When we get to Heaven; after appearing before the bema – the judgment seat of Christ…. After we settled in to our God-designed mansions… As we get to know our neighbors, and we begin our Heavenly duties… How will we communicate with those around us. With Abraham and David? Paul and Barnabas? When we meet fellow saints who had lived in the Philippines or Korea, how will we talk with them? Will we demand that they learn English? As God’s cherubim come to us with commands or blessings, with what language will we greet them?
My question is: what will be the language of Heaven? It’s not an important question; it’s not something to worry about and for which we should be prepared. It’s just a question out of my curiosity. But I do plan to bring this question to a very serious conclusion, so I hope you hang in there with me. I am absolutely convinced, based on scripture that I know what language we will use in Heaven.
I have just finished reading (and skimming) over two completely opposite books. One was pro-Hebrew to the 10th degree, trying to make me look at the New Testament through Jewish eyes. And the other was anti-Zionist to the 13th degree, condemning just about everything Jewish since Israel’s return from Babylonian captivity. Neither one of these books addressed my question, but I guarantee that the author of the first book would say that in Heaven everyone will speak Hebrew. And I am certain that the authors of the second book hate modern Israel so much they would refuse to speak Hebrew even if they were talking to Abraham or the Lord Jesus Himself.
To the best of my knowledge, there are only two places in the Bible where we read of Heavenly beings speaking among themselves – here in Isaiah and in the Book of Revelation. Of course, there are other cases where God speaks FROM Heaven to people ON earth, and we’ll look at some of those. The most helpful to my question are those conversations which take place wholly in Heaven. But what was the language with which the Father used when speaking to the Son at the transfiguration? At Jesus’ baptism did the Father use the same language that the Son used in speaking to Moses or is there a special divine language between the three persons of the God-head? Was the language of Isaiah 6, Hebrew, and can we conclude that is the only language used in Heaven?
Let’s make a quick survey of speech in the Bible – a very incomplete survey.
Does God’s Word tell us that God and Adam spoke Hebrew while in the Garden? Contrary to what some KJV people want to believe, Genesis 2 and 3 were first written, not in English, but Hebrew. But is that proof that Hebrew was the medium through which the Creator spoke to the man? Just because we read of Paul’s sermons in English, doesn’t mean that he preached them in our language.
After the flood, for some time, everyone spoke whatever language Noah and his family spoke. And by Genesis 11:1 – “the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech.” Why “one language, AND one speech?” Does that refer to a single language but with different dialects, like British English, Scottish English, English from the American South and Bostonian English? None of my commentaries explained that to me, but my explanation makes sense to me. Then in Genesis 11:7 God said “Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.” Could it be that at that point God created dozens of languages – including Hebrew? I could not see in Genesis where God chose one branch of Humanity, the most righteous of them all, and permitted them to retain the language that Adam and Noah spoke. Were they all given new languages, one of which was a new speech called “Hebrew?” I don’t know.
We looked at the burning bush in Exodus 3 last week, where God spoke to Moses. “And (God) said, Draw not nigh hither: put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground. Moreover he said, I am the God of thy father, the God of ABRAHAM, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” In my research, one man pointed to Genesis 14 which says that Abraham was an Hebrew, and therefore God spoke to Moses in Hebrew. Slow down there cowboy. That is a big assumption. After the burning bush, God often spoke directly to Moses – before, during and after Sinai. What language did they use?
In Exodus 4 Moses replied to God, saying, “O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither heretofore, nor since thou hast spoken unto thy servant: but I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue.” I have heard it explained that Moses’ first language was Egyptian, and that Hebrew was his second language. Although no major commentary with which I am familiar said so, I have heard it said that Moses was having a hard time understanding the Lord because God only uses Hebrew. I am not saying that this isn’t possible or plausible, but let’s not make such dogmatic statements.
In what language did God write the tables of the law? Admittedly, Hebrew makes sense, but I don’t think there is absolute proof of that. But again, is this significant? Does our salvation hinge on any of this? Of course not. The Lord has made His Word available to us – even if our only language is English.
Moving in to the New Testament the verbal waters get even more muddy. What was the common language of the common people of Israel in the post-exilic period? Here is a quote from one of my encyclopedia – “Jesus and his disciples primarily spoke ARAMAIC, the common language of Judea in the first century AD, most likely a Galilean dialect distinguishable from that of Jerusalem. This is generally agreed upon by historians.” But, when the Father spoke to the Son from Heaven in Luke 3 and 9 was it also Aramaic? I think that Jesus would have known Hebrew, but I but was that what He used at the transfiguation?
Saul of Tarsus would have known Hebrew through his above-average Pharisaical education. So when Christ spoke to Saul in Acts 9 was it Hebrew? Actually, it was. When Paul was explaining his conversion he specifically said that God spoke to him in Hebrew. “Whereupon as I went to Damascus with authority and commission from the chief priests, At midday, O king, I saw in the way a light from heaven, above the brightness of the sun, shining round about me and them which journeyed with me. And when we were all fallen to the earth, I heard a voice speaking unto me, and saying in the Hebrew tongue, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. And I said, Who art thou, Lord? And he said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest.” Paul was an educated man – a religious man, who would have prided himself on speaking Hebrew.
