What follows in the book of Hebrews chapter 11 after discussing the meaning of faith is how all the Old Testament characters who “pleased” God did so by faith, not by works. Hebrews 11:4 says, “By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks.” The phrase that is repeated over and over again in Chapter 11 regarding the testimony of all the Old Testament characters mentioned is that whatever they suffered, whatever they endured, they did it “by faith.” Every one of them “pleased” God not by works but by their faith. They trusted God through it all. But the Messiah would be the one to fulfill the ultimate role of suffering on behalf of all mankind and to do so in complete and perfect “trust” in God the Father. Thus Abel is really about Jesus!

Abel was hated by his brother because he was accepted by God and Cain was not. Cain was filled with hatred spawned from jealousy regarding his younger brother’s acceptance. It’s obvious that Abel “pleased” God and Cain did not. Cain then rose up and bludgeoned his brother to death. In Luke 11:50-51 Jesus speaks to the Religious leaders. They were jealous and angry because God had accepted Jesus and His sacrifice. Jesus told them that, “…the blood of all the prophets, shed from the foundation of the world, may be charged against this generation, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah…” The religious leaders rose up and slew Jesus from their jealousy and anger. Jesus said that the characteristics of Cain were passed down to the generation of Jews who would reject him and brutalize him and murder him on the cross. The brutal death of an innocent man at the hands of sinful men foretell the Messianic story of Jesus. This story would be repeated often in the Old Testament. Isaac was loved over Ishmael. Jacob was loved over Esau.  Joseph was loved over his brothers. The one favored son, hated and abused by his brothers, picture for us Christ’s lot in life and death upon the cross. Abel’s death foretells Christ’s death and in their brutal deaths they speak to us.

The difference however between Abel and Jesus is found in the message of the “Blood.” The difference is that Abel’s blood cries out to God for vengeance! The author tells us in Hebrews 12:24 that we do not heed the call of Abel’s blood, but we listen to the blood of Jesus, “…the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.” Abel’s blood cries out from the ground for vengeance! Jesus’ blood cries out to God for forgiveness of all those who believe! No, the writer explains in chapter 12, our lot is not with those under the Old Covenant of “an eye for an eye.” We do not come to God on a mountain with “…blazing fire and darkness and gloom and a tempest and the sound of a trumpet and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that no further messages be spoken to them” (Hebrews 12:18-19). No, we have come to Mount Zion, the mountain of the living God “…and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.” Like Cain, and like the religious leaders in Jesus’ day, we are all sinners! Our guilt cries out to God for vengeance but Jesus’ blood cries out on our behalf for forgiveness. It is by grace we are saved from the bloodlust of sin. It is by grace “through faith.”