A man once committed a heinous crime for which he receive the most extensive sentence, life behind bars. During the long, drawn-out process of receiving the hearing for this punishment, the man–for some reason unknown to many–became enamored of the judge’s gavel. Judgment was passed and the felon immediately embarked upon his life-long journey of imprisonment. This particular prisoner was quite the artist. Upon entering prison, he spent his lay time crafting his very own version of the judge’s gavel. The prisoner felt as if his creation had arrived at the point of perfection. He developed a philosophy behind his art that supported those who commit a crime of the same nature as his own or anything remotely resembling it, even to the point of placing a stamp of approval upon their reason for doing so.
After sharing his vision about both the art and philosophy, other prisoners joined the endeavor. It appeared that he had formed his own organization behind prison walls. Other prisoners with a lesser sentence, who had been influenced by his proposal, were so passionate about it they became ambassadors for it upon their release. They began to identify with those they felt were like-minded. Over time, other people became curious about the new movement. The thing that struck people as paradoxical was the pennant of a judge’s gavel in support of those who commit crimes the same as the prisoners in an effort to justify their crimes. Little did the people know, the pennant bore the image of the gavel of the actual judge who sentenced the founder to life behind bars.
One must take the story above for what it is worth. However, upon analyzing the story, readers would initially have a number of questions accompanied by a variety of conclusions. First of all, who is the prisoner and what quality of life did he have prior to committing the crime? How was his upbringing? Has the prisoner been diagnosed with some case of psychosis? Specifically, what caused him to be obsessed with the gavel, a sign of judgment?
Beyond all other things, people would probably be more concerned with the individual’s fixation upon the gavel, which suggests that the person is either out of touch with reality and totally deranged or has a psychological disorder that has gone untreated for an extensive period of time. At this point a question must be posed: can we find any similarity to the story above relevant for our current time? The answer to this question can be provided upon the examination of a simple word used in the biblical text. Afterwards, a few notes will be offered concerning a group that is also enamored with a symbol of judgment but now use it as the frontispiece for a movement supporting the lifestyle of its adherents.
What Is that in the Sky?
A heavy shower moves in and then speedily dances toward the horizon. As the sun rolls from underneath the blanket of thick clouds its rays graces the little rain droplets of the fleeing storm and causes the beautiful phenomenon known as the rainbow.
Lore, tales, and myths have formed around such meteorological occurrence. Any person on the street should quickly produce the answer for what is at the end of a rainbow—that precious pot of gold. Enjoy the attempt at attaining that pot! Who wouldn’t be up for seeing Thor blaze across that awesome rainbow bridge, which connects Midgard to Asgard? Have you heard of the promise of good luck from having seen a rainbow? There are many perspectives surrounding the rainbow that have been passed down through the decades, millennia even. There are even ancient traditions of the rainbow depicted as the bow of an archer.
What Does Scripture Say?
There are times when Scripture is quite predictable regarding a particular topic. Some skeptics are tired of what they feel is the same old song of their plight of sin and, thus, being in need of a savior’s grace to bring them into true fellowship and a right standing with God. No matter how much they crave to hear something that builds their ego, this is still what they need to hear. They, nevertheless, rarely hear of the ironic twist the sin of humanity brings upon its own head. Without further adieu, let the Scriptures speak!
What is the reason of the rainbow in the first place? We can begin with a brief overview of Genesis 6. The Lord Himself was pressed to respond to what was occurring upon the planet as a fraction of the angelic hordes came down and took up residence amongst the human race. Not only did they assimilate with human flesh but also began to procreate with humans as we find “the sons of God came in to the daughters of men, and they bore children to them” (v. 4a)—reminiscent of Enochic writings. Some speculate that the angelic realm began to share sensitive information with humans, which may be why another verse notes, “Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (v. 5). With all these transgressions compiled and judgment pending, the Creator notes, “I am sorry that I have made them” (v. 7b), and eventually destroys the earth with water. To add more, the flood was so powerful that not only was it caused by rain from above but also violent forces of water escaping from underneath the earth’s crust (7:11 cf. 8:2).
Just as ancient customs present evidence of covenants between two parties being sealed with some tangible sign (please see Ruth 4:7–11), God gave what we now call the rainbow to humanity as the sign of a covenant. God gave this sign after having destroyed a majority of the earth’s population, preserving only a select few. This sign was brilliant, colorful.
Still, the word “rainbow” deserves further scrutiny. A closer look at the word that is actually used in the Hebrew text yields something quite interesting. The word used is קֶ֫שֶׁת (“qeshet”). It is used 74 times in 19 out of the 39 books of the Old Testament (OT). What does this mean? Well, out of all the times the word is used it unequivocally means “bow.” Yes, “bow” as in the ancient archer’s bow. What is that hanging in the sky? Would it be farfetched to say that we set our gaze upon a divine weapon? If not, what the God of heaven and earth would like for us to understand is that he will never punish humanity again with this particular weapon. Thus, He places it in the sky as a sign of remembrance of a former judgment, but one in His arsenal of weapons that has enjoyed millennia of retirement. Another weapon will be chosen to bring a terrible element to destroy the entire universe (2 Pet. 3:10).
