Christian Reaction to the Red Heifer Airlift
One week ago today, biblical history was made as five red heifers made their way from Texas, USA to Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv. This is a legitimate first in 2,000 years—since the Second Temple Period! Israel365 News has exclusive reporting from the event, explaining the biblical significance and the current details. "The cows were between 5-8 months old. To be suitable for the red heifer ceremony, the cow must be two years and one day old so these heifers will be raised in Israel until they reach the proper age."
Once again, the world is buzzing with the news focused on the Temple Mount with plenty of reactions world-wide. As someone who rejects Replacement Theology,* I was asked to comment from a Christian point of view, which was also published. I will give my comments here as well:
This is an historic event of biblical proportions. I continually try to prepare Christians for the fact that, just like Israel was restored, the Temple Mount will ultimately be restored, and neither restoration is some nefarious work of the devil, God forbid.
Sadly, a segment of the church will have knee-jerk reactions to news of red heifers. That’s because the lack of a Temple is the last, desperate stand of Replacement Theology. The destruction of the Temple was viewed by the later church as conclusive proof that the “Old Covenant” was dead and superseded by something radically redefined.
In fact, according to the New Testament, there is no conflict between the Temple sacrifices and the Gospel. None at all. Instead, they illustrate it. For Christians, sacrifices before Jesus pointed forward to Golgotha. Afterward, they point back to it. It’s that simple. Jesus has indeed "offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins" (Hebrews 10:11–14). But that was never in conflict with the Temple. Hebrews 10:4 clarifies that it was always "impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins” in order to save someone’s eternal soul. They serve other important functions.
The New Testament specifically mentions the ashes of the Red Heifer. It endorses their legitimacy (in the present tense) and states that the ashes certainly continued to remove ritual impurity of the physical body (Hebrews 9:13). It argues that this very truth should encourage our faith in Jesus.
Jesus himself loved God’s Temple, the “Father’s House.” He wept at the very thought of its desolation. Paul had no problems bringing sin offerings in the Temple in Acts 21. He testified repeatedly on trial that he came to bring sacrifices, was purified by the ashes of the Red Heifer, and committed no offense against the Temple (Acts 24:17-18; 25:8). The evidence is clear. (Read more on NT theology and the sacrifices here.)
As news of a potential Red Heifer break, we Christians should remember that Jesus and his apostles never slandered the Holy Temple by calling it the “temple of antichrist,” or of the devil, God forbid. They called it the “Temple of God” (2 Thess 2:3-4). The "temple of antichrist" is a completely unbiblical term, both literally—it does not appear in the Bible—and figuratively—it is not the temple “of antichrist.” It is God's House.
The church needs to reexamine the Scriptures, not just regarding Israel, but in regard to the Temple service as well. It is a noteworthy encouragement that a committed Christian has provided these red heifers to Israel.
John Enarson is the Christian Relations Director at Cry For Zion, helping Christians understand their history with the Temple Mount and how it relates to biblical theology and the Jewish people. John currently studies at the Scandinavian School of Theology.
* "Replacement Theology" (a.k.a. "Supersessionism," now often called "Fulfillment Theology") is the belief that "the church has taken the place of the Jewish people as God’s chosen community, and that God’s covenant with the Jews is now over and done. By extension, the term can be used to refer to any interpretation of Christian faith generally or the status of the church in particular that claims or implies the abrogation or obsolescence of God’s covenant with the Jewish people.“ (R. Kendall Soulen, “Supersessionism,” in A Dictionary of Jewish-Christian Relations, Cambridge University Press, 2005, 413-14).
Fully rejecting Replacement Theology as unbiblical is called a "Post-Supersessionist" view, defined as “a family of theological perspectives that affirms God’s irrevocable covenant with the Jewish people as a central and coherent part of ecclesial teaching. It rejects understandings of the new covenant that entail the abrogation or obsolescence of God’s covenant with the Jewish people, of the Torah as a demarcator of Jewish communal identity, or of the Jewish people themselves” (Society For Post-Supersessionist Theology, spostst.org). Note that it should not be confused with "Dual Covenant" theology.