Isaiah 66:23: New Moon observance?

(The following article is adapted from the site Adventist Defense League with the permission of the author Edwin M. Cotto. You can click here to see the original article. All verses quoted below are from the New World Translation)

As proof that the Sabbath is eternal, Seventh Day Adventists often cite the following two verses:

Isaiah 66:22-23
22 “For just as the new heavens and the new earth that I am making are standing before me,” is the utterance of Jehovah, “so the offspring of YOU people and the name of YOU people will keep standing.”
23 “And it will certainly occur that from new moon to new moon and from sabbath to sabbath all flesh will come in to bow down before me,” Jehovah has said.

The argument is that since these texts also mention the “New Heavens and the New Earth” which we know John the Revelator mentions, that the Sabbath, also mentioned, will still be observed then. But against this some have brought forth the argument that these texts also mention the New Moon, and logically ask the following two questions: Shouldn’t we also keep the New moon today? And, Will we also be observing the New Moon in the New Earth?

The first question is based upon an assumption which could possibly be the result of Adventists not explaining themselves correctly. Sometimes when we quote these verses, it is in the context of defending the keeping of the Sabbath right now, in our time. This is a mistake. Isaiah 66:22-23 is not a text proving we should be keeping the Sabbath today; otherwise, we should also keep the New Moon festival. Rather, these texts are proof that these weekly and monthly gatherings will be taking place in the far future, in the “new heavens and the new earth…” –verse 22. Once this is understood, and explained correctly, there is no room for our opponent to ask: Why then don’t you keep the New Moon today?

The second question is a bit more profound, and there are a couple of points our critics should consider. First, the words translated “new moon” is the Hebrew word chodesh (חדש) and simply means, “month.” This word didn’t always carry a “festival” meaning. Its first use is found in Genesis 7:11, here translated “month,” far before chodesh was ever designated to be a Jewish festival for the nation of Israel.

Second, by the words “new heavens and new earth” we get the impression that God’s intention is to “restore” everything as he had originally intended, namely, the perfect condition of the Earth before the entrance of sin as described in the first two chapters of the book of Genesis. The wise king tells us that “everything that the [true] God makes [he made the earth], it will prove to be to time indefinite.” –Ecclesiastes 3:14, and in chapter one of his book he wrote:

Ecclesiastes 1:4
(4) A generation is going, and a generation is coming; but the earth is standing even to time indefinite.

Whether you believe the Earth itself will remain or not, the point is that, regardless, everything will be “restored” as it was from the beginning. The apostle Peter tells us this himself:

Acts 3:20-21
and that he may send forth the Christ appointed for YOU, Jesus, 21 whom heaven, indeed, must hold within itself until the times of restoration of all things of which God spoke through the mouth of his holy prophets of old time.

In other words, everything will be restored into the perfect state which the Lord had at first intended. Further evidence of this is seen in the vision of the New Earth which John saw in Revelation 22. Notice that the Tree of Life, once in the Garden of Eden on the earth before the entrance of sin (Genesis 2:9), yet again, after sin is destroyed, in the new city on the “new” earth:

Revelation 22:2
(2) down the middle of its broad way. And on this side of the river and on that side [there were] trees of life

In the beginning we find, among other things, the seventh day Sabbath (Genesis 2:1-3). It is of no wonder, then, that the prophet mentioned the Sabbath as still in existence far after sin, for the restoration of all things will include the original seventh day Sabbath. Yet, when we study the description of the original earth in Genesis 1 and 2, we don’t find anything about new moon festivals. Nothing even about feast days. Why is this? The answer is found in Revelation 22:2:

Revelation 22:2
down the middle of its broad way. And on this side of the river and on that side [there were] trees of life producing twelve crops of fruit, yielding their fruits each month. And the leaves of the trees [were] for the curing of the nations.

