Does the lost Ark of the Covenant still exist? Will it resurface? Some claim it is hidden in the Temple Mount, others Mt Nebo, others Ethiopia. Some predict it will come out in the end times for the Third Temple and Antichrist’s "confirmation of the covenant." What does the Bible say about the role of the Ark of the Covenant in the future? Surprisingly very little, but enough to discount the ark having any role in end-time prophecy.
Raiders of the Lost Ark (of the Covenant)
For an ancient Israelite religious artifact of the Old Testament, the Ark of the Covenant is surprisingly familiar to the general public. (In contrast, ask a Christian about, say, the "Urim and Thummim" (Ex 28:30, Lv 8:8; Nu 27:21) and you're likely to get a blank stare.)
We can thank director Steven Spielberg for making a golden box containing the Ten Commandment tablets part of popular culture. His thrilling 1981 hit movie Raiders of the Lost Ark featured the ark as a "MacGuffin" plot device, albeit portrayed with several inaccuracies that we'll cover. Raiders is about a race to find the lost Ark of the Covenant between artifact hunter Indiana Jones and the Nazis. The Nazis seek the ark because of Hitler's belief that it will make the German armies invincible.
If you have seen the movie, you no doubt remember the climactic scene where the Nazis open the ark. In a gruesome special effects display. Angels emerge and kill the Nazis by making them rot standing on their feet. Never mind that this means if Indiana Jones had stayed home that the outcome would have been the same: God would have stopped the Nazis from trying to turn the tide of the war with the sacred ark.
Myths About the Ark
Would opening the ark really bring such destruction? Is the ark really out there to find anyway? What is the truth about the ark according to the Bible?
Let's cover some of the myths about the ark starting with the ones perpetuated by the movie.
The Ark "Levels Mountains"
Near the beginning of the film, Indiana Jones's museum patron, Marcus Brody, states:
"The Bible speaks of the Ark leveling mountains and laying waste to entire regions. An army which carries the ark before it is invincible."
This is a total poetic license. The Bible makes no mention of the ark doing anything of the sort.
The Ark "Makes You Invincible"
What's ironic about the Nazis' concept of the ark's power in the movie is that the Bible records an incident where Israel tested out the very same idea.
Under the second-to-last judge, Eli the high priest of Shiloh, Israel suffered a defeat by the Philistines. Dumbfounded by it, they decided to bring the ark out into battle next time. The result was the same; defeat. To make matters worse, the Philistines captured the ark and brought it to their land.
The Ark Is Deadly To Those Opening It (and More)
While the ark cannot be wielded to kill your enemies, it could indeed kill you if you mess with it. There are multiple accounts of this in the Bible.
- Uzzah - When Uzzah touched the ark to steady it as it was about to fall off a moving cart, he was struck dead (1Ch 13:9-10). This seems harsh to Bible readers, but according to the instructions God gave Moses, the ark was never to be touched but had rings at its base for poles to be inserted (Ex 37:5) and carried only by the family of Kehath. With great revelation like that comes great accountability.
- The Philistines - After the incident mentioned above where the Philistines captured the ark, the ark brought great plagues on the Philistine land for seven months (1Sa 6:1). Everywhere they moved the ark to, it diseased and killed the inhabitants (1Sa 5:6-12). This prompted them to send the ark back to Israel on an ox cart drawn by two milk cows (1Sa 6:6-7).
- 70 Men of Beit Shemesh - When the Philistines returned the ark, it came to the agricultural area of Beit Shemesh (1Sa 6:14). Seventy men were struck dead because (depending on which translation you read) they either looked "upon" or "inside" the ark (1Sa 6:19). The ark was to be covered by a veil (Nu 4:5). Seventy men might not sound like a "great blow" but to lose them suddenly in an agricultural district would have been quite the calamity.
In summary, what the climax of Raiders of the Lost Ark depicted is no stretch of what the biblical account repeatable shows happens to people mishandling the ark in any way.
What Happened To The Ark of the Covenant?
