Arlen L. Chitwood
A More Excellent Sacrifice
By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts; and through it he being dead still speaks. (Hebrews 11:4)
The fourth of the five major warnings in the book of Hebrews is brought to a close in chapter ten. Then, immediately following this fourth warning, attention is called to that which is dealt with in different ways in each of the preceding four warnings — faith to the saving of the soul (10:35-39). And this, in turn, is with a view to introducing an entire chapter on the subject of faith, as it pertains to the saving of the soul (11:1ff).
Chapter eleven forms an apex in the book prior to the fifth and last warning (chapter 12). That which emanates out of faith to the saving of the soul — out of believing God to the saving of the soul — is given first, preceding the final warning (v. 1).
It was by and through this means that Old Testament saints “obtained a good testimony [‘were attested’ (God, because of their faith, bore witness concerning them)]” (v. 2); and it is by and through this same means that Christians today can expect God to view their faith in the same favorable manner.
By and Through Faith
Prior to drawing from the experiences of numerous Old Testament saints, attention is called to two things — that which can be seen by faith (that which can be seen by and through believing God’s revelation of Himself, His plans, and His purposes), and that which can be seen in the surrounding world system, by sight (apart from believing God’s revelation of Himself, His plans, and His purposes).
And specific reference is made to the fact that the latter did not emanate out of the former. The latter entered because of sin and is not part of God’s arrangement of the ages around the preplanned activity of His Son within the framework of these ages (Hebrews 11:3; cf. Hebrews 1:1, 2).
God, in His Word, has revealed the entire sequence of events surrounding His plans and purposes — past, present, and future. And, in so doing, He has covered the entire spectrum. He has begun with the creation of the material universe (Genesis 1:1), continued with His intricate dealings surrounding one province in the universe (the earth [Genesis 1:2aff]), and terminated with a return to revelation surrounding His dealings with the whole of the material universe once again (Revelation 22:1-6).
1) God’s Universal Rule
Universal rule emanates from God’s throne, located at a northernmost point in the universe (Isaiah 14:13, ASV):
The LORD has established His throne in heaven, and His kingdom rules over all. (Psalm 103:19)
And though such a rule has continued uninterrupted since the creation of the material universe, the entire scope of God’s rule is actually dealt with very sparingly in Scripture. Rather, God, in His Word, limits His revelation almost exclusively to His dealings with the earth, not with that which exists throughout other parts of His kingdom.
Scripture though does provide a few brief glimpses into God’s overall regal control of the universe. And these brief glimpses have undoubtedly been provided so man, seeing the overall picture, can place things in relation to God’s dealings with the earth (the material creation, man, and angelic rulers) in its proper perspective.
But Scripture simply doesn’t go beyond these few brief glimpses into God’s dealings with the universe at large. God’s revelation centers on His dealings with one small part of His kingdom (the earth), and things occurring in other parts of His kingdom (the universe at large) are deemed to be of little to no consequence insofar as this revelation is concerned.
Scripture, in this manner, begins with a reference to the entire kingdom (Genesis 1:1a); but revelation immediately shifts to the earth alone (Genesis 1:1b), with the ruin of the earth then briefly described (Genesis 1:2a).
Scripture though begins providing detail only when God begins restoring the ruined earth, with a view to the creation of man (Genesis 1:2bff). And the whole of Scripture, from that point forward, concerns itself centrally with events surrounding the earth, man, and angelic rulers — events occurring during seven successive millennia.
Scripture simply doesn’t deal at length with anything that is seen outside the scope of events within this time-frame. Whether the history of the earth preceding the earth’s restoration and the creation of man, or that which lies beyond the Messianic Era, only enough has been revealed to allow man to relate events occurring during the seven millennia to events either preceding or following these seven millennia.
It is only following God’s completion of a work surrounding the earth that the entire scope of His rule — throughout “the heavens” seen in Genesis 1:1 — is brought to the forefront once again in Scripture. Rulership in that coming day will emanate from “the throne of God and of the Lamb” in the New Jerusalem, which will be located on the new earth (Revelation 22:1-5) — a throne from which universal rule will go forth from that day forward.
