Abel’s and Cain’s Offerings
At the designated time Cain brought some of the fruit of the ground for an offering to the LORD. But Abel brought some of the firstborn of his flock– even the fattest of them. And the LORD was pleased with Abel and his offering, but with Cain and his offering he was not pleased. So Cain became very angry, and his expression was downcast (Genesis 4:3-5).
Why would the Lord accept the one offering and reject the other? Now, that is the right question – read on for the answer!
Certainly, Cain was sincere and honestly desired to worship God and acknowledge his obligation to Him. Cain was a farmer, so it was just as natural for him to bring of the fruits of the ground for an offering unto the Lord as it was for Abel a shepherd to bring of the firstlings of his flock and the fat from them (Genesis 4:2). They both brought of what they possessed, and if the kind of offering had been left to their choice, it certainly would have been all right for Cain to make an offering of the fruits of the ground, and the Lord most assuredly would have accepted it.
However, by studying the Scriptures, we find that after the fall of mankind (1), God made a gracious revelation to him – that it was only by the use of sacrifices as sin-offerings the race of fallen man could approach his Creator (Hebrews 9:22).
Indeed according to the law almost everything was purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness. (Hebrews 9:22 NET)
When the eyes of our first parents Adam and Eve, were opened to see their sin and guilt before God, they made for themselves aprons of fig leaves (Genesis 3:7), representing the fruitless efforts of man to hide his sin by self-righteousness (Isaiah 64:6). But the Lord made coats of skins and clothed them (Genesis 3:21). This was the first life lesson that the wages of sin are death (Genesis 2:17. Romans 6:23). In this case, animals had to die shedding their blood – their life – to cover Adam and Eve’s sin (Genesis 9:4). Realize that Adam, Eve, and their children, even after the fall, were physically and intellectually superior to us today. As evidenced by their long lives partially due to the knowledge of what to eat, drink, and how to stay fit to maximize longevity. (Proverbs 3:13-18) That is, do not picture them as clueless cavemen and cavewomen but rather those that had named all flora and fauna on earth! (Genesis 2:19) It would take time for the effects of the fall to decrease the life span of humans and dull our minds.
This was then, by divine appointment, the first institution of a substitutionary sin offering (1). Consequently, by divine appointment, it became the only acceptable mode of worship for sinful man. Realize, it was not actually possible that a human being could kill an animal as a substitute for his own death or as a true representative of himself. The animal he offered had no appreciation of right or wrong; therefore, it was not fully representative of him.
Nevertheless, these sacrifices, being offered to God as sin offerings, point to Christ as our atoning sacrifice (1) (Hebrews 10:1-10). The blood of those animals, therefore, represented that of Christ. They were accepted as sacrifices for sin insofar as they pointed forward to Christ’s perfect sacrifice, which God knew he would make, shedding Jesus’ blood (1) at the cross of Calvary (Colossians 1:20). On account of this, God was able to forgive the sins of His people who lived before the time of Christ. His death was for the redemption of the transgressions committed under the first testament (Hebrews 9:15) or the law of Moses (Hebrews 8:5-9). All the sacrifices offered under the law pointed forward to Christ, the perfect sin offering, who put away sin by the sacrifice of himself (Hebrews 9:26; 13:11,12; Romans 8:3. 2 Corinthians 5:21). The coats made of the skins of these sacrifices pointed to Christ’s righteousness with which we must be clothed if we are to be saved (Romans 3:21-27. 1 Corinthians 1:30).
Evidently, Adam had instructed his sons, Cain and Abel, as to the proper approach of a sinner to a holy God, namely, through a blood sacrifice that pointed to and symbolized the actual sacrifice for sin God would someday set forth even the Lord Jesus. However, the offering of such a blood sacrifice in itself would not result in the salvation of the offerer. That offering was to be only an outward visible manifestation of an inward fact, namely, the act of that offerer in placing his faith in the coming virgin-born child who would crush the head of the serpent, Satan (Genesis 3:5). Without that act of faith, the offering of the sacrifice would be a mere form and a mockery in the eyes of God. (7)
Abel followed his father’s instructions, and his faith leaped the centuries to the cross. To the death, burial (1), resurrection (1), and ascension (1) of our Lord and Savior Jesus the Messiah! Resultingly he was declared righteous by God.