The instructions to build the ark were received by Moses at Mount Sinai. During the 40 years of wilderness wandering, it was housed in the portable Tabernacle of God. After Solomon's temple was built, it resided in its inner sanctum called the Holy of Holies.
But by the time of the Babylonian captivity, it was already gone. In the list of treasures that Babylon carried from Jerusalem, the ark is curiously missing. As well, the ark never appeared in the Second Temple of Herod.
What happened to it?
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In Raiders of the Lost Ark, the ark is found in Tanis, Egypt. That's not a popular theory today. The leading theories on the location of the ark include:
- Mt Nebo, Jordan - The Apocryphal book of Maccabees says that Jeremiah was warned of God before the Babylonian invasion and hid the ark in the mountain from which Moses saw the promised land (2Macc 2:4-10). This would be Mount Nebo, in what is now Jordan. However, there is no sign of it there.
- Temple Mount, Jerusalem - The Temple Institute an Ultra-Orthodox organization dedicated to rebuilding the Temple, along with many Orthodox Jews says the Ark is hidden in a cave in the Temple Mount. An excavation attempt in 1982 under Rabbi Yehuda Getz had to be ceased due to riots that began when the Arabs discovered there was digging going on under the Dome of the Rock.
- Axum, Ethiopia - Graham Hancock's 1993 book "Sign and the Seal: The Quest for the Lost Ark of the Covenant" explores this theory in great detail. However, once historians were allowed to examine this ark, it was determined that it did not meet any biblical description of the original ark and could not have come from Israel.
Sadly, none of these theories have any physical evidence to back them up. Even a photo of the ark would be helpful as it's not clear how exactly the ark should look from the biblical text.
Not Lost, Found in the Bible?
Some have wondered if the ark is not lost at all but found in heaven when they read this verse:
Revelation 11:19 — God's sanctuary in heaven was opened, and the ark of His covenant appeared in His sanctuary. There were flashes of lightning, rumblings of thunder, an earthquake, and severe hail.
What they miss is that there has always been an ark in heaven. Moses was told that the temple and furnishing he was to make were a copy of what was up in heaven (Ex 25:9, 40; Heb 8:5). Therefore Revelation is simply showing the original ark Moses copied off of.
The Ron Wyatt Theory
Ron Wyatt was a Sabbatarian nurse anesthesiologist and hobbyist archeologist. He claimed to have found over a dozen biblical artifacts such as Noah's ark, including the Ark of the Covenant. His claimed location is under the hill on which Christ was crucified, Calvary, also known as Golgotha (very near the Garden Tome). He said it was positioned there so that Christ's blood could drip on it through the fissure in the rock during the crucifixion. He even claims to have scraped dried blood off the ark casing and to have subjected it to DNA testing. He said the lab reported the fascinating result of half the chromosomes normal humans have consistent with having only one human parent (Mary).
Many sites dedicated to his discoveries like ArkDiscovery.com tell about this. Jonathan Gray's book "The Ark of the Covenant" investigates the claims in depth.
For me, his theory is the most logical and believable of all. I think God would indeed reveal great artifacts to someone like him who was obedient, humble and willing to do the very hard work in searching and digging. He spent years alone in digging at the ark site called Jeremiah's grotto. His testimony found in videos on Youtube bears the ring of truth for me.
However, this does not mean I believe all his conclusions (such as the ark's contents coming out before a "Sunday Law" is made). Plus I concede there is no more proof for his theory than there is for the other ark theories out there. It's up for each of us to decide what we believe.
The Ark's Role in End Time Prophecy
Many speculate that the Ark of the Covenant will make an end time reappearance. The first theory of this kind I ever heard was from Messianic rabbi Michael Rood who I have known personally since 2000. He met with Ron Wyatt before his death to investigate his claims and is convinced that he was telling the truth. He believes that the ark is in a cave under Calvary like Wyatt said.
Rood further believes that the ark must come out in the end times. He bases this off the prophecy of the "confirmation of the covenant" (Dan 9:27) thinking that the ark alone can confirm God's covenant to the world. He also takes Paul's prophecy of the Antichrist sitting in the Third Temple as evidence of the ark being there because the ark's top cover is called the "mercy seat" (Ex 25:21) which he takes as a throne one can sit on.
