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Does God dwell in light or in darkness? Or does He dwell in both? Let’s check out some of the passages that inspire these questions.
GOD DWELLING IN LIGHT
As he concludes a letter to his protégé Timothy, the apostle Paul writes:
In the presence of Yahweh, who gives life to all, and of Christ Jesus, who gave a good confession before Pontius Pilate, I charge you to keep the command without fault or failure until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ. Yahweh will bring this about in His own time. Yahweh is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings, and the Lord of lords, the only One who has immortality, dwelling in unapproachable light; no one has seen or can see Him, to Him be honor and eternal might. Amen. (1 Tim. 6:13-16)
The apostle Paul is that irritating fellow who refuses to acknowledge that Jesus is every bit as Divine as Yahweh is. This is why Paul says that Yahweh is the only Sovereign and the only One who is immortal. Well, of course He is, because Paul views Jesus as a mere created human who raked in some big promotion in Heaven for services rendered on earth. Paul only acknowledges one God. He completely rejects the Divinity of Christ, which is a totally unacceptable position for any Christian teacher to hold (see The Great Offense of Paul: Rejecting the Divinity of Christ).
Now since Yahweh commands us to revere Jesus as a second God Almighty and not as some human bumbler, then clearly Paul is not listening to Yahweh in his soul since Paul talks at length about Jesus while refusing to agree that Jesus is who Yahweh says He is. Once a man is proving himself to be a spiritual rebel, should you be viewing him as an authority on any one of your Creators? Not hardly. Paul can hardly inform us of where Yahweh dwells, and the moment Paul rips on Christ by saying that Christ is not sovereign or immortal, we ought to be losing interest in anything Paul has to say on the subject of Divine Nature. Paul claims to have received a bunch of direct revelations from Jesus. If a man can directly speak to Jesus and still not admit that Jesus is God, of what use is he as a spiritual leader? Stop admiring Paul. The man is most likely in Hell right now because there is no salvation under this Covenant unless we submit to Yahweh and Jesus and the Holy Spirit as the awesome Gods that They are. Simply admire Jesus as some clever Guy who whipped out a good speech before a Roman governor and you’re going to end up on the wrong side of eternity. Jesus is God. He’s not a God-human hybrid. He’s 100% God. Don’t minimize Him.
Moving on from Paul’s idiocy, let’s now skip over to Exodus and ponder the idea of God dwelling in darkness.
GOD DWELLING IN DARKNESS
In Exodus 20, we find Yahweh putting on a fantastically freaky show with thunder, lightning, a loud blaring sound and a mountain shrouded in smoke (see Know Your Bible Lesson 5: God is Holy). What’s His point? To strike reverential fear into the hearts of a bunch of snarky Hebrews who He’s just rescued from slavery in Egypt. This crowd wasn’t what you’d call “spiritually searching.” They’d already committed themselves to a whole pantheon of Egyptian gods and they were only going along with this Yahweh Deity in order to get freed from oppression. But they aren’t interested in worshiping Him. In fact they’ll quickly tire of Him and construct a golden calf god to replace Him in Exodus 32. But we’re not there yet. Here in Exodus 20, Yahweh is making freaky dark smoke and clouds appear like a shroud over Mount Sinai and the people have all told Moses that they’re not interested in going any closer to that ominous scene.
All the people witnessed the thunder and lightning, the sound of the trumpet, and the mountain surrounded by smoke. When the people saw it they trembled and stood at a distance. “You speak to us, and we will listen,” they said to Moses, “but don’t let God speak to us, or we will die.”
Moses responded to the people, “Don’t be afraid, for God has come to test you, so that you will revere Him and not sin.” And the people remained standing at a distance as Moses approached the thick darkness where God was. (Ex. 20:18-21)
The darkness here is not some mystical thing. Moses isn’t stepping into a strange, supernatural realm. He’s just walking into a thick mass of dark storm clouds. This is a weather event which is not going to last. Yahweh’s using theatrics to get the respect of a theatrical and highly superstitious people. It works—briefly. But in the meantime, this passage can hardly be used as evidence that God perpetually dwells in darkness.
