The Rainbow Round the Throne
By Fred O. Blakely
"There was a rainbow round about the throne, in sight like unto an emerald" (Rev. 4:3).
In the Apostle John's vision of the true tabernacle and the throne of the Majesty in heaven—the spiritual center of the universe and the throne which rules it—there is evident particularly heartening reassurance for the beleaguered people of God upon earth. It is in the emblem of "a rainbow round about the throne, like unto an emerald to look upon" (Rev. 4:1-3; cf. ch. 10:1; Ezek. 1:26-28).
Couched in the imagery of Gen. 9:8-17, this is God's "token of the covenant" with His children—"the symbol of grace returning after wrath." "God sits upon the throne, splendid, dazzling, terrible, but compassed about by the covenant of grace." Here is portrayed the precious truth that "His tender mercies are over all His works" (Ps. 145:8-9].
"The rainbow was the seal and token of the covenant of providence that God made with Noah and his posterity with him, and it is a fit emblem of that covenant of promise that God has made with Christ as the Head of the church, and all His people in Him, which covenant is as the waters of Noah unto God, an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and sure. This rainbow looked like an emerald; the most prevailing color was a pleasant green, to show the reviving and refreshing nature of the new covenant" (Matthew Henry, VI:1138).
The Basic Signification. The rainbow round the throne thus betokens the amnesty from the guilt of sin which the saints have in Christ. "There is therefore now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus" (Rom. 8:1). By divine grace, "He hath made us accepted in the Beloved" (Eph. 1:3-8). We are "justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation, through faith in His blood" (Rom. 3:21-30). "For our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God" (II Cor. 5:11-21, RSV).
Because of this status of justification in Christ the church has its place before God's throne and blends its paeans with the unfallen spirits of the heavenly hierarchy "unto Him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb." "They washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore are they before the throne of God; and serve Him day and night in His temple" (Rev. 7:13-17; cf. ch. 1:5; 5:8-14). Sin no longer alienates from "the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power," for—praise God!—the ransomed ones have been purged and made clean of it in the fountain which God has opened to "the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem" (Zech. 13:1).
The Asylum From Penalty. The emerald-circled throne on high also attests to the asylum from the penalty of sin provided by Jesus. In coming to Him, we have fled "from the wrath to come," and within the impregnable stronghold of our divine "city of refuge" we are safely sheltered from it. "For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ" (I Thess. 5:9-10). Hallelujah! In Him we have been "delivered" from the visitation of God's judgment unto damnation (I Thess. 1:10). "He that heareth My word, and believeth on Him that sent Me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is past from death unto life" (Jn. 5:24).
"0 glorious comfort! Around the throne is a rainbow translucent green in appearance. In other words, for God's children the storm is over. Christ stood in the poor sinner's place. The sun, long hidden, is shining in the clouds. Even though God's holiness cannot brook sin and must be expressed in judgment, yet these very woes have as their purpose the salvation of the sinner, his furtherance in sanctification. All things—including slaughter and poverty; war, famine, and pestilence—'work together for good to them that love God,' that are the called according to His purpose' (Rom. 8:28)."—W. Hendriksen, More Than Conquerors (1961), p. 104.
The Indicated Deliverance. Likewise signified by the rainbow encompassing the seat of God is the deliverance for the elect from the curses and plagues to be "poured out" from heaven upon the ungodly. As was the case when God vexed the Egyptians under Moses, so in the reign of Christ His children shall not, by divine standards, be harmed at all through the vials of heavenly wrath. They are for those who have "the mark of the beast" and that worship "his image" (Rev. 16:1-21).
"He that dwelleth in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress; in Him will I trust. Surely He shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, and from the noisome pestilence" (Ps. 91:1-16; cf. Ezek. 14:12-23).
"The One who sits on the throne treats them as His own dear children, for such by grace they are. He spreads His presence like a tent over them."
Though much tribulation and anguish in the flesh and spirit may be entailed by the course of the Christian pilgrimage, yet in His own good way and time, God will bring good out of it. The vexations of this life, though grueling for the present, under God will work for us "a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory" (II Cor. 4:16-18). Though the archers sorely grieve the faithful, they shall be delivered by the "Stone of Israel" (Gen. 49:22-26). However many "the afflictions of the righteous," "the Lord delivereth him out of them all..., And none of them that take refuge in Him shall be condemned" (Ps. 34:17-22, ASV).
And in the glad morning of the eternal day, when the shadows have fled away and we see "face to face" and "know fully," we shall perceive that God has not "done without cause" all that He has done (Ezek. 14:23; cf. Deut. 8:14-16; I Pet. 1:3-9).
The Assured Preservation. Meanwhile, God will sustain His people all along the way, as they continue in His goodness, providing grace abundantly sufficient for every need and for all testings. "As thy days, so shall thy strength be," He has promised (Deut. 33:25); "when thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee; when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee; for I am the Lord thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Savior ..." (Isa. 44:1-12).
So does the Lord purpose to deliver the saints from "every evil work" and to preserve them wholly "unto His heavenly kingdom" (II Tim. 4:16-18; cf. I Th. 5:23-24; I Pet. 1:3-5; Jude 1). Thus, the precious words of our blessed Lord, "Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom" (I Lk. 12:32).
"What then shall we say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?" (Rom. 8:31; cf. Ps. 118:6; 124:1-8). Like our father Abraham, we are "fully assured" that what He has determined, He is "able also to perform" (Rom. 4:16-25). This is because He "sitteth on the throne" and wields the universal scepter. He "worketh all things after the counsel of His own will" (Eph. 1:11); He "hath purposed, and who shall annul it: and His hand is stretched out, and who shall turn it back?" (Isa. 14:26-27); "I am He; and there is none that can deliver out of My hand: I will work, and who can hinder it?" (Isa. 43:8-13).
The rainbow round the throne thus conveys great comfort, assurance, and hope to the children of God. It also imposes on them the necessity to cleave to Him with purpose of heart. "The rainbow is the emblem of God's gracious covenant which He hath established for evermore. And it told to John and to Christ's church everywhere that, awful, glorious, and terrible as our God is, all that He does, of whatsoever kind, is embraced within the mighty span of His all-o'erarching grace. The church of Christ was to pass through some dreadful experiences, to endure fearful trials, and they are not ceased yet; but she was to look up and see that all God's ways, works, and will were within not without, beneath not beyond, because and not in spite of, His all-embracing love. All were to find shelter, expanse, and explanation there.
"It was a blessed vision, and, unlike the ordinary rainbow, may it ever be seen by us, and its teaching believed."—S. Conway, The Pulpit Commentary (New Ed.), Vol. 51, p. 154.