Remember, the words “new moon” simply means “month.” When we compare Isaiah’s words with that of Johns, we find that by the words “from one new moon to another” is meant the gathering of the saints, once a month, for the purpose of partaking of the tree of life. The answer to the question, if whether the New Moon will also be present in the New Earth, is simply... yes. The difference, however, is that the "reason" for gathering every month will be to partake of the tree of life. The reason for celebrating the Sabbath will also change. Rather then celebrating every week the creation of the old earth (Exodus 20:11), we will here celebrate the creation of the "new" earth, which is why in context Isaiah is speaking about the " new heavens and the new earth that I am making."-Isaiah 66:22.

The late Samuel Bacchiocchi Ph. D. and author of “From Sabbath to Sunday” offers some interesting incites. He notes that the prophet Isaiah “speaks of ‘the new heavens and the new earth’ in the context of the restoration of Jerusalem and the regathering of the Jews ‘from all the nations . . . to my holy mountain Jerusalem’ (Is 66:20). This means that the description of all flesh coming to worship ‘from new moon to new moon and from sabbath to sabbath’ refers first of all to the hoped-for political restoration of Jerusalem and its religious services, and second, to the End-time restoration of this earth, of which the former was a type.”

Dr. Bacchiocchi continues by explaining that… “the prophets often intermingle imminent historical events with far distant events. The prophet Isaiah, for example, announces the nearness of the Day of the Lord with reference to the destruction of Babylon by the Medes, saying: ‘Wail, for the day of the Lord is near; as destruction from the Almighty it will come’ (Is. 13:6). In the context of this impending historical judgment, Isaiah describes the final Day of the Lord which will be accompanied by the darkening of the sun, moon, and stars and which ‘will punish the world for its evil and the wicked for their iniquity’" [compare Is. 13:10-11 with Matt 24:29-30].” (texts in brackets are ours).

Isaiah sees the new moon in his vision restored in the context of the restoration of all things, especially Jerusalem (and we know there will be a “new” Jerusalem). His seeing of the new moon, or month, parallel’s that which the apostle John also saw in the restored city (Revelation 22:2). This is, in essence, what Isaiah saw in verses 22-23, the restoration of all things with the original Sabbath of creation week, along with the gathering of all saints, once a month, to rejoice in the Lord and eat of the Tree of Life.

Our response would be incomplete without also…

Addressing some arguments.

Of course, such an explanation will not be so readily accepted by the opponents of God’s Sabbath unless they receive answers to what they believe to be discrepancies in this explanation. For instance, verse 24 verse tells us that there will be carcasses present, with worms that “will not die and their fire itself will not be extinguished.” But a little reading of some context, along with some comparisons with the description of the events which lead up to the “New Heavens and the New Earth” can help clear up any confusion.

As noted, Isaiah is viewing the restoration of all things in the context of the restoration of Jerusalem and the gathering of all the faithful Jews from every nation into “my holy mountain.” In verse 15 Isaiah first tells us that the Lord “himself comes … to pay back his anger with sheer rage …” In verse 16 he describes what the Lord will use to “take up the controversy, against all flesh,” mainly, fire and by his sword. As a result… “the slain of Jehovah will certainly become many.” This parallel’s a well known chapter, which most Christians believe is describing either the Second Coming, or the coming of Christ with his saints after the millennium:

Revelation 19:11-21
(11) And I saw the heaven opened, and, look! a white horse. …
(12) His eyes are a fiery flame, and upon his head are many diadems. He has a name written that no one knows but he himself …
(15) And out of his mouth there protrudes a sharp long sword, that he may strike the nations with
(17) I saw also an angel standing in the sun, and he cried out with a loud voice and said to all the birds that fly in midheaven: “Come here, be gathered together to the great evening meal of God.

Of course, there is much symbolism within this chapter, but nevertheless we see a parallel.

