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In this article I’ll briefly address three issues that came up in the film.

First, at one point in the film Justin Peters criticizes prophetic ministry by asserting that all charismatic prophets “failed to prophesy Covid coming.” He evidently thinks that this discredits the reality of prophetic ministry in our day. But where did he ever get the idea that a person could prophesy at will? The reason no one prophesied the coming of the Covid pandemic is simply because God didn’t reveal it to anyone! It’s really that simple. No one can prophesy whenever they will, as if revelation is in their back pocket. A person can only prophesy when God chooses to reveal something to them. This is clear from 1 Corinthians 14:30.

Any specific revelation that forms the basis of a prophetic utterance finds its source in God. When he wishes for us to prophesy, he reveals something to us. If he does not will for us to prophesy, he withholds revelatory insight or information. Obviously, God did not want anyone to prophesy the coming pandemic and therefore he did not reveal it to anyone. It’s just that simple.

So, we must remember that the specific revelation on which any purported prophecy is based is not in our power to produce. We can’t create it, conjure it, or in any way compel God to grant it.

Second, someone in the film refers to 1 Corinthians 13 where Paul says, “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal” (v. 1). They contend that Paul does not mean that humans can actually speak in the “tongues of angels.” Rather, he is using hyperbole, or deliberate exaggeration to make a point. This is certainly possible, although I don’t think that is what Paul is doing. You can see my comments on this passage in the previous article where I address the issue of tongues.

But what came next was quite amazing. The individual then said that in 1 Corinthians 13 “Paul is trying to direct our attention away from the gifts.” That is quite strange, given the fact that he then turns in 1 Corinthians 14 to speak about spiritual gifts in great detail, including the exhortation that we should “earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially” that we “may prophesy” (1 Cor. 14:1). Again in 1 Corinthians 14:39 he tells us to “earnestly desire to prophesy” and “do not forbid speaking in tongues.”

If Paul was attempting in chapter 13 to “direct our attention away from the gifts” he did a very poor job of it! How could he have intended to direct our attention away from the gifts when he does the very opposite in chapter 14?

Third, at one point in the film it is asserted that 1 Corinthians 14:22 defines for us “the purpose” of the gift of tongues. Of course, this completely ignores 1 Corinthians 12:7 where Paul says the purpose of tongues, like all other spiritual gifts, is given by the Spirit “for the common good”, i.e., for the spiritual good and growth of all Christians in the church.

It also fails to consider 1 Corinthians 14:5 where Paul says that when tongues is followed by interpretation the church is “built up” or edified. It also fails to consider that Paul clearly describes tongues as a form of prayer (1 Cor. 14:2, 14), praise (1 Cor. 14:15b), and thanksgiving (1 Cor. 14:16-17).

What, then, does Paul have in mind in 1 Corinthians 14:21-23? Is he there describing “the purpose” of tongues, as the cessationist claims? Here is the passage in question.

Brothers, do not be children in your thinking. Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature. In the Law it is written, “By people of strange tongues and by the lips of foreigners will I speak to this people, and even then they will not listen to me, says the Lord.” Thus tongues are a sign not for believers but for unbelievers, while prophecy is a sign not for unbelievers but for believers. If, therefore, the whole church comes together and all speak in tongues, and outsiders or unbelievers enter, will they not say that you are out of your minds? But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or outsider enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all, the secrets of his heart are disclosed, and so, falling on his face, he will worship God and declare that God is really among you. (1 Cor. 14:20-25).

Paul begins by citing a text from the prophecy of Isaiah. In Isaiah 28:11 God declares: “By people of strange tongues and by the lips of foreigners will I speak to this people, and even then they will not listen to me, says the Lord.” The meaning of this text is found in a prior warning of God to Israel in Deuteronomy 28:49. Deuteronomy is the chapter that lists the many curses or judgments that God will bring against his people Israel if they should fail to “obey the voice” of God and refuse to “do all his commandments and his statutes” (Deut. 28:15). If Israel violates the covenant, God will chastise them by sending a foreign enemy, speaking a foreign tongue: “The Lord will bring a nation against you from far away, from the end of the earth, swooping down like the eagle, a nation whose language you do not understand” (Deut. 28:49).

Thus, confusing and confounding speech would serve as a sign of God’s judgment against a rebellious people. This is the judgment that Isaiah says has come upon Israel in the 8th century BC when the Assyrians invaded and conquered the Jews (cf. also what happened in the 6th c. BC, Jer. 5:15).

Many cessationists argue that God is judging unbelieving Jews in the first century, the sign of which is language they can’t understand (i.e., tongues). The purpose of tongues, therefore, is to signify God’s judgment against Israel for rejecting the Messiah and thereby to shock them into repentance and faith. Tongues, so goes the argument, is an evangelistic sign gift. Since tongues ceased to function in this capacity when Israel was dispersed in 70 AD, the gift was valid only for the first century.

But there are numerous problems with this view. First, even if tongues served as an evangelistic sign gift (a point that I do not believe is true but make only out of concession for the sake of argument), nowhere does the NT restrict or reduce that gift to this one purpose. Simply because tongues is said to function in one capacity does not mean it cannot function in others. As noted above, tongues also serve the “common good” of the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:7). In 1 Corinthians 14:4, the gift of tongues edifies the individual in private prayer and when interpreted builds up the church (1 Cor. 14:5). We must avoid the error of reductionism.

