"As President and Commander in Chief it is my duty to the American people to report that renewed hostile actions against United States ships on the high seas in the Gulf of Tonkin have today required me to order the military forces of the United States to take action in reply." "I'm not a crook." "We did not--repeat--did not trade weapons or anything else for hostages--nor will we." "Read my lips: No new taxes." "I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky." "We found the weapons of mass destruction." Six U.S. presidents. Six lies. Each of those lies resulted in varying degrees of destruction. The first led to a war. The second destroyed faith in the country's leadership. The third bogged an administration down in defense of itself for the last two years of its existence. The fourth made a president a laughing stock. The fifth took the nation through months of congressional hearings on television and many more awkward conversations between children and parents at home. And the last attempted to justify a war that the United States is still seeking a way out of.
In 1956, while speaking to Western ambassadors at a reception at the Polish embassy in Moscow, Nikita Krushchev uttered his famous words: "We will bury you." The statement confirmed, for many in the United States, the evil motivations of the Soviet empire against the western world. The phrase, however, was mistranslated. What Krushchev meant was "We will outlive you." That is, that the communist way of life would outlast that of the capitalist. Nevertheless, Krushchev's mistranslated phrase would become part of the historical lore, and the cold war would remain cold--in fact, at times, grow colder--for another thirty years.
One day, God "will turn to the people a pure language," Zephaniah 3:9 notes, "that they may all call upon the name of the Lord, to serve him with one consent."1 Imagine a pure language. Imagine a world in which all people speak it. Imagine a world where the aforementioned lies were not told and where the misunderstood statement had been properly translated. Imagine a world without the cold war, the Vietnam War, or the current war in Iraq, a world without those awkward conversations between parents and their children, a world with a faith in the words of its leaders.
Some take Zephaniah 3:9 to mean that the whole world--all peoples--will be given a single new, "pure" language, a language in which a misunderstanding such as that between what Krushchev had said and what those in the West could not result.2 The idea that this pure language would be a new and single language rests, in part, in the concept expressed in Zephaniah of the people serving God with "one consent" and in other prophetic and historic scriptures dealing with language. Perhaps one of the most relevant prophetic scriptures in this regard would be Isaiah 19:18: "In that day shall five cities in the land of Egypt speak the language of Canaan, and swear to the Lord of hosts." One of those languages of Canaan, in Isaiah's day, was Hebrew, the language of the Jews, and that is likely the language intended here, a language that would allow the Egyptians to study the Old Testament in its original tongue. And historically, of course, there is the reference to a single language in Genesis 11:1 and 6: "And the whole earth was of one language and one speech. . . . And the Lord said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language." If humanity started with one language, it is easy to reason, would it not then make sense that, at the end of time, humanity would return to a single language? (And indeed, it's inevitable, insofar as spirit, which is what humanity is slated to become, is not limited to English or Spanish or Swahili--God knows what people are saying no matter the tongue.)
That said, there are also scriptures that point to there being multiple languages during the future millennial reign of Jesus Christ on earth. Zechariah 8:23, for example, notes that "[i]n those days it shall come to pass, that ten men shall take hold out of all languages of the nations, even shall take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, saying, We will go with you, for we have heard that God is with you." The basic point here is that peoples of all nations will desire to know God's way and will look to his Jewish people as examples and teachers, but a smaller point, which is of importance in understanding language's future, is that these are peoples of many different tongues. Perhaps, they will desire to learn Hebrew also, but they still maintain a linguistic distinction. Indeed, other scriptures point to Christ ruling over peoples of multiple languages. Revelation says that, at the end, he "redeem[s] us . . . out of every kindred, and tongue" (Rev. 5:9) and that an "angel fl[ies] in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people" (Rev. 14:6). Throughout scripture, in fact, unique tongues or languages are equated with particular peoples or nations and are often mentioned in conjunction. We see this not only in the prophetic writings but also in the historic. In Daniel 3:29, for instance, Nebuchadnezzar issues a decree, to "every people, nation, and language." Genesis 10:5 notes that the isles of the Gentiles were divided "every one after his tongue, after their families, in their nations."
