In a lot of ways, the Old and New Testament mirror each other… there seems to be a parallel but inverse reintroduction to this idea of languages confused and people divided talked about within the story of the Tower of Babel. For those unfamiliar with the story, take a look at Genesis 11:1-9 before continuing on.
“Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. And they said to one another, ‘Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.’ And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. Then they said, ‘Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.’ And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built. And the LORD said, ‘Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech.’ So the LORD dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the LORD confused the language of all the earth. And from there the LORD dispersed them over the face of all the earth.”
Now jumping ahead many, many centuries: in Acts 2, there is the account of the day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit descended so that when the gospel message was preached, each person present heard it in his or her own tongue (and even dialect!).
I find this incredibly fascinating, because the background to the tower of babel (even though it took place roughly 130 years prior to this story) was of judgment on the whole earth in the form of a flood that wiped out all living creatures, except those in the ark (and interestingly enough, the ark was open until God Himself closed the door). Then over a century later, the people were still in one place, trying to make a name for themselves by building a tower to reach the heavens.
I bring this up because prior to the day of Pentecost, Jesus bore the wrath of God, signifying that He took on Himself the promise of the judgment to come.
Not following? Check out Amos 8:8-9. Earthquakes, darkness at midday, etc… This text is prophetically speaking of the tribulation described in Revelation, but now look at the crucifixion scene in the gospels: rocks splitting, the sun going black for three hours in the middle of the day, etc… the idea here is that when Christ bore God’s wrath, He was taking our judgment that would come in the future (so we who place our trust in Him would have no judgment to bear), and it’s even illustrated in how the earth itself responded to the ensuing judgment.
Coming back to the day of Pentecost and the Spirit coming down (the Spirit, who is described in the epistles as the bond of peace and the one who unites us as one people), He descended on that day so that by the work of God all present were united as one people, understanding that gospel message of Christ’s suffering and resurrection on our behalf.
Consider the great hymn to Christ in Philippians 2… after the crucifixion (history’s most astonishingly humble and beautiful act worked on behalf of sinful man by the Holy and Glorious Son of God), the Father “has highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
Man is short-sighted, but God takes the long-view, and that’s why the point of God dispersing the people in Genesis was to reunite them, but this time under His name, not their own. He had something better for them than building a great name for themselves and then someday inevitably dying in their sinful state outside of Eden. His plan was (and is) to redeem and restore them, so that He would be known not only as Creator, but Savior as well.