Pentecostalism

Theme Text'Where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled.' 1Corinthians 13:8.

1) What are Pentecostal churches? How and when did they emerge?
Pentecostalism is fairly modern. Their main focus is experiencing miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit like speaking in tongues. The Greek word for gift is ‘Charisma’. Hence the name Charismatic Movement. The end of the 19th century saw a dramatic rise in religious fervor. Many groups anticipated the end of history - the return of Christ in 1900. Much of it was driven by revival meetings held by the Methodist Church’s Holiness movement and there were occasional reports of people speaking in tongues. The first widespread reports of speaking in tongues was at a revival in Topeka, Kansas, in January 1900, led by Charles Parham. In 1906, more such experiences happened during a series of revival meetings at Azusa Street in Los Angeles, led by William Seymour (a student of Charles Parham). Churches were then founded across America with a new emphasis on speaking in tongues. It spread worldwide and gained popularity in many countries. Today, about 170 denominations call themselves Pentecostal.

2) What are the miraculous gifts of the Spirit really?
‘To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues’ (1Cor 12:8-10).
These nine gifts were given freely by God with no efforts whatsoever from the human side. For example, let’s say, if we want to gain wisdom and knowledge (the first two gifts) about the Book of Daniel, what would we have to do today? Study it, obviously. But the Early Church members were gifted such wisdom and knowledge miraculously without studying. Same as the gift of tongues - no effort needed to learn a new language, the gift of healing - no need to do a course in medicine, and so on.

3) Many think the gift of tongues is to speak unintelligible words because that’s what people see in today’s Pentecostal churches. But was that the case when the Early Church got this gift?
‘When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language?(Acts 2:1-8) - Yes, when the apostles spoke in tongues, people from various countries heard it in their own language, and understood what they were saying.

4) Why did God give these gifts to the Early Church?
A) Imagine you were starting a new religion with just 12 guys. How would you make people believe? You’d need powerful signs to prove your message. So God gave special gifts of the Spirit at that time.

  • He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.” John 3:2.
  • The disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it - Mark 16:20. Paul and Barnabas spent considerable time there, speaking boldly for the Lord, who confirmed the message of his grace by enabling them to perform signs and wonders. Acts 14:3.

This is important. Gifts like the gift of healing were given not to heal church members but rather to be used as a witness to prove the gospel to unbelievers. Those who were already in the church (believers) didn’t need any further witness to the gospel. This actually explains Paul’s behavior -

  • Paul exhibited extraordinary power among unbelievers and healed them –
    ‘God did extraordinary miracles through Paul, so that even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to the sick, and their illnesses were cured.’ Acts 19:11-12.
  • But the same Paul writes to Timothy, a believer suffering from frequent illnesses –
    ‘Stop drinking only water, and use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illnesses.’ 1Tim 5:23.
    Elsewhere Paul says, ‘I left Trophimus sick in Miletus.’ 2Tim4:20.
    In another place, he comments, ‘Epaphroditus, my brother, was ill, and almost died.’ Phil 2:25-27.

Nope, Paul never used his gift of healing among believers! He exhibited it only among unbelievers.

B) The gifts helped edify the church. Today we have the entire New Testament, so we have no need for supernatural prophecies or knowledge. But the early believers didn’t have that luxury.
For instance, Apostle Paul died (64 AD) well before the Book of Revelations was written (95 AD).
So he didn’t have the prophecies of the Book of Revelations in his hand. Even the other books of the New Testament were compiled into one book only around 150 AD. Till then, the believers needed supernatural gifts of prophecy, wisdom, knowledge and the discernment of spirits.
‘When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. Everything must be done so that the church may be built up’ - 1Cor 14:26. Yes, they learnt a lot from gifts of knowledge and prophecy. Today if we have to discern spirits, we test what someone says with scriptures from the Bible. But they did not have the Bible then and such gifts enabled them to do that.

5) Who can bestow the gifts of the Spirit on someone? Once received, were the gifts transferable?
The Bible is clear – only Christ’s Apostles can bestow the gifts of the Spirit upon others.

  • ‘I pray that now at last by God’s will the way may be opened for me to come to you. I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong’ - Romans 1:10-11.
    Here Paul says he has to visit Rome in person to impart gifts of the Spirit.
  • Elsewhere he writes to Timothy, ‘For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands’ - 2Tim 1:6.
    Thus, we see Timothy got the gifts of the Spirit when Paul personally laid his hands on him.
  • ‘The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on Gentiles. For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God’ - Acts 10:44-46.
    Here God brought Apostle Peter to Cornelius’ house to personally give them the gifts of the Spirit.
  • Several other verses confirm the same. For example, we can see from Acts 8 that even though Philip (the Evangelist) performed many miracles in Samaria and won many converts, it was the Apostles (Peter and John) who had to ultimately travel in person to Samaria to lay their hands on the newly baptized converts to give them the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

So the Scriptures are very clear on two things -
   A) Only an Apostle of Christ can bestow the gift upon someone.
   B) The gifts weren’t transferable – i.e. one who receives it cannot bestow it upon another.

6) So what happened after the Apostles died? And what does the Bible predict about the gifts?

  • Paul and Peter died in the 60 AD’s. The last Apostle to die was John, near 100 AD. Then there were no more Apostles to bestow the gifts upon anyone. When those who had received the gifts from the Apostles started passing away, the gifts ceased around the end of the 2nd century. This is documented in secular historical records. Even today’s Pentecostals acknowledge that.
  • And the Bible predicted this. Apostle Paul himself wrote that the gifts would cease. Chiding the Corinthian church whose members had been fighting over which of them had the greater gifts (‘Hey, I speak in tongues!’, ‘So what? I can heal people!’), Paul tells them –

‘There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines....Do all work miracles? Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Now eagerly desire the greater gifts. And yet I will show you the most excellent way...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 completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.’ 1Corinthians 12:4-31, 13.

