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The Ark of the Covenant
by Don Preston
A Yahoo search on the Internet reveals 229,000 sites dedicated to a study of the Ark of the Covenant! This incredible number of sites is indicative of the tremendous interest in this ancient icon of Israel. The sites range from ardent believers to atheists. You will find claims, like those of Ron Wyatt and others, that they have found the Ark in a cavern underneath Golgotha. Others claim the Ark is in Ethiopia, while the Mormons claim the Ark is in Utah! A Yahoo search on the Internet reveals 229,000 sites dedicated to a study of the Ark of the Covenant! This incredible number of sites is indicative of the tremendous interest in this ancient icon of Israel. The sites range from ardent believers to atheists. You will find claims, like those of Ron Wyatt and others, that they have found the Ark in a cavern underneath Golgotha. Others claim the Ark is in Ethiopia, while the Mormons claim the Ark is in Utah! The Ark of the Covenant was the first of the Tabernacle fixtures to be mandated by Jehovah (Exodus 25). It represented His very presence, and in the Most Holy Place, stood opposite the Altar of Incense of the Holy Place, perhaps indicative of God’s face to “smell” the sweet incense offered on that altar. David called the Ark the “footstool of our God” (1 Chronicles 28:2). Considered the most precious and important of all the Jewish Temple fixtures, the Ark was viewed by ancient Israel as almost a magical talisman that could save them from their enemies in times of attack. To be sure, this could happen on occasion, but, at other times, due to Israel’s sinful condition, the Ark was of no help at all (1 Samuel 4-7).
In modern times, the Ark, or the rediscovery of the Ark, is considered to be of paramount importance in the dispensational camp, because it is believed that, the Ark will be discovered and trigger the rebuilding of the Temple, or, the Temple will be rebuilt and lead to the rediscovery of the Ark. When reading the literature, one is not sure which comes first. It depends on the particular author. In either scenario, the place of the Ark of the Testimony is essential to modern day dispensationalism. As is so often the case however, the millennial camp is either ignoring the Biblical testimony about the Ark, or ignorant of that testimony. And when one examines the Biblical evidence, it can be said with confidence that the Ark of the Covenant will not only not be found again, but, it will play no part in any so-called rebuilt millennial kingdom.
GOD’S WORD ON THE ARK
From Exodus 25 onward, the Ark of the Covenant played a vital role in Israel’s history. It secured victory in the midst of conflict on some occasions (Joshua 6), but failed to do so on other occasions due to Israel’s sin (1 Samuel 5). For a period of time the Ark had no permanent dwelling place, residing at Shiloh (1 Samuel 4:3f), and Kerjath-Jeriam (1 Samuel 7:1f), before being finally transported to Jerusalem by David (1 Chronicles 13).
When David finally managed to bring the Ark to Jerusalem, and then Solomon built his fantastic temple, the Ark was carried with great pomp into that edifice and was officially at home (2 Chronicles 5). From that time until the time of Jeremiah, the only references we have to the Ark refer to the time of Josiah and his reforms, (see the footnote below), when the Ark was moved back into the Temple. We don’t know where it had been, or why it had been removed, just that it was now put back into its rightful place (2 Chronicles 34).
In the days of Jeremiah, the Babylonians were about to invade and destroy Jerusalem. The Temple was to suffer a similar fate, and this meant that the Ark of the Covenant was in imminent danger as well. What was to happen to that holy symbol of Jehovah’s presence? In a remarkable prophecy that is lamentably mostly ignored in much of the literature, Jeremiah was given the following promise:
Return, O backsliding children, says the LORD; for I am married unto you: I will take you one from a city, and two from a family, and I will bring you to Zion: And I will give you shepherds according to My heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding. Then it shall come to pass, when you are multiplied and increased in the land, in those days, says the LORD, that they will say no more, ‘The ark of the covenant of the LORD.’ It shall not come to mind: nor shall they remember it; nor shall they visit it, nor shall they make it any more. At that time Jerusalem shall be called the Throne of the LORD; and all the nations shall be gathered unto it, to the name of the Lord, to Jerusalem. No more shall they follow the dictates of their evil hearts. In those days the house of Judah shall walk with the house of Israel, and they shall come together out of the land of the north to the land that I have given for an inheritance unto your fathers. (Jeremiah 3:15-18).
There are several remarkable constituent elements of this prophecy.
First, this is a Messianic prophecy since it speaks of the time when Judah and Israel would be reunited and restored.
