Cain and Abel stand as the representatives of two great classes of people. They typify respectively the lost and the saved; the self-righteous and the broken-spirited; the formal professor and the genuine believer; those who rely upon their own works, and those who rest upon the finished work of Christ; those who insist upon salvation by human merits, and those who are willing to be saved by Divine grace; those who are rejected and cursed by God, and those who are accepted and blessed. Both Cain and Abel were the children of fallen parents, and both of them were born outside of Eden. Both were, therefore, by nature "children of wrath," and as such judicially alienated from God. Both had been shapen in iniquity and conceived in sin, and hence both stood in need of a Savior. But, as we shall show, Cain denied his ruined and fallen condition and refused to accept the Remedy God provided; while Abel acknowledged his sinnership, believed the Divine testimony, put his faith in a sacrificial substitute, and was accounted righteous before God.
In our study of Genesis 3, we saw that before God banished our first parents from Eden, He revealed to them the way of salvation: "Unto Adam also and to his wife did the Lord God make coats of skins and clothed them (Gen. 3:21). This was the first Gospel sermon ever preached on this earth, preached not by word but by symbol. By clothing Adam and Eve with these skins God taught them four lessons. First, that in order for a guilty sinner to approach a holy God he needed a suitable covering. Second, that the aprons of fig leaves which their own hands had made were not acceptable to Him. Third, that God Himself must provide the covering. Fourth, that the necessary covering could only be obtained through death. Death is the wages of sin. Adam and Eve had broken God's command, and justice clamored for the execution of law's penalty. Either they must die or another must die in their place. Mercy can only come in after justice has been satisfied. Grace reigns "through righteousness," and never at the expense of it. God dealt with Adam and Eve in mercy, but in doing so He first met the claims of His broken law. In clothing them with skins God showed them by forceful symbol that sin could only be covered- atoned for, for the Hebrew word for atone means "to cover"- at the cost of sacrifice, by life being taken, by blood being shed. And so in Eden itself we find the first type and foreshadowment of the Cross of Christ. To Adam and Eve, God preached the blessed and basic truth of substitution- the just dying for the unjust, the innocent suffering for the guilty. Adam and Eve were guilty and merited destruction, but these animals died in their stead, and by their death a covering was provided to hide their sin and shame. So it is with Christ and the believer. In Him I am provided with a robe of righteousness- "the best robe" which perfectly satisfies the eye of the thrice holy God.
In Eden then we hear the first Gospel message. But not only so, in Eden God showed man plainly and unmistakably what He required of him. In the slaying of those animals from whose bodies the skins were taken to clothe our first parents, God revealed the condition upon which alone the sinner can approach his Maker, namely, blood-shedding. Man must put a substitute between himself and God's wrath. In the slaying of the animal, the offerer identified himself with his offering and acknowledged that he was a sinner, that he deserved naught but judgment at God's hands, that death was his legitimate due. In the slaying of the offering with which the offerer had identified himself, he saw the death of his substitute, the meeting of God's claims, the satisfying of Divine justice, and that, because his substitute had died in his stead, he went free.
We have again commented somewhat freely upon Genesis 3:21 because our understanding of this important verse is necessary in order to intelligently apprehend the contents of Genesis 4. As we have seen, Adam and Eve were clearly and definitely instructed by God Himself concerning the terms of approach to their Maker. To them He explicitly revealed His requirements, and these requirements were made known by Adam and Eve to their children. It is beyond question that Cain and Abel knew that in order to come before Jehovah with acceptance they must bring with them a bloody offering. Hebrews 11:4 makes that fact abundantly clear. It was "by faith" that Abel presented his sacrifice to God, and Romans 10:17 tells us "Faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the Word of God," hence it is evident that he and his brother had "heard" of God's requirements.
"And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the Lord." In bringing such an offering Cain deliberately turned his back on God's revealed will and dared to set up his own will in defiance. In bringing the offering he did, Cain denied that he was a fallen creature- the fallen child of fallen parents- and as such under the sentence of Divine condemnation. He denied that he was a guilty sinner, morally and penally separated from God. He deliberately ignored God's demand for expiation by the death of a sacrificial substitute. He insisted upon approaching God on the ground of personal worthiness. Instead of accepting God's way, he audaciously went his own way and selected an offering which commended itself to his own tastes. He offered to God the fruits of the ground which God had cursed. He presented the product of his own toil, the work of his own hands, and God refused to receive it.
