In at least three regions of the world and at least at three different times in the year, we hear people greet each other “Happy New Year!” or whatever equivalent in their languages.
- Most common perhaps is the “new year” that begins on January 1 in the widespread Gregorian calendar (which was promulgated during the watch of the Roman Catholic Pope Gregory, in 590 – 604A.D.; hence the name). [For more on the Gregorian calendar click on this popular link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gregorian_calendar.]
- Next most common “new year” — celebrated in the world’s most populous nation, China, and neighboring Asian nations — is “Tet,” which, this year 2015, falls on February 17 in the Gregorian calendar. [For more on the Chinese calendar, click on this link”: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_calendar.]
- For centuries the Jews have had the custom of celebrating the start of their new civil or fiscal year on the first day of the seventh month (Tishri) of the Jewish or Hebrew calendar. They call their celebration “Rosh Hashanah,” meaning “head” or “start” of the year. In the Gregorian calendar, this day falls on September 14 this year 2015. For more on the Hebrew calendar, click on this link http://www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hebrew_calendar.] Rosh Hashanah coincides with the Feast of Trumpets [which the Jews call Yom Teruah; see: God’s Feasts and the Jews — Part 2].
To explore more about when and how different nations begin and celebrate their “new year,” you may click on this link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_calendars.
It seems that human beings have decided when to begin and reckon their years without considering what God — who created time in the first place — has to say on the matter! It is not that God has kept the matter under wraps. His Word on the matter is quite clear and definite for every person who is willing to listen, understand, and obey!
God’s instruction on when the year begins
Exodus 12:2 has the LORD God telling Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt: “This month shall be your beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year to you.” This instruction was meant not only for them, but for all the children of Israel. As we shall see later, God meant this instruction for all of mankind as well!
God has tasked the Jews with the preservation of His “oracles” [from the Greek logia] (Romans 3:2). These “oracles” include the Old Testament books in their original languages [Hebrew and Aramaic, etc.] and the Hebrew [also called the “Sacred”] calendar.
Unlike the commonly observed New Year beginning on January 1, which is in the dead of winter, the Biblical year starts (give or take a difference of hours among calendar techies) right on the first day of spring — the springing back to life and bloom especially of vegetation dormant during the wintry season! While the Jewish fiscal or civil year starts on the first day of the seventh month (Tishri) in the Hebrew calendar, the Jews’ ecclesiastical or religious year starts on the first day of the first month, Abib or Nisan (which means “spring”). According to the Hebrew or Sacred Calendar, this year 2015 (per Gregorian Calendar year) begins on March 21.
Interestingly and significantly, God had the “tabernacle of the tent of meeting” set up in the wilderness “on the first day of the first month, in the second year” [from the year God commanded the children of Israel to observe the Passover and the year of their exodus from Egypt] (Exodus 40:1-38). God’s presence was in that tabernacle — as well as in the beginning of that year!
Right after telling Moses and Aaron about when to begin the sacred year, God then commands them to tell the people of Israel to observe the first religious festivals of the year: the Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread (Exodus 12:3-20). In Leviticus 23:1-2 God tells Moses to command that the children of Israel proclaim “the feasts of the LORD,” which God says “are My feasts.” The rest of the chapter details the exact day of the week and day of the month on which these feasts are to be observed: the weekly Sabbath and the seven annual feasts or Sabbaths, as the case may be.
Here we find the feasts of God to be closely tied in with the Sacred Calendar. Those tasked among the Jews to determine the length of months and years had to be accurate so that the children of Israel would be able to observe God’s feasts on the exact days and dates that God commanded. As we shall see, however, the Jews have not been faithful in observing God’s feasts exactly as God commands [see: God’s Feasts and the Jews — Part 1, God’s Feasts and the Jews — Part 2, and God’s Feasts and the Jews — Part 3.]
How the Jews calculate the calendar is a highly technical matter. Suffice it for most people that we have the assurance that the Jews’ reckoning is based on the perfect “clock work” that God has ordained. As God commanded, during the fourth day of Creation, “Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs and seasons, and for days and years” (Genesis 1:14). God then made “two great lights” — the sun to rule the day, and the moon to rule the night, thereby dividing day from night (Verses 15-18). All calendar makers have to adjust their calendars every now and again according to the perfect workings of that celestial “clock.”