For this reason also the wisdom of God said, ‘I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and persecute,’ so that this generation may be held accountable for the blood of all the prophets that has been shed since the beginning of the world, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who was killed between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, I tell you, it will be charged against this generation. (Luke 11:49–51 NET)
In addition, Jesus stated that Abel was a prophet and in this capacity, he would be directed by the Holy Spirit to proclaim God’s will in words and actions. This he did by offering the blood of the firstborn and best of his flock in faith as a substitute for his sin.
Cain’s reaction to this instruction was that he rejected the teaching of salvation through faith in a substitutionary sacrifice and substituted for it his own personal merit and good works. Since the time of these two men, these two diametrically opposed tendencies are seen in the human race. (7)
Think about it for a moment, why else would a family of vegetarians slaughter sheep other than for sin offerings? Recall, that mankind was only given permission to eat animals after the flood of Noah.
You may eat any moving thing that lives. As I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything. But you must not eat meat with its life (that is, its blood) in it. For your lifeblood I will surely exact punishment, from every living creature I will exact punishment. From each person I will exact punishment for the life of the individual since the man was his relative. “Whoever sheds human blood, by other humans must his blood be shed; for in God’s image God has made humankind.” (Genesis 9:3–6 NET)
Did the temple shepherds (1) that were “watching their flock by night” on the outskirts of Bethlehem only raise lambs for their offerings? No, they raised them to be sold to the Israelite pilgrims attending the Passover (1) and Feast of Unleavened Bread Festival, which traveled too far to bring their own lambs. In the same way, Abel raised the sheep for others in the family as well. What should have transpired would have been cooperation and sharing (1) initiated by Cain, the elder brother, for providing Abel with some of his first fruit of the earth as a thanksgiving Meal Offering (1) to be offered after his firstborn lamb burnt offering for sin. Likewise, Abel would provide Cain with a firstborn lamb to sacrifice before his first fruit of the earth’s sacrificial offering. Unfortunately, Cain missed the first fruit part, too.
Look! How good and how pleasant it is when brothers live together! It is like fine oil poured on the head which flows down the beard— Aaron’s beard, and then flows down his garments. It is like the dew of Hermon, which flows down upon the hills of Zion. Indeed that is where the Lord has decreed a blessing will be available—eternal life. (Psalm 133:1–3 NET)
Again, I tell you the truth, if two of you on earth agree about whatever you ask, my Father in heaven will do it for you.For where two or three are assembled in my name, I am there among them.” (Again, I tell you the truth, if two of you on earth agree about whatever you ask, my Father in heaven will do it for you. For where two or three are assembled in my name, I am there among them.” (Matthew 18:19–20 NET)
Also, the ground was cursed after the fall of mankind, meaning the lamb must be sacrificed first, and then the first fruit offering placed on top, thus contacting the blood of the lamb (1) so that it would be acceptable to our Holy God.
But to Adam he said, “Because you obeyed your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’ cursed is the ground thanks to you; in painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, but you will eat the grain of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat food until you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you will return.” (Genesis 3:17–19 NET)
Thus Cain having rejected the mode of worship that was of divine appointment and he invented a mode of worship to suit himself. He rejected God’s will and went according to his own will, which was nothing more than will-worship, and all such worship is sin (Colossians 2:23). If we would be accepted of God, we must worship Him in His own appointed way (John 4:24). As the lamb of God for sinners slain, the Lord Jesus Christ is the way of life (John 14:6). Neither is salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven, given among men, whereby we must be saved (Acts 4:12. Romans 10:13). Cain set aside God’s will for his own will, thus becoming a rebel against God (1 John 3:4).
The essence of true religion is humble submission to God’s will and saying like the Master, “Not my will, but yours be done.” (Luke 22:42. Hebrews 10:7. Philippians 2:8). Human will-worship is so abominable in the sight of the Lord that he struck Uzziah with leprosy for usurping the priestly office (2 Chronicles 26:19-21). Nadab and Abihu were stricken dead for burning strange incense (Leviticus 10:1-3). Saul (1), for his will-worship, was doomed to lose his throne (1 Samuel 13:8-14).
