Who Are You Dancing With?

Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world….” (John 18:36, N.K.J.V.)

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. (1 John 2:15, N.K.J.V.)

Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend to the world makes himself an enemy of God. (James 4:4, N.K.J.V.)

For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? (Mark 8:36, N.K.J.V.)

When we hear or read the word “world” our instinct is to equate it with the word “planet.” In this way, the “world” becomes the sum total of the rocks, mountains, valleys, deserts, streams, rivers, oceans, plants, and trees of planet Earth. Interestingly, though, this is not how the New Testament primarily uses the word.

The Greek word our English New Testaments most often translate as “world” is kosmos. This word occurs over 200 times in the New Testament, including the four verses I’ve cited as my opening texts for this post. Kosmos can have different meanings, but for the greater part it refers to an order or an arrangement.

When used in this way, the “world” becomes the arranged order through which Satan rules the human race. This explains how Jesus could rightly call him “the ruler of this world (kosmos)” (John 12:31). Satan is the ruler because, as we read in Ephesians 2:2, lost people walk “according to the course of this world (kosmos),” and that course is ordered and arranged by Satan, whom the verse calls “the prince of the power of the air.” Along the same lines, 1 John 5:19 says the whole world (kosmos) lies under the sway and control of Satan.

The point here is that God doesn’t mind the Christian loving planet Earth’s mountains, valleys, streams, rivers, oceans, plants, etc., but He has major problems with the Christian loving the world order through which Satan controls the Earth’s inhabitants. This order includes the “world’s”: banking industry, political realm, movie industry, television industry, publishing industry, internet, print media, news media, advertising industry, fashion industry, false religion realm, sports realm, alcoholic beverage industry, drug industry, gambling industry, and any other industry or realm that operates by and large outside the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

It’s this world order that is characterized by “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life” (1 John 2:16). It’s this world order that has so-called “wisdom” that is rated as mere foolishness with God (1 Corinthians 3:19). It’s this world order into which false prophets and deceivers have gone (1 John 4:1; 2 John v.7). It’s this world order that hates Christians (1 John 3:13). It’s this world order that made Paul and the other apostles feel like its “filth” (1 Corinthians 4:13). It’s this world order that is not worthy of being graced by the presence of God’s persecuted people and martyrs (Hebrews 11:32-38).

This is the world order from which we Christians are commanded to keep ourselves separated. While it’s true that we have to live and function in the order to some degree (1 Corinthians 5:9-10), we should never be of it (John 17:16). We belong to God (Romans 8:9; 1 Corinthians 6:19-20), not to Satan (Matthew 13:36-38; John 8:42-44). We are citizens of heaven, not this “world” (Philippians 3:20). Therefore, our separation should be evidenced in our priorities, goals, pursuits, standards, and opinions. It should be seen in how we spend our time, energy, and money. We should stand out from Satan’s world order as clearly as light stands out from darkness (Matthew 5:14-16; 1 Thessalonians 5:4-5) and sheep stand out from goats (Matthew 25:31-46).

1 John 2:17 tells us this “world” (kosmos) is passing away. That’s why it isn’t a good idea to attach yourself to it or align yourself with it. For the Christian, however, the promise is that he or she will surely overcome the “world” (1 John 5:4-5). This promise comes with a guarantee because our Savior, Jesus, first overcame the “world” (John 16:33).

But how sad is it that a world order established and entrenched by Satan keeps all the human race’s lost people constantly under his sway? I can think of only one thing sadder, and that is the fact that so many truly born-again Christians have become so comfortable in the order. Rather than stand out from it, they’ve made themselves at home in it.

And so I’ll ask you, Christian, does this describe you? If it does, then I’ll remind you that you are failing miserably at the command of separation from the “world.” Remember, not only does this order hate you, it’s the same order that got your Savior crucified. That means that you dishonor His name every time you let the order pour you into its mold and get you to thinking and operating like it does. Yes, that’s hard preaching, but it’s high time that we Christians stopped dancing with Satan’s “world” and went back to dancing with the one that brought us: Jesus.

 

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Kateland’s Answer

Last week we had a good Bible School at Oak Grove Baptist church. Yesterday we had the commencement service as part of our Sunday morning worship service. I can’t ever get through a Bible School without thinking of a certain little girl I talked with during Bible School many years ago. Here’s the story.

I was in my first pastorate, Mckinney Cove Baptist, and it was Bible School week. The attendance was excellent each night as several visiting kids who weren’t part of our church were coming. One of those visitors was a sweet little girl named Kateland. She was probably around ten years old.

Kateland’s teacher brought her to me one night and said, “Kateland would like to talk to you about her salvation.” I said, “Sure.” Then I took Kateland into the room I was using for counseling. Once there, the conversation went like this:

Me: “Alright, Kateland, what did you want to talk to me about?”

Kateland: “I want to get saved.”

Me: “That’s great, and I’ll be glad to help you with that. But, first, I’d like for you to tell me what makes you think you are not saved?” (The answer I was hoping for was something along the lines, “Because God is holy, I’m a sinner, and I need to have my sins forgiven.” Actually, though, I was going to play off any answer Kateland gave and use it as a starting point to present the plan of salvation. Unfortunately for me, I wasn’t quite ready for what she said.)

