Dimensions of God’s Presence
Many Christian theologians say that there are three dimensions of God’s presence. Knowledge of these dimensions help us grow our faith in Him. We can refer to these dimensions in the following ways: First, God is omnipresent or always present everywhere. Second, God manifests or shows Himself to His people. Third, He is indwelling or living in us. However, these same dimensions are also ways of describing the Holy Trinity of God: God the Father is the omnipresence, Jesus the Son is the Manifest presence and the indwelling is the Holy Spirit. Here in this article, we are only looking at the examples we have in the Bible.
God’s Omnipresence or God the Father
In the Old Testament (OT) God the Father promised Moses and Joshua that He would be with them everywhere they would go.
It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed. (Deuteronomy 31:8 ESV)
No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you. (Joshua 1:5 ESV)
God’s promise was really a reminder of His character because Moses would have known that God would be with him and with Joshua after him as God had been all through the forty years the Israelites spent in the wilderness.
However, God is present all the time, everywhere. We see this throughout the Bible. But we can see this most evident in Psalm 139:7-13, which David wrote.
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, 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. 11 If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night,” 12 even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you. 13 For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. 14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. 15 My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. (Psalm 139:1-15 ESV)
So wherever David can imagine going even to the place of the dead (Sheol), God is with him guiding him. God was even with David in his mother’s womb.
When we read the story of David’s life in 1 & 2 Samuel we find God with him everywhere he goes in battle and his home life, even when he sins. David credits God for all his wins in battle and for his protection, because God fights for all of us simultaneously as long as we don’t try to take control.
God’s constant presence everywhere allows Him to hear and answer prayers to Him from all over the globe. With God there are no secrets because He is present everywhere and doesn’t miss even those things hidden deep in our hearts.
God was with Joseph in the depths of the prison (Genesis 39:20 to 41:14), with Hannah in her despair (1 Samuel 1:1-20), with Esther and Mordecai as Haman sought to massacre the Jewish people (Esther 4:1 to 7:10), with Jonah in the belly of the fish (Jonah 1:17 to 2:10) and with King Hezekiah as he was told he would die soon (2 Kings 20:1-20). In the New Testament (NT) God was with Peter in prison (Acts 12:6-11), Paul in prison (Acts 16:24-27) and Jesus on the Mount of Olives after praying (Luke 22:42-43).
So what can we say this means to us as believers? It means that there can be no place we can hide from God where He cannot see us or our sin. He sees the deeds of every person who lives. There might be no one else on Earth who knows what we’ve done, but God does. Even in the depths of depression or despair, God is present and able to deliver us from evil. We are all safe in His hands, wherever we are, even if He does not manifest Himself there.
For his eyes are on the ways of a man, and he sees all his steps. (Job 34:21 ESV) The Bible says that the eyes of God are all over the earth showing His strength on behalf of those whose hearts are turned toward Him. In other words, His eyes are forever focused on the ways of all humans. If our hearts are pure toward God then we have nothing to fear, because He will ever show His strength in our favor. That is the power in God’s omnipresence.
God’s Manifest Presence or The Son
A manifestation in this context is God making His spiritual presence physically clear and evident. In the Bible and in our lives these occurrences may be audible, bodily, in dreams, in visions or environmental actions. In many of the places where God manifests Himself in the Bible, it is the angel of the Lord. Although the Bible says that the angels in heaven are not equal with Jesus and that He is superior to the angels, these appearances are in some ways a representation of Jesus the Son.
God Manifested to Moses Several Times
God was visually evident to Moses in the burning bush. Moses could also hear God’s voice speaking to him there (Exodus 3:1-22). Many of the times God manifested after that, many people were present aside from Moses, such as the Ten Plagues (Exodus 7:19-21; 8:3-6, 16-17. 20-24; 9:1-7, 8-12, 18-26; 10:12-15, 21-23; 12:29-30), the pillars of cloud by day and fire by night (Exodus 40:34–38; Numbers 9:15–23), the parting of the Red Sea (Exodus 14), wrting the Ten Commandments on tablets twice, (Exodus 31:18, 34:28), bringing water out of a rock twice to quench the people’s thirst (Exodus 17:6; Numbers 20:10-11), covering the camp with quail and manna from heaven when they grumbled about the lack of food (Exodus 16:2-23) and saving the
people with a bronze snake after they spoke out against the Lord and He sent serpents among them (Numbers 21:7-9).
There are 74 verses in the Bible containing the word vision—59 in OT and 15 in the New Testament.