God, at that time, will have completed His dealings with one province in His kingdom (the earth). Attention, as seen in Scripture, will then shift to His entire kingdom; and this is where Scripture is brought to a close.
But though Scripture presents God fixing His attention on one province in the kingdom in time past, He has never turned His attention away from His entire kingdom. God, in His omnipotence and sovereign control over all things, can center His full, undivided attention on a part of His kingdom and His entire kingdom at the same time, and He has governed the whole universe after an unchanging fashion since the beginning — a fashion that will continue forever.
2) Order, Disorder, Order Restored
Thus, Scripture provides only brief glimpses into God’s creation of the earth, God placing a ruler over the earth, the fall of this ruler, and the resulting ruin of the earth (Genesis 1:1, 2a; Isaiah 14:12-14; Ezekiel 28:14, 15). It was only when the earth began to be restored, with a view to the creation of man to rule the earth in the stead of the fallen provincial ruler, that God began to unfold, in intricate detail, the numerous things surrounding His plans and purposes (Genesis 1:2bff). And these plans and purposes were revealed to center on man and the earth rather than on Satan and the earth.
Then, following Satan bringing about man’s fall (Genesis 3:1ff), God, in His Word, began to unfold numerous details surrounding redemption (reflecting back on a previously established pattern in Genesis 1:2b-25). And redemption was with a view to man ultimately realizing the purpose for his creation — “let them [the man and woman together] have dominion” (Genesis 1:26).
And, because of man being unable to rule apart from the woman — establishing an unchangeable biblical principle — Adam, following Satan deceiving the woman, was placed in a position where he had no choice but to also eat of the forbidden fruit. A part of Adam’s very being (Eve [Genesis 2:21-23]) had eaten of this fruit, leaving Adam in no position to rule the earth, as God had originally commanded (Genesis 1:28).
Redemption necessitated Adam partaking of sin; or, in the antitype, redemption necessitated Christ being made sin (Genesis 3:1-6; 2 Corinthians 5:21). Each (Adam, Christ) found the one who was to occupy the throne with Him in a fallen state; and each had to act on behalf of the one in this fallen state, for the one who had fallen was totally incapable of acting in this realm herself. Only through this means could Man — type or antitype, the first man (Adam), or the second Man (Christ) — one day hold the scepter.
Though Adam’s act resulted in his fall, the fall occurred with a view to redemption. And redemption was with a view to Adam, as a complete being, ultimately realizing the purpose for his creation.
When man sinned, disorder once again entered the whole of that which is associated with this one province in God’s universe. And, as following the sin of the earth’s first provincial ruler, this resulted in two things:
1) The ruin of the one created to hold the scepter (as ruin had previously befallen the one holding the scepter [cf. Genesis 3:7; Ezekiel 28:15, 16]).
2) The ruin of the domain once again (the material creation [cf. Genesis 1:2a; 3:17, 18]).
Hebrews 11:3, calling attention to the disorder presently seen in the world, clearly states that this disorder did not originate out of God’s orderly arrangement of the ages in the beginning (ref. Chapter 2 in this book). This disorder is that which originally entered following Satan’s sin and entered once again following man’s sin.
And the disorder that entered this province following man’s creation and fall is that which Christ and His co-heirs are going to deal with during the coming Messianic Era. Christ and His co-heirs are going to take 1,000 years, ruling the earth with a rod of iron, to effect order out of disorder (1 Corinthians 15:24-28).
The whole of Scripture, following man’s fall, concerns itself with God restoring that which had been ruined — both man and the material creation. This would be brought to pass in order that God’s purpose for bringing both (man and the material creation) into existence might be realized (cf. Genesis 1:26-28; Isaiah 45:18); and this part of Scripture, covering the whole of Scripture, is brought to a close through God’s universal rule being brought to the forefront, where it will then remain (Revelation 22:1-5).
Both the past order and the coming order can be clearly seen “by faith,” by believing that which God has revealed in His Word. It is this whole overall thought, concluding with Hebrews 11:3, which introduces a number of individuals from Old Testament history (vv. 4ff). Introducing each of these individuals, something specific is said relative to the experiences of each within the realm of faith. And faith in each instance, contextually, would have to relate to the saving of the soul.
