I have some fascinating finds. This apocalyptic rainbow is unveiling in itself.

The word apocalyptic sounds mysterious. It comes from the Greek word apokalupsis meaning to unveil. (Revelation in Greek is apokalupsis. That’s an entire book of unveiling.)

As I studied my course on how to interpret the Bible,[1] it was suggested I compare Old Testament apocalyptic verses to those in the New Testament. They gave instances of Old and New Testament scriptures with parallel meanings. I chose the first example about God’s appearance stated in Ezekiel and Revelation. Ezekiel 1:28 says:

 Like the appearance of a rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the radiance around him.  

The vision came to Ezekiel while in captivity. “He was commissioned of God to rebuke Israel in captivity for her many sins, for constant and ever-deepening hardness against Him, and for rebellion against His word.”[2]

We’ve all seen rainbows—the phenomenon caused by reflection, refraction, and dispersion of light in water droplets. Though Ezekiel described God’s radiance in this manner, this was no ordinary rainbow. Look at the two previous verses:

Above the vault over their heads was what looked like a throne of lapis lazuli, and high above on the throne was a figure like that of a man. 27 I saw that from what appeared to be his waist up he looked like glowing metal, as if full of fire, and that from there down he looked like fire; and brilliant light surrounded him. (Ezekiel 28:26-27)

Stunning.

I pondered why Ezekiel’s description and studied deeper. The Hebrew word for bow means of bending, a bow for shooting (hence figuratively strength). It also means the iris. Puzzled, I went to the second scripture in Revelation 4:3:

And the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and ruby. A rainbow that shone like an emerald encircled the throne.

Revelation (or unveiling) was written by John on the island of Patmos, a small Greek island in the Aegean Sea. Like Ezekiel, John was in captivity. He was exiled because of his testimony about Jesus Christ, and like Ezekiel, John about believers’ shortcomings. But what did these similar scriptures mean?

The Greek word for rainbow translates as iris, as the Hebrew word did too (mentioned above). Strong’s Concordance says it is, “perhaps from the Greek word ereo (as a symbol of the female messenger of the pagan deities).”

Why would the Apostle John make a connection to a Greek goddess?

The real question is, who was John addressing? John was on a Greek island, immersed in Greek culture, and so he used a word that would provoke an image they would understand easily. To the Greeks, the goddess Iris was a messenger that traversed between earth and the heavens. Her symbols were rainbows and water. Some of her themes include peace, protection, promises, and beginnings.

Comparing these scriptures, I discovered the apocalyptic rainbow of God. He revealed Himself to Ezekiel and John bathed in a rainbow. He displayed that He’s our peace, our protector, the keeper of promises and new beginnings, even as He promised Noah in Genesis 9:13 by setting a rainbow in the clouds.

These two wonderful scriptures illustrated that God’s radiance can fill the sky. I learned that, like a rainbow, he can’t be physically touched. I learned He is in fact a full circle of light, though I may only see half. I learned He is my strength, far greater than any Greek goddess. These are the fascinating facts I found of the apocalyptic rainbow of God.
[1] Carl Gibbs, Quentin McGhee, Willard Teague; Introduction to Hermeneutics: How to Interpret the Bible, (2010),  third edition, Global University, Springfield, Missouri, pgs. 227-228
[2] Dake, Finis Jennings. Dake’s Annotated Reference Bible, (16th printing 1984), Summary of Ezekiel, pg. 855