Kateland: “Well, you could get saved at the church I used to go to, but I didn’t. Then, so many people started getting saved at that church that we had to go to another church. That church didn’t save anybody, and I couldn’t get saved there. So, I’d like to get saved at this church.”

As I sat there and listened to all that, I couldn’t help but chuckle. In all my years of counseling with kids during Bible Schools, that answer still stands out as the most memorable. As a matter of fact, I went home that night and made a point of writing it down verbatim and putting it in my files, just so I wouldn’t forget it.

And how did I respond to Kateland’s answer? Well, after I processed it for a second or two, I decided the best thing to do was scale everything back to the simplest basics of the plan of salvation and walk her through them. So I did that. Then, when I was finished, we bowed our heads and I led her in a “Repeat after me…” prayer in which she asked Jesus to be her Savior. She was as sincere as she could be, and I like to think that she got saved that night. I really can’t say for certain, though, because her parents attended another church and I never got the chance to talk with her again.

I think about Kateland’s answer anytime I’m trying to lead a child to Jesus. It’s so hard to discern how much a child truly understands about God, sin, Christ’s death on the cross, and salvation. Certainly you don’t ever want to discourage any child who says, “I want to get saved.” But, on the other hand, you don’t want to play a part in helping anybody think they have gotten saved when they really haven’t. Even more than that, in the worst-case scenarios, you don’t want to have a hand in getting a kid baptized who isn’t even a Christian.

In the end, the best you can do is faithfully, sincerely, and tactfully work with any child who comes to you to talk about salvation. It’s always good to keep the gospel as simple as you can without gutting it of its necessary theology. Most importantly, you must rely on God to give you wisdom and discernment to know when a child is genuinely ready to accept Jesus and when some more seasoning is required. God knows who He is drawing to Himself by way of the Holy Spirit, and the same Spirit who is drawing the child will give you the confirmation that the child is ready to get saved.

It’s an inexact science to be sure, no doubt about it, but I’ve found that God is more than willing to help the Christian who is honestly trying to do right by a child. The fact is that Katelands are out there everywhere, and we’ve got to sort through what they understand and what they don’t understand in our efforts to lead them to Jesus. Christian, somebody did that for you once, and you should be willing to do it for others, whether they be old or young. Is it an easy thing to do? Certainly not, as I’ve pointed out in this post. On the plus side, though, the rewards of winning someone to Jesus, whether that person be an adult or a child, are nothing less than out of this world.

Posted in Baptism, Children, Church, Evangelism, God's Work, Humor, Ministry, Parenting, Personal, Reward, Salvation, Witnessing, Youth | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Look Out For Those Unequal Yokes

Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will dwell in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they shall be My people.” Therefore “Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you. I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.” (2 Corinthians 6:14-18, N.K.J.V.)

I’ve been doing some thinking lately on the question: What exactly constitutes an unequal yoke in the life of the Christian? While I understand that the universally accepted application involves a Christian marrying a lost person, it’s obvious that there is more to the command than that. I mean, 2 Corinthians 6:14-18 is a fairly lengthy passage, but it doesn’t even use the word “marriage.”

In case you don’t know, a yoke is a harness device that sits over the shoulders of two livestock animals, attaches underneath the animals’ necks, and binds the animals together for working. It is most often associated with a team of oxen pulling something, but it can be used with any pair of the same type of work animals. An unequal yoke is created when two different kinds of animals are harnessed together. An ox in one ring of the harness and a horse in the other is an unequal yoke. A horse in one ring and a donkey in the other is an unequal yoke. God’s Old Testament law for Israel even included the following specific law:

You shall not plow with an ox and a donkey together. (Exodus 22:10, N.K.J.V.)

An unequal yoke isn’t an effective way of getting work done because different types of animals are fundamentally incompatible due to their size, strength, step, and mannerisms. You see, the idea behind yoking two animals together is to get them to work as a single, unified unit. That can’t happen, though, if one animal is pulling to the left while the other is pulling to the right. It also can’t happen if the animals don’t pull in synced tandem or don’t drive forward at precisely the same moment to get the weight moving. That’s why you need two like animals in a yoke. As Amos 3:3 says:

Can two walk together, unless they are agreed? (N.K.J.V.)

