Today the ark is not necessary because God’s presence travels with each and every believer. Before going away, Jesus promised that he would be with his church forever, and he also promised to send the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is God’s presence in our midst.
The image on the right shows a representation of Ramesses it’s military camp at Kadesh. Ramesses II traveled north-to what is now Syria-to fight against the powerful king of Hatti, Muwatalli.
The relief shows Ramesses it’s tent, with an exterior court, an inner reception chamber, and the innermost room, the throne room. The three-section structure of Ramesses it’s tent suggests important similarities with the Tabernacle that God commanded Moses to make.
Like a king fighting in the midst of his armies, God dwelt in the midst of his armies.
The Old Testament mentions the ark for the last time in 2 Chronicles 35:3. There, after finding the book of the law, King Josiah celebrated the Passover. He then instructed the Levites to return the ark to the Temple. The New Testament only mentions the ark in two places: John 1:14 (an allusion) and Hebrews 8:2, 5; 9:1-24. Yet, these are references to the Old Testament sacred objects.
- The probability is that the ark was destroyed in 586 BC when Nebuchadnezzar captured Jerusalem. There is no mention of it in the list of temple treasures that the Babylonian King took (2 Kings 25:13-17). When the exiles later returned to Jerusalem to rebuild the Temple, they were allowed to bring several thousand articles from the temple with them. However, there is no mention of the ark.
- When the Roman general Pompey conquered Jerusalem and entered the Most Holy Place in the Temple, he famously affirmed that he had seen nothing but “an empty and mysterious space.” Although for Pompey the expression was in reference to images of God, it implies that the ark was absent as well.
- Over the centuries there have been claims that the ark survived the Babylonians invasion. In 2 Maccabees 2:4-8 the prophet Jeremiah is said to have hidden the ark in a cave on Mt. Nebo, which is east of the Dead Sea in today’s Jordan.
- An Ethiopian legend has Menelik, King Solomon’s son by the Queen of Sheba, carrying the ark to Ethiopia (a copy of the ark was left behind in Jerusalem). The ark is alleged to be hidden in a church in the city of Axum, where it has been protected by generations of guardian monks.
- Fueled by the popularity of the movie Raiders of the Lost ark, recent years have seen numerous searches and appeals for money to fund the recovery of the ark. A cave near the Dead Sea, or in one of the tunnels under Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, are only two of the suggested locations. Claims of having found the ark have never been accompanied by any pictures or other evidence.