No matter where you travel to in this world, no matter where you end up at—whether it be deep in the boreal forests of western Canada, the immense jungles of the Amazon rainforest, the African savannas, the high-altitude Himalayas, the mostly-treeless tundra regions near the Arctic, or even on a tiny, remote island in the Pacific Ocean—God is there. Our God is omnipresent, which means to be present everywhere.
There is nowhere in this world where the Lord God, Creator of heaven and earth, does not exist. Let us read this beautiful Psalm together:
“Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend into heaven, You are there; if I make my bed in hell [some Bible versions say ‘Sheol’], behold, 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” (Psalm 139:7-10, NKJV).
There is nowhere that God isn’t! For Christians, this is so wonderful to know that, wherever we are, whatever state of mind we’re in, or whatever trouble we may face, the Lord is never far away from our cries for help. “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1). “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you” (James 4:8, NKJV) God bears witness to His omnipresence elsewhere in Scripture: “Do I not fill heaven and earth?” (Jeremiah 23:24, NKJV).
The life and existence of all things, all creatures, and all people, comes from God. He is our provider and sustainer, “for in Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28, NKJV), and He gives life and breath to all humans and creatures of the earth (Acts 17:25, Job 12:10). Psalm 104:2 says that God stretches out the heavens like a curtain. To accomplish all of these things requires the omnipresence (and omnipotence!) of God in every aspect of creation, at all times in all places, whether it be sustaining the vast, vast panoply of stars and galaxies of outer space, or preserving the laws of subatomic physics. In the book of Hebrews, it is revealed to us that God the Father made the entire universe through His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, and upholds all things by the word of His power (Hebrews 1:1-3)
The Puritan writer, Stephen Charnock, in his work The Existence and Attributes of God, penned several pages about the omnipresence of God, including this:
“He is present with all things by his authority, because all things are subject to him by his power, because all things are sustained by him…He is present in the world, as a king is in all parts of his kingdom regally present: providentially present with all, since his care extends to the meanest of his creatures. His power reacheth all, and his knowledge pierceth all. As everything in the world was created by God, so everything in the world is preserved by God; and since preservation is not wholly distinct from creation, it is necessary God should be present with everything while he preserves it, as well as present with it when he created it. ‘Thou preservest man and beast’ (Psalm 36:6). ‘He upholds all things by the word of his power’ (Heb. 1:3).”
The warmly-written Heidelberg Catechism of 1563 provides this bit of useful information:
Question 28: What does it profit us to know that God has created, and by His providence still upholds all things?
Answer: That we may be patient in adversity; thankful in prosperity; and for what is future, have good confidence in our faithful God and Father, that no creature shall separate us from His love; since all creatures are so in His hand, that without His will they cannot so much as move.
As it is written in the Catechism (and the Bible!), God must be omnipresent at all times.
Remember the account of King Solomon, who was King David’s successor, giving the prayer of dedication for the new temple in Israel, which was built for the Lord? 1 Kings 8:22-23, NKJV reads:
“Then Solomon stood before the altar of the Lord in the presence of all the assembly of Israel, and spread out his hands toward heaven; and he said: ‘Lord God of Israel, there is no God in heaven above or on earth below like You, who keep Your covenant and mercy with Your servants who walk before You with all their hearts.”
As Solomon continues in his prayer and supplication, he utters these words in verse 27: “But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain You. How much less this temple which I have built!” King Solomon was struck by something very, very profound: God’s omnipresence cannot be limited to the earth, the universe and heaven!
There can be no reality where God isn’t. Where God isn’t, there is absolutely nothing, for God, being infinite, cannot dwell nowhere, for ‘nowhere’ cannot exist at all.
This opens a door to a big theological and philosophical question, “Is there a reality outside of the boundaries of heaven and the universe?” Scripture gives us an answer; a brief peek in Isaiah 57:15 [NKJV]: “For thus says the High and Lofty One Who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: ‘I dwell in the high and holy place, with him who has a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.’”
In light of this beautiful portion of the Bible, we realize that God’s presence is not conterminous with the boundaries of the universe, but that God, as a Spirit1 extends beyond the boundaries of the universe. He ‘inhabits eternity.’ What is eternity? Eternity is something beyond our normal notions of space and time. The Triune Godhead has dwelled in eternity from ‘everlasting to everlasting’ (Psalm 90:2).
Let’s consult two Reformed theologians who wrote far better about the realities of God and eternity than I can, starting with Herman Bavinck, from p. 149 of his classic, Reformed Dogmatics: God and Creation, Volume Two:
“Infinity in the sense of not being confined by space is synonymous with God’s omnipresence…This omnipresence includes God’s being as well as his power…He is uniquely a place of his own to Himself…God relates to space as the infinite One who, existing within Himself, also fills to repletion every point of space and sustains it by his immensity.”
