The Omnipresent God
Weldon E. Warnock
The word "omnipresent," is a combination of two words, omni and present. "Omni" is from the Latin word, omnis, meaning "all." "Present" means "at hand; in attendance, as opposed to absent." Hence, "omnipresent," means "at hand, in attendance or present in all places." The omnipresent God is, therefore, present in all places, everywhere at the same time.
The words, "omnipresent" (adjective) and "omnipresence" (noun) are not found in the Bible, but the idea is taught in the Scriptures in several places.
God Is Everywhere
A heathen philosopher asked, "Where is God?" A Bible believer responded, "Where is He not?" Indeed, where is God not to be found? The Psalmist wrote, "Whither shall I go from they Spirit? Or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; Even there shall thy hand lead me, and they right hand shall hold me" (Psa. 139:7-10).
There is no escape from God. If I ascend to heaven, He is there. If I journey to the depths of Sheol, God is there. If some way I could latch on to the wings of the morning, the sunbeams that rapidly dispel the darkness of the night, and travel to the unexplored depths of the ocean, He would be there. Yes, God is everywhere!
Jehovah said, "Am I a God at hand, saith the Lord, and not a God afar off? Can any hide himself in secret places that I shall not see him? saith the Lord. Do not I fill heaven and earth? saith the Lord" (Jer. 23:23-24). Paul stated that God is "not far from every one of us: For in him we live, and move, and have our being" (Acts 17:27-28). He also said, "The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool" (Isa. 66:1). Solomon declared that heaven and heaven of heavens cannot contain God (1 Kgs. 8:27).
The Bible speak so God as dwelling between the cherubims of the ark (2 Kgs. 19:15), in the temple at Mt. Zion (1 Kgs. 8:11, 13: Psa. 26:8; Isa. 8:18), in Christ (Jn. 1:14; 2 Cor. 5:19), in the church (2 Cor. 6:16; Eph. 2:20-22) and in individual Christians (1 Jn. 4:12-16).
How God Is Everywhere
God is found in all places by the instrumentality of His creation, laws, works, agents, appointments, manifestations, etc.., while His person is in heaven. Omnipresence does not means that God's person is everywhere, but rather His presence is everywhere by way of the preceding avenues mentioned.
The Bible does not teach the omniperson of God, but rather it teaches the omnipresence of God. To teach that the person of God is everywhere is to teach a form of pantheism, the belief that the universe ins God and God is the universe. Though Jehovah is both transcendent (separate from and beyond the material universe) and immanent (with us), He is not omniperson.
During World War II, Hitler's presence was felt throughout Europe by his armies, oppression and influence, but he, personally, was in Germany. A man's presence may be manifested by his voice on radio or his appearance on TV while his person may be thousands of miles away. In like manner God's presence is seen, felt and manifested throughout the universe, but His presence is in heaven.
Through the agency of angels, God is said to be present in the Old Testament. The Lord saved Israel from the Egyptians (Ex. 14:30), but He did it through the "angel of his presence" (Isa. 63:9). Notice the word "presence." God spoke to Moses from a burning bush (Ex. 3:4), but He did it through an angel (Ex. 3:2). God went before Israel in a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night (Ex. 13:21), but He did it through the medium of an angel (Ex. 14:9). All of these things are attributed to God, but He performed them through agency, namely, angels. God's power portrayed in miracles, revelations and communications, manifestations through such things as lights, voices, lightnings and thunders, all reflect His divine presence.
Jesus promised to be in every gathering where two or three come together in His name (Matt. 18:20), but who believes that Jesus is personally present? Jesus promised to be with His disciples unti the end of the world (Matt. 28:20), but who insists that Jesus is with His disciples in person? Jesus is in heaven (Acts 7:56; Eph. 1:20; 1 Pet. 3:22). Since Jesus is in heaven, He is with us through the means of His word (the Bible), the Lord's Supper, singing gospel songs, prayer, influence, and of course, omniscience (God's power to know and see all). The following expresses the omnipresence of God so adequately:
He's here, and there and everywhere
In all the ways I've trod
I've never passed beyond the sphere
Of the providence of God.
