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Somewhere Over the Rainbow, God Will Judge….

April 28, 2009

rainbow_prev
The other day I was driving behind a car that had a rainbow bumper sticker that said “We Are Everywhere.” Which got me wondering, “Why is the rainbow a symbol of gay pride?” Honestly, I’m not really sure, but if I had to guess, it would be because the rainbow is thought of as a non-judgmental symbol: God gave the rainbow as a sign that He would not judge the earth with a flood anymore. But is this really the case?
Genesis 9:12-17
12 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;
13 I set My bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a sign of a covenant between Me and the earth.
14 “It shall come about, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow will be seen in the cloud,
15 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.
16 “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.”
17 And God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant which I have established between Me and all flesh that is on the earth.”

OK, we’re all familiar with this story. But what else does the Bible have to say about rainbows?

Ezekiel 1:28
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 and heard a voice speaking.

The context of this passage is when God appeared before Ezekiel (No, it was NOT a UFO) to ordain him as a prophet. Ezekiel was already in exile with many other Israelites, and his prophecies would be foretelling the destruction of Jerusalem to those exiled in Babylon.

Revelation 4:1-3
1 After these things I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven, and the first voice which I had heard, like the sound of a trumpet speaking with me, said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after these things.”
2 Immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne was standing in heaven, and One sitting on the throne.
3 And He who was sitting was like a jasper stone and a sardius in appearance; and there was a rainbow around the throne, like an emerald in appearance.

This takes place immediately after the letters to the seven churches, when John is taken into heaven and witnesses the worship of God.

Revelation 10:1
1 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;

It’s interesting to compare the Ezekiel passage (and the following verses) with this verse (and the following verses). There are a lot of similarities between John and Ezekiel. While this would be an interesting study for another time, for the purposes of this post I will state what I think is the most striking similarity between the two passages: Ezekiel prophecies the coming destruction of Jerusalem at 586 B.C. John prophecies the coming destruction of Jerusalem at 70 A.D.

So it appears that from the preceding passages, the rainbow surrounds either God or his messenger – particularly in times of judgment. I mentioned this in the Ezekiel passage and the Revelation 10 passage, but I also think this applies to the Revelation 4 passage. Here, John is being caught up into heaven to witness – or participate in – a worship service. And in fact, this is what worship is – a judgment. Many of us tend to relate judgment with bad people – the evil will be judged – but judgment goes both ways. God also judges the righteous and sees that they are in Christ and judges accordingly. This is what worship is – a judgment. We approach God to worship Him, and the only way we are able to do so is through His Son. We are judged, counted righteous, and admitted into the throne room with the angels… just like John. This is also what happens at the final judgment. Both the righteous and the unrighteous will be judged – not just the unrighteous. And speaking of the final judgment….

Revelation 21:19-20
19 The foundation stones of the city wall were adorned with every kind of precious stone The first foundation stone was jasper; the second, sapphire; the third, chalcedony; the fourth, emerald;
20 the fifth, sardonyx; the sixth, sardius; the seventh, chrysolite; the eighth, beryl; the ninth, topaz; the tenth, chrysoprase; the eleventh, jacinth; the twelfth, amethyst.

Sort of reminds you of a rainbow, doesn’t it? This beautiful city that is being described here is not really a city at all, but the bride of Christ. Go back and read the whole chapter. God had created the new heaven and new earth and Christ is descending with His beautifully adorned bride to judge the righteous and the unrighteous (vs. 8). In some sense, I believe, the people of God are His rainbow (or warbow as it is sometimes referred to). There are 12 colors, corresponding to the 12 tribes, the 12 apostles, the representation of His people… The Church. So if the rainbow represents the Church, why does God surround himself with a rainbow, as we saw in the Ezekiel and the other Revelation passages? And for that matter, what does this have to do with the covenant God made with Noah? Let’s go back and see what God really said to Noah in Genesis 9.

