Tongues, Trances and Voices—Should You Beware?
By Awake! correspondent in South Africa
THE Sunday-night service at a South African Pentecostal church was in full swing. A miracle was taking place! An Asian woman stood up and began speaking in a foreign tongue. ‘Surely it must be some divine revelation!’ thought her fellow worshipers.
But something about this manifestation struck another woman and her daughter as odd. They asked the pastor what the woman had actually said. To their surprise the pastor, who understood the language, admitted that the outburst was both vulgar and obscene. Even more startling was his admission that “there are both good and bad spirits.”
Perhaps you have been taught that phenomena such as speaking in tongues are manifestations of holy spirit. If so, you may find the above experience disturbing. “Bad spirits” speaking in church? Open-minded people truly have reason to question whether this conduct is really from God.
Researcher Barbara Rosen, editor of a book called Witchcraft, has observed that phenomena such as physical convulsions, exercising unusual strength, hallucinations—often connected with worship—are all typical of possession by evil spirits. Yet this author states that “hundreds of nominally Christian sects in Africa (and in remote parts of America) still regard trance, reached through convulsions, as ‘the descent of the Holy Spirit’ and structure their worship towards the attainment of this state.”—Italics ours.
Could it be, then, that sincere worshipers are being deceived by wicked spirit creatures? ‘How can this be?’ you might ask. ‘Does not the Bible even tell of servants of God experiencing such manifestations?’
Speaking in Tongues
Miraculous speaking in tongues as a God-given gift was experienced for the first time by about 120 of Christ’s disciples assembled in Jerusalem during the Jewish Festival of Pentecost in 33 C.E. But was it just a spectacle to attract the curious? No, the Bible clearly shows that this was for the purpose of witnessing to foreigners visiting Jerusalem; these, too, needed to know “about the magnificent things of God.” (Acts 2:8-11; 1:15) Those “tongues” were neither gibberish nor obscenities. They were clearly understood.
This gift was a part of early Christian worship. But the apostle Paul pointed out, at 1 Corinthians 13:8: “Whether there are tongues, they will cease.” As the congregation grew and matured, these “tongues” were no longer necessary.
What about modern-day miraculous “tongues”? As shown at the outset, the content of “miraculous” speech may be anything but godly. A former Hindu priest who joined a Pentecostal church further said of worshipers that some at times “even mention the names of Hindu Gods, for example, ‘Siva, Siva, Siva,’ in their shouting.”
Of course, when a church member speaks in a foreign tongue, usually nobody knows what is being said. The apostle Paul, however, said: “Therefore let the one who speaks in a tongue pray that he may translate.” (1 Corinthians 14:13) Seldom is this counsel followed. The babbling certainly bears no resemblance to the orderly manifestations of God’s spirit that first-century Christians observed. It bears the earmarks of a demonic deception.
Trances, too, have been used by God to communicate messages. The apostle Peter, for example, went into a trance that mentally prepared him to baptize the first uncircumcised Gentile Christians. (Acts 10:9-48) However, a purposeful trance is vastly different from those experienced today.
The Daily News of Durban, South Africa described a fire-walking ceremony dedicated to the Hindu goddess Draupadiamman: “The procession starts at a nearby river where devotees who have fasted for 18 days ceremonially cleanse themselves and enter a trance, after which they are usually hung with fruit, attached with hooks through their skin, and their cheeks and tongues skewered with brass needles.” After walking across the fiery coals in the pit, the “devotees . . . are divested of the hooks and skewers, and recover bloodlessly, painlessly and apparently without recollection, from their trances.”
How different this was from the trance Peter experienced! He was fully aware of what happened and was not called upon to perform some gruesome practice. The repulsive and masochistic acts connected with modern-day trances brand them as demon inspired.
Early in the 15th century a 13-year-old French peasant girl began hearing a voice that claimed to be the voice of God. As she gave herself over to the will of the voice, it eventually led her to leadership of the French army—and death at the stake! Her name was Joan of Arc.
Many today also claim to hear voices. Often these voices contradict what God has stated in the Bible. Joan of Arc, by involving herself in political wars, actually went contrary to Jesus’ explicit definition of his disciples, that they were “no part of the world.”—John 17:16.
The Bible warns us against paying attention to “spiritistic mediums or to those having a spirit of prediction who are chirping and making utterances in low tones.” (Isaiah 8:19) The Scriptures provide Christians with all the principles and guidelines needed to make a wise decision in this matter. (2 Timothy 3:16, 17) And since the completion of the Bible around the year 98 C.E., holy angels have not been used to communicate with God’s people. Spirit voices heard since then are therefore demonic.
Wicked Spirits—Their Origin
But who are these wicked spirits that seem to be behind occult phenomena? Many believe they are the souls of the dead. The Bible, however, says that the soul is mortal and “the dead . . . are conscious of nothing at all.” (Ecclesiastes 9:5; Ezekiel 18:4, 20) So we must look elsewhere for their origin.
At one time the now wicked spirits were counted among the faithful hosts of God’s angels. Created long before man, they loyally served God. But then some angels rebelled. Abandoning their assignment in heaven, they took on human form. The reason? To indulge in illicit sex relations with women on earth. No doubt the original Rebel, Satan the Devil, had much to do with their taking this perverse step. (Revelation 12:4) Their effect on human society was so degrading that God had to exterminate that generation of mankind by means of a Flood. Those former angels—by then demons—were forced to return to their spirit existence, but they were alienated from God and in spiritual darkness, in which they have been imprisoned ever since.—Genesis 3:1-24; 6:1-7; Jude 6; Revelation 12:9.
Since Satan’s angels can no longer take on human form, they have resorted to extremely deceptive ways in order to influence people, including those of whom the Bible says: “Such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself keeps transforming himself into an angel of light.” (2 Corinthians 11:13, 14) It therefore should not surprise us to learn that some of Satan’s “deceitful workers” are religious leaders.
However, one can break free from the influence of the demons. To do so requires rejecting religions that promote spiritistic practices. (2 Corinthians 6:14-18) This, of course, is not easy to do. Jehovah’s Witnesses, however, are more than happy to help. They have already assisted thousands to see through the deceptions perpetrated by wicked spirits. They begin by teaching Bible truth. They help you apply what you learn.
Eventually you begin to manifest God’s spirit in your life, not by means of demon-inspired trances or by speaking in tongues, but by showing true Christian qualities such as “love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faith, mildness, self-control.” In time you are able to put on what the Bible calls “the complete suit of armor from God,” which enables you to fight demonic forces successfully.—Galatians 5:22, 23; Ephesians 6:11-18.