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What IS the "Ark of the Covenant"?
"Types and Antitypes"
All of the objects of the earthly tabernacle were "patterns of things in the heavens" (see Hebrews 9:23 ).
The Ark represented God's Throne- it was where He manifested His Presence among His people. This earthly Throne was a "copy", so to speak, of the Great Throne in Heaven.
Beneath His Throne, God's immutable Law, the 10 Commandments, lie inside the earthly Ark, just as the great originals are beneath His Throne in Heaven.
In the side of the Ark was placed a copy of the Mosaic law. At one time, Aaron's rod and the pot of manna were in it, but when the Ark was placed in Solomon's temple, we learned that those were no longer there. ( 1 Kings 8:9 )
Above the Mercy Seat of the earthly Ark was where God communed with Moses; it was where He met with the high priest once a year on the Day of Atonement, when the sins of the people that had been confessed throughout the year were figuratively cleansed from the sanctuary. His Presence was always there, until He left the temple forever, just before they went into Babylonian captivity. Ezekiel saw, in vision, the Glory of the Lord leave the temple. ( Eze. 8:6 and 11:22,23 )
Later, Ezekiel was given, in prophetic vision, the new instructions for the re-instituting of the sacrificial system which contained no mention of the Ark. (Eze. 42-44)
And of course, everyone is familiar with the fact that the Ark was sacred- so sacred that if anyone touched it or looked upon it, they were struck dead immediately. We've had a number of people approach us with the theory that it is electrically charged, etc. and they wonder if it is still dangerous to touch. Let's discuss that point for a moment. These folks have a legitimate question.
Why was it instant death for anyone to touch it or gaze upon it? The Bible doesn't specifically spell out the answer- but the answer, I believe, is there.
The Ark is where God actually manifested His Presence:
LEV 16:2 And the LORD said unto Moses, Speak unto Aaron thy brother, that he come not at all times into the holy place within the vail before the mercy seat, which is upon the ark; that he die not: for I will appear in the cloud upon the mercy seat.
EXO 25:22 And there I will meet with thee, and I will commune with thee from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubims which are upon the ark of the testimony, of all things which I will give thee in commandment unto the children of Israel.
The physical Presence of God was upon the Mercy Seat and as we know that God cannot look upon sin, it meant instant destruction to any human, except the high priest, who came in contact with the earthly "Throne of the Lord":
Hab. 1:13 Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity:
God would not permit men to defile His earthly Throne. This was the one object on earth which they were powerless to defile. This entire planet is temporarily "ruled" by its prince, Satan- and in order for God to be able to meet with His chosen people, He provided Himself a Throne that was not defiled by Satan or his followers (angels or men.).
What is the Ark's significance today? We believe the key to this subject lies in the "types" and "antitypes" of the sacrificial system.
Sins of the People Transferred to the Sanctuary,
then the DAY OF ATONEMENT
The sacrificial system was designed to teach the people how to approach God through the merits of the future Sinbearer, Who would die once and for all for their sins. It represented the work of Christ as both Sacrifice and High Priest.
"Important truths concerning the atonement were taught the people by this yearly service. In the sins offerings presented during the year, a substitute has been accepted in the sinner's stead; but the blood of the victim had not made full atonement for the sin. It had only provided a means by which the sin was transferred to the sanctuary. By the offering of blood, the sinner acknowledged the authority of the Law, confessed the guilt of his transgression, and expressed his faith in Him who was to take away the sin of the world; but he was not entirely released from the condemnation of the Law. "
On the Day of Atonement , the high priest, having taken an offering for the congregation, went into the most holy place with the blood and sprinkled it upon the mercy seat, above the Tables of the Law. Thus, the claims of the law, which demanded the life of the sinner, were satisfied. Then, in his character of mediator, the priest took the sins upon himself, and, leaving the sanctuary, he bore with him the burden of Israel's guilt.
At the door of the tabernacle he laid his hands upon the head of the scapegoat and confessed over him "all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions in all their sins, putting them upon the head of the goat." And as the goat bearing these sins was sent away, they were, with him, regarded as forever separated from the people, Such was the service performed "unto the example and shadow of heavenly things." ( Hebrews 8:5 )
Concerning the 2nd apartment, or Most Holy Place, where the Ark was:
Heb. 9:7 But into the second went the high priest alone once every year, not without blood, which he offered for himself, and for the errors of the people: 8 The Holy Ghost this signifying, that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet standing: 9 Which was a figure for the time then present, in which were offered both gifts and sacrifices, that could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience;
The Ark wasn't just a sacred box- it was far more. It was the central means (symbolically) of the final cleansing of the sanctuary of the sins of the people, just as the Throne room of God in Heaven is central to Christ's final acts as our great High Priest.