Christian Churches of God
Holy of Holies and Ark of the Covenant
(Edition 1.0 20070715-20070715)
From the Tabernacle in the Wilderness we know that the Holy of Holies represented God’s dwelling place here on Earth. In this lesson we will see how the concept of the Holy of Holies and the Ark of the Covenant expanded in the future dwelling places of God to the City of God.
Holy of Holies and Ark of the Covenant
The Holy of Holies – also called the Most Holy Place, inner sanctuary, oracle, and inner house – represents the dwelling place of God here on Earth, or the Throne of God. It was only to be entered once a year, on the Day of Atonement, and only by the High Priest. The Holy of Holies is full of symbolism. As with each aspect of the progression from the Tabernacle in the Wilderness to Solomon’s Temple, God’s Plan continues to expand both physically and spiritually. We are able to see more of God’s spiritual plan unfold in Solomon’s Temple.
Before we discuss the spiritual meaning of the physical structure, let’s just see what it looked like.
What did the Holy of Holies in Solomon’s Temple look like?
I Kings 6:19-32
And he prepared the inner sanctuary inside the temple, to set the ark of the covenant of the LORD there. The inner sanctuary was twenty cubits long, twenty cubits wide, and twenty cubits high. He overlaid it with pure gold, and overlaid the altar of cedar. So Solomon overlaid the inside of the temple with pure gold. He stretched gold chains across the front of the inner sanctuary, and overlaid it with gold. The whole temple he overlaid with gold, until he had finished all the temple; also he overlaid with gold the entire altar that was by the inner sanctuary. Inside the inner sanctuary he made two cherubim of olive wood, each ten cubits high. One wing of the cherub was five cubits, and the other wing of the cherub five cubits: ten cubits from the tip of one wing to the tip of the other. And the other cherub was ten cubits; both cherubim were of the same size and shape. The height of one cherub was ten cubits, and so was the other cherub. Then he set the cherubim inside the inner room; and they stretched out the wings of the cherubim so that the wing of the one touched one wall, and the wing of the other cherub touched the other wall. And their wings touched each other in the middle of the room. Also he overlaid the cherubim with gold. Then he carved all the walls of the temple all around, both the inner and outer sanctuaries, with carved figures of cherubim, palm trees, and open flowers. And the floor of the temple he overlaid with gold, both the inner and outer sanctuaries. For the entrance of the inner sanctuary he made doors of olive wood; the lintel and doorposts were one-fifth of the wall. The two doors were of olive wood; and he carved on them figures of cherubim, palm trees, and open flowers, and overlaid them with gold; and he spread gold on the cherubim and on the palm trees. (NKJV)
The Holy of Holies was beautiful. The room was all gold with carvings of cherubim, palm trees, and open flowers. It held the Ark of the Covenant, which was placed under two large gold cherubim. The room was shaped like a cube, and full of important symbolism. Let’s now move through each aspect of the Holy of Holies and try to better understand the spiritual significance.
The Holy of Holies is the shape of a cube. This is the same shape as the Holy of Holies in the Tabernacle in the Wilderness, and clearly looks forward to the City of God, which in Revelation is described as a cube. The cube is a perfect shape – the same length, width, and height. God shows us His progression as the Throne room of God, symbolized by the Holy of Holies, gets larger and larger and finally ends up as the entire City of God.
Revelation 21:1-2, 12-16
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband;… It had a great, high wall, with twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and on the gates the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel were inscribed; on the east three gates, on the north three gates, on the south three gates, and on the west three gates. And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. And he who talked to me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city and its gates and walls. The city lies foursquare, its length the same as its breadth; and he measured the city with his rod, twelve thousand stadia; its length and breadth and height are equal.
In Solomon’s Temple, the Holy of Holies was 20 cubits long, 20 cubits wide, and 20 cubits high. (Note: A cubit is approx. 18 inches. Therefore, the Holy of Holies in Solomon’s Temple would be about 30 feet by 30 feet by 30 feet in today’s unit of measurement.) In the Tabernacle in the Wilderness, it measured 10x10x10 cubits. The dimensions doubled in size; however, the volume increased in size eight times. The doubling in size represents the doubling of God’s Council. (See the paper The Creation of the Family of God (No. CB4) for a fuller explanation of the doubling of God’s Council.) It is interesting to note that the Holy of Holies in Ezekiel’s Temple, which is the Temple in the Millennium, is the same size (20x20x20) as in Solomon’s Temple. This tells us that the inner government of God will be set at the sealing of the elect.