Genesis 9:8-17
8 Then God spoke to Noah and to his sons with him, saying,
9 “Now behold, I Myself do establish My covenant with you, and with your descendants after you;
10 and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the cattle, and every beast of the earth with you; of all that comes out of the ark, even every beast of the earth.
11 “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.”
12 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;
13 I set My bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a sign of a covenant between Me and the earth.
14 “It shall come about, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow will be seen in the cloud,
15 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.
16 “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.”
17 And God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant which I have established between Me and all flesh that is on the earth.”

God’s desire from the very beginning was that the whole earth would worship Him and enjoy Him forever. After Adam sinned, things quickly went south. Because of man’s extreme sinfulness, God killed every last one, except for Noah and his family. After the flood, God made a promise to Noah that He would not destroy man with a flood ever again. This is indeed true, but we tend to emphasize the flood part and miss this part: “all flesh shall never again be cut off by the water of the flood.” It’s not that man will never be killed by a flood again, it’s that ALL of mankind will never be destroyed again. God is making a gracious promise to Noah. And indeed, that’s what happened. Not long after the flood we come to the plains of Shinar, where man is reveling in its evil and building the tower of Babel. But this time, God does not destroy them. He scatters them and the next thing we read is: “The Lord said to Abram, “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you.” Instead of destroying the earth, God makes a plan to redeem it – through Abram. And we all know what happened next. Yes, it’s wonderful that we don’t have to worry about another worldwide flood, but its even more wonderful that God chose to save us.

So what about the rainbow? When we think of the rainbow, we think of the rain and clouds, the sun breaking through and the joy and security of God’s promise seen in that colorful sign. But there’s not always a rainbow after it rains. And there’s usually more than one cloud in a rain storm, isn’t there? Sure, I think God did create the rainbow for our assurance – a beautiful sign for our comfort and enjoyment. But look at what He really said: “I set My bow in the cloud.” “…when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow will be seen in the cloud.” Notice the singular: cloud. Now think about the passages in Ezekiel and Revelation. When God reveals Himself, He is surrounded by a cloud – a glory cloud. Not only in the passages above, but also in places like the exodus – a pillar of cloud/a pillar of fire (which also is described in the passages above). God’s messenger in Revelation 10 is clothed in a cloud. And His bow is seen in the cloud. It surrounds Him.

In light of passages above, it appears to me that when God comes in judgment, He no longer comes in total destruction, but He comes in mercy, saving many – while also destroying the wicked. But even then, He is patient with the wicked – as is seen through out the Scriptures. And why is He gracious? He surrounds Himself with His rainbow – His people. The rainbow is a memorial – just like the Lord’s Supper. But it’s not just a reminder for us – it’s a reminder for Him. Not that He ever forgets, but this is the pattern through Scripture – God establishes memorials for His sake – He remembers His covenant – and these memorials are like lines in the sand. It’s arrogant to presume that God will not judge – regardless of your sin – but even worse, it’s scary to think that many of us are reminded of God’s lovingkindness everyday by the symbols that we see (or eat, or drink, or unite under), yet continue to throw His mercy back in His face. Let us thank God for His grace and repent of our rebellion.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. Joe Thacker permalink
    May 14, 2009 1:39 pm

    Brian,

    Great thoughts. I need to chew on them a bit more, as you’ve brought to light some perspectives I haven’t considered before, but your argument looks pretty solid to me. Further, there’s something to be said for the saints/church as constituting the glory-cloud now (ch. Hebrews 12:1).

    Joe

  2. May 16, 2009 1:17 pm

    I’m not sure that homosexuality should upset us more than other sins. Paul indicates in a variety of passages that it is equivalent to a number of other sins, including drunkenness and sexual immorality/adultery.

    • May 16, 2009 5:51 pm

      Pete,

      Thanks for your comment. I’m not saying we should be more upset over homosexuality than other sins. The main point I was trying to make was more about what the rainbow really symbolizes in Scripture, and secondly to make the observation that some homosexuals arrogantly use the rainbow as their symbol.

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