Where is the Ark of the Covenant today? Will it be found prior to Christ’s return?
Numerous theories exist as to what happened to the Old Testament Ark of the Covenant. Some claim, based on the uninspired Second Book of the Maccabees, that Jeremiah hid it in a cave on Mount Nebo in Jordan when the Babylonians conquered Jerusalem. The non-inspired book of 1 Esdras claims that the Babylonians carried the “ark of God” to Babylon. There are also those who say that it is located today beneath the Temple Mount.
Others state that it was transported to Ethiopia, South Africa or another African country. The Ethiopian Orthodox Church claims to possess the Ark of the Covenant not far from the border with Eritrea. It states that the object is currently kept under guard in a treasury, and that it was allegedly brought to Ethiopia by Menelik I, who, it is postulated, left a forgery in the temple of Jerusalem.
Some Shiite Muslims believe that the Ark of the Covenant will be found by the Mahdi at the Lake of Tiberias, while some Catholics believe that it is kept in the Vatican’s Basilica of St. John Lateran, after having survived the pillages of Rome by Genseric and Alaric I.
The Bible does not confirm that any of these ideas (and there are many more variations) are accurate. If there was evidence for the accuracy of any of those theories, it would have to be based on archeological and historical facts, but so far, none have been produced.
A popular idea postulates that the Jews will find the Ark of the Covenant prior to the coming of the Messiah, and that this occurrence will prompt the Jews to commence sacrifices in Jerusalem.
The Bible does not endorse this idea, either. It is strictly the product of man’s imagination, without any biblical evidence. Even though it is true that the Jews will bring sacrifices in Jerusalem prior to Christ’s return, and that the biblical evidence strongly suggests that they will be brought at a newly-constructed temple, there is no evidence that that temple will contain the original Ark of the Covenant, which was built under Moses.
Rather, it is to be assumed that the new temple will contain newly constructed things, such as an altar. Whether it will contain a newly constructed Ark of the Covenant, we cannot know for sure. It is interesting that the new millennial temple, as described in the book of Ezekiel, does not mention the Ark of the Covenant.
This is in harmony with a profound statement in Jeremiah 3:16 that when Jesus Christ rules in Jerusalem and the people of Israel and Judah multiply in the Promised Land, the Ark of the Covenant will no longer come to mind nor be remembered nor visited.
There are those who believe that the physical Ark of the Covenant, which had been built under Moses, was somehow transferred to God’s third heaven, and that it is located there today. This concept is based on passages such as Revelation 11:19 and 15:5 where we read that the Ark of the Covenant and the tabernacle will be seen in heaven.
However, this is a misunderstanding of Scripture.
What will be seen in heaven are spiritual things, which will apparently be manifested to the human eye for a short time. The ark, which will be seen, will not be the physical ark (there are no physical things in the third heaven, nor could there be), but these are the spiritual things after which the physical things were patterned. (For further information on this intriguing subject, please read our free booklet, “Angels, Demons and the Spirit World”).
When God commanded Moses to build the tabernacle in the wilderness and the Ark of the Covenant, He told him that he had to make it exactly according to the pattern that had be shown to him (Exodus 25:9).
Paul explains in the book of Hebrews that these physical things were indeed copies of the spiritual things. The Bible does in fact teach that there is a spiritual Ark of the Covenant, as well as a tabernacle and even a temple, in God’s third heaven, and that it is these spiritual things (not the physical copies), which will apparently be manifested to the human eye for a very short time, just prior to Christ’s return.
We read in Hebrews 9:11 that Christ came as a high priest by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, which is not made by human hands, and which is not part of this physical creation. Hebrews 9:23-24 adds that as the pattern of the physical things were purified, so the heavenly things had to be purified with even better sacrifices, and that Christ did not enter the holy places made with hands, which are just figures or copies of the spiritual, but He entered the third heaven itself.
It is in this context that we must understand the passages in Revelation 15:5 that the temple of the tabernacle of the covenant in heaven will be opened, and in Revelation 11:19 that the temple of God will be opened in heaven and that in His temple the Ark of the Covenant will be seen.
One of the reasons for this remarkable miracle might be that God will re-emphasize the continuing force and effect of His Law. Remember that under Moses, the two tablets of the Covenant, containing the Ten Commandments, were placed in the Ark of the Covenant.
We see from the foregoing that the Bible does not tell us whether or not the original Ark of the Covenant is still in existence today, and it does not suggest that it will ever be found. The prophecy in Jeremiah 3:16 appears to state the opposite. To base prophetic propositions and speculations on the concept that the original Ark of the Covenant WILL be found in the future is not in accordance with the pure Word of God.
Lead Writer: Norbert Link