Petrus Van Mastricht, a Post-Reformation theologian (1630-1706), wrote that God is not “coextensive” with space, which would mean that God was actually part of the fabric of the universe (an error of panentheism, which we will look at shortly), but rather “coexists with space.” Mastricht further writes: “…He coexists by filling (Jer. 23:24), that is, by filling the whole world with his whole self…not hemmed in by any space, not excluded from any space, indeed even the space beyond the world, because the essence of God is infinite, whereas the world is finite.” (Theoretical-Practical Theology, Volume 2: Faith in the Triune God, p. 197)
Finally, in regards to omnipresence, there are two false belief systems I want to look at briefly.
The first example is panentheism (not to be confused with pantheism, which is also unbiblical). Panentheism is the belief that, even though God is transcendent of the universe, God is also part of everything in the universe.
Some of the world’s religions are panentheistic.2 As mentioned in my essay on God’s omnipotence, just as the servant isn’t greater than the Master (John 13:16), the creation is not greater than the Creator, neither is it co-equal to, or co-extensive with, God. For God to literally be part of the fabric of the universe, matter would have to be part of God’s essence, and would be co-eternal with God.
Since God is the self-sustaining source of life for all living things, wouldn’t matter and energy have a god-like state of being, too, as part of God’s essence? But, of course, that’s not what the Bible teaches; these verses support God’s essence being totally separate from the matter and energy He created: Psalm 33:6-9, Psalm 148:1-6, Jeremiah 10:12, John 1:3 and Hebrews 1:2. At the eschaton, when the Lord Jesus returns, “the heavens will pass away…and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up” (2 Peter 3:10, NKJV). If God and the universe are of one essence, it wouldn’t make any sense for Him to destroy it, for He would be doing away with part of Himself.
The second example, which arguably could be considered panentheistic is a branch of mysticism called Kabbalah. It supposes that an Infinite and absolutely unknowable Being—a concept found in an earlier heresy called Gnosticism—created the world through ten emanations, and that these emanations are not really different from the universe itself. [‘Emanate’ means to come out from a source.] Some practitioners insist that all things which exist are God, and that the Infinite, unknowable One can only be known by these emanations, or ‘characteristics.’ These supposedly act as an ‘intermediary’ between The Infinite and the world. [The concept of ‘emanating’ characteristics was part of Gnosticism and Neoplatonism, both of which had some influence on the early development of Kabbalah.] To quote one of their writers, “The Infinite is not the God of the Bible nor the object of traditional prayer.”
The God of the Bible is not totally unknowable! God the Father has, in these last days, spoken to us by His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, the only Savior and Mediator (Hebrews 1:1-3, Acts 4:12, 1 Timothy 2:5), in Whom dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily (Colossians 2:8-9) and He hears the prayers of the righteous (Proverbs 15:29, John 16:23). Jesus Himself says in the Gospel of John that He is in the Father, and the Father in Him (John 14:11). Yes, God is, to some degree, unknowable because we’re finite and He is infinite—there is knowledge that we will never attain to, even in the new heavens and new earth. Remember, the ‘secret things’ belong to the Lord our God (Deuteronomy 29:29)! But God the Father has provided us a plentiful record of revealing Himself—and the entire Trinity–through the Old and New Testaments. (Besides, if ‘The Infinite’ was truly unknowable, how did the Kabbalists find that out?)
There is also the problem of separating God’s characteristics—mercy, understanding, judgment, etc.– from His very essence, which Kabbalah, through emanations, tries to do. The further one travels down the Kabbalistic ‘tree’ of emanations, the more distant the connection between the creator’s essence and the emanation itself. Why wouldn’t that have an effect on the quality and range of the creator’s omnipresence within that context, too? But God’s characteristics cannot be separated from His essence; otherwise, He couldn’t be fully omnipresent at every moment in the universe, which means, Biblically, God wouldn’t be God. It would also mean, as Mastricht said, that God was composite, i.e., made of many parts, “which would have as a prerequisite one who composes, and thus God would not be the absolutely first being. Furthermore, if composite, then also dissoluble and thus not incorruptible…”3 God, being infinite, can have no predecessor! As Herman Bavinck also wrote, “Each attribute is identical with God’s being: he is what he possesses…Whatever God is, He is that completely and simultaneously.”4
Now let’s end with this wonderful thought: God the Son, Jesus Christ, promises to be with His people, always present with them, no matter what we go through or where we are, to be the great Shepherd of His sheep (Hebrews 13:20), to guide and comfort us with His rod and staff, and to be with us from now until the end of the age, and forevermore (Psalm 23, Matthew 28:20, Revelation 22:1-5). That should be very comforting for all believers in Christ.
1 John 4:24
2 Sufism and Hinduism are two examples.
3 Mastricht, p. 122-123
4 Bavinck, p. 118