WHERE GOD DWELLS ON EARTH
The subject of where God resides and places his presence on earth is vitally important to all who seek to worship and serve him, because he must be worshiped and served where his presence resides. In order to determine where God dwells today, we must review where he placed his name and presence from the time of Moses to the end of the first covenant with national Israel, and where the Father promised to place his name and presence after the advent of Jesus Christ.
MOSES MEETS WITH GOD
"Now Moses Kept the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian: and he led the flock to the backside of the desert, and came to the mountain of God, even to Horeb. And the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush: and he looked and behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed. And Moses said, I will now turn aside and see this great sight, why the bush is not burnt. And when the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called him out of the midst of the bush, and said Moses, Moses. And he said, Here am I. And he said draw not near here: put off your shoes from off your feet, for the place whereon you stand is holy ground" (Ex.3:1-5 KJV).
When Moses first encountered God in the wilderness, God appeared to him in a fire and told him that the place where he stood was holy ground. The fire of God is a very important key to unlocking the mystery of where God's presence resides on earth today.
This account shows that when God places his power and presence on earth this event is accompanied by fire that does not consume what he has separated for his use. Moreover, it shows that where God's presence resides is sacred and must be shown respect.
AT MOUNT SINAI
"Then he said to Moses, "I am going to come to you in the form of a dark cloud, so that the people themselves can hear me when I talk with you, and they will always believe you. Go down now and see that the people are ready for my visit. Sanctify them today and tomorrow, and have them wash their clothes. Then the day after tomorrow, I will come down upon Mount Sinai as all the people watch" (vs.9-11 LBP).
Moses had to prepare the people for the day that God would appear upon the mountain, and one of the things that the people had to do was wash their clothing, which was a very important part of the preparation prior to appearing before God:
"Set boundary lines the people may not pass, and tell them, 'Beware! Do not go up into the mountain or even touch its boundaries; whosoever does shall die" (v12 LPB).
" Not a hand shall touch him, but surely he shall be stoned, or surely he shall be shot through. He shall not live, whether animal or man" (v13 Para.).
Verses 12 and 13 show that neither animals nor the people could touch the mountain where God was going to be, and if they did touch it, they would be killed.
"All mount Sinai was covered with smoke because The Lord descended upon it in the form of fire; the smoke billowed into the sky as from a furnace, and the whole mountain shook with a violent earthquake" (v18 LBP).
There was a tremendous display of energy, fire, and smoke as the Creator God came to rest upon the mountain. God warned the people not to venture upon the sacred ground where he was. He also warned the priests to purify themselves before coming close to his presence:
"So the Lord came down upon the top of Mount Sinai and called Moses up to the top of the mountain, and Moses ascended to God. But the Lord told Moses, 'Go back down and warn the people not to cross the boundaries. They shall not come up here to see God, for they will die" (vs.20-21 LBP).
"And let the priests which also come near the Lord, sanctify themselves, lest the Lord break forth upon them" (v12 KJV).
"But the people won't come up into the mountain!" Moses protested. "You told them not to!" You told me to set boundaries around the mountain, and to declare it off limits because it is reserved for God (v13 LBP).
" And the Lord said to him, come, go down. And you come up, and Aaron. And let not the priests and the people break through to come up to the Lord, lest he burst forth among them" (v24 Para.).
At Mount Sinai, God met with Moses face-to-face, as a man speaking to a friend (Ex.33:11), while he instructed him in the covenant worship system. Aaron, Nadab, Abihu, and the seventy elders of Israel had to stay some distance away and worship (Ex.24:1), but the rest of Israel had to remain outside the sacred area:
"And Moses wrote all the words of the Lord, and rose up early in the morning, and built an altar under the hill, and twelve pillars according to the tribes of Israel. And sent young men of the children of Israel, which offered burnt offerings, and sacrificed peace offerings of oxen to the Lord. And he took the book of the covenant and read in the audience of the people: and they said, all the Lord has said will we do, and be obedient. And Moses took the blood, and sprinkled it on the people, and said, Behold the blood of the covenant, which the Lord has made with you concerning these words" (Ex.24:4-8 KJV).
After Moses came down from the mountain, he required that sacrifices be made to God; then, he sealed the covenant with the blood of these sacrifices.
