And God said, “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 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 said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth.”
A rainbow vision
Shortly after the floodwaters recede, God reestablishes His covenant relationship with man. Mankind’s representative was Noah. In the span of Genesis 9:9-17, God mentions His covenant three times and His “sign of the covenant” three times as well. The first is a restoration of relationship, and the second an everlasting memorial of that relationship.
Seeing how both the covenant and its sign receive equal emphasis, it would seem we are encouraged to engage with other mentions of the rainbow to better understand our relationship with God.
Three rainbows in the Bible: Glory, throne, and crown
There are three rainbows in the Bible after the account in Genesis.
When Ezekiel sees his visions of God, he says, “Like the appearance of a rainbow in a cloud on a rainy day, so was the appearance of the brightness all around it. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord” (Ezekiel 1:28).
On the island of Patmos, John sees “a rainbow around the throne, in appearance like an emerald” (Revelation 4:3).
John will then see another vision of “an angel coming down from heaven, clothed with a cloud. And a rainbow was on his head, his face was like the sun, and his feet like pillars of fire” (Revelation 10:1).
A sign of hope … for us
From these verses, there are three applications of the rainbows in the Bible. Let’s look at their significance in our lives.
First, the rainbow is a sign of hope in the aftermath of judgment.
Just like the rainbow in Noah’s day penetrated the clouds of judgment, God’s glory penetrates the dark clouds of sin and its effect on the earth. When tragedies have wrecked havoc in our lives, we can trust that God will restore us. We must remember his promises and that His grace overpowers sin.
Second, the rainbow surrounds the throne of Christ.
It is His filter of judgment upon which He views the world. He sees his people (both obedient and disobedient) alongside rebellious men through the filter of the Covenant of Grace. We must also judge in a like manner. First, we judge as evil those who reject Christ and break His Law. Second, we refuse to associate (1 Corinthians 5:9-13) with those who trample under foot the blood of the covenant (Hebrews 10:29). Lastly, we do not bring judgment against a brother for anything but disobeying God. Or, as Jesus tells us, avoid judging by ‘appearances’ (John 7:24).
Third, the rainbow is the kingly crown of Christ.
Jesus, through His work of redemption, was crowned with a sign of the Covenant of Grace (rainbow). Thus the rainbow reminds us of His sovereignty over our lives. God has the power to destroy the world. And we owe obedience to the One who holds back worldwide deconstruction. As much as the rainbow is a sign of the Covenant of Grace, it doubles as a declaration of complete authority over our lives. We must move under this multicolored banner of Christ by obedience to His Laws that apply to our jurisdiction.