Second, the prophecy emphatically says that the time anticipated was a time when Jerusalem would no longer be the “theo-centric” capital. Men would no longer travel to Jerusalem.
Third, not only would men no longer travel to Jerusalem to worship, they would forget the Ark of the Covenant as the focus of their devotion! In fact, not only would men “forget” the Ark, the Ark would never be made again! The importance of this prophecy for the millennial paradigm can hardly be over-emphasized.
Remember that a vital element of dispensationalism is that in the future millennium, the Temple is rebuilt, the Ark of the Covenant is restored, and Jerusalem is the capital of the world. Failure to travel to Jerusalem to worship Christ will result in condemnation and destruction. Let’s take a look at some of the issues involved here.
JERUSALEM FORGOTTEN; JERUSALEM GLORIFIED
AN IGNORED CONUNDRUM
Jeremiah presents us with an apparent contradiction. On the one hand he says that in the time anticipated men would no longer travel to Jerusalem to worship, and that the Ark of the Covenant would not even be “remembered.” This is such a revolutionary concept that one must be reminded that Jerusalem and the Ark were the very heartbeat of Israel. To suggest that the time was coming when Jerusalem and the Ark would become theologically forgotten is absolutely incredible! However, it is not the first time that such a prediction was made.
In Isaiah 66:1f Jehovah challenged Israel “Heaven is my Throne, earth is my footstool. Where is the house that you will make for me?” This challenge to Israel was supposed to make Israel realize that her Temple, no matter how glorious it had been, or would one day become, was not the determinative purpose of God. It was but a shadow of coming better things. But, tragically, Israel preferred to hang onto the visible, the tangible, the shadows. And when Stephen dared to quote Jehovah’s words from Isaiah 66, while standing in Herod’s magnificent rendition of the Temple, the Jews could not stand it. They killed Stephen for quoting Jehovah’s own words! The point is that when Jeremiah foretold the time when Jerusalem and the Temple was to become passé, he was not the first to do so, and yet, our dispensational friends today, like the Jews of old, insist on rebuilding what God never intended to be permanent.
But we are still presented with an apparent contradiction. How could Jeremiah predict the passing of Jerusalem’s theological glory, while at the same time predicting the glorification of Jerusalem? This contradiction, this conundrum is only apparent, but is solved by understanding the Biblical doctrine of the Two Jerusalem’s. We do not have the space to fully develop this, but will only provide a short list of some of the passages that present the same situation: the destruction of Jerusalem, the glorification of Jerusalem.
1.) Isaiah 2-4. On the one hand “the Law shall go forth from Jerusalem” (2:2f), but on the other hand, the men of Israel would “fall by the edge of the sword” (3:25), when famine and pestilence would overtake the city (3:1f).
2.) Isaiah 24-28. The “city of confusion” (Ariel, 29:1f), would be destroyed (24:10f), and yet, Jehovah would rule in Zion. Now, if this is a prediction of the destruction of literal heaven and earth (Isaiah 24:3f; 19f), and literal Zion was to be totally annihilated, how would it be possible for Jehovah to rule in literal Zion?
3.) Isaiah 65:13f. Jehovah promised “the Lord will slay you, and call His people by a new name” 5:13f). Yet, “I create Jerusalem a rejoicing.” (v. 17f).
4.) Zechariah 12-14. Zechariah presents what some consider a confusing testimony about the fate of Israel. On the one hand, Jerusalem would be destroyed (14:1f). On the other hand Jerusalem would be delivered (12:9); living waters actually flow from Jerusalem following the destruction (14:8).
There are other Old Testament examples of this scenario. And, the New Testament even more explicitly picks up on the theme and clarifies and explicates it. What is significant is that the New Testament writers tell us repeatedly, in the context of their discussions of their eschatological discourses, and predictions of judgment on Israel, that they preach nothing but the hope of Israel (Acts 24:14; 2 Peter 3:1f, etc.) So, somehow, someway, Israel’s eschatological hope involved the end times destruction of the Old City, and the revelation and glorification of the New.
1.) In Galatians 4:22f, Paul speaks of “Jerusalem that now is and is in bondage with her children”, in contrast to “the Jerusalem that is above, that is the mother of us all.”
2.) Philippians 3. Paul contrasts the “citizenship (literally “home city”) that is in heaven, with the Old Covenant things of Israel.
