Zephaniah 3: 9 says,
"For then I will restore to the peoples a pure language, that they all may call on the name of the LORD, to serve Him with one accord"
What is this 'pure language?'
First of all we need to stand back a little to consider the overall meaning and approach of this prophetic book.
Zephaniah prophesies in the days of king Josiah who was king over Judah. He was in fact a great, great grandson of the great king Hezekiah and so was of royal blood. So we speak here of a prophecy written in the 7th century BC, which concerns Judah (the northern kingdom of Israel had long since gone into captivity).
The prophecy warns of an impending 'Day of wrath' to come on Judah, but this is then broadened out, from the second chapter, to include other nations and city-states of the day. Doom is also predicted for them. These other peoples include the city-states of Gaza, Ashkelon and Ashdod (2:4), the peoples of Moab and Ammon (2:9) and also Nineveh (2:13). In the third chapter the tone tends to change somewhat, looking - at times - beyond this period of wrath to what lies beyond.
Adventists (and sometimes dispensationalists too) have often been guilty of imposing schemas upon such prophecies which are simply not warranted by the prophecies themselves! Lets just look at what happened: within about thirty years the city-states were all under the heel of Babylon, the mighty and great Nineveh fell in 612 BC, then from 585 BC, Judah started to be subdued and taken into captivity. The point is; these prophecies were clearly fulfilled!!
It is a great mistake to always associate the expression, 'Day of the Lord' with those events which will occur just prior to our Lord's return to earth! A day of God's wrath was experienced by some of these people many hundreds of years ago! This prophecy was immediately concerned with events soon to befall Judah and surrounding nations and cities. Whats more, as we have noted, they were certainly fulfilled - Judah's day of doom was caused primarily by the Babylonians, though with a forerunner in a Scythian invasion.
If we keep seeing all such prophecies as only having a fulfillment 'at the time of the end' we miss all of this! Moreover if we only see such things as referring to a time which was to occur thousands of years after Zephaniah died, it can cause us to lose confidence in the promises of God! NO - GOD ACTED RELATIVELY QUICKLY AFTER WARNING THE PEOPLE THROUGH ZEPHANIAH. All of this does not alter the fact, of course, that certain verses in the book probably only had a more minor fulfillment at that time, with fuller ones to come. But it remains true that this prophecy is primarily concerned with those events which were to have such a devastating affect upon Judah (and her neighbours) within a space of about 100 years!
Numerous verses point to a better time to come in the future, and these verses could have received a partial fulfillment when the Jews returned to Jerusalem after the captivity, with a further partial fulfillment from 1948, when many Jews started returning to a new state of Israel, but surely their strongest fulfillment can only be seen in the grace of Christ! The 'remnant of Israel' (3:13) who were to be a people of grace must be seen as only being truly fulfilled in the spiritual Israel of the Church. Look at this for instance,
"...For then I will take away from your midst those who rejoice in your pride, and you shall no longer be haughty in my holy mountain. I will leave in your midst a meek and humble people, and they shall trust in the name of the LORD. The remnant of Israel shall do no unrighteousness, and speak no lies, nor shall a deceitful tongue be found in their mouth...Sing, O daughter of Zion! Shout O Israel! Be glad and rejoice with all your heart, O daughter of Jerusalem! The LORD has taken away your judgements, He has cast out your enemy..."
(Zephaniah 3: 11-15)
Can anybody who is fully grounded in the Scriptures seriously suggest that this does not refer to Christ and to the grace and forgiveness which would be revealed in Him??
With all of this in mind, we can look at the 'pure language' of Zephaniah 3: 9; We can do no better here than follow the great Bible expositors such as Matthew Henry and Henry Halley, they have mostly been agreed as to how we should see this language and Museltof is in agreement. This language is best seen as being a reference to the purer language, talk and way of life - as revealed in ones normal speech - which we should expect to witness in the righteous! For Halley, language is,
"...the vehicle and expression of Truth. It is the prediction of a complete and perfect revelation of God to man (obviously meaning the Gospel of Christ), as a result of which converts from among all nations would be brought to God..."
(Halley's Bible Handbook, p374-375, 24th Edition, Zondervan - 1965)
So the 'pure language', can be seen as referring to ones language as an expression of what we are inside, and/or to the pure language of the gospel. What, then, of the belief that this Scripture refers to a universal language which God will give His people either during a literalist 'millenial' age or at the time of our final, eternal state?
We should say at once that there exists no doubt that when the children of God enter their final glorious eternal state, they will surely all understand one another! We should take this as a 'given'. But it is a little dubious that this is what this text is referring to.
Robin A. Brace,
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