The names of God communicate the nature of God. Each name by which God reveals himself to us in the Scriptures tells us something about who he is. When Moses asked for God's name he got a statement: "I AM!" God's eternal nature is revealed to us not just in the past, nor just for the future, but he breaks into our present as the eternal "I AM". What he was in the pages of the Bible, he is today, and ever more shall be. Of course of all the name of God, the name of Jesus is the name above all names, because only in Jesus do we see the fullness of the nature of God revealed. Nevertheless each of the other names by which God reveals himself are still highly significant statements of who he is.
El-Bethel means "The God of the House of God". This name encapsulates the heart of what I have been sharing this week. God is the one who is made manifest in the church, which is his spiritual house.
This name was given by Jacob after two significant encounters with the Lord. The first was his vision at night where he saw the angels of God ascending and descending upon the place where he slept. In an interesting parallel with 1 Corinthians 14:25 he exclaims, "Surely the Lord is in this place!" and he names the place Bethel which means "house of God".
Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, "Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it." And he was afraid and said, "How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven."
The church, as the house of God, is thus also the "gate to heaven". When we come together to worship the Lord, not only do we come to Zion, but heaven comes to earth. There is a heavenly and prophetic nature to our corporate gathering whether we perceive this or not. In bowing the knee and confessing Jesus as Lord, heaven and earth overlap and God's kingdom is manifest on earth as it is in heaven in a way that will one day fill the whole earth.
The second encounter occurred at the same place, and was when God made his covenant with Jacob and changed his name to Israel, promising that he would be multiplied to become many nations, producing kings and inheriting all the land. In response Israel renames the place "El-Bethel", "God of the House of God."
It's great to realise that we come to the house of God, but even more important to grasp that when we do we will encounter the God who dwells there. Those who encounter Bethel are impressed and impacted, but it is those who encounter El-Bethel who are truly transformed.