But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death and to the other a fragrance from life to life. (2 Corinthians 2:14-16)
The richness of 2 Corinthians 2:14-16 is not fully apparent until the historical context is understood. In the Roman Empire, triumphal processions were held after a great war victory. The victorious general would lead, followed by his army, and then the prisoners of war. The air would be filled with the smells of burning incense from the censers and the aroma of rose pedals being cast onto the parade route by onlookers. To the returning army, it was the sweet aroma of victory and celebration, but to the nostrils of the prisoners it was a pungent odor and reminder that death was at hand. An odor with diametrically opposite meanings. The gospel and lives of Christ followers have the same effect today.
As faithful and obedient Christ-followers, we take the gospel message to the world around us by proclaiming the ministry of reconciliation through His atoning death for our sins and bodily resurrection from the grave (2 Corinthians 5:20). We are His ambassadors….His aroma as we spread the fragrance of the knowledge of Him everywhere. For some the sweet aroma of the gospel message is welcome as they are saved from their sins and become new creations in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). We are His aroma as we live for Christ in accordance to His Word, marked by love. Yet, as we know, the same gospel message and Christ-like lives are pungent to those who reject it and us. The gospel and Christians reminders of the truth they try so hard to suppress- they deserve death (hell) because of their sin (Romans 1:18, 32).
As I study 2 Corinthians 2:14-16 I am reminded that I am not responsible for how others will respond to the knowledge of Him. I am to live obediently in Him, proclaiming the good news of the Gospel, and leaving the rest to the Lord. For many, this will be a “horrific odor” and rejected; but to others it will be the sweet smell of victory and new life in Christ! Finally, it is the Lord who leads and I am to follow. One day I will follow the Lord in the final battle, as He leads the armies of heaven to victory when He returns to establish His earthly and eternal kingdom!
Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. His eyes are like flames of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called The Word of God. And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. From his mouth comes a sharp sword which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords…And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. (Revelation 20:11-16; 21:3-4)