Cain represents the natural man. He represents those who turn their back upon the blood of the Cross and who speak of the Atonement as "a doctrine of the shambles." He represents that large class of people who reject the finished Work of the Lord Jesus Christ, and who think to obtain salvation by works of righteousness which they have done. Cain is the father of the Pharisee, who prides himself that he is the superior of the contritious Publican, and who boasts loudly of his morality and religiousness. He is the representative of all who pride themselves that they can in their own strength live a life which is pleasing to God and who can by their own efforts produce that which shall merit Divine esteem.
Jude, verse 11, pronounces a solemn woe upon those who have "gone in the way of Cain." To whom does he refer? They are those who deny that the whole human race sinned and fell in Adam and who are therefore by nature children of wrath. They are those who deny that man has been driven out of God's presence and that a great gulf is now fixed between them. They deny that that gulf can only be bridged by the Cross of Christ and that through Him and His redemption lies the sole way back to the Father. They deny that human nature is essentially evil, incurably wicked, and under the curse of God. They deny that it is absolutely impossible for a clean thing to come out of an unclean, and that unless a man be born again he cannot see the Kingdom of God. On the contrary, they declare that human nature is essentially good, and that by a process of development and culture it can bring forth good fruit- fruit which is acceptable to God. They offer this fruit unto God in the form of moral character, unselfish deeds and charitable works. Their language is, Something in my hands I bring, to my goodness I do cling. This is the way of Cain. Cain brought of the fruits of the ground which God had cursed, and God had no respect unto such an offering. Human nature is under God's curse, and as like can only produce like, it follows that human works- the best of them- are only the fruits of a cursed ground; as it is written, "All our righteousnesses are as filthy rags," i.e., obnoxious to God. As it was in the beginning, so it is now. God has no respect for such offerers and offerings. He will not accept them. The only offering that God will receive is that which is presented to Him on the ground of the merits of His blessed Son.
"And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the Lord had respect unto Abel and to his offering" (Gen. 4:4). Abel presents a sharp antithesis to Cain. In bringing the offering which he did Abel confessed that he was a fallen creature, a guilty sinner, one at a moral and penal distance from God. He bowed to the Divine sentence of condemnation resting upon him and owned its justice. He acknowledged that he was worthy of death. By offering a lamb he testified that his only hope before God lay in a substitute taking his place and bearing the penalty which was his due. He presented his offering "by faith." That is to say, he believed that God would accept this slain lamb, that its shed blood would meet all His requirements and satisfy His justice. He had heard from the lips of his parents that the only way back to God was through sacrifice- through an innocent life being offered up on the behalf of the guilty, and having heard this he believed it, and believing it he acted upon it. This is precisely what constitutes saving faith: It is believing God's Word and acting on it. Consider an illustration in proof: "He said unto Simon, Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught. And Simon answering said unto Him, Master, we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing: nevertheless at Thy Word I wilt let down the net" (Luke 5:4, 5). Faith is more than an intellectual assent. Faith is the committal of ourselves to God's Word. Faith necessarily involves volition, "I will let down the net." Faith flies in the face of all carnal reasonings, feelings and experience and says, "Nevertheless at Thy Word I will." Abel then took God at His Word, offered his sacrifice by faith and was accepted and pronounced righteous.
As Cain represents the natural man so Abel typifies the spiritual man, the man born from above, the man created anew in Christ Jesus. Abel is the representative of those who take God's side against themselves; who accept the character which God has given them in His Word; who own that they are lost, undone, helpless; who realize their only hope lies outside of themselves in Another, and who realizing this, cast themselves upon God's grace, crying, "God be merciful to me a sinner." Abel represents those who pin their faith to the atoning sacrifice of Calvary, who rest their all both for time and eternity on the redemptive work of the Cross, who sing from their hearts, "My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus' blood and righteousness." In short, Abel stands as a lasting type of all who receive as their substitute and Savior the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world.