But, getting back to my opening question, what does an unequal yoke actually look like in terms of the Christian life? To help us with this answer, allow me to offer direct quotes from seven solid Bible teachers. Here goes:

  • John Phillips: “This is a wise and wide-ranging prohibition. It frowns upon the marriage of a believer with an unbeliever. It looks with disfavor on a believer entering into a business partnership with an unbeliever. It discountenances a believer joining in a club, society, lodge, or fraternity with an unbeliever. The reason is simple: Before long, the believer and the unbeliever will start to pull in opposite directions — either that or the believer will be dragged into behavior which will compromise his testimony and trouble his conscience.”
  • Harry Ironside: “The passage applies to Church relationship, to things in society where you have to be in fellowship with unsaved people, to being in business with unsaved folk. …And, of course, it applies to the marriage relationship.”
  • A.C. Gaebelein: “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers is often quoted as a prohibition of a mixed marriage. This is no doubt included, but the exhortation means more and includes every form of alliance with the world and ungodly principles. It also includes the so-called ‘religious world’ with its unscriptural practices and denials of the truth.”
  • William MacDonald: “It certainly refers to the marriage relationship. A Christian should not marry an unsaved person…In addition to this, it refers to business. A Christian should not go into partnership with one who does not know the Lord. It applies clearly to secret orders and fraternities. How could one who is faithful to Christ consistently go on in an association where the name of the Lord Jesus is unwelcome? Its application to social life would be as follows: A Christian should maintain contact with the unsaved in an effort to win them to Christ, but he should never engage in their sinful pleasures or in any of their activities in such a way as to lead them to think he is no different than they. Then this section would also apply to religious matters. A faithful follower of Christ would not want to hold membership in a church where unbelievers were knowingly admitted as members.”
  • Merrill Unger: “Separation is not from contact with evil in the world, but from complicity with it and conformity to it.”
  • Oliver B. Greene: “Many commentators apply this command to marriage in particular, pointing out that a believer should not marry an unbeliever. But I do not interpret Paul’s instruction here as having to do with marriage only. It includes many things besides the martial relationship. It extends to all things which would be detrimental to a believer’s testimony — business, pleasure, marriage, religion, or whatever.
  • Charles Ryrie: “This injunction applies to marriage, business, and to ecclesiastical and intimate personal relationships.”

And so, by defining the term “unequal yolk” by way of these quotes, we are left with a workable starter’s list of alliances and relationships of which the Christian should beware. I don’t present this list as an end-all-be-all kind of thing, but it’s at least enough to get our minds thinking in the right direction. Therefore, I offer it not only as the conclusion to this post but also as a word of instruction to any Christian out there who sincerely wants to avoid unequal yokes.

  1. A Christian should not enter marriage with a lost person. Of course, sometimes such marriages come to pass as two lost people marry and one becomes a Christian sometime during the marriage. Also, sometimes Christians simply miss it in regards to who they should marry. In the case of any mixed marriage, God’s rules are laid out in 1 Corinthians 7:10-16.
  2. A Christian should not enter into what would be considered a binding, “hitched” business relationship with a lost person. It’s one thing for a Christian to buy some gas or eat a meal at a business that is owned by a lost person, but it’s quite another thing for that Christian to literally be a co-owner of that same gas station or restaurant. Somewhere down the line of business, that Christian will undoubtedly be forced to compromise his or her spiritual convictions in the name of profit.
  3. A Christian should not join any group that requires some type of special initiation if that group does not unashamedly proclaim the name Jesus Christ and adhere to His standards of personal holiness. College fraternities and sororities that major on drinking and premarital sex are unequal yokes for the Christian. The same thing can be said of Masonic lodges and other societies that meet in secret, engage in ritualistic ceremonies, seek divine wisdom apart from Jesus Christ, manipulate worldly power and influence for the purported purpose of doing good, and speak only of a “Supreme Being” or the “Great Architect of the Universe” as opposed to clearly naming the name of Jesus Christ.
  4. A Christian should not join or remain in a church or a denomination that has doctrinally compromised itself to the point of out-and-out heresy. The Christian should never feel at home anywhere (and that includes churches and denominations) where the plain teachings of the Bible are either casually ignored or blatantly contradicted.
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A Brief Addendum to the Ark of the Covenant series

Since I’ve already had a reader ask about the Ark the apostle John saw in Revelation 11:19, let me address that verse. In hindsight, I should have included a word about it in the first post of the series, but I had so much other information on my mind that the verse just kind of got lost in the wash. So, let me fix that oversight right now.

As I type this there is an actual sanctuary in heaven, one not made with human hands (Acts 7:48;17:24). According to Hebrews 8:2, the Lord Himself erected it. Sometimes this heavenly sanctuary is referred to as a “tabernacle” (Hebrews 8:2; Revelation 13:6; 15:5). Much more frequently, though, it is referred to as a “temple” (2 Samuel 22:7; Psalm 11:4; Psalm 18:6; Jonah 2:7; Micah 1:2; Habakkuk 2:20; Revelation 7:15; 11:19; 14:15-17; 15:6-8; 16:1,17). It’s possible that there are actually two sanctuaries in heaven, one a tabernacle and the other a temple, but my interpretation is that there is just one. (By the way, keep in mind that we are talking about the heaven that exists now, not the heavenly city of New Jerusalem that doesn’t come into play until after Christ’s millennial reign. Revelation 21:22 flatly says that city will not have a temple in it.)

Now, what we must understand is that everything about the earthly tabernacle that God instructed Moses and the Israelites to build was a “copy” and a “shadow” of the things in the heavenly tabernacle/temple. The proof texts on this are Hebrews 8:1-6 and Hebrews 9:23-24. Furthermore, Exodus 25:40 and Hebrews 8:5 probably mean that God somehow allowed Moses to see the heavenly tabernacle/temple, complete with all its features, when Moses was atop Mount Sinai with Him.