To enter into the Holy of Holies in Solomon’s Temple, the High Priest had to pass through a curtain, or veil (2Chr. 3:14), gold chains (1Kgs. 6:21), and two doors (1Kgs. 6:31).
The veil separated the Holy Place or Temple and the Holy of Holies or Most Holy Place. The symbolism of the veil was that it was there to exclude all mankind until the sacrifice of Christ as High Priest. Jesus Christ could enter once and for all with his own blood to provide access to us so that the Holy Spirit, as the power of God, could dwell among men. (See the paper The Ark of the Covenant (No. 196).) When Jesus Christ died, the veil in the Temple was torn in two. Now, we all may boldly approach the Throne of God in prayer through our High Priest, Jesus Christ (Heb. 4:14-16).
The curtain in Solomon’s Temple is described in 2Chronicles 3:14:
And he made the veil of blue and purple and crimson fabrics and fine linen, and worked cherubim on it.
This is very similar to the description of the veil leading into the Holy of Holies in the Tabernacle in the Wilderness.
Exodus 26:31 And thou shalt make a vail [of] blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine twined linen of cunning work: with cherubims shall it be made:
The colours are very significant and are the same colours that are used in the garments of the High Priest. From the paper The Garments of the High Priest (CB61), we read:
Blue: We have learned about the significance of the colour blue representing the Law of God. This concept is further developed in the paper Lesson: Law at our Doorposts (No. CB80).
Red: The colour red represents the blood of Jesus Christ as our Passover sacrifice. It also represented the red ribbon of Rahab, which pointed to the inclusion of the Gentiles in salvation.
Purple: The colour purple, which combines both blue and red, points us to the Royal Priesthood, which combines both the salvation given to us through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and our love of God shown through our obedience to the Law.
White: As we have learned from the previous lessons in the series on the High Priest’s garments, the colour white represents our clean garments as we prepare ourselves as the Bride of Christ and also the perfection of Jesus Christ.
Gold: To these four colours was added gold. In the Tabernacle in the Wilderness we see that the Ark of the Covenant located in the Holy of Holies was also made of gold. God’s presence was in the Ark and it was also the receptacle of the Holy Spirit. As the High Priest symbolizes the living Temple that we are today, the gold represents the indwelling of God’s Holy Spirit in us. Just as the gold was interwoven amongst all the other strands of material, so too the Holy Spirit ties all the members of the Body of Christ together.
Therefore, we see that by passing through the four-coloured veil, we looked forward to our perfect High Priest, Jesus Christ.
1Kings 6:21 states:
And Solomon overlaid the inside of the house with pure gold, and he drew chains of gold across, in front of the inner sanctuary, and overlaid it with gold. (RSV)
We also found references to gold chains on the two pillars on the porch of the Temple Solomon built, and on the priestly garments. The top of the breastplate of the High Priest was attached to the two onyx stones on the shoulder of the ephod by two gold chains. The bottom of the breastplate was attached with two blue ribbons to the ephod.
The gold chains on the High Priest joined the onyx stones, symbolizing the government of God with the breastpiece of judgement. For more information see Lesson: Ephod, Curious Girdle and Breastpiece of Judgment (No. CB65). Similarly, the chains in front of the Holy of Holies looked forward to the judgement given to Jesus Christ and the power to bind Satan and rule the planet.
In Revelation 20:2, we read:
And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years (RSV).
It is interesting to note that the word for bound means to bind or fasten with chains. Perhaps the chains are also looking forward to the millennial time when Satan will be bound and Jesus Christ will establish the government of God here on Earth.
