Jan 23, 2022 08:00am
Attributes of God-Part 6: Omnipresent

“But 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!” 

2 Chronicles 6:18

Beyond our ability to fathom, time and space have not always existed. Before these two bedrocks of our being began, there was only God. He does not need time or space for his existence; for all his needs are met in himself. We discussed God’s transcendence over time in the last article, so now we will look at God’s relationship to space.  

When most people talk about God and space, they use the word omnipresent, meaning “all present” or “present everywhere.” While God is certainly always present everywhere, there is more to it than that. There are actually three words that help us understand God’s relation to space: immensityomnipresence, and immanence. Combining these words gives us a simple, working definition of how God relates to his creation of space.  

God is above space and cannot be contained by it, yet he is present in every part of his creation and chooses to be near us.

God is above space and cannot be contained by it. 

Before God created the heavens and the earth, where was he? As Augustine said, “He dwelt in himself.” God is the only all-sufficient and necessary being in existence, meaning he is the only thing that must exist and can sustain himself. He did not need a place to live because, as Stephen Charnock says, “Innumerable worlds cannot be a sufficient place to contain God; he can only be a sufficient place to himself.” 

King Solomon marvels while he dedicates the temple, God’s “dwelling” place, that there is no building, place, or highest heaven that can contain God (2 Chronicles 6:18). Even the universe, which we think of as a vast and boundless place beyond our imagination, cannot contain God. He is limitless in regard to size and space. We call this God’s immensity, which literally means “no measure.” God does not have a quantifiable size. He is the one who determines measurements and boundaries for his creation, not the other way around, declaring to the ocean, “Thus far shall you come, and no farther, and here shall your proud waves be stayed” (Job 38:11). God cannot be contained, limited, or measured by his creation. 

He is present in every part of his creation. 

Even though God is above all spatial limitations, he is still present throughout his creation. When David penned the 139th Psalm, he realized there was nowhere he could go in all of creation where God would not be with him: 

“Where shall I go from your Spirit?
Or where shall I flee from your presence?
 If I ascend to heaven, you are there!
If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
 If I take the wings of the morning
and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
 even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me.”

Psalms 139:7-10

God’s presence reaches the highest heaven, the lowest hell, the deepest ocean, and beyond. Some will argue that God is not present in hell, referencing 2 Thessalonians 1:9 which says, “They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might.” The word presence, however, which can mean “face,” “person,”  “presence,” or “countenance,” should be understood as referring to God’s presence to bless or bestow favor upon. We see an example of this when God turned his face, or countenance, away from Christ at the crucifixion as he poured out his wrath against sin (Matthew 27:45-46). God was still present, but he could not look upon his Son with favor in that moment because God is too holy to look upon sin with anything but righteous hatred. Therefore, God is still present in hell, but he is not present to bless, only to justly punish sinners. 

The truth that God is omnipresent should also not be confused with the false teaching of Pantheism, which states that God is in every part of his creation, or all of creation is God. The Bible teaches that God is everywhere present in his creation yet he is distinct from his creation and Lord over his creation. In the beginning, he created and commanded, but he existed prior to his creation and is not a created being.

He chooses to be near us.

The most refreshing and humbling part of the doctrine of God’s omnipresence is that even though he is high and lifted up above spatial limitations, “he is actually not far from each one of us” (Acts 17:27). His nearness to us is called his immanence. He chooses to be with us and pervade his creation with his presence. And this is for our good, for “in him we live, and move, and have our being” (Acts 17:28).

God’s immanence, or “nearness to us,” can elicit two responses:

1) A Warning

To the unbeliever and believer alike, God’s omnipresence serves as a warning. There is nothing we say or do that God does not see, even when we are completely alone, in the privacy of our home, or behind closed doors. Solomon knew that “the eyes of the LORD are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good” (Proverbs 15:3). This should be a solemn reminder to us that we cannot get away with “secret” sins because the Lord sees them all and will hold us accountable later, if not sooner. 

As God spoke to the prophet Jeremiah, “‘Am I a God at hand,’ declares the LORD, ‘and not a God far away? Can a man hide himself in secret places so that I cannot see him?’ declares the LORD. ‘Do I not fill heaven and earth?’ declares the LORD” (Jeremiah 23:23-24). For believers, this truth should cause them to strive to live a life that is pleasing in God’s sight and to repent of any wrongdoings, even those done in secret. Unbelievers should take this as a measure of God’s grace and patience to them that they were warned and given a chance to humble themselves, turn away from their sins, and turn to Christ’s salvation and lordship.

2) A Comfort

To the believer, God’s omnipresence is also a comfort in a myriad of situations: 

In loneliness, we know we are never truly alone.

In distress, we know that “God is a very present help in times of trouble” (Psalm 46:1). 

In broken-heartedness, God is there to heal our pain and bind up our wounds (Psalm 147:3) and is even close enough to catch every single one of our tears in his bottle (Psalm 56:8). 

In times of fear, or even when we walk through deep valleys of death and darkness, God is with us to comfort us and relieve our dread (Psalm 23:4). 

We are also comforted knowing our loving Father is so close to us that he hears every whispered prayer and plea. We could be at home, at school, at work, in another country, in prison, or in a hospital bed and know that we have immediate access to God. He is always right with us and we can talk to him any time of day or night. 

Scripture constantly describes God as being a refuge, a fortress, and a shield to his people. These statements are true, but they are only comforting if God is indeed near to us in all places at all times, if he is omnipresent. No matter where we go or how far away we feel from God, he is always there, our immanent and strong shelter, our helper and defender. He is nearer to us than our spouse, best friend, children, parents, or any other human comforter. And there is no place, no distance, no death that can ever separate us from him. 

“For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” 

Romans 8:38-39

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