Throughout the pages of the Bible, one can find stories of a strange light, an unexplainable source of energy. At the east gate of Eden, it was called a flaming sword. On the top of Mount Sinai, it was a burning bush that was not consumed. It was a pillar of cloud by day but a pillar of fire by night that led the children of Israel through the wilderness. It is called the “Shekinah Glory.”
The flaming sword at the east gate of Eden could have been a primitive description of that which was neither fire nor sword. Just as the Shekinah Glory rested above the mercy seat on the Ark of the Covenant, between the two cherubim, even so, the flaming sword rested atop the altar at the east gate of the Garden of Eden – also between two cherubim to guard the way to the Tree of Life. Perhaps it was there, each year, that man would come to offer a sacrifice for the atonement of sins. Perhaps Cain and Abel brought their sacrifices near the eastern gate of the Garden of Eden to offer them upon an altar.
Fire from Heaven
The flaming sword, or Shekinah Glory, represented the presence of God among men. The fire of the altar also represented the Shekinah Glory, for the Bible has described the consuming fire upon the altar as having come from heaven. One of many great examples is when Elijah called fire down from heaven in I Kings 18: 38 in the presence of the prophets of Baal, the fire consumed “… the burnt sacrifice, and the wood and the stones, and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench.”
The Shekinah Glory contains at least two basic properties: the ability to destroy and the ability to preserve. When Moses saw the burning bush on Mount Sinai, he described the bush as not being consumed. Yet, in the days of David, when the Shekinah Glory hovered above the Ark of the Covenant, a man by the name of Uzzah touched the Ark and died immediately.
Moses spent 40 days in the presence of God atop Mount Sinai. When he descended, the scriptures described his face as glowing – shining with the glory of God.
In fact, He had to veil his face, for the people feared his presence. On the other hand, when the tabernacle was completed and the day for its dedication arrived, the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle until Moses could not enter, so great was this strange energy source.
During the days of the Old Testament, the story is given of the capture of the Ark of the Covenant by the Philistines. When the Philistine army brought the Ark of the Covenant into the temple of their idol god Dagon, the Shekinah Glory within the Ark began to do a dreadful work.
The Philistines began to feel sick. They developed what we might describe as some cancerous growth – “emerods.” The Bible says. Could it be the result of some kind of radiation poisoning?
The Ark was moved from one Philistine city to the other with the same results. Finally, the Ark was moved outside of town, to the fields of the Philistines and the Philistines sent the Ark of the Covenant back into home territory, pulled on a cart by two milk cows.
The cart with the Ark came to rest in a field near Beth-shemesh in the valley of Sharon. The men of Beth-shemesh gathered around the Ark and, being filled with curiosity, lifted the lid to look inside.
That act of folly was so severe that thousands died. The Shekinah Glory, then, must evidently be some kind of radiant energy, perhaps nuclear in nature.
The psalmist wrote in Psalm 19: “The heavens declare the glory of God.” By that, he meant that the stars in heaven above declare the Shekinah Glory.
We are reminded in the first chapter of John’s gospel, “In him was life; and the life was the light of men.” Again. Jesus said, “I am the light of the world.” And again, the Bible says, “… our God is a consuming fire.” Now, what does this teach us?
From Hebrews 12:38, “Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear.”
Shekinah Glory in Gospels
There are many accounts in the Bible that describe it. On the Mount of Transfiguration, Jesus met with Moses and Elijah. A cloud covered the mountain, and the Savior radiated brighter than the noon-day sun.
On the day of Pentecost, tongues like as of fire set upon each of the believers.
On the road to Damascus, Saul of Tarsus was engulfed by a shaft of light, and he fell to the earth. His eyes were blinded for three days. They were burned so severely that scabs formed over his eyes. It is as if he had given a prolonged gaze into the brilliant light of an arc welder.
On the morning of Jesus’ resurrection, the angel of the Lord descended from heaven. In Matthew 28:2, he is described as having a countenance-like lighting. Yes, the Shekinah Glory is described as a brilliant light.
Source of Life
The Shekinah is also described as a “life” source. According to John 1: 4 “In him was life; and the life was the light of men.” There seem to be two life sources we recognize. One is liquid, and the other is light. Plant life, animal life, and all humanity is sustained by liquid. Without it, we cannot live.
But this life is temporal at best, lasting only for a little while. However, there is another life source in the universe.
This life-producing light source. It is the life that will never end. Though it cannot be out in a test tube or bought for a price, and though it is beyond our ability to comprehend, it, nevertheless, is real.
Halo for Believers
The Shekinah Glory is also described in the Bible as an aura, a radiance, or a glow emanating from believers. That’s where the concept was developed of the halo.
This radiance of glory has also been referred to as charisma. In Romans, Paul challenged the believer not to be conformed to the world. He wrote, ”… be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Yes, dear Christian, you have living within you the presence of His Shekinah Glory in the person of the Holy Spirit.
In a similar way to the transfiguration of Christ, you can have a personal radiance, not so much seen as felt.
Glory of Jerusalem
Finally, in Revelation 21:11, the new Jerusalem is described as a city of light:
“Having the glory of God: and her light was like unto a stone most precious, even like a jasper stone, clear as crystal;” He continued, “And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof. And the nations of them which are saved shall walk in the light of it: and the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honour into it. And the gates of it shall not be shut at all by day: for there shall be no night there.” (Revelation 21:23-25).
You are an eternal, immortal soul destined to live somewhere forever. Without the regenerating experience of the Holy Spirit, you cannot stand the presence of God. Perhaps that is why the Bible says in Exodus 33, “And the LORD said unto Moses …” “Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live.
Though the presence of God may become heaven to the believer, it will be the separation from God in hell to the unbeliever. If you are not a Christian and have not experienced the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit, let me urge you to be saved today.
Though we may not be able to explain it, we know it is real. Salvation is only a prayer away. Pray and ask God to save you. Jesus is willing, right now, to give you that regenerating power of the Holy Spirit, that Shekinah Glory.
In an instant, He can make you ready for heaven. The Shekinah Glory! It is mysterious in its meaning. It defies definition, but it is glorious in its grandeur and magnificent in its majesty.
This J.R. Church classic first appeared in the PITN Newspaper in 1983.