3.) Hebrews. In chapter 12-13, the author contrasts the Old Covenant glory of then present Israel/Jerusalem. He reminded his readers that they had not approached the Mt. Sinai, but Zion, the heavenly Jerusalem, and, “we have here no abiding city, but eagerly look for the one that is about to come” (Hebrews 12:18f; 13:20).
4.) Revelation is the tale of two cities. The Apocalypse contrasts the city of “Babylon,” the city where the Lord was slain (11:8), with the heavenly, New Jerusalem.
As you can see, there is definitely a contrast in the scripture between the Old Covenant city that was to perish, and the New Covenant city that was to stand triumphant, revealed as the True City of God. This is the only plausible, tenable explanation for Jeremiah 3. Jeremiah was on the one hand foretelling the time when Jerusalem, the Temple, and the Ark would lose their Theo-centricity. However, the Heavenly Jerusalem would be revealed and glorified. This contrast between cities is highlighted even more by what Jeremiah says.
TO VISIT OR NOT TO VISIT?
Notice that Jeremiah said that in the day that Jerusalem was glorified, and this would be when Judah and Israel would be reunited, men would no longer travel to Jerusalem to worship. Now, since this is definitely a Messianic prophecy, this prediction poses a very serious challenge to the millennial view.
It must be remembered that in the millennial paradigm, based on a flawed interpretation of Zechariah 14, all men, Jew and Gentile alike, must travel to Jerusalem to worship Christ. Failure to travel to Jerusalem and participate in Temple worship will result in a horrible death.
So, here is the dilemma. The millennialists apply the prophecy of Jeremiah 3 to the millennium. However, Jeremiah 3 depicts a time when men would no longer go to Jerusalem to worship, a time when the Ark of the Covenant was theologically insignificant! This contradicts the millennial view of course, because per millennialism, if all nations do not travel to Jerusalem to worship, with the Ark of the Covenant as part of that devotion, they will die. So, the question is, which view is right? Do men go to Jerusalem to worship and honor the Ark of the Covenant, or do they not go?
This is a real dilemma. Jeremiah is emphatic. Men will no longer go to Jerusalem. Men will no longer honor the Ark. If therefore, Jeremiah 3 describes the millennial kingdom, then patently, the Ark of the Covenant has no place in the millennium. To say the least, this is destructive to the millennial view.
Now, the millennialists cannot escape the power of this passage by arguing that Jeremiah is predicting the church age. Millennialists do not believe that the Old Testament predicted the church or the church age in any shape, form, or fashion. Furthermore, were one to seek to argue that Jeremiah is speaking of the church age, and not the millennial kingdom, this means that during the church age, Israel and Judah are supposed to be restored! Yet, per millennialists this belongs strictly to the Tribulation period and millennial period.
There is no escape from Jeremiah’s prediction. The millennialist must either surrender his emphasis on the Ark of the Covenant, Jerusalem and the Temple, or, he must find a way to make Jeremiah 3 apply to some other time and event than the millennial kingdom. This cannot be done. The current emphasis on the rediscovery of the Ark of the Covenant is misguided, theologically irrelevant, and prophetically insignificant. All attempts to find the Ark are doomed to failure.
JESUS AND JEREMIAH
Jeremiah spoke of a time when Jerusalem would no longer be the theological capital to which men would make pilgrimages. Significantly, Jesus said the same thing! In John 4 as Jesus conversed with the Samaritan woman, he called to mind the on-going controversy between Samaritans and Jews: which mountain was the true mountain of God? The Samaritans claimed that Gerezim was the correct place of worship, even though their temple had been destroyed years before. The Jews claimed that Jerusalem was the theological center of the world (CF. Psalms 50; Ezekiel 5). Read Jesus’ words:
“Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will neither in this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father. You worship you know not what. We know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshippers will worship God in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such to worship Him.”
Jesus was foretelling the identical thing as Jeremiah! It is critical here to get a time-line and remind ourselves of some facts.
First, John 4 is very early in Jesus’ ministry. This is important in the millennial scheme of things because according to the millennialists, early in his ministry Jesus was truly offering the kingdom to Israel, and never mentions the church, at all, until after Matthew 12. This means that since John 4 is well before the time of Matthew 12, that Jesus was not predicting the establishment of the church. He was predicting the establishment of the kingdom.
This is troublesome to the millennialists however, because if Jesus was predicting the millennial kingdom, then he was saying, very clearly, that Jerusalem would not be the center of the millennial kingdom, and that men would not be compelled to go to Jerusalem to worship!
