“…and there was a rainbow around the throne…”
I can remember several years ago a friend and I were joking about another individual’s panic over what he called the “rainbow coalition” which was a reference to those in politics and business with a gay agenda in mind. While back then we found a bit of humor in this person’s overreaction and paranoia to this movement, now, I assure you, we find ourselves not laughing at all. In fact, I honestly confess I find myself somewhere between wanting to cry and fighting off nausea over Friday’s Supreme Court decision. Although their decision really comes as no surprise considering the trajectory of this movement over the last several years, this is certainly no laughing matter because people’s eternity is at stake. Our US government, along with others around the world, have decided to encourage those in the LGBT community down the path of eternal destruction by providing momentum through the establishment of legal rights. Furthermore, they have celebrated their new found momentum by raising their rainbow colored victory flag.
And that’s what I want to discuss…the rainbow…it’s been hijacked.
While I say the rainbow has been hijacked, in other words stolen, this act of piracy has in no way attempted to bury it like some chest of gold. In fact, just the opposite is true. It seems that everywhere you look there are rainbows. We see rainbow flags, rainbow status’ on social media, rainbow lights illuminating our White House…and what used to be a light blue bar running through the top of this Word Press website that I use to write these posts, to my astonishment, there is now a rainbow bar decorating the top of this page as I jot down this blog!
The whole world it seems has gone rainbow since Friday! This is incredibly ironic to me as I have considered the biblical significance behind the rainbow. But as I said, it has been hijacked to symbolize something else. It’s high time we refresh our memories concerning the truth behind the symbolic imagery of the rainbow according to the unchanging principles of God’s word. I believe that what we will find is that the true meaning of the rainbow is both infinitely greater and, at the same time, infinitely more terrifying than what the gay community has redefined as their symbol of identity and pride.
The Story Behind God’s Rainbow
Let me first start off by saying that the rainbow, along with all of creation, belongs to God and is subject to His authority as David points out by saying,
“Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, indeed everything that is in the heavens and the earth; Yours is the dominion, O LORD, and You exalt Yourself as head over all.” 1 Chronicles 29:11 (NASB95)
The reason David can confidently make this bold statement and we can whole heartedly agree with it is because God is the One who created all things, therefore, He has dominion over all things.
“Ah Lord GOD! Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and by Your outstretched arm! Nothing is too difficult for You…” Jeremiah 32:17 (NASB95)
Furthermore, not only does the rainbow belong to the Lord as does all of creation, but the rainbow in particular carries special significant symbolism that God implemented and we dare not mess with.
This symbolism comes to us from the beginning chapters of Genesis, the first book of the bible. After God had created the heavens and the earth and all things in them, mankind rebelled against God’s single command to not eat the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil or else they would surely die. After that sinful choice, it was a slippery slope for mankind and its desire for sin. Lies, murders, immoralities, adulteries, and every other sin imaginable plagued the hearts of the human race. So much so that God’s word made this sadly profound statement in Genesis 6.
“Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. The LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart.” Genesis 6:5-6 (NASB95)
What started out as something that God declared “good” and “very good” had now been completely corrupted by the deceitfulness of sin according to the poor choices of mankind. And it grieved the Lord. So what was God to do? The same thing He eventually does concerning all sin, His holiness condemns it and passes righteous judgment upon it. In this case, it was no different.
“The LORD said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, from man to animals to creeping things and to birds of the sky; for I am sorry that I have made them.” Genesis 6:7 (NASB95)
The Lord decides to judge the entire population of men and animals by destroying them along with the earth. We find out in the next few chapters that the means by which He does this is through a catastrophic flood never seen before or since. While this sounds harsh and maybe even shocking to those who have always been taught about a loving God but have never heard of a holy God, we find that even in the midst of His condemnation of the entire creation, He chooses to display His grace and mercy in the life of Noah, who is known as a preacher of righteousness.
“But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD.” Genesis 6:8 (NASB95)
I just have to pause for a moment here (and you should too) as I thank God for His grace and mercy in our lives. Selah.
