Strangely, the most fundamental element that the rainbow conveys for us is God’s loving and great aim of redemption: to give humanity a fresh start. This makes all the myths about the rainbow’s supernatural “bridge” explanations all the more perplexing. So, what is the meaning of the rainbow in the Bible?
A rainbow is an extraordinary occurrence that can occur in the sky. The rainbow stands as the symbol of protection for God’s astounding creation. As far as we can recall, whenever a rainbow appeared, someone always exclaimed, “Look, a rainbow!” In our experience, the more vibrant and beautiful a rainbow is, the louder the ensuing uproar.
What Does The Rainbow Mean In The Bible?
In every book of the Bible, from the Book of Genesis to the Book of Revelation, the rainbow is a sign of God’s promise and protection. The sight of a rainbow is breathtaking, both then and now. As it was for Noah, the appearance of a rainbow after a storm is a symbol of God’s unfailing kindness and mercy and the hope that comes from believing in His goodness.
Rainbows have come to symbolize in popular culture the infinite possibilities inherent in existence. God commanded Noah to gather two of each species for the ark so as to increase biodiversity on the planet.
Given this, it’s possible that, after the deluge, God missed the diversity of humans, warts, and all. Our varied experiences leading us to God are equally valued by God, as are our various bodily, spiritual, and intellectual endowments (1 Corinthians 12:4–6).
A constant reminder of God’s love and protection, the rainbow has deep spiritual significance. The rainbow represents faith and trust in God, just as it did in Revelation 4:3 when it appeared around the throne. It’s a picture of the wonderful and awesome second chances God gives us after every storm.
Where Does The Bible First Mention Rainbows?
When the great flood finally subsided, Noah and his family were the first to see a rainbow and venture out of the safety of the ark onto dry land. God’s pledge, or covenant, that He would never again destroy the world by flood was symbolized by the rainbow He painted across the sky.
“I establish my covenant with you and your offspring after you, and with every creature that is with you, the birds, the livestock, and every beast of the earth with you. Never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth” (Genesis 9:8–11).
The promise made to Noah after the flood is the basis for the rainbow. As the Bible recounts the events leading up to the Noahic covenant, the reader is given a full picture in Genesis 9. There were a lot of sinful people living on Earth, and God was quite upset about it. According to his scheme of judgment and salvation, He ordered Noah to construct the ark. It was only Noah and his family of eight that survived God’s wrath.
After the worldwide flood, God vowed never to use water as a means of destruction again. Not only did God tell Noah this in his own words, but he also displayed a magnificent bow in the sky as a visual aid. In Genesis 9:12–17, we read about the setting where God made a promise to Noah and his descendants:
And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every creature that is with you, for all future generations: I have set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth.
…When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, I will remember the covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh. And the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.”
God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth.” The second mention of a rainbow is mentioned in Revelation, where John describes a strong angel: “Then I saw another mighty angel coming down out of heaven, clothed with a cloud, and with a rainbow on his head” (Revelation 10:1).
Just like the rest of God’s creation, the rainbow is a manifestation of the glory and majesty of God. The existence and power of God are attested to and reflected in the splendor of a rainbow in the sky. God is infinitely more wonderful and lovely than a rainbow, and one day the whole world will be able to behold His splendor shining and revealed.
What Is The World’s View Of The Rainbow?
Even though each and every rainbow is completely one of a kind, its appearance may be explained away without resorting to any sort of miracle. For a long time, scientists have known that raindrops serve as “tiny prisms” to create rainbows.
When white sunlight enters one side of a water droplet and departs the other, it forms a circular bow or arc of color that is refracted or broken up into the color spectrum, appearing on the other side of the sky.
In a rainbow, there is a continuous range of about a million hues, all of which blend together into one another and are invisible to the naked eye. Only seven colors—red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet—are actually perceivable by the human eye.
