In February of 1989, a modest second-floor apartment in the Jewish Quarter of the old city of Jerusalem opened its doors to the public. Hugging the eastern slope of Mount Zion, its windows look expectantly toward the rugged southern brow of Moriah.
Here is the Temple Institute, founded in 1988 by Rabbi Israel Ariel with the following objectives: to encourage, synthesize, and house research on the temples of Judaism; to prepare the holy vessels for the coming temple; and to educate and stimulate world Jewry in anticipation of the temple becoming again the focus of their national and religious life. How are they doing?
At present, in conjunction with the Ministry of Religious Affairs, the Temple Institute has sponsored conferences on temple research, bringing together rabbis, archaeologists, gemologists, architects, and various scientists and craftsmen to share information on the project. More than half of the 103 vessels are already made, including containers for the blood, silver trumpets, a copper laver, the golden censer, and some of the priestly garments. Books have been published, videos distributed, and both permanent and traveling displays spread the word. Money is being collected. (The golden menorah, requiring almost 100 pounds of the precious metal, is estimated to cost $10 million!) Are they serious?
I was sitting with a group of Christians in a small amphitheater at the Institute this past May. After the lecture, the rabbi opened the floor for questions. What were they going to do, someone wanted to know, about the missing ark of the covenant.
“It’s not missing,” responded the rabbi assuredly, “we know exactly where it is. When the time comes, we’ll bring it out.”
There were other questions, and then the dialogue went something like this:
“When I read the Hebrew Scriptures, I notice a great deal about the blood. Do you have any blood sacrifices today?”
“No,” responded the rabbi somewhat edgily, “but the use of blood sacrifices was only one way for redemption. Forexample, there was the redemption money.”
“Yes,” came the answer softly, “but even then it was not without blood. Does your Scripture not say, ‘Without the shedding of blood is no remission’?”
At this point, the dialogue deteriorated into a diatribe. The temperature in the room suddenly warmed. “I know what you’re getting at,” came the shrill rejoinder, “and when I think of Him I see red, alright! But it’s not His blood; it’s the blood of millions of Jews murdered in His name. So let’s drop the subject (this through his teeth) and keep the conversation friendly.”
Actually the conversation was over. The rabbi had seen to that. He had let us know in no uncertain terms that one Subject was off-limits there. We could talk about the linen being carefully woven for the priests yet to be, but we could not mention our sympathetic Great High Priest. We could examine the model of the candlestick, but we must not allude to the Light of the world.
We were welcome to ask questions about the red heifer, but not the Lamb of God. And we could discuss the location of the ark of the covenant–was it destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar in the sixth century b.c., is it in Ethiopia somewhere, or is it under the temple mount in a sealed passageway awaiting the day of the dedication of the new temple? But don’t talk about the One “whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in His blood…that He might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus” (Rom. 3:25-26). Who knows where you might end up?
There. I’ve let the secret out. I know where the Ark is. The little gold box was only a figure of the true (Heb. 9:24). Our Lord does not fit well into a box. His glory, which once filled the Holiest, now fills the heavens.
The transported ark once caught the eye of the pilgrim Israelite with its covering of blue. We know what’s beyond the blue.