IS JESUS OMNIPRESENT?


Many Evangelicals believe that Jesus Christ Our God is omnipresent.  But some insist that He is not, even in His Divine Nature!  They do believe He is God, and may even say that He was omnipresent until the Incarnation, when He (allegedly) "limited" Himself to His human nature.  Since He still bears His Sacred Humanity in Heaven, they believe He is still limited to that Humanity, and so is only present "at the right hand of the Father" in Heaven.

Those who hold this view may use one or more of the following three arguments in an attempt to prove it:

  1. The Bible says numerous times that Jesus is at the "right hand of the Father" (See Psalm 110 [109]:1; Mark 14:62; 16:19; Acts 2:33; 7:55; Romans 8:34; Ephesians 1:20; Colossians 3:1; Hebrews 1:3; 1 Peter 3:22).  Therefore, He is only in Heaven, not on earth.

  2. Jesus ascended into Heaven before the very eyes of His disciples (Luke 24:51) and has promised to return to earth in the Second Coming (Acts 1:11).  How can we say that He is "still here" when He has clearly left the earth and promised to return someday?

  3. Philippians 2:7 says that Christ "emptied" Himself, taking the form of a servant.  This means that He divested Himself of some divine attributes in the Incarnation.  Omnipresence was one of them.  This is Biblical evidence that Jesus ceased to be omnipresent at the Incarnation.
Examining the Arguments

We'll work backwards, beginning with the last one.  This interpretation of Phillipians 2:7 is theologically untenable, for as we saw in the last article, God cannot change His Nature (Malachi 3:6).  "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever" (Hebrews 13:8); had God the Son ever ceased to be omnipresent, He would not be the same yesterday, today and forever!  It would be a major change!  In fact, it would disprove His Deity, for God cannot cease to be what He Is.

Omnipresence is a characteristic of God, related to the divine attribute of Immensity.  "Immensity" means that the Divine Nature cannot be limited or confined by any lesser, created nature.  How then could Jesus "confine" His Immensity to the limits of His human Body and Soul?  It's just not possible!  Moreover, since God's attributes are essential to His very nature, no Person of the Trinity can lose those attributes, otherwise He would cease to be God (which cannot happen).

So Jesus' "emptying" of Himself in the Incarnation did not involve laying aside any divine attributes.  It simply means that He "hid" them behind His Humanity.  The Creator of all walked the earth which He had made, and lived among His creatures, but His Divinity was hidden from their eyes.  They did not recognize Him as the Lord of Glory (I Corinthians 2:8) except on a few occasions such as the Transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-8).  What a deeply humble act on the part of God Most High!  That is what Scripture means by "He emptied Himself".  Thus Philippians 2:7 does not at all prove that Jesus' Divine Nature is not omnipresent.

But what about the fact that Jesus ascended into heaven and promised to come again on the Last Day?  Doesn't that prove that He's not on earth now?  Actually, all that proves is that His human Body is no longer on earth in the same manner as it was during His earthly life.  Jesus no longer physically walks the roads of Galilee; He cannot be seen or touched as His followers saw and touched Him long ago (I John 1:1).  That all ended with His Ascension.  But His Divine Nature can be - and is - present everywhere, as we shall soon see.

Then what of all those verses which locate Jesus at the right hand of God the Father?  Don't they prove that He is only in Heaven?  We can approach this question from many angles.

First of all, where is Heaven?  As we saw in the article on Our Heavenly Brothers and Sisters, the common conception of Heaven as "up there" somewhere "in the clouds" far away is crude and erroneous.  Heaven is in the spiritual realm, so it is not subject to material limits such as direction, distance or location.  The material and spiritual realms are more like concentric circles, with the outer circle (the spiritual) surrounding the inner circle (the material world).

This may not be a perfect model, but it gives us an idea of how these two created realms relate.  Heaven is not far away, it is near to us yet on a transcendent plane of existence which we cannot naturally perceive in our physical bodies.  So the angels and saints are always with us without ceasing to be in Heaven.  Scripture even says that we are "seated in the heavenlies" with Christ (Ephesians 2:6).  This is a bit hard for our limited minds to grasp, but it is a fascinating mystery.

