Once the final judgment linked to the resurrection of all the dead for judgement is fully acknowledged as commencing by the twenty-four elders, something amazing happens. We read in Rev.11:19:
19 And the temple of God which is in heaven was opened; and the ark of His covenant appeared in His temple, and there were flashes of lightning and sounds and peals of thunder, and an earthquake, and a great hailstorm. (Rev.11:19)
This is the only place in the entire scriptures that speaks about the temple in heaven being opened. Its significance must not be underestimated. No doubt the later part of vs. 19 makes direct reference to Exodus story of Moses and his people standing at the foot of Mt. Sinai:
16 So it came about on the third day, when it was morning, that there were thunder and lightning flashes and a thick cloud over the mountain and a very loud trumpet sound, so that all the people who were in the camp trembled. 17 And Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. 18 Now Mount Sinai was all in smoke because the Lord descended upon it in fire; and its smoke ascended like the smoke of a furnace, and the entire mountain quaked violently. (Ex. 19:16-18)
The open Temple, perhaps naturally, is connected to the very idea of the presence of God in judgement and mercy, of which the Ark of the Covenant also testified, but there is something else truly intriguing here. We never read anywhere about the existence of the Ark of the Covenant in heaven.
The only Ark of the Covenant ever known to Israelites was the ark in the earthly tabernacle and later in Jerusalem temple, containing the stones with 10 commandments, golden pot with manna from heaven and the blossomed rod of Aaron – all signs of the LORD’s redemptive rule over Israel. The Ark of the Covenant was destroyed when Nebuzaradan (high official of King Nebuchadnezzar II) razed Jerusalem and burned the temple to the ground (2 Kgs 25:8–10). However, in 2 Maccabees we read that Jeremiah was able to retrieve and hid the ark in the secrete cave on Mt. Nebo. It was to remain there until some much later time:
4 It was also in the same document that the prophet, having received an oracle, ordered that the tent and the ark should follow with him and that he went out to the mountain where Moses had gone up and had seen the inheritance of God. 5 Jeremiah came and found a cave dwelling, and he brought there the tent and the ark and the altar of incense; then he sealed up the entrance. 6 Some of those who followed him came up intending to mark the way but could not find it. 7 When Jeremiah learned of it, he rebuked them and declared, “The place shall remain unknown until God gathers his people together again and shows his mercy. 8 Then the Lord will disclose these things, and the glory of the Lord and the cloud will appear, as they were shown in the case of Moses and as Solomon asked that the place should be specially consecrated.”
It is impossible to know if this story is authentic, but what is surely authentic is Jewish expectation of the recovery of the ark as an eschatological event with messianic significance. Is it possible that the heavenly ark of John’s vision is some kind of fulfillment of this very messianic expectation?
Perhaps. But whether it is, the presence of the Ark of the Covenant combined with the heavenly temple being wide opened is a sure sign of God’s gracious presence with his people and his reminder to them that the God of seven congregations of Revelation is the same God who delivered Israelites out of Egypt.
Bishop: Dr. L. Smith