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We will begin with a quick overview before taking a deeper dive into the subject of omnipresence.
Does God Dwell in One Place?
Various religions describe God as omnipresent, a term suggesting that God dwells in all places simultaneously. For example, the Merriam-Webster Dictionary refers to God as the one “present in all places at all times.” Likewise, Hugh Ross, founder of Reasons to Believe, in an article entitled “How Can God Be Everywhere in Space When So Much of Space Is Already Occupied?” in which he stated that “Several Old Testament passages declare that God indeed is omnipresent. He is everywhere in space and beyond.”
What does the Bible really teach? Is God omnipresent? Is God present in all places in heaven and earth at all times?
When we turn to the Bible, we find that it tells us that God has a specific dwelling place, that is, the heavens. 1 Kings 8:43 tells us “hear in heavens your dwelling place.” When Jesus gave his disciples the model prayer, it began “Our Father in the heavens.” (Matthew 6:9) Hebrews 9:24 says, “For Christ did not enter a holy place made with hands, a mere copy of the true one, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us.”
These verses and others like them tell us that God has a specific dwelling place that is outside of the heavens (universes) and earth of humanity. The Hebrew word (שָׁמַיִם shamayim) for heaven(s) can refer to the sky where birds fly, outer space, the universe, and the dwelling place of God that is outside or beyond the physical heavens. Solomon in 1 Kings 8:27 says, “But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you; how much less this house that I have built.” As the Creator of the heavens, God’s dwelling place is outside of or beyond his physical creation, “Let them praise the name of Jehovah, for his name alone is exalted; his majesty is above earth and heaven.” (Ps 148:13)
The Bible tells us that “God is a Spirit.” (John 4:24) God’s dwelling place is in the spiritual heavens, a place beyond or outside of the physical universe. (1 Corinthians 15:44).
Bible passages that seem to suggest that God is present everywhere are poetical and are not talking about his presence but rather his Cognizant Presence, that is, knowing or being aware of all things. Therefore, the omnipresence of God means that in all places and at all times, God’s knowledge of and power are there. For example, David says in …
Psalm 139:7-10 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
7 Where shall I go from your Spirit?
Or where shall I flee from your presence?
8 If I ascend to heaven, you are there!
If I make my bed in Sheol, look, you are there.
9 If I take the wings of the morning
and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
10 even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me.
These verses do not indicate that God is omnipresent, dwelling in the physical heavens, Sheol, the sea, and so on.
By means of God’s infinite knowledge and almighty power, he is cognizant, that is, aware, able to see anything at any time, and step in and exert his power anywhere, any time. He does not literally need to go there. An illustration of this is the smartphone and satellites. We can talk to anyone and see anywhere on this planet because of this technological power. Moreover, recent explorations to Mars have shown that we now have the power to see millions of miles (kilometers) from Earth without traveling there personally. We send machines in our place. To illustrate God’s immense power. If a piece of our sun the size of this (.) were on earth, we could not get within 80 miles (129 kilometers) of it without immediately bursting into flames. Mentally we cannot even fathom how much more powerful God is.
In the same way, God does not have to be present everywhere all the time (omnipresent), in order to be cognizant, aware of, know what is happening in any part of the physical universe(s). God’s Word says: “There is no creature hidden from his sight, but all things are naked and laid bare to the eyes of the one to whom we must give an account.” (Hebrews 4:13) Yes, God’s knowledge and power can cover anywhere in the physical heavens and earth, enabling him to be able to see and to take any action from his “holy dwelling” in the heavens. (Deuteronomy 26:15).
In What Sense Is God Present in the Heavens [Universes] and the Earth?
Yes, God is Omnipresent but not in the sense that some claim: literally, physically present in all places at all times. Cognizant Presence, that is, knowing or being aware of all things. Therefore, the omnipresence of God means that in all places and at all times, God’s knowledge of and power are there.
Does the Bible Teach Us That God is Everywhere Present at Once?
Norman L. Geisler defines Omnipresent: “Literally, omnipresence means that God is everywhere present at once (omni=everywhere + present). Negatively stated, there is nowhere that God is absent. The term ‘ubiquitous’ is sometimes used interchangeably with omnipresence; the root meaning of “ubiquity” is from the Latin ubique, meaning ‘everywhere.’” Geisler also says, “Many verses describe God as being present to or causally in His whole creation.” Geisler then writes, “Like the other great attributes of God, omnipresence is firmly rooted in the history of the church. Beginning with the early Fathers and into modern times, the omnipresence of God was universally recognized.”
