The hauntingly beautiful song ‘Purple Rain’ by Prince has become an iconic anthem in pop culture. With its poetic lyrics and evocative melody, it has left many listeners wondering – what exactly does ‘purple rain’ mean in the spiritual context of the Bible?
If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: In the Bible, purple rain is thought to symbolize the end times, the Second Coming of Christ, and the future kingdom of God. The color purple is associated with royalty and priesthood in the Bible.
Rain is often connected to the outpouring of God’s blessing and Holy Spirit.
In this comprehensive article, we will explore the meaning of purple rain throughout Scripture and analyze the lyrics of Prince’s ballad. We will uncover the Biblical significance of the color purple, examine what rain symbolizes in the Bible, look at passages describing the end times, and see how these themes come together in the evocative chorus of ‘Purple Rain’.
The Color Purple in the Bible
Purple Dye as a Symbol of Wealth and Royalty
In ancient times, purple dye was very rare and expensive, made from a secretion of a species of sea snail found in the Mediterranean Sea. It took thousands of snails to produce just a small amount of purple dye, making it so costly that only the wealthy and royal classes could afford fabrics dyed this color.
The rarity and richness of the color purple made it associate with royalty, nobility, and wealth throughout the Bible.
In the Old Testament, Moses was commanded by God to utilize this regal color in the tabernacle decorations and priestly garments (Exodus 25-28). The Israelites were to dye the curtains of the tabernacle, the ephod worn by the high priest, and the breastplate adorned with precious stones using purple and other rare dyes.
This demonstrated the high value God placed on the tabernacle and its holy objects. Later, the prophet Ezekiel describes the clothing of the King of Tyre as being embroidered in purple, again associating the color with rulers (Ezekiel 28:13).
Purple Robes Worn by Priests and Kings
In the book of Exodus, God instructed that the priests’ garments be made with purple and other precious materials (Exodus 28:5-6). The dye used for these robes would have been very costly and reflected the priests’ special status as holy servants of God.
Many kings in the Old Testament also wore purple garments as a symbol of their royalty, prestige and affluence, including King David (1 Chronicles 29:2) and his son King Solomon (2 Chronicles 2:7,14).
One vivid biblical example is the story of Mordecai and Esther. When Mordecai was honored by King Xerxes for saving the king’s life, the king commanded that Mordecai be dressed in royal robes of purple (Esther 8:15). This publicly demonstrated the king’s favor on Mordecai.
New Testament References to Purple and Scarlet
In the New Testament, the color purple continues to be associated with royalty. When the Roman soldiers mockingly dressed Jesus in purple robes before his crucifixion, it was meant as a cruel jest at his claim to be “King of the Jews” (Mark 15:17, John 19:2).
However, the color also has symbolic meaning relating to Christ’s sacrifice and Passion. In the book of Revelation, a passage describes a whore of Babylon dressed in purple and scarlet (Revelation 17:4).
This imagery and the mention of blood connect the colors not only to wealth and status but also to sacrifice.
So while purple in the Old Testament was a marker of material wealth and high social standing, in the Passion narrative it takes on a deeper meaning connected to Christ’s suffering and willingness to sacrifice. The color purple ultimately points to Jesus as the true King who reigns eternally.
Though he suffered and died, he rose again victorious over death.
Rain as a Biblical Symbol
In the Bible, rain often symbolizes God’s blessing, provision, and spiritual renewal. Here are some of the key ways rain is used symbolically in Scripture:
Rain as Blessing and Provision
Rain is frequently portrayed as a sign of God’s favor and abundance. In Deuteronomy 28, rain is promised as a blessing for obedience to God’s laws. When describing the Promised Land, the Bible refers to it as a “land of rain” (Deuteronomy 11:11). Rain brings water needed for crops and sustenance.
Throughout the Psalms, rain is equated with God’s generous provision for His people (Psalm 65:9-13, 68:9).
