked it up and was confused. You have 3:1, but it should be 13:1. Looks like the typo bunny had fun :D. Thank you again for working with God's Spirit and not against it.

  10. Thank you for this post, it is wonderful and helped clear up some things for me. Thanks a bunch! :)

  11. I have been fervently reading through the NT again lately and when I would get to passages referring to speaking in tongues I was rather thrown off. I was completely convinced that it just meant talking in foreign languages, but while reading the Scriptures more in depth, something just wasn't right about that conclusion.
    I am very appreciative about this post and it has helped me to see that the conclusions I have been coming to in my daily devotions are not incorrect.
    I have never had the opportunity to experience the speaking of tongues in any way, but I do find it very intersting and would love to be able to read a more in depth study on this gift.
    God bless you for your amazing blogs. They have been a great blessing to me since becoming a Christian.

    Yours in Christ.


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