This would seem a very controversial topic to write on, as it certainly has had quite a lot of interest over the last 15-20 years. But this editorial is not written to add to any controversy, but to enlighten us on what is possible for the future revealing of God's law. Here are some thoughts and quotes to help us understand what God has planned.
Interest in locating Noah's Ark and the Ark of the Covenant began as far back as the 1950's. Seventh-day Adventist groups have also been in the search to try to locate and find these hidden artefacts. There have no doubt been some who have wanted to find these gems for their own gratification and to settle their own curiosity, but not all. Some have had good intentions to use them to verify the creation story, that God is real and in control of this world and some have found our message by such means.
We certainly have the Biblical account of God writing on stone the sacred law of the ten commandments, given to Moses for all mankind to adhere to in Exodus, and from there, we have some turbulent history of the Ark of the Covenant, where those sacred stones were laid. It was carried about the wilderness in Israel's 40 year wilderness experience. It was stolen and went into the land of Philistine, but they wanted it gone from their presence because they were convinced they were cursed with it in their presence.
But to let inspiration speak, we may find some revealing facts about this topic of interest.
After God's patience and warnings to Israel over and over again, it came to the point that they wouldn't learn obedience, so God just had to allow them to be taken captive by their enemy.
“Because of Israel's transgression of the commandments of God and their wicked acts, God suffered them to go into captivity, to humble and punish them. Before the temple was destroyed, God made known to a few of His faithful servants the fate of the temple, which was the pride of Israel, and which they regarded with idolatry, while they were sinning against God. He also revealed to them the captivity of Israel. These righteous men, just before the destruction of the temple, (by Babylon in 586BC; II Kings 25:1-3) removed the sacred ark containing the tables of stone, and with mourning and sadness secreted it in a cave where it was to be hidden from the people of Israel because of their sins, and was to be no more restored to them. That sacred ark is yet hidden. It has never been disturbed since it was secreted.” —Story of Redemption, p.195
So clearly it was definitely hidden, but the next logical question is if it will be ever found again.
Christ, “gave to Moses...two… tables of stone, written by the finger of God…
The precious record of the law was placed in the ark of the testament and is still there, safely hidden from the human family. But in God's appointed time He will bring forth these tables of stone to be a testimony to all the world against the disregard of His commandments and against the idolatrous worship of a counterfeit Sabbath.”
—1 Bible Commentary, p.1109
Four Points To Consider
Will man be the one who finds and uncovers the sacred law in the Ark of the Covenant?
Well for one thing, the quote above says “He (God) will bring forth these tables of stone...” God is going to handle this revealing of His law, the quote doesn't say man will.
Secondly, we would have to wonder with the attempts to find the hidden law in the ark, is it less sacred now than it was when in its allotted place with Israel? Is man now able to look upon the tables now, when man could not even touch it, let alone look upon it. Some may say the sacredness at the time of Uzzah was God's actual presence, but now His presence has gone. But does that mean man may now presume God’s protective presence of something so sacred in earth is not now so sacred – that man can now look upon it?
Third, if it was brought out, where would it be displayed? In a museum, shopping centres around the world, in modern churches who don't even keep all the commandments, perhaps just in Seventh-day Adventist churches, but that may make them a target of attack with such a sacred history?
When the Philistines had the ark, it became a curse to them and they were glad to give it back to Israel. Could it be that wherever the ark sat in public view that there may be happenings that mankind may want to return it to its resting place in the caves of the earth? Just some thoughts to ponder!
Fourth point is that it was secreted in a cave, just before the destruction of the temple The cave must therefore be near the city of Jerusalem, in the territory currently under modern Israel's control. Any archaeological activity would automatically come under the control of the government of Israel. But then we have these thoughts, “...the sacred ark containing the tables of stone (was) secreted… in a cave where it was to be hid from the people of Israel because of their sins, and was not more to be restored to them.”
— Story of Redemption, p.195
Any More Inspired Evidence?
“There are abundant evidences of the immutability of God's law. It was written with the finger of God, never to be obliterated, never to be destroyed; The tables of stone are hidden by God to be produced in the great judgment-day, just as He wrote them.”
—Review & Herald, March 26, 1908.
In this quote Ellen White gives no indication of how the hidden tables of stone will be produced. The following quote gives a bit more indication as to which judgment she was referring to.
“When the judgment shall sit, and the books shall be opened, and every man shall be judged according to the things written in the books, then the tables of stone, hidden by God until that day, will be presented before the world as a standard of righteousness. Then men and women will see that the prerequisite of their salvation is obedience to the perfect law of God. None will find excuse for sin. By the righteous principles of that law, men will receive their sentence of life or of death.” —1 Selected Messages, p.225
Some have mistakenly applied this statement to support the theory that man will find the ark and this will be a sign that the investigative judgment of the living has begun. But Ellen White's phrase, “judged according to the things written in the books,” is actually taken from Revelation 20:12 which refers not to the investigative judgment, but the executive judgment of the unsaved wicked which takes place after the investigative judgment is completed and probation closed. She further identifies the 'judgment' as the executive judgment by the last phrase of her above statement that “men will receive the sentence of life or death.”
