What is the prophetic significance of the red heifers?
Tim Moore: To help us answer this question, we are joined by Mondo Gonzales of Prophecy Watchers.
Mondo Gonzales: So, as everybody knows, back in September 2022, five red heifers were sent over to Israel from Texas. The average Christian has been wondering how this plays into prophetic events.
Nathan Jones: Mondo, when it comes to these red heifers, what then is their prophetic significance? Why have the Orthodox Jews been searching so long and hard for basically red cows?
Mondo Gonzales: Biblically, we read about the red heifer ceremony in Numbers 19. So, within the modern rabbinic movement, or the Orthodox movement, or even the religious Jewish movement in general in Israel, and especially among the Temple Mount Faithful and the Temple Mount Institute, these groups have been really for the last 30 years or so been trying to find the red heifer. Why? Because their goal is to build the Temple. They believe, according to Moses, that the Temple is the only way that they can connect with God. Historically, we know that the Temple was destroyed in 70 A.D.
The Orthodox have their framework and then Christians have their own perspective about the Temple. We understand what the Bible teaches about the future of the Temple, but each group brings a different perspective to the subject.
In Matthew 24:15, Jesus talks about the future of the Temple. Paul talks about it in 2 Thessalonians 2, and John in Revelation 11, even Daniel in 9:27. We have these four witnesses from Scripture who reveal there will indeed be a Jewish Temple existing during the Tribulation period. So, we’re all having to look at that as being a fact.
Then, through deduction and inference, we’re stepping back to ask, “How does this happen?” The Temple just doesn’t appear without any preparation. So, what steps have to happen first? As we are seeing events unfold — enter the red heifer!
The ashes of the red heifer traditionally are meant to purify those who are ceremonially unclean. The priests burn the heifer in a pit, take the ashes, and then mix them with water. Only then does the priesthood have the opportunity to cleanse themselves, for without the ashes, they remain unceremonially unclean.
Tim Moore: Christians who love Bible prophecy have long focused on the Temple. But, from the Jewish mindset, before they can build the structure, they must purify their hearts and the land. The red heifer’s ashes lend to the purification ritual, according to Numbers 19? The Evangelical Christian expectation of a Temple is merely prophetic interest because we do not believe that our purification needs ashes or a Temple. No one can be purified other than by the blood of Jesus Christ. But, from the Jewish mindset, the ashes are absolutely necessary in preparing for the construction of the Temple?
Mondo Gonzales: Yes. Exactly! What’s God’s goal with the Jewish people? He wants to save them. The seven-year Tribulation period — the time of Jacob’s trouble — is when God is going to have a long talk with His wayward people. God’s goal is that by the end of that time, all of Israel will be saved. His goal is to introduce them to Jesus. And, for them to consider Yeshua as their Messiah, it takes seven years for them to come to that point.
Remember, the religious Jews are working from their frame of reference, which is Moses and the Temple. And so, God is like, “Okay, I’m going to work through your frame of reference in order to get you to my Son.” That requires all of these other “pre” events to occur, such as finding the red heifers.
The search for these perfect red heifers has been in motion for a long time. Many of them have been disqualified. After all, there’s a timing factor as well. I think this is pretty fascinating. Numbers 19 doesn’t give us the age requirements for the red heifers. There are two Hebrew words, one for an adult cow or an aged cow, and one for a calf. In rabbinic thinking, that equates to two years and eight days. That’s how old the red heifers have to be in order to become the proper age, though that depends on who the rabbis are. Even when it comes to the red part of the heifer, they’ve added specifications on just how many white hairs there can be. So, the rabbis took something easy and made it more difficult and much more complex by adding their many other requirements.
Still, the subject is exciting because what’s interesting is the political and religious climate within the nation of Israel is shifting. Go back 25 or 30 years ago, it was very common within the rabbinic mindset that you were not allowed to go up onto the Temple Mount, because that was just the rule. If you did, you were ostracized.
That’s certainly not the case now as the religious climate has shifted. Thousands of mainly religious Jews go up on the Temple Mount every year holding their secret prayers. So, even the fact that we see this shift now with the latest government in Israel shows Israel has become the most religious ever in the history of modern-day Israel. Some experts say they’ve heard from Netanyahu himself that he feels it’s his destiny to build the Third Temple.
The Last Piece of the Puzzle?
Nathan Jones: Mondo, is the red heifer the last piece of the prophetic puzzle when it comes to the Temple? Can the Jewish people now begin to rebuild the Temple?