The thing to notice here is twofold. First, the term omnipresent is not found in the Word of God. Second, Geisler says “Many verses describe God as being present to or causally in His whole creation,” which means we can only extrapolate the omnipresent biblical view from inferences drawn from Scripture, as there are no explicit verses stating that God is omnipresent or “that God is everywhere present at once.” Moreover, almost all of those verses that “describe God as being present to or causally in His whole creation” are in verses that are using poetic language. The question is the verse cited for this biblical view, are they being taken out of context. In other words, is this what the author meant by the words that he used, that is, “that God is everywhere present at once”?
Well, let’s look at some of the Scriptures that Geisler uses to support the view of God being omnipresent. We will quote/cite Geisler’s verse and then within bold square brackets […], we will offer what the author meant.
Geisler writes, Consider the following: “But will God really dwell on earth? The heavens, even the highest heaven, cannot contain you” (1 Kings 8:27).
[Solomon’s statement does not mean that God does not have some specific place of existence. Nor does it mean that God is omnipresent in the sense of being literally everywhere at once. This can be seen from the evidence that Solomon also spoke of God as hearing “listen in heaven your dwelling place, and when you hear, forgive,” that is, the heavens of the realm outside of the physical creation. (1 Kings 8:30, 39). Solomon’s words were not meant to infer or suggest that God is everywhere at once but rather he was expressing the greatness of God and his place in contrast to the heavens. Solomon “was under no illusions about the temple. It may have been a glorious building to humans, but God is God—immense beyond imagining. He created space, fills it with his own being, and yet he overflows it.” (Anders, Max. Holman Old Testament Commentary)]
Geisler quotes another Scripture for support, “The Lord is the great God, the great King above all gods. In his hand are the depths of the earth, and the mountain peaks belong to him. The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land” (Ps. 95:3–5).
[Again, Solomon’s statement does not mean that God is omnipresent in the sense of being literally everywhere at once. The cited text means exactly what is stated in the first verse, “The Lord is the Great God.” Again, the author is simply expressing the greatness of God in contrast to false gods or anything that might be worshipped. As the Universal Sovereign, God is the supreme person and is King over all the false gods in that he is far superior to them. There simply is no parallel between God and any angels or anything else that someone might worship, which would include the nonexistent false gods.]
Geisler quotes another Scripture for support, “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast” (Ps. 139:7–10).
[Do these verses indicate that God is, in fact, omnipresent, dwelling everywhere at once? By means of his Holy Spirit, God can see anything and exercise his power anywhere, without literally going there or being there. God does not have to be present everywhere at once (omnipresent), in order to observe or know what is happening at any point in the universe. God’s Word says, “No creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” (Hebrews 4:13) The reach of the Holy Spirit is anywhere, allowing him to be all-seeing and to fulfill God’s will and purpose from the heavens. Moses writes, ‘Look down from your holy habitation, from heaven, and bless your people Israel and the ground that you have given us, as you swore to our fathers, a land flowing with milk and honey.’” (Deuteronomy 26:15)]
Geisler quotes another Scripture for support, “‘Am I only a God nearby,’ declares the Lord, ‘and not a God far away? Can anyone hide in secret places so that I cannot see him?’ declares the Lord. ‘Do not I fill heaven and earth?’” (Jer. 23:23–24).
[Once again, the author is emphasizing God’s greatness not trying to infer that God is everywhere at once. “God contrasted himself and his ability to reveal his will with the false prophets who claimed that power. Though the NIV translates only the first two verses as poetry, some students contend the entire section is metrical. Yahweh began this message with a firm declaration of his ability to see those far away as well as those nearby. In other words, no one can hide from him. His presence extends to the most remote spot on earth.” (Anders, Max. Holman Old Testament Commentary – Jeremiah, Lamentations) The false prophets are not concealed from God. He has not been only a “God nearby” so as not to see things far away.]
[What did Paul mean? He certainly was not talking about or inferring omnipresence. 17:24–28. From the doctrine of God Paul moved on to the doctrine of creation. We hear echoes of Stephen as Paul launched into an explanation of The God who made the world and everything in it. Virtually every line contradicts the religious views of his audience. There was only one God, not many; he does not live in temples like these standing all around us; he is not served by human effort; he knows no special people (like the Jews or the Greeks) since all were made by God; God purposes to draw humanity to himself.]Geisler quotes another Scripture for support, “When you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you” (Matt. 6:6). “God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring’” (Acts 17:27–28).
