The End of Days and the Red Heifer

The End of Days
and the
Red Heifer

© David Burton 2015

Rally in Support of Israel

The End of Days Scenarios

     The “End of Days” concept - also known as End Time(s), Armageddon, the Apocalypse and Judgement Day - is based upon biblical prophecies and is common to the three great monotheistic religions – Judaism, Christianity and Islam. In each religion, a messiah or redeemer will appear to herald or oversee the event. In Judaism, this redeemer is called Moshiach. In Christianity, this redeemer is called the messiah and in Islam, this redeemer is called the Mahdi.

     Common to both Judaism and Christianity is the concept of the messiah. Christians believe the coming of the messiah is the second coming - that of Jesus. Jews believe that the coming of the messiah will be the first coming.

     The term "End of Days" is taken from the Old Testament, Numbers 24:14 and has been taken as a reference to the messianic era.

     In Numbers 24:14, Balaak, the king of Moab, calls upon the prophet Balaam to curse the Israelites before he goes to war against them during the Israelites' exodus from Egypt to the Promised Land. Instead of cursing the Israelites, Balaam blesses the Israelites three different times. Balaam then takes leave of Balaak saying, “And now, behold, I go unto my people; come, and I will announce to thee what this people {the Israelites} shall do to thy people {the Moabites} in the end of days.

     Many, if not most, End of Time adherents view the creation of Israel in 1948 and the conquest of Jerusalem in 1967 as signs that the End of Days is approaching. Central to that event is the Jewish Holy Temple on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. For conservative Christians, “building that Temple is an essential condition for the Second Coming. And for many Muslims, any attempt to destroy the shrines of Al-Aqsa {and replace it with the Jewish Temple} is a sign that the Hour is at hand.”
(Ref. 1, p. 14)

The Temple Mount and the Third Temple

     The Temple Mount has become a major focal point in the Jewish-Arab conflict since Israel captured it from Jordan on June 7, 1967 on the third day of Israel’s Six-day War. The Israeli government decided to leave the Temple Mount under nominal Jordanian and Muslim control. It has since become “the place where the drama of the End of Days will come to pass. For Jewish extremists, Israel’s failure to take full possession of the Mount is an affront; for Islamic extremists, Jewish rule is a desecration and an unending threat.” (Ref. 1, p. vii)

     The Temple Mount is the most holy site in Judaism. Jews throughout the world stand and face the Temple Mount when reciting the Silent Prayer, the “Amidah”. Jews long for the rebuilding of the Holy Temple on the Mount and restoration of the ancient Temple services called for in the Bible. But, as will be explained later, in Israel and throughout the diaspora, only a radical fringe calls for Jewish worship on the Mount today or in the near future. For Arabs, the idea of Jewish worship on the Mount reinforces the worst fears of Israeli/Jewish intentions for taking over the Temple Mount. This fear has been instilled in them by Islamic extremists and anti-Israel hard-liners for nearly seven decades now.

     Why don't the Jews rebuild the Holy Temple? The following explanation is taken from Reference 2 and reflects the view of many observant Jews.

     The most obvious answer to that question is that the Jews can't for political reasons. The Muslims have control over the Temple Mount, and for the Jews to destroy the Muslims' holy site to build their own would bring on Armageddon.

     However, there are other issues involved. Even if Jews were to receive the consent of every Muslim to raze or move their sacred structures from the Temple Mount, many orthodox Jews believe they still would not be permitted to rebuild the Holy Temple.

     One reason is that it is forbidden to enter the precise area where the Holy Temple used to be, because all Jew are ritually impure as a result of sometime having come into contact with the dead. Whoever enters the precise area where the Holy Temple used to be is violating a biblical prohibition punishable by death. In order for a Jew to be able to become ritually pure, he would need the ablutions of the ashes of a red cow administered by a Jewish priest. This ritual and the requirments to conduct it will be explained later in the this article.