"Then went up Moses, and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel: And they saw the God of Israel: and there was under his feet as it were paved work of sapphire stone, and as it were the body of heaven in his clearness. And upon the nobles of the children of Israel he laid not his hand: also they saw God and did eat and drink" (Ex.24:9-11 KJV).
The elders of Israel were also allowed to meet with the Creator God, after the proper sacrifices had been offered.
Verse 11 shows that no harm came to them while they were in the presence of God. But, what kept them from being killed by the power of God's presence? The reason they could come into the presence of God without being harmed is that they had prepared themselves through a purification process. They were free of all contamination and purified through the offering of the proper sacrifices and acts of purification before they went up the mountain to meet with God.
This account shows that wherever God's power and presence resides is a sacred place. Moreover, it shows that nothing impure can come into contact with the power and presence of God without being destroyed by its purity. Indeed, this was the case on Mount Sinai.
While the Creator God resided on Mount Sinai, he instructed Moses to have the tabernacle built so that he could dwell among the nation of Israel and provide a place where they could worship him:
"And he reared up the court round about the tabernacle and made the altar, and set up the hanging of the court gate. So Moses finished the work. Then the cloud covered the tent of the congregation, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. And Moses was not able to enter into the tent of the congregation because the cloud abode thereon, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. [vs.33-35]. For the cloud of the Lord was upon the tabernacle by day, and the fire was on it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel, throughout all their journeys" (Ex.40:33-35; 38 KJV).
After the tabernacle was erected and all of God's instructions had been followed concerning its preparation, he moved his presence from Mount Sinai to the tabernacle. Again, God's presence was evidenced by fire.
Preparation and Purification
Leviticus chapters 8 and 9 show that preparation and purification of the priesthood was necessary in order for them to serve God in the Tabernacle. This indicates that everything used in the service of God and in the place where his presence resides must be clean, pure, and sinless. Please read both chapters 8 and 9 in order to gain an understanding of the importance that God places on the purification process.
God gave great detail to Moses and Aaron concerning how the priesthood and all other things should be prepared and purified before they could come into his presence. He warned that, if these procedures were not followed, the violator would be killed. It is important to remember that nothing impure or sinful can abide in the presence of God.
A Fatal Mistake
"And Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censor, and put fire in them; and they put incense on it and brought strange fire before The Lord, which he had not commanded them. And fire went out before The Lord and consumed them; and they died before The Lord" (Lev.10:1-2 Para.).
The two sons of Aaron did not take seriously the instruction that God gave to them about keeping all contamination out of his presence. Because they did not heed these instructions, they were killed by the fire of God's presence.
The Holy of Holies
Leviticus 16:1-4 GNB
"The Lord spoke to Moses after the death of the two sons of Aaron who were killed when they offered unholy fire to the Lord. He said, 'Tell your brother Aaron that only at the proper time is he to go behind the curtain into the Most Holy Place, because that is where I appear in a cloud above the lid on the Covenant Box [i.e., mercy seat] If he disobeys, he will be killed." (vs.1-2).
Within the most sacred place of the tabernacle was the ark of the covenant and within it were the following things:
"He may enter the Most Holy Place only after he has brought a young bull for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering. Then the Lord gave the following instructions, 'Before Aaron goes into the Most Holy Place, he must take a bath and put on the priestly garments: the linen robe and shorts, the belt, and the turban" (vs.3-4).
Although others of the priesthood could officiate in various duties within the tabernacle, only Aaron could come within the Holy of Holies where the presence of God resided upon the ark of the covenant. And even then, Aaron had to make special preparations to remove all contamination from himself prior to entering this most sacred of places. If Aaron had not followed these instructions in exact detail, he would have been killed like his two sons were when they failed to properly prepare to come before the presence of God.
The tabernacle was the place where God met with Moses and the priesthood. This was the only place where God would accept sacrifices and allow offerings to be made to him. It was also the only place where an Israelite could go before God to ask for their sins to be forgiven. See Ex.29:42-43, 30:6;36.
