The Significance of Red Heifers in Building the Third Temple: A Symbol of Renewal and Spiritual Restoration

    Red heifers in Israel are getting attention again.


    For Jews, the red heifer represents purity, renewal, and atonement. It also plays a significant role in their end time doctrines. According to some interpretations, the appearance of a red heifer meeting the stringent requirements outlined in Jewish law is seen as a precursor to the rebuilding of the Temple and the ushering in of a messianic age. The red heifer is to be sacrificed in order to purify priests who will serve in the Third Temple.


    Numbers 19 describes a ceremony God instructed the Israelite priests to perform to purify anyone entering the Tent of Meeting or in later times, the First and Second Temple.


    This is the ordinance of the law that the LORD commanded that the Israelis be told: They are to bring you a spotless red heifer, without physical defect, that has never been fitted with a yoke. They are to deliver it to Eleazar the priest, and it is to be brought outside the camp and slaughtered in his presence. Then Eleazar the priest is to take blood from it with his finger and sprinkle the blood in front of the Tent of Meeting. The entire heifer is to be incinerated in his presence, including its skin, its flesh, its blood, and its dung. Then the priest is to take some cedar wood, hyssop, and scarlet material and throw it into the middle of the burning heifer (Numbers 19:2-6 ISV). 


    God told Moses to have the Israelites bring a young cow (a female for you non-farmer types) that was without blemish. It couldn't have any diseases, bruises, sores, scabs, blindness, lameness, etc as stated in Leviticus 22:22.


    Anything blind or broken or damaged or having any disease or any mark on it may not be offered to the Lord.


    Priests interpreted this to mean the color also had to be pure. They set the standard for a pure color to mean no more than one white, brown or black hair on the red heifer.


    Once this heifer was found, it was to be sacrificed, not on an altar but outside the camp. Later this meant outside Jerusalem. East of Jerusalem to be specific. It was during the Second Temple period that it was sacrificed on the Mt. Olives while the priest performing the sacrifice faced the Temple.


    This sacrifice differs from the instructions in Leviticus for other sacrifices since the blood is to be burned, the dung is to be included and cedar, hyssop and scarlet are to be put on while it is burning. Leviticus 14:4 says hyssop, cedar and scarlet material were used in the sacrifice for a leper.


    The purpose of the sacrifice was to cleanse priests to serve in the Temple and anyone who had come in contact with a dead body or grave, either because of war or natural death. Death came into the earth because of sin, and so the sacrifice is viewed as a type of sin offering but it is different.


    Different because in this ceremony the priests performing it become unclean.


    The priest is to wash his clothes and bathe himself with water, after which he may enter the camp, but he is to remain unclean until evening. Whoever takes part in the burning is to wash his clothes and bathe himself in water and is to remain unclean until the evening (Numbers 19:7-8 ISV). 


    Different too because the ashes of the heifer were to be saved.


    And a man that is clean shall gather up the ashes of the heifer, and lay them up without the camp in a clean place, and it shall be kept for the congregation of the children of Israel for a water of separation: it is a purification for sin (Numbers 19:9).   


    The ashes were mixed with water to create niddâh the water of separation. Niddâh means rejection or impurity. It is used to describe menstruation, idolatry and filthiness. This water was used to cleanse from sin and contamination by death.


    But the water had to be pure. This was one serious ceremony. It is said that during Temple times children were raised to be used as water carriers to bring water from the Pool of Siloam to mix with the ashes. These children were isolated from death, never to be near a corpse or to be unclean. In this way the water of separation could be made when needed.


    For the unclean they shall take some ashes of the burnt sin offering, and fresh water shall be added in a vessel. Then a clean person shall take hyssop and dip it in the water and sprinkle it on the tent and on all the furnishings and on the persons who were there and on whoever touched the bone, or the slain or the dead or the grave. And the clean person shall sprinkle it on the unclean on the third day and on the seventh day. Thus on the seventh day he shall cleanse him, and he shall wash his clothes and bathe himself in water, and at evening he shall be clean (Numbers 19:17-19).