In 1 Kings 17-18, the prophet Elijah pronounces a drought as judgement for Israel’s idolatry under King Ahab. Later, when the people repent, abundant rain finally comes – demonstrating God’s mercy and blessings. Rain in due season was seen as a marker of God’s faithfulness in caring for His creation.
The Former and Latter Rains
The “former” and “latter” rains were critical for agriculture in biblical lands. The early rains (October-November) prepared the ground for planting, while the latter rains (March-April) provided moisture for the ripening crops.
References to these seasonal rains are found in Joel 2:23, Jeremiah 5:24, and other places.
The former and latter rains also took on symbolic meaning. In Joel 2:23, the restoration of the rains points to spiritual and physical renewal. In James 5:7, the early and late rains represent the believer’s patient hope for Christ’s return.
Just as rain revitalizes the earth, the coming of Christ will revive and refresh our hearts.
Outpouring of the Holy Spirit
The abundant blessing of rain is often linked in Scripture with the outpouring of God’s Spirit. The prophet Isaiah foretold of a time when God would “pour water on the thirsty land and streams on the dry ground” and “pour out His Spirit on your offspring” (Isaiah 44:3).
On the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit was manifested like “tongues of fire” and Peter explained this using Joel’s prophecy about God pouring out His Spirit like rain (Acts 2:16-18).
Ezekiel 47 describes a vision of a stream flowing from the temple, trickling into a mighty river. The abundant life along this river symbolizes the renewal that comes with the Holy Spirit. Like rain giving life to barren ground, the Spirit brings revival and restoration wherever He moves.
As people encounter God’s presence, their hearts are refreshed and find new life.
Purple Rain and the End Times
In the Bible, purple rain is seen by some as a sign of the end times and Christ’s imminent return. Purple is the color of royalty, and the rain symbolizes an outpouring from heaven. Let’s explore the fascinating connections between purple rain, the apocalypse, and Jesus’s royal purple robe.
Purple Rain as a Sign of the Apocalypse
Some believe purple rain could literally fall from the sky at the end of the age. During the tribulation period, the two witnesses in Revelation 11 will have power to call down plagues like turning water into blood.
Fantastic sights in the heavens are prophesied in Joel 2:30-31: “I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and billows of smoke. The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.”
The royal color purple symbolizes Christ’s sovereignty. At His second coming, Jesus will descend on clouds of glory as King of kings and Lord of lords (Revelation 19:16). Purple rain could represent the glorious outpouring surrounding Christ at His return.
Christ’s Royal Purple Robe at His Return
In a prophetic vision, John saw heaven opened and Christ returning on a white horse. He wore a royal purple robe dipped in blood (Revelation 19:13). This bloody robe reveals Jesus’s sacrifice on the cross and His right to rule. Purple is a mix of red and blue.
Red represents His blood, while blue symbolizes His divinity.
Earlier in Jesus’s life, Roman soldiers mockingly dressed Him in a purple robe and crown of thorns before His crucifixion (Mark 15:17-20). At His second coming, Christ will return in the full majesty that purple signifies, no longer the suffering servant but the conquering King.
God’s Blessing Poured Out in the New Kingdom
The prophet Joel described God’s Spirit being poured out on all people in the last days, like rain falling on the earth (Joel 2:28-29). At Christ’s return, living waters will flow from Jerusalem, bringing healing to the nations (Zechariah 14:8).
Purple rain could picture this abundant outpouring of God’s blessing and the ushering in of His kingdom on earth.
Purple is a rich, royal color that points to Jesus’s kingship. In the end times, we may witness stunning purple rain as a harbinger of Christ’s return in power and glory to establish His eternal kingdom!
The Lyrics of ‘Purple Rain’
Longing for Emotional Healing and Redemption
The moving lyrics of “Purple Rain” convey a longing for emotional healing and redemption amidst heartbreak and pain. The speaker cries out, “I never meant to cause you any sorrow / I never meant to cause you any pain.”
This evokes a sense of regret and desire to make amends for past wounds in a relationship.
