Have you ever stopped to think why certain people hate true believers in Jesus Christ so much? The ultimate answer is that these non-believers are infused with the spirit of Satan. Because he is such a hater of God with all He has made and done, this anti-God fervor infects and infests those who have chosen – not only to reject God – but to follow their dark lord.
However, there is another, more practical reason for this hatred. It’s something that exists on the physical, or natural plain of existence, perhaps at a subconscious level, but there nonetheless. Consider what the Apostle Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 2:14-16:
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, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things?
Because Christ is now and forever victorious over Death and Sheol, and because all who believe in Him have that same victory, we are no longer subject to the ravages of the normal course of life. Whether we die (go to sleep!) or are snatched away by Jesus in the Rapture while still breathing, we will go to be with Him. Because of Christ’s death and resurrection, the grave cannot hold us and the pit cannot keep us. Jesus made this painfully aware to the demonic realm when He descended into Hell with the keys of eternal life and freed the captives, i.e. the Old Testament saints. He led them out as He ascended to heaven in triumphal procession, displaying them before the dark spiritual forces. He paraded the saints in victory as He removed them from the place of eternal gloom. No longer were they in chains in Sheol’s dungeon, but freed to go to their rightful place.
How this must have angered the powers of this present darkness! How it must have been a stench in their nostrils. They well know God’s promise for them. When He brings all history as we know it on earth to an end, these rulers are destined for eternal torment. It’s why they rage against God and His creation, especially mankind made in His image.
When Jesus brought forth those saints, how the atmosphere must have changed in that dark place. The living God was in the midst of hell where sulfur burns and its stench rises to the earth. But not when Jesus was there! The fragrance of God was in and upon Him. Can you imagine how it must have offended those who were to remain in that place?
This is the same aroma that encompasses the living when we’re saved. None of us can consciously smell it, although we sense it in another true fellow believer. It’s part of the unity of Christ that He makes possible. In that other person, we recognize Christ in them – the aroma of Christ that draws people to Him as Savior and Lord. It’s why we can assemble in sweet fellowship when we come to worship Him, or simply enjoy the presence of the company of someone who likewise loves the Lord.
But to the one who has chosen to reject God, it’s another story. Think about what happened at Jesus’ betrayal in the Garden of Gethsemane. There’s the amazing statement in John 18:6:
When Jesus said to them, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground.
How the aroma of God must have overwhelmed these men! How the revealing of the Great I AM must have stunned them. So overpowering was the presence of God – likely from every sense these men possessed – that they fell as though dead, collapsing in a heap upon the ground.
Why? They smelled the fragrance of death upon themselves. It may have been that hell even had a hand in pulling them downward. Can you imagine the fear they must have felt at the forces of heaven and hell working simultaneously upon them?
We see similar kinds of responses in people today. As the darkness overtakes the land, the distinction between those walking light and dark will increase. Even so, have you ever spoken the name of Jesus to someone and they pulled back? Were they offended? Probably. But perhaps they also got a whiff of sulfur and the sense of their own mortality. This is the aroma of death that is the constant companion of all who hate the Lord and who makes himself known when Jesus in the flesh (us!) appears.
The only hope for such as these is a wholesale change of heart. From our fleshly perspective, that seems impossible. Yet, isn’t Jesus the God of the impossible? After all, He brought astounding transformation to Paul. He’s done it innumerable times over the years with communists, Muslims, Hindus, and with people of every other type of belief system. The truth transformed them and made them free.
Perhaps as we encounter those in our current time who pull back at the knowledge of our saving grace and the fragrance of God that surrounds us, it may be that God will be gracious to such people, so that they might be drawn out of the fires that await.
Our job is to be salt and light as Jesus commanded. As we’re obedient to that, His fragrance of life will cause some to turn and to likewise experience life eternal with Him.