A rather disturbing trend among some evangelical groups in the past decade is the rise of Christian Zionism. Among those who are among their number there are some radical elements which think that they can help hasten the Apocalypse by means of forcing the fulfillment of prophesy. This, they believe, can be done by helping Orthodox Jews to raise red heifers and assist in rebuilding the Temple that was destroyed by the Romans in the first century in Jerusalem. Several evangelical groups are actually raising and shipping red heifers to Israel in the belief that the birth of a red heifer in Israel will signal the rebuilding of the Temple.
A cattle rancher and ordained minister with the National Pentecostal Assemblies of Jesus Christ, Clyde Lott believes, like many dispensationalists, that three preconditions mentioned in the Bible are necessary for the coming of the Messiah: the state of Israel must be restored; Jerusalem must be in Jewish hands; and the Temple, last destroyed in 70 A.D., must be rebuilt. The modern state of Israel, of course, was established in 1948, and since 1967, the Jewish state has controlled all of Jerusalem. That leaves the rebuilding of the Temple, and since a red heifer was part of the sacrificial ritual in the Temple -- mentioned several times in the Bible, including in the Book of Numbers, chapters 19-22 -- many believe the birth of a red heifer in Israel will signal the Temple's return. Many Jews believe that the same preconditions will bring about the coming of the Jewish Messiah.
At least two other American Christians are breeding similar cows in the United States in hopes of bringing them to Israel, according to Gershon Solomon, the leader of the Temple Mount Faithful, another group dedicated to rebuilding the Temple.
Two major problems with this action by Christians should be self-evident to those who frequently read the Bible:
1) God has never called us to pry into His secret will or try to bring about the fulfillment of prophesy through attempting, by force, to bring about the end of the world. God will bring about the eschaton in His own time, according to His sovereign good pleasure. He calls Christians, rather, to preach the gospel and to act in justice, mercy. love and humility. There is no place for Christians to speculate about the end times and attempt to bring it about by their own efforts. There is no command of God to do so and we should focus on the gospel rather than spend all our effort on the secular state of Israel.
2) I can hardly think of anything more blasphemous than for persons (claiming to be Christians) to be raising red heifers or helping rebuild the Temple. To do so is to go backwards in redemptive history and to fail to heed to warnings listed in Hebrews 6 & 10. The book of Hebrews is about Jesus Christ and his superiority to Angels, to Moses and to the ritual Levitical Sacrifice. The warnings in Hebrews were specifically geared toward those Jewish Christians who were tempted to go back to the shadows of the levitical sacrifices instead of trusting in Christ alone, who the sacrifices themselves pointed to. To return to the sacrifices is simply to deny Jesus Christ by exalting the shadows, and this is accompanied with the severest warnings. Perhaps these evangelicals are "well-meaning" but good intent will not take the place of obedience. Jesus Himself said that if the Temple were destroyed he would rebuild it in three days. This was in reference to His resurrected body, so Jesus Himself made clear that he was the True Temple.
In his new book, Gospel-Centered Hermeneutics, author Graeme Goldsworthy also sets aside a few paragraphs to expose this dangerous error which he calls "Literalism: evangelical Zionism":
"...For evangelicals, one of the areas of greatest concern is in the interpretation of prophesy in the Old Testament. Thus literalists claim to take to promises concerning the restoration of Israel, Jerusalem and the temple at their literal face value. What can be wrong with that? Well, for a start, determining what the literal meaning is can be problematic. The prophets of Israel has a preference for the use of non-literal language, for poetic imagery, symbolism and metaphor, and it can sometimes be difficult to establish the literal meaning. When we add to this the fact that different prophetic texts may describe the same future event with extremely different and sometimes incompatible imagery, the problem is compounded. Although only a small number of examples occur in the Bible, apocalyptic symbolism presents even greater challenges.
It could be argued that, though the details may be hard to pin down because of the prophetic preference for poetic imagery and metaphor, the big picture is abundantly clear. On this basis the literalist asserts that God reveals through the prophets that his kingdom comes with the return of the Jews to Palestine, the rebuilding of Jerusalem, and the restoration of the temple along with all its Old Testament ministries. Evangelical Christians who take this approach share some significant convictions with modern Jewish Zionists regarding the restoration of Jerusalem as the centre of the messianic kingdom. Of course, they differ radically over the identity of the Messiah.
The New Testament clearly does not support such a simplistic hermeneutic as literal fulfillment of prophesy. In this kind of Zionism we face the problem with the New Testament seems to be completely indifferent to the restorations referred to. In fact, one great hermeneutic divide that separated Jesus from the unbelieving Jews concerned this very issue of prophetic fulfillment. The Jews of Jesus' day entertained a certain kind of literalism. They also claimed their pedigree through Abraham and Moses, but Jesus refuted this claim because they did not believe in Him. That the Old Testament Scriptures are, as He says, about him (JOhn 5:39-47; 8:39-47, 56-58) must seriously qualify literalism, since Jesus (as Jesus) is not literally in the Old Testament. The disciples of Jesus also needed a lesson in the application of the Old Testament to Christ (Luke 24:25-27, 44-45; Acts 1:6-8). When the message got through under the power of the Holy Spirit, the apostolic preachers never varied from the new conviction that the hermeneutical principle was the gospel, not literalism. This means that the terminology of the Old Testament could only be understood Christologically. How can John the Baptist be literally Elijah (Matt 17:12-13)? If the promise to David in 2 Samuel 7:12-16 is fulfilled according to any normal use of the word 'literal'. If, as Paul says, the resurrection of Jesus is the fulfillment of the promises of God to Israel (Acts 13:29-32) then literalism cannot be sustained. If, according to Hebrews 12:18-24, the Jewish Christians have already come to 'Mount Zion and to the city of the living God' through faith in Jesus Christ, this is the only Zion that matters. Because Jesus is an historical figure, an Israelite who has come in the flesh, he indeed fulfils some prophesies in a rather literal way. Thus the Messiah is born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2), and is born of a virgin (Isa 7:14, Matt 1:22-23). But this does not establish literalism as the basic hermeneutic. The gospel requires that we allow Christ to be the hermeneutic principle.
Evangelical prophetic literalism is an exercise in interpreting the New Testament by the application of supposed literal meaning of the Old Testament. If the gospel is our hermeneutic norm, then while it is true that the interpretation of the New needs and understanding of the Old, the principal emphasis is on the way the gospel and the New Testament as a whole interpret everything, including the Old Testament. The literalist must become a futurist, since a literalistic fulfillment of all Old Testament prophesy has not yet taken place. Christian Zionism not only reshapes the New Testament view of the future, but also affects the present period in which such a future is anticipated. It affects the way many Christians view the respective rights of Palestinians and Israelis to live in 'the promised land'. Yet one does not have to be a Zionist to appreciate Paul's emphasis on God's method of salvation, in that the gospel is 'to the Jew first'. That perspective is maintained in the New Testament, while the notion of the restoration of the temple and Jerusalem in Palestine is uniformly absent.