God gave visions to many people in OT, but one of the most powerful is given to Elisha and then to his servant. The king of Syria at the time desired to attack Israel and Elisha warned the king of Israel many times about places not to go, because of this foreign king. The king of Syria got word that Elisha was doing this so he sent an army to Elisha to seize him and surrounded the city at night.
Elisha’s servant went out of the house to find the Syrian army with horses and chariots and went back inside to ask Elisha what they should do. Elisha could see the much larger army of angels surrounding the Syrian troops and told his servant not to be afraid because the army on their side was larger than the army against them. Then Elisha prayed to open the eyes of his servant so that he might see. That was when he saw this vision of the angel army with horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha (2 Kings 6:7-17).
So Elisha being a prophet could see the spirit realm, but his servant didn’t have that power. It was when Elisha prayed that his servant was given the same vision.
In the New Testament, the apostle John saw a vision which led him to write the book of Revelation.
There are 59 verses in the Bible containing the word dream—52 in OT and seven in the New Testament.
Most of us know about the dreams in the story of Joseph—he had two of which he told to his brothers and parents (Genesis 37:5-9). Then there are the ones of Pharaoh’s baker and cup bearer (Genesis 40:7-19) and the two of Pharaoh himself (Genesis 41:17-32).
In the New Testament, Pilate’s wife is given a dream about Jesus (Matthew 27:19).
God Appeared Bodily to Abraham
God manifested Himself in bodily form in OT a few times: He appeared to Joshua, Gideon, Samson’s parents, Sarah’s servant Hagar, Jacob and Abraham.
God spoke audibly to Abraham several times from the time he lived in Ur to the time he was to sacrifice Isaac. And once, God appeared to him at the oaks of Mamre. He saw three men in front of him and bowed before them, saying, “My Lord, let me wash your feet. Rest yourselves under the tree, while I get some bread for you. Then you can be on your way as I’m your servant.”
Abraham, Sarah and a servant prepared food for them. As they ate, they asked where Sarah was by name to which Abraham replied that she was in the tent. God said, “I will come back in a year, and she will have a son.”
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She laughed to herself, and the Lord asked, “Why did Sarah laugh, saying, ‘Can I really bear a child at my age?’ Is anything so difficult for the Lord?” Then God re-iterated His promise for a son.
Then the three men went on from there toward Sodom to condemn it and Abraham followed them (Genesis 18:1-33).
Here we see God appearing to Abraham as three men, which many believe means that God appeared to him as the full Trinity.
God also appeared as the Angel of the Lord to Abraham on Mount Moriah when he was about to sacrifice Isaac.
In NT Saul’s experience of Jesus manifesting from heaven as a blinding light changed everything about his life from a Pharisee to an Apostle for the Gospel, preaching to the Gentiles (Acts 9:3-9).
Of course, the God became flesh and lived among humans on the earth only once; that God-in-the-flesh was Jesus of Nazareth, born in Bethlehem.
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. (John 1:14a ESV)
God’s Indwelling Presence or The Holy Spirit
The indwelling presence of God is the one that lives within us as believers of the Judeo-Christian God of the Bible. There are a few places in OT where we can see that people have the Holy Spirit dwelling in them; I would count the prophets in this category along with Moses, Joshua and David to name a few.
John the Baptist said that Jesus would baptize with the Holy Spirit.
I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit. (Mark 1:8, See also Matthew 3:11; Luke 3:16 ESV) But in the context of the time before Jesus had begun His ministry, what did that mean? What would people have thought the Holy Spirit was? They didn’t
even know what the Trinity was. However, not only was Jesus on the way, He was present for His way, truth and life, to die for our salvation and resurrect on the Third Day.
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6 ESV)
After He resurrected, Jesus told the disciples to stay in Jerusalem until they would be clothed with power from on high.
And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high. (Luke 24:49 ESV)
This clothing of power is the Holy Spirit to which Jesus referred when He spoke in a parable about them as branches, Himself as the Vine and God as the vinedresser. 1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. 3 Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. 4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered,
thrown into the fire, and burned. 7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. (John 15:1-7 ESV)
And so it happened in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost that the Holy Spirit descended from heaven with the sound of a rushing wind on a crowd of men including the twelve disciples filling the house (Acts 2:1-6 ESV).
Paul who was Saul before says that we are the temple of God.
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Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? (1 Corinthians 3:16 ESV) The indwelling presence of God in the Holy Spirit is one of the characteristics that makes a Christian believer a follower of Christ led by God. It is my personal experience that the Holy Spirit is the reason I am the man I am today. It is my desire and prayer that all Christians who proclaim Jesus as Lord and Savior, that He died on the cross for us and resurrected on the Third Day receive the Holy Spirit and allow Him to fully lead their lives according to his will.
By Stephen D. Edwards