And so it makes perfect sense that heaven’s tabernacle/temple has its own: altar (Revelation 6:9; 8:3-5; 9:13; 14:18; 16:7), Holy of Holies — called “the Holiest” (N.K.J.V.) or “the Most Holy Place” (N.I.V.)  — (Hebrews 10:19), and Ark of the Covenant (Revelation 11:19). For that matter, even though there are no specific passages to offer as evidence, it could well be that the heavenly tabernacle/temple also has its own: Bronze Laver (washing basin) (Exodus 30:17-21), Table of Showbread (Exodus 25:23-30), Golden Lampstand (Exodus 25:31-40), and Altar of Incense (Exodus 30:1-10).

What this means is that the Ark of the Covenant that John saw in Revelation 11:19 was the heavenly original upon which the earthly copy was based. John even says it was in the temple of God in heaven. While it’s possible that John saw the Ark that Moses and the Israelites built, that Ark having been miraculously transported up to heaven and placed in the heavenly sanctuary at some point, the better interpretation is that he saw heaven’s prototype.

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The Ark of the Covenant Going Forward

The Ark of the Covenant series (post #10)

This post will be the last in our series on The Ark of the Covenant, and this time we’ll focus upon the Ark’s potential impact upon the world going forward. First, let’s get one thing clear: The Ark of the Covenant walks hand in hand with a Jewish Temple. Ideally, the Ark should sit inside a cube-shaped room called the Holy of Holies that serves as the innermost section of a Jewish Temple and is sectioned off from the rest of the Temple by a thick curtain. So, let’s talk about the possibility of a new Jewish Temple being built in Jerusalem someday.

Would it surprise you to learn that the Bible teaches that such a Temple will be built? 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12 describes the Antichrist, the leader who will dominate the world as Satan’s Messiah during the seven-year tribulation period the Bible says is to come upon the earth. In verse 4 of that passage, we read these words as part of the description of the Antichrist:

who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.

Obviously, in order for the Antichrist to sit in the temple of God, there has to be a temple of God. But right now there isn’t one. Surely, then, there is going to come a time in the future when the Jews will build another Temple. It’s even probable that the opportunity to build this new Temple will be part of a seven-year peace treaty the Antichrist will sign with Israel (Daniel 9:27). Halfway through this treaty, however, he will break it and take over the Jewish Temple as his own. Jesus called this act “the abomination of desolation,” and it will occur at the midway point of the tribulation period (Matthew 24:15).

Technically speaking, this future Temple will be the third Temple — Solomon’s being the first, Zerubbabel’s being the second, and Herod the Great’s being classified as an expansion of Zerubbabel’s rather than a new one built from scratch. That expansion was such a major overhaul that historians sometimes speak of Herod’s Temple as being distinct and separate from Zerubbabel’s, but the Jewish people don’t see it that way. For the record, this future third temple is also spoken of in Daniel 9:26-27; Daniel 12:11; and Revelation 11:1-2.

The Temple Institute is a Jewish organization in Israel that is fanatically devoted to getting a new Temple built in Jerusalem. For the past few decades the group’s members have been doing advanced research on the historical specifics of the previous two Temples and creating replicas of all the items that were used in Temple worship. As of today close to 100 such items have been created. Also, the Temple Institute has been involved in tracing ancestral bloodlines from the tribe of Levi in order to identify priestly candidates for the establishing of a new Levitical priesthood to serve in the new Temple.

For all their considerable efforts, though, The Temple Institute wakes up every day and faces a colossal problem for which they have no answer. That problem is: Any new Jewish Temple must be built on the same spot where the previous Temples stood, and right now the Muslim shrine The Dome of the Rock sits squarely on that spot. As a matter of fact, whereas Solomon’s Temple stood for approximately 400 years and Zerubbabel’s/Herod’s Temple stood for approximately 600 years, The Dome of the Rock has stood for over 1,300 years and counting. This means that something is going to have to give if a new Temple is ever going to be built to fulfill Biblical prophecy.

Various suggestions have been offered as to what might give. First, perhaps the Jews will relent on the location and build their new Temple on a spot other than the site of The Dome of the Rock. That’s highly unlikely. Second, perhaps The Dome of the Rock doesn’t actually sit exactly where the Jewish Temple once stood, which would mean that a new Jewish Temple could be built right beside it. Some experts see this is a very viable option, but their opinion is in the minority. Third, perhaps a massive earthquake will destroy The Dome of the Rock and clear the way for a new Jewish Temple to be built. This idea does sound plausible at first, especially in light of the various earthquakes that are mentioned as being part of the prophetic timeline. But even if an earthquake does take down The Dome of the Rock, wouldn’t the Muslims fight hard to build another Muslim shrine on the site? Finally, fourth, perhaps the Jewish military forces will one day rise up, take complete control of all of Jerusalem, expel the Muslims from the city, destroy The Dome of the Rock, and build the Temple in its place. Well, I’m not saying that can’t happen, but can you imagine the retaliation the Muslims would unleash if all that came to pass? Would a new Jewish Temple last a month?

