Over the course of my life, I have been seeking answers to certain questions regarding my experiences and encounters with the spiritual realm of our faith. Being raised in Pentecostal-based churches during my formative years, I witnessed many aspects of the spiritual realm that seem foreign to many of my contemporary Christian friends.
Over the past few years, especially during my years in seminary, I began to seek answers to questions dealing with the interrelationship of these spiritual phenomena and Christianity as a whole. For example, why do some churches experience a deeper manifestation of God’s presence than others, thus resulting in more profound spiritual occurrences and experiences? However, through careful research and reflection, I obtained a plausible, theologically-sound answer to this question.
Even though God is eternally omnipresent, He often chooses to project, or manifest, His presence in specific ways. According to John S. Feinberg, “we have seen that if God so desires, He can make His presence known in some physical way…”(1) Scripture is full of examples of God’s physical manifestation of His presence, such as the burning bush in the story of Moses in Exodus 3 or the blinding of Saul in Acts 9. In both cases, this physical manifestation of God’s presence is completely overwhelming to those who saw it.
God also chose to physically manifest His presence through the humanity of Jesus Christ. While not as prevalent in the New Testament apart from Christ, as discussed above, God’s manifest presence still occurs. Feinberg states that “in the New Testament, God is present in the person of the God-man, Jesus Christ, and we hear less of other physical manifestations of God.”(2) In addition, the Scriptural basis of Christ as the manifest presence of God is provided in 1 John 4:7-12, as well as 2 Corinthians 5:19.
With the ascension of Christ came yet another physical manifestation of God’s presence
in a personal and specific way through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. This event marked the first time that God’s manifest presence, in the form of the Holy Spirit, physically indwelt believers. According to Feinberg, “the New Testament teaches that New Testament believers are indwelt by Christ and the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:9) and united to them in a way not available to Old Testament believers; such indwelling bespeaks a special spiritual presence.”(3)
With this indwelling of God’s presence, which is the same presence that inhabited the tabernacle and the burning bush, came the spiritual gifts that enabled all believers to spread the Gospel of Christ. In understanding the difference between God’s omnipresence and His manifest presence, I developed a theologically-sound explanation of the things I experienced and observed during my formative years. Even today, through the healing of my mother and others, I continue to see evidence of God’s manifest presence. We must always remember that God is completely
sovereign, and can and will manifest His presence in accordance with the promise of His Word. Our charge is to continually seek His presence in our daily lives so it may consume our lives like a raging fire.(4)
1. John S. Feinberg, No One Like Him (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2001), 250.
2. Ibid., 219.
3. Ibid., 252.
4. Deuteronomy 4:24, KJV.