Where does God dwell? If asked this question, most would answer that His dwelling place is in heaven. This agrees with Scripture. The Bible distinguishes heaven from earth and describes it as God’s dwelling (Eccl. 5:2).God is described as being in heaven (2 Chron. 20:6; Ps. 115:3; Dan. 2:28). He is the one who is “enthroned in heaven” (Ps. 2:4; cf. 103:19). Although both heaven and earth are realms of God’s dominion, heaven is the place where His will is done automatically. This is not the case on earth, where God’s will is contested and where we are taught to pray for His will to be done (Matt. 6:10).
The Scriptures also ascribe God’s dwelling place to other locations. Mount Zion and Jerusalem are both referred to as God’s dwelling (Ex. 15:17; Ps. 43:3; 135:21). Jerusalem was the place God chose from among all the tribes of Israel to place His name (Deut. 12:5, 11; 14:23). Jerusalem became the permanent location of the tabernacle and the temple where God manifested His glorious presence by means of a cloud (Ex. 29:44-45; 2 Sam. 6:2; 7:6; 2 Kings 19:15).
When we consider God, dwelling must not be confused with presence. When the Bible says God dwells somewhere, it does not mean that His presence is limited to that place. God is omnipresent. The reality of His presence cannot be confined to a single location or a particular group of people (Ps. 139:7-12). His omnipresence means that He is “not far from any one of us” (Acts 17:27). Dwelling, by contrast, is the manifestation of God’s ordinary presence to a greater degree and reflects a special relationship with that person or place.
Jesus repeatedly spoke of God as our “Father in heaven” (Matt. 6:9; cf. 5:16, 45; 6:1, etc.). But following the resurrection of Jesus and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, a new location is emphasized. According to Ephesians 2:22 all those who are in Christ “are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.” This is a new kind of temple, not made of stones but rather of those who have been redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ. In this age God has chosen the church as His unique dwelling place. He manifests Himself to the church by the Spirit and to the world through the church. Through Christ’s sacrifice and the indwelling Spirit the church has become God’s temple.
For Further Reading
To learn more about the presence of God, read Experiencing the Presence of God: Teachings from the Book of Hebrews by A. W. Tozer (Regal).
By John Koessler, Chair and Professor of Pastoral Studies
John Koessler serves as chair and professor in the division of applied theology and church ministry at the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, Illinois. He is married to Jane and has two sons, Drew and Jarred. John is the author of The Radical Pursuit of Rest (InterVarsity), The Surprising Grace of Disappointment (Moody) and True Discipleship (Moody). John has written several other books and articles and serves as a contributing editor for Today in the Word.