What does the Bible really teach? Is God omnipresent, everywhere: in heaven, on earth, and even in mankind at the same time? 1 Kings 8:43 says, “hear in heaven your dwelling place and do according to all for which the foreigner calls to you, in order that all the peoples of the earth may know your name and fear you, as do your people Israel, and that they may know that this house that I have built is called by your name.” What is “heaven(s)”? The Hebrew shamayim (always in the plural), which is rendered “heaven(s),” the physical heavens, in which the context determines which area of the physical heavens is meant, such as the sky where the birds fly (Deut. 4:17; Prov. 30:19; Matt. 6:26), the earth’s atmosphere (Josh. 10:11; 1 Ki 18:45; Isa. 55:10; Ac 14:17), the regions of outer space (Deut. 4:19; Isa. 13:10; 1 Cor. 15:40, 41; Heb. 11:12), the universe (Ps. 102:25-26; Heb 1:1-2, 8, 10-12 ), and the same Hebrew words used for the physical heavens are also used for the spiritual heavens. (Gen. 14:19; Isa 57:15; 63:15; Ps 33:6; 33:13, 14; 115:3, 15-16; 135:16) When Jesus was teaching his disciples how to pray, he told them to address their prayers to “Our Father in the heavens.” (Matthew 6:9) Paul writes of Jesus after his resurrection at Hebrews 9:24, “For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf.”
The New Bible Dictionary says,
Heaven is the abode of God, and of those closely associated with him. The Israelite is to pray, ‘Look down from thy holy habitation, from heaven’ (Dt. 26:15). God is ‘the God of heaven’ (Jon. 1:9), or ‘the Lord, the God of heaven’ (Ezr. 1:2), or the ‘Father who is in heaven’ (Mt. 5:45; 7:21, etc.). God is not alone there, for we read of ‘the host of heaven’ which worships him (Ne. 9:6), and of ‘the angels in heaven’ (Mk. 13:32). Believers also may look forward to ‘an inheritance kept in heaven’ for them (1 Pet. 1:4). Heaven is thus the present abode of God and his angels, and the ultimate destination of his saints on earth.
Is God Omnipresent (Everywhere) According to the Bible?
While it is true that God is able to see everything and to take action anywhere of his choosing. (Prov. 15:3; Heb. 4:13); the Bible does not teach that God is omnipresent, present everywhere at once. Rather, it shows that he is a person and that he is in heaven his dwelling place, the spiritual heavens.
John 4:24 tells us, “God is spirit.” John 1:18 tells us “No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, that one has made him fully known.” The Bible depicts God as dwelling in a specific place, it never depicts God as dwelling everywhere all at once. (Isaiah 6:1-2; Revelation 4:2-3, 8.) Notice specifically Job 1:6, “Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them.” Here we see a specific location.
What the Bible makes clear is that God does not dwell on the earth or anywhere else in the physical universe. (1 Kings 8:27) While it is true that “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork,” yet God does not dwell in or with his creation anymore that than an inventor dwells with his invention. However, the creation does tell us much about the Creator, such as his power, wisdom, justice, and love. (Rom. 1:20)
Yes, Psalm 139:8tells us, “If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!” However, this text is not talking about where God is; but rather it is poetically telling us that no place is too far off for God to act on our behalf. Those who proclaim that God is everywhere all at once are misinterpreting the Scriptures, they are prooftexting, and reading their theological bias into God’s Word. Think about this, before God created everything in the physical universe(s), where was he?
Omnipresence or omnipresent is defined by Geisler as being “everywhere present at once.” He goes on to also say, “There is, of course, a sense in which God is ‘in’ the universe but not ‘of’ it … A better illustration is that God is ‘in’ or present to the whole universe the way a mind is in its brain, or the manner in which beauty is present in a work of art, or that thought is in a sentence. In each case, the one is present to and penetrates the whole without a part of it being in a part of the other.” (Volume Two, p. 170)
I would say that omnipresent is better explained by saying God is everywhere at once in that he is aware of everything in the physical universes both past, present, and future, and that he can turn his attention to anyone or anything at any time. Moreover, if he needs to take action within the universe, God sends one of his messengers, an angel.
Biblically speaking what facts do we know.
- God has a dwelling place in heaven (spiritual heavens if you like) outside of the physical universe(s)
- No human has ever seen God
- No human has ever been personally visited by God as a spirit person
- Those texts that speak of God coming to the earth to visit someone are referring to his ambassadors, the angels.
- In addition, in some instances, many would say that this was a Christophany & Christ actually appeared rather than one of the angels.
Personally, like many doctrinal views, I think the church fathers came up with this doctrinal view and looked for texts to support such a view, proof-texting. I think it is another case of a long-held belief; thus, it must be true.
Genesis 11:5 BDC: How could God have gone down to the city of Babylon?
Does not 2 Chronicles 6:18 (see, 1 Ki 8:27) tells us that “will God indeed dwell with man on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you, how much less this house that I have built!” Therefore, in what sense had Jehovah God come “down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built”?