Statement To Help Clarify
“The Holy Spirit traced these truths upon my heart and mind as indelibly as the law was traced by the finger of God upon the tables of stone, which are now in the ark, to be brought forth in that great day when sentence will be pronounced…”
—Colporteur Ministry, p.126
God will execute the 'sentence' or final decision of His judgment upon the wicked on two future occasions – one just before the millennium, the other just after the millennium when the 'sentence' is executed. Notice the following:
“Then there appears against the sky a hand holding two tables of stone folded together. Says the prophet, 'The heavens shall declare His righteousness; for God is judge Himself.' (Ps. 50:6). That holy law, God's righteousness (Ps.119:172), that amid thunder and flame was proclaimed from Sinai as the guide of life, is now revealed to men as the rule of judgment. The hand opens the tables, and there are seen the precepts of the Decalogue, traced as with a pen of fire. The words are so plain that all can read them. Memory is aroused, the darkness of superstition and heresy is swept from every mind, and God's ten words, brief, comprehensive, and authoritative, are presented to the view of all the inhabitants of the earth… Now they are condemned by that law which they have despised. With awful distinctness they see that they are without excuse.”
—Great Controversy, p.639
This reveals that the time when the tables of stone will be revealed to the world is at the first phase of the executive judgment at the coming of Jesus when the wicked will be 'struck dead by the brightness of His coming.’
Then we see they will appear again in the sky after the millennium and at the final coronation of Jesus just before the execution of the wicked.
“In the presence of the assembled inhabitants of earth and heaven the final coronation of the Son of God takes place (then Revelation 20:11,12 quoted). As soon as the books of record are opened, and the eye of Jesus looks upon the wicked, they are conscious of every sin which they have ever committed…Above the throne is revealed the cross; and like a panoramic view appear the scenes of… the successive steps in the great plan of redemption. All are entranced, the wicked have looked upon the coronation of the Son of God. They see in His hands the tables of the divine law.”—Great Controversy, p.666-668
God Will Bring Forth His Law
So it seems clear that the 'tables of stone hidden by God until that day, will be presented before the world' by God, not man, just before and after the millennium.
It does not say that man will find the tables of stone that were hidden in a cave near Jerusalem. One has to wonder if they were found and brought forth, if they would have any more impact on sinners than the Biblical record of the law we already have!
Very few 'Christians' would deny the existence of the ark of the tables of the law etched in stone, but many of those who do profess Christianity deny the very law itself, particularly the Sabbath.
Jesus said Himself, “If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rose from the dead.” – Luke 16:31; or we might add, ‘though the ark be raised out of a cave!”
Inspiration adds that there are two sets of the law, we may well ask then, which one will be brought forth? “The law of God in the sanctuary in heaven is the great original, of which the precepts inscribed upon the tables of stone… were an unerring transcript.” —Great Controversy, p.434
It is not clear whether it will be the earthly or the heavenly original that will be seen in the sky. Ellen White stated that they are “the tables of stone, hidden by God until that day” when it will “be presented before the world.” —I Selected Messages, p.225. But she says both the earthly copy and the heavenly original were 'hidden.' In the earthly ark, “they secreted… in a cave, where it was to be 'hidden.' —Patriarchs and Kings, p.452,453. Also, “… safe in the archives of heaven… their sacred 'hiding place.” —7 Bible Commentary, p.972
Writing of the heavenly tables of the law, she wrote, “Sacrilegious minds and hearts have thought they were mighty enough to change the times and laws of Jehovah; but safe in the archives of heaven in the ark of God, are the original commandments, written upon two tables of stone. No potentate of earth has power to draw forth those tables of stone from their sacred hiding place beneath the mercy seat.” —7 Bible Commentary, p.972
So another logical question to ask; are the tables of stone from the earthly sanctuary still in the cave, or have they been transported to heaven? We know that the Garden of Eden was transported to heaven (3 Spiritual Gifts, p.55), but there is no record that we know of that the Ark of the Covenant, or the tables of the law – the copy of the original – have been transported to heaven. We do have on record from inspiration that the earthly tables of stone were “secreted in a cave where it was to be hid from the people of Israel… That sacred ark is yet hid. It has never been disturbed since it was secreted.” This could well mean that the earthly tables were, and have not been disturbed by 'man'.
We do have on record indication that the golden pot of manna and Aaron's rod that budded – both of which were with the tables of stone in the earthly ark, are now in heaven;
“… in a vision… an… angel carried me from the earth to the Holy City. In the city I saw the temple, which I entered. In the Holiest I saw an ark… In the ark was the golden pot of manna, Aaron's rod that budded, and the tables of stone, which folded together like a book. Jesus opened them and I saw the Ten Commandments written on them, with the finger of God… The tables of stone… are now in the ark in the Most Holy Place of the temple in heaven...I saw that it read the same as when written on the tables of stone by the finger of God, and delivered to Moses on Sinai.” —Early Writings, p.32,33
This quote refers to the tables of the law in heaven that were 'folded together', the very words she used regarding the tables to be seen in the sky; “Then there appears against the sky a hand holding tables of stone folded together.” —Great Controversy, p.639.
One might assume from this, that the earthly tables of stone are now the ones she saw in the heavenly temple, and are to appear in the sky just before and after the millennium. However, we most probably can't be concrete on this.
Whether the earthly tables of stone hidden in a cave near Jerusalem will ever be found or not, is not so important to our salvation. But the purpose of this study is to be aware of what inspired writ does reveal, also to be aware of the error of the tables of stone being revealed at the point of the investigative judgment indicating going from the dead to the living.
Again, as mentioned at the beginning, this study is not to arouse controversy, but to further enlighten on the subject of the law coming to view at the end of time, and when it comes to view. Study carefully, stand firm on what we can, but don't go stomping into areas where angels fear to tread. We cannot have a firm faith on speculating what we suppose, only on what inspiration has revealed.
Courage friends, keep close to Jesus, don't get caught on the many distractions that can lead us off our solid platform.
Based from, “The Time of the End” by James Hayward. p. 552-555