The rainbow is an amazing thing even for unbelievers. But it should have much more significance for the believer in Jesus Christ.
I realize, of course, that the rainbow as a symbol has been hijacked in our day and it now has lost its God intended meaning for many people. Well, for those of us who believe and know the Bible, we are not distracted. We know the true meaning of the rainbow.
We all today are somewhere under the rainbow. As believers we ought to live in light of what the rainbow represents.
The rainbow reminds us of the flood and God’s hatred of sin. It reminds us that God will not destroy the earth in the same way again. There will never again be a universal flood.
We should live in light of the truth of the rainbow. This is an exciting section of Scripture as Noah, his sons, and their wives exit the ark to start over.
The new Adam (Noah) gets the same command the original Adam received: Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth (Gen 1:28; 9:1).
This suggests that God will ultimately fulfill His original design for man. However, as we shall see, there are now changes.
God’s purpose for man is that we would be productive, growing, expanding, creating.
God created us in His image. Theologians have varying opinions on what the image of God is. It seems that at least part of the image of God in us is creativity. He has made us to be creative and productive. That is where we find fulfillment in life.
Of course, as believers we find fulfillment in being creative and productive for Him, which is what the
Animals Will Now Fear Man
God told Adam and Eve that they would have dominion over the animals (Gen 1:26, 28). Here (Gen 9:2) God says that the animals will fear humans.
Many commentators suggest this is another way of saying the same thing. I wonder.
It seems that the change in wording might be significant, especially considering the next verse. Possibly before the flood the animals were submissive to humans, but were not afraid of them. After the flood the animals fear humans, but are not necessarily submissive. There are many wild animals today, like lions and tigers and bears (oh, my!) that are far from submissive to humans. While they surely have fear of humans, they sometimes hurt and even kill us.
I doubt that a single human was hurt or killed by an animal before the flood (other than the spiritual attack of the snake in the Garden of Eden). The Bible certainly gives no indication of that. But after the flood we learn of humans being hurt and killed by animals.
Animals Are Now a Source of Food for Men
Dispensationalism is the view that God has given humans different commands at different stages of human history.
Clearly there was a Dispensational change from when men were kicked out of the garden. Clearly there was a new change when Noah and his family got out of the ark. Later there would be a change when the Law of Moses was put in place. And later again a change would occur when the Church of Jesus Christ was born.
The statement that “every moving thing that lives shall be food for you” (Gen 9:3) is new. Before the flood there was no such statement nor was there any indication before the flood that humans ate meat. Possibly they did, but no statement like this was given to Adam and Eve in the garden or after they were expelled from the garden.
It is highly likely that prior to the flood humans were vegetarians and that after the flood they became omnivores, eating both plants and animals.
God does give a prohibition in regards to the eating of animals: we were not to eat flesh with its blood.
This later became part of the Law of Moses as well. Thus humans were not to drink blood or to eat meat that was covered in blood. This meant that we had to drain the blood from animals before preparing the meat.
There is possibly an allusion to the blood of Jesus Christ here. The life of any animal, including humans, is in its blood. Thus the death of animals and the shedding of their blood likely alluded to the fact that one day the Messiah would willingly shed His blood for all of mankind (John 1:29; 1 John 2:2).
The Sacredness of Human Life
Prior to the flood, murder was clearly wrong, but there was no established penalty for it. God did not take Cain’s life after he killed Abel, for example.
Now, after the flood, a law is set in place. If a man willfully and intentionally takes the life of another, then his life will be forfeited when he is caught and found guilty. This later became part of the Law of Moses.
Note that the reason why murdering a human is wrong is because humans are made “in the image of God.”
Note too that this refers to humans after the fall and after the flood. Adam and Eve were made in the image of God. Even after they fell, their descendants remained in the image of God. That image was marred, but not lost.
God’s image is in all humans, not simply those who have everlasting life.
People who are against the death penalty think it is hypocritical of people to be against abortion and yet in favor of the death penalty. Yet they do not see the obvious: both relate to the preciousness of human life. God says human life is so precious that one who murders someone who is in the image of God forfeits his own life.