Is There Room for the Skeptics?
One must always allow room for skeptics. That includes those who bring reasonable arguments to the table and those who launch straw man or other logically fallacious counter-arguments. Everyone deserves to be heard. At the same time, all must keep in mind that “a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised” (1 Cor. 2:14). Things written in Scripture require a measure of faith that must be given by God. That would even apply to well-known accounts such as the creation narrative, the crucifixion, and apocalyptic visions. The author understands that some will come from a perspective not founded on a Scriptural basis. All are invited to the table, however.
At any rate, how can one rightly call the rainbow a sign of judgment, much less a weapon? The person who asserts this may have overdosed on Marvel Comics. Right? In addition, we need to get a scientific view of the phenomenon. Though a person can only see most of the 180º arch, the other arch is unseen. In other words a skydiver, when conditions are right, can see a 360º rainbow. Furthermore, a spray nozzle from the water hose engaged on a light, misty setting produces the same result in sunlight. Good criticism from the argument of semantics would move even a theologian to assert that the Koine word for rainbow is ἶρις (“iris”), which merely denotes a circle of light.
As a rebuttal for the first criticism of the 180º versus 360º, we may appeal to another natural element in order to gain perspective on how specific Scripture is being with the term “bow.” At this point it would be relevant to take a brief voyage to the coasts of the southernmost parts of the Asian continent, an area near the Ring of Fire where tectonic plates frequently shift and cause massive destruction through tidal waves that form tsunamis.
If a person sees a growing tidal wave but identifies it as an ocean wave (waves caused by wind), it can prove to be deadly. This actually happened in December 2004. After an unusual recession of the water, the tourists on the beach (ground-level perspective) thought that the wave they saw approaching was a mere ocean wave.
On the other hand, the people in the high-rise condominiums (bird’s eye perspective) said things like: “We should warn the tourists!” “It’s a tsunami!” “Oh, my God look at the waves coming!” “Clear out, people!” There were large quantities of people who lost their lives because of a simple misjudgment—an incorrect perspective. Even though many were yelling at the top of their lungs to warn the people on the ground, it was done to no avail due to the sound of the raging sea.
In an inverted sense, Scripture places emphasis on the very thing that is seen from ground-level (Gen. 9:13, 16 cf. Ezk. 1:28). We see an arch that is not 360º, which presents the uncontestable shape of a bow as the Hebrew Scriptures attest. People have representations of the rainbow as their business emblems, on shirts, and several other places. One hardly ever sees the rainbow imprinted or drawn as a circle. That the Koine Greek word for “rainbow” means “circle,” this could be dealt with in a simple rebuttal. The BDAG (Greek Lexicon) itself notes that there are some theologians who purport the word ἶρις (“iris”), as is used in Revelation 4:3 and 10:1, means “halo.” However, the BDAG suggests that John’s use of the word is similar to Ezekiel’s use in 1:28 as an actual 180º arch. In addition, at this point, Ezekiel is making reference to the way Genesis uses the word in chapter 9. Considering this, God’s ancient weapon is near His very throne and also graces a chosen angel to bear it as the Revelation passages present above.
The irony behind all this is that some appear to be visually impaired due to the fact that the very tool of God’s judgment is now embraced as an actual emblem to represent the very thing God hates. Yes. Some have fallen in love with the “the judges gavel”! Is this not a special case of abnormality?
What is the group this article addresses? The answer would be the group that goes by the acronym LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender). Their agenda is not only to engage in unnatural acts of immorality but also encourage others, even children, to do the same. They parade in the streets, are some of the best lobbyists and politicians, and have a major stronghold in school systems across America. What is the face of their movement? A divine weapon: the bow.
It may well be that an article as this and those who graciously warn people who cheerfully engage in sin against the Lord are screaming out, as it were, to the people on the beach: “Clear out, people!” “The judgment of God is on its way!” “Trust Him. He will save you!” Sadly, for some individuals the raging seas of life drown out the sound of God’s heralds of the gospel.
May all who have these internal, conflicting feelings about unnatural sexual desire receive eye salve that they may see the majesty of the Lord and receive the gospel of grace. Anyone who identifies as homosexual, lesbian, or anything of that persuasion, should know that they are precious in the sight of God and are created in His image (Imago Dei). God must preserve the dignity of this concept by holding all accountable for the misuse thereof.
So, what is that in the sky? Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No. That is God’s weapon, His archer’s bow. Although He allows us to see His weapon across the sky, it has been put to rest. It is the testimony of a standing covenant that water will never be used to destroy the earth again. Indeed, it will be the fire next time.
Baumgartner, Walter and Ludwig Koeheler. The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament. Edited by M. E. J. Richardson, G. J. Jongeling-Vos and L. J. De Regt. New York: Koninklijke Brill NV, 2000.
Danker, Frederick W. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 3rd ed. Chicago: The University of Chicago, 2000.