The Place of Worship in the Promised Land
After instructing the Israelites on how to worship him, God told them to destroy all of the pagan places of worship in the land that he was going to give them. He then says that they should not attempt to worship him in the ways that the pagans worshiped their gods, and that they must worship him where he places his name and presence:
"You must not worship the lord your God in their way. But you are to seek the place the lord your God will choose from among your tribes to put his name there for his dwelling. To that place you must go; there bring your burnt offerings and sacrifices, your tithes and special gifts, what you have vowed to give and your freewill offerings, and the first born of your herds and flocks. There, in the presence of the Lord your God you and your families shall eat and rejoice . . ." (Deut.12:4-7 NIV).
After wandering in the wilderness for 40 years, the Israelites entered into the promised land and set the tabernacle up at Shiloh as directed by God:
"And the whole congregation of the children of Israel assembled together at Shiloh, and set up the tabernacle of the congregation there. And the land was subdued before them" (Josh.18:1 KJV).
The prophet Jeremiah also records that Shiloh was the first place in the promised land where God chose to place his name and presence:
"But go you now to my place which was in Shiloh, where I set my name at the first, and see what I did to it for the wickedness of my people Israel" (Jer.7:12 KJV).
The tabernacle resided at Shiloh for about 300 years during which the Israelites stopped diligently worshipping God. As punishment for their sins, God allowed the Philistines to invade Israel and capture the ark of God. The Philistines took the ark and placed it in the temple of Dagon for a short period of time (1.Sam.5:1-11) after which it was returned to Israel where it remained at the house of Abinadab until it was moved to the city of David and later to the temple that Solomon built.
The Temple at Jerusalem
2.Chronicles 6:40-42; 7:1-3 Paraphrased
"Now my God, I beseech you, let your eyes be open and your ears attentive to the prayer of this place; and now O The Lord God, rise to your rest; You and the ark of your strength; O The Lord God your priest are clothed with salvation, and your saints rejoice in goodness; O The Lord God, do not turn away the face of your anointed; remember the good deeds of Your servant David" (vs.40-42).
"And when Solomon finished praying, then the fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices; and the glory of the Lord filled the house; and the priests were not able to go into the house of the Lord, because of the glory of the Lord had filled the house of the Lord and all the sons of Israel were watching, when the fire came down, and the glory of the Lord was on the house" (vs.1-3).
Approximately 480 years after the children of Israel came out of Egypt, God moved his dwelling place into the Temple at Jerusalem. Again, we see the fire which does not consume what it touches descending upon the place where the presence of God was to reside. This fire is also evidence that God had moved the place where he intended to reside and be worshiped. God's presence remained in Jerusalem for approximately 1,000 years until the temple that Herod built was destroyed in 70 A.D.
WHERE DOES GOD DWELL TODAY?
Because the temple at Jerusalem where God's presence resided was destroyed, it is pertinent to ask if there is a place on earth where the presence of God resides today, and if there is such a place, where is it?
After Christ Came
The Bible tells us that after the advent of Christ, salvation would be offered to people throughout the world:
"In that day I will raise up the tabernacle of David that is fallen, and close up the breaches thereof; and I will raise up his ruins, and I will build it as the days of old. That they may possess the remnant of Edom, and all the heathen, which are called by my name, says the Lord that does this" (Amos 9:11-12 KJV). See also Psa.22:27-29; 67:1-7; 72:1-17; Matt.28:18-2; Lk.24:46-47; Acts 10:1-48; 15:15-17.
The Father knew that it would be impossible for those who were scattered throughout the world to come to one specific location on earth to worship him; therefore, a change would be necessary. Thus, God made it possible for those whom he would call to salvation to worship him wherever they were on earth.
While speaking to a woman of Samaria, Jesus explains that there would come a time when the existing worship system would be abolished, and those who worshiped God would do so in spirit and truth. He explains that it would no longer be necessary to travel to a specific location to worship God and at that time people would worship the Sovereign Father:
"The woman said to him, Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped in this mountain, and you say that in Jerusalem is the place where it is necessary to worship. Jesus said to her, Woman believe me that an hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is of the Jews" (Jn.4:19-22 Para.).
In verses 23-24, Jesus says that God the Father is a spirit-being who can only be worshiped in spirit and truth:
"But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth. For the Father seeks such ones that worship him. God is a spirit, and the ones that worship him must worship in spirit and truth" (Jn.4:23-24 Para.).
