In Isaiah 66:23, we read: "It shall come to pass, that from one new moon to another, and from one Sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to worship before Me, saith the Lord." The setting of this verse is obviously in the new earth state. Why, then, should new-moon worship be mentioned along with Sabbath worship? Does this not smack of ceremonial observance?
It may be asked first, Why is Sabbath worship forecast? A rational answer is that the weekly Sabbath was a part of God's original creation and was constituted a day of rest and worship before sin came in. When the earth, therefore, is restored to its primeval state, it is altogether consistent that the Sabbath should continue to occupy the same place in God's plan for the new earth that it did in the beginning. There is no reason to believe that any other part of creation will be changed from what it was before sin entered, so why should not the Sabbath also continue in perpetuity?
But, granting this, why should there be worship at the time of the new moon? Let us consider. The moon, too, was a part of the original creation, and, along with the sun, was said to be for signs, for seasons, for days, and for years, as well as for light. The sun marks off the day by the rotation of the earth. It marks off the year by the revolution of the earth. The Sabbath marks off the week by its recurrence every seventh day. But what marks off the month—the moon—from which the word "month" comes?
Under the ceremonial law the Day of Atonement was a yearly observance. The Sabbath was recognized as a nonceremonial weekly observance by the doubling of the burnt offerings on that day, and the altar service was carried on daily. But how was the month recognized? By an observance of the time of the new moon. This observance, however, was mainly by burnt offering, though a sin offering was added afterward, as in other occasional feasts, that is, feasts to be observed on certain fixed occasions.
Now, the offering of the "burnt offering" was r essentially an act of worship, repeatedly defined as an offering of "a sweet savour unto the Lord," that is, an offering of praise and consecration. Even in the sin offering it is represented by the - burning of the fat on the altar of burnt offering (after the sin offering is made), as an act of thanksgiving and consecration for the forgiveness of sin.
On the appearance of the new moon, therefore, the burnt offering for this occasion was made as an act of praise for the blessings of the past month and of renewed consecration for the month to come. But why is worship at the time of the new moon associated with worship on the Sabbath in the new earth, as it is in Isaiah 66:23? The answer is clearly suggested in Ezekiel 46:1-3. Here the weekly Sabbath is plainly specified in verse one as the Sabbath under discussion. The gate of the inner court of the temple was to be open on the (weekly) Sabbath, but also "in the day of the new moon." Here, On both occasions, the prince was to come first and "worship at the threshold of the gate," then after him the people. Verse 3 reads, "Likewise the people of the land shall worship at the door of this gate before the Lord in the sabbaths and in the new moons."
On both these occasions the service is called an act of "worship," and the burnt offering is called "voluntary," with no mention at all of a sin offering in Ezekiel's record. But why are these two occasions singled out for "worship"? Manifestly they are the only two dates fixed directly by the movement of heavenly bodies—the Sabbath by the sun, and the "first day of the month" by the moon.
Their observance at these times is distinctly said to be an act of worship. Although ceremonial service was held on the weekly Sabbath, the Sabbath itself was not created for ceremonial service but was established at creation as "an everlasting statute." While ceremonial service was held on the day of the new moon, the moon on its first appearance as new was not originally made or appointed for ceremonial purposes, but was made at creation to "rule the night" as perpetually as the sun was made to "rule the day."
Hence, when the "handwriting of ordinances" was nailed to the cross, both the new moon and the Sabbath remained as they were before the ceremonial law was given or observed. Hence, also, when the new moon and the Sabbath appear in the new earth state, there is no ceremonial service attached to either, and they continue to function normally for the original purpose for which each was created in the beginning and before sin entered.
Now, what kind of calendar will be used in the new earth appears not to be fully revealed but only suggested here. If the Lord continues to set His clock in the heavens, as He did at creation, the inhabitants will have no difficulty in determining the beginning of the Sabbath day (at the setting of the sun), or the beginning of the Sabbath at the seventh sunset, or the beginning of the week at the first sunset, or the beginning of the month at the new moon. Since God has already chosen the Sabbath as a time of worship as a "statute forever," if He choose to add "the day of the new moon" as a monthly time of worship in the new earth, we can conclude several things:
I. That the clock of time for worship will be a natural one, visible by everyone everywhere.
2. That God will have chosen the only two heavenly bodies that He originally appointed to give light and mark time, to serve as a worship chronometer in the new earth.
3. That we need have no confusion of mind whatever as to whether the worship either on the day of the new moon or on the weekly Sabbath in the new earth is of a ceremonial nature, but rather that these are natural and normal times to be observed as if sin had never entered.
4. That all the people will sense anew that all the handwriting of ordinances was "done away in Christ" at the cross, never to reappear with its dark shadows evermore.
5. That, perhaps best of all, what God originally created will continue "eternal in the heavens," whether it be new moon or Sabbath, and that we shall be supremely happy in following whatever program of worship and life His sovereign will and wisdom may ordain.
By the late W. E. HOWELL.