Mondo Gonzales: From a Jewish perspective, I would say from their thinking — yes. Finding a qualified red heifer has been what they’ve been waiting for. From Netanyahu’s perspective, he’s now in charge of a new religious-block government that would support his lead on reconstruction.
But, the biggest challenge will be the response of the Muslims, because according to the building plans that I’ve seen, the Jews are currently planning to build the Temple next to the Dome of the Rock. They’d also build a wall of separation, as Revelation 11 reveals, leaving the outer court for the Gentiles. Maybe. I don’t see how Muslims and Jews sharing the Temple Mount would work, but that seems to be the current plan now that the architectural designs have been completed.
So, what’s holding the construction from happening right away? The red heifer ashes are what’s holding back the opportunity to cleanse the real estate.
Politically speaking, the Sunnis are engaged with Israel in the Abraham Accords. The Saudis need Israel to keep Iran, who are Shiites, at bay. The Arabs are coming to the point now where they are not opposing the idea of Israel having a temple because they need Israel to keep Iran in check.
So, what I envision is that Netanyahu, being a very skilled politician, is not going to bomb Iran and neutralize them until he gets concessions from the Sunnis about Temple reconstruction. That’s Netanyahu’s leverage. If he were to neutralize Iran, the Sunnis are going to realize that, hey, the threat is gone, so the Israelis have to remain the vital counterbalance to the Iranian threat in the region.
Tim Moore: I can validate what you’re saying about the shifting dynamic in the Middle East, especially the Muslim countries that are immediate and nearby, though not the Palestinians who are a whole other issue. Imam Mohamad Tawhidi from Saudi Arabia made this surprising statement:
If Israelis take an inch of land from Mecca or Medina, I will be the first to oppose them. That’s our land! But if they want their own land back, only a dishonest crook and a lying thief would deny them the right of return. Jerusalem is not ours [meaning the Muslim world] and never was. Period.
What a shift from years gone by! We are witnessing dynamics come into play that we never imagined years ago. And yet, our own administration seems to want to kowtow to the Iranians and other nations hostile toward Israel.
Christians Supporting Temple Reconstruction?
Tim Moore: Back to the red heifer discussion, in the minds of fervent Jews who are committed to rebuilding the Temple, they require steps to be able to purify the Temple lands. They’ve even been training young priests to sacrifice the heifer.
Now, for those of us who are Christians, we realize that all of this search for red heifers is to a degree misguided because it doesn’t immediately point to Jesus Christ. Jesus is the only means of salvation and not some ashes. The Christian’s manifestation of love for the Jews is to share the Messiah with them right now.
Mondo Gonzales: Absolutely! There’s no doubt that we have this interesting dynamic going on here. God hasn’t changed his mind. He doesn’t offer a dual covenant — a different covenant — with the Jews that provides Christians and Jews a separate salvation. Jesus Christ tells us that: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me (John 14:6). Christians alone have the truth of salvation, and we’ve got to share it with the Jewish people, for the reality is in rejecting Jesus is to remain under the wrath of the Father (John 3:36). The Temple is never going to provide anyone with salvation.
But, by the end of the Tribulation, a remnant of the Jewish people will call on the name of the Lord. As Jesus reveals, “For I say to you, you shall see Me no more till you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!'” (Matthew 23:39).
As Christians, we have this interesting tension, because we know the prophetic scriptures are fact. The Jews must rebuild the Temple. But, we also know that salvation is only through Jesus Christ, so this Temple will only lead the Jews away from Jesus, not towards Him.
Nathan Jones: To support the building of the Temple is to support keeping people captured in a works-based salvation that sends them to Hell. Why would any Christian want to support that? The Savior is Jesus Christ alone! Putting one’s faith and trust in Jesus is where the offering money should be put, at least in my opinion.
Tim Moore: Yes, Christians need to be very careful that we share with our Jewish friends and not give in support of the rebuilding of the Temple. That’s what is best for all eternity. Bless a Jew with the knowledge of Jesus Christ — Yeshua — the Messiah.
And, for our Jewish friends, we pray that you will come to know Yeshua as your Messiah and that you will look forward to His soon return. All of these end times signs, such as the red heifer, demonstrate that we are living on the brink of Christ’s Second Coming. We don’t want you to endure the coming Tribulation period, even when most Jews will come to the end of themselves and finally recognize their Messiah at the end. Instead, place your faith in Yeshua today. Make today the day of your salvation!