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Praying in the Spirit: That Glorious Day When Tongues are Not Needed: Until Then … Part 1

The first important modern theologian to give detailed consideration to the cessation of the gifts was B. B. Warfield (1851-1921). Warfield lists four different factors, either proposed or endorsed by him, which he contends were to affect or coincide with the cessation of the charismata:

  1. When the Apostolic Age passed (p.6).
  2. When the last disciple to whom the apostles conferred a gift died (p. 23-24).
  3. When the whole knowledge of God designed for the saving health of the world had been incorporated into the living body of the world’s thought (p. 26).
  4. When the revelation of God in Christ had taken place and had become in Scripture and the Church a constituent part of the cosmos (p. 27).

No specific date can be pinpointed from these factors.

Douglas Judisch, writing some sixty years after Warfield, gives five factors or dates for the cessation of tongues:

  1. In AD 70 with the destruction of the temple (p. 43).
  2. With the death of John, the last apostle (p. 49).
  3. Shortly after John’s death (p. 63).
  4. When the apostles’ last charismatic disciple died (p. 76), and
  5. When the Christian matured in the faith; for Paul it was prior to his writing of 1 Corinthians in (AD 54) (p.83).

Thus Judisch suggests five different dates for the end of tongues that range from AD 54 to some time in the second century. He suggests that in these five dates are two kinds of cessation, the cessation of distribution, and the cessation of operation, but does not define one specific cessation point.

No doubt miracles occurred under Paul’s ministry, but he does not consider them important signs of apostleship or limited only to apostles.

In the years since Warfield and Judisch defined their ideas of cessation, others have made their own suggestions and mostly have a difficult time picking one date when tongues are assumed to have ceased. The chart I have prepared (“Proposed Dates of Charismata Cessation”) underscores the cessationists’ inability to delineate only one cessation factor (and date). Of the 38 authors in the survey, only sixteen defend one date, and some of these add qualifiers; for example, Zeller writes, “on or before 70 AD” (p. 90). W. A. Criswell says tongues “ceased almost immediately” but fails to anchor the “immediately” to any firm, categorical factor: “The Church grew up and no longer needed the sign” (Baptism p.122). Thus, even many of those choosing only one factor do not speak with certainty. However, Gardiner and Schutz not only state one factor but a definite year with absolute certainty. Both choose AD 70. “When Titus the Roman sacked the city of Jerusalem and dispersed the Jews over the world in 70 AD,” Gardiner writes, “the reason for tongues disappeared and the gift ceased in and of itself. Since then there have been no Biblical tongues spoken” (p. 36).

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Category: Spirit, Spring 2000

About the Author: Robert W. Graves, M. A. (Literary Studies, Georgia State University), is the co-founder and president of The Foundation for Pentecostal Scholarship, Inc., a non-profit organization supporting Pentecostal scholarship through research grants. He is a Christian educator and a former faculty member of Southwestern Assemblies of God College in Waxahachie, Texas, and Kennesaw State University (adjunct). He edited and contributed to Strangers to Fire: When Tradition Trumps Scripture and is the author of Increasing Your Theological Vocabulary, Praying in the Spirit (1987 and Second Edition, 2017) and The Gospel According to Angels (Chosen Books, 1998).

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