The ultimate difference, then, between Cain and Abel was not in their characters, but in their offerings. In one word, it was a difference of blood. Abel was accepted because he offered to God a bleeding lamb. Cain was rejected because he refused to offer such. Here, then, we have traced back to their fountain head the two streams which empty themselves in Heaven and Hell, namely, the saved and the lost, and the dividing line between them in a line of blood. That was the difference between the Israelites and the Egyptians. On the night when God's avenging angel passed through the land of Pharaoh and found a house upon whose door blood was sprinkled- the blood of a lamb, he passed over. But, when he found a house without blood upon it, he entered and slew the firstborn, from the king upon his throne to the prisoner in the dungeon.
This will be the test in the day of judgment- all whose names are not found written in the Lamb's book of life shall be cast into the lake of fire. Redemption is to be obtained only through Jesus Christ. "Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in His blood" (Rom. 3:26). Reader, on what is your hope based? If you are relying upon your efforts and works, if you are trusting to your own goodness and morality to carry you through, you are building your house upon a foundation of sand and great will be the fall of it. But, if you are trusting in and relying upon the merits of the precious blood of Christ, then are you building upon the rock, and in that Rock shall you find shelter from the wrath to come. And now in conclusion:
"Now all these things happened unto them for types (margin); and they are written for our admonition" (1 Cor. 10:11). Abel is a striking type of Christ, and his murder by Cain was a remarkable foreshadowment of our Lord's rejection and crucifixion by the Jews. At least thirty-five points of resemblance can be traced here between type and antitype. In considering Abel as a type of our Lord, it is to be noted that, like Isaac, offered up on the altar and the ram caught in a thicket, which afterwards took his place in death, we have here a double type also. Both Abel and the offering which he brought pointed to the Lord Jesus. To make it easier for our readers to follow us, we have numbered the different points of agreement in type and antitype.
(1) Abel was a shepherd (Gen. 4:2) and (2) it was as a shepherd that he presented his offering unto God (3) Though giving no cause for it, he was hated by his brother. As we have shown in the last chapter, Cain was jealous of his brother and (4) it was out of "envy" that he slew him. (5) Abel then did not die a natural death, but (6) met with a violent end at the hand of his own brother. (7) After his death God declared that Abel's blood "cried" unto Him, and severe punishment was meted out upon his murderer. Turning from Abel himself to his offering, we note: (8) Abel presented an offering "unto God" (Heb. 11:4). (9) That the offering which he presented was "the firstlings of his flock": in other words, a "lamb." (10) In bringing his offering "by faith," he honored and magnified the Will and Word of the Lord. (11) The offering which Abel presented is described as an "excellent" one (Heb. 11:4). (12) God had "respect unto Abel and to his offering": in other words, He accepted them. (13) In the presentation of his offering Abel "obtained witness that he was righteous" (Heb. 11:4). (14) After he had presented his offering, God publicly "testified" His acceptance of it. (15) Finally, Abel's offering still "speaks" to God- "By it he being dead yet speaketh."
The type is perfect at every point. (1) Our Lord is a "shepherd"- the Good Shepherd- and (2) it was as the Shepherd He presented His offering to God (John 10:11). (3) Though giving no cause for it, He was hated by His brethren according to the flesh (John 15:25). (4) It was through "envy" that He was delivered up to be crucified (Matthew 27:18). (5) Our Lord did not die a natural death. He was "slain" by wicked hands (Acts 2:23). (6) He was crucified by "The House of Israel" (Acts 2:36), His own brethren according to the flesh. (7) After His death our Lord's murderers were severely punished by God (Mark 12:9). Turning from Himself to His offering we note: (8) The Lord Jesus presented an offering "to God" (Eph. 5:2). (9) The offering He presented was Himself- a "Lamb" (1 Pet. 1:19). (10) In presenting Himself as an offering He honored and magnified the Will and Word of God (Heb. 10:7-9). (11) The offering Christ presented was an "excellent" one- it was a "sweet smelling savor" (Eph. 5:2). (12) God accepted His offering: the proof of this is seen in the fact that He is now seated at God's right hand (Heb. 10:12). (13) While presenting Himself on the Cross as an offering to God, He "obtained witness that He was righteous "- the centurion crying, "Certainly this was a righteous man" (Luke 23:47). (14) God publicly testified His acceptance of Christ's offering by raising Him from the dead (Acts 2:32). (15) Christ's offering now "speaks" to God (Heb. 12:24).