In reality, the beauty of a rainbow is really an “optical illusion” that can only be seen by the observer when their line of sight is perfectly aligned with the direction of the light.
The rainbow’s beauty and mystery, however, have made it a part of mythologies in many cultures around the world. The Norse, for instance, believed it to be a Bifrost, a “bridge” used by the gods to travel between Earth and Asgard.
Similarly, the Navajo believed that rainbows served as a portal for sacred spirits, and ancient Japanese thought that the color represented the return of ancestors who had passed away. There is a pot of gold at the end of every rainbow, according to an old Irish mythology that is still recited (sometimes facetiously) today.
All the myths regarding rainbows are falsehoods told by the devil to keep us from learning their genuine symbolic significance (John 8:44). One of the most pervasive (though understated) diversions in modern culture occurred in 1978, when an artist appropriated the rainbow symbol to create a flag for the LGBT community and promote a sinful, unnatural, and destructive lifestyle.
Does The Rainbow Remind You Of The Gospel?
Since God spared himself from condemnation by hiding himself in Christ, we have every reason to celebrate the account of Jesus’ death and resurrection.
In addition, this is wonderful news for us because it wonderfully and unmistakably foreshadows the moment when God sent his own Son, Jesus, to die on the cross and rise again, providing humanity with the incredible opportunity to avoid judgment by being “hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3; 1 Peter 3:20–22; 2 Peter 2:9).
Because they formerly did not obey, God’s patience waited in the days of Noah while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water.
Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him (1 Peter 3:20–22, ESV).
And the gospel enables us to respond to God’s grace with trusting submission. From here, we can find our way to God and eternal life. In Paul’s words: “Because if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart, one believes and is justified, and with the mouth, one confesses and is saved” Romans 10:9–10 (ESV).
The Real Meaning Of The Rainbow
What is the true meaning of a rainbow, exactly? The Bible is the only infallible, inspired, and authoritative source of truth we have. What the rainbow symbolizes is unmistakably stated in the Bible. The vibrant hues of nature, such as the blue of the sky and the green of the fields, might have also been Jesus’ favorite colors.
In Genesis 6–9, near the end of the account of the global deluge, the rainbow makes its first appearance in Scripture. God chose to punish humanity for their persistent wrongdoing and wickedness (Genesis 6:5–12) by causing it to rain for 40 days and nights and flood the entire earth, destroying everything except for a man named Noah and his family and a number of animals who were safely housed in an ark.
A rainbow rose in the sky after months of unusual occurrences because God’s judgment was “restrained” and the rain stopped (Genesis 8:2). The Bible makes the meaning of the rainbow crystal obvious, whether this was the first time a rainbow had ever appeared in human history (because it had not rained yet, as Genesis 2:5 seems to claim) or whether God just repurposed the phenomenon that had previously existed (as Ken Ham explains).
When the waters subsided, Noah climbed out of the ark and prepared a sacrifice to God in the form of a burnt offering. God then made a promise or covenant with Noah and his household:
Behold, I establish my covenant with you and your offspring after you, and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the livestock, and every beast of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark; it is for every beast of the earth. I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth…
This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: I have set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, I will remember the covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh.
And the waters shall never again become a flood. When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.— Genesis 9:8–16 (ESV)
God, in light of this verse, gave the rainbow great significance so that we would be reminded, whenever we behold it, of God’s covenant to never again destroy all living creatures on earth in a global flood. The rainbow in the sky was the sign of God’s covenant after the flood.
Next time you see a rainbow, take in its splendor and think about its real meaning and what the rainbow serves. It is a blessing that we have even a small window into God’s nature—a remembrance of His assurances that He will see us through the trials and challenges we experience. The rainbow reminds us to trust in God’s faithfulness through thick and thin.
Remember that even though we deserved God’s wrath and death, He has shown mercy by giving us eternal life. Also, He made and honored His promises to the Israelites thousands of years ago, and He will make and keep His promises to us for all of eternity as well.