Suppose you’re walking home in heavy rain one day when Jesus suddenly appears in front of you. Certainly that’s an exciting moment for you, but should you then go around saying, “Hey, everyone, I know where Jesus dwells: He dwells in heavy rain”? No, this would be ridiculous. Jesus showed up on a rainy day, and He could just as easily show up when the sun is out. In the Bible we find Yahweh appearing to people in a variety of situations. In Genesis 18, Yahweh showed up in human form and had a sit down meal with Abraham. We know that they were parked near a tent because Abraham’s wife, Sarah, was inside that tent eavesdropping on the conversation. So should we now say that Yahweh dwells near tents? Of course not. God should be able to do something new without us trying to confine Him to some silly little box.
Now a long time after Moses, we find King Solomon dedicating the first Temple to God in Jerusalem. During that grand ceremony, Solomon prays:
“Yahweh, You have said that You would live in a thick cloud of darkness. Now I have built a glorious Temple for You, a place where You can live forever!” (1 Kings 8:12-13)
Actually, Yahweh did not say He would live in a thick cloud of darkness. He chose to use a cloud pillar as a visual symbol of His Presence back in Moses’ day, and that cloud pillar glowed at night, so it wasn’t always dark. The dark cloud thing was limited to the Mount Sinai performance. Yahweh also used the Ark of the Covenant to symbolize a kind of throne. But so what? None of these things are God’s way of setting limits on His abilities. God can show up in any form He wants whenever He wants. He doesn’t need darkness or light to dwell somewhere. He doesn’t need clouds or fancy boxes.
SO WHERE DOES GOD DWELL?
Light and darkness are just two of countless created elements in this physical world that we live in. Light is composed of physical particles called photons. It’s a created thing. What makes things appear dark versus light is a matter of how many photons that thing absorbs. When a surface is absorbing many photons, it appears darker. When photons are bouncing off of that surface, it appears brighter. So “dark” and “light” aren’t locations, they are references to how we sensually perceive the world around us. Humans aren’t equipped with natural night vision. So if we turn all the lights off in a room, you’d say that you were standing in darkness. But if we give you a pair of night vision glasses, then suddenly your surroundings would seem a lot less dark. “Light” and “dark” are relative terms for humans, as are the terms “soft” and “hard.” God doesn’t have some special dwelling place in any texture, color, or light. God is everywhere at once.
The omnipresence of God is hard for us to get our minds around because we are limited to existing in a space-time continuum. You can only be in one place at a time. You can’t be at your house and at your friend’s house at the same time. You can’t be in your room today, two days from now, and yesterday all at once. Humans are extremely limited beings. The more we understand how vast the abilities of our Creators are, the more we realize how many options They are intentionally withholding from us. And yet being so limited has its advantages. It’s rather like being on a leash—we can’t get into as much trouble this way, and considering how much trouble we get into with the limited abilities we have, it’s daunting to think what we’d be up to if our Gods were to enable us to start being in multiple places at once.
So where do Yahweh, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit dwell? Well, the assumption that our Creators must have a “home base” somewhere is a human projection. They don’t have to have anything. This dimension we live in is like one room in an enormous mansion. We humans can’t leave this room, but our Gods are the Ones who built the mansion and They can go in and out of any room They want whenever They want. Each room in the mansion represents a totally different kind of existence with totally different kinds of creatures in it. How many other creation projects are our Gods sustaining besides ours right now? There’s no way to even guess. Once you’re dealing with Beings who control how much reality you’re aware of, there’s no way to know what you don’t know. But what we do know is that our Gods cannot be contained by anything that They make.
To say that God dwells in light or darkness is like saying that you dwell within the blue stripe of the rainbow you just drew on a piece of paper. It’s absurd to suggest that you are now trapped in something that you just created and can easily destroy. You don’t need the drawing you just made, you don’t depend on it, and it has no control over you. You were just doodling for fun. In the same way, our Gods are never limited by the things that They create. But They do assure us that They are always with us and intimately involved in our lives. That is a very positive and comforting thing for us to know. We want our Creators to be with us—it would be a terrible thing to be abandoned to fend for ourselves. And yet our Gods are so into caring for Their own creations that They have made an incredibly complex and fragile universe which can’t possibly function without Their constant involvement. So while our Gods depend on no one, we depend on Them for everything. And while we are limited to being in one place at one time, They are everywhere at once, They know everything, and They have infinite power.
The Timelessness of God
Why doesn’t God let us see Him?
Understanding God: His Obsession with Complexity & Variation