When asked about what object they think best symbolizes Christianity, one of the first things most people will say is "the Cross." This is indeed a very important symbol for us. But another symbol of almost equal importance is the rainbow: a reminder of God's covenant with His people. The covenant, at its face value, is that He will never again smite humanity from the face of the earth. This is a pretty important promise to us as humans, but does this covenant go deeper than this simple promise to not smite all of us?
I would argue that the answer is yes. Although Noah would not have necessarily known this at the time, the covenant ultimately would mean much, much more. For if God had wiped out humanity then and there in the flood, Christ would not have been to earth to offer us our Salvation. The physical survival of the human race ultimately allowed for something far, far more important: our spiritual Salvation.
The promise from God that He would never wipe us out, never extinguish the human race, encompassed a second promise: namely that He would not condemn the entire human race to Hell after we pass from life in this world. And just as His promise to never smite humanity grants us all numerous "second chances," the gift of Salvation is always extended as an offer to us.
Therefore, the rainbow is actually symbolizing not one, but two promises. The first is that He will not in His anger destroy all of mankind. The second is that He would send His Son to us to reclaim our souls. The first of these promises actually implies the second: the rainbow would not be a sign of His love if He was intent on condemning every one of us to eternal damnation after our brief existence in this life. Therefore, our salvation was actually implicit in the covenant that He had established with us!
Each of us will die eventually. Therefore, a guarantee from God that that death won't be caused by Him in His wrath is insignificant, if the end result is that in either case we die and then are condemned to eternal damnation. Fortunately, the covenant carried more than this simple promise of non-extermination: it contained a guarantee that He would offer salvation to everyone who would accept it. More accurately, it contained an affirmation that He would deliver us from the bondage of sin, a promise that He had made to us during the Fall.
That promise includes everybody, from the most pure of the saints on down to the most wretched of the sinners. And no matter how many times we fall, no matter how many times we turn away, no matter how dastardly our deeds, so long as we repent and return to God, so long as we continue to try to resist sin and temptation, so long as we trust in Christ and reject Satan, the offer of Salvation still remains extended to us.
The rainbow was not just a sign of God's promise to not exterminate us. It was far more than this alone, for a promise to not destroy a person does little to comfort that person, offering only the smallest reassurance. No, the rainbow was a sign of God's greatest promise to us: that of forgiveness and love. This ultimate promise, signed by the rainbow and played out with the birth of our Lord and Savior was sealed by His death on the cross and delivered three days later when He rose from the grave. That is the real significance behind the rainbow.
If you enjoyed this post, here are some other similar posts which I have written:
Reclaiming Our Rainbow
Meaning at the End of the Rainbow
If You Love the Sinners, Warn Them of the Sin
Descriptions, Not Necessarily Insults
Being Tactful and Being "Nice"
"Judge Not" and Mercy (Thirty Minute Musings)
Warnings and Ignorance (Thirty Minute Musings)
The Christian Society: Justice, Mercy, and Solidarity (Nicene Guys)
Apologetics and Motivation
Tolerance, Charity, and Dignity (Nicene Guys)
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