Will the Ark of the Covenant be Found?
Is Modern Day Babylon the Babylon of the End Times?
Two geographical locations have become a focal point of debate among Bible prophecy experts. The first is the location of the Ark of the Covenant. The second is the location of the city of Babylon.
The Ark was lost when Solomon’s Temple was destroyed in 587 BC. Was the Ark also destroyed, or was it hidden away somewhere? And if it was hidden, where might it be?
The city of Babylon reached its zenith of glory during the reign of Nebuchadnezzar (605-562 BC). After it was conquered by the Medo-Persians in 539 BC, it went into a decline that ultimately resulted in it becoming a heap of ruins. Will it be rebuilt, and if not, then what city is referred to in the many prophecies concerning Babylon in the end times? For example, in Revelation 18 we are told that the Tribulation will conclude with the destruction of Babylon in “one hour of one day” (Revelation 18:8,10).
The Search for the Ark of the Covenant
A new book by Randall Price has helped to sharpen the debate concerning the fate of the Ark. It is entitled In Search of Temple Treasures (Harvest House 1994). Price is a fine scholar and an excellent communicator. Unlike others who have written on the issue, he avoids sensationalism and fanciful speculation.
His opening pages present an excellent capsule summary of the origin, purpose and history of the Ark. He points out that the last mention of the Ark in the Bible is to be found in 2 Chronicles 35:3, during the time of King Josiah (about 25 years before the Temple was destroyed).
One of the best parts of the book is the author’s survey of the various theories concerning the Ark’s fate. He takes a look at claims that the Ark might have been destroyed on five different occasions, and he gives good reasons for dismissing all of these. He then considers 12 different locations where people have speculated the Ark might have been hidden. These include — believe it or not — the Irish isles, the Vatican, a church in Ethiopia, Mt. Nebo in Jordan, and a great variety of locations within Israel.
Without absolutely declaring that he knows where the Ark is located, Price nonetheless concludes that Jewish traditions, both written and oral, are the most reliable indicator. Those traditions point to a secret compartment under the Temple Mount.
This theory cannot be proved at the moment because the Israelis have allowed Islamic authorities to control the Temple Mount ever since Israel reconquered it in 1967. These authorities will not permit any archeological excavations on the Mount — both because they consider it a holy place and because they do not want any evidence unearthed that would prove the Mount was the site of the Jewish Temple.
Price tells a fascinating story about two Jewish rabbis who decided to tunnel under the Mount to find the secret hiding place of the Ark. They began their quest in 1981, and it was brought to a sudden halt that same year when the Muslims discovered their digging. The entrance to the tunnel was sealed, and the Jewish tradition regarding the Ark’s location remains unsubstantiated.
Price devotes an entire chapter to a third possible fate of the Ark (in addition to destruction and hiding). It is the fate that I personally believe to be the most likely — namely, that the Ark was raptured to Heaven before the destruction of Solomon’s Temple.
I hold this view because the Apostle John states that he saw the Ark in Heaven (Revelation 11:19). Price argues that the Ark John saw was the heavenly model of the earthly version, and he points to Exodus 25 where Moses was told to construct the Ark according to the Lord’s “pattern.” But a pattern does not have to be a model. It can be a blueprint or an oral description.
Personally, I cannot imagine the Lord allowing anyone to destroy the Ark which was the symbol of His presence. And if the Ark was hidden in a secret chamber under the Temple Mount, why didn’t the Jews simply bring it out of the chamber and put it in the Holy of Holies after they returned from Babylonian captivity? Why did they leave the Holy of Holies empty throughout the history of the Second Temple?
And why would the Lord allow the Jews to find the Ark today? Price indicates that its discovery may well prove to be the catalyst that will prompt the Jews to build the Third Temple. There is no doubt such a Temple will be built, but keep in mind that it will be an apostate Temple. Would God allow His holy Ark to be found and placed in such a Temple? I think not.
Let me emphasize this point. It is not God’s perfect will that a Third Temple be built. He will allow it to be built in His permissive will, but His perfect will for Israel is for them to accept Jesus as their Messiah — and not for them to return to the Mosaic sacrificial system that was nullified by the Cross.