     The next problem is that an altar in the Temple area must be built in a very precise location. It is forbidden to place the Altar anywhere else. When the Second Holy Temple was built, they had to find reliable witnesses who could testify to the exact spot. They found three such witnesses, but Jews today don't have any prophets or witnesses to tell them where to locate the altar. Thus, until a prophet - presumably Elijah - comes and tells them where to build the altar, they cannot do it.

     Even if the Jews were able to build the altar in the correct location, they would still need a priest whose genealogy could be determined absolutely and verified.

     The next problem is that a High Priest would have to be appointed. To appoint a High Priest, a Sanhedrin - a body of 71 ordained rabbis – would be required. The Jews cannot assemble a Sanhedrin, because the Sanhedrin must consist of rabbis ordained with the Mosaic Ordination, which was transmitted from Rabbi to Rabbi since Moses. However, the Mosaic Ordination ceased to exist in the year 358 AD.

     There are other problems remaining.

     Still, believing Jews have a tradition that Elijah the Prophet will arrive and reveal himself before the advent of the Messiah. He will arrive and answer all questions and resolve all doubts. He will reveal which families are definitely Cohanim (priests). Since Elijah is a recipient of the Ordination of Moses, he would be able to restore the Sanhedrin.

     On the other hand, there are Jews and non-Jews who believe that the Third Temple can and should be built upon the site of the first two Holy Temples. Some of rhese believers in modern-day Jews rebuilding the Temple atop Mount Moriah are hard at work in an attempt to turn their belief into a reality. They have even announced that they have finished building an altar suitable for the Temple service. The altar, which took several years to build, can supposedly be operational at a moment’s notice.[3] This same organization has been hard at work attempting to breed the perfect Red Heifer that is needed for the ritual purification that will allow believing Jews to walk upon the original location of the Holy of Holies.

The End of Days in the Christian Tradition

     Many Christians have a fascination with the “End of Days” or the “End Times” prophecies. In fact, there are “millions of quite rational men and women, belonging to established religious movements around the globe, {who} look forward to history’s conclusion, to be followed by the establishment of a perfected era.” (Ref. 1, p. 3) For fruition, the End Times prophecies require three preceding events: 1) the return of the Jews to Israel and the Jewish nation’s rebirth, 2) the repossession of Jerusalem by the returning Jews, and 3) the rebuilding of the Holy Temple by the Jews. Today, two of the three prophecies have already been fulfilled. Interestingly, these Christian devotees of the End of Days prophecies are likely more interested in the building of the Third Temple than are the Jews.

     According to the Book of Revelation, Armageddon is the site of the gathering of armies for a battle during the End of Days. Armageddon is also used in a generic sense to refer to any end of the world event.

     The word "Armageddon" is a Greek translation of the Hebrew “har Megiddo” meaning "a mountain or range of hills". Tel Megiddo in Israel is not actually a mountain, but a hill created by many generations of people living and rebuilding on the same spot, on which ancient forts were built to guard the Via Maris, the ancient trade route linking Egypt with the northern empires of Syria, Anatolia and Mesopotamia. Megiddo was the location of various ancient battles. Modern Megiddo is a town approximately 25 miles west-southwest of the southern tip of the Sea of Galilee.

     According to some Christian interpretations, Jesus will return to earth and defeat the Antichrist, the False Prophet and Satan in the Battle of Armageddon. Then Satan will be put into the "bottomless pit" or abyss for 1,000 years. After being released from the abyss, Satan will gather Gog and Magog from the four corners of the earth. They will encamp surrounding the "holy ones" and Jerusalem. Fire will come down from God, out of heaven and devour Gog and Magog. Satan, death, hell, and those not found written in the Book of Life are then thrown into Gehenna (the lake of fire burning with brimstone).

