The rainbow is beautiful, and meaningful beyond what most people realize. Not only is it a sign of God’s faithful mercy, but the Bible also associates the rainbow with His throne and a powerful revelation concerning the return of Jesus Christ to establish His reign on earth.
Most are familiar with the introduction of the rainbow in Genesis. Because civilization had become exceedingly wicked (Genesis 6:5), God destroyed the earth with a flood. However, God saved Noah, his wife, and his family. Afterward, He gave the rainbow as “the sign of the covenant” that He would never again destroy the earth in a flood (Genesis 9:13–17). Here, the rainbow symbolizes God’s enduring covenant mercy.
Centuries later, the prophet Ezekiel recorded a vision of the likeness of the Eternal at His throne, surrounded by something with “the appearance of a rainbow.” When Ezekiel heard “a voice of One speaking” he fell on his face before the Eternal (Ezekiel 1:26–28). Then, centuries later again, this same “One” would “empty Himself” (Philippians 2:7, English Standard Version), be born as Jesus Christ, then die for the sins of the world (John 1:14, 18; 3:16). After His resurrection, this “One” again gave a description of God’s throne, this time to the Apostle John: “[A]nd behold, a throne set in heaven, and One sat on the throne… and there was a rainbow around the throne” (Revelation 4:2–3). Here, we see that a rainbow surrounds God’s throne now.
Interestingly, the words seem to describe the rainbow around God’s throne as a full circle, and on earth the only reason we do not tend to see fully circular rainbows is because we view them at ground level. As sunlight passes through water droplets at 42 degrees relative to the observer, a rainbow will appear. It will contain seven beautiful colors, which is also meaningful. While the practice of “numerology” is pagan and numbers have no intrinsic spiritual power, God often uses numbers to convey meaning, and the number seven is a very meaningful number. For example, the Sabbath is the seventh day, and there are seven annual Holy Days, Revelation 1 says there are the seven spirits of God, and Revelation 2–3 describes seven Church eras.
The Hebrew word sheba (שֶׁבַע) means seven, which is a sister word to shaba (שָׁבַע), meaning to fulfill an oath. God uses the seven visible colors of the rainbow to commemorate His ancient oath to never again destroy the earth in a flood. And both sheba and shaba share a common root: the Hebrew word saba,(שָׂבַע) meaning satisfaction, abundance, or fullness. God is Almighty (cf. Genesis 17:1, Revelation 21:22), He is merciful (2 Corinthians 1:3), and He is also the source of true abundance! As James notes, “Every good gift and every perfect gift” comes from Him (James 1:17).
Later in John’s vision, in Revelation 10:1, before the seventh trumpet, he sees a “mighty angel” descend, with a rainbow above his head. This mighty angel announces that a final warning must be given to the earth before the great Day of the Lord, when all “the kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever” (v. 7; 11:15).
It should be no surprise that Satan has attempted to hide and counterfeit what the rainbow represents and debase its biblical connections. Satan is the “father of lies” (John 8:44). He corrupts, counterfeits, and lies. He lies, saying sin is freedom, he lies about what the rainbow represents, and he lies about all that God made good. But the Bible makes it clear that the rainbow is a sign that God created to remind man of His mercy and enduring faithfulness. He uses it to decorate His own righteous throne in heaven, and He associates it with His divine messengers. As the book of Revelation makes plain, thankfully, the end of Satan’s rule and his lies is fast approaching. Until then, may the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with us all (22:20–21).
For further study, please read “Whither the Rainbow?” and “The Rainbow: More than Meets the Eye,” and for a thorough review about the coming Kingdom of God, please read or request the free study guide The World Ahead: What Will It Be Like?