16.2. The Abiding Presence of God

At the heart of the idea of a Temple is the abiding presence of God. Although God is omnipresent, He has chosen to manifest His presence in certain locations and at certain times within history. This physical manifestation of God has come to be called the Shekinah.

the Shechinah Glory is the visible manifestation of the presence of God. It is the majestic presence or manifestation of God in which He descends to dwell among men. Whenever the invisible God becomes visible, and whenever the omnipresence of God is localized, this is the Shechinah Glory. The usual title found in Scriptures for the Shechinah Glory is the glory of Jehovah, or the glory of the Lord. The Hebrew form is Kvod Adonai, which means ‘the glory of Jehovah’ and describes what the Shechinah Glory is. The Greek title, Doxa Kurion, is translated as ‘the glory of the Lord.’ Doxa means ‘brightness,’ ‘brilliance,’ or ‘splendor,’ and it depicts how the Shechinah Glory appears. Other titles give it the sense of ‘dwelling,’ which portrays what the Shechinah Glory does. The Hebrew word Shechinah, from the root shachan, means ‘to dwell.’ The Greek word skeinei, which is similar in sound as the Hebrew Shechinah (Greek has no ‘sh’ sound), means ‘to tabernacle.’. . . In the Old Testament, most of these visible manifestations took the form of light, fire, or cloud, or a combination of these. A new form appears in the New Testament: the Incarnate Word [John John 1:14].1

The concept of the Shekinah is behind the wonder of the incarnation. The very glory of God “tabernacled” within human flesh and was handled and beheld. “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us (ἐσκήνωσεν [eskēnōsen] ), and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” [emphasis added] (John John 1:14).

Σκηνή [Skēnē] was the word used by the translators of the Septuagint for the Hebrew מִשְׁכָּן [miškān] , “tabernacle” (Ex. Ex. 25:9). During Israel’s pilgrimage from Egypt to Canaan the tabernacle was the place of worship for the people. The tabernacle or tent in the wilderness was the “tent of Jehovah,” Himself a pilgrim among His pilgrim people. In sound and meaning σκηνόω [skēnoō] recalls the Hebrew verb שָׁכַּן [šākkan] meaning “to dwell,” which is sometimes used of God’s dwelling with Israel (Ex. Ex. 25:8; Ex. 29:46). In postbiblical Hebrew the Jews used the term שְׁכִינָה [šeḵînâ] (“Shekinah,” literally, “presence”) of the bright cloud of the presence of God that settled on the tabernacle. The Shekinah glory was nothing less than the visible manifestation of God.2

The manifestation of the Shekinah is at the heart of understanding the meeting of God with man. In the earliest communion of man with God, God is said to have been “walking in the Garden in the cool of the day” (Gen. Gen. 3:8). This must speak of a localized presence with which Adam and Eve could interact—the Shekinah. The word itself embodies the notion of dwelling or abiding. This emphasizes the single most important aspect concerning God’s localized presence: where is He abiding? For wherever the Shekinah is, there is relationship with God in a more intimate way and all the benefits which come from His special presence. This is the essence of the promise made to the overcomer in Philadelphia, the fulfillment of that first love which was lacking in Ephesus: to walk once again in full fellowship with God (Gen. Gen. 3:8; Gen. 5:24; Rev. Rev. 21:3+, Rev. 21:22+). This was the ultimate desire of the psalmist (Ps. Ps. 23:6; Ps. 65:4). Thus, it is an incredible blessing to enjoy the presence of God. This was the primary purpose of the Temple throughout history: to house the Shekinah glory of God among men. It is in the Temple where God’s presence “dwells between the cherubim” over the mercy seat of the Ark of the Covenant (Ex. Ex. 25:22; Num. Num. 7:89; 1S. 1S. 4:4; 2S. 2S. 6:2; 1K. 1K. 7:29; 2K. 2K. 19:15; 1Chr. 1Chr. 13:6; 2Chr. 2Chr. 5:7; 2Chr. 6:41; Ps. Ps. 80:1; Ps. Ps. 99:1; Isa. Isa. 37:16; Eze. Eze. 41:18). Unless the glory of God “inhabits” the Temple (1K. 1K. 8:10-11; 2Chr. 2Chr. 7:1; Eze. Eze. 43:2-4; Eze. 44:1-2; Hag. Hag. 2:7-9; Mtt. Mat. 20:12) it is just a dead architectural edifice.3 Conversely, in the history of the Temple, there are grave consequences when the Shekinah departs from the Temple, for it indicates God’s displeasure with those among whom He previously dwelt and the removal of His protection and blessing in His departure. The Temple, the house of Israel, is left desolate when the glory of God departs. In at least two occasions in history, the result has been the destruction of the Temple. When the Shekinah left Solomon’s Temple in the days of Ezekiel’s prophecy (Eze. Eze. 10:18; Eze. 11:22-23), the eventual result was the destruction of the Temple by Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. When the Shekinah left the Second Temple in the days of Jesus (Mtt. Mat. 23:38), the eventual result was the destruction of the Temple by Titus Vespasian of Rome (Mtt. Mat. 24:1-3). Whether God remains in His house is serious business! Although it is beyond the scope of our treatment here to consider an extensive discussion of God’s abiding presence, it will be helpful to note some of the most significant historical events related to the Shekinah.4 The Shekinah glory:5 The significance of the Mount of Olives derives from it association with the departure and arrival of the glory of the Lord:

The mountain which is so clearly defined and located in this prophecy [Zec. Zec. 14:4] is already associated with many events and crises in Israel’s history. . . it was from this mountain, which is before Jerusalem on the east, that the prophet Ezekiel saw the glory of Jehovah finally taking its departure. It was from this mountain also that He, who was not only the symbol, but the living personal revelation of the glory of Jehovah, finally took His departure from the land, after He had been rejected by the nation. He led His handful of disciples out as far as Bethany (on the Mount of Olives), and He lifted up His hands and blessed them. ‘And it came to pass while He blessed them, He was parted from them, and carried up to heaven’ [Luke Luke 24:50-51; Acts Acts 1:1;Acts 9:1]; since then a still darker era in the long Ichabod period of Israel’s history commenced. . . . And what is this but a prophecy in symbolic language of the same event which the heavenly messengers announced to the men of Galilee [Acts Acts 1:9-11]. We love to think that this same mountain on which He once shed tears of sorrow over Jerusalem, the slope of which witnessed His agony and bloody sweat, shall be the first also to witness His manifestation in glory; and that His blessed feet, which in the days of His flesh walked wearily over this mountain on the way to Bethany shall, ‘in that day,’ be planted here in triumph and majesty.6

In summary, the Shekinah is the visible representation of the localized presence of God. By God’s design, the Temple is the location where His abiding presence is intended to dwell and where He has put His name (Deu. Deu. 12:5, Deu. 12:11, Deu. 12:21; 2Chr. 2Chr. 6:20; 2Chr. 7:16; 2Chr. 20:19; Ezra Ezra 6:12; Ne. Ne. 1:9; Mtt. Mat. 21:13; Mark Mark 11:17; Luke Luke 19:46).

Notes

1 Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum, The Footsteps of Messiah, rev ed. (Tustin, CA: Ariel Ministries, 2003), 599.

2 David J. Macleod, “The Incarnation of the Word: John 1:14,” in Bibliotheca Sacra, vol. 161 no. 641 (Dallas, TX: Dallas Theological Seminary, January-March 2004), 77.

3 The presence of God is essentially that which defines the Temple.

4 Concerning God’s abiding presence in visible form: Gen. Gen. 3:8, Gen. 3:24; Gen. 15:17; Ex. Ex. 3:2; Ex. 13:21-22; Ex. 14:19-20, Ex. 14:24; Ex. 16:10; Ex. 19:18; Ex. 24:15-16; Ex. 33:18-23; Ex. 34:5-6; Ex. 40:34; Lev. Lev. 9:6, Lev. 9:23; Num. Num. 14:10, Num. 14:22; Num. 16:19, Num. 16:42; Num. 20:6; Deu. Deu. 5:25-26; Deu. 33:16; 1K. 1K. 8:10-11; 2Chr. 2Chr. 7:1; Isa. Isa. 4:5; Isa. 35:2; Isa. 40:5; Isa. 58:8; Isa. 60:3; Eze. Eze. 1:28; Eze. 3:23; Eze. 9:3; Eze. 10:18; Eze. 43:2-4; Hag. Hag. 2:7-9; Zec. Zec. 2:5; Mtt. Mat. 16:27; Mat. 17:2; Mat. 24:30; Mark Mark 9:3; Luke Luke 2:8-9; Luke 9:29; John John 1:14; Acts Acts 2:3; Acts 9:3; Acts 22:6; Acts 26:13; Heb. Heb. 1:3; 2Pe. 2Pe. 1:16-17; Rev. Rev. 1:14-16+; Rev. 15:8+; Rev. 21:3+; Rev. 21:23+.

5 We have omitted the indwelling of the believer by God during the Church Age since this differs somewhat from the Shekinah in that there is no obvious outward manifestation of God’s presence upon the believer as there is with the Shekinah.

6 David Baron, Zechariah: A Commentary On His Visions And Prophecies (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1918), 496.