Omnipresence simply means to be present in all place at all times. God is not only everywhere, in all places. He is also equally in all moments of time, as though they were one single moment. He experiences no past, present or future. He is as He reveals Himself is Scripture as “I AM WHO I AM.” (Exodus 3:14)
The Catechism of the Catholic Church puts in this way: “The revelation of the ineffable name “I AM WHO AM” contains then the truth that God alone IS. The Greek Septuagint translation of the Hebrew Scriptures, and following it the Church’s Tradition, understood the divine name in this sense: God is the fullness of Being and of every perfection, without origin and without end. All creatures receive all that they are and have from him; but he alone is his very being, and he is of himself everything that he is.” (CCC213)
This characteristic of God is one that Christians in general agree on. From an Evangelical site:
The prefix omni- comes from the Latin meaning “all.” So, to say that God is omnipresent is to say that God is present everywhere. In many religions, God is regarded as omnipresent, whereas in both Judaism and Christianity, this view is further subdivided into the transcendence and immanence of God. Although God is not totally immersed in the fabric of creation (pantheism), He is present everywhere at all times. ….
Omnipresence is God’s characteristic of being present to all ranges of both time and space. Although God is present in all time and space, God is not locally limited to any time or space. God is everywhere and in every now. No molecule or atomic particle is so small that God is not fully present to it, and no galaxy so vast that God does not circumscribe it.
The Scriptures certainly attest to this truth.
Jeremiah 23:23-24 says “Am I a God at hand, says the Lord, and not a God afar off? Can a man hide himself in secret places so that I cannot see him? says the Lord. Do I not fill heaven and earth? says the Lord.”
Proverbs 15:3 proclaims that “The eyes of the Lord are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good.”
Isaiah 57:15 refers to God as “the high and lofty One who inhabits eternity.”
In Revelation 1:8 God refers to Himself as the “Alpha and the Omega” and the one “who is and who was and who is to come.”
One very well known Scripture that speaks to this is 2 Peter 3:8 that tells us “But do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” Time, in other words, does not contain God in the same way it contains us.
Another very popular Scripture is Jeremiah 1:5 where God tells the prophet “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” This verse has been used by some to support the idea that a person’s soul exists before the moment of their conception. This would be contrary to the Catholic understanding of the creation of the human person, when a soul is created by God at the moment of conception. In our view, this verse speaks to the reality that God knew us before we were born because He is not limited by time and has known us for all eternity, for that is where He lives.
Why is this topic that important? Understanding that God is outside of time and not bound by it can have very significant theological implications. One is in the area of predestination. Some Christian groups interpret the verses in Scripture about predestination to mean that God predetermines our final state and we have no free will in matters of salvation. That would not be the Catholic understanding of these verses.
From the Catholic perspective, “To God, all moments of time are present in their immediacy. When therefore he establishes his eternal plan of ‘predestination’, he includes in it each person’s free response to His grace.”(CCC600) Since God is outside of time, his plan of predestination does not require that He control our every moment, but rather He has known our every moment and choices for all eternity and they become woven into His plan.
It’s also important to recognize this truth and use it as another “test” for our thinking. Do we really believe that God is not constrained by time but is instead its Author and Governor? Does our way of thinking line up with that? I’ll give an example in my next post to consider.