For the sake of argument, though, let’s concede that somehow, someway, someday a new Jewish Temple is going to get built in Jerusalem. The question will then become: Must that new Temple house the Ark of the Covenant in order to be seen as legitimate in the eyes of Jews? Somewhat surprisingly, the answer to that is, no.

Keep in mind that the Bible never mentions the Ark being in Zerubbabel’s Temple or in Herod the Great’s expanded and updated version of that Temple. And yet, despite the absence of the Ark, Jesus called that Temple “My Father’s house.” Even more than that, He felt compelled to cleanse it on two separate occasions (John 2:13-22; Luke 19:45-48). Furthermore, that Temple served as the religious heart of Israel for the four centuries between the closing of the Old Testament and the opening of the New Testament.

But will the third Temple house the Ark? I suppose that depends upon whether or not the Ark can be found at that time. If the Jewish rabbis are telling the truth when they confidently state that the Ark is hidden in a cave underneath the Temple Mount, I’m sure they would do everything they could to bring it out and immediately place it inside the Holy of Holies of the new Temple. For that matter, even if the rabbis are wrong and the Ark is currently someplace other than under the Temple Mount, it’s possible that during those days God could allow it to be discovered wherever it is. As I said, though, even if the Ark is never found, Jewish history has proven that the new Temple could still be considered legitimate without it.

The fact is, though, that no matter how all of this plays out, the third Jewish Temple (Ark or no Ark) will not be in existence long. We know this because Bible prophecy explains that the third Temple will be replaced by yet another Temple for Christ’s 1,000 year reign upon this earth following the tribulation period. This “millennial Temple” is described in detail in Ezekiel chapters 40 through 48.

The Bible doesn’t specify precisely how the tribulation-period Temple will be destroyed to make way for the millennial Temple, but there are a variety of options. It might be destroyed as part of a great earthquake that strikes Jerusalem in the last half of the tribulation period, kills 7,000 people, and levels a tenth of the city (Revelation 11:13). On the other hand, it might be destroyed as part of a later earthquake that divides the city into three parts (Revelation 16:19-21). Then again, it might be destroyed as part of the Mount of Olives being split in two when Jesus touches down upon the mountain to walk this earth again, win the battle of Armageddon that closes the tribulation period, and establish his 1,000 year reign (Zechariah 14:4).

The point is that whatever the exact cause of the destruction turns out to be, the tribulation-period Temple will be destroyed somehow and replaced with the millennial Temple. And will this millennial Temple house the Ark of the Covenant? No, it won’t. We can say this with certainty because Jeremiah 3:16 says of those days:

“Then it shall come to pass, when you are multiplied and increased in the land in those days,” says the Lord, “that they will say no more, ‘The ark of the covenant of the Lord.’ It shall not come to mind, nor shall they remember it, nor shall they visit it, nor shall it be made anymore.”

You might ask, “But why won’t the Ark be in the millennial Temple?” The answer is: You don’t need the Ark when Jesus is personally on the scene! You see, having the Ark sitting inside the Temple was the Old Testament version of having the presence of God inside the Temple. The “mercy seat” that served as the lid to the Ark of the Covenant was quite literally God’s throne upon the earth. That’s why the Ark couldn’t be approached in just any way by just anybody at just anytime. In Christ’s millennial reign, however, Jesus will be personally, visibly, bodily reigning upon the restored throne of David in Jerusalem (Jeremiah 23:5-6; Luke 1:30-33). Therefore, the highest purpose the Ark always served will be swallowed up in a finalized fulfillment in Christ’s presence upon the earth, and that will render the Ark’s services null and void.

As for what happens following the millennial Temple and Christ’s 1,000 year reign, here again the Ark has no role to play. Following Christ’s millennial reign, Satan and his followers will be eternally judged, and then a new age (an eternal one) will begin as God will usher in a new heaven, a new earth, and an eternal city of New Jerusalem in which all of history’s saved will dwell for all eternity (Revelation 20:7-12; 21:1-21). Not only will the Ark not be a part of this New Jerusalem, the city won’t even have a Temple (Revelation 21:22).

And so, in terms of the Ark of the Covenant playing a role in future history, the Bible only leaves one possible option. That option is the Temple the Jews will build either early on in the tribulation period or perhaps even just before the period begins. If the Ark isn’t brought out of hiding to sit inside the Holy of Holies of that particular Temple, then I dare say the world has seen the last of the Ark, because there simply is no place for it in either Christ’s millennial Temple or the new heaven, new earth, and New Jerusalem that follows the millennial age. I realize this isn’t the exciting answer that most people want to hear, but it is the one the Bible presents as the truth.

