What is the language of heaven? Will we all speak in a new language in heaven?
We cannot conceive of a world without communication. Probably because our world could not survive without it. God has chosen the art of language, particularly spoken language, as His way of developing relationship with His creation. Since it is so essential to us and our relationship with the creator, it would seem likely that language will still be a major part of our existence in heaven, and if not, that sounds disturbing! God's value of language, His history with it, and various biblical passages all indicate that there will be a language in heaven, though we do not know what that will be like.
The Bible has quite a bit to say about language, literally from the beginning to the end. The creation account in Genesis 1 and 2 does not indicate the creation of language, but instead the use of language as the creating action: "And God said,
'Let there be light,' and there was light" (Genesis 1:3). Jesus is called the literal Word of God, in that "All things were made through him" (John 1:3). God's Word is not divisible from God, for "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God" (John 1:1).
As essential as language apparently is to God's being, it is striking that He used the confusion of language to put an end to the rebellion against His command to "fill the earth" (Genesis 1:28 and 9:1) at Babel according to the story in Genesis 11:1-9. It was at this point in time that multiple languages were introduced to the world. This tragic event is beautifully described by theologian Erich Sauer in his book Dawn of World Redemption:
"The original language in which Adam in paradise had named all the animals was, as it were, a great mirror in which the whole of nature was accurately reflected. But now God shattered this mirror, and each people retained only a fragment of it, […] and now each people sees only a piece of the whole, but never the whole completely."
In the writings of Paul in the New Testament we find the one and only reference to "tongues [languages] of angels"; there is no reference to a "heavenly language" in the Bible, although that has come to be a common phrase. First Corinthians 13:1 reads, "If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal." Most commonly, the controversy surrounding this passage has to do with the gift of tongues, but it has also been conjectured that it could be referring to a language spoken in heaven that, apparently, could be learned by Christians on earth. However, neither of these theories properly fit the context of the passage. First, the "tongues of men" mentioned likely refers to the Day of Pentecost described in Acts 2:1-41 when the apostles were empowered by the Holy Spirit to speak in languages previously unknown to them. That Paul is referencing this makes sense in light of the Corinthian Christians' over-emphasis on this gifting, which Paul addresses in 1 Corinthians 12 and 14. Second, the "tongues of angels" is most likely a hyperbole intended to counter-emphasize the "tongues of men" and/or describe beautiful, eloquent speech, which was also highly valued by the Corinthians. There is no contextual reason to assume that Paul was referring to an actual language spoken by angels in this verse, nor is there any other passage which substantiates the concept that such a language could be known to an earth-bound human.
Yet, a language will be spoken in heaven, and if we accept that the multiple languages we experience on earth are all imperfect representations of reality, none of them can be the language we will speak in that perfect place. Although the Bible does not address this directly, there are three passages that imply both the use of language and a significant improvement upon it. Isaiah 62:2 indicates that Israel will "be called by a new name that the mouth of the Lord will give," while Revelation 3:12 indicates that Jesus himself will have a new name. Finally, Revelation 2:17 says "To the one who conquers . . . I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it." Each of these passages indicates a "new" naming system, and a very special one at that.
What heaven will look like and feel like perhaps provides the largest blank canvas for the creative mind that can be found. The declaration that heaven is like "What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined" (1 Corinthians 2:9) both gives us enormous freedom to imagine, and the knowledge that we will never quite understand while here on earth. As such, we may take Erich Sauer's picture of language as a perfect mirror reflecting everything fully, and indeed believe that God will allow language, along with every other part of life, to be re-perfected; but we have no idea what that will actually look – or sound – like.
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