    The sacrifice had to take place before Passover to cleanse the men because they were required to go to the Temple for this Feast Day.


    But the man that shall be unclean, and shall not purify himself, that soul shall be cut off from among the congregation, because he has defiled the sanctuary of Jehovah. The water of separation has not been sprinkled upon him. He is unclean (Numbers 19:20). 


    This cleansing had to take place for them to enter the Presence of God. The Bible doesn't say how many ashes the priest should use to make the water, but the supply of ashes must have lasted a long time. Only nine of these sacrifices have been performed since Moses. It is thought Ezra performed the second. The last one was about 1900 years ago. Rabbis believed the tenth would come during the days of Messiah.


    The number ten in the Bible can mean a completed cycle or manifestation. It can mean a reward or judgment based on the Law. Ten is an arm and a hand which indicates direction and work. It is a Divine order being reestablished.


    For example, there were ten plagues. Passover is on the tenth day. There were ten spies, ten virgins, ten days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur and then there is the tithe.


    Does any of this mean something concerning the tenth red heifer sacrifice?


    This sacrifice of the red heifer cleansed one from contamination by a dead body or grave. Death was brought into the world by sin. The Bible tells us the wages of sin are death. But this offering required a heifer, a female, not a bull. Some rabbinic Jews think that perhaps because a female is thought to be a bearer of life, a heifer was chosen as the sacrifice to cleanse death. But it could not remove the curse of death or the sin that caused it. Many consider the ritual as one of the mysteries of God.


    But for rabbinical Jews the symbolism shows their relationship to a Savior God, although they would  not agree with exactly the way it is explained here:


    A heifer is a young female cow, one that has not had a calf. In other words a virgin. The heifer is the symbol of God's bride, but this bride has become contaminated. 


    Hosea, Jeremiah and Ezekiel all painted a picture of Israel as God's unfaithful wife. Actually she left her Husband. But this woman becomes clean when she touches the pure, Living Water. In other words. Jesus, who is the Living Water. Jesus told the adulterous woman with no husband, that He could give her water.


    Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water... whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life (John 4:10, 14). 


    John the Baptist referred to the bride and to the Messiah as the bridegroom to the Jews who came to hear him. He called himself the friend of the bridegroom.


    You yourselves can bear witness to my having said, 'I am not the Christ,' but 'I am His appointed forerunner.' He who has the bride is the bridegroom; and the bridegroom's friend who stands by his side and listens to him, rejoices heartily on account of the bridegroom's happiness. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. (John 3:28-29 WNT).


    But the Jews rejected their Bridegroom. God loves His people. There is no such thing as Replacement Theory. One day the Jews will see their Messiah and accept Him, and all will be saved.


    Christians have been grafted in. They understand the symbolism of this odd ritual in several ways. For example, the Church is called the Virgin Bride of Christ. We are the ones who have been made clean and able to come into His presence. There will be a marriage banquet in heaven.


    Also, hyssop was used to put the blood on the doorframes during the first Passover in Egypt. Scarlet is the color of our sin in Isaiah 1:18. "Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow." Scarlet is also the color of Jesus' blood, the scarlet thread of redemption running through every book of the Bible.


    And, Jesus was the perfect, unblemished sacrifice. Similar to the Israelite priests, he became impure to make others pure. Jesus was made sin, impure in that all types of sin was put upon Him. He too was crucified outside Jerusalem (Hebrews 13:3, 11).


    After Israel became a nation in 1948, there was still no Temple and no red heifers to cleanse priests to serve in one. But plans for a Third Temple have been circulating for decades. Yehuda Glick has been successful in gaining major support from political leaders for Jewish rights on the Temple Mount. Ten years ago he was shot by a Palestinian for his progress, but survived.


    Israel is one of the few sovereign nations not allowed to practice their traditional religion in their homeland on their land. This is one of the reasons Native Americans support Israel. And for Jews, the desire for a Temple has only increased.


    Rabbi Yitshak Mamo bought ground on the Mount of Olives thirteen years ago. Priests now have a place to perform the ceremony while facing where the Temple stood. Mamo says there are Jewish parents who have prepared their children to be water carriers. Men descended from Aaron are being trained to be priests. Some are already conducting various sacrifices and equipment  has also been created for them. The only thing missing was a perfect red heifer to purify them.


