From the Beginning

A STORY OF "TIME" by Trevor Topsfield

Speaking in Tongues

God set out 5 stages of discipline for Israel if they did not listen to him or carry his commands. Each stage was 7 times more severe than the previous culminating with the temporary cessation of their franchise to be his people and devastation throughout the land. If they failed in their function to be God’s people then they were no different from any other and had to fend for themselves like the rest. The stages of discipline that brought about this are recorded in Leviticus 26:14-35.

The 5th stage of discipline was administered to Israel in about 70A.D. This meant that the Jews were not functioning as God’s representative at that time because they were no longer in fellowship with him.

The 4th stage which was administered in about 60 B.C. by Pompey the Great when he defeated the Jews and captured Jerusalem. After this time there was very little evangelistic activity occurring in Israel and few were being saved as the message was not being preached. So when the Church began in about 30A.D. there were many who had not heard an accurate account of the Gospel.

The first responsibility of the Church was to evangelise the Jews (Romans 1:16) as there was only 40 years before they would be destroyed by the Romans.

However the Jews considered themselves as the people of God and they had every right to think this as it had been true for hundreds of years. So how did the members of the Church convince the Jews they are now God’s representative and the Jews need to listen to what they have to say?

When Israel began, its whole history was in the future, a future that would include very special occasions.

Because God has always known what they would be and when they would occur he ordained certain feasts and Holy days that would coincide with these events.

The celebrations included certain rituals that taught the significance of these occasions.

So every year the Jews celebrated these feasts and Holy days which included the Feast of the Harvest.

The Passover was celebrated on the 14th of the first month followed by the Feast of Unleavened Bread which lasted a whole week.  Throughout this week no leaven was to be eaten and it started on the 15th, the day after the Passover. Then came the First fruits celebrated on the day after the next Sabbath. From the First fruits they had to count 50 days and celebrate the Feast of the Harvest.

The 50 days represented the time they were harvesting, and the harvest was all the people they had successfully evangelised with a positive result. So the Feast celebrated their harvest at the end of it.

The end of the harvest for Jews was the beginning of the harvest for the Church, the two events actually occurred on the same day so there was no interruption of the Gospel.

On that day a miracle occurred so that the Jews could understand their time was over and it was in their best interest to take notice of what this new group of people was saying.

The disciples of Jesus were the foundation members of The Church and the first thing they did under the power of the Holy Spirit was to speak to the Jews who had come to Jerusalem from different parts of the world. They had come there to celebrate the Passover and stayed there for the fifty days.

The Jews spoke the languages of their adopted countries, so the Holy Spirit enabled the disciples to speak in the various languages of those present and in this way the wonders of God (Acts 2:11) could be understood by everyone. This phenomenon has been labeled “speaking in tongues”.

Under normal circumstances the Jews should have and would have ignored any message from any other group of people, but because it was Prophesied by Isaiah in Isaiah 28:11 it could be relied upon as coming from a legitimate source.

This event is recorded in The New Testament which was originally written in the Koine Greek language. The feast of the Harvest was also known as the Feast of Weeks and as the 50 day Feast by the Jews. When this day is mentioned in The New Testament it is stated in the English as the day of Pentecost. (Acts 2:1)

Pentecost is a transliteration of the “Greek” word pentykonta (πετηκοντα) which means fifty and there has been no attempt to translate it, this means that Pentecost is a Biblical concept as it has no other meaning in English.

On the day of Pentecost the believers of this brand new system called the Church were given the gift of being able to speak in the languages of those present without ever having spoken that language before. As it happened the Church started with the disciples of Jesus who were in fact Jews and they were aware of the prophecy and understood what was happening.

However as the Church expanded there were many other nationalities  included with no Old Testament understanding, so they did not know about the prophecy. But God’s top priority in those early days was to evangelise the Jews as they were running out of time, therefore the gift was passed onto any members of the Church.

It appears that in Corinth, believers were making contact with Jews from many other places as Corinth was on the trade route between Northern Greece and the Peloponnesus. Out of the blue a believer would explain the Gospel in the language of a Jewish by-stander under the power of the Holy Spirit without knowing why he or she was doing it. This made perfect sense when the Jew would either appreciate or take offence at the message he had just heard.

Speaking in different languages was an emotion buzz and when the disciples did on the day of Pentecost everyone thought they were drunk. (Acts 2:13) Peter addressed the crowd and explained that they were drunk as the crowd supposed, what they were seeing is similar to an experience describe in Joel 2:28 and following.

This prophecy concerns the wonderful feeling of elation to be experienced when Jesus Christ returns to rule on earth for one thousand years.

So speaking in tongues was a great experience.

The problem for the Corinthians was that the only time this happened was when there was a Jewish presence, but they did not necessary realise why the experience occurred. Because they really enjoyed it, some of them faked the phenomenon. Instead of being filled with Spirit they whipped themselves up emotionally until they were talking gobble de gook. Of course no one understood them because it took the Holy Spirit to supply the language of the Jew who was close by when the gift was used correctly.

Because it made no sense to the bystanders they were suspected of being drunk as were the disciples when they did it the first time.  However there was clearly no booze involved so the only other alternative was that they were mad. (1 Corinthians 14:23)

Speaking in in tongues had gotten out of control, so Paul in his first letter to them explained that the gift had to operate within the guide lines of Isaiah’s prophecy.

The Old Testament was originally written Hebrew, so Isaiah 28:11 is a translation from the Hebrew to English.

The New Testament was originally written in Koine (or common) Greek. To straighten out the mess in Corinth Paul translates the prophecy into Greek because this is what Corinthians understood. Now we can read it in English as it is translated from the Greek.

 The prophecy is found 1 Corinthians 14:21

“In the law it is written: `Through men of strange tongues and through the

lips of foreigners I will speak to this people , but even then they will not

listen to me,’ says the Lord.

Tongues, then are a sign, not for the believer but for unbelievers;  (NIV)

 Through men of strange tongues ——– The gift from the Holy Spirit

Through the lips of foreigners ————- The Church with the gift.

I will speak to this people —————— The Jews.

But even then they will not listen to meThis will bring upon them the fifth stage of discipline.

Tongues are a sign ————————— To indicate the reality (of the Feast of the Harvest) has come.

Not for believers ——————————- Members of the Church.

But for unbelievers ————————— Jewish unbelievers .

Trevor Topsfield


Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.



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