What is the biblical importance of a red heifer? Is the birth of a red heifer a sign of the end times?
A red heifer is included in the purification rituals of the Mosaic Law. It was to be used as part of the sacrificial system and is described in detail in Numbers 19:1-10. This was to be part of the ongoing ritual for the Jews that was practiced from the time of Moses in the tabernacle through the time of the Jewish temple until its destruction in AD 70.
The Bible prophesies, however, that a future Jewish temple will be built and later be desecrated by the Antichrist (Matthew 24:15). Another temple is discussed in Ezekiel 41—45 that will exist during the millennial kingdom. For the temple sacrifices to take place, the Mosaic Law requires the use of a red heifer. Therefore, some have seen the occurrence of a red heifer, such as the one popularized in headlines from New Jersey in 2015, as being of particular prophetic significance. Why? The appearance of a red heifer means the Jewish temple may be constructed in the near future, fulfilling prophecy in the process.
While it is possible that the appearance of a red heifer marks a near fulfillment of biblical prophecy regarding a new Jewish temple, such headlines should be read with caution. Similar red heifer headlines have occurred in the past (such as a notable account in 1997) yet have not led to a soon construction of a Jewish temple.
A red heifer will likely be involved in the temple practices in the future, but many red heifers could appear between now and that time. Though rare, the sighting of one red heifer is not necessarily a sign that the temple will be built at any moment.
Instead, Jesus taught that no one knows the day or hour of Christ's return (Mark 13:32). The next major event in biblical prophecy to take place is the rapture of believers by Jesus Christ (John 14:1-3; 1 Corinthians 15:51-58; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). This event can happen at any moment. The fact that other aspects of prophecy that will take place following the rapture are seen today suggests that we may be very close to the fulfillment of biblical prophecy. For the believer, this should encourage us (1 Thessalonians 4:18) as we look forward to eternity with Christ.
In addition, the any-moment return of Jesus should cause us to live holy lives and share Christ with others. As Jesus commanded His followers before leaving earth, "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you" (Matthew 28:19-20).
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