But would “ignorant and unlearned” PETER have known the language of his ancestors when it wasn’t the common speech of the day? When he was in Joppa and the Lord wanted him in Caesarea, Peter was given a vision. In his explanation to the church he said, “I was in the city of Joppa praying: and in a trance I saw a vision, A certain vessel descend, as it had been a great sheet, let down from heaven by four corners; and it came even to me: Upon the which when I had fastened mine eyes, I considered, and saw fourfooted beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air. And I heard a voice saying unto me, Arise, Peter; slay and eat. But I said, Not so, Lord: for nothing common or unclean hath at any time entered into my mouth. But the voice answered me again from heaven, What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common.” Was Peter speaking with the Lord or an angel? Is the question important? Probably not. What was the language being spoken? Is it important? Probably not.
There a few others scriptures which speak about this subject, but they don’t help us much.
Now let’s go to the only other place where we listen to conversations confined to Heaven.
Revelation 4:1 – “After this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven: and the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said, Come up hither, and I will shew thee things which must be hereafter. And immediately I was in the spirit: and, behold, a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne. And he that sat was to look upon like a jasper and a sardine stone: and there was a rainbow round about the throne, in sight like unto an emerald. And round about the throne were four and twenty seats: and upon the seats I saw four and twenty elders sitting, clothed in white raiment; and they had on their heads crowns of gold. And out of the throne proceeded lightnings and thunderings and VOICES: and there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God.” Skip down to verse 10 – “The four and twenty elders fall down before him that sat on the throne, and worship him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, SAYING, Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.” With what language did those elders, representing the saints of God from all over the world, praise God?
In the next chapter the twenty-four elders SING. Verse 9 – “And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth.” Then, with the elders, are the voices of many angels saying, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing. And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever.”
At the end of chapter 8 an angel speaks, pronouncing woe to the inhabiters of the earth. In chapters 10, 11, 12, 14 and 18 more angels speak giving commands to certain people – and not all those people are Hebrews. How did they understand? With what language did the angel command the birds of the earth in Revelation 19:17 – “And I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the fowls that fly in the midst of heaven, Come and gather yourselves together unto the supper of the great God; That ye may eat the flesh of kings, and the flesh of captains, and the flesh of mighty men, and the flesh of horses, and of them that sit on them, and the flesh of all men, both free and bond, both small and great.” Could we conclude that God will use the gift of tongues and the gift of interpretation?
In order to reach my conclusion this evening, please turn to Revelation 19:1. “And after these things I heard a great voice of much people in heaven, saying, Alleluia; Salvation, and glory, and honour, and power, unto the Lord our God: For true and righteous are his judgments: for he hath judged the great whore, which did corrupt the earth with her fornication, and hath avenged the blood of his servants at her hand. And again they said, Alleluia. And her smoke rose up for ever and ever. And the four and twenty elders and the four beasts fell down and worshipped God that sat on the throne, saying, Amen; Alleluia. And a voice came out of the throne, saying, Praise our God, all ye his servants, and ye that fear him, both small and great. And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth. Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready.”
What kind of speech will be used in Heaven?
Judging from what we read in Revelation and Isaiah 6 I believe I have the answer. There will be two languages used in Heaven. God will speak with the language of sovereign authority. As the Millennium ends and “eternity” begins the Divine judge will issue His ultimate edicts. They will not be suggestions or items for us all to consider. They will be authoritative – commands. And they will be heard by all. And later He will speak and angels will obey; He will speak and saints will respond with joy. It won’t matter if the words are in English, Hebrew, Greek or Swahili – as with the gift of tongues on the Day of Pentecost, everyone will instantly hear and understand. God will speak with the language of sovereign authority – He will speak as God.
And for the rest of us – ours will be the language of worship. When we listen to the voices of saved people in Heaven as recorded in God’s Word, we hear…. “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts.” “Alleluia; Salvation, and glory, and honour, and power, unto the Lord our God.” “Praise our God, all ye his servants, and ye that fear him, both small and great.” “Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him.” For you and me, the language of Heaven will be worship and praise.
Should we all learn Hebrew so we’ll be ready for Heaven? Should we all find an Hebrew school or a tutor in Hebrew so that we’ll be ready for our translation? I don’t believe so. If that will be the tongue we will use in Heaven, then the Lord, reversing Babel, will give us the gift of that tongue in the day that we need it.
But it may be something entirely new – a language not yet known to any man. What will your name be when you get to Heaven? It won’t be what I know you by today. Christ says in Rev. 3:12 – “Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name.” Could it be we’ll have new names because we’ll be speaking a new language?
We don’t need to learn Hebrew. No, the language we need to learn today… The language which will be as practical in Heaven as it should be today, will be the language of worship. “Praise God, from whom all blessings flow; Praise him, all creatures here below; Praise him above, ye heav’nly host; Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.”
If you are a francophone, then you need to learn to praise God in French – today – right now. If you speak Spanish, then praise the Lord in that language, preparing yourself for praise throughout eternity. And if you speak only moderately good English, the Lord will be happy to hear your thanksgiving and praise, tonight, tomorrow and ten thousand years from now – in your stuttering version of English. The language we will speak when we get to Heaven will be a language of worship and praise.