But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. (1 Corinthians 13:8b-10 NIV)

The Apostle Paul was trying to restore unity in the Corinth church. The saints had split on a host of issues. One was spiritual gifts. His teaching on gifts in 1 Corinthians 12 was followed up by the “Love Chapter”, Chapter 13. Having a gift but not showing love is fruitless—literally.

Singling out, in vs. 8, gifts at the center of the controversy, Paul asked believers to think in terms of the future. One day, love will remain, but prophecies, tongues and knowledge will not be needed. In fact, tongues will be in the first group of gifts to pass away.

Arriving at the above conclusion is a combination of studying Genesis 11:1-9 and “Rule 5” of The Five Major Rules for Bible Interpretation: “Look for the Near/Far Prophetic in Scripture”. (See “Rules of Interpretation” in our “Book Excerpts” section.)

The Tower of Babel in Genesis 11 is where God made language into languages (tongues). When the rebels scattered in all directions, they became diverse peoples and nations.

On Pentecost, the Spirit was witnessed by devout Jews from all nations hearing the wonders of God in their native tongue. In Acts 2, Jesus’ disciples in Jerusalem were doing the speaking, and pilgrims gathered there from nations, peoples and languages were understanding—and without any confusion! It was a reversal of Babel.

In genuine “Near Prophetic” fashion, Peter explained the miracle that had taken place.
“No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel, ‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people.’ ” (Acts 2:16-17 NIV)

Acts 2:19-21 and Joel 2:28-32 clearly refers to a future occurrence. Being a Near Prophetic event, Pentecost previewed a much greater, end-of-the age happening. We are referring to Revelation 7:9 where John sees, circling the Lamb and his throne, a multitude that no one can count. Gathered in one spot are saints from all nations, tribes, languages and peoples. The once scattered are gathered. In verse 10, we witness the cessation of tongues.
“And they [the multitude no one could count] cried in a loud voice: “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.”

In one language, the saints from the nations will declare the wonders of God. John heard every word as if they all spoke his native language in unison. Yes, tongues will soon cease. Until then, this supernatural gift will be evidenced in Spirit-filled disciples devoted to fulfilling Christ’s Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20).

For more on this, read “Tongues and Prophecy” in The Prophets of God available on this site.

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