This is the central message of the book of Hebrews (or any other New Testament epistle), specific reference is made to the matter leading into chapter eleven, and this remains the central message in chapter twelve as the fifth and last warning in the book comes into view. Thus, Hebrews chapter eleven cannot be properly understood apart from viewing the chapter after this fashion — faith to the saving of the soul.
This though is not to say that secondary applications or teachings, separate from the primary interpretation (specifically dealing with the salvation or loss of the soul), cannot be in view. Secondary applications or teachings are always in place in the study of Scripture, though never at the expense of the primary interpretation. Scripture has been structured in a manner that will allow for spiritual lessons beyond the primary interpretation. And the eleventh chapter of Hebrews would form a good example of this very thing.
The list of individuals named begins with Abel and rapidly moves through 2,000 years of human history, briefly calling attention to certain events in the lives of four individuals whom the Spirit of God singled out from among all who had lived during this time — Abel, Enoch, Noah, and Abraham. And the record in the book of Hebrews is very brief concerning that which is stated about each individual. Each is said to have acted “by faith,” and their actions in this respect would be with a view centrally to one thing — the saving of the soul.
This, contextually, must be recognized as the way in which the actions of each is to be viewed insofar as the primary interpretation is concerned (10:35-11:2). But, as previously stated, there is room for secondary applications and teachings throughout.
For example, going back to the type dealing with Abel in Genesis chapter four, Abel bringing a blood sacrifice would, in one respect, reflect on the previous type in chapter three (Adam partaking of sin with a view to Eve’s redemption, typifying Christ being made sin with a view to His bride’s redemption; and this was followed by God slaying animals to provide “coats of skins” to clothe Adam and Eve [replacing the covering of Glory that had been lost in the fall], introducing death and shed blood).
However, associating the lambs that Abel slew in chapter four with that which occurred in chapter three has nothing to do with the primary interpretation of this part of the type. The part of the type in chapter four that corresponds directly with the type set forth in chapter three is the account of Cain slaying Abel. But spiritual lessons relating to that which is previously seen in chapter three can still be drawn from the first part of the type in chapter four (Abel bringing lambs from the flock, offering blood sacrifices), even though that is not primarily what this part of the type deals with.
Then dispensational teachings can be derived by and through events surrounding the first four individuals named in Hebrews chapter eleven (something that can be seen in both the primary interpretation and in secondary applications).
Death and shed blood mark the point of beginning, as seen in Abel offering lambs from the flock. After these things are presented about Abel, contrasting Abel’s offering with a parallel but different type of offering by Cain, the Spirit of God moved forward seven generations and had the writer of this book next call attention to Enoch being removed from the earth alive. Then the Spirit of God moved forward three more generations to the account of Noah and his family passing safely through the Flood before singling out another individual. And, to complete the first part of the dispensational framework, the Spirit of God then moved forward ten more generations before He singled out the next individual — Abraham, the one whom God called out of Ur, with a view to an inheritance in another land.
Within this dispensational framework, events surrounding Abel would relate to salvation by grace (though, in another respect within the dispensational framework, they could also relate to present and future aspects of salvation — the salvation of the soul); events surrounding Enoch would relate to the saints removal into the heavens at the end of this dispensation; events surrounding Noah would relate to Israel subsequently going through the Tribulation on earth; and events surrounding Abraham would relate to that which lies beyond the Flood, beyond the Tribulation.
A new beginning is seen in Abraham. Abraham had been called out of one land to realize an inheritance in another land. He had been called out of Ur to realize an inheritance in Canaan.
And the type has two facets in the antitype (something often seen in types), pointing to both Israel and the Church. The type has to do with Israel being called out of the nations yet future, to realize an inheritance in another land, the land covenanted to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. And the type, as well, has to do with Christians, who have been called out of one land to realize an inheritance in another land, called out from the earth to realize an inheritance in a heavenly land.
