Question:

Whether prophecy has ceased or not ceased is one of the issues i am struggling with as a seminary student. I read your article about the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and let's  say you are right. But what about those prayer warriors who prophesy and speak in tongues in today's Christian churches? And I have witnessed fulfillment. Could you please enlighten me? Thank you.


Answer:

Exactly what have you witnessed? I've seen people make prophecies as well. They usually fall in one of the following categories:

  • So vague that anything could be construed to be a fulfillment. This is what the false prophets tried to do in I Kings 22.
  • Gets a prediction wrong. In the test for a prophet, God said that His prophets always tells about the future accurately. "But the prophet who speaks a word presumptuously in My name which I have not commanded him to speak, or which he speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die. You may say in your heart, 'How will we know the word which the LORD has not spoken?' When a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the thing does not come about or come true, that is the thing which the LORD has not spoken. The prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him" (Deuteronomy 18:20-22). God cannot lie, so when a prophet speaks about the future on behalf of God, it must always be true.
  • Tells you that God said something that contradicts what is written in the Bible. Again, God is consistent with His message because He cannot lie. "If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder comes true, concerning which he spoke to you, saying, 'Let us go after other gods (whom you have not known) and let us serve them,' you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams; for the LORD your God is testing you to find out if you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul. You shall follow the LORD your God and fear Him; and you shall keep His commandments, listen to His voice, serve Him, and cling to Him. But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has counseled rebellion against the LORD your God who brought you from the land of Egypt and redeemed you from the house of slavery, to seduce you from the way in which the LORD your God commanded you to walk. So you shall purge the evil from among you" (Deuteronomy 13:1-5).

Regarding speaking in tongues, I've seen this claimed as well. Yet, what I hear is not any known language, which is completely different from how speaking in tongues is described when it first happened: "And when this sound occurred, the crowd came together, and were bewildered because each one of them was hearing them speak in his own language. They were amazed and astonished, saying, "Why, are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we each hear them in our own language to which we were born?"" (Acts 2:6-8). If someone has the gift of speaking in tongues, then when they speak to me, I should hear them in American English with a midwestern accent and dialect. If I overhear someone speaking to someone from China, then the person he is talking to should understand what is being said. As Paul noted, speaking in a foreign language that no one understands is useless. "So also you, unless you utter by the tongue speech that is clear, how will it be known what is spoken? For you will be speaking into the air. There are, perhaps, a great many kinds of languages in the world, and no kind is without meaning. If then I do not know the meaning of the language, I will be to the one who speaks a barbarian, and the one who speaks will be a barbarian to me" (I Corinthians 14:9-11).

Linguists have listened to people who claim to speak in tongues and consistently conclude that the person is not speaking any known language of the world. Worse, they note that they are merely stringing phonetic syllables from their own language in a repetitious and meaningless order. [See: Nathan Busenitz, "Are Tongues Real Languages?"].

I've been told several times, "I'm speaking in the tongues of angels." While I highly doubt it, still the claim doesn't nullify Paul's point. I don't speak angel, nor does anyone present, so doing so serves no purpose.