Where is the ark of the covenant?

Some believe the ark of the covenant to be buried in the remains of the inner sanctuary of Solomon's Temple, the last recorded location of the ark on earth (1 Kings 8:6-7, 8:21, 2 Chronicles 5:7-9, 35:3). It was seen in God's temple in heaven by the Apostle John during his exile to the island of Patmos (Revelation 11:19). This vision was of God's temple after the rebuilding of the earthly temple in the last days (Revelation 11:1-3), before the second coming of Christ (Revelation 19:11-21), which means the ark may no longer be on earth. According to Jeremiah 3:16, the ark will eventually be forgotten and never rebuilt.

        "In those days, when your numbers have increased greatly in the land," declares the LORD, "men will no longer say, 'The ark of the covenant of the LORD.' It will never enter their minds or be remembered; it will not be missed, nor will another one be made." (Jeremiah 3:16)
        "Then God's temple in heaven was opened, and within his temple was seen the ark of his covenant. And there came flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, an earthquake and a great hailstorm." (Revelation 11:19)

King Josiah was recorded as returning the ark to its rightful place after years of Temple neglect, shortly before Jerusalem was attacked by the Babylonians (2 Chronicles 35:3). Some historians believe the ark to have been carried back to Babylon by King Nebuchadnezzar along with other "articles" from the Temple which he took (2 Chronichles 36:7), or that he may have destroyed it when the Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem circa 586-87 B.C., since there is no mention of the ark during the rebuilding of the Temple after the Jews returned from Babylonian captivity nearly seventy years later. Some traditions hold that the ark was buried in a chamber under the Temple Mount, the original location of the first two temples in Jerusalem and the current sight of the Western Wall, the only remnant of the second Temple since its destruction by the Romans in A.D. 70, which has been under Muslim control since the seventh century. Another tradition holds that Solomon's son Menelik removed the ark to Ethiopia before Jerusalem's fall to Babylon. Christians in Axim, Ethiopia, still claim to have the ark in their possession, kept in a treasury near the Cathedral of Mary of Zion and viewed only by the head priest. Once historians were allowed to examine this ark, however, it was determined that it did not meet any biblical description of the original ark and could not have come from Israel. According to the apocryphal 2 Maccabees 2:4-10, Jeremiah the prophet took the ark and buried it in a cave on Mt. Sinai, that it should remain unknown "until the time that God should gather His people again together, and receive them unto mercy." Other traditions teach that the ark was miraculously removed by angels.

What's in the ark of the covenant?

The ark was crafted by Bezalel from the tribe of Judah, with assistance from Oholiab of the tribe of Dan and other craftsmen, whom God endowed with skill, ability, and knowledge of all kinds of crafts through his Spirit (Exodus 31:1-11, 35:30-36:2, 37:1-9). According to Exodus 40:20-21 and Deuteronomy 10:5, Moses placed the two replacement stone tablets of the Testimony in the ark, sealed it with its cover (also known as the mercy seat), and shielded it in the tabernacle. It was also referred to as the ark of the Testimony, ark of the Covenant, ark of the Testament, and ark of God, among others, and originally housed in the tabernacle of the portable Tent of Meeting (Exodus 30:26, 31:7, 39:35, 40:3-5). 1 Kings 8:9 and 2 Chronicles 5:10 record that when placed in Solomon's temple, there was nothing in the ark except for the two stone tablets inscribed with the Laws of Moses. Hebrews 9:4 lists the contents of the ark as the stone tablets, plus a golden jar of manna and Aaron's staff after it had budded. Since anyone who touched the ark or looked inside it died (1 Samuel 6:19, 1 Chronicles 13:10), it stands to reason that these items were not actually inside the ark. Exodus 16:32-34 places the jar of manna in front of the ark and Numbers 17:10 also places Aaron's budded staff in front of the ark. Moses' Book of the Law was also placed to one side of the ark in its first years (Deuteronomy 31:26), although it was later removed (2 Kings 22:8, 2 Chronicles 34:14-15). Various theories hold that the ark acted as an electrical capacitor, with an insulated chamber made of acacia wood, covered with gold that acts as a conductor, and topped with two facing cherubim creating a spark gap, which could have possibly created an electrical charge strong enough to kill someone.

        "Have them make a chest of acacia wood -- two and a half cubits long, a cubit and a half wide, and a cubit and a half high. Overlay it with pure gold, both inside and out, and make a gold molding around it. Cast four gold rings for it and fasten them to its four feet, with two rings on one side and two rings on the other. Then make poles of acacia wood and overlay them with gold. Insert the poles into the rings on the sides of the chest to carry it. The poles are to remain in the rings of this ark; they are not to be removed. Then put in the ark the Testimony, which I will give you. Make an atonement cover of pure gold -- two and a half cubits long and a cubit and a half wide. And make two cherubim out of hammered gold at the ends of the cover. Make one cherubim on one end and the second cherubim on the other; make the cherubim of one piece with the cover, at the two ends. The cherubim are to have their wings spread upward, overshadowing the cover with them. The cherubim are to face each other, looking toward the cover. Place the cover on top of the ark and put in the ark the Testimony, which I will give you. There, above the cover between the two cherubim that are over the ark of the Testimony, I will meet with you and give you all my commands for the Israelites." (Exodus 25:10-22)