The Languages of Heaven
How many languages does Jesus speak? On earth he spoke his local dialect, a version of Aramaic, and we can be quite sure he read and spoke Hebrew; maybe some Greek, a little Latin. (English, in case you are wondering, was still five centuries in the future.)
Then, after his Resurrection, Jesus ascended into Heaven, and there he is, in his new body, surrounded by people from ‘every nation, tribe, people and language.’ (Rev. 7:9) How does he communicate with them all? Well, Jesus is God, after all, so, we can imagine with some certainty that he knows every language. But, what about the rest of the ‘great multitude.’ They praise God on the Throne with thousands upon thousands of voices in thousands of ancient and modern tongues. While the Father, Son and Holy Spirit can understand the cacophony of words and songs, can the people understand each other? Is there a language of heaven, or does everyone retain their own language which they knew on this Old Earth?
There is, as you know, this odd little story tucked in Genesis in which the LORD intentionally confuses the one language of the people of the earth into many languages. (Genesis 11:1-9) This in turn causes the people to scatter around the world. The rest, as they say, is history.
We live in a world which has many ways to speak all sorts of threats, hate, war. Wars and rumors of war will never cease on this Old Earth. Even if we all understood each other’s languages, we will not all ‘understand’ each other, our fears, our anger, our territorialism. We try, most of the time, to speak diplomatically, translating words as best we can to help us know what we are trying to say and why we are trying to say it, but we are not very good at it, speaking generally of the human race.
And yet, one day, there we will all be. The people we mocked, detested, hated even, gathered around the Throne waving palm branches in our white robes. And then, at last, while we may not be speaking the same languages, we will finally understand each other, why we each and all exist.
“Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”