So if Jesus' Risen Body is in Heaven, this does not mean He is far away from us.  He simply exists on a higher plane, in "another dimension", if you will.  His Sacred Humanity is certainly not omnipresent, since it is a created essence, but it is not necessarily distant from us either (and as we shall see, His Humanity becomes mysteriously present to us in the Blessed Sacrament).

Second, we can ask the question, "If Jesus is at the right hand of the Father, then where is the Father?"  The answer is, the Father is everywhere:  "One God and Father of us all, who is above all and through all and in all" (Ephesians 4:6)!  If the Father is omnipresent, and Jesus is with Him, then Jesus too must be omnipresent (at least in His Deity, not in His Humanity, as we have seen).

Third, let us remember that, in ancient times, whoever sat "at the right hand" of a monarch co-ruled the kingdom with him.  So the expression "at the Father's right hand" simply means that Jesus co-rules all creation with the Father.  It's not referring to Jesus' spatial relationship to the First Person of the Trinity - or to us! - but to His Divine Preeminence in the Kingdom of God.  This is a lot more meaningful than the crude, literalistic spatial interpretation.

Finally, the verses which say that Jesus is now at the Father's right hand cannot be taken in isolation; we must look at what the whole of Scripture says about where Jesus Christ is.

What Does the Whole of Scripture Say?

What do those who deny Jesus' omnipresence have to say about the above verses?  Well, their usual response is that those passages mean that Jesus is present "by His Spirit".  In other words, Jesus really isn't in our midst, or dwelling in us or filling all things; the Holy Spirit is doing that in His Name, like a sort-of "ambassador".

One problem with that argument:  those verses do not say that Jesus is present "by His Spirit"!  They just say Jesus is present!  To claim that they don't really mean that, but instead refer to the presence of the Spirit, is tantamount to adding to Scripture, which is not a good idea (Deuteronomy 4:2; Proverbs 30:6; Revelations 22:18).

Finally, there is one last place where Jesus is present, according to Scripture: in the Holy Eucharist

Jesus said to them: "I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that a man may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh...."

"Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.  For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed.  He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.  As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me.  This is the bread which came down from heaven, not such as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live for ever." -John 6:48-59

And as they were eating, He took bread, and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to them, and said, "Take; this is My body."  And he took a cup, and when He had given thanks he gave it to them, and they all drank of it.  And He said to them,
"This is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many".
-Mark 14:22-24

"The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a communion in the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not a communion in the body of Christ?  Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread" -I Corinthians 10:16-17

This last one is very interesting, for it shows that Jesus' Humanity is still present, in a limited way, on earth.  He no longer trods the paths of the Holy Land as He did for thirty-three years; yet He is truly present sacramentally in the Eucharist, under the forms of bread and wine.  Moreover, though His Sacred Humanity cannot be present in all places at once, It can, in some mysterious manner, be sacramentally present in more than one place at a time.  This is the great miracle of the Eucharist!  Exactly how this occurs is a mystery of God's Omnipotence, but it is true. Conclusion

Though Jesus' glorified Body currently exists in Heaven, His Divine Nature is always omnipresent.  The Incarnation did not and cannot limit His Deity, which remains "Immense", unlimited by any creature.  Yet even His Sacred Humanity, though not omnipresent, becomes mysteriously present in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass all over the world.  He who caused five loaves and two fish to feed a multitude can surely "multiply" His glorified Body in the Sacrament (without dividing It, but rather uniting us in one Mystical Body through It - I Corinthians 10:17).  This is a mystery and a miracle, but it is absolutely true!

"Being God, You were present in the tomb by Your Body, and yet in Hades by your soul, in Paradise with the thief, and on the throne, O Christ, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, filling all things but encompassed by none" (Blessing of the Holy Gifts, Liturgy of Preparation for the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrystostom)

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