Second, what Jesus foretold in John 4 is precisely what Jeremiah 3 anticipated, the time when Jerusalem would no longer be the theological capital. However, if Jesus was reiterating the prophecy of Jeremiah then he patently was rejecting a future restored literal Jerusalem as the theological center of the world. Jeremiah said the time was coming, in the Messianic kingdom, when men would not make pilgrimages to Jerusalem to worship. Jesus said the time was coming, indeed had arrived, when men would no longer worship in Jerusalem. Perfect scriptural correspondence, but diametrically opposite the millennial construct.
Third, implied in what Jesus was saying was that there will not be a restored Ark of the Covenant. If literal Jerusalem is no longer theo-centric, then most assuredly, it cannot be argued that the Ark of the Covenant would reside there and be the focus of pilgrimages.
If John 4 and Jeremiah 3 anticipated the same time and same situations, and they do, then it is irrefutably true that the millennial view of Jerusalem and the Ark of the Covenant is wrong. The millennialists cannot argue that Jesus was predicting the establishment of the church in John 4 without refuting one of the key arguments of dispensationalism: that is that early in his ministry Jesus only spoke of the kingdom, never the church. If John 4 is about the establishment of the kingdom, then since it is directly parallel with Jeremiah 3, this means that in the kingdom, neither literal Jerusalem nor the Ark is important anymore. Yet, if the millennialist admits this, one of his foundational doctrines crumbles. The relationship between Jeremiah and John is therefore detrimental to the dispensational paradigm. But we are not through.
IT SHALL NOT BE REMEMBERED
Jeremiah’s prediction about the fate of the Ark in the consciousness is emphasized by his prediction concerning the Ark “It shall not come to mind, nor shall they remember it.” To modern readers the idea of remembering something generally denotes a mental recall of history, facts, events, etc. However, in Scripture, the word remember is something far more than that. In the Bible, to remember someone or something was to call them to mind in a covenantal context. This was especially true of God’s dealings with Israel and their relationship with Him. See for instance Exodus 20:8, Israel was to remember the Sabbath. In Psalms 20:7 Israel promised to “remember the Name” of Jehovah. And in Ecclesiastes 12:1 they were called on the “remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth.” On God’s part, Jehovah was called on to remember His covenant (Habakkuk 3:2). Jeremiah even called on Jehovah to remember His covenant with Israel and not forsake them (14:21). There are many, many other examples of this distinctive kind of remembering.
The point is that Jeremiah was not predicting a time when men would have no mental recall that the Ark had existed at some point in the past. The point is that the Ark would lose its covenantal significance, and it is that covenantal significance that would not be remembered.
At this juncture we must consider one of the ramifications of the restoration of the Ark in the millennial paradigm. Consider this question: What did the Ark represent? Naturally, it represented the presence of Jehovah (Exodus 25). However, think of what it was called: the Ark of the Covenant. This is quite important and yet, has received little attention.
The Ark of the Covenant represented, and housed, the Mosaic Covenant. The Ark contained the two tablets of the Law (1 Kings 8:9), and without any doubt, those tablets were the very symbol of the Mosaic Covenant. Why is this significant?
Millennialists do not believe the Mosaic Law will be restored in the millennial reign of Christ, although, as we have seen, they do believe that the Ark of the Covenant will be restored. But here is the problem. If the Ark of the Covenant, that is the Ark of the Mosaic Covenant, will be restored in the millennium, why won’t the Covenant that the Ark represented be restored? Make no mistake, the Ark never, at any time, represented the New Covenant! It only represented the Mosaic Covenant. Therefore, it seems incongruous, at best, to speak of the restoration of the Ark of the Mosaic Covenant, while at the same time insisting that the Covenant that the Ark represented will not be restored.
All of this is problematic for the millennial view. According to the dispensationalists, the Ark is to be restored, in a restored Jerusalem, with a restored cultus, and at the very heart and core of all of that is the Covenant. The Ark is to be the symbol of restored Israel we are told. Thus, to the millennialists, the Ark, while lost for the time being, will one day be restored to a paramount covenantal position. This is a direct violation of Jeremiah’s prophecy! God’s prophet said that the Ark of the Covenant, the Ark of the Mosaic Covenant, would not be remembered. Yet, our millennial friends insist that the Ark will be “remembered,” while what it represented will not be remembered. This is specious to say the least.