  • Paul is explaining things here. He says the special gifts were given at that time to provide short bursts of partial knowledge and limited prophecies (‘we know in part, we prophesy in part’) to the Early Church (‘When I was a child, I talked like a child…’) till the all-encompassing knowledge of the gospel and entire prophetic system (Book of Revelation!!) got completed in the New Testament.
  • When that happens, he says the gifts wouldn’t be necessary and would cease (‘when completeness comes, what is in part disappears..where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled’).
  • And that’s what history records as happening. The special gifts ceased by the end of the 2nd century.
  • Since then, like Paul predicted, only three gifts remain till the return of Christ - faith (in Christ), hope (for the Kingdom) and love (for God, Christ and each other).
  • When Christ returns and establishes his Kingdom, even faith and hope will cease as they won’t be needed anymore. Only love will remain eternal. That’s why Paul calls it the greatest of these.

7) If the special gifts ceased in the 2nd century, what about miracles in the Pentecostal churches of today?
Well, do miracles happen in Pagan temples? – Yes indeed. Even the Bible records pagan magicians doing supernatural things - ‘Pharaoh summoned wise men and sorcerers, and the Egyptian magicians also did the same things by their secret arts: Each one threw down his staff and it became a snake.’ Exodus 7:11-12.
Who empowers them to do such things? – Satan and his angels do have the capability of the supernatural.

8) But these churches do miracles in the name of Jesus? Would Satan perform miracles in the name of Jesus?!
Paul warns the Corinthians: ‘And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light’ - 2Cor 11:14. Wait a minute, isn’t Satan the angel of darkness? He can pose as an angel of light too?!
Hold on, but why can’t the miracles of these churches really be from Jesus?

  • As seen earlier, God’s special gifts of the Spirit ceased in the 2nd century as forecast by his Apostles.
  • More importantly, these so-called “churches” of today don’t even know the true Christian gospel of the ransom sacrifice of Jesus for Adam’s kind and the upcoming glorious kingdom of God.
    They believe in pagan hell torment and above all, they don’t even know who God is. They worship a trinity and think the Holy Spirit is a person. How can their miracles be from God!

It is indeed Satan doing fake miracles through them to confuse the masses. That’s his day job!

9) Did Jesus predict such miracles would be done in his name?
“Many will say to me on that Day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!” - Matt 7:22-23. Three things stand out in Jesus’ prophecy –

  • Those protesting to Jesus in the Kingdom (that Day!) thought they had performed miracles in Christ’s name during their lives. Apparently they have resurrected on Earth (not heaven) and are mad.
    This also shows that doing miracles in Christ’s name doesn’t prove anyone’s faith.
  • Jesus says he never knew them! – i.e. They were never really Christians. Not his true followers.
  • He calls them evildoers! – Who’s the father of evil? Yes, their power came from Satan indeed!

10) Why do we see an apparent resurgence of these miraculous gifts only in the 20th century?
Jesus explains this when accused of driving out demons by Satan’s power– ‘How can Satan drive out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. And if Satan opposes himself and is divided, he cannot stand; his end has come.’ Mark 3:23-26.

  • Jesus describes what it would mean when we find Satan starting to oppose himself (posing as an angel of light) getting divided (driving his own demons out). He says it would mean Satan’s end has come!
  • Yes, Satan has exhausted his bag of tricks through 2000 years. With all the advancements in knowledge and the end of the Anti-Christ rule (1799 AD), he has run out of options to deceive mankind. As predicted, he’s started faking miracles in Jesus’ name as a last ditch attempt to mislead people. His end is surely near now.

11) Are there other obvious things that show that these miracles are indeed from Satan?
‘If I speak in tongues, what good will I be to you, unless I bring you some revelation or knowledge? Unless you speak intelligible words, how will anyone know what you are saying? You will just be speaking into the air. There are all sorts of languages in the world, yet none of them is without meaning. Stop thinking like children. It is written: “With other tongues and through the lips of foreigners I will speak to this people”. Tongues, then, are a sign, not for believers but for unbelievers; So if the whole church comes together and everyone speaks in tongues, and unbelievers come in, will they not say that you are out of your mind? If anyone speaks in a tongue, two—or at the most three—should speak, one at a time, and someone must interpret. If there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet in the church and speak to himself and to God. Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said. And if a revelation comes to someone who is sitting down, the first speaker should stop. For you can all prophesy in turn so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged. The spirits of prophets are subject to the control of prophets. For God is not a God of disorder but of peace.” 1Cor 14:6-33.

  • Paul makes it clear to the Corinthians that the gift of tongues was given at that time to help spread the gospel across the world - to deliver the message to different peoples in their own languages.
  • He tells them not to speak in tongues in churches without interpreters, as outsiders walking in would see them blabbering nonsense and assume they’ve gone mad.
  • He also advises them to maintain order in the churches as God is not a God of disorder. He says the spirits of prophets are subject to the control of prophets. No lack of self-control in God’s gifts!
  • He says everyone should take turns and not indulge in shouting at the same time.

Well, if we visit a Pentecostal church today, we would see people speaking gibberish, many making noise at the same time - essentially members acting out. No self-control. A chaotic sight!
Guess who’s the god of disorder? Satan indeed. It’s his power!

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Scriptures, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. Scriptures indicated NASB are taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960,1962,1963,1968,1971,1972,1973,1975,1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.