The red heifer seems to be a good topic to tackle, especially when we heard that five red heifers entered Israel on 15 Sept. 2022 as part of the re-building, re-establishing of the third temple in Jerusalem, and all the rituals which go with that. But where does this all come from?
In Quest of the holy cow.
The red heifer is not mentioned regarding sacrifice and ritual cleansing in the book of Leviticus, but is mentioned in Numbers 19 as the only sacrifice for which the animal had to be a special colour, to be sacrificed outside the camp (instead on the altar), the only sacrifice that requires the ashes of the burned animal to be kept and the only sacrifice that purifies others while rendering unclean those who performed it.
The Quest continues: An unblemished red cow had to be found on which no yoke had ever been placed. When the cow was slaughtered outside the camp, some of the blood was sprinkled seven times towards the front of the Tent of Meeting by the priest. The red heifer was burned in his sight, its hide, its flesh, its blood and even its dung. The priest was to take cedar wood, hyssop and scarlet wool and throw them onto the burning heifer. The ashes were collected and kept in a safe place outside the camp. The ashes were used “in the water of cleansing; it is for purification from sin,” and also to ritually purify anyone who had come in contact with a dead body. Before that person could worship in the Tabernacle, he had to be sprinkled with a mixture of the ashes and flowing (living) water.
The commands concerning the red heifer were yet another foreshadowing of the sacrifice of Christ for believers’ sin. The Lord Jesus was “without blemish,” just as the red heifer was to be. As the heifer was sacrificed “outside the camp” (Numbers 19:3), Jesus was crucified outside of Jerusalem (Hebrews 13:11-12). And, just as the ashes of the red heifer cleansed people from the contamination of death, so the sacrifice of Christ saves us from the penalty and corruption of death.
According to rabbinical tradition, there have been nine red heifers sacrificed since Moses’ time. Since the destruction of the second temple, no red heifers have been slaughtered. The rabbi Maimonides (1135—1204 AD) taught that the tenth red heifer would be sacrificed by the Messiah Himself (Parah Adumah, ch. 3, § 4). The Temple Institute, a group advocating the construction of the third Temple, reports that five flawless heifers have been found in Texas and transported to Israel in September 2022. Many people view this as a fulfilment of bible prophecy, since the acquisition of the red heifers is a major step forward in the plans for a new temple. One more piece falling into place for the fulfilment of biblical prophecy.
According to the futurist timeline of eschatology, there will indeed be a third temple of God in Jerusalem. WHY? The Hebrew prophets all proclaimed that in the last days, the exiles of Israel would return to the Promised Land and that the Temple would be rebuilt (Ezekiel, Amos). Jesus would come again to reign and rule from this temple. Therefore, assuming those who dedicate the end-time temple follow Jewish law, they will need the ashes of a red heifer mixed with living water for the ceremonial cleansing.
The preparations for the rebuilding of the 3rd temple commenced by the Temple movement/Temple Institute in 1987. The statement the Temple Institute makes for the rebuilding: 1) The rebuilding is for the redemption of the world, 2) the need for a new level of spiritual attainment, 3) The Shekinah Glory (God’s glory) will only be brought in through the temple. The mission as a people therefore is : “We cannot in any way reach our spiritual status without the temple”. The Orthodox Jews (those who strictly adhere to traditional beliefs and practices) are committed to re-establishing the temple. Both the present problems of the world and the problems faced by the Jewish people will be solved by the rebuilding, they believe.
The Quest for the holy cow seems to be solved, five red heifers have been found. But what does that mean for us now? Would the world’s problems and the problems for the Jewish people be solved or ………? In our understanding this will be the start of the trouble. Nations will rise up against Israel as they start erecting the third temple and as the vessels which are needed in the temple are being gathered for this service. Read more in the book of Revelation.
In the sacrifice of the red heifer we see a greater sacrifice, that of Jesus the Christ. “For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of the red heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean, sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean” (Hebrews 9:13 NASB). As Francois du Toit puts it: “This was the best the law system could present. No purging of conscience was possible; only the sense of temporal relief, to be repeated again and again”. “How much more then will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit, offered himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God” (Hebrews 9:14 NASB). “Christ is the blameless, pure sacrifice. A once and for all sacrifice, not to be repeated. Therefore obtaining a lasting and meaningful sense of innocence proving that no sacrifice that anyone can bring at any expense of their own could possibly match the sacrifice of God himself to the human race and thereby purge our conscience from its frustration under the law. Declaring a life free from sin-consciousness. This is what the new testament priesthood is all about” (Francois Du Toit).