The only disappointing thing about Price’s book was something he tried to do in the closing chapters. Incredibly, he tries to argue that Jeremiah 3:16 means exactly the opposite of what it says! This verse states categorically that during the Millennium the Ark “will not be remembered or missed or made again.” Price argues that this statement is so strong that it must be hyperbole, and therefore it must mean the opposite of what it says. Such spiritualization of Scripture by a premillennial author is astounding and is enough to make an amillennialist blush!
The fact of the matter is that the Bible makes it very clear in this verse and in Exodus 40-48 that there will be no Ark of the Covenant in the Millennial Temple. The reason, of course, is that Jesus has fulfilled all the Ark’s prophetic implications. Jesus is our Ark of safety, peace, and redemption. We have no need for any other Ark.
The Identity of End Time Babylon
The second issue, concerning end time Babylon, has always been a perplexing one for prophetic scholars, especially for premillennialists who try always to accept the plain sense meaning of the Scriptures.
The Bible clearly teaches that Babylon will be the end time capital of the Antichrist’s world kingdom (read Revelation 17 and 18). The Bible is also full of prophecies about the total destruction of this city (see Isaiah 13 & 47, Jeremiah 50 & 51, and Revelation 17 & 18).
But there are some very good reasons to conclude that the Babylon of the end times will not be the same city as ancient Babylon which is located in the modern nation of Iraq.
The first reason for drawing this conclusion can be found in Isaiah 13:7-22 where a very clear prophecy is given that Babylon will lose its glory after its defeat by the Medes and that it will cease to be inhabited forever. In accordance with this prophecy, Babylon was conquered by the Medes, and it began a long decline that ultimately resulted in its abandonment to the forces of nature. By the time of Christ, one eyewitness reported that the city was nothing but “mounds and stones and ruins.”
The second reason for concluding that end time Babylon will be a different city is to be found in the description recorded in Revelation 17. First, the city is referred to as “mystery” Babylon, a clear tip off that the name is being used symbolically (verse 5). Then the passage proceeds to state that the city is the one located on “seven mountains” (verse 9). This seems to be a clear reference to Rome, since it was known at that time as “the city built on seven hills.” Finally, in verse 18, the city is identified as “the great city which reigns over the kings of the earth.” At the time of the writing of Revelation, this phrase could only refer to Rome.
The city is referred to metaphorically as Babylon because at the time of the Antichrist’s reign, it will represent the epitome of the occultic spiritual evil that originated in Babylon and has always been associated with its name. Likewise, at that same time, Jerusalem will be a center of revolt against the Lord, and it is referred to in a similar metaphorical way as “Sodom and Egypt” in Revelation 11:8 — symbolizing immorality and idolatry.
The argument over the location of end time Babylon has been sharpened recently by the publication of a book called The Rise of Babylon (Tyndale House, 1991). It was authored by Charles Dyer, a professor at Dallas Theological Seminary.
Dyer takes the position that the end time Babylon is the same as ancient Babylon, and he strives valiantly to prove his point by reproducing photos of what he asserts to be the rebuilding of Babylon. But the photos do not show that the city is being rebuilt for habitation. Rather, they show that Saddam Hussein is simply building a tourist center.
I went to hear the author speak about Babylon. I wanted to see how he would handle the passage in Isaiah 13:17-18 which says that Babylon will become a waste city and never be built again after it is taken by the Medes. The author started reading with verse 9, and when he completed reading verse 16, he simply said, “Now let’s skip to verse 19.” In short, he completely ignored the passage about the Medes. I guess that is better than trying to explain that it really doesn’t mean what it says.
Unfortunately, that is exactly what the author tries to do in his book. He argues that the prophecy regarding the Medes refers to the modern day Kurds who will join with a multinational force that will destroy Babylon. The argument is unconvincing.
Although I do not agree with the conclusions of either of these books, I recommend them to you. They will provoke you to think and to search the Scriptures — two exercises that we need much more of in the Church today.