The idea of the whole earth being of one language is an exciting one to many people because such a language would allow peoples of all nations and all cultures to talk with one another, to share experiences and ideas without having to communicate across linguistic barriers. But any of us who have ever had relations with anyone else--be they family, work, or marriage--knows that miscommunication is not just a matter of differing language families. Two people can both be speaking English, even the same dialect of English, and manage to miscommunicate, manage not to understand one another, to be confused. Words and phrases can have multiple meanings, and differing contexts for the people involved can lead to misunderstandings. If person A says, "I love you," for example, person B could take this as meaning person A has a degree of concern about person B, that person A likes certain aspects of person B, or that person A has a romantic interest in person B, all depending on what person B's emotional and intellectual status is at the time. That status may not match with what person A had in mind. "I love you--but not like that," person A might need to clarify. Similarly, something can be bad, meaning not good, or something can be bad, meaning cool. Something can be cool, meaning cold or meaning keen. Something can be keen meaning neat or meaning sharp. Something can be sharp meaning smart or meaning cutting. No matter whether the earth were made of one language or a hundred, therefore, there would still be the possibility of miscommunication. And if we consider again Krushchev's words, had his "We will bury you" been translated as "We will outlast you," while the violence of the image, taken as it was during a period of increasing dependence on nuclear arms, would have been absent--the overall disagreement over ways of life would have remained, and the cold war likely would have proceeded along anyway, though without one of its great slogans used for justification.
Perhaps, in focusing on the physicality of a single language, we have missed a more important point about the nature of the pure language mentioned in Zephaniah 3:9. The focus of this piece so far has been on the "pure language" mentioned in the first half of the scripture, but the second half of the scripture notes what that language is actually for--"that they may call on the name of the Lord, to serve him with one consent." Further down, in verse 13, Zephaniah writes that "[t]he remnant of Israel shall not do iniquity, nor speak lies, neither shall a deceitful tongue be found in their mouth." In verse 10, Zephaniah notes that God will remove those who are proud and haughty. So this "pure language" that is written of is one in which there is no deceit or pride, which in turn is one that allows people to serve God in unity. There was no mistranslation in the earlier quotes from U.S. presidents, but had they spoken a pure language, a language without lies, think of how much pain could have been avoided both within the United States and in other nations that felt the American wrath. The pure language Zephaniah speaks of is about much more than miscommunication.
Parallels to Zephaniah 3:9, in regard subject matter, can be drawn to the other passages earlier quoted about a single language. Reading Isaiah 19:18 in context, for example, reveals that not only do "five cities in . . . Egypt speak the language of Canaan" but they also "swear to the Lord of hosts." Further down, Isaiah notes that "there [shall] be an altar to the Lord in the midst of the land of Egypt" (v. 19) and that "the Lord shall be known to Egypt, and the Egyptians shall know the Lord . . . and shall do sacrifice and oblation" (v. 21). Even the passage in Genesis, where the mention of a single language is explicit, is at heart about people's willingness to do God's will. While God notes that the single language is a danger because "nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do" (Gen. 11:6), it is in the context of a command that he had earlier issued to the people newly settling after the flood: "Be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the earth" (Gen. 9:1). Rather than replenishing the earth, the people aimed to "make . . . a name, lest [they] be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth" (Gen. 11:4). God's confusing of the languages allowed the scattering and replenishing he had intended to take place. The problem wasn't so much a single language but a language used in opposition to God's will and what a single language could be used for among a people opposed to God's will.
One need only to look at the early New Testament church for examples of a "single" language--of sorts--being put to use for the opposite purpose, for the furtherance of God's will. In this case, it wasn't literally a single language so much as a linguistic gift that allowed all men to understand one another--the gift of tongues. Profoundly, if Babel, soon after the flood, is where God split men up through language, it is at the founding of his church that he joined men through language. After the Holy Spirit descended on the believers gathered for Pentecost, they "began to speak with other tongues" and "every man heard them speak in his own language" (Acts 2:4, 6)--conversions followed. This gift, in turn, became a sign of the believers. As recounted in Acts 10:45-47, it was the fact that the Gentiles began to speak in tongues that provided the final evidence to Peter that the Gentiles had indeed received the Holy Spirit and had been called by God. And this gift not only became a sign, it had been prophesied by Christ to be one (Mk. 16:17).
Yet even here, with what was an incredible physical miracle, the real function of tongues wasn't just to perform some kind of magic spell to wow people. Through the physical understanding of words that it imparted, it illustrated the spiritual understanding that had come through the Holy Spirit. And in bringing peoples of various nations, various tongues, together in a way that they could understand one another, the gift of tongues also served as a sign of the grafting of the Gentiles into God's nation of Israel. "There is neither Jew nor Greek," wrote Paul, ". . . for ye are all one in Christ Jesus, And if you be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed" (Gal. 3:28). Through the gift of tongues, the people were better able to become one--and for what purpose? In Acts 10:46, when the first converted Gentile, Cornelius, and those with him, began to speak in tongues, they used the gift to "magnify God."
