Tough Questions Answered

A Christian Apologetics Blog

Can God Be in the Presence of Sin? – #3 Post of 2010

Post Author: Bill Pratt

The Bible clearly teaches that God is morally perfect and holy, that he hates sin.  Habakkuk 1:13 says that God is too pure to look on evil.  Christians often say that God cannot allow any sin in his presence.

But, this is not the whole story.  There are also several instances in the Bible where Satan and other demons are said to be in God’s presence (e.g., Job 1:6; 2 Chron. 18:18-21; Rev. 12:10).  In addition, the prophet Isaiah, himself a sinful man, was in the presence of God, as recorded  in Isaiah 6.

We also know that God is omnipresent, which means he is present everywhere.  “‘Am I only a God nearby,’ declares the Lord, ‘and not a God far away?  Can anyone hide in secret places so that I cannot see him?’ declares the Lord.  ‘Do not I fill heaven and earth?’ declares the Lord” (Jer. 23:23-24).  If he is present everywhere then he cannot but be in the presence of sinful creatures.

So what are we to make of all this?  I think the simple answer is that Habakkuk 1:13 is a commentary on God’s moral perfection and holiness.  It is not meant to be a statement about his physical presence.  In fact, the full rendering is, “Your eyes are too pure to look on evil.”  But we know God does not literally have eyes!  God is spirit (John 4:24) and does not have a physical presence.

The Bible teaches that God is opposed to sin and evil, that he is holy and righteous.  We know that eventually he will quarantine evil from good when he creates the New Heaven and Earth (Rev. 21).  At that time, God will physically separate those who love him from those who don’t.  Those who love him will no longer be in the presence of sin from that point forward.

Until then, God tolerates the presence of sin in order to accomplish his purposes with mankind.  Thank goodness, because if God truly could not be in the presence of sin, none of us would be here!


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Comments

  • http://AnneRice.com. Anne Rice

    Thank you for your interesting comments here. I am in a forum on Amazon.com about what Christians believe about Hell. Posters have suggested that God “cannot” be in the presence of sin, which to me contradicts Scripture, as God was certainly in the garden with Adam and Eve after they sinned, and made clothes for them; and Jesus was in the company of sinners all during his earthly existence, and descended into hell after his crucifixion. — i am trying to find the origin of this theological notion as it is posted by people who believe it is a “given” and it explains the necessity or fact of Hell. It seems to me they are attempting to limit the Infinite Power of God.

  • Bill Pratt

    Hi Anne,
    The only verse I could find was Habakkuk 1:13, which I mention in the post. Aside from that, I’m not sure where this comes from. My guess is that people are trying to stress the holiness and righteousness of God and they are just going overboard with it. We know that certainly God hates sin and that heaven will be without sin, but that is a far cry from saying that God cannot be in the presence of sin.

    Thanks for dropping by,
    Bill

  • Arix (@UK)

    Hmm,

    Perhaps I could offer an explanation. In Judaism, the original meaning of “sin” meant “a state of separation from God”. Under this definition, it is self-evident why God cannot be in the presence of sin, since God cannot be separated from Himself. So the Fall was the generation of this state.

    Over time, the word “sin” also came to be used to refer to sinful actions, that is actions which cause, preserve or enhance the state of sin. This meaning eventually eclipsed the original meaning, and thus we get our confusion. In fact, what worsens the confusion is that the first meaning is conflated into the second, so the State of Sin becomes defined as “the state of being in sinful actions”, which leaves the word “sinful” without any conceptual definition at all.

  • http://teruwong.yolasite.com/ Teru Wong

    The Physical Presence of the God is the Earth.

  • http://randyeverist.blogspot.com Randy Everist

    @Teru, why just the earth?

  • God

    He is saying that God is the Earth, God is the trees, God is the wind, etc…

  • A_todaro

    I was just contemplating this very thought of God not being able to look on sin and yet we know He looked at Adam and Eve in the garden after the fall. I read Pastor Chuck Smith’s comment on Hab 1:13 and he says God cannot look on sin…approvingly. When Jesus hung on the cross He not only took all of our iniquity on himself but II Corinthians 5:21 says He actually became sin! So God turned His back and forsook Him so that we would not have to ever face the seperation from God and we could become the righteousness of God…. While this is amazing and awsome, it begs to answer the question. I guess the answer is God cannot look on sin with approval but He obviously does look on sin by having Satan in front of Him and just being omnipresent here on this earth.