Thus, Scripture, because of the way in which it has been structured, lends itself to teachings of the preceding nature. The primary interpretation must always be recognized and held as primary, never secondary. But, on the other hand, the invariable presence of secondary applications and teachings must also be recognized. And only an infinite, omniscient God, seeing the beginning from the end, along with all that lies between, could, through His Spirit, have moved men to put His Word together after this fashion.
Two Brothers, Two Offerings
The account of Cain and Abel in Genesis chapter four forms a type of Israel and Christ in the gospel accounts and the book of Acts, along with the position that Israel has occupied throughout the present dispensation. And not only does this account form a type, but it forms the first of a number of corresponding types seen in the Old Testament (e.g., Joseph and his brethren, or Moses and His brethren, forming types of Christ and Israel).
In this respect, Genesis chapter four forms a prototype. And, being set forth first, unchangeable principles relating to Israel and Christ are established at this point in Scripture.
All subsequent types must be in complete keeping with this original type, providing additional details and shedding light upon the things previously set forth in the original type. And all — the original type, along with all subsequent types — point to the antitype and set forth the entire story before Christ ever appeared on earth the first time.
Christ’s appearance to Israel and that which occurred following His appearance, all the way down to modern times almost 2,000 years later, was foretold in intricate detail by Moses and the Prophets long before these things ever happened. And events surrounding Christ’s return at the end of the present dispensation have all been foretold after the same fashion as well.
Christ wasn’t relating new revelation to the Jewish religious leaders when he gave the parable of the Householder and His vineyard shortly before His crucifixion (Matthew 21:33-39; cf. Isaiah 5:1-7, 13). Rather, He was relating that which Moses and the Prophets had previously set forth centuries prior to the events seen in the book of Matthew (throughout the period extending from about 1,400 B.C. to about 400 B.C.).
Christ was relating something that particularly the Jewish religious leaders should have known. They should have known, from their own Scriptures, exactly what had happened, was happening, and was about to happen.
1) In the Type — Cain, Abel
It is evident from the account in Genesis chapter four that God had laid down certain requirements relative to offerings at specified times, such as those later seen in the Mosaic Economy. And, it is also evident from the offering that each brother brought — from “the fruit of the ground” and from “the firstborn of his [Abel] flock” — that these offerings had to do with the first fruits. Both brothers could only have known, from previous instructions that the Lord had given to either them or their parents, exactly what the Lord required of each at a set time — “at the end of the days” (v. 3; literal rendering from the Hebrew text).
The account surrounding the offerings by both Cain and Abel reads,
. . . Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground.
And in the process of time [And at the end of the days] it came to pass that Cain brought an offering of the fruit of the ground to the LORD.
Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat. And the LORD respected Abel and his offering,
but He did not respect Cain and his offering. And Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell. (Genesis 4:2b-5)
Cain brought his offering first, then Abel. Abel’s offering was regarded with favor, but not so with Cain’s offering. The difference in the two offerings is seen in the first three words beginning Hebrews 11:4 — “By faith Abel . . . .” Abel acted by faith, but this is not said of Cain’s actions at all. Cain could only have acted apart from faith; otherwise the Lord would have looked with favor upon his offering as well.
Abel, acting by faith, brought that which God required. Cain, on the other hand, acting apart from faith, did not bring that which God required. And, apart from faith, “it is impossible” to please God (Hebrews 11:6). Thus, God could not have looked favorably upon Cain’s offering, presented before the Lord apart from faith (apart from believing that which God had previously revealed concerning the offering of the first fruits, and acting accordingly).
The offering that each brother brought (Abel, from the flock; Cain, from the field) was the correct type of offering for each. Abel was “a keeper of the sheep,” and Cain was “a tiller of the ground” (Genesis 4:2). Thus, in an offering of the first fruits (cf. Deuteronomy 26:1ff), each would be expected to bring forth from the increase that the Lord had provided.
The difference in the two offerings lay in the fact that Abel brought that which God required from the first fruits of his flock, but Cain failed to bring that which God required from the first fruits of his crop. The thought of Abel’s offering being associated with shed blood (bringing “of the fat” would show that the animals had been slain) and Cain’s offering not being associated with shed blood has nothing to do with the matter within the framework of the primary interpretation.