There's not much to say about this. Just like the speculation about the location of the ark already covered, there is simply no proof for this theory. The Bible does not say anywhere that the ark will make an end-time appearance. The ark is not required to confirm the seven-year Antichrist covenant with "the many" nor for the Antichrist to sit in the Temple (2Th 2:4). On the contrary, as we shall see in the next session, the one and only mention of the ark in Bible prophecy casts great doubt not only on it having such a role, but also on it being recovered ever.
A Key Verse On the Ark's Fate
This is the verse:
Jeremiah 3:16 (ESV) — And when you have multiplied and been fruitful in the land, in those days, declares the LORD, they shall no more say, “The ark of the covenant of the LORD.” It shall not come to mind or be remembered or missed; it shall not be made again.
This verse is a Millennium prophecy of when Israel will be regathered to its land under Christ's Kingdom (Jer 3:17). It plainly tells us that the ark will not be present. Further, it says it will not be reconstructed to fill this void because nobody will miss it.
Contrast this single negative mention of the ark in Bible prophecy to several end time prophecies about the end time Temple. The Third Temple clearly has a pivotal role with the Antichrist himself taking it over in his great deception that he is God (2Th 2:4). Although there is no Temple now, from this and other verses (Mt 24:15-16; Rev 11:1-2; 2Th 2:4) we can be sure the Temple will reappear through a future reconstruction (already planned for by the Jews).
In other words, prophecy talks about both the temple and the ark. Yet while it describes an end time role for the temple both before and after the Millennium (2Th 2:4, Ez 40-46), it does not do the same for the ark. All it has to say about the ark is how it will not exist in the Millennium and will not be matter enough to even be remade. I believe if the ark had a role or that it would even be found, this would be mentioned about it like it is for the temple—instead of a solitary statement about how the ark does not exist in Jesus' kingdom.
Don't make the mistake of thinking that the ark is required for a Third Temple. Remember, the ark did not appear in the Second Temple of Herod that Jesus visited and worshiped at. The Jews may or may not recreate or recover the ark for the Third Temple, but this is not required by any prophecy.
Gerald Flurry on Jeremiah 3:16
Ironically, Gerald Flurry of TheTrumpet.com seizes upon this very same passage to suggest the opposite conclusion. He believes it implies that the ark will resurface before the Millennium. However, his theory depends on reading the same verse in a different translation, the 400-year-old King James Version:
Jeremiah 3:16 (KJV) — And it shall come to pass, when ye be multiplied and increased in the land, in those days, saith the LORD, they shall say no more, The ark of the covenant of the LORD: neither shall it come to mind: neither shall they remember it; neither shall they visit it; neither shall that be done any more.
Note how the KJV translators rendered the phrase "nor miss it" found in modern versions as "or visit it." Flurry assumes that if it says it won't be visited in the Millennium, it really means "visited anymore" implying that it was visited before the Millennium assumed specifically to mean in the end times. Unfortunately, that's a lot of assumptions to make based on a translation that is not supported by the latest scholarship.
Every modern Bible version I consulted agreed with the ESV above to say the ark would not be "missed" instead of not "visited." Unlike the KJV, they also say the ark would not be made again, agreeing with the context that it was missing/no present but not desired or remembered by anyone.
The Ark of the Covenant is one of the greatest artifacts of all time. Obviously, its recovery would be a sensational event, almost as earth-shaking as the discovery of the other more famous ark of the Bible, Noah's Ark.
However, despite many rumors and claims, no one has produced the ark itself, or even pictures of it, let alone any other evidence that would prove its existence or even its location.
Likewise, in contrast to the Holy Temple, prophecy does not indicate any end time role for the ark. On the contrary, it describes it as having no role in the Millennium as it is missing and will not be remade or remembered.
Rather than falling for theories teaching us to expect or watch for the Ark of the Covenant to resurface as a prophetic sign or marker, I suggest we look to the words of Jesus on the one unique, global end time event he gave as a reliable sign of the end.
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