Posted in theology

Languages at Pentecost was a prophetic fulfillment

By Elizabeth Prata

Let’s take a look at “tongues” as a prophecy.

Now there were Jews residing in Jerusalem, devout men from every nation under heaven. And when this sound occurred, the crowd came together and they 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? Parthians, Medes, and Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea, and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya around Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs—we hear them speaking in our own tongues of the mighty deeds of God.” (Acts 2:5-11)

In Corinth during the early church, believers had a tendency to lust after the more showy spiritual gifts, particularly tongues. Tongues were actual languages believers could spontaneously utter. The person speaking it not having studied or having any knowledge of the language at all, yet could speak it perfectly. This was a sign to unbelievers, a fulfillment of a prophecy given in the Old Testament. (Isaiah 28:11).

The biblical meaning of speaking in tongues is that the language was an actual language spoken by a people group on earth. It was not gibberish babble.

The sermon at Pentecost miraculously delivered unto the disciples an ability to speak in the same languages as the multitudes that had gathered from the nations for Passover.

The annual Passover pilgrimage swelled the walls of Jerusalem with hundreds of thousands, because so many people came from so many nations for the event. They all spoke different languages. The disciples didn’t have time to go to a mission college and take two years to learn Arabic to begin the command to take the Gospel to the people, so the Lord delivered to them an ability to speak in Persian, and Cyrillic and Greek and all the other languages of the day- instantly. It was NOT a baby talk gibberish! Look carefully at the verses above.

The Lord opened up the disciples’ minds so they would be able to preach to the Gentiles who had traveled there from far places for the Passover. They spoke each in their own language so the visitors could hear the Gospel message. How amazing is our God!

So how does Pentecost relate to a prophecy in Isaiah? Many prophecies in the Bible have a dual fulfillment. It’s a near-in-time fulfillment and a far-in-time fulfillment. For the Isaiah 28:11 prophecy spoken of by Isaiah, the near term fulfillment was that Isaiah said that an enemy army was going to come, speaking a language the Jews did not know, and sweep them away from the Southern kingdom just as the Assyrians did to the northern kingdom 15 years before. It turned out to be the Babylonians who came and swept them all away to captivity.

So for the unbelieving Jews, it was a warning sign of judgment to come. Isaiah 28:11 says: “By people of strange lips and with a foreign tongue the Lord will speak to this people.” In Corinth, the apostle Paul liberally paraphrased that verse in 1 Corinthians 14:21, just before saying that tongues are a sign to unbelievers. What is the sign? His meaning is that tongues are a sign of judgment against the unbelieving Israelites and a token of divine grace to the Gentile unbelievers who hear the message in their own tongues.

John MacArthur wrote- “For the first time ever, inspired truth was revealed by God in languages other than Hebrew. This in and of itself was a remarkable sign, not only to the unbelieving Gentile hearers, but also to the unbelieving Jews. In 1 Corinthians 14:20-22, “Brothers, do not be children in your thinking. Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature. In the Law it is written, “By people of strange tongues and by the lips of foreigners will I speak to this people, and even then they will not listen to me, says the Lord.” Thus tongues are a sign not for believers but for unbelievers, while prophecy is a sign not for unbelievers but for believers. … Speaking in tongues signified that “the times of the Gentiles” (Luke 21:24) had begun.” ~John MacArthur, Four Points about Tongues from 1 Corinthians 4

In the OT, the way the Hebrews knew the hammer judgment of God was about to come down would be when they looked up and saw many foreign people speaking to them foreign language. Paul referred to it when he said’ it is written in the Law’, it is the Isaiah 28:11 prophecy. When the men in Acts at Pentecost began to speak in foreign tongues it was the same indicator, judgment was here. The Pharisees should have known. Jesus had warned and warned that judgment would come. Every time He pronounced “Woe” unto them was a warning. Sadly, they did not heed.

A sign is a sign. It’s not an ongoing event. When you see a sign announcing your destination in 10 miles, you don’t see sign after sign (unless it’s “South of the Border” signs, there are 175 of those!). A sign was to announce the event prophesied was here and after the sign is given it’s no longer needed. So that is one reason why ongoing gift of tongues has ceased. Its purpose was fulfilled.

So, God’s salvific gaze shifted from the Jews to the Gentiles, where His gaze remains to this day. It is still times of the Gentiles. One day, His salvific gaze will return to Israel. (Romans 11:25).

Tongues at Pentecost were for an ancient prophetic sign to unbelievers, not a gift of gibberish to be played with on TBN. Did you know that tongues were a prophetic sign predicted 700 years prior to its fulfillment? Our God is amazing!


Christian writer and Georgia teacher's aide who loves Jesus, a quiet life, art, beauty, and children.

3 thoughts on “Languages at Pentecost was a prophetic fulfillment

    1. Trinity Broadcasting Network, home to most of the false teachers & heretics currently broadcasting on tv- Joyce Meyer, Christine Caine, Joel Osteen, Steven Furtick, Beth Moore, Andy Crouch, Bill Johnson, Brian Houston, Jentezen Franklin, James Merritt, Rick Warren, Creflo Dollar, … and you get the idea… A bastion of falsity and a lot of ‘sowing the seed’, prosperity gospel, AND tongues.


Comments are closed.