1Kings 6:31-32 And for the entering of the oracle he made doors [of] olive tree: the lintel [and] side posts [were] a fifth part [of the wall]. The two doors also [were of] olive tree; and he carved upon them carvings of cherubims and palm trees and open flowers, and overlaid [them] with gold, and spread gold upon the cherubims, and upon the palm trees. (KJV)
The doors were made of olive wood, carved, and then covered with gold. The olive wood is significant, as it is different from the cedar walls and cypress floors. In the Bible, both Revelation and Zechariah use olive trees to symbolize the two Witnesses.
Revelation 11:3-4 And I will give [power] unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred [and] threescore days, clothed in sackcloth. These are the two olive trees, and the two candlesticks standing before the God of the earth.
Zechariah 4:11-14 Then I said to him, "What are these two olive trees on the right and the left of the lampstand?" And a second time I said to him, "What are these two branches of the olive trees, which are beside the two golden pipes from which the oil is poured out?" He said to me, "Do you not know what these are?" I said, "No, my lord." Then he said, "These are the two anointed who stand by the Lord of the whole earth."
The two doors symbolized the two Witnesses who, more completely, open the mystery of the Gospel immediately prior to Messiah’s return. In addition, the olive tree supplies olive oil, which oftentimes symbolized God’s Holy Spirit.
Size of the Olivewood Doors
We see from 1Kings 6:31, that the lintels and doorposts are described as a fifth part of the wall. As we read earlier, the wall is 20 cubits by 20 cubits. This would make a fifth part of the wall 4 cubits by 4 cubits, and each door would then be 2 cubits wide (approx. 3 feet wide) and 4 cubits high (approx. 6 feet high).
One fifth of the wall leads us to the number five, which indicates grace. By the grace of Eloah, He established a plan to allow man and Host to be reconciled back to Himself and have access to Him. Five is the leading factor in the Tabernacle measurement. (See the paper Symbolism of Numbers (No. 7).)
Significantly, in the Tabernacle in the Wilderness, the veil separating the Holy of Holies was hung on four pillars. These symbolized the four Cherubs or Living Creatures that help support and cover God’s Throne. (See the paper The Tabernacle in the Wilderness (No. CB42).)
Again we see the number four, this time in the dimensions of the doors (together 4 cubits by 4 cubits) repeated in the entrance to the Holy of Holies. The number four denotes the creative works and refers to the Earth and the physical things of the creation. (See the paper Symbolism of Numbers (No. 7).)
Carvings on the Two Doors
We will cover the carvings that were on the two doors later in the paper, as these are the same carvings that are on the walls in the Temple and Holy of Holies.
Entering into the Holy of Holies
We have seen that in order to enter the Holy of Holies, the High Priest needed to pass through a four-coloured veil, gold chains, and two gold doors which all come together and show us different aspects of God’s government, and that our entrance unto the Throne of God comes through Jesus Christ.
Once inside the Holy of Holies, the High Priest stood in a room that was completely covered in gold and only contained gold items. The pine floors were overlaid with gold, and the cedar walls and ceiling were overlaid with gold (1Kgs. 6:15). There was the Ark of the Covenant that was overlaid with gold, and the two olivewood cherubim that were overlaid with gold.
It is interesting to note that the Holy of Holies was overlaid with 600 talents of gold.
2Chronicles 3:8 And he made the most holy place; its length, corresponding to the breadth of the house, was twenty cubits, and its breadth was twenty cubits; he overlaid it with six hundred talents of fine gold. (RSV)
Numbers based on six are representative of the work prior to the final rest given by God. (See the paper Symbolism of Numbers (No. 7).) The 600 talents of gold represent the individuals that have been tried by God through fiery trials and redeemed by Jesus Christ. These 600 individuals are 120 from each of the five churches that will function in the Outer Council of the Kingdom of God (120 x 5 = 600). Perhaps this is 600 out of the 1000 (Job 33:23).
Carvings of Cherubim, Palm Trees, and Open Flowers
1Kings 6:29-32 Then he carved all the walls of the temple all around, both the inner and outer sanctuaries, with carved figures of cherubim, palm trees, and open flowers. And the floor of the temple he overlaid with gold, both the inner and outer sanctuaries. For the entrance of the inner sanctuary he made doors of olive wood; the lintel and doorposts were one-fifth of the wall. The two doors were of olive wood; and he carved on them figures of cherubim, palm trees, and open flowers, and overlaid them with gold; and he spread gold on the cherubim and on the palm trees.