Many people believe that, when Jesus spoke of worshipping in the spirit and truth, he was only speaking philosophically, and that he was only trying to convey that people would eventually worship God with a different attitude. However, Jesus was saying something completely different. He was speaking of the time when the Father would move his place of worship from the temple in Jerusalem to a temple of flesh, where his spirit would reside. See our study paper concerning the New Creation for more details about worshipping in the spirit.
In writing to the Philippians, the apostle Paul says it is the sons of God who worship the Father in spirit and it is through the holy spirit of God that the children of God worship the Father:
"For the rest, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you is not truly tiresome to me, but safe for you. Look out for the dogs; look out for the evil workers; look out for the concision party (i.e., the Jews). For we are the circumcision who worship by the spirit of God, who glory in Christ Jesus, and who do not trust in the flesh" (Phil.3:1-3 Para.). See also Eph.6:18; Gal.6:1-2.
It is through the holy spirit of God that the children of God worship the Father.
THE FESTIVAL OF PENTECOST AND THE NEW TEMPLE
"And he said, Yes, it was written long ago that the Messiah must suffer and die and rise again from the dead on the third day; and that this message of salvation should be taken from Jerusalem to all the nations; There is forgiveness of sins for all who turn to me. You have seen these prophecies come true. And now I will send the holy spirit upon you, just as my Father promised. Don't begin telling others yetstay here in the city until the holy spirit comes and fills you with power from heaven" (Lk.24:46-49 LBP).
Here, we see Jesus preparing his disciples for the moment that the Father would place his holy spirit within them and they would become the dwelling place of his presence. This is the hour Jesus spoke of when he told the woman of Samaria that the hour would come when the Father's place of worship would be changed.
"And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them" (Acts 2:1-3 KJV).
This is the same kind of fire that was present when Moses met God at the burning bush. It is the same kind of fire that descended upon Mount Sinai, upon the tabernacle, and upon the temple Solomon built in order to show that God had placed his name and presence there.
Just as the fire descended upon the tabernacle and on the temple that Solomon built, on this festival of Pentecost the fire of God descended upon his people of the New Covenant and the Father placed his name and presence in a new Temple where he could meet with his people.
The following things distinguish this Day of Pentecost from any others:
When the servant Stephen was brought before the high priest and accused of blasphemy, he reviewed the history of Israel and revealed that God had moved his dwelling place on earth to a temple of flesh.
Acts 7:44-51 NIV
Stephen reminds them that the tabernacle was God's first dwelling place with Israel:
"Our forefathers had the tabernacle of the Testimony with them in the desert. It had been made as God directed Moses, according to the pattern he had seen. Having received the tabernacle, our fathers under Joshua brought it with them when they took the land from the nations God drove out before them" (vs.44-45).
In verses 46-47, Stephen speaks of the great temple that Solomon constructed for God to place his presence within:
"It remained in the land until the time of David, who enjoyed God's favor and asked that he might provide a dwelling place for the God of Jacob. But it was Solomon who built the house for him" (vs.46-47).
"However the Most High does not live in houses made by men. As the prophet says: Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. What kind of house will you build for me? says the Lord. Or where will my resting place be? Has not my hand made all these things?" (vs.48-50). Also see Acts 17:24-25; Isa.66:1-2; Psa.11:4.
Stephen understood that the temple was an object of worship to many of the people who stood there and he reminded them that God cannot be captured and held in a house built by men, because God is greater than all man-made objects. What Stephen said was considered blasphemy to those who thought of the temple as indispensable to their worship of God:
"You stiff-necked people, with uncircumcised hearts and ears! You are just like your fathers: You always resist the holy spirit!" (v51).
Those to whom Stephen spoke had forgotten the Creator's promise of a new covenant with Israel in which he would move his dwelling place (his Holy Place) into a temple of flesh (Jer.31:31-34). Because of their spiritual blindness and attachment to the temple and its worship system, they killed Stephen and did not realize that he had revealed to them one of the most profound and wonderful truths of their age. See Psa.37:30-31; Jer.32:40
Purification of the Temple
Under the Old Covenant the priesthood, the people, and all things that came into close contact with God had to be purified and kept clean, because God will not dwell where there is sin (Lev.19:2; 1.Pet.1:15-16) or physical impurity (Ex.29:36-46; Deut.23:14).