    And being purified is crucial. There are places on the Temple Mount where only the purified priest was to walk– like the Holy of Holies. Serving as a priest is no small matter.


    Which is why you can understand the excitement among the rabbis of Judaism when five perfect red heifers were found in Texas and flown to Israel. They had to be classified as pets to get clearance, but they arrived in Israel in 2022. One has since been disqualified for sacrifice.


    Mamo said they are hoping to perform the red heifer ceremony in 2024. There is a special day set aside for this sacrifice called Shabbat Parah. It is among four special Sabbaths called The Four Parshiyot. Shabbat Parah is held before Passover since the priests and Jews needed to be purified before going up to the Temple at Passover. If the ceremony takes place, it will be monumental and a first step to seeing the Temple built.


    Rabbi Chaim Richman, the International Director of the Temple Institute, says the past fifty years have seen an acceleration in Israel and it is like a Divine kiss. God has kept His promise to the Jewish people. Richman is firm and hopeful that the building of a Third Temple is near. 


    Not many people have followed the story of these five red calves, nor do they understand the meaning in their sacrifice. Many Jews are secular and probably pay no attention to them. But Hamas has. Their spokesman, Abu Obeida, said the red heifers were the cause of the Al Aqsa Flood as he called the October 7 Massacre. They do not want a Third Temple built and see the heifers as a threat of "aggression."


     ...the bringing of red cows as an application of a detestable religious myth designed for aggression against the feelings of an entire nation in the heart of its Arab identity, and the path of its prophet (the Night Journey) and Ascension to heaven.


    The aggression meaning, the Temple Mount would have to be shared.


    But October 7th has caused many Jews to return to God. The support for a Third Temple grew in the days before October 7th, what about now? The rabbis believe God will continue to keep His promises to them.


    The Temple Institute rabbis are not followers of Jesus. Just the opposite. But Christians, whether Jewish or not, know that yes God will keep His promise. While there may be a Third Temple in our age, only an altar is required for sacrifices to be performed. 


    Many interpret Daniel 12, 2Thessalonians 2:3-4 and Revelation 11 as saying there will be a Temple in the last days. The Third Temple is being billed as a global place of worship, a house of prayer for all nations as Isaiah 56:7 says. But Revelation 11 tells us, this Temple will not last even though it may start with that goal. It certainly won't be a place of peace in the end. If the Third Temple is the Temple in Revelation, then it will be the place the antiChrist deceives the Jews and the nations.


    So far, it looks like the red heifers will be sacrificed this Shabbat Parah which begins March 29, Good Friday. Good Friday? Is that a coincidence? Once you put together all the things happening today– the time of Israel as a nation, the recognition of Jerusalem and the Golan, the return of thousands of Jews to their homeland, the rising anti-Semitism, the threats of Ezekiel's war, Islamists preparing for their Mahdi– you realize we are in some kind of pressure cooker.


    Things are going to happen, end times or not. The red heifer must be sacrificed before it is too old or white or black hairs appear on it. If the presence of red heifers set Hamas on a rampage, what will they do when one is sacrificed? More of the same probably.


    Are we are surrounded with the signs of Jesus' return?


    Well, we've never been closer. Christian Jews say the end time birth pangs began when Israel became a nation. The important thing is, we are to live in expectation of Jesus' return and watch for Him no matter what happens.


    And, it's never bad advice to take stock of yourself. Have you asked Jesus to be your Savior? Don't let another day go by without Him in your life.


    If you have never asked Jesus to be your Lord and Savior, you can pray this prayer:

    Jesus, Thank you for dying on the cross for everything that I have done and said that is wrong. Please forgive me. I ask You to come into my heart because I receive You as my Lord and Savior. Fill me with your Holy Spirit and help me to live for you every day of my life. I give everything I am to you, Jesus. Thank You. In your name Jesus, so be it. Amen.


     Photo by Eric Brehm on Unsplash. 


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