  • S_duke

    Maybe it’s not that God cannot be in the presence of sin but that we cannot live with God without forgiveness of sin. I think of the old testament and Moses not being able to look at God, or when he went up the mountain to get the commandments and God told the people not even to touch the mountain because God was there and He is so holy that they would die if they even touched the mountain, or the priests and the holy of holies and all the steps to cover their sins before they entered the presence of God in the temple. I’m not a theologian but a Christian trying to figure out why it is that I have believed for all these years that God cannot be in the presence of sin when scripture says the opposite. I like Arix’s explanation about A-todora’s reference to II Corinthians 5:21 helps too.

  • Welafalot

    I dissagree with this theology. I think God had His eye on Jesus especially as he hung on the cross. God does not leave us at our moment of greatest pain and He certainly wouldn’t leave His Son. When Jesus said “My God why have you forsaken me?” He was quoting scripture and feeling the FULL brunt of His humanity at that point. Don’t we all feel abandoned by God sometimes? Personally I think telling people God turrned His back on Jesus on the cross only makes us feel like we can’t trust Him and that is simply just a LIE!

  • Laila

    heresy

  • Powerprince33

    The bible is filled with contradictions ..Christians always try to explain away bible contradiction and always fails miserably…the bible is a lie

  • Joe

    Contradiction in the eyes of man does not constitute a lie, it can but it is not proof positive. We join together to attempt at understanding a limitless God with a very limited understanding.

  • knowledgeofGod

    Clearly you do not understand who the God of the Old Testament was.
    In the beginning God said Let’s Make Man in OUR Image. OUR – meaning Jesus Christ, whom we read in John was the WORD. He was also the one in the cloud above the children of Israel in the desert. He was Melchizedek. The Bible states in John 1:18 > “No one has ever seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, (Jesus) who is in the bosom of the Father.” And John 6:46 “Not that anyone has seen the Father, except He who is from God; (Jesus) He has seen the Father.”
    And John 5:37 “And the Father Himself, who sent Me has testified of Me. You have neither heard His voice at any time, nor seen His form. So, when Adam & Eve walked in the garden with Him, it was Jesus.
    When Abraham, Moses and all the others in the bible saw Him or heard His voice, it was Jesus.So, you see — God the Father has not came near sin, that is why Jesus cried out on the cross, “MY GOD, MY GOD, why have You forsaken Me?” At that moment He felt alone, because for the first time He was not in the presence of God the Father, until He rose from the dead and ascended to Heaven @ the right hand of the Father.
    And as far as in Job when Satan came before the presence of God, that also was Jesus Christ.
    And don’t be deceived and ignorant, God is not invisible.
    Our eyes are limited to what we are able to see.
    Read Numbers 22 – Balaam, the Donkey and the Angel.
    We were made in God’s very image, that means just what it says, in His image and of His likeness. It’s as plain as the nose on your face.
    You can read in Revelation 21 that God the Father will then dwell with His people, His very own family. This is made possible by Jesus Christ who came and put it all in order and showed us the way. By enduring to the end as He Himself did and follow the 10 commandments.
    He said if you want to enter into life – Keep the Commandments!!!
    You need to study more and pray for God to reveal these things to you, as only He can do and if you are teachable maybe He will!
    The bible does not contradict itself.. you just aren’t understanding because you choose to believe a lie!!!
    The Bible is the inspired word of God and should be treated with the up most respect!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Ggodat

    KnowledgeofGod,

    there are a few things you have mistaken here. First of all, the “our” in Gen 1 refers to God the father, son AND holy spirit (maybe you just forgot about the spirit of God). We do not know that Jesus was Melchizedek. He could have been an actual king or an angel or Jesus (whose name is really Joshua but translated incorrectly from Jeshua). We really dont know. Also, God is the only one mentioned as scribing the 10 commandments to Moses and referenced as the one who passed by Moses only allowing him to see his glory (or the manifestation of God) from behind, not Jesus.

    Also, God actually is everywhere (omnipresent) and therefore is where sin is. Also, if he in infinite and omnipresent he cannot by definition be physical in nature otherwise he would cease to be limitless because everything with physical properties is finitely bound by those properties. God is spirit only and has no physicality nor parts. Again, because parts are finite and can be counted God cannot be comprised of them because he is infinite.

    Where in the bible does it say that we were made in the physical likeness of God? It doesn’t. Likeness most likely means we were formed to represent the non-eternal and non-infinite attributes of God. We have the same abily to reason, to love, to have anger, etc. Do you really believe that God needs arms, legs, hair, eyes, teeth, etc? Again, these are physical things that are finite in existence and can be counted. God is neither of these.

  • Adam

    Wow, that’s some messed up theology, “quarantine evil from good”.

    Pray tell, who tempted Lucifer before he fell? Free choice!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000551650608 Kent Appel

    I have heard a lot of pastors say that the 144000 talked about in the Book of Revelaiton are tribulation period evengelists.