But as with single language available to the people at Babel, the gift of tongues also came to be misused. Like the ancients before them, some in the church attempted to use tongues to "make . . . a name" for themselves rather than to glorify God (Gen. 11:4). Paul references this problem in his first letter to the Corinthians. "He that speaks in an unknown tongue edifieth himself," Paul told them (I Cor. 14:4). Rather than using the gift to communicate, some were using it to show off. Paul, as a result, encouraged the Corinthians to develop and value other gifts that were of more use--charity, for example, and prophecy. "I would that ye all spake with tongues, but rather that ye prophesied," he wrote, "for greater is he that prophesieth than he that speaketh with tongues, except he interpret, that the church may receive edifying. . . . [I]n the church I had rather speak five words with my understanding, that by my voice I might teach others also, than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue" (I Cor. 14:5, 19). Paul's point was that language should edify, should teach, should encourage. Another early teacher, James, would have agreed: "If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man's religion is vain" (James 1:26). The more important thing about language in the early church, therefore, according to these writers, wasn't the miracle of tongues but the kinds of things that people spoke about, both among each other and among those in the larger society.
Those in the church today have the opportunity to speak that same kind of language. Through the believer's proper use of the tongue, people, in the larger society and within the church itself, can gain some understanding of the pure language that one day shall engulf the whole world, as prophesied in Zephaniah 3:9. As "ambassadors for Christ" (2 Cor. 5:20), believers represent God's kingdom--and, it would follow, should know and use a dialect of that kingdom's language. That pure language, scriptures show, consists in several things. One of the most important is that the believer's language is in conformity to God's will and, by extension, to God's law. II Corinthians 2:17 notes that believers "are not as many, which corrupt the word of God, but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God speak [they] in Christ." And what is that language of Christ? If the believer puts on Christ's righteousness (Rom. 3:21-26), then the believer also must put on Christ's language of righteousness. That language of righteousness is recounted in Psalms 37:30-31: "The mouth of the righteous speaketh wisdom, and his tongue talketh of judgment. The law of God is in his heart; none of his steps shall slide." Because, as Christ himself noted, "out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh" (Matt. 12:34), those wise words that come from the mouth of the righteous, of necessity, come from the law that the righteous carry in their hearts. It is not an accident that the virtuous woman, of Proverbs 31, a "woman that feareth the Lord" (Prov. 31:30), is noted as opening "her mouth with wisdom, and [having] in her tongue . . . the law of kindness" (Prov. 31:26).
II Corinthians 2:17, however, points to another kind of person as well, one who corrupts the word--the language--of God. This corruption, as might be expected, is rooted in a pure language's opposite, a rebellion against God's law and God's will. "[T]hose things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart," Christ noted, "and they defile the man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies" (Matt. 15:18-19). Because "[a] good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things," Christ says, ". . . every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned" (Matt. 12:35-37).
Words are meaningful, and the corruption of the word, Paul writes of, takes form in lies and deceit, which in turn cause people to sin, to do evil, and to not know God. For how can people know God if what they are told of him is incorrect--if what they are told is literally corrupt? The example of ancient Israel is instructive here. Over and over again in scripture, God noted that Israel was full of liars: "[T]he inhabitants thereof have spoken lies," Micah wrote, complaining for God, "and their tongue is deceitful in their mouth" (Mic. 6:12). This deceit, importantly, extended even to Israel's so-called prophets, who instead of leading people to God led them to other gods:
[T]hey [the prophets of Samaria] prophesied in Baal, and caused my people Israel to err. I have seen also in the prophets of Jerusalem an horrible thing: they commit adultery, and walk in lies: they strengthen also the hands of evildoers, that none doth return from his wickedness: they are all of them unto me as Sodom, and the inhabitants of Gomorrah. . . . Thus saith the Lord of hosts, Hearken not unto the words of the prophets that prophesy unto you: they make you vain: they speak a vision of their own heart, and not out of the mouth of the Lord. They say still unto them that despise me, The Lord hath said, Ye shall have peace; and they say unto every one that walketh after the imagination of his heart, No evil shall come upon you. . . . I have not sent these prophets, yet they ran: I have not spoken to them, yet they prophesied. But if they had