     The “Tribulation” is another event in the End Days prophecies. Some Christians believe that the Tribulation is a relatively short period of time where everyone will experience worldwide hardships, disasters, famine, war, pain, and suffering, which will wipe out most of all life on the earth before the Second Coming takes place. Some believe that those who choose to follow God, will be "raptured" before the tribulation, and thus escape it. The Tribulation is thought to occur before the Second Coming of Jesus and during the End Times.

     It is also believed by some that all Christians (dead and alive) will be taken bodily up to Heaven (called the Rapture) before the Tribulation begins. According to this belief, every true Christian that has ever existed throughout the course of the entire Christian era will be instantaneously transformed into a perfect resurrected body, and will thus escape the trials of the Tribulation. Those who become Christians after the rapture will live through (or perish during) the Tribulation. After the Tribulation, Christ will return to establish his Kingdom.

     To some, the destruction of the Dome of the Rock is thought to be the trigger that will set off the war of Armageddon and serve as the prelude to this Second Coming of Jesus.

     Some Fundamentalist Christians believe that the Second Coming of Jesus Christ cannot occur until the Third Temple is constructed in Jerusalem, which again requires the appearance of a Red Heifer born in Israel. For them, “the Temple is essential to prophecy, that Jesus will set his feet on the Mount of Olives and enter the rebuilt sanctuary through its eastern gate . . .” (Ref. 1, p. 8)

The End of Days in the Jewish Tradition

     The End of Days scenario exists in the Jewish faith and the Temple Mount (Har HaBayit), also known as Mount Moriah (Har HaMoriya), figures in this tradition.

     “Moshiach" is the Hebrew word for "messiah." In Talmudic literature, the title Moshiach is reserved for the Jewish leader who will redeem Israel in the End of Days.

     “One of the principles of Jewish faith enumerated by Maimonides {the preeminent medieval Sephardic Jewish philosopher, astronomer, Torah scholar, and physician of the Middle Ages} is that one day there will arise a dynamic Jewish leader, a direct descendant of the Davidic dynasty, who will rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem, [Emphasis mine] and gather Jews from all over the world and bring them back to the Land of Israel.
     “All the nations of the world will recognize Moshiach to be a world leader, and will accept his dominion. In the messianic era there will be world peace, no more wars nor famine, and, in general, a high standard of living.” (Ref. 4).

     The Hebrew Talmud describes the period immediately prior to the advent of Moshiach as one of great travail and turmoil. There will be a world recession, and governments will be controlled by despots. It is in this troubled setting that Moshiach will arrive. There is another tradition that a great war will take place, called the war of Gog and Magog. The precise timing of this war in relation to Moshiach’s arrival is uncertain. It is also unclear as to exactly how these events will unfold.[4].

     Note that an important aspect of the End of Days is the prediction that the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem will be rebuilt.

     From many aspects, the End of Days, the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, the appearance of Moshiach, etc. revolve around the Jews building the Third Temple on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. For many religious Jews, there are problems with this. The location of the Holy of Holies is unknown and anyone who has had any contact with the dead is ritually impure and forbidden to enter this Holy of Holies. Being ritually cleansed in the ritual of the Red Heifer potentially solves this problem.

     Like extremists in the Muslim and Christian faiths, there are Jewish extremists who believe that they are God’s messengers and they know God’s program for mankind. They, therefore, believe it their obligation to enforce God’s will upon mankind – as thy perceive God’s intentions. To some of these extremists, tearing down the Muslim edifices on the Temple Mount and replacing them with a Jewish third Great Temple is God’s will – never mind the consequences.

The End of Days in the Muslim Tradition

     “The End of Days is a fundamental element of faith for Islam. It is the belief in a common scenario that:
     "There will be a time of great tribulation on Earth followed by the appearance of a great Saviour and/or return of a Messiah, who will usher in the Kingdom of God on Earth and bring an end to suffering and evil." (Ref. 5)

     The Temple Mount is the third holiest site in Islam. In Arabic it is called Al haram al Sharif, the Noble Sanctuary.

