When you take a drive on a country road there are signs to warn you about hazards and give you directions to your destination. In 1 Corinthians 14:22 the Apostle Paul teaches that tongues are a sign, “Not for believers but for unbelievers.” But what does this sign tell unbelievers?
Take a look at this thread through the Scriptures for help to read the signs.
· In Isaiah 4:4 it says; “The Lord will wash away your filth.” The prophet goes on to say; “He [the Lord] will cleanse the bloodstains from Jerusalem by the Spirit of judgment and the Spirit of fire.” On the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came with tongues of cleansing and empowering fire.
· “For as in the day of Midian’s defeat, you have shattered the yoke that burdens them, the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor” (Isaiah 9:4). This verse is part of Isaiah’s prophecy “For unto us a child is born” (v. 6) Isaiah prophesies that just as Gideon defeated the armies of Midian, so will the Prince of Peace break the power of the oppressor who has crushed God’s people.
· The prophet Isaiah warned people of the consequences of their sin, saying; “Very well then with foreign lips and strange tongues God will speak to the people.” He was referring to the shouts of invading armies from foreign countries they would hear. Foreign powers would overpower and oppress an apostate people. The invaders, who were agents of God’s wrath against sin, would speak in a tongue they could not understand. (see Deuteronomy 28:49).
· In Acts 2, after the Holy Spirit came upon them in a great wind and with tongues of fire, some people heard the wonders of God in spoken in their native tongue—not in a foreign language they couldn’t understand. This was prophesied by Isaiah. “The fearful heart will know and understand, and the stammering tongue will be fluent and clear” (Isaiah 32:4).
This Scripture thread leads us to see that the people in Acts 2 were given a sure sign of hope that Jesus Christ, by the shedding of His own blood, and by the cross of His suffering, defeated the oppressor so that the people would no longer subject to the tyranny of the Destroyer.
“On this mountain the Lord Almighty will prepare
a feast of rich food for all peoples,
a banquet of aged wine—
the best of meats and the finest of wines.
On this mountain he will destroy
the shroud that enfolds all peoples,
the sheet that covers all nations;
he will swallow up death forever.
The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears
from all faces;
he will remove his people’s disgrace
from all the earth.
The Lord has spoken”
The disciples who were gathered early on that day of Pentecost had hoped Jesus would deliver them from the oppression of Rome, but our Lord Jesus Christ accomplished even more. He defeated Satan, defeated death, and broke the chains of all oppression.
When some unbelievers in Jerusalem heard the disciples speaking in their own native tongue, it was a sign of hope to direct them to saving grace. It was a sign indicating the power of the Oppressor was broken for all time. Over three-thousand who heard repented, believed and were baptized that day.
To some unbelievers in Jerusalem the tongues must have sounded like gibberish because they accused the disciples of being drunk. For them tongues were a sign of the coming wrath.
This spiritual gift of tongues is still a sign today that Satan is defeated and has no power over those who are covered by the blood of the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. We are called to proclaim this great hope to those who have no hope. We are called to do the work of the Spirit of Jesus and use all the good gifts He has provided.
(For a study on the gift of spiritual language see chapter 7 in the author’s book, “Treasures of the Kingdom”.