We see a lot of rainbows these days, on banners, t-shirts, bumper stickers, posters, photographs - they are all over the place! There is something beautiful and almost mysterious about rainbows. When you see one in real life, whether you are young or old, there is a sense of mystery and wonder at how such a beautiful thing could come to hang in mid-air, like an illusion of brilliant color that is here for a moment and then gone.
The Bible gives us colorful detail about the very first rainbow and why it is so significant in Genesis 9:13-16. In that passage, God says:
"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 my 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 gave Noah a beautiful gift, a sign that would remain with mankind for the rest of history, a brilliant bow of colorful light. He said it would remind Him of His promise never to destroy the earth by water again. Consider the message of the rainbow to its many viewers: to the artist, it is a perfect blending of each of the primary and secondary colors; to the scientist it is the fracturing of mixed frequencies of light into their various ordered quanta; to the musician it is an emblem of lyrical inspiration; to the child it is a spectacle of wonder and delight, and to the theologian it is a reminder that such beauty was a token of God’s promise to Man.
The beauty of the rainbow contrasts with the terrifying reason it was brought about by God. In the above passage, God says that it will remind Him of His promise never to destroy the earth again by water. God is referring to the event recorded in scripture as Noah’s flood. In this record of events, God saw that the wickedness of mankind had become so overwhelming, so pervasive, and so destructive, that it actually caused Him grief! He wished that He had never made man in the first place, and so He chose Noah and his family to continue the human race, and He brought the destructive calamity of a world-wide flood to wipe the slate clean and begin again. To this very day, you can see evidence of this great catastrophe in places like the Grand Canyon and even the Badlands of North Dakota, as billions and billions of dead things are laid down by water in rock layers all over the earth. And you can see the rainbow sign of God’s promise to never do so again.
The Bible does talk about a future time of great difficulty in which God will finally vanquish His enemies and bring to right all the effects of sin and destruction. In the book of 2 Peter 3:10-13, it says:
"But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed."
Can you even envision that event? I don’t even think Hollywood could get close to that one! Listen to the question that follows in the next verse...
"Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! "
But wait! There’s HOPE! 2 Peter 3:13 says:
"But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.”
God will not ultimately abandon His children to destruction. A new heaven and a new earth are in store for those who believe in the saving power of Jesus’ name! This will be a new place to live in the presence of God Himself, where there will be no crying, no sickness, no sin and no more death! In the end God will be seen for the glorious, powerful, holy and awesome God that He is. And His people will dwell with Him forever!
The next time you see a rainbow, celebrate the gracious promises we have from God, and look forward to a beautiful new heaven and earth!