Under the Old Covenant, it was only the high priest who could enter into the presence of God. This happened but once a year and was accompanied by much animal sacrifice. Under the New Covenant however, every believer has been given full access to the throne room of God. In fact, Hebrews 4:16 tells us that we ought to boldly approach the throne of God. Often in the church, we short change the daily access we have been given to the manifest presence of God because of the blood of Jesus. The following is an excerpt from my book Restoring the Ministry of Jesus which highlights the manifest presence of God in our lives and the call to draw near to the Lord.
A key for growing in intimacy with the Father is having a sincere hunger for His presence. The Bible teaches us that God is omnipresent which means that His presence is everywhere. But we must also understand that there is a difference between the omnipresence of God and the manifest presence of God. God’s manifest presence is His presence revealed to us in a tangible way; it is His experiential presence. His omnipresence means He is everywhere; His manifest presence means He is here. When I speak of experiencing the manifest presence of God, I am not referring to an emotional feeling, though sometimes emotions are involved. It is something tangible and is totally apart from ourselves, though we get to enter into it.
I have heard it said that since God is everywhere we should not speak in terms such as God showing up in a meeting, church service, or prayer time. But this type of thinking fails to distinguish between these two types of God’s presence. For example, while everyone in Jerusalem was in the omnipresence of God on the day of Pentecost, only those in the upper room came into contact with His manifest presence. His presence came as a rushing wind, tongues of fire, and the supernatural experience of speaking in tongues. Certainly, God showed up! We should have a continual hunger and thirst for the manifest presence of God.
Moses was a man who was familiar with the manifest presence of God. While talking with the Lord about entering the Promised Land he said, “If Your Presence does not go with us, do not bring us up from here” (Exodus 33:15). That is the kind of hunger that God is looking for today. Moses preferred to be in the wilderness with God rather than to be in the Promised Land without Him. Let’s remember this important principle as we contend for our own spiritual promised land. It is so easy to get caught up in the promises and blessings of God and lose sight of the purpose of it all: to know Him.
I remember when I first began to experience the tangible presence of God. I was a junior in college and had been crying out to God for more of His presence and power. I had read the accounts of past revivalists such as Charles Finney and was hungry to experience more of God. One particular night I was crying out to God for more of Him and mediating on Ezekiel 47:1-12 where Ezekiel had a prophetic encounter in which he was led into a river. At first the water was up to his ankles, then to his knees, then to his waist, and finally it was so deep that he could not stand up in it any longer. So, I was specifically praying for God to take me deeper into His river based on that passage.
The next morning, I woke up and began to spend time with the Lord. But as soon as I started praying, I felt a tangible presence come over my feet. I paused to ask the Lord what this was and was immediately reminded of Ezekiel 47. I was up to the ankle. Later that day I spent time in prayer and the same sensation came upon my feet, but this time it began to travel up my legs to my knees. God had answered my prayers for more of His presence in a specific and personal way, and I have been experiencing the manifest presence of God in various ways ever since that encounter.
One of my favorite Bible passages is Mark 15:37-38 which reads, “And Jesus cried out with a loud voice, and breathed His last. Then the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.” I love this passage because it clearly illustrates the unlimited access that we now have to the manifest presence of God.
The veil that was torn in the temple was a thick curtain that separated the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place (also called the Holy of Holies). The Holy of Holies was the place where God’s actual tangible presence dwelt in the temple. Only the high priest was permitted to enter into this place and only one time per year. As soon as Jesus died on the cross, this veil was torn from top to bottom giving us entrance into God’s immediate presence. Hebrews 10:19-22 reads:
Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.
Because of the cross, every one of us can enter into the Most Holy Place of His presence at any time. Consider what a profound thought that is in light of how limited the access was under the Old Covenant. We are exhorted to draw near to God with the promise that He will then draw near to us (see James 4:8). Every Christian can and should experience the manifest presence of God. Each person’s experience with God’s presence will be different, but we can all experience it. Like David, begin to seek the face of God and thirst for His presence, and you will find that He truly rewards those who diligently seek Him.
Everywhere Jesus went, people were miraculously healed, set free from evil spirits, and transformed by powerful teaching and preaching. Restoring the Ministry of Jesus calls us back to the foundation of walking like Jesus walked and doing what Jesus did. It shows how to bridge the gap from our current condition to walking in our inheritance in Christ. As you read, your heart will be stirred to seek God’s face and go after all that He has for you and the church today!