“In a Triumphal Procession”
A TRIUMPHAL procession was a spectacular celebration of victory over an enemy. One of the highest honors the Roman Senate bestowed on a conquering general was to allow him to celebrate his victory with such a formal, costly procession. The apostle Paul mentioned the triumphal procession twice in his writings. Before we consider his words, however, try to visualize such a procession. Imagine crowds lining the streets as it moves slowly along Via Triumphalis and up the winding ascent to the temple of Jupiter atop Rome’s Capitoline Hill.
“Fragrant odors from burning spices were profusely scattered through the temples and along the streets, loading the air with their perfume,” wrote scholar James M. Freeman. “In the procession were the senate and chief citizens of the state, who thus by their presence honored the conqueror. The richest spoils of war, such as gold, silver, weapons of every description, standards, rare and costly works of art, and every thing that was deemed most valuable by either conqueror or vanquished, were carried in open view of the crowded city. The prisoners of war were also compelled to march in the procession. The general, in whose honor the triumph was decreed, rode in a chariot which was of peculiar form and drawn by four horses. His robe was embroidered with gold, and his tunic with flowers. In his right hand was a laurel bough, and in his left a scepter; while on his brow there was a wreath of Delphic laurel. Amid the shouts of the soldiers and the applause of the populace the conqueror was carried through the streets to the temple of Jupiter, where sacrifices were offered, after which there was a public feast in the temple.”
Paul used the triumphal procession illustratively when he wrote his second letter to Christians in Corinth in the year 55 of our Common Era. He said: “Thanks be to God who always 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.
Here Paul and other anointed Christians are represented as devoted subjects of God, “in company with the Christ.” They are depicted as sons, officers, and soldiers following in Jehovah’s train and led by him in a triumphal procession along a perfumed route. (See The Watchtower, July 15, 1990, pages 10-15.) This illustrative use of such a procession also indicates that those who reject the good news of God’s Kingdom have only the prospect of death. But how different it is for Jesus’ anointed followers! They have the hope of salvation to immortal heavenly life with Christ. And what about their loyal companions, also dedicated to God? They have the joyous hope of life in an earthly paradise, where God “will wipe out every tear from their eyes, and death will be no more, neither will mourning nor outcry nor pain be anymore.” (Revelation 21:1-4; Luke 23:43) Are you part of this happy throng?
A different picture is presented at Colossians 2:15, where Paul wrote: “Stripping the governments and the authorities bare, [God] exhibited them in open public as conquered, leading them in a triumphal procession by means of it.” Here enemy governments and authorities under Satan the Devil are depicted as captives and prisoners in a triumphal procession. Jehovah the Conqueror strips them naked and exhibits them publicly as defeated ones. They are conquered “by means of it,” that is, Jesus’ “torture stake.” His death on the stake provided the basis for removing “the handwritten document” (the Law covenant) and made it possible for Christians to be freed from bondage to satanic powers of darkness. (Colossians 2:13, 14) How we should appreciate such Christian freedom!