The word used in the Hebrew text for offering (vv. 3-5) is minchah (having to do with an offering where blood is not the issue), as opposed to the Hebrew word zebach (having to do with an offering where blood is the issue [e.g., Genesis 31:54; 46:1]). Each brother was to bring of the increase from the means of his livelihood. These could only have been offerings of the first fruits, and shed blood (for salvation, or for the forgiveness of sins) was not in view.
(The Hebrew word minchah is used nine other times in the book of Genesis and is translated “present” each time [KJV; e.g., 32:13, 18, 20, 21]. The word though is found numerous times elsewhere in the Old Testament, particularly in connection with the “meat [‘meal’] offering,” and is translated “offering” in almost all occurrences outside of Genesis [e.g., Leviticus 6:14, 15, 20, 21, 23].)
The Lord viewing one offering favorably and the other unfavorably set the stage for that which occurred next. Cain, seeing that the Lord had looked unfavorably upon his offering, “was very angry, and his countenance fell [i.e., he ‘burned with anger, and looked down’]” (Genesis 4:5b). But even when acting after this fashion, the Lord left the door open for Cain to repent and bring the required offering (vv. 6, 7), something that Cain did not do (vv. 8ff).
2) In the Antitype — Israel, Christ
Comparing John’s statement relative to the actions of Cain in 1 John chapter three with Christ’s statement relative to the actions of the Jews in John chapter eight, a marked parallel can be seen between the actions of Cain and the actions of Israel almost 4,000 years later. And eternal verities (eternal salvation, damnation) are no more the contextual issue in the latter than they are in the former.
I know that you are Abraham’s descendants, but you seek to kill Me . . .
You do the deeds of your father . . .
You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning . . . . (John 8:37a, 41a, 44a)
not as Cain who was of the wicked one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his works were evil and his brother’s righteous.
(1 John 3:12)
Christ, in John chapter eight, was not speaking to unregenerate Jews. He was speaking to “Jews who believed Him” (v. 31), out from a nation that continued to slay the paschal lamb year after year in accordance with the instructions previously given through Moses (cf. Mark 14:12). And it was to these Jews that Christ said, “You are of your father the devil . . . ” (v. 44a).
Many Bible students find it difficult to reconcile how these Jews could believe in [KJV: on] Christ on the one hand but be associated with Satan after the fashion seen in verse forty-four on the other. Some seek to resolve the issue by viewing those who had believed on Christ as a separate group from those associated with Satan after this fashion. In this respect, attention is called to two groups of Jews presented in the passage — those who had believed on Him, and those who hadn’t believed on Him (v. 30).
However, doing something of this nature completely ignores that which is clearly stated in the text. From verse thirty-one forward, Christ specifically singled out and addressed only those who had believed in [on] Him. These are the ones of whom Christ said, “You are of your father the devil . . .” (v. 44a).
In another respect though, this whole line of thinking is immaterial. Believing or not believing on Him in this passage had nothing to do with the eternal salvation of these Jews. Rather, their believing or not believing had to do with the manner in which Christ had presented Himself to Israel and with that which He was offering to Israel.
Christ had not appeared to Israel and presented Himself to the Jewish people as the Paschal Lamb. Rather, He had appeared to Israel and presented Himself to the Jewish people as their promised Deliverer, in relation to the proffered kingdom. And Christ could not have done this apart from the Jewish people already being saved. The message surrounding the kingdom — the central message seen in Christ’s ministry — is solely for the saved, never for the unsaved (ref. the author’s book, From Acts to the Epistles, Chapters 2-4).
The deliverance that could have resulted from belief seen in John 8:31 is the same deliverance resulting from belief seen in Acts 2:40. In both instances, it was a deliverance from xe "unbelieving, an"an unbelieving, xe "generation, perverse of Jews"perverse generation of Jews, with the kingdom in view.
Unbelief exhibited by the nation had to do solely with the deliverance being offered by the nation’s Messiah, deliverance as it pertained to the proffered kingdom, not an unbelief having to do with eternal salvation or damnation. The Jewish people rejected and crucified Christ as King, not as the Paschal Lamb, though in the process they did crucify the Lamb.