As you will notice from a cursory look at the variety of calendars around the world, there are quite a number of cultures which follow the lunar (moon-based) and solar (sun-based) calendar. In many languages, the word “month” refers to the natural cycle of the moon (with its “phases” — new moon, first quarter, full moon, last quarter, then back to new moon). A complete cycle of the moon takes about thirty days — and so, in many languages, a month means a “moon.” [In the Philippines many local languages call “month” bulan or buwan — which is also the term used for “moon,” the heavenly body.]
Changing times and the law
Speaking about an event that would take place at about the time “for the saints [the holy ones, the righteous people of God] to possess the kingdom” (Daniel 7:18, 22) — God’s kingdom which will be established by Christ on earth at His return — Daniel mentions “another” (horn, symbolic of a king or leader) who will arise from the fourth, and last, of the kingdoms of men (Verses 23-24). And this is what such a leader will do: “He shall speak pompous words against the Most High, shall persecute the saints of the Most High, and shall intend to change times and law. And the saints shall be given into his hand for a time and times and half a time” [symbolically, three and a half years — of religious persecution] (Verse 25).
An honest look at church history will reveal that such a religious leader did “change times and law!”
Take, for example, a basic unit of time: a “day.” According to the Bible, a 24-hour “day” begins at sunset, or the onset of dark or night, and ends at sunset of the next day. That’s how God reckons the days of the creation week: “So the evening and the morning [the daylight part] were the first day” (Genesis 1:7). And so it goes with the rest of those days (Verses 8, 13, 19, 23, 31). The Jews (as well as other Sabbath-keepers) have traditionally reckoned the weekly Sabbath from sunset of what the common calendar calls “Friday,” or the sixth day, to sunset of the following day (Saturday, the seventh day). Many cultures reckon their days by sunrises and sunsets.
But how does a vast sector of the world reckon days today? Following the lead of the Roman Catholic Church, many today begin their day differently from what the Bible reveals. Instead, their day begins in the dead of the night — at midnight or 12:00 a.m. and ends at midnight the following day. Isn’t it indeed a “pompous” thing to do differently from what the Bible reveals, and to think one is “improving” on what God has given to man?
The same may be said about the start of the year. As already mentioned earlier, the Gregorian Calendar begins the year in the dead of winter — January 1 — while God’s year begins on the first day of spring (the first day of the first month of the Sacred Calendar).
The “months” of the Gregorian Calendar follow an arbitrary mathematical formula and do not regard the moon that God has placed in the firmament to mark days, months, and years. Just check the common calendar that shows what dates of the month the four phases of the moon occur. According to God’s perfect lunar cycle, a “new moon” begins a new month. But see how the “new moon” in the Gregorian Calendar can occur on various dates of the month in that calendar. The same may be said about a “full moon” — which means that half a month has passed, or about two weeks. But see where, in that calendar, a “full moon” occurs — rarely on the 15th day of the month (as it usually does in the Sacred Calendar), but often a week or a few days away from the middle of the month.
That same religious leader has also changed a number of aspects of God’s law — again a show of pomposity against God, even defiance of His law.
An obvious change is in the content of the Ten Commandments, as taught by the Roman Catholic Church. You can check any catechism of this church to realize that the church has omitted the Second Commandment, which prohibits making graven images and bowing down before them. Thus the Third Commandment in the original has now become the church’s “Second Commandment,” and so on down the line. And to complete the Ten, it has divided the Tenth Commandment into two: 1) “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house” as now the church’s “Ninth Commandment,” and 2) “You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s” as now the church’s “Tenth Commandment” (Exodus 20:17).
Admitting no Bible verses to support it, the Roman Catholic Church has also taken the liberty to change the holy day of worship from Saturday (the seventh day of the week) to Sunday (the first day). [See: What if The Sabbath Is Still Holy?] Likewise, this church has also dumped the Holy Days or the feasts of God (mistakenly as “Jewish”) and has set up other worship days that have devious origins. [See: God’s Feasts in the Book of Acts: Mere Time Markers — or to Be Observed? and “Your Eyes Will Be Opened!”]