In the Tabernacle in the Wilderness, there were cherubim embroidered in the white linen curtains that hung in the Tabernacle and the Holy of Holies. In Solomon’s Temple, this symbolism was expanded to include palm trees and open flowers. Each of these three carvings represents an aspect of the expanding government of God.
The cherubim are a central theme throughout both the Tabernacle in the Wilderness and Solomon’s Temple. For the Tabernacle in the Wilderness and Solomon’s Temple, the Bible does not tell us how many cherubim there were, or how large they were, or what they looked like. This is because we do not yet know the full extent of the government of God and His Host. It is not until we read Ezekiel that we are given the following description:
Ezekiel 41:18-19 And it was made with cherubim and palm trees, a palm tree between cherub and cherub. Each cherub had two faces, so that the face of a man was toward a palm tree on one side, and the face of a young lion toward a palm tree on the other side; thus it was made throughout the temple all around.
This vision of Ezekiel is of the millennial system and the cherubim here are of two types – the man and lion-headed systems. They represent the two cherubim that fell from grace – Satan and the lion-headed cherub or Aeon that stands at the Throne of God. They are to be replaced from the Host. (See the papers The Ark of the Covenant (No. 196), Rule of the Kings Part III: Solomon and the Key of David (No. 282C), and The Meaning of Ezekiel's Vision (No. 108).)
The symbolism of the palm trees carved on the doors and throughout the Temple and Holy of Holies relates to the 70 palms in Elim during the Israelites’ exodus.
Exodus 15:27 Then they came to Elim, where there were twelve springs of water and seventy palm trees; and they encamped there by the water. (RSV)
The 70 palms in Elim represented the 70 Beings that make up the central administration of God working with the 12 Apostles that were represented by the springs. The carvings of palm trees throughout the Temple, including the Holy of Holies, show us that God’s government is continuing to be developed and the human host is being added to the spiritual Host.
The third image carved on the doors was open flowers. The Strong’s number for open flowers is SHD 6731. It means flower or bloom, or shining thing. This is the same Hebrew word that is used for the gold plate on the High Priest’s turban that reads: “Holy to the Lord (Yahovah)”. For more details see Lesson: Mitre or Turban with the Golden Plate (No. CB66).
Exodus 39:30-31 And they made the plate [SHD 6731] of the holy crown of pure gold, and wrote upon it an inscription, like the engraving of a signet, "Holy to the LORD." And they tied to it a lace of blue, to fasten it on the turban above; as the LORD had commanded Moses.
This is also the same word that is used to describe Aaron’s rod that budded that was later placed in the Ark of the Covenant in the Tabernacle in the Wilderness.
Numbers 17:8 And on the morrow Moses went into the tent of the testimony; and behold, the rod of Aaron for the house of Levi had sprouted and put forth buds [SHD 6525 – candlesticks], and produced blossoms [SHD 6731], and it bore ripe almonds.
By the time the Ark was moved to Solomon’s Temple, it only contained the two tablets. Aaron’s rod that budded and the golden jar of manna were no longer in the Ark.
The open-flower carvings are to show us that Jesus Christ is now our High Priest. Aaron’s rod that budded was physically used to show that Aaron and the House of Levi were chosen to be High Priests. The rod seems to be showing us a living tree, just as Messiah was the living tree in the Garden, the branch that made the water sweet at Marah, or the Tree of Life of Revelation 22:2. In Solomon’s Temple, Aaron’s rod is no longer in the Ark, symbolizing that the Levitical Priesthood would be replaced and that Jesus Christ is now our High Priest under the order of Melchisedek. This is why we also see the same word being used for the gold plate on the High Priest’s garments. It all ties together and points us toward Jesus Christ as our Lord and High Priest.
Two Olivewood Cherubim overlaid with Gold
1Kings 6:23-28 Inside the inner sanctuary he made two cherubim of olive wood, each ten cubits high. One wing of the cherub was five cubits, and the other wing of the cherub five cubits: ten cubits from the tip of one wing to the tip of the other. And the other cherub was ten cubits; both cherubim were of the same size and shape. The height of one cherub was ten cubits, and so was the other cherub. Then he set the cherubim inside the inner room; and they stretched out the wings of the cherubim so that the wing of the one touched one wall, and the wing of the other cherub touched the other wall. And their wings touched each other in the middle of the room. Also he overlaid the cherubim with gold.