May Leave God's Presence
Though God is omnipresent, there is a sense in which we can leave His presence. We read that God may cast us out of His presence. Concerning Israel, when God was chastising His people by the Syrian king Hazael, He preserved them from annihilation, being gracious unto them, "and would not destroy them, neither cast them from his presence as yet" (2 Kgs. 13:23). Ultimately, however, the Assyrians conquered them (2 Kgs. 17:18), and took them captive, removing them from God's sight. Being "removed from God's presence" (sight) was rejection by God, separated from Him, losing God's protection and standing defenseless against their enemies.
Later, God cast Judah out from His presence (2 Kgs. 24:20), allowing the Babylonians to take them captive. This was also called, "removing them out of His sight" (2 Kgs. 24:3). Moses said of Cain, "And Cain went out from the presence of the Lord" (Gen. 4:16). Having been rejected by God, Cain went out, or separated himself, from God's protection and blessings.
On the day of the final judgment, God will punish the disobedient with "everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power" (2 Thess. 1:9). "Presence" in the passage means "face," actually denoting the "presence of a person." H.A. W. Meyer states, "`to see the face of the Lord' is a well-known biblical expression to denote blessedness whereas distance from it is an expression of misery" (The Second Epistle of the Thessalonians, p. 584).
So, in Thessalonians, banishment from God's presence is not only separation from His immediate presence in heaven, but a rejection by God of His blessedness, glory and honor in an eternal fellowship. Although the wicked will be everlastingly excluded from the face of the Lord, yet the presence of God will be realized in hell as a place prepared for the devil and his angels (Matt. 25:41) and through the suffering of God's divine justice.
There are practical and important lessons learned from the omnipresence of God.
(I) Comfort. The saints of God are comforted, encouraged and consoled to know that God is with them to help and succor. We echo the Psalmist's words of the long ago, "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble" (Psa. 46:1). "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me" (Psa. 23:4). The writer of Hebrews stated, "and be content with such things as ye have; for he hath said, I will never leave thee nor forsake thee" (Heb. 13:5).
Whenever we go as faithful Christians, we know that God is near, that He goes with us. He is never asleep, too busy to listen, or on a journey, but He is always ready to bless and help us.
(2) Communion with God assured. The nearness of God assures that a communion with God may be enjoyed everywhere, even apart from the hallowed places. God's people could pray to Him, sing to Him and study His word without having to go to the temple in Jerusalem. This by no means excused temple worship, but it did mean that communion with God could be enjoyed outside of a specific location.
Jesus said to the Samaritan woman, "ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father ....God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth" (Jn. 4:21,24). From any place on the earth, children of God may worship Him. Paul and Silas worshiped God while in a prison, disciples worshiped at the temple grounds in Jerusalem and saints worshiped in the home of Aquila and Priscilla. (This does not exclude assembling with the church.)
Yes, God is not very far from everyone of us. He dwells not in temples made with hands (Acts 17:24). He is not a local God, just meeting the needs of certain geographical boundaries. He is the omnipresent God!
(3) Cannot escape from God's presence. Jonah learned this lesson from the belly of the great fish when he attempted to flee from God to Tarshish (Jonah 1:1-17). Adam and Eve, because of guilt, tried to hide themselves from the presence of the Lord, but the trees of the garden could not conceal them (Gen. 3:8). We can never get away from God. "Yea, the darkness hideth not from thee; but the night shineth as the day: the darkness and the light are both alike to thee" (Psa. 139:12).
What is strange with many people is that they would not think of doing some things in the presence of other people, like taking a drink or whiskey or cursing, but yet they will do so in the presence of God. It is important, therefore, that we develop the sense of the presence of the Lord, for this will keep us from doing that which is wrong.
(4) Can be excluded from His presence. When we live in sin, walk in disobedience, we are cast out of God's presence, here and in eternity. Cain went out by disobedience. Israel and Judah, through sin, were cast out (rejected by God and forfeited His blessings). We, too, lose God's care, protection and fellowship when we are cast out of His presence because of sin.
In conclusion, may be confidently say of our infinite God and Father:
Lord, I believe, Yes, I believe,
I cannot doubt or be deceived;
The eye that sees each sparrow fall,
His unseen hand is in it all.
Guardian of Truth XXIX: 2, pp. 43-44