**NOTE: I have added this post which should be read before my last post regarding the cessation of tongues. I believe reading this post first will help the other post make more sense. This post was actually part of an email I sent to the co-worker mentioned in my other post.**
In order to best make my case that the charismatic gifts have ceased, I’ll start broad and narrow down to tongues specifically. I’ll do my best to keep it as short as I can.
To begin, miracles have always been unique occurrences. There have been three primary periods in history that God gave humans the power to work miracles.
The first period would be the time between Moses and Joshua which was around the time from 1445 B.C. – 1380 B.C.—a time of about 65 years. God tells Moses to go and speak to Pharaoh and the Israelites and to deliver God’s people from the bondage of Egyptian slavery. God tells Moses in Exodus 4 that He will put the words in the mouths of both Moses and subsequently Aaron. Moses would speak what God put in his mouth and Aaron would speak what Moses put in his mouth. This is what it meant to be a prophet. For instance, in Jeremiah 1 when God commissioned Jeremiah, He told him that He put his words in his mouth.
The problem that Moses anticipated was what happens if they don’t believe Moses is a prophet sent from God. God then proceeds to give Moses the ability to perform miraculous signs. The reason God gave Moses the ability to perform these miracles was as a sign that would validate Moses’ claim that God did indeed appear to Moses, and sent him to speak God’s very words. This purpose is continued all throughout the Old Testament. Moses even wrote that God would raise up others to speak for God and that they must meet certain qualifications. A prophet’s predictions must always come true. To authenticate a true prophet, God would allow him to perform miracles. Even if the prophet did perform miracles, his message must be one that is in complete agreement with previous revelation.
The second period where miracles took place was that of the time of Elijah and Elisha which was about 860 B.C. – 795 B.C. Again, about a 65 years. The miracles of Elijah and Elisha consisted of stopping rain for three years, the increase of the widow’s oil and flour, restoring life to the widow’s son, calling down fire from heaven, parting the Jordan River, healing the waters at Jericho, as well as many others.
The third period was that of Jesus and the Apostles. This again was about a 65-70 year period from around 27-28 A.D. until the death of John which was around the time of 98 A.D. Even the miracles performed by Jesus were his way of confirming His credentials as God’s final and ultimate messenger who spoke infallibly for God (John 5:36). Even the people who saw his miracles reacted by stating that those miracles confirm that He is the prophet of God (John 6:14). Peter affirms that Jesus’ miracles affirmed that He was sent by God (Acts 2:22).
The miracles performed by the Apostles served the same purpose (Acts 14:3; Hebrews 2:3-4). Their message and authority was confirmed by God granting them the ability to perform signs and wonders. These miraculous works that accompanied the Apostles served to confirm that they were God’s genuine instruments for God’s revelation just as they were for Moses and Joshua.
Since this pattern is consistent with Scripture, it is then reasonable to expect that with the death of the Apostles, the end of God’s revelation, and the end of those who spoke God’s own words, that the capacity to perform miraculous works as well would end just as it did with Moses and Joshua for hundreds of years. This also was the case after Elijah and Elisha.
So out of thousands of years of biblical history, only about 200 years consisted of miracles being performed.
Paul, in his letter to the Church in Corinth, refers to apostles as being a gift that God has given to the church. Apostles were a temporary gift in nature according to the requirements for this office. In order to be an apostle one must have been a witness of the resurrected Jesus Christ, one must have been personally appointed by Christ, and one must have had the ability to work miracles. Also, in 2 Cor. 12:12, Paul tells us that the signs of a true apostle was the ability to perform signs and wonders. Today, no one can meet these qualifications and therefore, the gift of apostleship has ceased. Not only did it cease, but it ceased without any mention of Scripture saying that it would cease. Given this, it would not be impossible or unlikely that other significant changes would have happened with the passing of the apostles as well. At this point, this would have been a major change in the gifting of the Holy Spirit between the apostolic and post-apostolic eras.
Another thing to note is that the New Testament apostles and prophets. They are identified as being the foundation of the Church (Eph. 2:20). The foundation of this building has been laid, their role is done. We shouldn’t expect any more prophets, apostles, or revelation.
Next, I want to mention the nature of the miraculous gifts. If indeed the Holy Spirit was still giving us these gifts today, they would be the same as we find in the New Testament. The gifts that charismatic churches claim to have today have almost no resemblance to the New Testament gifts. To speak in tongues was the ability to speak a known language, not undecipherable utterances. Acts 2:6 makes this point very clear and there is no evidence throughout the rest of the Book of Acts that anything contrary to this took place. Rather, evidence supports that it was the same kind tongues speaking that took place later in Acts. They were foreign languages that were translatable.
The gift of speaking in tongues was also a revelational gift—it was used to reveal something. In 1 Corinthians 14:2, Paul says that the one who speaks in tongues speaks mysteries. The Greek term for “mystery” is “mysterion” and has a specific meaning. The word conveys a truth about God’s way of redemption that was once concealed by is now revealed. The word occurs 28 times in the NT and this definition is maintained throughout. Also in 1 Corinthians 14, Paul tells us that the interpretation of tongues is equivalent to prophecy. The message brought forth in tongue, is given the status of being equal to divinely inspired prophecy. If prophecy is revelational in essence, and tongues interpreted is equivalent to prophecy then tongues should also be understood as being revelational. God’s intent in prophecy was to communicate verbally-inspired, infallible and inerrant Word to his people. It is likewise with tongues. By speaking in tongues a person was delivering the very Word of God, infallible and inerrant in all its parts. Only a translation made under the direct inspiration of the Holy Spirit could retain the verbally inspired, infallible and inerrant character of the Word of God.
Without interpretation of the tongues spoken, that speaking had no edifying effect on the spectator. Edification through this verbal gift occurs through understanding what is spoken. The speaker is edified when he understands what he speaks, and the audience is edified when they understand what is spoken. “No one is edified when no one understands.” (1 Corinthians 14:2)
One more thing I wish to mention now about the charismatic gifts is that they were absent from the great majority of church history. When they were present in the first few hundred years in the church it was the heretical groups that supposedly possessed these gifts. When they were reported later in the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries it was predominantly coming from the apostate Catholic church and Mormons with a few rare exceptions from other random sources. Also, it was the early 19th century that the charismatic gifts really became a “thing” again with the founding of the Pentecostal church.