Once again, we see the symbolism of olive wood being overlaid with gold. The three things in Solomon’s Temple that were made with olive wood and overlaid with gold were the posts of the doors to the Temple, the doors into the Holy of Holies, and the two cherubim in the Holy of Holies.
These two cherubim were not in the Holy of Holies in the Tabernacle in the Wilderness, and represent the two replacement cherubim that, combined with the two cherubim on the Ark of the Covenant, total the four Covering Cherubim at the Throne of God.
Revelation 4:6 and before the throne there is as it were a sea of glass, like crystal. And round the throne, on each side of the throne, are four living creatures, full of eyes in front and behind (RSV)
It is possible, since these represent the two replacement cherubim (the lion and the man) that they look like the living creatures described in Revelation.
Revelation 4:7-8 And the first beast [was] like a lion, and the second beast like a calf, and the third beast had a face as a man, and the fourth beast [was] like a flying eagle. And the four beasts had each of them six wings about [him]; and [they were] full of eyes within: and they rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come.
Although the Bible is silent on the actual appearance of these two cherubim in the Holy of Holies, the size of the two cherubim is given and is also significant. Each one is 10 cubits wide and 10 cubits tall. This mirrors two of the dimensions of the Holy of Holies in the Tabernacle in the Wilderness, which were 10x10x10. Also, the two cherubim together were 20 cubits long and 10 cubits high. This is the same size as the scroll described in Zechariah 5:2-4.
Zechariah 5:2-4 Again I lifted my eyes and saw, and behold, a flying scroll! And he said to me, "What do you see?" I answered, "I see a flying scroll; its length is twenty cubits, and its breadth ten cubits." Then he said to me, "This is the curse that goes out over the face of the whole land; for every one who steals shall be cut off henceforth according to it, and every one who swears falsely shall be cut off henceforth according to it. I will send it forth, says the LORD of hosts, and it shall enter the house of the thief, and the house of him who swears falsely by my name; and it shall abide in his house and consume it, both timber and stones." (RSV)
The size of the two cherubim points us toward their role in the judgement of the human race.
Revelation 6:1-8 Now I saw when the Lamb opened one of the seven seals, and I heard one of the four living creatures say, as with a voice of thunder, "Come!" And I saw, and behold, a white horse, and its rider had a bow; and a crown was given to him, and he went out conquering and to conquer. When he opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature say, "Come!" And out came another horse, bright red; its rider was permitted to take peace from the earth, so that men should slay one another; and he was given a great sword. When he opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, "Come!" And I saw, and behold, a black horse, and its rider had a balance in his hand; and I heard what seemed to be a voice in the midst of the four living creatures saying, "A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius; but do not harm oil and wine!" When he opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature say, "Come!" And I saw, and behold, a pale horse, and its rider's name was Death, and Hades followed him; and they were given power over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword and with famine and with pestilence and by wild beasts of the earth.
The cherubim in the Holy of Holies in the Temple Solomon built are also described as having the four wings of the two cherubim reaching the entire width of the Holy of Holies. Symbolically, the cherubim cover God’s entire creation. They are also described as facing towards the east (2Chr. 3:13). They, like us, are waiting and watching for Messiah to return, and enter through the east gate.
In 1Chronicles 28, David gives Solomon the plans for the Temple including the weight of gold and/or silver for the vessels of service. He also describes, in verse 18, the “plan for the golden chariot of the cherubim that spread their wings and covered the ark of the covenant of the Lord.”