     From the Moslem perspective, rebuilding the Jewish Temple on the Temple Mount creates the basis for a holy war. The el Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock would be desecrated or destroyed by having a Jewish Temple built on the same site. Islam is not noted for sharing territory or property with Infidels, particularly a site the Muslims consider to be their third holiest site, after Mecca and Medina.

     While the Koran never actually states the Earth will be completely destroyed at the End Time, it is now a commonly held belief of many Muslims that the Earth will be completely destroyed and every human being will die at the End of Days and that people will then go to heaven or hell for eternity.

     The Mahdi ("guided one") is the prophesied redeemer of Islam who will rule for seven, nine, or nineteen years (according to differing interpretations) before the Day of Judgment and will rid the world of all evil. According to Islamic tradition, the Mahdi's tenure will coincide with the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, who is to assist the Mahdi against the Antichrist. Differences exist in the concept of the Mahdi between Sunni Muslims and adherents of the Shia tradition. For Sunnis, the Mahdi is Muhammad's successor who is yet to come. For most Shia Muslims, the Mahdi was born but disappeared and will remain hidden from humanity until he reappears (similar to the second coming) to bring justice to the world, a doctrine known as the Occultation.

     Shia Muslims believe that the arrival of the Mahdi will be signaled by a number of occurrences, which include the following:
     Before his coming the red death and the white death will appear, killing most of the world's population. The red death signifies violence and the white death is plague. One third of the world's population will die from the red death and another third from the white death.
    There will be major fighting in Syria, until that nation is destroyed.
    The people of Baghdad in Iraq will endure death and fear. A fire will appear in the sky and a redness will cover them.

     According to the Twelver Shia, the Mahdi is believed to be the Twelfth Imam, Muhammad al-Mahdi. The Mahdi’s main goal will be to establish an Islamic state and to apply Islamic laws that were revealed to the Prophet, Muhammad. The Twelver Shia’s believe that this Twelfth Imam will return from the Occultation as the Mahdi with "a company of his chosen ones," and his enemies will be led by Antichrist and the Sufyani, a tyrant who will spread corruption and mischief on the earth before the Mahdi. The two armies will fight "one final apocalyptic battle" where the Mahdi and his forces will prevail over evil. After the Mahdi has ruled earth for a number of years, Jesus will return.

     Muslim extremists get their motivation from mainstream Islamic texts, albeit from a highly literalist reading. In the case of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), it is so outrageously violent because it believes it is on a divine mission to bring about a final battle with infidels that would usher in the Islamic version of the Day of Judgment. ISIS's view of these teachings is that by provoking the West, and particularly the U.S., it can fulfill prophecy and pave the way for Islam's final conquest of the world, in which more than half the world's people will die. Its violence is therefore directly related to its belief that the end of the world is imminent; the closer the end, the greater the obligatory, righteous violence.[6]

     In addition to ISIS, many other militant Islamist groups also believe they are on missions to help Islam conquer the world and bring about Judgment Day. Indeed, it is pretty much standard teaching in Islam that Muslims must advance their ideology and help it dominate the world in order to fulfill their end-time prophecies. This is what jihad is all about.[6]

     In light of recent developments, Iran is even more important than many of the extremist Islamic groups. America and other nations have offered Iran a deal that allows it to build nuclear weapons in 10 years.

     “Consider this proposed deal in light of Iran's Islamist ideology. Fourteen years ago, then Iranian President Rafsanjani described the Iranian rationale for using nuclear weapons to destroy Israel. His successor, Ahmadinejad, frequently repeated that intention and extended it to the destruction of the U.S. Worst of all, Supreme Leader Khamenei reportedly not only expects the imminent arrival of the Mahdi, who will lead Islam to victory over the non-believers, but he even claims to have met him. As Fox News reported in November, 2011, ‘Khamenei told Iranians in July 2010 that he personally met with the Twelfth Imam [i.e., the Mahdi]. He also claimed to be the personal representative of the Mahdi on earth, and said all Muslims must obey him.' ” (Ref. 6)