    Below is all the information there is about the 144000 that there is. That
    they are evangelists is a fairly recent tradition that is taught in some
    churches but it is pure speculation as the Bible doesn’t say what their
    function is.

    Revelation
    7:1-8
    1After these things I saw four angels standing
    at the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth, that the
    wind should not blow on the earth, on the sea, or on any tree. 2 Then
    I saw another angel ascending from the east, having the seal of the living God.
    And he cried with a loud voice to the four angels to whom it was granted to harm
    the earth and the sea, 3 saying, “Do not harm the earth, the sea, or
    the trees till we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads.”
    4 And I heard the number of those who were sealed. One hundred
    and forty-four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel
    were sealed:
    5 of the tribe of Judah
    twelve thousand were sealed;
    of the tribe of
    Reuben twelve thousand were sealed;
    of the
    tribe of Gad twelve thousand were sealed;
    6 of the tribe of Asher twelve thousand were
    sealed;
    of the tribe of Naphtali twelve thousand
    were sealed;
    of the tribe of Manasseh twelve
    thousand were sealed;
    7 of the
    tribe of Simeon twelve thousand were sealed;
    of the tribe of Levi twelve thousand were
    sealed;
    of the tribe of Issachar twelve thousand
    were sealed;
    8 of the tribe of
    Zebulun twelve thousand were sealed;
    of the
    tribe of Joseph twelve thousand were sealed;
    of the tribe of Benjamin twelve thousand were
    sealed.
    Revelation
    14:1-5
    14
    Then I looked, and behold, a Lamb standing on Mount Zion, and with Him one
    hundred and forty-four thousand, having His Father’s name written on
    their foreheads. 2 And I heard a voice from heaven, like the voice of
    many waters, and like the voice of loud thunder. And I heard the sound of
    harpists playing their harps. 3 They sang as it were a new song
    before the throne, before the four living creatures, and the elders; and no one
    could learn that song except the hundred and forty-four thousand who were
    redeemed from the earth. 4 These are the ones who were not defiled
    with women, for they are virgins. These are the ones who follow the Lamb
    wherever He goes. These were redeemed from among men, being
    firstfruits to God and to the Lamb. 5 And in their mouth was found no
    deceit, for they are without fault before the throne of God.

  • Mello722

    Amen! It was always the Word Of God, even Lord Jesus himself who reached out (In communication) and manifested himself in the many ways he did to fallen mankind.
    We also know that during The Lord’s ministry on earth he stated that ” John 14:11, Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me.” It was by way of the Lord being conceive by (Of) God the Holy Spirit that the Lord identified his oneness with God “THROUGH THE HOLY SPIRIT!”
    And even though God was reconciling the world to Himself through His Son the Lord Jesus Christ, and made manifest of his voice upon the Lord being baptized by John the baptist (Matt. 3:17), and upon the Mount of transfiguration (Luke 9:27-36) it was still God’s voice! In God’s eyes both times was his sinless Son Lord Jesus.
    At no time have God ever not been separated from sin!

  • Mello722

    They are 12,000 each from the 12 tribes of Israel!

  • doubtlessthomas

    The bible has no contradictions, and this has been proven conclusively.

  • http://www.facebook.com/EagleScoutMike Michael Weldon Kelley

    Genesis 1:26 – “image…likeness” – This refers to God’s outward form, NOT His attributes (Col. 1:15; Hebrews 1:3; Rev. 3:14; cp. Proverbs 8:22-31 and 1 Corinthians 11:4-11). This is also seen in the fact that He was in HUMAN form when He made the redemption as well (John 1:14; also cp. Revelation 4:11 with 5:9). His form is that of man, seen both in the creation and the redemption.

    The image and likeness is PHYSICAL, not moral. Man fell and is a moral ruin, but some physical likeness to God still remains (Cp. Genesis 9:6; 1 Corinthians 11:7; James 3:9. There is no indication that that similitude was ever lost (Genesis 5:3).

    God DOES have literal eyes. We were made in His image, and man was made physical BEFORE the fall of man. Yes, God is Spirit, but spirits have PHYSICAL FORMS. Angels are spirits as well, yet they have bodies of their own!

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/T3QBMWRBGZJPTKIB2MZKKBIXCM Zuma

    As we know God is everywhere in the universe and even on earth. The only place that could not locate God is sin. Jesus is God and the Son of God. If God could be located in sin, non-Christians need not to receive Jesus to be their Saviour since Jesus as God should have filled the whole earth and even among themselves. The only thing that makes Him differently is that He refuses to be filled inside non-Christians’ bodies and turns up that non-Christians do not have God to be in them. As God is omnipotent, He has the supernatural power to make Him not to be present inside non-Christians’ bodies and this causes God to be outside their bodies instead of inside.
    In the Bible, we know that God did liaise with Satan. When God was speaking with Satan in the past, He was not inside Satan’s body but outside since He has supernatural power to make Himself not to be inside its body despite He is everywhere and the entire universe could not contain Him.