Consequently, the Lord had no respect for Cain and his offering because he was guilty of heinous sin (Proverbs 15:8). There was as vast a difference between the offering of Cain and that of Abel as there is between falsehood and truth or darkness and light. Abel made his offering according to God’s plan of salvation. But Cain, like his mother Eve, was deceived and led astray by the old Serpent (2 Corinthians 11:3) and, intruding into those things he had not seen, became vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind (Colossians 2:18). Becoming wise in his own conceit, he was a “fool tool” for the devil to use.
Satan, writhing under the penalty pronounced upon him and hearing that the seed of the woman should bruise his head (Genesis 3:15), seeing that man is a religious animal and must have a religion (Acts 17:22-27) and knowing that if he received God’s religion, he would be saved (2 Timothy 1:9); devised the scheme of a counterfeit religion to blind and lead man down to perdition (2 Corinthians 4:3,4). While resembling the genuine as closely as possible, this counterfeit religion must leave out the essentially saving part of it and lead the souls of men away from the atonement of our Lord Jesus Christ. So Satan, having prepared Cain for his purpose, used him as an archetype of false religion – a system of salvation through works. A system of rules to follow in an attempt to earn salvation and not salvation through a relationship with God the Father through the LORD Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Unfortunately, many mistakenly think there is but one religion or that all religions are the same. There is only one true religion, but there is also a false religion, and this false religion bears the mark of Cain, its founder, who was of that wicked one and slew his brother. And why did he kill him? Because his own works were evil, and his brother’s righteous (1 John 3:12). The devil was a murderer from the beginning (John 8:44), and Cain as his servant and agent, soon became the persecutor and murderer of his brother because his brother was righteous. And all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel down to the present time, has been shed by the devotees of false religion. In the false church will be found the blood of prophets, and of saints, and of all that were slain upon the earth (Revelation 18:24). And God will in the future judge this great whore which did corrupt the earth with her fornications and will avenge the blood of his servants at her hand (Revelation 19:2. Luke 12:49. 2 Peter 3:7. Revelation 22:20). Amen.
So, what are some of the differences between Abel’s and Cain’s offerings? Abel, by faith, offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and through the sacrifice, he being dead yet speaks (Hebrews 11:4). Abel’s faith was in the promised Savior, who should bruise the serpent’s head represented by the lamb that he sacrificed. (Genesis 3:5) (5)
By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which [sacrifice] it was testified that he was righteous, God bearing witness to his gifts, and through it [the sacrifice], though he is dead, yet he speaks. (Hebrews 11:4) WUESTNT (6)
But you have come to Mount Sion, even to the city of the living God, heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable multitude of angels, to a festal gathering, and to the assembly of the first-born who are enrolled in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men who have been brought to completeness, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new testament, and to blood of sprinkling which speaks better things than the blood of Abel [i.e., the animal blood which he shed sacrificially]. (Hebrews 12:22-24 WUESTNT) (6)
Cain believed there was a God and that he ought to worship Him. However, realize it is not enough to believe there is one God as the demons believe and tremble but do not inherit salvation (James 2:19). Juxtaposed with Abel, who not only believed there is one God but also believed in one Mediator between God and men, the God-Man Christ Jesus (1), who would give himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time (1 Timothy 2:5,6).
In his heart, Abel realized that salvation is of faith, that it might be by grace (Romans 4:16. Ephesians 2:8). Furthermore, he deeply felt that he was a sinner in the sight of God and that he deserved to die (Romans 7:24. John 3:18. 2 Corinthians 5:14. John 16:7-11). But according to God’s gracious word, he believed in the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world (Revelation 13:8). He brought of the firstlings of his flock, believing that its blood was typical of the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God (Hebrews 9:14); and that He in His atoning work is the propitiation and expiation for our sins (9): and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:2). That is, Abel made an offering for his Sin.
Cain disregarded the instruction God had given Adam, his father that shared it with him, and not realizing that he was a guilty sinner before God, did not believe it necessary to bring a sin-offering, to make an atonement for sin; therefore, his offering was in unbelief (Hebrews 11:6). He believed in the system of salvation by works and thought it was sufficient for him to live a moral life and bring a thank-offering to show that he was thankful for what God had given him. Furthermore, Cain simply brought “some of the fruit” of the ground and not the first fruits that the Lord desired (Genesis 4:3. Proverbs 3:9,10).