stood in my counsel, and had caused my people to hear my words, then they should have turned them from their evil way, and from the evil of their doings. . . . I have heard what the prophets said, that prophesy lies in my name, saying, I have dreamed, I have dreamed. How long shall this be in the heart of the prophets that prophesy lies? yea, they are prophets of the deceit of their own heart; Which think to cause my people to forget my name by their dreams which they tell every man to his neighbour, as their fathers have forgotten my name for Baal. (Jer. 23:13-14, 16-17, 21-22, 25-27)In the end, Israel fell because "their tongue, and their doings [were] against the Lord" (Isa. 3:8). Words led to actions, actions to other words. Interestingly, Israel's punishment was to go into captivity to "a nation whose language [they knew] not, neither [understood] what they [said]" (Jer. 5:15). It was as if, because Israel refused to speak God's words, God gave them over to a tongue that was far stranger than the strange tongues they already had a predilection for. Another characteristic of pure language is that it praises God. Already mentioned is how the gift of tongues that came upon the early church was a manifestation of the Holy Spirit in the lives of believers. That Holy Spirit, in turn, aided believers in praising God and in speaking "the word of God with boldness" (Acts 4:31), or in magnifying God, as Cornelius did. The Holy Spirit's effect on human beings was not new. II Peter 1:21 notes that "prophecy came not in old time by the will of man; but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost." Examples of this abound and include the first two kings of Israel. Saul, soon after his anointing as king, was told that he would "meet a company of prophets coming down from the high place with a psaltery, and a tabret, and a pipe, and a harp, before them; and they [would] prophesy; And the spirit of the Lord [would] come upon [him], and [he would] prophesy with them, and [would] be turned into another man" (I Sam. 10:5-6), and that is indeed what happened. David, Saul's successor, noted that "[t]he spirit of the Lord spake by [him], and his [God's] word was in [his] tongue" (II Sam. 23:2). This, in turn, allowed David to write most of the Psalms, which are in large part songs of praise to God.
The church today also has the opportunity to praise God, in songs, in words, in instruction. "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom," wrote Paul to the Colossians, "teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatsoever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him" (Col. 3:16-17). As with the early New Testament church, this praise comes through the aid of the Holy Spirit. Paul again notes, this time to the Ephesians: "[B]e filled with the Spirit; Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Eph. 5:18-20).
This praise the church has been able to offer for the past nearly two thousand years serves as a forerunner of the praise that the whole world will one day offer to God, once Christ returns. The impetus for this will once again be a pouring forth of God's Spirit: "And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions: And also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit" (Joel 2:28-29). So whereas Israel's corrupt prophets talked of dreams that they had not in fact had, people in the millennium will speak of dreams that they have had. In turn, the discourse will be markedly different. "[E]very tongue," Paul notes, writing of the purpose of Christ's exaltation after his resurrection, "should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" (Phil. 2:11). This confession starts in the church, but eventually, prophecy shows, it subsumes the whole world: "[U]nto me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear" (Isa. 45:23). No more will men shut their ears to God's instructions, and no more will they blaspheme his name. At that time, the full fulfillment of what Christ did to the deaf man near Decapolis will be upon the whole world: "[H]e maketh both the deaf to hear, and the dumb to speak" (Mk. 7:37).3
A pure language also seeks peace. Compare the pure language of peace with the impure language of this current age, a language that is often used to divide and to heap up power and praise for one's self--and this often through the use of deceit. "The words of his mouth were smoother than butter," David recounts of his enemies, "but war was in his heart: his words were softer than oil, yet were they drawn swords" (Ps. 55:21). At heart, as the Proverbs note, "A lying tongue hateth those that are afflicted by it; a flattering mouth worketh ruin" (Prov. 26:28). Thus, it should be no surprise that words used as warfare is a common metaphor throughout scripture. "Hide me from the secret counsel of the wicked," David asks of God in one of the Psalms, "from the insurrection of the workers of iniquity: Who whet their tongue like a sword, and bend their bows to shoot their arrows, even bitter words" (Ps. 64:2-3). Contrast such warring speech, aimed at making one's enemies weak so that they can be taken advantage of, to the wholesome, sincere speech of the righteous, which, as Proverbs 15:4 states, is "a tree of life." The other, that same proverb states, is its opposite, "a breach in the spirit."