  • Brad
  • bsmdbt

    Let me offer you a distinction, you can accept or reject it. One of the proofs of scripture is that because all scripture is God breathed (I’ll let the reader look up the scripture…because the rest of this verse is actually God’s statement regarding the sufficiency of scripture…), and God is perfect, therefore as an ELEMENTARY principle scripture could never contradict scripture.

    So to my fellow believers, who often see or stumble upon contradiction, in the bible in the same way the unbelieving commentor Powerprince33 does, is an indication, not that there is a contradiction, because there are absolutely NO CONTRADICTIONS in the Bible at all, but rather the seeming contradiction is a really good indication that you have been taught or garnered your own misinterpreted on one or both sides of the apparent contradiction.

    Let me give an example of one such “apparent contradicition” and be aware, both baby christians and unbelievers try to use this ERROR against other mature christians in these modern times.

    Matthew 7:1-2

    “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

    Now most of you reading this will think yes we are not to determine and point out error in peoples lives, and we are not to put people into good and evil categories…so it is not uncommon when a cursing foul mouthed God hater, gets rebuked by a believer for the God hater to mock God and say “How Christian of you…judging me.” It typically isnt long before a very immatture believer comes along and sides with the God Hater, a wicked sin in itself.

    So what is the error the unbeliever and the baby christian make in their interpretation? Its fundamental. Biblically judging is not discerning. Meaning that biblically judging is a much more comprehensive meaning…and the example I will give that should flip the switch for even the most baby of Christians is Judgement day. What happens at Judgement Day. Well that is when God Judges the people…what is he doing when he Judges the people? He isnt establishing guilt or innocence, as all are Guilty. What he is doing is metting out the punishment, serving up his revenge for life of mocking God, and rejectring His creatorship (Lordship). Today we a Judge still issues the penalty, but today a Judge may or may not determine Guilt…so when we err in this verse it is because we are using our modern understanding of the term Judge and not the biblical term. Biblically, when God Judges someone, or a city.pr a nation, he is issuing his punsihment, he is exacting His revenge. And God says Do not take REVENGE, REVENGE IS MINE.

    So now Im speaking to the Baby Christian specifically; this will be a common error you will make as you begin your sanctification journey (spiritual growth). Do not get disheartened, it is normal, and it wont be long until you realize, that even after 30 years and even 50 years as a believer, you still have a lot of learning and re-learning to do.. God is patient, and Christs blood does NOT fail.

    OK so where is there a contradiction in this verse to say another…well look down a few verses to John 7:6, If you held to your contemporary, non-biblical definition of Judging, this verse would make no sense:

    John 7:6 “Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.”

    If you did not judge (using the contemporary meaning of the word)or discern is closer to how we use it today, if we did not evaluate people, how could we ever establish who the dogs and pigs are? It could not be done..and therefore because of your improper use and definition of the biblical term Judge, you would have created an “apparent contradiction” where NONE EXISTS, and you would have done that by HUMAN ERROR,

    Suffice it to say, every single “apparent contradiction” should be a red flag to yoiu, that somewhere in YOUR UNDERSTANDING you have made an interpretation error. Once you recognize this, it becomes very easy to determine for yourself where you inserted the error through Bible Reference tools and resources. By the way, the one I pointed out above all you need is the Bible to verify Im correct…just do a word search of “Judge, judgement, etc” in the Bible using a concordance…look how it is used…it speaks for itself.

    So Powerprince , thank you for allowing me this teachable moment…I do pray that in the two years since you wrote this comment, you have found the truth of God and Jesus, and maybe even I may be now speaking to you as a “baby Christian” starting the sanctification journey.

    If not, do take a minute to consider what happens to you if you are wrong in your thinking and lack of belief about God and Jesus. Have you ever been wrong before?

  • Guest

    I agree the idea and current trend is to say God turned his back but that is adding to scripture.

  • jfundie

    Melchizedek is Jesus Christ. (Hebrews 7:1-2). This Melchizedek was king of Salem and priest of God Most High. He met Abraham returning from the defeat of the kings and blessed him, 2 and
    Abraham gave him a tenth of everything. First, the name Melchizedek
    means “king of righteousness”; then also, “king of Salem” means “king of
    peace.”
    Those attributes belongs to more than a king, more than a priest

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