Does Hebrews 13:8 teach that speaking in tongues is for today?

Hebrews 13:8 is NOT Teaching About Tongues

My purpose for this post is not to discuss whether or not the gift of tongues has ceased. What this post is going to address is the “psychobabbling” we see today in churches, which I feel is demonic. It is a dangerous false teaching and practice.

Those churches which “speak in tongues” today try to justify their actions by citing Hebrews 13:8, which says, “Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” When I tried finding an exegesis of this verse to support their view, I was unable to find one. To figure out whether or not this verse refers to ‘speaking in tongues’ we shall: First, observe the verse in light of common sense. Second, we shall observe what the words “yesterday,” and “forever” mean. And finally, we shall observe the verse in its context to see what it really means.

In light of common sense

Sure the verse says that Jesus is always the same, but does that mean everything about him has never changed? Is it speaking about His ministry? His attributes? His appearance? Is it even talking about the Holy Spirit’s action?

Surely it does not mean that Jesus was always the same in every respect, for Jesus did not have a body before He was incarnate. We are told Jesus was “not yet glorified” even after He had risen. Jesus was not always sitting at the right hand of God. Jesus clearly was not always forsaken by the Father as He was over the period of His trial and torture.

The words “yesterday” and “forever”

First, does the word ‘yesterday’ mean the day before the author wrote this? That would be a silly notion, for Christ existed before then. How far back yesterday goes, then, is determined by the term ‘forever’. Since the author is obviously speaking of forever future, he most likely means forever past when he says ‘yesterday’.

So let us apply this to tongues. We must ask the questions: (a) Was the gift of tongues given among men since forever past? and (b) Will the gift of tongues be present in forever future? The answer to both of these questions is no. As for the first question, the gift of tongues was not present until the day of Pentecost in Acts 2. As for the second, we know from 1 Corinthians 13 that the gift of tongues “will cease” at the return of Christ.

The context of the verse

Verse 7 and verse 9 seem to be a connected thought. The former speaks of teachers, and the latter speaks of their teaching. In bringing up Jesus’ immutability, the author is giving us the grounds by which we do stay safe from false teaching. The flow is something like this: “Remember (in the past) the conduct of your teachers, (the) Jesus (that you heard of from them) is the same as He was then and always will be; therefore do not (in the future) be carried away by teaching of a Jesus you didn’t hear of from them.”

If a doctrine leads us to something other than the complete salvation in Christ, do not listen. Jesus is always going to be God; He is always going to be Redeemer; His Word is never going to change. Therefore, if somebody comes into our church teaching some crazy new doctrine which contradicts God’s Word, we should reject them.

This correct understand of the verse, then, flips the verse around against many practices of the charismatic movement. Why? As we just saw, what the author of Hebrews is really teaching us is to watch out for new and different teaching because Christ, His Word, His character, and so forth, does not change. If somebody comes to us with a Jesus—or Holy Spirit—that is not spoken of in the Scriptures, then they are wrong. And that is exactly what we are seeing today in the charasmatic movement!Jesus does not change, I can discern that babbling and gibberish is not the Holy Spirit-granted gift of tongues, because it was not that way in the New Testament! I also know, because Jesus does not change, that God is still “not a God of confusion, but of peace” (1 Cor. 14:33). Any confusion found in the church service, such as everyone shouting at once or people falling over in hysteria, is not of God. We know this because His character will not change from forever past until forever future.

And so, this verse is not at all in support of the modern charasmatic movement, but rather it was a warning centuries before against such evil teaching.

-Steven Rohn

What do you think?