As for me, I’m pulling for the Ark to be discovered and revealed one day, but if that never happens I’m not going to lose any sleep over it. I am, after all, a born-again Christian, and that means that my body has now become the dwelling place of God the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:9-11; 1 Corinthians 3:16; 6:19; 2 Corinthians 6:16; and 2 Timothy 1:14). This places me in a far better situation than anyone who ever worshiped in a Temple in which the Ark of the Covenant was housed. Always keep this in mind, Christian, anytime you think about the Ark. Whatever awe and glory the Ark once held (and might still hold), none of it can compare to the intimate fellowship you get to experience with the Lord each and every day simply by waking up and breathing.

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Is the Ark of the Covenant In Jerusalem?

The Ark of the Covenant series (post #9)

The majority of Orthodox Jewish rabbis who currently live in Jerusalem do not stress themselves over the possible whereabouts of the Ark of the Covenant. They don’t run around all over the globe chasing down every last theory for where the Ark might be. They don’t promote and fund archaeological digs here, there, and everywhere. They simply rest in their conviction that the Ark remains hidden in a cave underneath the Temple Mount, right where it has been for at least 2,000 years. More specifically, they say the cave is located directly under the spot where the Holy of Holies for Solomon’s Temple, Zerubbabel’s Temple, and Herod’s Temple stood. And by applying a concept of “vertical air space” they contend that the former site of the Holy of Holies sanctifies the ground beneath it.

Consider the following quote from Rabbi Chaim Richman:

Jews have an unbroken chain of recorded information, passed down from generation to generation, which indicates its (the Ark’s) exact location. There is a big fascination with finding the lost Ark, but nobody asked a Jew. We have known where it is for thousands of years. It could be reached if we excavated Temple Mount, but that area is controlled by Muslims.

Another Rabbi, Yehuda Getz, believes that in 1982 he came within forty feet of finding the cave where the Ark sits. He was leading a team in conducting a search in an old tunnel that ran perpendicular to the Western Wall, the last standing section of the retaining wall that once served as the perimeter for the entire Temple Mount site of Herod’s Temple. According to Rabbi Getz, he was systematically working his way through that tunnel, carefully clearing away centuries of debris as he progressed, making headway further and further back underneath the Temple Mount. He knew he had to be getting close to the spot directly underneath where the Temple’s Holy of Holies had once stood. But that’s when the Muslims discovered that diggings were taking place underneath The Dome of the Rock, the Muslim shrine built in 691 A.D. on the site of the former Jewish Temple. The Muslims quickly threatened a riot that would have torn the city of Jerusalem apart, and Rabbi Getz and his team stopped their digging and sealed up the entrance to the cave until this day.

As for when the Ark of the Covenant was placed in this cave, the majority opinion is that Solomon, in his God-given wisdom, knew his Temple would be destroyed even as he was having it built, and so he had special caves dug underneath it to hide the Ark and the other Temple artifacts from foreign invaders. Then, centuries later, it was King Josiah who actually had the Ark moved to the cave where it remains today.

The primary Jewish source for these traditions involving Solomon and Josiah is a revered 12th century Rabbi named Moses ben Maimon (commonly known as Maimonides), who died in 1204 A.D. Rabbi Maimonides was the head of the Jewish community in Egypt. In The Book of Temple Service 17, he states that Solomon originally prepared the hiding place and Josiah ended up being the one who used it as he had the Jewish priests take the Ark to it in the years leading up to the Babylonian destruction of the Temple.

To further bolster this tradition among Jews, there is a certain passage in the Jewish Mishnah. The Mishnah is the written collection of what is known as Jewish “oral law.” This “oral law” presumably goes all the way back to God giving Moses oral instructions that were not written down concerning how to carry out the particulars of the Torah (the written books of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy). This “oral law” was then passed down from Moses to Joshua and continued on down to the Jewish Rabbis until it was all finally committed to writing in approximately 200 A.D. In one passage of the Mishnah, it states:

“Once when a priest in the second Temple (Zerubbabel’s Temple)saw a block of pavement different from the other floor, he understood that in this place there was an entrance to an underground tunnel and he shared this with a friend. Before he could finish his sharing his life departed. Then they knew assuredly, this was the place where the Ark lay hidden.

Now, as for the validity of this whole theory, we can see that the theory, like so many others, has its strengths and weaknesses. Here are some of the strengths:

  • We are talking about Jewish history here, and Jews know their own history better than anybody. They’ve been studying this stuff and debating it for centuries, and so it makes sense to give them some benefit of the doubt.
  • It is beyond question that there are many caves underneath the Temple Mount. This fact is well known. Even more than that, many of these caves have remained sealed for centuries.
  • It was God who gave Solomon his great wisdom, and so the idea that God would have forewarned him to build secret tunnels underneath the Temple to keep the Ark from being captured isn’t so crazy.
  • The Biblical record does seem to indicate that the Babylonians didn’t take the Ark as part of their plundering of Solomon’s Temple. This must mean, then, that the Jews hid the Ark somewhere, and a cave underneath the Temple would make for a perfect place to hide it.
  • The Bible does tell us that Josiah was a godly king. It also pointedly mentions the Ark being in the Temple during his reign (2 Chronicles 35:3). Perhaps, then, it isn’t a coincidence that the Ark is never mentioned again as being inside Solomon’s Temple, Zerubbabel’s Temple, or Herod’s Temple after Josiah’s death. In my opinion, this is the single strongest piece of evidence for the theory that Josiah hid the Ark in a cave underneath the Temple and it still sits there today.