Second, if tongues-speech were not a spiritual gift for the church at all, why did Paul ever allow it to be exercised and used in the church? If interpreted, tongues-speech was entirely permissible. But this seems difficult to explain if its only or primary purpose was to declare judgment against unbelieving Jews.

Third, if uninterpreted tongues were designed to pronounce God’s judgment against Jewish people and perhaps stir them to repentance, why would God have made available the accompanying gift of interpretation? Interpretation, it seems, would serve only to undermine this alleged purpose of tongues in declaring judgment against those in the Jewish community who had rejected Jesus as Messiah. The spiritual gift of interpretation makes sense only if tongues-speech is profitable and beneficial to Christians in the assembly.

Let’s be sure we feel the full weight of this point. Consider again what the cessationist is saying. Unintelligible tongues were given by God to serve as a sign of his judgment against the Jewish people, primarily for the sin of having rejected Jesus as Messiah. But if that is the purpose of tongues, there is no reason why God would also have given the accompanying gift of interpretation. For tongues to achieve their purpose they must remain uninterpreted and thus confusing. Simply put, this view of the cessationist simply cannot account for why God bestows the gift of interpretation.

Fourth, if God intended tongues-speech to serve as a sign for unbelieving Jews, Paul would not have counseled against its use when unbelievers are present (v. 23). And yet that is precisely what he does. To speak in uninterpreted tongues when unbelievers are present simply exposes you to the charge of being “out of your minds” (v. 23b). This is why Paul recommends that prophecy be employed when outsiders attend your meeting, not tongues.

Finally, the contrasts in this context are between believer and nonbeliever, not Jew and Gentile. Indeed, most commentators concur that the non-believer (vv. 23-24) is probably a Gentile, not a Jew.

For all these reasons, I conclude that the view that tongues is only (or merely primarily) a sign of judgment on first-century unbelieving Jews is unconvincing. What, then, is the principle that Paul finds in Isaiah 28:11 that applies to Corinth (and to us)? It is this: when God speaks to people in a language they cannot understand, it is a form of punishment for unbelief. It signifies his anger. Incomprehensible speech will not guide or instruct or lead to faith and repentance, but only confuse and destroy. Thus, if outsiders or unbelievers come in and you speak in a language they cannot understand, you will simply drive them away. You will be giving a negative “sign” to unbelievers that is entirely wrong, because their hardness of heart has not reached the point where they deserve that severe sign of judgment. So, when you come together (1 Cor. 14:26), if anyone speaks in a tongue, be sure there is an interpretation (v. 27). Otherwise the tongue-speaker should be quiet in the church (v. 29). Prophecy, on the other hand, is a sign of God’s presence with believers (v. 22b), and so Paul encourages its use when unbelievers are present in order that they may see this sign and thereby come to Christian faith (vv. 24-25).

Therefore, in 1 Corinthians 14:20-25 Paul is not talking about the function of the gift of tongues in general, but only about the negative result of one particular abuse of tongues-speech (namely, its use without interpretation in the public assembly). So, do not permit uninterpreted tongues-speech in church, for in doing so, you run the risk of communicating a negative sign to people that will only drive them away. [I was greatly helped in my understanding of this text by the comments of Wayne Grudem in his The Gift of Prophecy in the New Testament and Today, revised edition (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2000), 145-154.]


Do we actually know that no one prophesied the coming of COVID, or just that no one we're familiar with did? We here in the West have a serious problem with myopia, in that we act as if it didn't happen here it either didn't happen, or it isn't important. Do we know that it wasn't revealed to someone in Asia? Africa? The Near East? No. All we do know is that no one we pay attention to prophesied it.
Hello Dr. Storms, could you please make your entire response (all parts) to the cessationist film available for PDF download for people to print out in one seamless document? This way people can have an accessible physical copy.

Thank you!
Part two comment on Covid and stewardship of the gifts. I followed up that word with getting certified Training through FEMA and learned how to prepare for a disaster. Then I built a trusted relationship with first responders. See the purpose of prophetic is to aid us in future events not get an honorarium or traveling ministry, we are to steward the most excellent ministry of Jesus with total obedience. I know My Shepherd’s voice! My city did very well in their leadership during the pandemic, I give God glory they were prepared!
Clearly the person in the film doesn’t understand prophetic ministry. Second I not only prophesied behind closed doors but I knew it was coming from China and I called it an atomic bomb in a Petri dish in 2016. The devil heard me and I paid a significant price for my ministry! That isn’t something taught very much, the true cost of truth! I also believe not many were or are connected and serving China to carry a word like that accurately. I also was a missionary in China right after the Bird flu also known as SARS. What we have is a failure of pastor unable to steward the prophetic. Something that Jesus will judge is the Shepherds who couldn’t keep their sheep from the evil one. I am praying for those who will bring the truth to those in deep darkness! Thank you Sam Storms for this model of righteousness, today we must prepare to bring forth righteous judgment and no doubt you are leading the charge.
Dear Dr. Storms,

I believe you misunderstood Justin Peters point when he said the prophets failed to prophesy about Covid. The problem wasn't their lack of prophecy, far from it. The problem was they did prophesy, and they got it wrong for the entire year. They especially got it wrong when they said Covid would end in March and it lasted the whole year.

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