1Chronicles 28:11-19 Then David gave Solomon his son the plan of the vestibule of the temple, and of its houses, its treasuries, its upper rooms, and its inner chambers, and of the room for the mercy seat; and the plan of all that he had in mind for the courts of the house of the LORD, all the surrounding chambers, the treasuries of the house of God, and the treasuries for dedicated gifts; for the divisions of the priests and of the Levites, and all the work of the service in the house of the LORD; for all the vessels for the service in the house of the LORD, the weight of gold for all golden vessels for each service, the weight of silver vessels for each service, the weight of the golden lampstands and their lamps, the weight of gold for each lampstand and its lamps, the weight of silver for a lampstand and its lamps, according to the use of each lampstand in the service, the weight of gold for each table for the showbread, the silver for the silver tables, and pure gold for the forks, the basins, and the cups; for the golden bowls and the weight of each; for the silver bowls and the weight of each; for the altar of incense made of refined gold, and its weight; also his plan for the golden chariot of the cherubim that spread their wings and covered the ark of the covenant of the LORD. All this he made clear by the writing from the hand of the LORD concerning it, all the work to be done according to the plan.
A clearer translation of 1Chronicles 28:18 might be the NKJV:
… and refined gold by weight for the altar of incense, and for the construction of the chariot, that is, the gold cherubim that spread their wings and overshadowed the ark of the covenant of the LORD. (NKJV)
The cherubim symbolically formed the chariot of God (Ps 18:10). This seems to mirror the heavenly plan described in Ezekiel 10 where, symbolically, God’s Throne is carried by the covering cherubs.
We know that the physical Temple looks forward to the City of God and God’s Throne-room. In Ezekiel 10, the cherubim are described as having wheels with eyes all about.
Ezek. 10:1-15 Then I looked, and behold, on the firmament that was over the heads of the cherubim there appeared above them something like a sapphire, in form resembling a throne.
And he said to the man clothed in linen, "Go in among the whirling wheels underneath the cherubim; fill your hands with burning coals from between the cherubim, and scatter them over the city." And he went in before my eyes. Now the cherubim were standing on the south side of the house, when the man went in; and a cloud filled the inner court. And the glory of the LORD went up from the cherubim to the threshold of the house; and the house was filled with the cloud, and the court was full of the brightness of the glory of the LORD. And the sound of the wings of the cherubim was heard as far as the outer court, like the voice of God Almighty when he speaks. And when he commanded the man clothed in linen, "Take fire from between the whirling wheels, from between the cherubim," he went in and stood beside a wheel. And a cherub stretched forth his hand from between the cherubim to the fire that was between the cherubim, and took some of it, and put it into the hands of the man clothed in linen, who took it and went out. The cherubim appeared to have the form of a human hand under their wings. And I looked, and behold, there were four wheels beside the cherubim, one beside each cherub; and the appearance of the wheels was like sparkling chrysolite. And as for their appearance, the four had the same likeness, as if a wheel were within a wheel. When they went, they went in any of their four directions without turning as they went, but in whatever direction the front wheel faced the others followed without turning as they went. And their rims, and their spokes, and the wheels were full of eyes round about--the wheels that the four of them had. As for the wheels, they were called in my hearing the whirling wheels. And every one had four faces: the first face was the face of the cherub, and the second face was the face of a man, and the third the face of a lion, and the fourth the face of an eagle. And the cherubim mounted up. These were the living creatures that I saw by the river Chebar. (RSV)
We will now look at the Ark of the Covenant. (See also the paper The Ark of the Covenant (No. 196) for more detailed information.)
1Kings 8:1-11 Then Solomon assembled the elders of Israel and all the heads of the tribes, the leaders of the fathers' houses of the people of Israel, before King Solomon in Jerusalem, to bring up the ark of the covenant of the LORD out of the city of David, which is Zion. And all the men of Israel assembled to King Solomon at the feast in the month Eth'anim, which is the seventh month. And all the elders of Israel came, and the priests took up the ark. And they brought up the ark of the LORD, the tent of meeting, and all the holy vessels that were in the tent; the priests and the Levites brought them up. And King Solomon and all the congregation of Israel, who had assembled before him, were with him before the ark, sacrificing so many sheep and oxen that they could not be counted or numbered. Then the priests brought the ark of the covenant of the LORD to its place, in the inner sanctuary of the house, in the most holy place, underneath the wings of the cherubim. For the cherubim spread out their wings over the place of the ark, so that the cherubim made a covering above the ark and its poles. And the poles were so long that the ends of the poles were seen from the holy place before the inner sanctuary; but they could not be seen from outside; and they are there to this day. There was nothing in the ark except the two tables of stone which Moses put there at Horeb, where the LORD made a covenant with the people of Israel, when they came out of the land of Egypt. And when the priests came out of the holy place, a cloud filled the house of the LORD, so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud; for the glory of the LORD filled the house of the LORD. (RSV)
The original Ark of the Covenant was brought up to the Temple Solomon built and placed in the Holy of Holies. The Ark of the Covenant symbolizes the very inner workings of the Throne of God.