Should we think that it was necessary for Jehovah God truly to leave his heavenly throne to see the city and tower or take action? No! More reasonably, he took note; he turned his attention to the things on the earth. Therefore, when we read, “God first visited the Gentiles, to take from them a people for his name,” it simply means that he turned his attention to the Gentiles. That is why we see a more dynamic translation rendering it, “God first showed an interest.”―Acts 15:14, (AT).
At other times, and whether this is the case here as well, it does not explicitly say, God, sent representatives to stand in his place, angelic messengers. There is no reason for the Creator of heaven and earth, to leave his heavenly place, to deliver a message to humans. There are only three instances in the Bible where God’s voice was heard from heaven. (Matt. 3:17; 17:5; John 12:28) Otherwise, Jehovah God has either sent his Son in his prehuman existence or an angelic messenger. You will take note that not only was the Mosaic Law transmitted by angelic representatives but they were viewed by Moses as though he were talking directly to God himself. “Why, then, the Law? It was added because of transgressions until the seed should arrive to whom the promise had been made, and it [the Law] was transmitted through angels by the hand of a mediator.”―Galatians 3:19.
To help us appreciate that Moses was actually speaking with an angelic representative, we look to Acts 7:38, “This is the one who was in the congregation in the wilderness with the angel who spoke to him at Mount Sinai, and with our fathers. He received living oracles to give to us.” That angelic representative was a personal spokesman for God and thus spoke to Moses, as if God himself were there, which the human being spoken to, viewed it this way as well.
You will also take note that the angel, who delivered the message to Moses at the burning bush. Exodus 3:2 identifies him as “the angel of Jehovah appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush.” Please note what verse 4 adds to this, “When Jehovah saw that he turned aside to see, God called unto him out of the midst of the bush.” In verse 6, this angelic representative said, “I am the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. And Moses hid his face; for he was afraid to look upon God.” We clearly see both the angelic representative and Moses, viewing the spokesperson as being none other than Jehovah God himself. We see this again in Exodus 4:10, “And Moses said unto Jehovah, Oh, Lord, I am not eloquent, neither heretofore, nor since thou hast spoken unto thy servant; for I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue.”
We have yet another example chapter 6 of Judges. Herein we find yet another man speaking to God through another angelic representative. Judges 6:11 says, “And the angel of Jehovah came and sat under the oak which was in Ophrah, that pertained unto Joash the Abiezrite: and his son Gideon was beating out wheat in the winepress, to hide it from the Midianites.” Here again, we find this angelic representative being viewed as Jehovah God himself. Take not over verses 14-5, “And Jehovah looked upon him, and said, Go in this thy might, and save Israel from the hand of Midian: have not I sent thee? And he said unto him, Oh, Lord, wherewith shall I save Israel? Behold, my family is the poorest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house.” Therefore, as is made clear here, the materialized angel that Gideon saw and spoke to is viewed as Jehovah God himself in the biblical account.
Then too, we have Manoah and his wife, the parents of Samson. Here again, you have an account viewing the angel of Jehovah as Jehovah. The account says, “The angel of Jehovah appeared unto the woman.” (vs 3) The wife reports to Manoah, “Then the woman came and told her husband, saying, A man of God came unto me, and his countenance was like the countenance of the angel of God.” (vs 6) “Then Manoah entreated Jehovah, and said, Oh, Lord, I pray thee, let the man of God whom thou didst send come again unto us, and teach us what we shall do unto the child that shall be born.” (vs 8) “And God [listened] to the voice of Manoah; and the angel of God came again unto the woman as she sat in the field: but Manoah her husband was not with her.” The rest of the account up to verse 18 has a conversation between ‘the angel of Jehovah and Manoah.’ However, take a special note as to what Manoah says to his wife in verse 22, “We shall surely die because we have seen God.” We know from Scripture that no one has seen Jehovah God, but Manoah and his wife felt that way because he has come into contact with an angelic spokesperson for God.
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 Norman L. Geisler, Systematic Theology, Volume Two: God, Creation (Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 2003), 169–170.
 Norman L. Geisler, Systematic Theology, Volume Two: God, Creation (Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 2003), 170.
 Norman L. Geisler, Systematic Theology, Volume Two: God, Creation (Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 2003), 172.
 Norman L. Geisler, Systematic Theology, Volume Two: God, Creation (Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 2003), 170–171.
 Kenneth O. Gangel, Acts, vol. 5, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1998), 289.
 L. L. Morris, “Heaven,” ed. D. R. W. Wood et al., New Bible Dictionary (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1996), 457.
 See Genesis 11:5-7; 18:21; Exodus 2:25; 3:8, 16; 4:3.