The Bible says that God did not respect that offering; God did not receive that offering. Why? Because it represented the work of Cain’s hands. Cain was offering the work of his hands. He had grown this out of the ground, but God said, “Cursed is the ground; in the sweat of your face, you’re going to grow things out of the ground—you’re going to earn your living” (Genesis 3:17–19). And here, this offering represented Cain’s sweat—his toil—and he’s bringing to God that which God says has a curse upon it, and he’s offering it to the Lord. And God does not accept that kind of religion. (10)
Even today, we hear people say that all God requires us to be saved is to do right and be thankful to Him for what He gives us. They depend for acceptance with God upon their honesty and good, moral character; upon works of righteousness that they can do. They do not realize they are following Cain, the first murderer and the founder of the false religious system of salvation by works (1 John 3:11,12). Cain believed that salvation was by works of righteousness that we have done. He did not believe that salvation is only according to God’s mercy whereby He saved us, by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost (Titus 3:5). This is, Cain simply made a thanksgiving offering and not a Sin-offering.
Abel believed in the depravity of human nature and made his offering in humility (Micah 6:8). He obviously believed that we are fallen and depraved creatures and cannot rescue ourselves from our fallen situation by any ability we naturally possess. He realized that he was a child of wrath by nature, even as others (1 John 5:19. Ephesians 2:3. Romans 5:9). He felt that he was not only a sinner but that his very nature was corrupt; that his heart was deceitful above all things and desperately wicked (Jeremiah 17:9). That no one could fully know the depths of the wickedness of his heart but the Lord who searches the heart (Jeremiah 17:10).
Abel came before the Lord in poverty of spirit, like the Publican who went up into the temple to pray, but stood afar off and would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but beat upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner (Luke 18:13). The Lord Jesus tells us that this publican went down to his house justified for everyone that exalts himself shall be abased, and he that humbles himself shall be exalted (Luke 18:14).
Abel, as he led the “firstborn” lamb (i.e., the first fruits) away from the flock to be slain, realized that it was his own life and not the life of the lamb, which was forfeited. He looked upon the lamb as a type of the promised seed, who should be holy, innocent, undefiled, separate from sinners (Hebrews 7:26) and who would offer up himself as a propitiation and expiation for sin (9) (Romans 3:25. 1 John 2:2;4:10). Furthermore, he looked by faith upon the precious blood of the Savior who was to come as a lamb without blemish and without spot (John 1:29. 1 Peter 1:18,19. Ephesians 1:7. Revelation 1:5). Although he felt that he was a guilty, condemned sinner, yet he believed that God could be just and simultaneously the justifier of him who believed in the promised Savior (Romans 3:26). Abel humbled himself in the sight of God and, by faith in the promised Messiah, offered his sacrifice (Proverbs 3:34. James 4:6). Consequently, the Lord had respect for him and his offering and gave him the witness that he was accepted as righteous (Hebrews 11:4. Romans 3:28).
Cain believed in the goodness of human nature and therefore made his offering in pride (Proverbs 11:2). He prided himself on the goodness of his nature and character (Luke 12:16-21). He undoubtedly felt that God was under obligation to respect as noble and great a man as he was and that he deserved great credit and honor for making this offering (Matthew 7:22,23. Luke 16:15). See how his pride flamed out in anger when his offering was rejected (Proverbs 13:10). He was the same kind of a man as the Pharisee, who stood and prayed: God, I thank thee that I am not as other men are; extortionists, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I give tithes of all that I possess (Luke 18:11,12). Cain was, in effect, a self-righteous Pharisee – the founder of the pharisaic religion (1) (Matthew 23:4-7. Matthew 23:29-36). From that time until the present, Cain has had his followers that followed his way or path (4) away from God’s presence like his father Adam; trusting in themselves that they are righteous and believed in the native purity of human nature (Genesis 3:8. Genesis 4:16. John 3:19,20. Jude 1:11).
