The answer about the LGBT rainbow flag will surprise you. But first, let’s walk through some history.
Forever, the rainbow has been a symbol of God’s promise. This dates back to the everlasting covenant God made with Noah and his sons (the Noahic covenant). It was for all mankind. It was for Noah’s family and for all generations to come. God promised that He would never again destroy the earth with flood waters and, as a sign of the covenant, God placed a rainbow in the sky.
The Original Rainbow
Genesis 9:8-17 Then God spoke to Noah and to his sons with him, saying: “And as for Me, behold, I establish My covenant with you and with your descendants after you, and with every living creature that is with you: the birds, the cattle, and every beast of the earth with you, of all that go out of the ark, every beast of the earth. Thus I establish My covenant with you: Never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood; never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.”
And God said: “This is the sign of the covenant which I make between Me and you, and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations: I set My rainbow in the cloud, and it shall be for the sign of the covenant between Me and the earth. It shall be, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the rainbow shall be seen in the cloud; and I will remember My covenant which is between Me and you and every living creature of all flesh; the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh.
The rainbow shall be in the cloud, and I will look on it to remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.” And God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant which I have established between Me and all flesh that is on the earth.”
A Rainbow of Remembrance
God put the rainbow in the cloud as a reminder of His covenant. He also spoke to Noah and said that He would look on the rainbow to remember His covenant. Understand that this does not mean that God would forget His promise. God is omniscient (all-knowing), therefore, His remembrance is different than that of man. God cannot forget His promises, but man all too often does forget– and we should never forget the true meaning of a rainbow in the sky.
Throughout the millennia, rainbows have appeared in the clouds and they are meant to be a token, or a sign (Gen 9:12-13), for all mankind. The rainbow is given to remind us of God’s justice in judging sin and His mercy and grace in providing a way to be saved. In addition, the multi-colors of the rainbow can remind us of the splendor of Heaven, and the glorious radiant colors around the throne (as described in Revelation 4-5).
Man’s Use of Rainbow Flags
In the late 1400s, a Christian reformer, Thomas Muntzer (1489-1525) preached holding a rainbow flag in his hand. A statue of Muntzer, holding a rainbow flag, stands in Stolberg, Germany. In the 16th century, during the German Peasant’s War, a rainbow flag with an image of peasants’ boots was used to represent hope for social change.
There’s also evidence of a pre-Columbian rainbow flag, a Buddhist rainbow flag, a rainbow flag representing the Cooperative Movement of the 1920s and the Peace Movement of the 1960s. Rainbow color flags were also used by the Bene Ohr Jewish movement, U.S.A. (1961), the Jewish Autonomous Oblast (1996) and Ecuadoran and Russian political parties.
It wasn’t until 1978 that San Francisco artist and drag queen Gilbert Baker popularized a multi-colored flag as the symbol of the gay community, which today has broadened to include lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT). Before that, the symbol of the gay movement was a pink triangle, which the Nazis had originally used in concentration camps to denote gay people and other sexual deviants. The gay movement had reclaimed the pink triangle during the 1970s, but some felt the symbol still had disturbing connotations.¹
Baker’s “rainbow flag” started out in 1978 with eight colors, each with symbolic meaning: sex (hot pink), life (red), healing (orange), sunlight (yellow), nature (green), art (turquoise), harmony/peace (indigo/blue), and spirit (purple/violet). However the following year two colors were dropped.
Eight to Seven
Following the assassination of San Francisco Mayor George Moscone and openly gay Supervisor Harvey Milk, in November 1978, the San Francisco-based Paramount Flag Co. began selling flags with seven colors (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet) as a symbol of the gay community. These flags were actually the company’s surplus stock from flags originally produced for the International Order of Rainbow Girls (a Masonic youth service organization). The hot pink color (representing sex) was not included in these flags.