So Noah finds favor and grace with God as He chooses him and his family to be the only humans along with a bunch of animals to survive this massively devastating flood. After God decides the flood has achieved its desired effect on humanity and the world, He causes the waters to subside eventually allowing Noah and his family to leave the ark. As they depart from their boat, God speaks to Noah and his sons, saying,
“‘I establish My covenant with you; and all flesh shall never again be cut off by the water of the flood, neither shall there again be a flood to destroy the earth.’ God said, ‘This is the sign of the covenant which I am making between Me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all successive generations; I set My bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a sign of a covenant between Me and the earth. It shall come about, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow will be seen in the cloud, and I will remember My covenant, which is between Me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and never again shall the water become a flood to destroy all flesh. When the bow is in the cloud, then I will look upon it, to remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.” Genesis 9:11-16 (NASB95)
After the flood, God establishes a covenant between Himself and Noah and his sons and all successive generations of mankind after them. In this covenant, the Lord makes a promise to never again destroy the inhabitants of the earth through the means of a flood. He wasn’t saying that there will never be any floods, but never the kind of flood that brings complete destruction of the earth and its population. Furthermore, to show He is serious and to bind the words of His promise, God establishes a sign of this covenant – the rainbow.
The rainbow then, serves as a reminder for mankind as well as to God that a cataclysmic flood will never again destroy the earth. This is what the bible teaches concerning the importance of the rainbow seen in the clouds after a summer rain. It is a reminder of God’s covenant made thousands of years ago to His creation. Honestly, it has nothing to do with gay pride, and ironically, on the other hand, it has everything to do with those in the gay community. It is vitally important for us as Christians to understand the significance of the symbolism behind the biblical meaning of the rainbow. Even more so, if you are reading this and identify as LGBT or are a supporter and cheerleader for them, this information is critical for you to comprehend. I will explain this further as we examine two significant truths behind the symbolism of the rainbow according to God.
A Sign of Promised Mercy
Rainbows in and of themselves are beautiful spectrums of light manifested by the combination of light and water vapor in the air. But probably the most beautiful aspect of them is their underlying biblical symbolism, which is summed up in one word – mercy. The Lord’s actions when He delivered Noah and his family through the flood is a prime example of mercy. God could have chosen to completely annihilate His creation, causing everything to become extinct, but instead He chose to spare some who would eventually repopulate the world. We are reminded of that act of mercy every time we see the sign of the rainbow.
Furthermore, through the rainbow, we are reminded of the availability of that mercy to us today in the 21st century. Because we are a fallen, sinful, rebellious, and truly God-hating creation, we are faced with the hope crushing consequences of those qualities which is impending, imminent judgment that could happen at any moment on any given day. It is coming, we don’t know when exactly, and furthermore, there is nothing we can do about it. We are without any excuses, alibis, or defenses that might provide the clause for our escape. Similar to the people of Noah’s day.
But because of God’s loving, gracious, and yes holy, nature, He has provided for us another option – mercy. This option triumphs over judgment.
“…mercy triumphs over judgment.” James 2:13 (NASB95)
Instead of a people who move through life in expectation of a tsunami of judgment that will sweep us away at any moment, God has chosen to extend the scandalous option of mercy to His undeserving creation. This mercy has been given a name and His name is Jesus. While mercy doesn’t remove God’s judgment and wrath inspired by iniquity, it does mean that we are no longer the recipients of that wrath because the Son has chosen to take upon Himself the full punishment of our trespasses and sins. Once and for all, through the judgment of the cross, Christ has suffered so we won’t have to and through His resurrection we have our eternal victory. Mercy has been poured out in our hearts and lives in abundant measure through Jesus Christ.
When we read the book of Revelation, in chapter 10, we find a description of the Son of God who is referred to as an angel. This reference in no way means that Jesus is an angel, which are created beings that are under our Lord’s authority and are objects of their worship, but that He exemplifies angelic qualities, specifically that He is the messenger of the new covenant (the Greek word for angel, angelos, simply means messenger). In this reference in Revelation, we find that He is crowned with a rainbow signifying mercy. Coincidence? I don’t think so. The Christ of God is the source and authority of our mercy.