Woe to them! For they have traveled down Cain’s path, and because of greed have abandoned themselves to Balaam’s error; hence, they will certainly perish in Korah’s rebellion. These men are dangerous reefs at your love feasts, feasting without reverence, feeding only themselves. They are waterless clouds, carried along by the winds; autumn trees without fruit—twice dead, uprooted; wild sea waves, spewing out the foam of their shame; wayward stars for whom the utter depths of eternal darkness have been reserved. (Jude 1:11–13 NET)
Cain, the archetype of salvation by works, likely lived a long, prosperous life becoming rich, great and likely was honored by the world as a good citizen (Luke 6:26. 1 John 2:15). However, 2 Peter 2:17 tells us that “the mist of darkness” is reserved for those who reject the substitutionary atonement of the Lord Jesus. Jude 1:13 refers to those who, like Cain, refuse to place their faith in the blood of Jesus poured out on the Cross for sin and instead trust in their own good works. To these is reserved “the blackness of darkness forever.” (8)
Juxtaposed to Abel who was hated and persecuted in this world, notwithstanding that the Lord had respect unto him and accepted his offering. Cain reasoned that if God wanted a blood sacrifice, then he would give Him one! He was murdered by Cain in the same manner that Lambs were sacrificed, by the cutting of his throat. (3) The covenant made between Satan and Man was now sealed with the blood of Abel (1). Thus Abel became the first martyr, and an example to God’s people in all ages, that all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer (1) persecution (2 Timothy 3:12).
Because this is the message which you heard from the beginning, namely, We should habitually be loving one another with a divine and self-sacrificial love; not even as Cain [who] was out of the Pernicious One, and killed his brother by severing his jugular vein. And on what account did he kill him? Because his works were pernicious and those of his brother righteous. (1 John 3:11–12 WUESTNT) (2) (3)
But the Lord said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying out to me from the ground! (Genesis 4:10 NET)
Fill up then the measure of your ancestors! You snakes, you offspring of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell? “For this reason I am sending you prophets and wise men and experts in the law, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town, so that on you will come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. I tell you the truth, this generation will be held responsible for all these things! (Matthew 23:32–36 NET)
Why was Abel’s blood considered righteous by God? Because he offered the blood of a lamb by faith representing the blood of Jesus our Messiah!
But if we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. (1 John 1:7 NET)
Realize, the gospel is not for self-righteous, self-sufficient, impenitent sinners, for God commands all men everywhere to repent, and when sinners become penitent, they may be saved. That is, the soul must realize that it is lost before it can be saved (Mark 2:17).
Make certain that you’re in the way of the cross, not in the way of Cain. God will not accept culture for Calvary. God will not accept the works of your hands. Your good deeds, your offerings, and all of the rest of it must go home by way of the cross. There’s no other way but this.
I shall ne’er get sight of the gates of light,
If the way of the cross I miss.
—Jesse B. Pounds
The way of Cain leads straight to Hell; the way of the cross leads straight to Heaven. (10)
My hope is built on nothing less
than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.
Dear lost soul, if you feel that you are a wretched, undone sinner, you are invited to come to Jesus and be saved. Come, He earnestly calls you, forsaking and confessing your sins (Revelations 22:17). Come and accept the Lamb of God, as your offering for sin and you will be accepted and saved from all your sins (John 6:37. Romans 10:13,9,10). The great heart of our Savior goes out to you in love and he pleads with you to come to Him and be saved. Will you yield now at this very moment to his loving call? (1)
Our ways are not God’s ways… (Isaiah 55:8,9), but they will be… (1 John 3:2. 1 Corinthians 13:12).
God’s Thoughts and Ways Series:
- God’s Thoughts and Ways – Part I (Jeroboam)
- God’s Thoughts and Ways – Part II (Paul)
- God’s Thoughts and Ways – Part III (Lazarus)
- God’s Thoughts and Ways – Part IV (Balaam)
- God’s Thoughts and Ways – Part V (King Saul)
- God’s Thoughts and Ways – Part VI (Abel and Cain)
- God’s Thoughts and Ways – Part VII (National Judgment)
- God’s Thoughts and Ways – Part VIII (Joseph)
- God’s Thoughts and Ways – Part IX (Peter)
- God’s Thoughts and Ways – Part X (Invitation, Refusal, Banishment)
- God’s Thoughts and Ways – Part XI (Mary Mother of Jesus)
- God’s Thoughts and Ways – Part XII (Zipporah, Wife of Moses)
(Protection, Wholeness, Success)
Dear friend, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, just as it is well with your soul. (3 John 1:2 NET)
(1) Select the link to open another article in a new tab with additional information.