Okay, now for the weaknesses of the theory:

  • Jewish tradition, like any other man-scented tradition, can be wrong. There is an intellectual arrogance and aloofness to many Jewish rabbis, and it’s the same arrogance and aloofness that kept their forefathers (the Pharisees, Saduccees, and scribes) from embracing Jesus as their Messiah. We should never forget that Jewish rabbis are spiritually lost and, thus, have limited spiritual discernment no matter how much they claim to have.
  • Jewish oral law can be wrong as well. Jesus Himself combated the oral law’s erroneous teachings in reference to Sabbath keeping, ceremonial hand washing, and various other subjects. Therefore, any teaching that comes out of the Mishnah should never be accepted without reservation.
  • King Josiah died in 609 B.C. after a reign of 31 years. But the Babylonians didn’t destroy Solomon’s Temple until 587/586 B.C. That’s a difference of over 20 years. Are we to believe that the Holy of Holies in Solomon’s Temple stood empty of the Ark of the Covenant for over 20 years as the Ark sat in a cave underneath the Temple? Certainly the Babylonian threat was looming against Judah even during Josiah’s reign, but was there any real need to panic and hide the Ark more than 20 years before the Babylonians would actually come to destroy the Temple? That doesn’t make much sense.
  • Even if Josiah (or any of the kings of Judah who followed him) did hide the Ark anywhere to keep it from the Babylonians, why did it have to remain hidden? Why wasn’t it brought back out and placed in the freshly built Zerubbabel’s Temple when a remnant of the Jews returned from their Babylonian exile and rebooted everything about Jerusalem? Even today’s Jewish rabbis believe that the Ark never stood inside either Zerubbabel’s Temple or Herod’s Temple. If it was just sitting there in a cave waiting to be used again, why didn’t they retrieve it at some point? In my opinion, this is the single strongest piece of evidence against the validity of the whole theory.

So, in closing, where do I come down on all of this? Well, if you are just asking me, the theory that the Ark is still in Jerusalem sitting in a sealed cave underneath the Temple Mount is our best guess as to its current location (assuming it still exists at all). With that said, though, I wouldn’t bet a piece of bubble gum that it’s there. The reason I rate this theory ahead of the others has more to do with the inadequacies of the competing theories than the infallibility of this one. Maybe I’ll live long enough to see the Jews somehow get permission to thoroughly excavate underneath the Temple Mount. However, even if they do locate the Ark under there, would they bring it out if they didn’t have a Temple – complete with a Holy of Holies — in which to house it? The answer to that is probably no, which means that I don’t hold out a lot of hope for ever seeing the Ark of the Covenant revealed in my lifetime.

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The Knights Templar & the Ark of the Covenant

The Ark of the Covenant series (post #8)

To this point in our series on the possible locations of the Ark of the Covenant, we’ve looked at theories couched in the Biblical era. For today’s post, however, we move outside that realm and dive into subject matter that falls in a post-Bible era. Ready? Let’s go.

To get us started, here is a brief timeline for the history of the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem:

  • Solomon’s workers complete Solomon’s Temple in 950 B.C.
  • Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylonian army destroys Solomon’s Temple in 587 B.C.
  • The Jews complete a second Temple in 515 B.C. This Temple becomes known as Zerubbabel’s Temple in honor of the Jew who oversaw the project. It is built on the same site where Solomon’s Temple had stood and is laid out in the same basic pattern as Solomon’s Temple, but it isn’t nearly as grand or impressive as Solomon’s Temple had been. This is the Temple that stands in Jerusalem during the 400 years between the last page of the Old Testament and the opening page of the New Testament. All told, it exists even longer than Solomon’s Temple.
  • Following Rome’s conquering of Jerusalem, the Romans install Herod the Great as king over Judea in 38 B.C. Herod is a wicked man, but he loves buildings and architecture. He orders that Zerubbabel’s Temple be enlarged. His ultimate goal is to make it as impressive as Solomon’s had been, a project that will take several decades. Herod himself won’t even live to see its completion. The expanded Temple will become known as Herod’s Temple. This is the Temple in existence during the early life of Jesus.
  • In 70 A.D., the Roman general Titus lays siege to Jerusalem and destroys Herod’s Temple by burning it. There hasn’t been a Temple in Jerusalem since.

Here now is where we move outside the comfortable confines of scripture. The Roman empire eventually grew so large that it became impossible to govern effectively. Just getting messages from Rome, the capital city, to the empire’s outer regions took weeks. So, the radical decision was made to split the empire into two halves. The empire’s western half would remain based in Rome, while the eastern half would be based in Byzantium (which would eventually be renamed Constantinople). The city of Jerusalem fell under the realm of Byzantium (Constantinople).

