The Ark of the Covenant - Revisited

 

 

Introduction       There is much speculation today surrounding the location of the Ark of the Covenant.  But since the Ark’s present location has already been settled in The Ark of the Covenant, this account is presented as ancillary information which explains just how and why God removed the Ark from the temple just before the Babylonians laid the last siege upon Jerusalem and destroyed the temple in 586 BC. We know that the Ark was not mentioned among the temple treasures which the Babylonians plundered at the last siege (vessels of gold, silver, and brass used in temple worship) (see Jeremiah 52:12-23).  Being that the Ark was Israel’s most prized possession, the Babylonians would certainly have taken it had it been in the temple at that time.  What follows is an explanation of the events regarding the Ark’s departure.

 

The Ark in the Tabernacle and in Solomon’s Temple     God gave Moses strict instructions on the building of the Ark of the Covenant (see Exodus 25:10-22).  The Ark was to be approximately 45 inches wide, 27 inches long, and 27 inches high.   In these instructions, we do not find any reference to wheels.  Instead, the Ark was to be transported by the priests via four staves passing through four golden rings on the Ark itself.  Also, the two cherubims on the Ark were to be of modest size so that they could be easily transported from place to place.  Lastly, the Mercy Seat above the Ark was the dwelling place of the Shekinah Glory, the Son of God, there to commune and direct the nation of Israel.  This arrangement continued until the Ark was transferred into the temple built by king Solomon.  It was at that time that a change was made to the Ark that was to impact its role right before God removed it to Heaven.  We read

 

 And the oracle he prepared in the house within, to set there the ark of the covenant of the LORD.   And the oracle in the forepart was twenty cubits in length, and twenty cubits in breadth, and twenty cubits in the height thereof: and he overlaid it with pure gold; and so covered the altar which was of cedar.  So Solomon overlaid the house within with pure gold: and he made a partition by the chains of gold before the oracle; and he overlaid it with gold.  And the whole house he overlaid with gold, until he had finished all the house: also the whole altar that was by the oracle he overlaid with gold.  And within the oracle he made two cherubims of olive tree, each ten cubits high.  And five cubits was the one wing of the cherub, and five cubits the other wing of the cherub: from the uttermost part of the one wing unto the uttermost part of the other were ten cubits.  And the other cherub was ten cubits: both the cherubims were of one measure and one size.  The height of the one cherub was ten cubits, and so was it of the other cherub.  And he set the cherubims within the inner house: and they stretched forth the wings of the cherubims, so that the wing of the one touched the one wall, and the wing of the other cherub touched the other wall; and their wings touched one another in the midst of the house.  And he overlaid the cherubims with gold.   1Kings 6:19,20-28

 

Now we see that the cherubim are of considerable size whose wing span was 15 feet for each cherub.  And, as they overshadowed the Ark with their wings outstretched, their total coverage was some thirty feet for the two cherubim.  It was under these outstretched wings that the Ark of the Covenant was placed   

 

And the priests brought in the ark of the covenant of the LORD unto his place, into the oracle of the house, to the most holy place, even under the wings of the cherubims.  For the cherubims spread forth their two wings over the place of the ark, and the cherubims covered the ark and the staves thereof above. And they drew out the staves, that the ends of the staves were seen out in the holy place before the oracle, and they were not seen without: and there they are unto this day.  There was nothing in the ark save the two tables of stone, which Moses put there at Horeb, when the LORD made a covenant with the children of Israel, when they came out of the land of Egypt.  1Kings 8:6-9

 

The Ark Acquires Wheels       But we read in 1Chronicles

 

And for the altar of incense refined gold by weight; and gold for the pattern of the chariot of the cherubims, that spread out their wings, and covered the ark of the covenant of the LORD.  1Chronicles 28:18

 

We see that now the Ark rests on a chariot, and chariots, of course, have wheels.  And while we may imagine that the cherubims atop the Ark in the Tabernacle must have been relatively small (for they rested atop the Ark itself), the cherubim that king Solomon had made were quite large, no longer resting atop the Ark, but now standing on either side of the Ark, as noted above.     All this is going to become important when we consider the last day that was spent on earth by the Ark.   It cannot be emphasized too much that the Mercy Seat atop the Ark was the place where the Son of God, the Shekinah Glory, resided.  So, keeping this in mind, let us consider the last days of Solomon’s temple and the role played by the Ark of the Covenant.

