Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Red Heifer

Messiah And The Red Heifer

Q. Thanks again for your dedication and service as a teacher of the scripture. My question today has to do with something I recently read about the 3rd Temple. According to Jewish belief (as stated on the Temple Institute website) once the temple has been rebuilt the initial cleansing sacrifice of the pure red heifer will be performed by the messiah. This causes me conflict as I am under the belief that the Jews will again be worshiping in the 3rd Temple during the first 3 1/2 years of the tribulation period.

My question is could the reference in the Jewish scripture to the “messiah” in actuality be the anti-christ posing as the messiah and performing this initial sacrifice? What does the scripture really indicate about this? If it really is the AC, how are the Jews misinterpreting this scripture? Please help me out with this. Thank you so much for your insight.

A. Some Jewish beliefs about the coming Temple are just that, beliefs. That means they’re traditions based in interpretations of Scripture, not Scripture itself.

The Jewish Scripture is our Old Testament and the passages about the 3rd Temple are contained in Ezekiel 40-47, with it’s actual location spelled out in Chapter 48. There’s nothing in these passages that requires the Messiah to be the one to perform the initial purification. But since every living Jew is ceremonially unclean and will remain so until the red heifer purification sacrifice can be conducted, they’ll need someone who can claim to be clean to solve this problem (Numbers 19:1-10).

In chapter 43 Ezekiel describes the Shekinah Glory returning to the Temple and mentioning how the people have defiled it in the past, and in chapter 44 He speaks of them allowing foreigners to officiate in His sanctuary. I believe this is a reference to the Anti-Christ and perhaps the false prophet. If so, it’s possible that one or both of them could have presided over the Temple’s initial purification, but again there’s no specific reference to the ceremony itself.

Jesus prophesied that while they rejected Him as their Messiah, they would one day accept another who would prove to be false. (John 5:43) and Isaiah 28:15 speaks of Israel making a covenant with death, referring to the treaty they make with the anti-Christ.

It’s clear that a Temple will be built in Israel before the beginning of the Great Tribulation, which means it’s well before the 2nd Coming. That means someone other than the Lord will have to perform the initial purification ceremony. Since the anti-Christ and false prophet will have established themselves as world leaders during that time, and since the anti-Christ will be perceived as the one who made the Temple’s construction possible, and since the Temple’s dedication will take place before the anti-Christ makes his claim to be God in the flesh which alienates the Jews, it’s possible that he’ll be the one who dedicates the 3rd Temple.

The Red Heifer

Q. Have you even covered or researched the subject about the Red heifer? For years I have heard about this but never fully researched it.

According to Numbers 19:2: “Speak unto the Children of Israel that they bring thee a red heifer without spot, wherein is no blemish, and upon which never came yoke”. It must not have hairs of any other color, it must be in perfect health, and it must never have been used to perform work. The cow is then slaughtered and burned “outside of the camp”. Cedar wood, hyssop, and scarlet are added to the fire, and the remaining ash is placed in a vessel containing pure water.

Then I found this in Ezekiel 36:25-26. “Then I shall sprinkle pure waters upon you, and you shall be clean, from all your uncleanness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. I will also give you a new heart, and I will place within you a new spirit… ”

How does this Red Heifer pertain to The Tribulation? and or the re-building of the New Temple?

A. According to Numbers 19 the ashes of a red heifer were sprinkled into water to be used in the ritual cleansing from ceremonial uncleanliness. The ceremony involved in creating these ashes was unique. The red heifer was taken outside the camp to be burned and was totally destroyed, blood, guts and all, not just sacrificed on the Temple altar. While burning, cedar wood and scarlet wool were added to the fire. The scarlet wool was a symbol of sin being consumed with the animal. (Isaiah 1:18) The priest did not officiate, but designated someone else to destroy the animal. The cleansing process only required that a few drops be sprinkled on the unclean person, so it wasn’t a regular washing or bathing, but failure to do this meant exclusion from the congregation, either by banishment or execution, depending on which commentary you read.

A red heifer could have no hairs of another color to be qualified, so it was a very rare animal indeed. Tradition holds that from the time of Moses to the 2nd Temple destruction only 9 red heifers were used. The great Hebrew sage Maimonides prophesied that the 10th one will be prepared by the Messiah, so some orthodox Jews are searching for a 10th heifer as a sign of the coming Messiah. A few years ago they thought they had one until 4 white hairs appeared on its tail.

Another ongoing search involves locating the remaining ashes of the 9th heifer, since these must be mixed with the ashes of the 10th to preserve the continuity.

Today, every living Jew is ceremonially unclean and could not enter the Temple even if they had one, so finding these 2000 year old ashes and a living red heifer are are required prior to the construction of a new Temple and are paramount among signs that the Messiah is about to return.

For Christians there’s a clear comparison between the red heifer and the Lord Jesus. Both had to be perfect specimens, both were taken outside the “camp” to be destroyed, rather than being ritually sacrificed. Cedar wood and hysop were involved in both deaths. In both cases the High Priest observed but did not officiate. Those who did officiate were ceremonially unclean, and just as being sprinkled with water and ashes saved an unclean Jew from death, so does being sprinkled with the blood of Jesus save the Christian from death.

I believe the passage from Ezekiel 36 pertains to Israel’s discovery of the Messiah just prior to the Millennium. (Zechariah 12:10) Ezekiel 36 can be seen as an overview of the End Times with Israel being re-gathered to the Land and the ancient cities re-built. Then the nations that scorned her will be brought to scorn and finally Israel will discover that Jesus is their Messiah. Chapters 37-39 then provide the detail leading up to the Millennium in Chapters 40-48.

The Ashes Of A Red Heifer

Q. I have a question about the red heifer. I have a friend that tells me that they HAVE to have the ashes from the last burnt heifer to mix with the ashes of the next offering to cleanse the Temple. It’s a must he tells me.

I cannot find anything on this. What will happen when they build the next Temple and need the ashes?

A. According to Rabbi Chaim Richman, probably the world’s leading Jewish authority on the subject, there is no Biblical or traditional requirement for the ashes of the previous red heifer to be mixed with the next one.

If they wanted to begin building the Temple and needed to purify the workers, they could sacrifice a new one and proceed. They would only need ashes from the last one if they didn’t have a new one to sacrifice and didn’t want to wait for one to appear.

More On The Red Heifer

Q. Is there currently a red heifer that meets the requirements for the ashes needed to cleanse the new Temple, and if not will they have to wait until it is 3 years old for it to qualify? I have read that there is one and then again I have read there isn’t.

Also is it my imagination that the weather in the US has been one event right after the other ever since the Annapolis Conference? Do you think they are connected to the decision to divide Jerusalem or give it to the Palestinians?

I would appreciate your thoughts on this and Thanks Again for your tireless efforts to this site.

A. As far as I know there is currently no suitable red heifer. A few years ago they thought they had one, but then 4 white hairs showed up in its tail. It’s my understanding that 2 is the maximum permitted. When they get one they have to wait till it’s old enough before they can sacrifice it.

Yes, the weather has been strange this winter. Since the early 90’s there have been some pretty convincing efforts to link weather related disasters with attempts to divide the Land. Maybe the current weather fits the model too.


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