The scriptures spell out various techniques that such peaceful language uses--and even provides a few examples. One of those techniques is given in Proverbs 15:1: "A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger." A soft answer implies humility--one does not shout down one's opponents with testimonies about one's brilliance or greatness but rather attempts to understand the other person's perspective and, more importantly, to show, through kind but sometimes strong words, God's perspective. Take, for example, Elihu's comments to Job. He did not rush in to speak first but rather let those who were older speak before him. Likewise, he allowed Job to have his say first, and he listened to Job and was able then to comment on what Job said, not just what he, Elihu, thought:
Wherefore, Job, I pray thee, hear my speeches, and hearken to all my words. . . . My words shall be of the uprightness of my heart: and my lips shall utter knowledge clearly. The spirit of God hath made me, and the breath of the Almighty hath given me life. If thou canst answer me, set thy words in order before me, stand up. Behold, I am, according to thy wish in God's stead: I also am formed out of the clay. Behold, my terror shall not make thee afraid, neither shall my hand be heavy upon thee. Surely thou hast spoken in mine hearing, and I have heard the voice of thy words. . . . Suffer me a little, and I will show thee, that I have yet to speak on God's behalf. (Job 33:1, 3-8; 36:2)Elihu did not place himself above Job ("I also am formed out of the clay"); in fact, Elihu asked for correction if what he was saying was incorrect ("If thou canst answer me, set thy words in order before me"); Elihu then established that he had heard what Job had said ("I have heard the voice of thy words"); and finally Elihu responded by taking up for what God would say in the matter ("I have yet to speak on God's behalf"). In the end, Job listened and was moved and was able to fix a wrong attitude that had crept into his thoughts and words. Elihu used his language, not to edify himself, as some would do millennia later as they spoke tongues in the Corinthian church, but rather used his words to edify another, as Paul would have had the Corinthians do.
James sums up the proper use of the tongue nicely when he notes that "[i]f any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body." (James 3:2). That is, if one is able to control one's language, to use it not in a manner that is going to hurt another, in turn creating strife, then one is able also to live in a way that is going to further peace. James goes on to say:
Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him show out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom. But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth. . . . For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace. (James 3:13-14, 16-18)In other words, the wise show their wisdom and righteousness through their speech--and that speech reaches down into the core of their being. They do not just speak in ways that bring peace, they live those ways.
As a result, it should be no surprise that Christians are told to avoid those who speak otherwise, who instead create strife, by preaching things that go contrary to God's law. "Now I beseech you, brethren," Paul tells the Romans, "mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple" (Rom. 16:17-18). Likewise, he tells Timothy, "If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; He is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself" (I Tim. 6:3-5).
If such principles are applied, the ultimate result of God's pure language is not just peace but unity. Indeed, Christians are told that they have a foretaste of God's graciousness through the lack of malice that they hold toward others, even in their speech. "Wherefore laying aside all malice," Peter writes, "and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings, As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby: If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious" (I Pet. 2:1-3). Contrast this with those who use their words improperly: "A naughty person," the Proverbs say, "a wicked man, walketh with a froward mouth. . . . Frowardness is in his heart, he deviseth mischief continually; he soweth discord" (Prov. 6:12, 14). The ultimate result of such misuse of the tongue is a lack of trust, a lack that can spread throughout a church, throughout a nation, and even within something as close as a family, as spoken of by the prophet Micah: "The good man is perished out of the earth: and there is none upright among men: they all lie in wait for blood; they hunt every man his brother with a net. . . . Trust ye not in a friend, put ye not confidence in a guide: keep the doors of thy mouth from her that lieth in thy bosom" (Mic. 7:2, 5). Christ, too, predicted that such a time would come: "And the brother shall deliver up the brother to death, and the father the child: and the children shall rise up against their parents, and cause them to be put to death" (Matt. 10:21). And indeed, such situations have arisen at various moments throughout history--during the Inquisition, for example--and such moments will arise again.
Prophecies in the book of Revelation and other scriptures point to a time when the whole world will be united, but it will be a false unity, based on false principles out of harmony with God's will, principles such as those laid down way back at the tower of Babel. The time of this coming worldly unity is the time of the beast's ultimate ascent to power:
And they [the whole world] worshipped the dragon which gave power unto the beast: and they worshipped the beast, saying, Who is like unto the beast? who is able to make war with him? And there was given unto him a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies; and power was given unto him to continue forty and two months. And he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme his name, and his tabernacle, and them that dwell in heaven. And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them: and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations. And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. (Rev. 13:4-8)Note here the beast's use of language--to speak "great things and blasphemies." And the beast makes war against God's people, even while the beast's power encompasses "all kindreds, and tongues, and nations." In this sense, it will not be unlike other world-ruling kingdoms, such as Nebuchadnezzar's, in which "all people, nations, and languages, trembled and feared" and in which the leader was "lifted up, and his mind hardened in pride" so that God had to humble him, "[depose him] from his kingly throne, and . . . [take] his glory from him" (Dan. 5:19, 20).