Isaiah then details who will be destroyed by his coming (verse 17-18) and then describes the gathering of all the Jews and Gentiles, who believe in the Lord, into his holy mountain Jerusalem (verses 19-21). God then tells us that as long as the New Heavens and the New Earth, which he will make, shall remain before him… “so the offspring of YOU people and the name of YOU people will keep standing.” Right in the midst of this promise, he adds these words… “that I am making.” God “will” make the New Heaven and the New Earth, and therein will we worship him “from one new moon to another, and from one sabbath to another.”

At the coming down of New Jerusalem, after the comings of the Lord when the slain “of the Lord shall be many,” fire will come down from God out of heaven will devour the wicked:

Revelation 20:9
(9) And they advanced over the breadth of the earth and encircled the camp of the holy ones and the beloved city. But fire came down out of heaven and devoured them.

In comparing Isaiah’s words “the slain of Jehovah will certainly become many” –verse 16, with that of John, we begin to understand why verse 24 says there will be “carcasses” present for the righteous to behold. The people of God are “inside” the “beloved city,” New Jerusalem. In Isaiah 66 we were also told that the people of God would be gathered to “my holy mountain Jerusalem” –verse 20. While Isaiah 66 seems to be more detailed, perhaps describing events which lead up to this gathering, John’s description of events in the Revelation do nevertheless parallel that of Isaiah’s. At that time, soon after they are gathered together within Jerusalem, John tells us the wicked are destroyed “with fire from God out of heaven.” Here we see why Isaiah mentioned carcasses, because around this time the wicked were destroyed by the judgments of God. Just as there are dead bodies mentioned in Isaiah’s account, so there are dead bodies, at least implied, in Johns account!

Or course, a carcass, by definition, would eventually disappear, but since God will immediately after begin creating the “New Heaven and the New Earth (Revelation 21:1) they will quickly pass away along with every other "former things" -Revelation 21:4.

No critic would be satisfied, however, without a response to the objection that it is impossible to have a sabbath, or even a new moon in the newly made Earth, because John said that…

In the New Earth there is no Sun,
neither need of light.

The following verse is used as a proof text to make this point:

Revelation 21:23
(23) And the city has no need of the sun nor of the moon to shine upon it, for the glory of God lighted it up, and its lamp was the Lamb

This verse, however, is not saying that that the Sun and the Moon won’t be present, but simply that they wont be “needed.” The reason for this is in the same verse… “for the glory of God lighted it up, and its lamp was the Lamb.”

As an example, the bible tells us that God is light (1 John 1:5, John 8:12). And since he never changes (Malachi 3:6) this means that he was always light. When God created the sun, the moon and the stars in the beginning (Genesis 1:16) this was not because there was “need” of light. He created them to help us tell “time” (Genesis 1:14). Yet he was always the light for all of the universe, and indeed for Adam and Eve. In a similar manner, within the city, New Jerusalem, the light of these heavenly elements will not be “needed.” It’s important to note that Revelation 21:23 is, in context, speaking about the city, not all the earth. Within the city, these elements won’t be needed, for the light will come strait from God and Jesus Christ himself. And of course, being that their light never goes out, there will also “for night will not exist there [in the city]” –Revelation 21:25.

Will these heavenly elements, however, be restored along with everything else? Well, remember the verse says also that there will be a new “heaven.” So the answer is Yes. We are hinted of this also in Revelation 22:2. Despite the fact that they wont be needed in the city, and that there wont be anymore night there, the saints will still gather to eat of the tree of life “every month.” By mentioning the word “month,” already we know there must be time, for you can’t measure a month without time. This will be for the Earth itself, for out of every corner of the earth, all “nations” will gather themselves together, once a month, to worship the Lord and partake of that precious fruit.

Therefore, since these elements will be restored, they will serve their original purpose, for “signs, and for seasons, and for days, and for years” (Genesis 1:14) to help us know when it’s time to gather for the fruit of the tree, and in like manner when its time to once again celebrate our creator of the “new heavens and the new earth” on the seventh day Sabbath.