Seven to Six
In 1979, when flags were ordered for the Gay Freedom Day Parade “ the hot pink fabric was too rare and expensive to include.” The flag also lost its indigo stripe (representing harmony/peace) at that time.¹
The LGBT Flag Is Not Really a Rainbow Flag
The LGBT flag might be called by the name of God’s token of promise to all mankind, but it is NOT a rainbow flag. It is simply a multi-colored flag because the LGBT flag has only six colors. A rainbow always has had seven colors, and it always will, because God put the colors in the rainbow: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet. (Notice that hot pink (sex) was never in God’s rainbow, but indigo, meaning harmony and peace, has always been in God’s rainbow). It’s also interesting to note that seven is God’s number of completion and perfection, and the number six is the number of man (Read: The Meaning of Numbers in the Bible).
Throughout human history, we find that things that are copies of something God has done or given. Such copies might come close, but they always fall short.
God created the rainbow and it belongs to Him. God’s rainbow has seven colors. Interestingly, according to Strong’s Dictionary, even the Hebrew word “rainbow” has seven letters (qesheth). We should think of God’s rainbow as representing these seven things: His love, mercy, and grace; His truth, promises, and faithfulness; and, of course, His longsuffering (patience) with sinners like us. His desire is that all will repent and seek Him. His true rainbow will never represent, nor can it ever celebrate any sinful behavior.
I hope you’ll never look at the LGBT flag in the same way again. The LGBT flag is NOT a rainbow flag! It falls short in every way….especially in what it represents.
Other Multi-colored Flags to Consider
The colors red, black, white, and green are used in a number of country’s flags. What significance might these colors have?
There is a biblical significance in these colors. In chapter six of the book of Revelation, we read of John watching as Jesus opens a scroll and sends forth seven seal judgments. The first four of those judgments are represented by four men riding on four horses (commonly called The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse). Each horse is a different color. The horses’ colors are, white, red, black and pale (a sickly shade of green).
So what do the countries whose flags bear those colors have in common?
They are part of the Nation of Islam. Many Islamic countries use the Pan-Arab colors, first introduced in 1916 with the Flag of the Arab Revolt. The colors were explained by Islamic symbolism by Mahdi Abdul Hadi in Evolution of the Arab Flag (1986) to mean as follows: Black represents the Black Standard of Muhammad and the Rashidun Caliphate; white, the flag of the Umayyad Caliphate; green, the flag of the Fatimid Caliphate; and red, the flag of the Khawarij.
Current flags with these colors include the countries of Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Egypt, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Palestinian National Authority, Algeria, and Sudan, and former flags of Iraq and Libya. ²
So is a flag just a flag? Or…is what the flag represents significant?
I believe a flag does have significance, because it is a token, or a sign, of what it represents. Flags represent nations or people groups by their emblems and their colors.
The U.S. flag has 50 stars to represent the 50 states and 13 stripes to represent the original 13 colonies. The book “Our Flag,” published in 1989 by the House of Representatives, tells that the colors are significant in what they represent: “White signifies purity and innocence; Red, hardiness & valor; and Blue, the color of the Chief” ³
The Most Significant Flag
As Christians, we are a people group with citizenship in a far-away land. We are citizens of Heaven (Philippians 3:20). And just as countries have a flag that represents their land and their people, we also have a flag. Our flag is a banner of victory in our God, our Jehovah Nissi.
Jehovah Nissi is a precious name of God, given to Moses in a time of need. Jehovah is God’s covenant name and “Nissi” means banner. Jehovah Nissi means, “the Lord is our Banner.” And truly, the Lord is our Banner, our “flag,” that waves over us as a proclamation of our victory in Him. Jehovah Nissi is an Eternal Banner of perfect color and perfect promise!
Following the Supreme Court’s ruling on same-sex marriage (June 27, 2015), the White House “lit up” with the colors of the rainbow. At least that’s how it was reported. But a rainbow always has, and always will have, seven colors not six. The White House “lit up” with the colors of the LGBT flag — only six colors! Another display of “falling short” of God’s beautiful rainbow and God’s number of perfection. With only six colors, which is the number of man (Read, The Meaning of Numbers in the Bible), images of the colorful White House should be a reminder that we, as Christians, must endeavor to turn the hearts of the people of this nation to God. He is our only Banner of Salvation.
¹ https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2015/06/29/how-the-rainbow-became-the-symbol-of-gay-pride/ ² https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Islamic_flags ³ http://www.usflag.org/colors.html
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