Christ will be the one to depose that final despot, and he will also be the one ultimately to bring a true unity of the nations, one based in God's law and in true peace rather than in constant warfare against varying opinions and beliefs. "And there was given unto him [the Son of man]," Daniel tells us is to happen at the end of this age, "dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him" (Dan. 7:14). Indeed, Isaiah tells us, in God's words, "I will gather all nations and tongues; and they shall come, and see my glory" (Isa. 66:18). In these prophecies, nations and languages are synonymous, and the nations, and their respective languages, are all subservient to a single leader, to God. But it is one thing to have a kingdom imposed on people--and indeed this one at the start will be--and another for people to be ruled willingly and joyfully. What will eventually allow for this is that God will, as noted earlier, "pour out [his] spirit upon all flesh" (Joel 2:28), which in turn will give men "one heart" and allow them to "walk in [God's] statutes" (Ezek. 11:19-20). There won't have to be constant warfare because all will be of the same mind. And because the whole world will be one, because all people will be following God, the nation of Judah, in contrast to the strange language it was subjected to in captivity as punishment for disobeying God, will no longer "see a fierce people, a people of a deeper speech than [it] canst perceive; of a stammering tongue, that [it] canst not understand" (Isa. 33:19). In this same sense, the sense that all people will understand one another because all will understand God's way, the whole world will at last taste Christ's graciousness and will at last speak a pure language.
In the end, however, these four aspects of pure language that those in God's church today can already experience through the Holy Spirit--obedience to God, praise of God, peace with others, and unity--are bound together. For to obey God is to worship God ("whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected"--I John 2:5). And if one worships God and obeys him, one will love one's neighbor ("he who loveth God love his brother also"--I John 4:21). And love of neighbor will bring peace, which in turn will render unity. The language of purity, therefore, edifies others and seeks to do God's will.
But what will happen to those who refuse to go along, those who reject God's Spirit and the peace--the world peace--that comes with it? The scriptures are clear on this point. There will only be a pure language because those who refuse to speak it will not be around. "The Lord shall cut off all flattering lips," Psalms 12:3-4 notes, "and the tongues that speaketh proud things: Who have said, With our tongue will we prevail; our lips are our own: who is lord over us?" Just as God will cut off those who flatter and boast, who put themselves above him and his government, God will also destroy those who lie. "Why boastest thou thyself in mischief, O mighty man?" Psalms 52:1-5 notes. ". . . Thy tongue deviseth mischiefs; like a sharp razor, working deceitfully. Thou lovest evil more than good; and lying rather than to speak righteousness. . . . Thou lovest all devouring words, O thou deceitful tongue. God shall likewise destroy thee for ever, he shall take thee away, and pluck thee out of thy dwellingplace, and root thee out of the land of the living."
Death may seem a harsh punishment for a mere misuse of words, but to God, one who lies is equivalent to one who murders. After all, how many people died as a result of some of the lies recounted at the beginning of this article? Notice how David equates the lies and murder in one of the early Psalms: "You [God] shall destroy those who speak falsehood; The Lord abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful man" (Ps. 5:6, New King James Version). God hates the misuse of words so much that "liars" are even included in the list of those locked out of his Kingdom at the end of time: "And there shall in no wise enter into it [the New Jerusalem] any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie" (Rev. 21:27). And again: "For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosever loveth and maketh a lie" (Rev. 22:15). But can there be any question why God thinks the use of the tongue as so important, when it has already been noted that it is "those things which proceed out of the mouth," those things deriving "from the heart," that defile a man (Matt. 15:18) and that the person who is able to control the tongue is "able also to bridle the whole body" (James 3:2)? A pure language is at the center of a pure people.
God's vision of the future, then, is one in which all will not only know him but know his language. And in this sense, all people will understand one another. "The heart also of the rash shall understand knowledge," Isaiah says, "and the tongue of the stammerers shall be ready to speak plainly" (Isa. 32:4). The pure language of the millennium, while it may or may not be one physical language, is something much more profound than that--it is a language of oneness. As ambassadors for Christ's kingdom, those in God's church at this time have the opportunity to begin speaking that kind of language now.