Coming restoration of all things
The confusion about when truly to begin the year, month or day, and what holy days to observe — and when — will finally come to an end when Jesus returns to this earth to establish God’s kingdom here. The apostles and disciples of Jesus Christ understood that when Jesus returns to earth, He will “restore the kingdom to Israel” (Acts 1:6). The apostle Peter preached about the “times of refreshing” and “the times of restoration of all things” when God the Father sends back Jesus Christ to earth (Acts 3:19-21).
A part of that restoration will certainly be the restoring of the people of Israel [not just the Jews, but all the other children of Israel whose identity will then be fully and unmistakably known] to a place of preeminence among nations, as God originally intended, when Christ rules the earth [see: “The Next Chapter of History“ and God’s Kingdom and Israel].
Jesus also “will restore to the peoples a pure language, that they may call on the name of the LORD, to serve Him with one accord” (Zephaniah 3:9). That “pure language” will insure that everything impure about languages today — the allusions to pagan and profane names and ideas, for example — will be purged. All lies — which start in the mind and are expressed through the mouth or in writing — will be cast away, along with the author of all lies, Satan! Christ will have to do away with calendars, reckoning of days, months and years that do not line up with God’s Word. Only God’s Sacred Calendar will be in use. And God’s feasts and holy days will be kept joyfully by those who subject themselves to Christ’s rule. Gone will be all pagan holidays and all manner of false worship. Only True Worship will be allowed. All will finally “speak the same things” (1 Corinthians 1:10). No one will need be confused about how to reckon days, months, years and which holy days to observe.
Those who will fail to observe the Feast of Tabernacles, for instance, will have dire consequences coming to them (Zechariah 14:16-19): “And it shall come to pass that everyone who is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall go up from year to year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Tabernacles. And it shall be that whichever of the families of the earth do not come up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, on them there will be no rain. If the family of Egypt will not come up and enter in, they shall have no rain; and they shall receive the plague with which the LORD strikes the nations who do not come up to keep the Feast of Tabernacles. This shall be the punishment of Egypt and the punishment of all the nations that do not come up to keep the Feast of Tabernacles.”
Jesus will not tolerate deviations from God’s law. He will, in fact, rule the earth (together with His glorified saints) “with a rod of iron” (Revelation 2:27; 12:5; 19:15). He will rebuke the nations that will not obey His rule (Isaiah 2:4). People from all nations will willingly and joyfully come to Jerusalem to learn of God’s ways and law — resulting in world peace (Isaiah 2:1-4; 9:7; 11:4-9). [See: World Peace — At Last!]
Living in this present world
In the meantime that we await the return of Christ to establish God’s kingdom here, we have to live in this “present evil age” (Galatians 1:4). While we have God’s Sacred Calendar to guide us as to the proper way to observe days, months, years and God’s feast days, we live in a world where the majority goes by a different calendar system. God’s people will need to live like Daniel and his friends did when they were taken captive to Babylon. They learned well the “language and literature of the Chaldeans” (Daniel 1:4). But they obeyed God’s laws even in the face of severe trials, as we can read in various episodes in their lives — see: Daniel 1, 3, and 6.
With the exponential expansion of human knowledge (Daniel 12:4), we have no excuse to say we cannot tell for sure when God’s Holy Days are to be observed. The Jews have devised “conversion tables” by which they (and we, too) can know which days in the present Gregorian Calendar, for example, correspond to the days in the Sacred Calendar.
Jesus prayed for His disciples on this side of His return: “I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one [Satan]” (John 17:15). But soon, when Satan is put away (Revelation 20:1-3), this present evil world will be no more. A new age — a truly wonderful “world tomorrow” — will dawn upon this weary world and humanity!
When Jesus begins His first year of reign on this earth, it will truly be a “Happy New Year!” And the rest of the years of His reign will bring unprecedented happiness which all of us seek but cannot find in this present age. God speed that day!
Pedro R. Meléndez, Jr.