(2) Wuest, K. S. (1961). The New Testament: an expanded translation (1 Jn 3:11–15). Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.
(3) Wuest, K. S. (1997). Wuest’s word studies from the Greek New Testament: for the English reader (Vol. 13, p. 151). Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.
Cain “was of that wicked one.” The words “wicked one” are the translation of ponēros (πονηρος), “evil in active opposition to the good.” The word “pernicious” is a good translation. A kakos (κακος) (evil) man is willing to perish in his own corruption. But a ponēros (πονηρος) (pernicious) person, seeks to drag every one else down with himself into the corruption and destruction that awaits him. That is Satan.
The word “slew” is sphazō (σφαζω), “to slay, slaughter, butcher, by cutting the throat.” It was used in classical Greek of slaughtering victims for sacrifice by cutting the throat, also of animals tearing by the throat, of any slaughter by knife or sword. It is used in the LXX (Greek translation of the Old Testament), of the slaying of the Levitical sacrifices (Lev. 1:5). The usual word meaning “to kill” is apothnēskō (ἀποθνησκω). The inspired writer goes out of his way to use a specialized word to describe the murder of Abel by Cain. The latter cut his brother’s throat. God said to Cain, “What hast thou done? The voice of thy brother’s blood crieth unto Me from the ground” (Gen. 4:10). The method Cain used to kill his brother was one in which much blood would be shed. The cutting of the jugular vein would fit that description. The human race learned how to kill when it was taught to slay a sacrificial animal as it approached a holy God (Gen. 3:21).
Cain’s works are described as evil. The same word (ponēros (πονηρος)) is used when the devil is spoken of as “that wicked one.” His works were pernicious, actively opposed to that which is good.
(4) “Way” is hodos (ὁδος), “a road, a way,” metaphorically, “a course of conduct, a way, manner of thinking, feeling, deciding.” The Scofield Bible speaks of Cain as the “type of a religious, natural man who believes in a God and in ‘religion,’ but after his own will, and who rejects redemption by blood. Compelled as a teacher of religion to explain the atonement, the apostate teacher explains it away.”
Wuest, K. S. (1997). Wuest’s word studies from the Greek New Testament: for the English reader (Vol. 16, p. 248). Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.
(5) 2. Faith illustrated (11:4–40). (11:4) Significantly, the writer chooses Abel as the first example of what faith can do for the one who exercises it. In the case of Abel, it was the matter of his personal salvation which was in view, as was also the case with the recipients of the letter to the Hebrews. If Abel’s appropriation of salvation was through faith, that would mean that if the first-century Jew wanted to be saved, he would have to exercise faith. By faith, Abel offered God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain. That which made Abel’s sacrifice more excellent than Cain’s was not its quantity but its quality. Its quality inhered in the fact that it was the offering which God had prescribed, a blood offering. Abel had learned this from his father, Adam.
The word “which” could refer grammatically either to the sacrifice or the faith. The context decides. God testified of his gifts, namely, the sacrifice. All of this means that through the blood sacrifice, he obtained witness that he was righteous. Though Abel is dead, yet “by it” (the sacrifice), he yet speaks, telling all that salvation is through sacrificial blood. In 12:24, the statement is made that Jesus’ blood speaks better things than the blood of Abel. It is not Abel’s own blood in view here, but the blood of the offering Abel presented to God. This is shown by the historical background and analysis of the epistle, the argument of which is that “The New Testament in Jesus’ blood is superior to and takes the place of the First Testament in animal blood.” The blood of Abel’s offering spoke symbolically of a Sacrifice for sin that God would one day offer. But Jesus’ blood is the actual sacrifice and speaks of the salvation He procured for us on the Cross. It was the blood offering that Abel presented to God through which he was declared righteous. This is in accord with Pauline doctrine, where the great apostle speaks of “being now justified by his blood” (Rom. 5:9).