Let me remind the reader that the millennialists cannot argue that Jeremiah was predicting the current age in which the Ark would have no covenantal significance, for this would mean that Jeremiah was predicting the current church age. However, all dispensational authors are agreed that the Old Testament nowhere predicted the current Christian Age! So, since Jeremiah could not be predicting the current Christian Age, but most assuredly was predicting the time of the kingdom, we are told, this means that in the millennial kingdom, the Ark will have no covenantal significance at all! The millennial view of the Ark of the Covenant is therefore falsified.
IT SHALL NOT BE BUILT AGAIN
Not only did Jeremiah predict a time when pilgrimages to Jerusalem to visit the Ark would cease, and covenantal remembrance of the Ark would cease, he also said that in fact, the Ark of the Covenant would cease to exist! Notice again the last part of Jeremiah 3:16 in New King James: “nor shall it be made anymore.” The King James simply says “nor shall that be done anymore” indicating that all pilgrimages to Jerusalem and the Ark would cease. However, examination of the translations in my library has shown little support for the “authorized version.” (KJV). My research has revealed that by far, the preferred translation is “it shall not be made anymore.” This is found in the American Standard, the New American Standard, the New Revised, The Jerusalem Bible, the Amplified Bible, and The Jewish Translation. There are undoubtedly other translations, but these are the ones readily available to me. Thus, the evidence is that the translation should be: “it shall not be made anymore” indicating that the Ark was going to be—or perhaps already had been—destroyed, and when destroyed, another one would never be rebuilt!
Charles Dyer, the popular dispensational commentator says this about Jeremiah 3: “The Ark of the covenant, which was lost after Babylon destroyed Judah in 586 B. C., would not be missed, and another ark would not be made.” Keil and Delitzsch render the verse “shall not be built,” and the Word Biblical Commentary renders the text “one will not be constructed again.” Adam Clarke likewise says Jeremiah predicted the time when the Ark would “no longer exist.” We ask therefore, if the Ark was destroyed in B. C. 586, and God said it would not be built again, is it not futile, indeed misguided, for modern “Raiders of the Lost Ark” to not only search for the Ark, but to place the restoration of the Ark at the center of their theology? If God said the Ark would never be rebuilt, then the Ark does not exist, and cannot be the center of a restored Temple cultus in any proposed future millennium.
It is interesting that Grant Jeffrey lists several signs that, to him, prove that the end of the current age is near. Among those signs is: “The Temple Institute in the Old City of Jerusalem has recently prepared over eighty-five sacred Temple worship objects described in the Torah, including sacred vessels and linen priestly garments for the Kohanim priests that will be required for future Temple services.” Included in these “rebuilt” Temple items is “a golden seven branch candelabra—a menorah—according to the strict instructions found in the biblical book of Exodus.” This raises several questions.
If the Rabbis know how to rebuild the Menorah, do they not know how to rebuild the Ark?
If it is important to rebuild the other Temple vessels and fixtures, why would it not be of paramount importance to rebuild the Ark of the Covenant? After all, when Jehovah instructed the building of the Tabernacle, the very first thing He commanded to be built was the Ark? Why therefore, is the rebuilding of the Ark not of first importance to the Temple Institute?
It might be rejoined that the reason the Ark is not being rebuilt is because the Rabbis know where the Ark is, under the Temple Mount, and are just waiting for the right time to dig it up. However, this is not totally satisfactory. If the Ark has been known to be under the Temple Mount for centuries, as some claim, it is strange to say the least, to say that the Jews have not dug it up as the leading proof of their claim to the Temple Mount, and to discount the Moslem claims. To suggest that the digging up of the Ark is too politically sensitive is actually a cop out of sorts.
Furthermore, if the Ark is stored away, and does not need to be rebuilt, what about the Menorah? What about the table of Showbread? Like the Ark, these disappeared long ago, and their fate is as mysterious to history as the Ark. When Nebuchadnezzar, “carried out from there all the treasures of the house of the Lord” (2 Kings 24:13, cf. Isaiah 39:2-6), we are told that he destroyed “all the articles of gold which Solomon king of Israel had made in the temple of the Lord” (2 Kings 24:13). Clearly, he did not destroy every single gold piece, because Ezra 1 tells us that the golden vessels that Nebuchadnezzar carried off were restored by Cyrus. Now, it is logical to assume that since Nebuchadnezzar carried off all of the golden Temple items, and that he destroyed some, but spared others, and that since the Ark, the Menorah, and the Table of Showbread were not among the items recovered by Cyrus, that in fact, these items were among those golden items that the Babylonians “cut in pieces” (2 Kings 24). So, back to the question.