Clearly there is a deterrent built into the death penalty. In the first place, the one put to death will not be free to murder anyone else. In the second place, men may be hindered from murder if they know that the death penalty awaits them if they are discovered.
After the flood it is possible that Noah and his sons would think that God thought of human life as cheap and expendable. They just saw billions of humans and animals die. (I realize that most think that only a few million people died in the flood. However, given a thousand years with no wars and people living over 900 years and with each couple having well over a century of childbearing years, likely there were well over a billion people and over a billion animals that died in the flood.) God is here affirming that human life is precious to Him (compare 2 Pet 3:9-12). And He is about to show them that He will never again destroy the earth with a universal flood.
The Rainbow Is a Sign that there Will Not Be Another Universal Flood
Evidently there were no rainbows before the flood.
In any case, from this day forward the rainbow would be a sign in the clouds that God would never again destroy the world by universal flood.
Do you think of this promise when you see a rainbow? I do at times. But at times I forget. The beauty of the rainbow can make us enjoy it just for itself, not for what it stands for. But we should remember what it signifies.
And we should remember that this promise is linked with the promise that after the Millennium God will destroy the world and the entire universe with fire.
Look at 2 Pet 3:10-13. After the return of Christ—and here Peter skips the entire Millennium since he is looking at the very big picture, the Lord will wipe out every trace of sin in the universe. Everything “will be burned up” (v 10). We are to live with expectation of this coming day (v 11-12). We look forward to a “new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (v 13). Won’t that be great?
And that is also something we can recall when we see a rainbow. There will only be one other worldwide destruction. The first was by flood. The second will be by fire.
The World Is Not Going to Be Destroyed By Anything Man Does
People in the ecology movement are scared that humans are destroying the planet. They come up with movies to express their views and all kinds of laws and taxes to save us from destroying ourselves and our planet.
We certainly should be good caretakers of the planet God gave us. But we should remember that God promises that we will not destroy ourselves or our planet. He will not allow it. The world will continue, no matter what people do or do not do, until the Lord returns and overthrows wickedness and establishes His kingdom on earth for 1,000 years. Only after that will the heavens and earth be destroyed and a new heavens and earth be put in place.
Applications of the Meaning of the Rainbow
When we see a rainbow, we should think not only of the promise not to destroy the earth by flood again, but also of the promise of the new heavens and the new earth in which righteousness dwells. A number of other applications come to mind:
1. God hates sin.
2. God highly prizes human life.
3. Every single human has the image of God within him.
4. We were made to be fruitful, to multiply, to fill the earth, and to bring glory to God by what we do with the earth.
5. The rainbow is a call to holy living in view of Jesus’ soon return.
We face death daily. None of us knows how long we will live. Many times each year we learn of the death of people close to us or close to our friends. Yet all the deaths we learn of in a lifetime are few in comparison to the deaths that Noah and his family witnessed. Except for eight people, the entire human race—probably over a billion people at that time—was destroyed. The only survivors were the humans in the ark.
When they exited the ark, they built a new world.
The sign of the rainbow was a promise of peace and of continuation to them and it is to us as well.
Ultimately living in light of the rainbow is living in light of Jesus’ soon return. Soon He will establish His righteous kingdom.
Before He does, before the Millennium starts, every Church Age believer will be judged at the Judgment Seat of Christ to determine our eternal rewards (2 Cor 5:9-10; 1 John 2:28). Wouldn’t it be great to hear Him say to you, “Well done, good servant” (Luke 19:17)? His praise and approval would mean so much.
We know we have everlasting life because we believe the Lord Jesus who said, “He who believes in Me has everlasting life” (John 6:47). Because of that gift, we should long to please Him. We should crave His approval.
The rainbow reminds us that He is coming again and that He has a plan for history. Ultimately, man will not mess up His plan. God is in control of history. May we always keep in mind the message of the rainbow.