Is God really omnipresent, that is, everywhere at all times? Scriptures like Genesis 3:8-11 seem to suggest the opposite!
The question of God’s omnipresence has puzzled men for centuries and millennia, and diverse and sometimes incredible answers have been proposed.
One common idea in Orthodox Christianity is that God, as a Spirit being, is everywhere, as allegedly, Spirit has no form or shape–no limitations–no “parts.” God is understood to be–even though proponents of that idea would oppose such wording–a formless or shapeless “blob”–permeating everything.
This idea is clearly unbiblical. God HAS form and shape. God said that Moses saw the glorified “form” of the LORD (compare Numbers 12:8). God, when creating man, said that man was to be made in accordance with the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:26-27; 9:6). God is described as having a head, arms, a body, feet, eyes and hair, among other aspects. Man is made in the physical form of God–he is a physical reflection, if you please, of the Spirit Beings, God the Father and Jesus Christ the Son. Please also note that Christ is described as the [Spirit] image of God the Father (2 Corinthians 4:4). He looks like God the Father; that is why He could say, even when He was here on earth in human form; “He who has seen Me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). In that same way–on a physical level–man is made in the image of God.
Given the fact that God has form and shape, He IS therefore at one given moment in only one place at one specific time. This means, when He is sitting on His throne in heaven, He is therefore not at that very same moment on earth, or on planet Mars, or in another galaxy billions of light-years away. This is why we read that God came down from heaven to walk on earth; that Jesus Christ, after His resurrection to a Spirit Being, ascended to heaven; that He was brought before God the Father in heaven to receive kingship and power; and that He will return to this earth, in power and glory, to rule all nations. Of course, we must also understand that God CAN “travel” from one place to another within a “split second.” But as we will see, when God is at a certain place, at that very same moment, He cannot be–as a Person–at a different place at the same time.
And still, it IS correct that God IS omnipresent–that is, that He is everywhere at all times, and NOTHING escapes His attention or is hidden from His eyes (Matthew 6:18).
Let us understand how this is possible.
David gives us the answer to this puzzle, which most professing Christians simply do NOT understand. He writes in Psalm 139:1-2:
“LORD, You have searched me and known me, You know my sitting down and my rising up; You understand my thought AFAR OFF.”
David knew that God could be “afar off,” and still understand all of his thoughts. How? Continuing in verses 3-6:
“You comprehend my path and my lying down, And are acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word on my tongue, But behold, O Lord, You know it altogether. You have hedged me behind and before. And laid your hand upon me [i.e., He has given him protection and security]. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; It is high, I cannot attain it.”
But David did not conclude that God’s miraculous omnipresence was due to God being everywhere like a form- and shapeless blob; he knew better than that. And so, he continues to explain HOW God is omnipresent, beginning with verse 7:
“Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence?”
Here is the answer! God the Father and Jesus Christ are both Spirit beings. They both have form and shape, composed of Spirit. But the Holy Spirit is NOT a being–rather, it is the power emanating from God (compare Micah 3:8; Luke 4:14). It is through the POWER of God’s Holy Spirit that things are created. And God’s Holy Spirit does not have form and shape–God’s Holy Spirit does not exist in a bodily form. When God gave His Holy Spirit to the disciples gathered in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost, there was a representative appearance in the form of “tongues as of fire” (compare Acts 2:3). However, the Holy Spirit was also here represented by a sound, “… as of a rushing mighty wind” (verse 2). These accompanying manifestations were given as signs to accompany this glorious event of the giving of God’s power and nature–His own Holy Spirit!
God’s Holy Spirit is everywhere. It is true that we read of another incidence when John the Baptist saw the Holy Spirit descending “like a dove” on Jesus Christ, Mark 1:10. This, however, was just a vision from God, showing John that Jesus was the Messiah and the Son of God, compare John 1:29-34.
God, a Spirit being, Who has form and shape, is everywhere through His Spirit. And so, David continues to meditate on this fact, as follows, in verses 8-12:
“If I ascend into heaven, You are there [through the Spirit of God]; If I make my bed in hell [Hebrew sheol, the grave], behold, you are there [through God’s Spirit]. If I take the wings of the morning, And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, Even there your hand shall lead me [through God’s Holy Spirit], And your right hand shall hold me. If I say, ‘Surely the darkness shall fall on me,’ Even the night shall be light upon me; Indeed, the darkness shall not hide from You, But the night shines as the day; The darkness and the light are both alike to You.”
We read in Genesis 1:1-3: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was [better: became] without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the SPIRIT OF GOD was hovering over the face of the waters. Then God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.”
God the Father gave the command, Jesus Christ, the Son, the Word of God, spoke the word, gave the order, and created light through the power of the Holy Spirit (compare Psalm 104:30: “You send forth your Spirit, they are created.”). We read that God the Father created everything through Jesus Christ (Colossians 1:15-17; Hebrews 1:1-2), and Christ did so by using the power of His Holy Spirit to accomplish this. Job 26:13 says: “By His Spirit He [God] adorned the heavens.” In that sense, the “Spirit of God has made [Elihu], And the breath of the Almighty [gave him] life” (Job 33:4). God’s Spirit can be compared with breath or wind. Note that the New Jerusalem Bible translates Genesis 1:2 as, “…with a divine wind sweeping over the waters.” God’s Holy Spirit emanates from God. It is not a person, but the power of God–and through the Holy Spirit, God is and can be everywhere at all times.
An additional piece of this marvelous truth is that God lives in converted Christians through His Holy Spirit–the Spirit of God the Father AND of Jesus Christ the Son. This is HOW God–both the Father and the Son–can dwell in thousands of Christians all at the same time (John 14:23)–through His Spirit (compare Romans 8:9-11, 14-15; Galatians 4:6).
Turning now to Genesis 3:8-11, we find that God–actually in the Person of Jesus Christ, as no man has ever seen the Father (John 1:18; 6:46)–“walked” in the Garden of Eden. That must be understood quite literally. At that moment in time, Christ appeared to Adam and Eve in a physical manifestation, but through His Spirit, He was still everywhere. [Later, we find that Christ appeared to Abraham and Sarah, together with two angels, manifesting themselves “as” humans, to eat and to speak with them about their future son and to warn Abraham of the impending destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah (compare Genesis 18:1-2, 13, 16-33; 19:1).]
When God asked Adam in Genesis 3:11, whether he had eaten from the tree of knowledge, that is not to be misunderstood in the sense that God did not know this. He most certainly did–nothing is hidden from His eyes–but God engaged Adam in a dialogue to see how he would react. He gave Adam a chance to express his sorrow and grief–to express repentance for what he had done; instead, Adam chose to blame Eve and God for his sin (compare verse 12: “The WOMAN whom YOU GAVE to be with me, SHE gave me of the tree, and I ate.”).
To summarize, God the Father and Jesus Christ DO have form and shape. They exist as Spirit beings. Jesus revealed this key understanding that “God is Spirit…” (John 4:24). As the record of the Bible shows, Jesus–along with other Spirit composed beings, that is, God’s holy angels–manifested themselves at times in human form. While the Bible does not teach that God’s angels are omnipresent, it is clearly revealed that through the Holy Spirit of God, emanating from both the Father and the Son, God IS omnipresent.
Lead Writer: Norbert Link