Many people do not realize that God has not changed and that, under the New Covenant, he still requires all things that come into close contact with him to be free from all sin and impurity. This is why it is vitally important to become and remain sinless and pure through the blood of Christ. See Mal.3:6; Heb.9:22-28.
The Temple of Flesh
"And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? for you are the temple of the living God; as God has said, I will dwell in them and walk in them; and I will be their God and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be you separate, says the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you. And will be a Father unto you, and you shall be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty" (2.Cor.6:16-18 KJV).
Because God will not allow his spirit to inhabit an impure place, a physical and a spiritual change takes place during the baptismal ceremony. In the baptismal water, the Father purifies the physical body through his spirit-power so that his holy spirit (his spirit presence) can dwell within the repentant believer's physical body. See 1.Tim.5:22; Tit.1:15-16; Heb.10:14-22, 1.Pet.1:22; 1.Jn.3:1-3; 4:4.
"Haven't you yet learned that your body is the home of the holy spirit God gave you, and that he lives within you? Your own body does not belong to you. For God has bought you with a great price. So use every part of your body to give glory back to God, because he owns it" (1.Cor.6:19-20 LPB).
"Do you not know that you are a temple of God, and the spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy him; for God's temple is sacred, and you are that temple" (1.Cor.3:16-17 NIV).
"Now therefore you are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone; In whom all the building fitly framed together grows into a holy temple in the lord: In whom you are also built together for an habitation of God through the spirit" (Eph.2:19-22 KJV).
The writings of the apostles leave no doubt that the physical body of a child of God is a temple of God; it is the sacred place where the holy spirit dwells.
The Indwelling of the Spirit
"No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and his love having been perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in him , and he in us, because of his spirit he has given to us" (Jn.4:12-13 Para.). See Lk.24:46-49; 9; Acts 5:32.
There are a number of very important things to note from what John says:
While the temple existed in Jerusalem and was attended by the priesthood, anyone who wanted to perform certain acts of worship could do so at Jerusalem. However, after the temple was destroyed in 70 A.D., there was no place for the priesthood to officiate or for sacrifices to be offered:
"For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more. In that he says, A new covenant, he has made the first old, Now that which decays and waxes old, is ready to vanish away" (Heb.8:12-13 KJV).
When the last vestige of the presence of God's spirit left the temple just before its destruction, what remained of the system of worship that God gave to national Israel was suspended until Christ returns to establish a new temple system under the Kingdom of God. Until this event occurs, the only place that the presence of God dwells is within the children of God.
The Biblical record clearly shows that the Father has moved the place where he has chosen to place his presence three times:
Each of these moves was preceded by fire that came out of heaven and rested upon the place where he was going to place his presence.
The Holy of Holies
Within the heart of the tabernacle and later the temple, was the Holy of Holies where the high priest met with God once a year on the Day of Atonement. In this most sacred place was the ark of the covenant where the presence of God rested. The ark of the covenant contained the ten commandments written in stone by the finger of God, Aaron's rod, which signified his authorization to meet with God and intercede for the people of Israel, and some of the food God gave from heaven to sustain the Israelites as they traveled in the wilderness.
Today, the Father's name rests upon his children and his presence dwells within the innermost part of their flesh through the power of his holy spirit. All who have the name and presence of the Father dwelling within them are a temple of God on earth. Within this temple of flesh, the law of God is written in the hearts of his children. As long as they live within this temple of flesh, they have the authority to communicate, serve, and worship the Father wherever they are and receive daily spiritual nourishment to sustain them as they journey through life.
Within the children of God is the most holy place on earth, it is where the spirit of God resides and where God the Father and Jesus Christ meet with those who are called to salvation.
The Place of Worship
Now God's temple and his Holy Place are within his chosen people (the elect of God) and no matter where they are on this earth, they can meet with the Father and Jesus Christ. No longer must a worshiper of God go the temple to offer sacrifices or to observe annual festival days or other observances. All of God's festivals and observances can be observed by his children wherever they are located. The Father's children may also assemble together to fellowship and worship him wherever they are.
For more information on God's festivals and observances see our publications about these topics.
By B.L Cocherell, file b6w9