Just as Abel and his offering are, at every point, a wonderful type of Christ and His offering, so Cain, who slew Abel, prefigures the Jews, who crucified their Messiah. (16) Cain was "a tiller of the ground" (Gen. 4:2). Thus the first thing told us about him connects him with the land. (17) In refusing to bring the required lamb, Cain rejected the offering which God's grace had provided. (18) In his self-righteousness Cain brought an offering of his own choosing. (19) The offering he brought was the product of his own labors. (20) This offering was rejected by God. (21) It was Cain's God-given privilege to rule over his brother (Gen. 4:7). (22) This privilege he forfeited. (23) Being envious of Abel, he wickedly slew him. (24) God charged him with his crime. (25) God told him that Abel's blood cried for vengeance. (26) Because of the shedding of his brother's blood, God's curse fell upon Cain. (27) Part of his punishment consisted in the ground becoming barren to him (Gen. 4:12). (28) Further, he was to be a fugitive and vagabond in the earth. (29) Cain acknowledged that his punishment was greater than he could bear. (30) Because of his sin, he was "driven out" (Gen. 4:14). (31) Because of his sin, he was hidden from God's face. (32) Every man's hand was now against him (Gen. 4:14). (33) God set a mark upon him (Gen. 4:15). (34) God declared that He would visit with a sevenfold vengeance those who slew Cain. (35) Cain left the land and went and dwelt in a city (Gen. 4:17).
Turning once more to the antitype, let us note how accurately Cain foreshadowed the history of Israel. (16) The first thing which is conspicuous about the Jews was that they were the people of a land the promised land, the Holy Land (Gen. 13:15). (17) In refusing the Lamb of God (John 1:11) the Jews rejected the offering which God's grace had provided. (18) The apostle Paul declares that the Jews were "ignorant of God's righteousness and going about to establish their own righteousness" (Rom. 10:3). (19) The Jews rested upon their own obedience to God's Law (Rom. 9:21). (20) But God had no respect to their works (Acts 13:39). (21) Had Israel walked in God's statutes they would have been the head of the nations (Deut. 28:13). (22) But through sin they forfeited the place and privilege (Isa. 9:14). (23) It was the Jews who crucified the Christ of God (Acts 5:30). (24) God charged them with their crime (Acts 2:22, 23). (25) Christ's blood is now judicially resting "upon" the Jews (Matthew 27:25). (26) Because of the crucifixion of their Messiah, God's curse fell upon Israel (Jer. 24:9). (27) Part of the curse which God threatened of old to bring upon Israel was the barrenness of their land- "desolate" (Lev. 26:34, 35). (28) The Jew has been an age-long wanderer in the earth (Deut. 28:65). (29) Israel will yet acknowledge their punishment is greater than they can bear (Zech.12:10). (30) Forty years after the Crucifixion, Israel was driven out of Palestine. (31) Since then God's face has been hid from them (Hosea 1:9). (32) For nigh 2,000 years, almost every man's hand has been against the Jew (Deut. 28:66). (33) A mark of identification has been placed upon the Jew so that he can be recognized anywhere. (34) God's special curse has always rested on those who have cursed Israel (Gen. 12:3). (35) For the most part, even to this day, the Jews continue to congregate in large cities.
Upon what ground can we account for this remarkable agreement between type and antitype? The only possible explanation lies in the supernatural inspiration of the Old Testament Scriptures. The Holy Spirit "moved" the writer of Genesis. Only He who knew the end from the beginning could have foreshadowed so accurately and minutely that which came to pass thousands of years afterwards. Prophecy, either in direct utterance or in symbolic type, is the Divine autograph upon the sacred page. May God continue to strengthen our faith in the divinity, the authority and the absolute sufficiency of the Holy Oracles.
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