The Jewish people in John 8:31-44 were believing-children of Abraham who, even at this point in Christ’s ministry, were among those who wanted to slay Christ (vv. 37, 40). They, in this respect, were doing the works of Satan rather than those of Abraham (vv. 39-41). And, it was in relation to works emanating from Satan (rather than works having to do with Abraham, Israel’s calling, etc.) that these Jews were associated with Satan rather than with Abraham.
Exactly the same thing is seen relative to Peter’s actions when Christ first began to reveal impending events surrounding Calvary to His disciples. Denying that which Christ had revealed, Peter found himself associated directly with Satan (Matthew 16:21-23).
And exactly the same thing is seen relative to Cain in 1 John 3:12. In both John 8:44 and 1 John 3:12 the Greek preposition ek (“out of”) is used in conjunction with the relationship each occupied with Satan. In John 8:44, the Jews whom Jesus addressed were said to be out of their father, the Devil; and Cain, in 1 John 3:12 was said to be out of the evil one.
The works manifested by Cain in Genesis chapter four were performed apart from faith. They had not been performed in accordance with God’s previous instructions (inferred from the passage). And, resultantly, they were said to emanate out of Satan.
And the works manifested by Israel followed the same pattern. They had not been done in accordance with God’s previous instructions (seen in the Old Testament, which, in its entirety, is about the person and work of God’s Son [Luke 24:27], the One in their midst). And, resultantly, their works, in like manner, were said to emanate out of Satan.
(In reality, only two realms exist — by faith, and by sight; out of God, and out of Satan; brought forth from above, and brought forth in connection with this world [presently under Satan’s control and sway]. There is no middle ground [cf. Matthew 12:30; Luke 11:23; Romans 14:23; 1 John 5:4].)
3) Ultimate Action—Cain, Israel
The Lord offered Cain another opportunity to do that which was required of him. But Cain refused, he subsequently slew his brother, and the Lord then drove him out on the face of the earth.
The Lord also offered Israel another opportunity to do that which was required of the nation, with Messiah Himself present in the nation’s midst. But Israel, during the time when the window of opportunity remained open, slew the nation’s Brother. And the Jewish people, following even a subsequent opportunity (the reoffer of the kingdom, seen throughout the book of Acts) were uprooted from their land and driven to the ends of the earth.
Cain, in the type, did bring an offering to the Lord. But it was not the offering that God required. Rather than acting by faith, Cain acted out of the evil one. Consequently, Cain’s offering was rejected.
Israel, in the antitype, did bring something to offer to the Lord. Israel brought forth the same thing in which Adam and Eve had sought to clothe themselves following the fall — fig leaves.
And, in reality, this was all Israel could have brought forth. Adam and Eve, by and through disobedience, forfeited their covering of Glory. And Israel, by and through disobedience, had also previously forfeited the Glory (Ezekiel 10:4, 18; 11:22, 23). Now, Israel, as Cain, could only act out of the evil one.
Adam and Eve had tried to cover their nakedness with fig-leaf aprons (Genesis 3:7; cf. Psalm 104:2), which God completely rejected. And Israel, at Christ’s first coming, can be seen in a similar fashion. There was no fruit — that which God required — but there were leaves on the fig tree that Christ cursed, representing Israel in this condition (Matthew 21:18, 19; cf. Joel 1:7).
The picture of the fruitless fig tree, having leaves only, in Matthew chapter twenty-one is a parallel picture to that which is seen in Genesis chapter three when fig leaves are first seen in Scripture. The scene depicts the Jewish people attempting to do exactly the same thing that Adam and Eve had sought to do — cover their nakedness with fig leaves (in this case, cover the nation’s fruitless condition, with the Glory no longer present in the camp of Israel).
And, as with Adam and Eve, or with Cain, the Lord then took action in complete accordance with that which He had found.
(For additional information on the preceding, refer to Chapter 8, “The Fig Tree,” in the author’s book, Prophecy on Mount Olivet.)