Thus begins a timeline of centuries in which Jerusalem is passed back and forth by a series of competing armies. Mind you that each conquest involved a major military endeavor involving thousands upon thousands of soldiers, not to mention untold bloodshed. The military timeline goes as follows:

  • In 614 A.D., the Persians capture control of Jerusalem from the Romans (Byzantines).
  • In 629 A.D., the Romans (Byzantines) recapture Jerusalem from the Persians.
  • In 638 A.D., the Muslim Caliph Omar I captures Jerusalem from the Romans (Byzantines) and declares the Temple Mount (the site of Solomon’s Temple, Zerubbabel’s Temple, and Herod’s Temple) a sacred place for Islam. Thus, Jerusalem becomes an Islamic city. The Muslims rule over the city for the next 461 years, and in 691 A.D. The Dome of the Rock, a sacred sanctuary for Islam, is built on the site of the Temple Mount.
  • In 1099 A.D., Pope Urban II launches The First Crusade, led by Godfrey of Bouilion, to regain control of Jerusalem from the Muslims. The Crusade proves successful and Jerusalem comes under the control of the Crusaders. The following year Baldwin I, the brother of Godfrey of Bouilion, is crowned king of Jerusalem, the city is declared “Christian,” and The Dome of the Rock is converted into a church named Templum Domini (Temple of the Lord).
  • In 1187 A.D., the Muslim leader Saladin captures Jerusalem from the Crusaders.

Believe me, the timeline doesn’t stop there, but that’s as far as I need to go to say what I need to say in this post. During the 87 or so years the first Crusaders held Jerusalem, many groups of Christians from across Western Europe visited the city. These Christians needed to be guaranteed safe passage, and so sometime around 1118 A.D. a French knight named Hugues de Payens founded a military order established for this purpose. This order was originally called The Poor Knights of the Temple of King Solomon, but it became more famously known as The Knights Templar.

In 1129 A.D., The Knights Templar received the formal endorsement of the Catholic Church. This caused new recruits and a ton of money to begin pouring into the order from all across Europe. This allowed The Knights Templar to establish new chapters throughout Western Europe. In addition to being highly trained, fierce warriors, The Knights Templar set up a network of banks and became a major source for loans for European nobles. They also owned a large fleet of ships and actually bought the island of Cyprus.

But did they also do any excavating under The Dome of the Rock/The Temple Mount in Jerusalem? Well, that’s the story that some people tell. And as part of those excavations did they come into possession of The Ark of the Covenant? Well, again, that’s the story that some people tell. From there the story morphs into a dozen other stories, depending upon which one you believe, that have The Knights Templar hiding out the Ark. They hid it in Scotland’s Rosslyn Chapel. They hid it in England’s Temple Herdewyke. They hid it in France’s Cathedral of Our Lady of Chartres. They hid it at the bottom of an elaborate pit on Oak Island in Canada’s Nova Scotia. You get the idea.

Could any one of these stories actually be true? I suppose. I myself like to keep any open mind on such things. But does one of them have to be true? Nope. Every last one could be as nutty as a fruitcake. When everything is said and done, the major problem I have with any story in which The Knights Templar discover the Ark in Jerusalem and spirit it away to some secret location comes down to this: It involves three MAJOR presuppositions right out of the chute. They are:

  • Presupposition #1: Each story presupposes that the Ark somehow ended up hidden at some point under the Temple Mount. But this assumption itself raises so many questions. Had the Ark been hidden there since the Babylonian destruction of Solomon’s Temple? Had it never sat inside the Holy of Holies of Zerubbabel’s Temple or later on Herod’s Temple? (Did you know there is no Bible evidence of it ever being in either one?) Had it sat inside Zerubbabel’s Temple and Herod’s Temple but been hidden before Titus and his Roman army destroyed Herod’s Temple in 70 A.D.? So many question, so few answers.
  • Presupposition #2: Each story presupposes that The Knights Templar actually discovered the Ark and moved it somewhere. Obviously, even if they were trying to find it, there’s no guarantee they did.
  • Presupposition #3: Each story presupposes that God would have allowed anyone other than the Levitical Kohathite priests of the Jewish priestly order to not only move the Ark from under the Temple Mount but actually transport it completely out of Israel and into a foreign land. Scripturally speaking, such a thing flies directly in the face of the Bible’s accounts of the Philistines trying to keep the Ark in Philistia (1 Samuel chapters 5 and 6) and David trying to move it into Jerusalem without using those priests (2 Samuel chapter 6). Each of those stories serves as proof positive that the Ark is a dangerous thing. I don’t care how fierce a warrior you are or how holy you think your cause is, you don’t just walk up to the Ark of the Covenant and start handling it.

And so, in conclusion, I just can’t run off too far with any theory involving The Knights Templar doing anything with the Ark of the Covenant. Certainly it’s all fodder for interesting books, movies, television programs, and internet sites. I get that. I myself have watched every episode and counting of the reality t.v. series “The Curse of Oak Island.” Furthermore, if those two brothers finally get to the bottom of that pit and actually retrieve the Ark of the Covenant from it, I’ll stand and applaud their discovery, no doubt about it. But I’m not really expecting that to happen. Even if it was The Knights Templar who buried something down there, my guess is that it’s not the Ark.

 

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