 

Israel’s Last Stand in Jerusalem     It is no secret that the Babylonian invasion of Israel was directed by God Himself, and that He likewise directed the inhabitants of Judah to be submissive to Babylon whilst their Israelite brethren were held captive in Babylon.    But king Zedekiah - who had been installed as the king of Judah in 597 BC - decided instead to consort with Egypt, Babylon’s mortal enemy, and refused to continue to pay tribute to Babylon.  Therefore, king Nebuchadnezzar laid siege to Jerusalem, finally conquering it in 586 BC and razing the Jewish Temple which king Solomon had had built.   But just prior to Israel’s last stand in Jerusalem, idolatry had reached such proportions that God could no longer stomach their abominations.  Thus, God’s wrath befell the inhabitants of all Jerusalem, and especially those of the Temple, at that time.  Thus, it was during king Zedekiah’s reign that the Ark of the Covenant left the Temple, Jerusalem, and the Earth. 

 

Abominations in the Temple      The following are some of the abominations which God showed the prophet Ezekiel in a vision (Ezekiel,  Chapter 8) while Judah was still in captivity and while the Temple was still standing

 

  • the image of Jealousy (verse 5)   (see Exodus 32:4-35)
  • desecration of the Temple walls with idolatrous figures (verses 10-12)
  • observing of the sunrise by 25 men (sun worship) (verse 16)
  • the Ishtar (Easter) observation of the women in the Temple (verse 14)  (This is covered in detail in ON EASTER)

 

These abominations led God to judge them

 

And, behold, six men came from the way of the higher gate, which lieth toward the north, and every man a slaughter weapon in his hand; and one man among them was clothed with linen, with a writer's inkhorn by his side: and they went in, and stood beside the brasen altar.  And the glory of the God of Israel was gone up from the cherub, whereupon he was, to the threshold of the house.  And he called to the man clothed with linen, which had the writer's inkhorn by his side; And the LORD said unto him, Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and set a mark upon the foreheads of the men that sigh and that cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof.  And to the others he said in mine hearing, Go ye after him through the city, and smite: let not your eye spare, neither have ye pity:  Slay utterly old and young, both maids, and little children, and women: but come not near any man upon whom is the mark; and begin at my sanctuary.  Then they began at the ancient men which were before the house.  And he said unto them, Defile the house, and fill the courts with the slain: go ye forth.  And they went forth, and slew in the city.  Ezekiel 9:2-7

 

Notice that God had even those killed that, while not participating in those abominations, nevertheless were indifferent about those activities!!  God’s wrath and fury was unleashed upon the rebellious Israelites.  But even sadder was the Shekinah Glory’s decision to leave His physical presence from among the nation of Israel where He had resided for over 900 years. 

 

The Four Living Creatures      The bible describes the four living creatures that replaced the two cherubim as

 

  • having four faces (that of a man, a cherub, a lion, and an eagle)
  • having four wings full of eyes round about with a man’s hand within them
  • having one wheel each, as a wheel within a wheel
  • having a living spirit within each one of them
  • having coals of fire between their wings

 

According to Ezekiel’s account, these four creatures bore the Ark from place to place using their wings for flight while transporting the Shekinah Glory and the Ark wherever the Shekinah Glory directed them to go.  Upon the Ark was now a sapphire stone which in appearance was the likeness of a throne.  And above the Ark and above the living creatures was the Glory of God (the Shekinah Glory) (Ezekiel 10:19).  It is evident that this account describes God’s presence, no longer hidden in the Most Holy Place, but now outside that place and giving the people there a real-life manifestation of God and His power and glory.  But it was too late for them to repent, for God directed their slaughter described above.  The people there had had ample time to repent even with them knowing that most of their brethren had already been taken captive and they had been spared!!  