Moses was given instructions to build the Ark of the Covenant.
Exodus 25:10-16 They shall make an ark of acacia wood; two cubits and a half shall be its length, a cubit and a half its breadth, and a cubit and a half its height. And you shall overlay it with pure gold, within and without shall you overlay it, and you shall make upon it a molding of gold round about. And you shall cast four rings of gold for it and put them on its four feet, two rings on the one side of it, and two rings on the other side of it. You shall make poles of acacia wood, and overlay them with gold. And you shall put the poles into the rings on the sides of the ark, to carry the ark by them. The poles shall remain in the rings of the ark; they shall not be taken from it. And you shall put into the ark the testimony which I shall give you. (RSV)
The Ark of the Covenant is derived from 'aron (SHD 727), which means an ark, chest, or coffin. It was made from acacia wood, and then overlaid with gold. The Ark was not to be touched by human hands and was carried by poles. The Ark of the Covenant symbolizes the power of God. Just as no humans were allowed to touch the Ark, no man has ever seen God or heard the voice of God. We are told we would die if we gazed upon the Glory of God, just as the Israelites were told they would die if they touched the Ark (Num. 4:15).
On top of the Ark was the ‘mercy seat’, or kapporeth (SHD 3727), which means cover or lid. The mercy seat or covering pointed us towards the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, and the covering of our sins with his blood. The mercy seat was made of pure gold and had two gold cherubim on its top. They were facing one another with their wings outspread over the mercy seat. These are the two faithful cherubim that are around the Throne of God. They represent the two Living Creatures, one described as having a face of a bull and the other, an eagle. They are directly concerned with judgement and mercy.
The mercy seat is described as the footstool of God’s Throne.
1Chronicles 28:2 Then King David rose to his feet and said: “Hear me, my brethren and you my people. I had it in my heart to build a house of rest for the ark of the covenant of the LORD, and for the footstool of our God; and I made preparations for the building. (RSV)
The footstool of the throne was the place where the Lord met with the High Priest. This covering of the Ark shows us the relationship between God and Jesus Christ.
In the Tabernacle in the Wilderness series, we learned that the Ark contained three items that represented the symbols of the government of God: a golden jar of manna, Aaron’s rod that budded, and the two tablets on which were engraved with the Ten Commandments. The scroll containing all of God’s ceremonial laws (or sacrificial laws) was placed outside of the Ark. This helped mankind to understand God’s Law prior to the Law being written in our hearts. With the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and the gift of the Holy Spirit, the sacrificial law is no longer necessary.
In the Temple that Solomon built, only the two tablets were left in the Ark. The Bible does not tell us exactly when the rod and golden jar were removed, or where they went, but we see that they pointed us toward aspects of God’s government. As we discussed above, Aaron’s rod that budded was no longer in the Ark, symbolizing that the Levitical Priesthood would be replaced and Jesus Christ is now our High Priest under the order of Melchisedek. Likewise, the golden jar of manna pointed us towards Jesus Christ as the bread of life. We are now being fed spiritual food through the receipt of the Holy Spirit.
It is interesting to note that 1Kings describes the two poles as being visible in the Holy Place, or Temple area, but they could not been seen from outside. This resembles the ability of the elect to understand the Mysteries of God through the gift of the Holy Spirit, but those that are not given understanding cannot see God’s ways.
All in all, we see the Holy of Holies and the Ark of the Covenant are rich in symbolism. As we begin to understand all that God is showing us, He helps us to draw closer to Him and appreciate the perfection of His ways. 1Chronicles 3:7 shows us that we will become the Holy of Holies (or naos) as members of God’s family with the Law of God written in our hearts.