Cain followed his reason and ignored revelation. He argued that his own good works, as manifested by the produce he had grown, would please God rather than a blood sacrifice. Abel accepted revelation instead and had faith in the divine acceptability of the offering prescribed by God. His own reason may have argued otherwise, but his faith in what God had said won the day. Here was the example which this first-century Jew should follow in his appropriation of the salvation which Messiah procured for him on the Cross, not the way of Cain, which he had been taught by the first-century religious leaders in Israel.
Wuest, K. S. (1997). Wuest’s word studies from the Greek New Testament: for the English reader (Vol. 10, pp. 196–197). Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.
(6) Wuest, K. S. (1961). The New Testament: an expanded translation. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.
(7) Wuest, K. S. (1997). Wuest’s word studies from the Greek New Testament: for the English reader (Vol. 3, p. 16). Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.
In Hebrews 6:2 we have “eternal judgment.” The word “judgment” here is from a Greek word that refers to a condemnatory sentence, aionios (αἰονιος) being used to teach that this sentence is eternal in that the punishment it prescribes is unending. In Jude 7 we have lost human beings condemned to the same everlasting fire which has been prepared for Satan and the fallen angels, the latter in verse 6 being reserved for the Great White Throne judgment and the fire prepared for them (Matt. 25:41).
(8) We come now to the passages in which aion (αἰον) is used. Because aionios (αἰονιος) describes the same future punishment which aion (αἰον) does, aion (αἰον) here cannot mean “a limited time,” but “eternal,” just as aionios (αἰονιος). II Peter 2:17 tells us that “the mist of darkness” is reserved for those who reject the substitutionary atonement of the Lord Jesus. Jude 13 refers to those who, like Cain, refuse to place their faith in the blood of Jesus poured out on the Cross for sin and instead trust in their own good works. To these is reserved “the blackness of darkness forever.” The expressions in Peter and Jude are from the same words in the Greek text, except that the best Greek manuscripts omit aion (αἰον) in the first passage. It, however, appears in the second, which refers to the same darkness. The words “mist” and “blackness” come from one Greek word for “darkness,” and the word “darkness” comes from another word meaning “darkness.” Archbishop Trench in his New Testament Synonyms says this about the word translated “mist” and “blackness”; “The zophos (ζοφος) (the former word) may be contemplated as a kind of emanation of skotous (σκοτους) (the latter). It signifies in its first meaning the twilight gloom which broods over the regions of the setting sun and constitutes so strong a contrast to the life and light of that Orient where the sun may be said to be daily newborn.… But it means more than this. There is darkness darker still, that, namely, of the sunless underworld.… This too it further means, namely, that sunless world itself, though indeed this less often than the gloom which wraps it.… It will at once be perceived with what fitness the word in the New Testament is employed, is ever used to signify the darkness of that shadowy land where light is not, but only darkness visible.” Such is the eternal fate of those who reject the precious blood of Jesus as the alone way of salvation from sin.
Wuest, K. S. (1997). Wuest’s word studies from the Greek New Testament: for the English reader (Vol. 19, pp. 41–42). Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.
(9) Lyon, R. W., & Toon, P. (1988). Atonement. In Baker encyclopedia of the Bible (Vol. 1, p. 232, 746). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.
From atonement for sin in the OT came such terms as expiation and forgiveness. From the idea of atonement for the wrath or judgment of God came propitiation and reconciliation. Hence in modern English translations, various terms attempt to express the concept of atonement provided by God… In the Bible, both expiation and propitiation are part of God’s atoning work. Christ’s sacrifice both propitiates (turns away) God’s wrath and expiates… [removes] human sin. God’s redemptive work is both personal or relational and objective. When a biblical context concentrates on God’s wrath, propitiation is involved; when human sin is the focus, then redemption provides expiation… That expiation means “removal of sin” underscores a fundamental dimension of redemption: “as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us” (Psalms 103:12).
(10) Rogers, A. (2017). Snakes in the Garden. In Adrian Rogers Sermon Archive (Jud 11). Signal Hill, CA: Rogers Family Trust.