“I saw another strong angel coming down out of heaven, clothed with a cloud; and the rainbow was upon his head, and his face was like the sun, and his feet like pillars of fire…” Revelation 10:1 (NASB95)
This extravagant display of mercy through the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ never ceases to amaze me. But, if it ever does, God from time to time faithfully places a rainbow in the clouds to help remind me of His goodness toward me, a sinner.
A Sign of Future Judgment
The second significant fact behind the rainbow serves as an appeal and a warning to those who would cheapen the offer of God’s mercy by rejecting Him. Similar to what Paul says about the cross, the rainbow is also a sign of mercy to those who are being saved but to those who are perishing by rejecting Jesus Christ, it is a foreshadowing of the final judgment. You see, the Lord promised Noah and us that He will never again destroy the earth with a flood. But He also promised that there is coming a day when an even greater catastrophe will take place, one that will not only encompass the earth but also the heavens.
“For thus says the LORD of hosts, ‘Once more in a little while, I am going to shake the heavens and the earth, the sea also and the dry land.'” Haggai 2:6 (NASB95)
This is elaborated on further by Peter as he compares and contrasts the judgment of Noah’s day and the one yet to come.
He starts off by addressing the scoffers and those who would mock the Day of the Lord both in their words and their actions.
“Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts, and saying, ‘Where is the promise of His coming?'” 2 Peter 3:3 (NASB95)
Peter continues under the inspiration of the Spirit by making this defense,
“For when they maintain this, it escapes their notice that by the word of God the heavens existed long ago and the earth was formed out of water and by water, through which the world at that time was destroyed, being flooded with water. But by His word the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.” 2 Peter 3:5-7 (NASB95)
Peter makes the case that the mockers ignorantly miss the fact of God’s mighty power through His word. It was through His word the heavens and the earth exist, being formed by water and later destroyed with that very same water. He then makes a comparison as well as a distinction. That very same power of God’s spoken word will one day destroy the world again only this time it will not be by water but by fire resulting in the judgment and destruction of ungodly men and women.
Peter elaborates on what this destructive fire will look like in the following verses.
“But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up……the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat!” 2 Peter 3:10, 12 (NASB95)
As destructive as the flood must have been, the description of destruction we get of the final judgment upon ungodly mankind and their works is infinitely worse and much more pervasive. It encompasses not only the earth but the heavens as well, going as far as destroying the very elements that make up our universe, paving the way for new heavens and a new earth in which dwells righteousness. Pretty scary.
Interestingly, in the middle of all of this judgment and destruction talk, Peter emphasizes the Lord’s patience towards sinners.
“But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day. The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” 2 Peter 3:8-9 (NASB95)
This is where we are at today in our world. Often times there is a lot of talk and questioning, just like in Peter’s day, about why God hasn’t come to judge the world and its wickedness yet. God is patient, not desiring that any should perish but that all would come to repentance. Friends, the day of judgment is both a great and terrible day. It will be a day like no other day; on the one hand a day of resurrection and consummation I so dearly desire and long for; on the other hand a day of horror like nothing ever seen or experienced before. I selfishly pray for this day to come soon…even today. At the same time, as I shuffle self aside, I thank God for His patience upon this wicked generation.
While some in our society have attempted to hijack the rainbow from its proper Owner, may we never forget Who that Owner truly is. The rainbow belongs to the Lord. He has given it to His creation as a giftful reminder of two things. It is a reminder of His mercy to all who would receive Him. It is a foreshadowing of final judgment to all who will reject Him.
When we are given the faithful reminder of His bow in the sky, let us first offer up gratitude for His indescribable gift of mercy through Jesus Christ. Secondly, let it serve as a prompting to pray for the lost, reach out to them with gracious hearts, and present the full gospel of our God.
To those who reject the importance of the first symbolic meaning of the rainbow, I believe it then stands as a witness and judge against them, graciously warning them to repent while they still can.
“As the appearance of the rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the appearance of the surrounding radiance. Such was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. And when I saw it, I fell on my face…”
Ezekiel 1:28 (NASB95)