 

The Ark Disappears     After God gives the remnant of Judah His promise of the Millennial Kingdom (Ezekiel 11:15-20)

 

Then did the cherubims lift up their wings, and the wheels beside them; and the glory of the God of Israel was over them above.   And the glory of the LORD went up from the midst of the city, and stood upon the mountain which is on the east side of the city.  Afterwards the spirit took me up, and brought me in a vision by the Spirit of God into Chaldea, to them of the captivity.  So the vision that I had seen went up from me.  Then I spake unto them of the captivity all the things that the LORD had shewed me.   Ezekiel 11:22-25

 

Thus, the Ark which had been the seat of God’s throne in the Temple hovered over the Mount of Olives before God took it to Heaven.  The question is, why did God remove the Ark from the Temple?  One obvious reason, of course, was to keep the Babylonians from taking it and desecrating it.  But there was an even more urgent reason, and that was that it was actually necessary that it be taken to Heaven.  In order to see this, we must first consider one of the primary purposes which the Ark served in temple worship.  Secondary to serving as God’s throne for over 900 years via its Mercy Seat, the Ark was a receptacle into which the Ten Commandments of the Law were placed by God’s directive.  Thirdly, though, the Mercy Seat represented the sacred place where the High Priest sprinkled the blood of atonement for the sins of the entire nation of Israel once a year: 

 

And this shall be a statute for ever unto you: that in the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, ye shall afflict your souls, and do no work at all, whether it be one of your own country, or a stranger that sojourneth among you:  For on that day shall the priest make an atonement for you, to cleanse you, that ye may be clean from all your sins before the LORD.  It shall be a sabbath of rest unto you, and ye shall afflict your souls, by a statute for ever.  And the priest, whom he shall anoint, and whom he shall consecrate to minister in the priest's office in his father's stead, shall make the atonement, and shall put on the linen clothes, even the holy garments:  And he shall make an atonement for the holy sanctuary, and he shall make an atonement for the tabernacle of the congregation, and for the altar, and he shall make an atonement for the priests, and for all the people of the congregation.  And this shall be an everlasting statute unto you, to make an atonement for the children of Israel for all their sins once a year.  And he did as the LORD commanded Moses.   Leviticus 16:29-34

 

Note that this observance on the Day of Atonement (now called Yom Kippur) was to be an everlasting statute for the nation of Israel to keep.  And its purpose was to temporarily cover the sins of the people until the day in which Christ’s blood would permanently cover their sins.  

 

And he shall take of the blood of the bullock, and sprinkle it with his finger upon the mercy seat eastward; and before the mercy seat shall he sprinkle of the blood with his finger seven times.   Then shall he kill the goat of the sin offering, that is for the people, and bring his blood within the vail, and do with that blood as he did with the blood of the bullock, and sprinkle it upon the mercy seat, and before the mercy seat:  And he shall make an atonement for the holy place, because of the uncleanness of the children of Israel, and because of their transgressions in all their sins: and so shall he do for the tabernacle of the congregation, that remaineth among them in the midst of their uncleanness.  Leviticus 16:14-16

 

But alas, with the Ark and its Mercy Seat gone from the Earth before 586 BC, how were the Old Testament saints going to have their sins atoned for?  God said that the statute was to be an everlasting statute, to be observed forever.  In His infinite wisdom, God had already devised Plan B in which the statute could still be kept.  When the Lord Jesus resurrected, He ascended into Heaven with His holy blood still on and in His body.  There, in the Holy Place in God’s Temple in Heaven, Jesus supernaturally transferred His blood onto both the Ark of the Testimony and the Ark of the Covenant (which both had been merged into one), thus fulfilling the statute which God had decreed so long ago.  The blood of goats, which could never take away sin, was replaced by the blood that could take away sin, that of the Lord Jesus.  (Please read the account of this event in Sin, the Law, and the Blood of Christ)

 

Summary      span style="font-family:Arial; font-size:12pt; font-weight:normal">This account shows that the Ark of the Covenant became a chariot of fire which transported the Shekinah Glory into Heaven itself, just like Elijah the Prophet was also transported into Heaven in a chariot of fire (2Kings 2:11).  Thus, there is no use in looking for the Ark on the earth.

 

 

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