▪ Paul wrote: “God . . . leads us in a triumphal procession in company with the Christ and makes the odor of the knowledge of him perceptible through us in every place! For to God we are a sweet odor of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; to the latter ones an odor issuing from death to death, to the former ones an odor issuing from life to life.”—2 Corinthians 2:14-16.
The apostle was referring to the Roman practice of holding a celebratory procession to honor a general for his victory over enemies of the State. At such events, both the spoils and the prisoners of war were put on display and bulls were led to the sacrifice while the victorious general and his army received public acclaim. At the end of the procession, the bulls were sacrificed and many of the prisoners were likely executed.
The metaphor of the “sweet odor of Christ” signifying life for some and death for others is “probably drawn from the Roman practice of burning incense along the way of the procession,” says The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. “The fragrance that signified triumph to the victors reminded the captives of the execution that likely awaited them.”