Many Christians are familiar with the fact that the death of Jesus Christ is the real sacrifice for sin, and that all the Old Testament sacrifices were prophetic symbols of Christ’s death. Similarly, we are familiar with the symbol/reality connection between the Old Testament Passover festivals and the death of Jesus Christ.

The New Testament testifies to this shadow/substance concept of these and other historic Jewish religious celebrations and rituals. Key New Testament teaching in this regard is Colossians 2:16-17:

“Therefore do not let anyone judge you in what you eat or what your drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.”

I had never heard or read any teaching on how the New Moon celebrations are a prophetic shadow pointing us to a Christ-focused reality. So I began to ask: what were the New Moon celebrations? What does the Scripture say about them? And, importantly, in what way do they point us to Jesus Christ and the salvation he obtained for us through his death?

Briefly, this is what I discovered:

The New Moon celebrations were appointed by God to be held of the first day of every month (that is, on the day on which the new moon appeared in the sky).

They were a time of rejoicing [Numbers 10:10].

They involved multiple sin-offerings, on top of the regular daily sin-offerings; each of the animals sacrificed had to be ‘without defect’; each of these sin-offerings were accompanied by specific grain offerings and drink offerings. Along with all of this an additional offering of a male goat was presented to the Lord as a sin-offering. There is thus an exceptionally heavy emphasis on atonement in the monthly New Moon festivals. [Numbers 28:11-15].

The Old Testament gives us two anticipations of the Christ-centred reality symbolized in these repetitive New Moon festivals:

There is a brief, almost elusive, reference in Isaiah 66:22-23 which looks forward to the ‘new heavens and the new earth’. There is a twofold emphasis in this anticipation: firstly, in ‘the new heavens and the new earth’ there is a perpetual access into the presence of the Lord – not just on the monthly New Moon when the sin-offerings are made, but on all days in between. Hence: in Christ we live in a perpetual New Moon – in a perpetual state of sins-forgiven through the once-for-all substitutionary sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Secondly, it is not just the physical descendants of Abraham who enjoy this perpetual forgiveness and access to God, it is trans-national.

Ezekiel, also, refers to the New Moon and its fulfilment in Jesus Christ. [But here some with dispensational viewpoints might disagree.] Ezekiel tells us:

[1] That it is the ‘duty of the prince’ to provide all the offerings at the New Moon festivals to make atonement for the people [45:17-18; see also 46:4-7]. The Prince is none other than Jesus Christ. The totality of offerings is his death. Christ, the Prince provides the ultimate forgiveness depicted by the New Moon offerings.

[2] The gate of the inner court is opened on the day of New Moon [46:1-2]. Jesus Christ is ‘the gate’ [John 10], the access point to God and to life. On the first day of the month the gate was open: in Christ, the gate – access to God and acceptance by God - is permanently open. [Read Romans 5:2; Ephesians 2:18; Hebrews 4:14-16; 10:19-22.] [Note that this concept of access to God is more fully anticipated in the symbolism of the Day of Atonement.]

[3] There is a subtle reference to the incarnation of Christ, specifically to his identification with us: 46:10: the ‘prince is to be among them, going in when they go in and going out when they go out’.  

There is obviously more that could be said. But from the above we can say this much: that those who are connected by faith to the Lord Jesus Christ live in a perpetual New Moon. This means: perpetual forgiveness, permanent access to God, and a resultant perpetual reason for joy. No wonder the New Moon was accompanied by the blowing of trumpets! [Numbers 10:10].

© Rosemary Bardsley 2012