“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.” 2 Cor. 2:15-16
“For three and a half days some from the peoples and tribes and languages and nations will gaze at their dead bodies and refuse to let them be placed in a tomb, and those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them and make merry and exchange presents, because these two prophets had been a torment to those who dwell on the earth.” Rev. 11:9-10
Recently in our Bible study group we looked at these verses in Revelation chapter 11. They are startling because they suggest that the gospel when it is preached will be a torment to those who hear it. Of course that is not true for some who hear. For some who hear the gospel, it is the fragrance of life. What could be better news than the forgiveness of sins and eternal life? But for others who reject the gospel, the gospel is the stench of death. Revelation 9:20-21 describes those who have refused to repent. In chapter 11 they rejoice over the death of the two witnesses because the gospel they preached tormented them spiritually.
This is a disturbing thought. It is disturbing that the good news of forgiveness and salvation could be a torment to some. It is also disturbing because I’m not sure this reflects reality for the church in the West. Does our preaching of the gospel cause torment? It does in Revelation. The church in Revelation is often the persecuted church; the church that faithfully bears witness to Jesus, even unto death. The gospel it preaches torments the minds of unbelievers who refuse to repent.
Often we are met with indifference to the gospel in the West. We could hardly describe those who hear us and reject the gospel as undergoing spiritual torment. And yet while most are agnostic, there are some atheists. The latter indeed do seem to hate the Christian message. They find the gospel immoral and it torments them.
It makes me wonder. When I preach the gospel, which bits do I leave out or gloss over? Of course I will preach God’s love and forgiveness. But do I only preach these truths? Do I also bring home the reality of judgement and Hell in such a way that it would torment those who refuse to repent?
Photo Credit: Four Horsemen Of Apocalypse, By Viktor Vasnetsov. Painted In 1887 [Public Domain]