If it is so imperative that the Menorah be rebuilt, why not the Table of Showbread, and most especially the Ark? If it is too politically sensitive to have the Ark of the Covenant why is it not politically sensitive to have the Menorah or the Table of Showbread? Thus, if the Rabbis have no problem rebuilding the Menorah and perhaps the Table, why not the Ark. Or, put another way, if they know where the Ark is, and thus feel no compulsion to build another one, do they not also know where the Menorah and the Table of Showbread are stashed?
So, to argue that it is too politically sensitive to find the Ark at present, and that the Jews know where it is, but are just waiting to dig it up, is a specious argument that will not hold up under scrutiny. Now back to our discussion of Jeremiah 3.
It might be rejoined that the King James Version is to be accepted, in spite of the preponderance of other translations to the contrary. Let us try that, although the evidence is against it.
Let us assume for a moment that the correct rendering of Jeremiah 3:16 is, “nor shall that be done anymore.” In truth, this does not help the millennial cause one whit. Why? Because it must be remembered that according to millennialism, Jerusalem, the Temple and the Ark will be the center of proper worship in the kingdom. And don’t forget that according to millennialism, failure to travel to Jerusalem to venerate Christ in the Temple cultus, including the Ark of the Covenant, will result in a horrible death. However, even if one accepts the questionable KJV translation, that doctrine is untenable.
Acceptance of the minority translation means that Jeremiah was emphatically saying that men would no longer travel to Jerusalem to visit the Ark, because it would no longer be remembered, nor would pilgrimages focused on the Ark be done anymore. Thus, even if one allows the minority translation, it is detrimental to the millennial posit. In fact, it refutes it. This means that essentially, no matter what translation one accepts, Jeremiah 3 refutes the millennial doctrine of a future restored Jerusalem, Temple and Ark of the Covenant.
THE ARK AND THE REVELATION
The final Biblical references to the Ark of the Covenant are found in Revelation 11 and 15. There, John sees the Ark of the Testimony, in heaven. There are several important facts to consider about the vision of the Ark in Revelation.
First, it is important to understand that the millennialists claim that Revelation 4-20 relates to Israel during the Tribulation period and the millennium on earth, and contains no mention of the church. Now, ostensibly, this should mean that Revelation would describe for us the restoration of the Temple, the restoration of the Ark of the Covenant to its central resting place, and the restoration of the Temple cultus. However, this patently is not the case. There is not one mention of the restoration of national Israel in Revelation. No hint of a restored Temple, or sacrificial system, no restored Ark. In fact, is it not abundantly strange that while in the millennial view of things, the millennium is the focus of God’s dealings with Israel, that in the one book that even mentions the “millennium” (Revelation 20), there is not so much as a hint of a nationalistically restored Israel on earth, with a Temple and restored Ark? Why do chapters 4-19 deal (supposedly), with the Tribulation period that leads up to the millennium, while essentially 9 verses deal with the millennium, while giving virtually no details about it? Does it not seem strange that if a restored Ark, Temple, and cultus is the focus of God’s scheme, that Revelation is totally silent about them?
Second, John does see a vision of the Ark. However, his vision of the Ark posits the Ark in heaven, not on earth (Revelation 11:19). Now, if God is so concerned about the restoration of the Ark to a rebuilt Temple on earth, why does God’s “final word” on the Ark place it in heaven, and not on earth?
Third, it must be remembered that the earthly Ark was but a visible manifestation, a shadow, or type, of the “heavenly realities” (Hebrews 9:24), and was not the ultimate concern of Jehovah. The Lord has always been focused on the “body” rather than the shadows (Hebrews 9:9-10; 10:1-4). This is a reality that our millennial friends seem not to have grasped. Thus, since John’s vision of the Ark in Revelation 11 is of the Ark in heaven, and not a restored earthly Ark, one can safely conclude that the earthly Ark, in perfect harmony with Jeremiah 3, has lost its significance.