     How will Iran's regime behave if it gets its nuclear arsenal? Its top rulers already appear to believe that the end is nigh. Once they have nuclear arms, they are likely to believe that they can actually, immediately precipitate the final conflict. [6]

     Interestingly, ”At the end of time, say Muslim traditions, the Ka’ba – Islam’s central shrine in Mecca – will come to Jerusalem. The implication is that in Islam, speaking of the apocalypse at least hints at Jerusalem – and a struggle over Jerusalem alludes to the last battle.” (Ref. 1, p. 45) What, one may ask, would be the spark to ignite this last battle? For some, this last battle will start because of the dispute between the Muslims and the Jews about who “owns” the Temple Mount! An attack on the Mount could unite the entire Muslim world in a final global jihad. The danger of this happening exists “as long as people think they know what God has to do next and where He has to do it, and are terribly impatient for Him to begin.” (Ref. 1, p. 232) Unfortunately, we are living at a time when extremism is confused with religious authenticity.[1, p. 232] “Sacred texts aim for meanings words {cannot} get themselves around. They admit countless interpretations. Within one tradition, the interpretations bang up against each other in loud contradictions. Literalism seductively promises that you’ll know what God wants of you. But in reality everyone chooses {their own} interpretation, and its moral consequences.” (Ref. 1)

The End of Days in All Three Monotheistic Religions

     Muslims, Christians and Jews hold ancient Jewish scripture as sacred and all three religions share many common signs and prophecies for the coming End of Days. Among these common signs and prophecies are the following[5]:

  • Time as we know it will end.
  • Prior to the arrival of a messiah, there will be a period of great global tribulation which includes (but is not limited to): floods, earthquakes, disease, meteorite showers, famine and war.
  • After the great global tribulation a messiah or Christ will come. In Islam, there are two - the first being the Imam Mahdi and then the Prophet Jesus returns.
  • An age of great spiritual wisdom and truth of things will come in conjunction with the other prophecies.
  • Following the coming of the age of spiritual wisdom, there will be a single religious system.
  • At the same time, the world will see the establishment a one-world political system.
  • Upon the appearance of the Messiah, the Kingdom of God will be established on Earth and continue to exist forever after.
  • At the End Times and the coming of the Kingdom of God, Jerusalem will be renewed and rebuilt as a central international city.
  • At the End of Days, the dead will rise again.
  • At the end of Days and the coming of all other signs, the concepts of death (damnation) and evil will be conquered.
The Red Heifer

     The Temple Institute in Jerusalem’s Old City is an organization at the far edge of Israel’s religious right that is dedicated to establishing the Third Temple. Finding a Red Heifer is a precondition to building the Temple. Another precondition would be the removal of the Muslim Dome of the Rock and the al Aqsa Mosque from the Temple Mount. [1, p. 9]

     In Numbers 19:2 of the Old Testament, we read: "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". In the rest of Numbers 19, we are told that the cow must be red in color, without blemish, and it must not have been used to perform work. The heifer is then ritually slaughtered and burned outside of the camp. Cedar wood, hyssop, and wool or yarn dyed scarlet are added to the fire, and the remaining ashes are placed in a vessel containing pure water. A person who has become ritually contaminated by contact with a corpse can then be purified by having, water from the vessel sprinkled on him, using a bunch of hyssop.

     The purification ritual of the Red Heifer is referenced in the Book of Daniel (Daniel 12:10) where God tells Daniel that in the last days, "many shall be purified and made white."