Yet there is also hope – “I only wanted to one time see you laughing / I only wanted to see you laughing in the purple rain.” The purple rain symbolizes compassion and the soothing presence of the divine. The speaker longs for the relationship to be washed clean and made new in this purifying rain.
Crying Purple Rain and the Second Coming
In the chorus, crying “purple rain” connects to concepts from Christianity. “Purple rain” references wanting to see the fulfillment of God’s promises and Christ’s second coming to redeem creation.
The book of Revelation in the Bible uses purple to describe end times events, stating Christ will return on a “white horse, and he that sat upon him had a bow; and a crown was given unto him: and he went forth conquering and to conquer” (Revelation 6:2 KJV).
The lyrics mirror this victorious imagery of Christ’s second coming, giving hope that current sorrows will pass away.
Crying “purple rain” signifies longing for the renewal only divine intervention can bring, as believers cry in their hearts for God’s kingdom to come wholly and restore all that is broken. Just as purple rain cleanses and nourishes the earth, God’s presence and rule brings renewal.
Washing Away Sins with Purple Rain
The concept of purple rain connects metaphorically to the Christian practice of baptism, an act symbolizing Jesus “washing away sins” through his sacrificial death (Acts 22:16).
The water used in baptism represents being cleansed and reborn in Jesus Christ. According to CompellingTruth.org, “Baptism is rich in meaning. It illustrates Christ’s burial and resurrection, testifies to new life in Jesus Christ, and visibly reminds us of the cleansing of sin.”
The biblical word for purple (argamannu) interestingly also means “purple rain” in Aramaic. God’s divine purple rain, like the waters of baptism, cleanses people of the stain of sin and ushers in new beginnings.
The lyrics remind listeners of the promise available to all who cry out to be washed clean.
Putting It All Together
The color purple has held deep symbolic meaning throughout history, especially in religious contexts. In the Bible, references to the color purple point to royalty, wealth, and spiritual significance.
Jesus’s purple robe and crown of thorns demonstrate his kingship and the suffering he endured for humanity’s salvation. The curtains and furnishings of the tabernacle and temple highlight the sacredness of those spaces where God’s presence dwelled.
Lydia’s trade as a seller of purple cloth indicates her relative financial prosperity.
Most importantly, purple’s rarity and expense gave it an air of nobility that signified spiritual authority and closeness to God. This symbolism ultimately points to Christ’s supreme authority as the divine King and High Priest.
So when considering “purple rain” in a biblical sense, these long-standing connotations come into play. Just as purple has denoted sanctity and sovereignty across Scripture, a “rain” of purple points to a powerful, holy outpouring from above.
The concept of purple rain, therefore, evokes images of a dramatic display of God’s majesty, unleashed from the heavens. It suggests a descending cascade of the otherworldly glory, cleansing and renewing all it touches with a regal splendor unlike anything worldly rains can offer.
In the context of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, purple rain could fittingly describe the lifeblood that poured out from his wounds to bring humanity redemption. And for those who seek to follow Jesus as King, it may represent the blessing and favor flowing from his throne in those surrendered lives.
Whatever exact image it brings to mind, purple rain is clearly layered with spiritual meaning. It stirs wonder at the intersection of heaven and earth, divine royalty and human sorrow, glorious divinity and sacrificial humanity.
Just as purple has done across cultures and eras, purple rain turns our gaze upward to contemplate the mysteries of an almighty God who nevertheless cares intimately for His creation.
In the evocative pop anthem ‘Purple Rain,’ Prince beautifully combines rich spiritual themes of royalty, priesthood, blessing, redemption and the end times. By examining the biblical significance behind the color purple, the symbolism of rain, and descriptions of Christ’s Second Coming, we gain powerful insights into this song’s layered lyrical meaning.
While Prince may not have intentionally crafted this as an allegorical gospel ballad, the resonant chorus of ‘Purple rain, purple rain’ ultimately leaves us yearning for the glorious day when divine purple rain washes away all sins and sorrows, ushering in Christ’s long-awaited kingdom.