This can hardly be over-emphasized. Since Revelation is patently about the “heavenly Ark” and not the earthly, it simply cannot be argued that Revelation depicts the Ark restored to an earthly restored Temple. The earthly things—and that includes the Ark of the Covenant-- were intended to be temporary, and only endure “until the times of reformation” (Greek, diorthosis, Hebrews 9:10). The time of reformation would come at the end of that Mosaic Cultus and Covenant. Therefore, that Ark of the Covenant, typological of coming better things (Hebrews 9:6f), lost all of its significance at the end of the Mosaic Age.
Fourth, note that in Revelation 15:8, no one could enter the Most Holy, where the Ark of the Testimony was seen, until God’s wrath was finished. When would this be? It would be at the pouring out of the seventh bowl of wrath, against the city Babylon (16:16f). This is very problematic for the millennialists. Babylon is none other than Old Covenant Israel. She is the city that killed the Lord (Revelation 11:8), she killed the prophets (Revelation 16:6-7), and killed the apostles and prophets of Christ (Revelation 18:20-24). No other city or entity qualifies for this bloody guilt. So, this means that no one could have access to the Most Holy Place, to the Ark of the Covenant, until Jerusalem was destroyed!
How does this fit the millennial paradigm? It doesn’t. Jerusalem is supposed to be restored, not destroyed! Yet, in Revelation we see Jerusalem as the target of God’s covenantal wrath in chapters 18-19, and not a word about a restored Jerusalem in the millennium of chapter 20!
Fifth, Revelation has nothing to say about a restored national Israel, a rebuilt Temple, and a rebuilt, replaced Ark of the Covenant being the focus of pilgrimages again. As a matter of fact, the focus of Revelation is judgment on the harlot city, Babylon, the city “where the Lord was slain” (Revelation 11:8). The only pilgrimages to Jerusalem depicted in Revelation are the nations of the earth coming to the New Jerusalem that “comes down from God out of heaven” (Revelation 21:2, 10), and this New Jerusalem contains no Temple (21:20)! Furthermore, all of this happens after the millennium, not during! This hardly suggests a restored national Israel, with a restored Temple and the Ark at its center!
Sixth, notice the agreement between Jeremiah and Revelation. Jeremiah said the Ark would no longer be remembered, and men would no longer travel to Jerusalem to visit it, but, Jerusalem would be the throne of Jehovah (Jeremiah 3:17). As just noted, this does not conform to the millennial doctrine, but it does conform to the Two Jerusalem theology of Scriptures. In Revelation, the Old Jerusalem is destroyed, and is thus no longer the Theocratic center of worship. Yet, “Jerusalem” the Heavenly Jerusalem, is the Theocratic center of the world. It is not a geographically confined city, however. This is truly the “Jerusalem that is above, and is the mother of us all” (Galatians 4:22f), and the “heavenly Jerusalem” (Hebrews 12:22).
So, in God’s last prophetic word, the Ark of the Covenant is not in a restored Temple. It is not on earth. It is not the focus of earthly pilgrimages. There is not one thing said about the Ark of the Covenant in Revelation that gives credence to the millennial view of the Ark. Revelation is however, in perfect harmony with Jeremiah 3. In Revelation, men no longer remember the literal Ark of the Covenant, they do not travel to literal Jerusalem to visit it, and it has not been built again.
SUMMARY AND CONCLUSION
So, here is what we have. Jeremiah 3 is definitely a Messianic prophecy, and this is admitted by dispensational authors who appeal to Jeremiah for a description of the millennium. However, according to Jeremiah, in the kingdom: 1.) Men would no longer travel to Jerusalem to visit the Ark, 2.) Men would no longer remember the Ark covenantally, 3.) The Ark would never be rebuilt again. Furthermore, in Revelation, God’s final prophetic word, the Ark of the Covenant is not restored. It is not in an earthly city or Temple, it is in heaven, and there are no pilgrimages to visit it.
Thus, while millennialists sometimes appeal to Jeremiah 3 to describe a proposed millennial kingdom, they are totally ignoring what the passage actually says about the predicted kingdom. What Jeremiah predicted fits no modern dispensational description of the kingdom! There is no agreement between Jeremiah and the modern dispensational view of the Ark of the Covenant, at all. In fact, Jeremiah 3 is an outright contradiction of the millennial view of the Ark of the Covenant. It is sad indeed when a modern doctrine must either ignore, or distort the testimony of scripture in order to sustain itself. But, that is precisely what modern day dispensationalism does in regard to the Ark of the Covenant. Modern day “Raiders of the Lost Ark” are on a futile quest. They are looking for something that God Himself had destroyed, and promised never to rebuild.