     According to Jewish tradition, only nine Red Heifers were actually slaughtered in the period extending from Moses to the destruction of the Second Temple. Maimonides asserted that the 10th Red Heifer will arrive at the time of the messiah.[1, p. 8]

     The existence of a Red Heifer can potentially lead the way to Armageddon. “In 1984, the Shin Bet {Israeli internal security service} stumbled onto the Jewish settler underground plot to blow up the Dome of the Rock. One of the group’s leaders explained that among the ‘spiritual difficulties’ that kept them from carrying out the attack was that it is forbidden to enter the Temple Mount because of impurity caused by contact with the dead – that is, they lacked the ash of a red heifer.  . . . The danger hasn’t gone away: The Temple Mount is potentially a detonator of full-scale war, and a few people trying to rush the End could set it off.” (Ref. 1, p. 15)

     There are many Israelis, Jews and others who regard the lack of a Red Heifer as a blessing that is preventing a major confrontation over control of the Temple Mount. Still, there “are those who want to ‘ bless’ Israel and provide it with what they believe is the fuse for Armageddon.” (Ref. 1, p. 29)

     For many years, the Temple Institute has been working with an Israeli cattleman to raise a Red Heifer in Israel, in strict accordance with the Biblical commandments. They are hoping that the breeding of the perfect Red Heifer will permit the building of the third Holy Temple on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

     When the original two Holy Temples existed about two thousand years ago, ashes of the Red Heifer were used by the priests for purification purposes. Today, for a Red Heifer to be considered kosher for Biblical use, it must literally be raised from birth under specific conditions and in a controlled environment. This has never been done in Israel in modern times. According to Jewish tradition, a Red Heifer is a female cow, three years of age with a particular reddish hue that cannot have even two hairs of any other color. It cannot be used for any type of labor and must be blemish free.

     The Temple Institute is working with an experienced Israeli cattle rancher to breed the Red Heifer. The cattle rancher is employing the technique of implanting the frozen embryos of Red Angus cattle, which originally came from North America, into Israeli domestic cattle.[7].

     For some, the breeding of the perfect Red Heifer represents the creation of a “four legged bomb” which would have the potential of setting the entire Mid-east region on fire. Muslims extremists would view the existence of the Red Heifer as proof of Jewish intent to take over the Temple Mount and destroy the Muslim structures located on it.[1, p. 19]

Have We Arrived at the End of Days?

     Many believe that the End of Days is imminent. The signs are all there. The Jews have returned to the land of their forefathers. They have retaken possession of the Temple Mount. A ritually acceptable alter for the Third Temple has supposedly been built. Syria is on the verge of dissolution. The people of Baghdad are enduring death and fear. Iran is nearing the creation of its nuclear weapons that can make Armageddon a reality. Around the world, we are experiencing famine, pestilence, war, destruction, and earthquakes. The war between Gog and Magog is imminent.

     Ever since Israel came into possession of old Jerusalem in 1967, an extremist group of Israelis have tried to accelerate the coming of the End Days by plotting the destruction of the Muslim shrines and busily constructing the various ritual objects for use in the rebuilt Temple. These Israeli extremists have forged a natural alliance with Christian religious zealots, who have their rationale for racing toward Armageddon. Along with the many “born again” Christian conservatives, these “Christian Zionists” provide uncritical support for Israel. At the same time, there are Islamic extremists who want to light the fuse of Armageddon by launching a wave of terrorist attacks across the world.

     Will the appearance of a perfect Red Heifer be the final signal to these religious radicals to take action to hasten the arrival of the End of Days?

  1. The End of Days, Gershom Gorenberg,, Oxford University Press, 2002.
  2. Why Don't We Rebuild The Holy Temple?,, Accessed 26 July 2015.
  3. Altar of Jewish Holy Temple Rebuilt, Ahuva Balofsky,, 9 March 2015.
  4. What Is the Jewish Belief About Moshiach?, Nissan Dovid Dubov,, Accessed 23 July 2015.
  5. End of Days,, Accessed 25 July 2015.
  6. ISIS & Iran – in a Race to Islam’s Armageddon?, Steve Chambers, Family Security Matters, 20 March 2015.
  7. Cattleman raising historic herd of red heifers in Israel, Anav Silverman, The Jewish Advocate, Page 20,
    17 July 2015.


  3 August 2015 {Article 230; Israel_22}    
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