It’s a metaphor, dear reader. A metaphor: figure of speech in which a word or phrase is applied to an object or action which is not literally applicable.
Although it may be remotely possible (I guess) for someone to smell the literal smoke of hell, there’s nothing in Scripture telling believers to try to sniff it out.
What we’re supposed to sniff out spiritually is the possibility of demonic activity in our lives. So, those who are trying to ascertain where the smell of a certain smoke in your apartment or in your home is coming from would probably be better off reading Ephesians 6 and spending more time on your knees than sniffing the air.
The Discipline of Smelling Smoke
As a young man I fought fire for the US Forest Service. They taught us was the discipline of smelling smoke. It may seem a fire is out, but if you still smell smoke, there’s fire somewhere and you’re living with a false security. If you walk away from that fire, it will rekindle and may burn the forest down.
In the same way, Christians need to learn to smell smoke. Not the type of smoke that would burn down a forest, set off our smoke detectors, or initiate our sprinkler system. But a spiritual smoke, smoke from the pit of hell, the putrid stench of the forces of evil.
The Smoke of Hell
Right now there are hundreds, probably thousands of the invisible beings that inhabit the spiritual world in your immediate area. They are angelic beings with awesome powers to make spiritual war, and they have been sent to the battlefield of your life with specific orders having to do with you and me by their perspective commanders.
Some of these angelic beings have been sent by God Himself to do His bidding—to protect and guard His people on this battlefield in the war for souls. Others of these angelic beings have been sent by Satan to tempt, accuse, and confuse God’s people. These fallen angels the Bible calls demons, and they are here among us this morning to promote division, to encourage doctrinal error, to discourage followers of Christ and slander the name of Christ. Now do you smell the smoke?
Many of these invisible beings, God’s angels and Satan’s demons alike will follow you home, go to work with you, follow your children to school…they never tire, never sleep, never stop fighting the spiritual battles in the invisible world that determine our experience in the physical world.
Now Do You Smell the Smoke?
Christian, whether you know it or not, we are at war against the forces of evil and the battles are being lived out in our daily lives…and the lives of those we love. You can run from this battle but you cannot hide—you will be caught in the crossfire. And if you are a believer in Jesus Christ I can tell you by the authority of God’s Word that demon assassins are taking aim right now, and their crosshairs are on your life, your marriage, your family, your church, your community.
The Battle is Real
Paul said we are at war against the forces of evil (Ephesians 6:10-12).
C. S. Lewis put it this way: There is no neutral ground in the universe: every square inch, every split second, is claimed by God and counterclaimed by Satan.
There is a bloody anarchy going on in our world and the figure undermining the plan of God and underwriting the forces of evil is a fallen angel named Satan.
Christian, wake up and smell the smoke. We are at war and our enemy is real. His name is Satan and he is a formidable foe.
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places (Ephesians 6:12).