Explore How Tongues Are a Sign

There are unique moments, always determined by God, when tongues are a sign given for a specific purpose. On these occasions, people witness a believer speaking in other tongues and despite the lack of an interpretation, those listening surprisingly understand the message as though it were spoken in their native tongue.

Unveiling the Mystery of How Tongues Are a Sign to Unbelievers and Jews

By Don Bell | Reading Time: 7 minutes

Tongues Are a SignTongues Are a Sign to Both Jews and Unbelievers
(Source: © czdistagon/Depositphotos.com)

Paul informs us, "In the law it is written: 'With men of other tongues and other lips I will speak to this people; and yet, for all that, they will not hear Me,' says the Lord. Therefore tongues are for a sign, not to those who believe but to unbelievers; but prophesying is not for unbelievers but for those who believe" (1 Corinthians 14:21-22).

Spoken Tongues Are a Sign to Unbelievers and the Uninformed

While a message spoken in tongues without an interpretation can lead to negative perceptions, there are appointed times when God prompts an unknown tongue to be spoken and people hear it as though the words were spoken in their native language.

An indisputable, miraculous SIGN of God's presence, it can spark curiosity and often lead to positive discussions and results, ultimately drawing people closer to God.

After the evening prayer meeting, several of us gathered for coffee and conversation. A Baptist man who was new to the group, expressed his interest in tongues and its relation to the baptism with the Holy Spirit.

Intrigued, he asked, "Could I hear what tongues sound like?" Sensing a prompt from the Holy Spirit, I agreed and began speaking in an unknown language. Moments later, he interrupted me and asked, "Do you speak Hebrew?"

Surprised, I replied, "No, not at all."

He then revealed that he was familiar with Hebrew, having taken a course to study The Old Testament in its original language. He had recognized Hebrew words and phrases as I spoke, specifically referencing God and His Temple. No interpretation of the tongue had been given.

I had no idea that I had been speaking Hebrew; to me, it was just my usual experience of speaking in tongues. Other than the man himself, nobody else present heard anything but an unknown tongue, as they also had no familiarity with Hebrew.

It was a SIGN to the man that the gifts of the Spirit were valid, and he went home with a renewed desire to dive deeper into studying the Scriptures, The following week, he returned and shared that he had received the fullness of the Holy Spirit and could now speak in tongues fluently!

Speaking in tongues can have a significant positive impact on people's lives when it's prompted by the Holy Spirit.

We read in Proverbs 18:16, "A man’s gift makes room for him, and brings him before great men." I've often been amazed at the opportunities God has given me to minister as an ordinary layperson without intervention on my part.

One such occasion was a special Healing Mass held at St. Ann Roman Catholic Church in Cormac, Ontario, back in March 1995.

This grand church has three long aisles. At the time, the parish priest, Fr. Grant Neville, was assigned to anoint people for healing in the center aisle, while the guest speaker, and Mass celebrant, Fr. Peter Coughlin, would anoint in one of the side aisles.

However, because of the unexpected large number of attendees and my having led healing retreats in the area, the organizers approached me to stand in the remaining side aisle and anoint people with holy oil.

Father Peter Coughlin, later Monsignor, was a nationally recognized figure in Charismatic Renewal and had a ministry of healing that extended even overseas. It was known that he had, on occasion, spoken in tongues from the pulpit, and miraculously, the listeners understood the message in their native language without an interpretation.

Out of curiosity, I asked him about his experience of speaking in tongues to a foreign congregation. He replied, "It was scary, to be honest. I was terrified." He went on to explain that lacking a translator, he simply obeyed the prompting of the Holy Spirit and began speaking in tongues. He knew that people were understanding when they started coming forward for healing prayer.

When messages in tongues are miraculously understood word-for-word without an interpretation, they are always an indisputable SIGN of God's presence for restoration and healing.

Spoken Tongues Are a Sign to the Jews

In Acts 2:1-4, Luke recounts the powerful example of the gift of tongues being used as a sign to the Jews.

On the Day of Shavuot (also known as Pentecost), one hundred and twenty believers were gathered in one place.1 Suddenly, they all heard a powerful rushing wind, and they were filled with the Holy Spirit, which resulted in them speaking in unknown tongues.

Luke relates, "And there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven. And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together, and was confused, because everyone heard them speak in his own language. Then they were all amazed and marveled, saying to one another, 'Look, are not all these who speak Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each in our own language in which we were born?'" (Acts 2:5-8).2

This miraculous occurrence astounded the crowd, and the men declared, "'We hear them speaking in our own tongues the wonderful works of God.' So they were all amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, 'Whatever could this mean?'" (Acts 2:11-12).

That's when Peter stood and spoke of recent events surrounding Jesus, and the words of the prophets saying, "'Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ'" (Acts 2: 36).

The event held great significance because it signaled a reversal of the curse that had been placed on humanity at the Tower of Babel. In Genesis 2, we learn that God confused the languages of the people and placed them in nations to be ruled over by the sons of God, the "spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places" that Paul speaks of in Ephesians 6:12.

Moses wrote, "Remember the days of old, consider the years for past ages: ask thy father, and he shall relate to thee, thine elders, and they shall tell thee. When the Most High divided the nations, when he separated the sons of Adam, he set the bounds of the nations according to the number of the angels of God. And his people Jacob became the portion of the Lord, Israel was the line of his inheritance." (Deuteronomy 32:7-9 LXX).3

Isaiah had prophesied the future outpouring of the Spirit of God, saying, "'It shall be that I will gather all nations and tongues; and they shall come and see My glory. I will set a SIGN among them…'" (Isaiah 66:18-19, emphasis added).

Two thousand years later at Pentecost, the significant SIGN was revealed: the diversity of languages was no longer a barrier. Through the outpouring of supernatural tongues, God united all languages and nations under Jesus in the Kingdom of God, fulfilling the prophetic words of Moses and Isaiah.

The "devout men from every nation under Heaven" who witnessed the outpouring of tongues on the Day of Shavuot (also known as Pentecost) were well aware of this significant occurrence. The tongues are a SIGN that Jesus had ascended to become King over the nations on Earth.


1 Crotts, Leeland H. "The Jewish Temple Is Where the Holy Spirit Descended." Baptists4Israel.com. Baptists for Israel Institute. 5 Jun. 2015, Web. 9 Feb. 2024.

Some noted biblical archaeologists now believe that the believers gathered on the Day of Pentecost in Solomon's Porch (or Portico), at the Eastern wall of Herod's Temple, also known as "The House." After Pentecost, Peter and John healed a lame man in Solomon's Porch (Acts 3:1-11), and the early church continued to meet there daily (Acts 5:12, 42; 2:46).

2 Did God enable the believers to speak tongues native to the "devout men from every nation under Heaven"? Or did He enable the devout men to "hear" their native languages as the believers spoke in heavenly tongues? Both explanations are plausible because of God's sovereignty. I will leave it to you to decide.

However, I believe that God caused the men to "hear" their native languages being spoken without interpretation. It would have been challenging for them to distinguish one specific language amid the chaotic noise of over one hundred people loudly speaking in tongues within such a large crowd. Besides, the Scriptures record that "everyone heard them speak in his own language" with no mention of an interpretation or translation (Acts 2:6).

3 The Septuagint (LXX) is the Koine Greek translation of The Old Testament that's quoted by The New Testament writers, particularly by Paul. The "angels of God" ("sons of God" ESV) translation is supported in the oldest Hebrew texts, the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Don Bell of Kingdom Anointing

By Don Bell, follower of the Christ.

Like This Page? Please Share It

QR CodeSCAN to access Kingdom Anointing on your CELLPHONE